Posts Tagged ‘Richard Dawkins

31
May
09

The Anthropic Fantasy–part 1

Professor Dawkins notes that creationists are eager to find gaps in the evolution process, where scientific evidence is lacking for Dawrin’s theory, and then argue from there that God (as if by default) must be the creator and designer behind complex life. Dawkins sees this as a lack of imagination (The God Delusion, 128).

Lack of Imagination?? (Wouldn’t an atheist, from their naturalist perspective, normally accuse a creationist—who believes in ‘crazy’ Bible stories and miracles—of having TOO MUCH imagination?) This is very interesting.

Dawkins introduces the anthropic principle to address the large gap between the origin of life and the process of natural selection. When we apply this principle to explain the origin of life, we observe and appreciate all the many precise details that need to come into play in order for life to happen. Dawkins describes a number of these particulars…our distance and orbit around the sun, the gravitational force of Jupiter to grab threatening asteroids that would otherwise destroy us, etc (135-136). To the question “Why do I exist on Earth?” the anthropic principle notes that the very asking of the question requires that we first of all exist, and the fact of our existence on Earth shows that Earth is friendly to our kind of life. The answer: “We exist on Earth because Earth allows for our existence.”

Dawkins presents the anthropic principle as magical statistics.

It has been estimated that there are between 1 billion and 30 billion planets in our galaxy, and about 100 billion galaxies in the universe. Knocking off a few naughts for reasons of ordinary prudence, a billion billion is a conservative estimate of the number of available planets in the universe. Now suppose the origin of life…really was quite a staggering improbable event. Suppose it was so improbable as to occur on only one in a billion planets….even with such absurdly long odds, life would still have arisen on a billion planets—of which Earth, of course, is one (138-139).

Between 1 and 30 billion planets? I find it truly amazing that anyone can even begin to count them. And to count GALAXIES even! Napoleon, like there’s anyway you can even do that. Pull a number out of hat, then “knock off a few naughts”…and what do we have? A made up number that means NOTHING!

After we find our magic number we can start supposing things. Let’s suppose really ridiculous odds for the origin of life, (but not odds so ridiculous that it would be unreasonable).  Let’s keep the statistics generous enough to support evolution or else our theory will fail. Where are they coming up with these fantastical variables?

Abra Kadabra and BANG! (cue poof of smoke) we exist! Is this really science?? Or is it fantasy? I can see now why Dawkins would accuse the creationist of lacking an imagination.

It gets even more confusing. After first refusing to acknowledge chance for the reason we are here, the theory of evolution necessitates pure LUCK to initiate life. Are we going in circles here?

We can deal with the unique origin of life by postulating a very large number planetary opportunities. Once that initial stroke of luck has been granted—and the anthropic principle most decisively grants it to us—natural selection takes over: and natural selection is emphatically not a matter of luck (Dawkins, 140).

Why do we exist? No reason…it just happened, that’s all. Lucky for us.

I am having a terrible time taking this seriously…maybe I lack imagination. Either I seriously misunderstand this theory or it really is a fantasy.

18
May
09

Eternal Evolution?

Irreducible complexity is the notion that a mechanism is so complicated and complete, that if any part of its whole were missing, it would not be able to function (The God Delusion, 122). Two common examples for this argument are the eye and the wing. Many creationists would claim that a partial eye or a fraction of a wing would be useless (123-124).

Dawkins disagrees with these two examples, bringing to attention the flatworm, whose eye is apparently less evolved than the human eye and can only detect shadows and light (124). While giving no real examples of creatures with partial wings, Dawkins rationalizes that a fraction of a wing—though not as good as a whole wing—is still functional.  There is always a height from which a winglet can save you from a fall (123). (I find this logic somewhat silly.)

I am not going to pretend to know the anatomy and complexity of these or other organs. I couldn’t tell you one way or another whether an organ is irreducibly complex.

Dawkins admits that irreducible complexity would destroy Darwin’s theory of evolution:

The creationists are right that, if genuinely irreducible complexity could be properly demonstrated, it would wreck Darwin’s theory. Darwin himself said as much: ‘If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case.’ (Dawkins, 125)

For some reason Dawkins believes irreducible complexity would be likewise as lethal to the intelligent design theory (125). I can’t figure out why. I should think irreducible complexity is absolutely necessary!

Complexity must either be infinitely reducible, so that we never reach a beginning in which case natural selection becomes an on-going (everlasting?) series of effects, with no definite initial cause. (And this would seriously contradict science in the law of causality.) OR there must ultimately be an actual eternal existence that has no beginning and has no end—whose complexity indeed is irreducible. Neither option is very accommodating to the theory of evolution.

Evolution only works within the construct of time. Dawkins already explained the cumulative process of natural selection. Over so many ‘billions’ or ‘trillions’ of years (far, far less than forever), we’ve supposedly evolved from the same primary life form. Wouldn’t that very first building block have to be irreducibly complex? If there is no end to the reducibility of complexity, then how do we dare frame the process of evolution within a supposed span of time?—(and so short a time at that.) The process of natural selection would go back forever. It would be eternal. This theory doesn’t make sense.

The origin of life must be BOTH eternal AND irreducibly complex if it is to initiate the whole process of natural selection. If neither of these attributes are present in the origin of life, then it remains nothing more than an effect. And we know that an effect cannot exist without a cause. There MUST be an ultimate cause.

We may not agree about who or what the ultimate cause actually is, but we certainly need to recognize the necessity of irreducible complexity and eternal existence.

I believe the ultimate cause is the eternal God, Creator of all things–including time. He is the source of life and is certainly irreducibly complex. Regardless of whether we acknowledge him as our Lord and Maker, we cannot exist without of him. Remove the cause and you remove the effect.

The creationist’s determination to hunt for irreducible complexity and other such “gaps” between stages of evolution seems to really annoy Dawkins. I guess this determination is not so different than the atheist’s obsession to spotlight holes in Scripture in order to find it unreliable. (Dawkins demonstrated this obsession himself in just the previous chapter.) This is NOT annoying. This is good! If there are holes in the ship wouldn’t we sure want to know about them? It is GOOD to critique and examine an argument, to be sure it is solid. Otherwise, you might find yourself on a sinking vessel.

03
May
09

The Faith Award

Why should God be so interested in belief—Dawkins wants to know. Why shouldn’t he reward kindness, generosity, humility, or sincerity? (The God Delusion, 104) It’s a very good question.

Dawkins is asking a question that pertains to an entity he believes (almost) certainly does not exist. Indeed it will be difficult for him to hear any kind of answer. He (and any atheist) is going to have to yield to the notion that God does indeed exist. Not just any god–for there are thousands who require good virtues and works of righteousness in addition to belief. But only one God–the God of the Bible–requires FAITH alone. If Dawkins (or any atheist) wants an answer to this question, he will have to tolerate for once, the God of the Bible…

In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth and gave order to it. He created man and woman in his own image. He blessed them and charged them to be fruitful and multiply, and to rule over his creation. God provided them with seed-bearing plants and fruit-bearing trees to eat for food. God saw all that he had made and saw that it was very good (Genesis 1).

Adam and Eve had perfect communion with God in the Garden of Eden. God had only one restriction–do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or you will surely die (Genesis 2:16-17). It is not too much to ask. There were plenty of trees from which Adam and Eve could eat. Only one single tree in the whole garden was forbidden. God gave us freedom to choose to obey him, or to forsake him. He permitted us to act on our will. And so we did. You and I were not there in the Garden of Eden. But we all fell with Adam’s sin. Sin infected the entire human race. We ALL are guilty of sin. We all harbor ill thoughts, we all lie, we all cheat, we all offend, we all shrink in our pride. And therefore we all die, just as God warned would surely happen.

God is not obliged to reverse our decision. We made our choice. We are not entitled to reconciliation. We all deserve eternal damnation.Yet God is gracious. He cursed the serpent for instigating this evil, but in the middle of the curse, he promised redemption for man (Genesis 3:15). And so he established his covenant.

As sinners, we are born into death. The dead and the living cannot have fellowship together. The pure will not tolerate the perverse. And the perverse will not tolerate the pure. God is perfect and holy. We are imperfect and unholy. We can do NOTHING to save ourselves. NOTHING! No amount of good works will ever redeem us from the grave. We will always contend with sin. We made our decision–we CHOSE death.

The only one who CAN save us from death is the One who is perfect and holy, without blemish, without sin—Jesus Christ the Son of God. He took our sin upon himself and died our death so that we may live.

Romans 10:9 tells us that that if we confess with our lips, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved. It is easy to read this verse to mean that we are saved as a result of our believing in God. But this would contradict with the rest of Scripture and nullify the work of Christ. We are saved by GRACE, not by works. Galatians 2:21. Belief in God does NOT merit salvation. Faith is NOT an activating agent that somehow makes the cross effective in our lives. We are not saved because we believe in Jesus. We believe in Jesus, because we are saved. Belief is a result (not a cause) of salvation. We will have restored communion with God, not because of anything we have done, but because of what Christ alone has done.

Dawkins is therefore mistaken. God does NOT reward our belief. Salvation—from beginning to end—is entirely the work of God ALONE. We are DEAD in our sin. As long as we are in the grave, we will only ever choose death. But the Holy Spirit gives life. Romans 8:1-17. The Spirit is the one who reveals God’s truth and leads us to true faith and repentance. We can NEVER choose to believe in God without the intervention of his Spirit. True faith can only come from God, not from ourselves. Ephesians 2:8-9. If true faith originates from ourselves, than belief in God is a work of self-righteousness.

Salvation is by God’s grace ALONE, through faith ALONE, in Jesus Christ ALONE, for His glory ALONE.

(I just breezed through an immense amount of doctrine.)

22
Jun
08

Disappointed with Dawkins

As I read Richard Dawkin’s book The God Delusion, I can only say so far that I am not impressed with the book. Overall, he writes in a very arrogant almost angry style which seems to ring a “defensive” tone. (I am not the only one to observe this in his writing.) If he is certain about what he believes, why is he so anxious? And why does he refuse discussion with Christians on the subject of God? Does he feel threatened? Is he annoyed with Christians? Does he even know what really aggravates him? It begs my curiosity…

Chapter two of his book is particularly messy. It does not speak much to his trustworthiness as a writer…

  1. He presents speculation as fact. He states historically that Paul founded Christianity (37). Unless you think Paul founded the church in order to persecute it, like the English hunter who introduced the rabbit in America so that he may hunt them, this is really a stretch. Even “hunting logic” in this case is absurd. I’ll give more attention to this in a separate post.
  2. His reasoning is inconsistent. He talks about how ridiculous faith in God is, and equates it to faith in an orbiting china teapot in space or a spaghetti monster–non-sense about which nobody would waste their time. It is ironic, then, that he considered it at least worthy enough to devote countless hours and 374 pages to such non-sense. (Although the subject is not quite worthy enough of dialogue with Believers.)
  3. He builds a flimsy argument. He speaks about the religion of our Nation’s founding fathers. What does that have to do with the objective of his book? I don’t base my faith on what somebody else believes (or doesn’t believe). Why does Dawkins care so much about their religion? It doesn’t make sense.

 

  • I thought the inclusion of the Great Prayer Experiment was somewhat interesting (and disgusting), but I don’t understand its relevance. The experiment is supposed to test whether or not prayer has any effect on the recovery of surgery patients. (If the purpose of prayer is to get what we wish for, like we found a leprochan or something, then maybe I’d ask for a pot of gold.) Obviously the experiment failed. There are a million things wrong with the experiment. I am curious, however, why Dawkins chose to include it. Does he draw on the failed result to say that God does not exist? Dawkins is at least intelligent enough to recognize how ridiculous this experiment is. So does he include it as evidence to Christian stupidity? (I won’t argue with that one, there are plenty of dumb Christians out there. Maybe that is the reason Dawkins is so angry. He hates stupidity–but then he hates more than just Christians.) Though I still don’t see how human fault proves God’s non-existence…it only proves we’re human.

Forgive me for being too critical. I realize I am not far in the book and it isn’t fair to judge it so early. I have to remember I am reading an atheist’s view of God. Of course we approach the subject of God’s existence from two separate extremes. For this reason, he and I will take for granted that which the other denies. It is no surprise then that I am disappointed with his research.

I actually am ahead in the book and it DOES get better. But I was determined, however, to make at least some sense of my thoughts on chapter two before I begin to write my thoughts on the following chapters (not sure I succeeded).

16
May
08

The doctrine of man

Still reading Richard Dawkins’ book

Well chapter two sure starts off with a bang (I couldn’t resist the pun). Dawkins violently dishes out a string of adjectives describing who God (supposedly) is. The rant, several lines in length, is all one sentence. Are you ready?…

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriously malevolent bully. -Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (p. 31)

I have read the entire Bible cover to cover. Dawkins’ assesment seriously discredits him as a researcher and author. His attempt to rip verses severely out of context, pervert their meaning and piece them together for his own cause, may only be obvious to some. Unfortunately, many of his target readers have probably not read much of the Bible and they just eat up what Dawkins spoons out.

I have to wonder how Dawkins would describe humans? I imagine he’d be considerably gracious.

If the above quote by Dawkins were attributed to humans, than I would whole heartedly subscribe to it. If our parents disciplined us, then we hopefully have learned some manners. But who of us ever needed to learn how to do wrong? Seriously, how many children do you know readily admit their fault? Children know when they are in trouble, and they’ll do what they can to get away with it and escape discipline. And what child isn’t familiar with justice? From a very young age they know too well when they have been “stiffed”. They know it almost instinctively and scream, “THAT’S NOT FAIR!” We still scream that slogan. This isn’t learned behavior, it’s in us from the very beginning. We are selfish and proud beings dead in our sin. Doing right, however, is something we constantly battle. It goes against our nature.

If you don’t believe me just watch how people drive on the road! If THAT isn’t enough…listen to the verbal lashings we give each other when we lose control of our tongue. Notice how horribly we mistreat those we love after a bad day at work. Observe the madness on black Friday when shoppers trample each other for a hot item. See how we fight our pride when we know we are wrong and need to apologize. Look how easily we lose our patience when we’ve been wronged, or EVEN just merely inconvenienced!–a telemarketer calls, a retailer loses our order, we get stuck behind a slow bus, my burger is missing the fixings, someone cuts in line, the world doesn’t bow to ME!

To think we can live moral lives on our own is like the blind leading the blind. It is not our nature to love, serve or do what is right. If it was our nature, it would come easy for us. Forgiveness would be our first impulse and we’d have to count to ten to get mad!

All of us ponder the question “why does God allow bad things to happen?” We do it ourselves! We deserve to be damned. If left alone we’d destroy ourselves completely. God is not oblidged to redeem us. The question ought to be, why (WHY!) would God restrain evil? WHY does He allow good to happen to us? WHY does He, in His great mercy, spare us from what we justly deserve?

05
May
08

The atheist bias

I am reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I am interested in the book because I am at least acquainted with a few atheists or agnostics and I desire to better understand their perspective.

First of all Dawkins uses the term religion to identify belief systems which assume the existence of a supernatural higher power. Although Dawkins makes a typical association, religion actually is nothing more than just a system of beliefs and practices commonly shared among a group of people. Objectively, atheism is a religion. But Dawkins is not objective. As much as he would perhaps like to deny it…atheists do infact maintain common beliefs, just like any religious group, and their creed might be as such: “God does not exist. The universe is self-sustaining. We are a product of evolution. And when we die that is the end.” Whether or not I’ve rendered their convictions accurately, their beliefs (or perhaps disbeliefs) are the frame work of their world view. As open-minded as the atheist pretends to be, they too filter ideas through a constructed world view. They too impose a bias. They too are religious.

Moving on…

Professor Dawkins begins his book with the observation that atheists do not receive the respect and liberty they deserve but are instead discriminated against on account of their personal beliefs. He includes an opinion apparently voiced by a recent president (whose name I will not disclose as I am not interested in a political slaughtering) which implies that atheists may not necessarily qualify as worthy citizens or patriots. Although Dawkins admits that the comment could be invalid, he invites the reader to substitute the word atheists with Jews or Muslims or Blacks. “That” he concludes, “gives the measure of the prejudice and discrimination that American atheists have to endure today. (43)” Is he proposing that the discrimination towards atheists matches the discrimination suffered by Jews? Do all atheists in America today claim to suffer the same persecution parallel to the holocaust?! After a statement like that I am inclined to take Dawkins about as seriously as I would a sulking whiny child. Poor troubled atheists, they are so victimized. I wonder if you insert the word “Jews” or the word “Muslims”, or insert “Buddhists” or “Mormons,” or “Christians” whether Dawkins would affirm the supposed comment. According to his bias, no religion (aside from the religion of atheism) is worthy of respect.

I will continue this in another blog. This entry is long enough…

03
May
08

World without God?

If chance be the father of all flesh, disaster is his rainbow in the sky. And when you hear state of emergency–sniper kills ten, youths go looting, bombs blast school–it’s but the sound of man worshiping his maker. -Steve Turner, English Journalist

I am reading Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion. Dawkins, if you do not know, is an athiest. He does not believe there is a God, any god, or supernatural being of any kind. He is so certain about this that he devoted hours of his time to build a case for it and write a whole book on the subject. (I will write more on his writing in a later blog.)

What does a world without God look like? I don’t know whether Dawkins will answer that in his book or not, I haven’t read that far yet. Although I would guess for him, he would consider it redundant to even give such an answer, because as far as he is concerned we live in one.

Without a Creator I suppose we are here by accident? What a depressing world view. If we are here by chance, then what purpose do we have? Any? None more, perhaps, than to defeat the weaker species. Sounds awfully close to Hitler’s mission. In the words of Ravi Zacharias, “If life is by accident than I can remove you by incident.” Is this what Dawkins and atheists like him desire?

Is that not Hell? Eternal separation from the Sovereign Lord and Maker. The cursed will receive just that what they desire, even if it is met with severe disappointment. The irony.

MY desire too…save for the grace of God! This I find incredibly humbling. My faith is not my own. Soli deo Gloria.

Note: I know the use of male pronouns to represent both sexes is not “politically correct” in this day. For now, just understand that (in context) I am referring to the entire human race. I refuse to employ “gender inclusive” language, I will explain this in a later blog as well…




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