Dawkins Part 2: The Ultimate 747 – Is that the best he’s got?


I refer to chapter 4 (“Why There Almost Certainly Is No God”) as The Ultimate Distraction. Dawkins uses the example of the Ultimate 747 as a red herring that distracts us from the argument at hand, namely, if God exists.

After setting up his straw men to “defeat” arguments in favour of God’s existence, Dawkins attempts to offer an alternate theory of how our universe works… an explanation that he claims is “God free”. This doesn’t prove anything. He offers an interesting and common sensical explanation for the origins of life. I can’t argue against it, as I wasn’t here at the beginning of time. But these scientific explanations of our origins do not disprove the existence of God. I welcome science, as it offers some tangible explanations of how God worked his magic in creating us. Instead of dividing us, I think that science and religion can co-exist. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive. If anything, the two can compliment one another.

In this chapter, Dawkins begins with an argument that he hears from creationists (religious people that believe the literal 6 day creation story in the Bible) when they try to argue against evolution. The argument is in the form of an analogy that goes like this: Evolution and the “chance combinations” that make up our livable existence are too random and the probability is too low to be a viable alternative to the creation story of the Bible. Dawkins quickly dismisses this idea by saying that creationists don’t understand evolution. He explains that evolution is more than random chance. He argues that evolution is indeed intelligent in the way that enhancements are made to life forms. This doesn’t mean, to Dawkins, that an ultimate designer must be involved. Dawkins argues that evolution is self directed over time as a sort of metamorphosis based on the material needs at hand.

Dawkins further argues that this system of evolution, if it is true, would be less complex than a designer God that would have had to build this complex evolutionary system which would make God more complex (as per previous arguments that the creator must be more complex than the creation).

While Dawkins does pose a good argument, he makes a few assumptions here that don’t hold up on their own. Thus, when these assumptions fall, the rest of his house of cards falls as well. Let’s give this a closer look:

Assumptions:

  1. Evolution is factual – This is a theory, not absolute fact. This theory is quite compelling and I do like the way that it explains a lot about our existence and our development as a species. But there are still some significant factual challenges to the complete evolutionary model that remain unanswered. Archeological evidence hasn’t completely supported this model. In fact, a recent find in Kenya shows the difficulty that science has had in providing an airtight scientific case to support evolution.This doesn’t mean that I am anti-evolution. I fully support the research that scientists are doing. In fact, I hope that science is able to explain where we came from in scientific language. This stuff fascinates me. But that doesn’t in any way diminish the existence of God.Dawkins’ argument doesn’t disprove God. If anything, it equally allows or dismisses God AND evolution AND any other theory of our existence, as any theory that we want to discuss is extremely complex. This doesn’t make any one of them more or less true. Consider you or I. We’re all extremely complex individuals. Not only are we complex from a human standpoint, but our individual personalities make us that much more unique. Does the fact that we are each extremely complex mean that we do not exist? No.Yeah… I know that there’s evidence that we exist. We can see ourselves. Yes, that is true. God offers plenty of evidence for his existence as well. His creation and the way he has revealed himself throughout history provide ample proof for his existence. I will defer further discussion on this item until Day 5 when we discuss the historical Jesus.
  2. If our scientific explanation of reality is complex, then God would have to be more complex, which would negate the existence of God – This is a logically flawed argument. It isn’t valid or sound. The relative complexities of the two do not imply that God can’t exist. Does a car factory fail to exist if the car becomes overly complex? Give me a break. I expect more from a PhD. Shame on you Dawkins!
  3. “What the religious mind then fails to grasp is that two candidate solutions are offered to the problem. God is one. The anthropic principle is the other. They are alternatives.” – Yet another error on logic from Dawkins. As I’ve said before, these explanations do not have to be mutually exclusive. Competing claims can co-exist. We see this in politics, economics, sociology, etc. Many different disciplines offer different, competing explanations to explain things. Science isn’t even immune to this. For more on this, check out this article on scientific realism, which is just one method of discussing this in more detail.

So yeah… Dawkins certainly didn’t uncover a smoking gun in here anywhere. This is yet another lightweight chapter in the book.

Next up: “Problems with Organized Religion and Sociological Explanations for Religion

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2 comments on “Dawkins Part 2: The Ultimate 747 – Is that the best he’s got?
  1. Dave Cefai says:

    You got me hooked now Todd..lol.

    A few points to rebut..

    “Evolution is theory not factual”…I don’t know how any educated person can dispute evolution? It may not be airtight but logically and scientifically makes more sense than Adam and Eve where Eve was created from Adam’s rib…come on, please.

    “God offers plenty of evidence for his existance as well”…like what?? Give me one example where God has demonstrated his existance? And saying, look at the beauty in the world is not an example of God’s existance. If you reference the bible, than you are making the assumption that you believe the bible to be literally accurate. I would challenge you by saying you could not produce one “factual” example to prove God’s existence…hence the concept of taking it in faith. I guess I will have to wait for the 5th part in your series for this.

    I agree with your 2nd and 3rd points. If this is the logic that Dawkins’ uses, than you are right, it is flawed.

    I do believe these articles have helped me understand my position towards God and Religion. I have no problem in believing in a higher power out there that we do not or cannot comprehend and understand. What I adamantly disagree with is organized religion. Do I believe in the literal meaning of the bible? NO. Do I believe in heaven and hell? NO. Organized Religion is just another way to divide us. If there is a God and he/she/it is powerful enough to have created the universe, do you think he/she/it would really care whether we go to church on Sunday, or whether gays marry….seems unlikely to me. Do you care if 2 male ants have sex on some ant hill in Africa? I doubt it. I would propose that if there is a GOD he/she/it exists in ways the human brain simply cannot comprehend.

    I know you subscribe to the simple premise of love and respect thy neighbour, which I subscribe to as well. You don’t need religion to believe in this and it is irrelevant whether you believe in God or not.

    Your Agnostic Friend..Dave

  2. James says:

    You have not understood Dawkin’s arguments at all:

    1. Evolution is today an indisputable fact, doubted by no honest educated person. Furthermore, the utter falsity of creationism follows from its incompatibility with simple observations and is independent of the truth/falsity of evoultion.

    2.Dawkins never said that since the universe is complex then god, having built it, would have to be more complex and therefore would not exist. That is absurd. He was showing that the claim by creationists that that the world is complex and therefore designed is self-contradictory, because the same argument would apply to the designer to demonstrate that something must have designed the designer.

    3.Design and the anthropic principle are clearly mutually exclusive. They are different explanations for a given phenomenon. They are mutually exclusive in the same way the sky can not be both blue and green at the same time. Your argument is that competing arguments can coexist in politics, and therefore the sky can be both blue and green? Your completely mad.

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