Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion (Answering the Critics #2)

Our discussion of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion will focus on Chapter 4, “Why There Almost Certainly Is No God”, because this contains the central argument of the whole book. Dawkins sums up his argument in 6 points leading to a conclusion. These are provided below, not in exact quotes, but translated into language that one can understand without having read the first half of Dawkins’ book.

  1. One of the greatest challenges to human intellect is to explain the improbable, complex appearance of design which we observe around us.
  2. It seems only natural for humans to attribute the apparent design to a Designer.
  3. We must not attribute this apparent design to a Designer because it would lead to a “who designed the Designer” problem. If we conclude that a Designer designed the universe because we observe the universe to be complex, then surely the Designer is more complex than what He/She designed. If complexity shows that something was designed by a Designer, and the Designer of the universe is complex, then who designed the Designer of the universe? (This fallacy is called the fallacy of infinite regression).
  4. Darwinian evolution, that is, evolution through small degrees, has explained the illusion of design.
  5. We do not yet have a theory which explains the appearance of design in physics, as Darwinian evolution does for biology.
  6. Even though it is true that we do not yet have a theory to explain design in physics, the weak theories we do have are still better than the theory of an Intelligent Designer.

Conclusion: There almost certainly is no god.

There are a number of problems with Dawkins’ 6 statements. A number of them are questionable at best. For the moment, though, let us assume Dawkins’ statements are accurate. Even if all of them are true, there is a sort of bait-and-switch going on here. Throughout Dawkins’ argument, he is talking about Intelligent Design. In the conclusion, though, a switch happens. Dawkins no longer talks about Intelligent Design–he makes the jump to say that there is no God. It does not make sense to make a whole argument about Intelligent Design, and then end with a conclusion that is about the existence of God. In short, Dawkins’ conclusion does not follow from the premise. One cannot make an argument about Intelligent Design, and then follow it to a conclusion about the existence of God. Continue reading