Dawkins Part 10: On Evolution and Concluding Thoughts


Dawkins flogs the factual accuracy of evolution throughout this book. He is an evolutionary biologist, so I would expect nothing less. I respect his authority in this area of study and I appreciate the scientific explanations that it provides for the development and ongoing manipulations to life that see around us.

Unfortunately, Dawkins is out of his league when he tries to apply his learning to the religious domain. At best, he misses some key details when he attempts to criticize religious faith and its historical, philosophical and ideological ideals. At worst, he fails at the basics of which he should know better: he uses red herrings to distract from articulating and dealing with the topics at hand, he fails at applying proper logic in many of his arguments and when he questions Christianity, he fails to address the great volume of academic literature in support of Christian source validity. This is disappointing, as Dawkins’ valuable academic accomplishments should better equip him than what we see in this book.

For a moment, let’s take a look at “science as God-killer”:

The scientific method is not perfect. Early research into new areas of study can look like a child dipping a toe into a pool of water to check the temperature. If scientific method was bang on, there would be no wasted research or hypotheses that fail to obtain a tangible result. I know… I know… all research is valuable as even in failure, it can discount potential theories so that they can be discounted for further study. That is valuable, yes. But if science has all the answers, then why wouldn’t the hypotheses be right the first time?

As an example of science-gone-wrong, consider the recent problems highlighted in recent reports about Dr. Charles Smith, a high profile coroner who specialized in the field of forensic child pathology. His scientific conclusions significantly contributed to several convictions in suspected child abuse cases. The problem is that under closer examination, Smith’s findings were found to be problematic. Science definitely failed the ruined lives of those that were potentially falsely accused.

Or, closer to this discussion of evolution, let’s look at a recent finding by Maeve Leakey and his colleagues in Africa: Paleontologists continue to question the factual accuracy of evolution. Consider this article in The Washington Post as just one example off the ongoing debate:
Fossil shakes evolutionary tree

Nature, the “International Weekly Journal of Science” published these findings as well, so this is peer-reviewed work.

While I don’t dispute the basic claims made by Dawkins about evolutionary theory, I do question the logic that says that evolution completely replaces the idea of a creator God. Who’s to say that God didn’t use evolution as his tool to generate life.

My point here isn’t that evolution is wrong or that Leakey has disproved evolution. My point here is just that evolution has yet to be fully explained or understood. I would argue that we may never fully understand evolution. And similarly, God is not fully understood, nor do I think God ever will be. This doesn’t disprove God though.

And for those that are still claiming that there is no evidence for God, well… just because you refuse to examine the evidence and consider it in support of God doesn’t mean that the evidence doesn’t exist.

I’ve got two more “scientific conundrums” for you:

LOVE: Science has tried to explain love for years but with little success. For those materialistic atheists out there, I’d love to understand how you can explain love if you strictly look to the material world and empirical evidence to support your claims. Why do we love? Does love not exist because we can’t scientifically explain it?

FREE WILL: Does the scientific worldview support free will? Science can’t seem to answer either way, as it will end up contradicting itself either way:

  • If yes, then doesn’t free will run contradictory to the idea that everything can be predicted based on the conditions and circumstances that lead up to each action? If science can ultimately answer everything, then it must subscribe to a worldview based on predestination.
  • If no, then are we really capable of making any decisions for ourselves, including whether or not we follow a religion? In this case, does Dawkins feel powerless to make a difference on his own, or is he simply following the predestined path that has been set out for him?
  • No – part 2 And further, if no, what caused this “causal chain”? And then where did that first un-moved mover come from? The 18th century Enlightenment philosophers questioned the validity of the causal chain, saying that we don’t necessarily live within the boundaries of a causal chain. So, if Dawkins’ scientific worldview does not support free will, then how does the idea of cause and effect balance out based on this paradox? Don’t we need cause and effect in order for evolution to work?

So, just as we don’t have all the answers about religion, there are plenty of problems there with the scientific worldview as well. I’m no expert in this area, but if my simple mind can understand these scientific problems, then I can just imagine the more complex problems that exist and that have no answer. So Dawkins, my question to you is, “Why are you so arrogant?” You don’t have all of the answers. You’re hardly in the right place to be talking down to other people with such an authoritative tone.

Ultimately, I think the answer becomes one of cohabitation. I feel the presence of God in my life every day. And, I appreciate God’s presence, just as I appreciate the scientific progress in understanding the world that God has provided for us. I am thankful for the scientific research that allows us to lead fuller, richer lives. But I am conscious of the limitations that surround practical scientific research. While science provides us with tools for survival, science lacks the moral compass required to be wise with it. for that, I look to God.

A quick thanks to everyone who has been patient and dedicated enough to take this trip through Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” with me. I hope that you’ve found it as valuable as I have found it. I’ll take the next couple of posts to respond to some reader comments. Thanks to everyone that has submitted comments so far. Your questions and comments have been enjoyable. I’m especially grateful to the skeptics out there who I have been constantly aware of when writing my posts. You’ve kept me honest and at the top of my game.

Thanks again and talk soon,

Todd Dow

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Author, Geek, CF fundraiser & Cancer Survivor. My wife & kids, faith, baseball, infosec & devops are a few of my favorite things.

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8 comments on “Dawkins Part 10: On Evolution and Concluding Thoughts
  1. Gordon says:

    “…just because you refuse to examine the evidence and consider it in support of God doesn’t mean that the evidence doesn’t exist.”

    Well, where is it, then? And please, don’t use the bible as ‘evidence’. It is a document compiled over the years from many sources and based on stories passed on orally before being written down.

  2. urbanshutter says:

    Each man sets his own limitations. The man that does not should have an open minded outlook, knowing that what he knows can change in the blink of an eye due to newer suggestive evidence. We just need to become aware of ourselves…our patterns and note their possible limitations.

    If each man is his own universe, then it’s not really a matter of me trying to make the world into something I expect it to be, it’s more of a matter of understanding how unique I am in shared Earth space.

    Ultimately it does not matter what the next guy believes, what matters is what you believe and how it guides you through your unique signature in life experience. Sometimes we waste so much ‘time’ looking at things, we don’t enjoy life.

    To me it does not matter if you believe in a God or not, what matters is how we make good in our Earthly shared space. Do we want to destroy each other or help each other enjoy life experience? The truth of the matter is that no single man is wrong, for his projections are based on his defined reality. That’s just it…the next guy has a different view than I do, how can I say he is wrong about his views?

    There are no wrongs or rights. No ups or downs. Mankind seems to think he himself is the divine force of life. I think most of us will at least agree there seems to be a divine plan. A divine plan obviously requires a degree of intelligence…but that’s just it, why are we creating so much fiction to fact?

    quote:

    science lacks the moral compass required to be wise with it.

    :unquote

    This is a perfect example of what I mean. Science is an icon system. Science should not be judged under morals, it is simply a guiding tool. It is a living thing but not one within the realm of morals or ethics. I cannot say a pencil has no sense of morals…it just doesn’t fit. So obviously I can use such a sentence to enhance a point and make it sound like candy to a baby. I think science is a fantastic guide, but its not a matter of morals.

    Science then does not ‘lack’ a moral compass…such a compass does not exist nor was it meant to ever exist. Science provides information which we can fuse with other information. We are the compass…not science. We decide which direction to move in based on information our life experience presents. This is why it is so important not to view things as being right or wrong, such a discrimination could rob us of vital life lessons. It is man that decides what is write and wrong, in the God force realm there is no such thing because so such need exists.

    SCI FI PROBLEMS

    When we remove the mask of the open mind, we want to create a conclusion. If there is anything we should know by now it is that information is a living body which constantly changes. Therefore when it comes to bodies of living information, it is a better choice not to conclude anything and leave those gates open to change (things always change).

    But for those who decide to close their gates early and deny the natural life flow of information, we can understand how they may consider certain areas in certain fields of study as having problems.

    When a baby is born, we don’t say…”Oh, we have a problem because this guy doesn’t have a job!”, we are aware that it requires growth. The infant has to adapt and fuse with his environment. The problem is that we don’t see information as a living thing. How much of your own body consists of data? One of the discoveries we make is that we are bodies of data ourselves. There will be more problems with men than science itself.

    – Cheers

  3. “Well, where is it, then? And please, don’t use the bible as ‘evidence’. It is a document compiled over the years from many sources and based on stories passed on orally before being written down.”

    You can start by AnswersinGenesis.org . There you will find also arguments that show that the Bible, even though it is a compilation like you described, is still one of the most reliable books ever written. But you can also find both scientifical and philosophical approaches to prove the existance of God as well. By the way, nobody can use the Bible to prove the existance of God, because in the Bible the existance of God is not discussed, it is implied. So maybe you haven’t even read the Bible, and then, how can you say it is not accurate?

    Now to the writer of this blog. You can also go to AnswersinGenesis (and there’s more websites as well) and see why God couldn’t have “used” evolution. It just creates many logical, structural, and theological problems. For example, the Bible says that men brought “death and suffering” into the world AFTER their sin (AFTER the “six days”). But if you say that evolution happened during the “six days” of Genesis, then that means that the “six days” were actually periods of millions of years of evolution, so you have to leave a literal interpretation of the Bible aside. But it is worse: it also means that it was during those millions of years that hundreds of thousands of animals died, many of them leaving the fossils we see nowadays. So there was death BEFORE the end of the “six days”. Hence, since the Bible says that death only came AFTER the end of the “six days”, either Evolution is wrong, or Creation is wrong. But they cannot cohabitate.

  4. Dave Cefai says:

    Hi Todd,
    Last post from me for a while as I am on the road quite a bit over the next few weeks. I find your logic in this one a weak in a few areas.

    I wasn’t sure where you were going with the evoluation debate. I fundamentally agree with evolution. The fact that organized religions are now saying “Why couldn’t god use evolution as a tool”. I guess, but that is not what the bible says. I have a problem when people selectively modernize/adapt the bible for certain aspects, but then adamantly stick to others. If we can’t modermize this portion, why can’t we modernize other portions of the bible like allowing women be priests, or priests to marry, or allowing for gays. This was a new religious theory made by man not god. Science at least allows for itself to be corrected and modernized in a consistent manner, religion does it in ways that suit the institution, not man or God.

    As for comments on Love and Free Will. Once again, why does the fact that science cannot specifically explain these things mean that there must be a god? Science can’t explain a lot of stuff, that doesn’t mean religion must be the only other thing we turn to. I am not sure why you are assuming it is so binary..one or the other.

    My final comment on things as I am not sure much more debate will change my position and I doubt I am likely to change yours………

    I have no problem in believing in a higher power..what existed before the universe was created and what caused the universe to start its creation are questions that have always been on my mind. However, if this higher power does exist, I believe it exists in ways our human brain cannot comprehend. I do not believe in the literal meaning of the bible, or heaven and hell, or need to believe in a God to be a good person. I believe how you treat your fellow man and conduct yourself in life (i.e. honest, trustworthy etc) are far more important treats than whether you simply believe in God and go to Church. If you need a God to believe in to be a good person, than so be it. My issue has always been with organized religion. If God/Jesus did exist I genuinely believe he did not wish for the way organized religion has conducted itself over the centuries.

  5. Joel Wheeler says:

    I just thought I’d point out that early on you assume that science is supposed to have all the answers. This is not the case, because that would mean there was no need for science. You claim that science isn’t perfect, and I don’t think anyone would disagree with you by claiming it is perfect. However, your criteria for perfect is one that you don’t hold yourself to. I’ve read the bible, a long time ago, and it doesn’t have all the answers either.

    Science is a methodology through which people can come to understand the natural world. While many people believe it is true that religion and science deal with two different realms of existence, I disagree. Whenever the bible says something which conflicts with what we can determine through observation, which story should we believe?

    I think it’s been mentioned that ultimately, the argument is one of authority. Is the bible an authority or isn’t it. Here’s a thought experiment I’d like to share with you.

    Assuming that God exists, he provided me with the facility for reason.

    In order for me to believe that something is the inspired word of God, it would have to fit my idea of what would come from God. Note: The concept I have of God is an all-knowing, all-powerful, benevolent being.

    The bible contradicts itself, and therefore doesn’t pass the standard I laid out as coming from an all-knowing being.

    The bible has significant amounts of hate, and other things I consider to be evil within it, therefore it doesn’t pass the standard of coming from a benevolent being.

    This is the basis for why I am not a christian. To me, it’s seems to be an open and shut case for the bible as an authority. People may argue that we don’t know the mind of God, and cannot know why he did it in this way. However, if God wrote a book, being all-powerful and all-knowing, then he would know that I, and many others like me, would test his book in this manner. If he really wanted us to believe, then he would have written the book so that we would not see it in this light.

    I don’t like to confront other people about their religion, mostly because in my experience, people tend to get really angry and violent about it when it happens. I simply cannot, however, believe in the bible. The only “religion” I subscribe to, and it’s more of a philosophy than a religion, is Buddhism.

    Thank you for taking the time to read my post.
    Namaste,
    Joel Wheeler

  6. William says:

    Atheist – Prove that God exists.
    Theist – Prove that God does not exist!
    Atheist – Evolution.
    Theist – Theistic evolution.
    Atheist – No evidence supports your decision to be a theist.
    Theist – No evidence supports your decision to be an atheist.
    Atheist – Why are you so irrational!?
    Theist – Me, why are you?

  7. Jim says:

    I have read most of the God Delusion and tend to agree with Mr. Dow on many points and thank you Mr. Dow for your excellent rebuttal. I also have a youtube website that defends the Christian faith and find that it is true, most posters tend to be hostile and they make a common assumption that all Christians are Catholics and also generalize everything that extremists or misinformed or just plain wrong-headed Christians do is why Christianity cannot be correct. Another sad phenomenon is that Christians do not post. I think a generality that is true about Christians is that we are too complacent. We need to wake up and support our beliefs and the apologists on the web.

  8. Jamie says:

    Firstly i would like to state that although i do not agree with the opinions of Mr Dow, i respect how he has approached his response to Dawkins and the fact that he was prepared to admit to some of the problems facing orgainised religion and past mistakes made in the name of religion. I also respect the fact that he has questioned his own faith in the past to be sure of it’s validity, although i would of course query the results! lol

    For me, Christianity is no more than a cult that is so old it’s believers dare not question it. What is the difference between Christianity and Scientology? Scientology is the biggest load of hog wash i’ve ever heard, but if it was preached 2000 years ago you could bet your life it would a lot more credibility today then it does. The fact the Bible is 2000 years old means nothing, it just creates another convenient situation where it’s origins can’t be proven and faith is required. It’s old so it must be true has so little credibility it’s untrue. The Bible is full of ‘conveniences’ to suit itself and avoid explanation. For example when presented with the question ‘If god created everything, who created god’, i was told god is eternal. This is just a cop out of the highest order. No rational or plausable explanation, just the perfect answer to avoid any further explanation other than that’s just the way it is. The Bible is undeniably the greatest story ever told, but it is just that, a story told a long, long time ago. I admit that religion had a place at one point, when many of the happenings in the world couldn’t be explained due to lack of scientific knowledge, and many of the population of the world lived in such hardship that faith was important to provide comfort. Put that isn’t the case anymore, and religion is now an outdated concept. Despite what Mr Dow claims, Science has never claimed to ‘have all the answers’. It merely asks the questions and seeks the truth, rather then accepting the truth without asking the questions. Science doesn’t have all the answers now, it cannot explain everything, but that doesn’t mean it won’t. New discoveries and being made every day, and it is only a matter of time before the truths about the origins of the universe and the origins of man are so 100% transparent that no doubt is left. And guess what? There will be no mention of a creator. The Bible is already been contradicted by it’s followers. Comments by Mr Dow such as ‘god using Evolution as his tool for creating life’ totally contradict the theory of the 6 day creation. Has this part of the Bible suddenly been forgotten due to overwhelming evidence to the contrary? This is also the same for the comments made above by Gabriel Somoza. At exactly what point was it decided that the 6 days were a metaphore for thousands of years? I’d bet all the money i own that it wasn’t prior to the discovery and understanding of dinosaurs! There’s that convenience rearing it’s ugly head again. Interpretations of the bible cannot be altered to suit as more and more scientific evidence is produced. If these parts of the Bible are inaccurate, then the rest of it has no basis for credibility whatsoever. There is also the point of Geography. By this i mean that the majority of religious folk only follow their particular faith due to their location on the planet and their subsequent upbringing, and not due to their own free will. Your just believing what you’ve been told to believe. Isn’t that called brain washing? Hardly thinking for yourself is it. At least Atheists challenge this.
    There comes a point when you have to acknowledge that you have wasted your life worshiping nothing more than a story book. I’d of picked Harry Potter personnaly.
    I’d like to finish by saying these are my thoughts on all religions, not just Christianity, and i apologise if my opinions offend anyone. They are just that, opinions, and it wasn’t my intention to offend. I just feel very passionately about the subject at hand. I apologise for my dire spelling too! I’ll leave you with a favourite quote of mine.

    “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” – Stephen Roberts

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