Design in Nature
Design in Nature
Richard Dawkins’ fourth premise offers his second argument against the design hypothesis. He lauds the explanatory scope of evolution as a counterproposal to actual design, claiming that evolution has rendered the design hypothesis nothing more than an illusion. We have already seen that Dawkins needed to subtly invoke the presumption of the non-existence of God in order to substantiate premise two, the falsity of the design hypothesis. In premise four, he attempts to support his refutation of the design hypothesis by offering evolution as the better, and simpler, alternative. Without a doubt, evolution is one of the strongest rivals of the design hypothesis, but it does not refute the God hypothesis. Even if we regard evolution through the eyes of its staunchest proponents, and ignore its presumed problems, it is not incompatible with the God hypothesis, the rejection of which appears to be the central theme of Dawkins’ book.
Design in Nature – or are there multiple universes?
In premises five and six, Dawkins addresses the lack of an explanatory model in physics that rivals the explanatory value of evolution to biology. He suggests that multiverse theories may “in principle do for physics the same explanatory work as Darwinism does for biology.” However, multiverse theories, while wonderfully speculative, lack testability, one of the hallmarks of Dawkins’ science. They also lack the simplicity he desires in his solutions. As we will see, the omninatural model described in this series provides a testable alternative that should warrant further enquiry.
Design in Nature – but who designed the designer?
Earlier in The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins stated, “however little we know about God, the one thing we can be sure of is that he would have to be very very complex and presumably irreducibly so!”1 Throughout The God Delusion, many of the things Dawkins was “sure of” were either plainly false or mere caricatures of Christianity. The representation of faulty knowledge as fact sets up a straw man that is easily torn down. Such a rhetorical device won’t faze a knowledgeable Christian, but the use of the straw man fallacy may very well mislead the unsuspecting atheist or agnostic reader who wants to believe what Dawkins writes.
The key difference between the genuinely extravagant God hypothesis and the apparently extravagant multiverse hypothesis is one of statistical improbability. The multiverse, for all that it is extravagant, is simple. God, or any intelligent, decision-taking, calculating agent, would have to be highly improbable in the very same statistical sense as the entities he is supposed to explain. The multiverse may seem extravagant in sheer number of universes. But if each one of those universes is simple in its fundamental laws, we are still not postulating anything highly improbable.2
Dawkins' fundamental mistake lies in his assumption that a divine designer is an entity comparable in complexity to the universe. As an unembodied mind, God is a remarkably simple entity. As a non-physical entity, a mind is not composed of parts, and its salient properties, like self-consciousness, rationality, and volition, are essential to it. In contrast to the contingent and variegated universe with all its inexplicable quantities and constants, a divine mind is startlingly simple. Certainly such a mind may have complex ideas—it may be thinking, for example, of the infinitesimal calculus—, but the mind itself is a remarkably simple entity. Dawkins has evidently confused a mind's ideas, which may, indeed, be complex, with a mind itself, which is an incredibly simple entity.3
Dawkins’ search for a simple model in physics with a vast explanatory scope may be a long time coming if he relies upon the multiverse theorists. Fortunately, the omninatural model may offer just the explanatory scope he seeks. Dawkins wrote, “If there is something that appears to lie beyond the natural world as it is now imperfectly understood, we hope eventually to understand it and embrace it within the natural.”4 Let us hope that he means those words, even if they require him to embrace the God he now so ardently rejects. Keep Reading!
1 Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 125.
2 Ibid., 146-147.
4 Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, 14.
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