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Richard Dawkins’ Delusion

August 28, 2013

Richard Dawkins may be the most well-known atheist of our time. Although trained as an ethologist (a special type of zoologist who studies animal behavior) he broadened his horizons and began writing on the topic of evolutionary biology while at Oxford University. Since writing The Selfish Gene in 1976 he has taken a prominent role in academic circles in promoting evolution and atheism. The culmination of his life’s work was his 2006 book The God Delusion, which has become the best-selling and most influential attack on Christianity and theism since Bertrand Russell’s ‘Why I am Not a Christian’.

Several aspects of The God Delusion are apparent to the reader immediately. Firstly, the tone of the work is extremely caustic and sarcastic (starting with the title of the book itself), confirming that he has no real intention of swaying religious readers but only giving other atheists and agnostics self-congratulatory approbation. Secondly, the book is full of strawman summaries of the reasons and motivations people have for religious belief, especially Christianity. For this reason, religious readers have a difficult time even making it through the book, much less considering his points seriously. In short he’s gone to a lot of trouble writing a book which does nothing but schmooze the people who already agree with him.

Most importantly, Dawkins is amazingly “worldview blind”. He seems absolutely unaware that his interpretations and conclusions are based on a predetermined set of values and parameters – his “worldview”. He does not spend a single sentence considering or discussing this undeniable fact! He is like an attorney who takes care to lay out his case and presumes the judge (reader) should agree 100% with him, without realizing that he has only crafted his case in the direction he has because of which side his client is on! He is not listening to the actual statements of the opposing counsel, but seems to hold only strawman “cliff’s notes” of their positions in his head, which he cannot seem to bear to contemplate for long before rejecting them. For these reasons, despite the lofty hype and heightened expectations that this book would inflict huge damage on modern day religious belief, it has not had any noticeable effect on either side of the argument.

The worldview to which Dawkins is so blind makes itself very clear from the starting point of his reasoning. At its core it is based on his complete undaunted belief in evolution as the sole source of the full variety of life on earth. Dawkins believes this unquestioningly, guarding it as closely as any believer holds their Bible. After accepting this conclusion a priori, with no support or discussion of assumptions, in turn Dawkins repeatedly uses it in the book as “proof” that evolution must be right and belief in God is a delusion:

“Thanks to Darwin it is no longer true to say that nothing we know looks designed unless it is designed. Evolution by natural selection produces an excellent simulacrum of design, mounting prodigious heights of complexity and elegance.” — Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, Chap. 3, p.79

The circularity of this reasoning is shocking: Dawkins assumes that evolution can create complexity and life, and then “concludes” that God is not needed to explain these aspects of our universe. And if God isn’t needed to explain creation or life, He “almost certainly” doesn’t exist at all. QED. (note: the title of Chapter 4 – Why There Almost Certainly is No God – is an interesting note of humility, admitting a lack a complete certainty on the issue. One wonders if Dr. Dawkins harbors any doubt on the issue, why he would dare to live and write militantly in the face of the Creator of the Universe. Pascal’s Wager may not be sufficient to enable faith, but at a minimum it shows the brashness of outright atheism.)

After reaching this conclusion, perceiving his goal achieved of showing belief in God a “delusion”, Dawkins finishes the book following in the footsteps of Bertrand Russell, arguing that morality can be built on a foundation of reason alone, that it is time for society to progress beyond religious superstition, and that Christianity has done more harm than good to humanity.

In conclusion, Dawkins’ God Delusion is a restatement of common attacks on religion and Christianity, built upon a flawed atheistic worldview. He is ready to believe that time and chance have created the universe; he claims that all the variety of life has self-organized randomly rather than acknowledge the myriad evidences of intention and design. He attempts to levitate a morality which explains the beauty of our creativity and admired traits of human decency, despite the fact that these values contradict the “survival of the fittest” foundation on which he would be forced to place them. He lacks the courage to see that the natural conclusion of his evolutionary worldview would lead to a complete deconstruction of all human decency and values. Friedrich Nietzsche was more logically consistent, although it led him to suicide.

Christians, there is NO idea big enough to stand against God’s truth! As we’ve studied this famous tirade against religious faith, we have seen how weak are his arguments and how loose his reasoning; this is hardly a proof of anything but the unrecognized worldview of its author. We can feel confidence in our worldview and in our God, but let us show humility and compassion to those still under the sway of weak secular reasoning like Dr. Dawkins’.

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