Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins- The Person
Clinton Richard Dawkins, probably the most renowned atheist alive today, currently serves as the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, University of Oxford, and Professorial Fellow of New College. Dawkins received his M.A. and D.Sc. degrees from Oxford University and has since been awarded five honorary doctoral degrees. Quite the rhetorician himself, Dr. Dawkins at least attempts to summarize his keys arguments for logical consideration.

Richard Dawkins - The God Delusion
On pages 157 and 158 of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins encapsulates the central argument of his book in six points. The following comes directly from Dawkins’ book, except that I chose to shorten a few of the points here for the sake of brevity.1

  1. One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect, over the centuries, has been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe arises.
  2. The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself. In the case of a man-made artifact such as a watch, the designer really was an intelligent engineer. It is tempting to apply the same logic to an eye or a wing, a spider or a person.
  3. The temptation is a false one, because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer. The whole problem we started out with was the problem of explaining statistical improbability. It is obviously no solution to postulate something even more improbable.
  4. Darwinian evolution by natural selection offers the greatest, most powerful explanatory scope so far discovered in the biological sciences. Darwin and his successors have shown how living creatures, with their spectacular statistical improbability and appearance of design, have evolved by slow, gradual degrees from simple beginnings. We can now safely say that the illusion of design in living creatures is just that -- an illusion.
  5. We don’t yet have an equivalent well-grounded, explanatory model for physics. Some kind of multiverse theory could in principle do for physics the same explanatory work as Darwinism does for biology. This kind of explanation is superficially less satisfying than the biological version of Darwinism, because it makes heavier demands on luck. But the anthropic principle entitles us to postulate far more luck than our limited human intuition is comfortable with.
  6. We should not give up the hope of a well-grounded explanatory model arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology. But even in the absence of a strongly satisfying model to match the biological one, the relatively weak models we have at present are, when abetted by the anthropic principle, self-evidently better than the self-defeating God hypothesis of an intelligent designer.
  7. If the argument of this chapter (book) is accepted, the factual premise of religion -- the God hypothesis – is untenable. God almost certainly does not exist. This is the main conclusion of the book so far.

Richard Dawkins – The arguments
While the conclusion, “God almost certainly does not exist,” may appeal to Richard Dawkins’ followers, it is not logically inferred from his first six premises. It is a non sequitur. Let’s look at each premise a little closer.

Few people, regardless of their religious views, would oppose Dawkins’ first premise. Explaining the appearance of design in the universe is unquestionably challenging. His second premise, that we have a “natural” temptation to attribute the appearance of design to a designer is debatable, but let’s let it stand. With his third premise, he introduces his first logical fallacy. He begins premise three by simply declaring the temptation in premise two as false. Yet, he offers no substantial support for this contention. In effect, he begs the question by assuming that since God doesn’t exist, the design hypothesis must be false. The closest he comes to supporting his contention is his statement, “the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer.” While perhaps a legitimate question, it neither provides support for the claim that the design hypothesis is false nor provides a refutation of the God hypothesis.

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1 The points I shortened (3 and 6) included allusions to Daniel Dennett’s recent book, which did not add significantly to the summary points.

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