Russell and Duenes

Richard Dawkins Thinks He’s Talking About Science

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One of my former students, now in college, was asked by a professor to rebut some statements by Richard Dawkins. The statements were:

“Science offers us an explanation of how complexity (the difficult) arose out of simplicity (the easy). The hypothesis of God offers no worthwhile explanation for anything, for it simply postulates what we are trying to explain.”

And there’s this one:

“I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.”

Wanting my advice, here was my response:

“Here’s the problem with what Richard Dawkins is saying. He says that “science offers us an explanation of how complexity arose out of simplicity.” What he means is that HIS definition of “science” offers an explanation, but it is an explanation that is as devoid of experimental and empirical (i.e., something we can see with our 5 senses) evidence as the “God hypothesis.” In other words, Richard Dawkins assumes, up front, without hard evidence, that everything we see around us must have evolved from single-celled organisms by natural selection. But what we need to see from Dr. Dawkins (and all others of his persuasion) is actual hard evidence that this took place. Guess what? Dawkins doesn’t have any. In fact, ask your professor (or anyone else who wants to defend Dawkins) where the experimental data is that shows that all of life and all new species arrived on this planet from non-biological matter and through random mutations and natural selection within biological matter. Ask for the evidence! Ask Dawkins to show why this MUST be so. I already know his answer. It MUST BE SO, because his definition of “science” demands it, not because the evidence demands it. That’s not science that Dr. Dawkins is dealing with, it’s philosophy, straight down the middle, and all you need to do is keep pointing this out to anyone who wants to know. Where is it written that God can have nothing to do with the scientific endeavor?

Dawkins thinks his hypothesis “worthwhile.” But why? Why is it “worthwhile?” What if it’s false? Then not only is it not worthwhile, it’s worthless. It is true enough that saying “God created everything” does not tell us the mechanism by which it all got here, but having exhaustive knowledge of such a mechanism is not for us to know. God doesn’t tell it to us, but guess what, neither does science. That’s why at the end of the day, Dawkins has to admit that he doesn’t know how we got here (He says so in the movie “Expelled”, which we watched in class). He simply reverts to saying, “Well, however we got here, it must have been through a Darwinian mechanism.” But this begs the question. How does he know that? He doesn’t.

Dawkins’ second statement, that he is “against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world,” is clearly based on historical ignorance. Dawkins is a crumby philosopher and an even worse historian. If he really cared about these issues, he would know that all of modern science rests on a Christian foundation. There would be no modern science without Christianity. It was Christians who believed that a good and intelligent God created the universe and this earth, and therefore, studying what God had made was thought to be a worthwhile and fruitful endeavor. It wasn’t the secularist atheists who gave us modern science. Christians want to understand the world because they think it honors the God who made it. Christians understand that science has proper limits and can really only tell us a limited number of things. It surely cannot tell us how and why we got here. Further, if atheism is true, as Dawkins thinks it is, then we have no reason to believe that the scientific enterprise can succeed, because given atheism, we are not rational creatures and we have no reason to trust our senses or to think that our brains are giving us true information. In fact, there can be no true and false, right and wrong, rational and non-rational, etc if atheism is true. If there’s no God, then we are just atoms in motion, who react certain ways at certain temperatures. We are not thinking beings, and if atheism is true, then what I’m typing to you right now is just jibberish.

God offers us the foundation for thought and reason. He offers us a foundation for thinking that our observations may be true. He offers us a world full of enticements to explore it. He offers us the reality that there is intelligence behind the things we observe, and he offers us the intelligence in our minds to make sense of some of it. He also offers us the chance to honor and praise him as we discover new things about his world. With this foundation, the scientific enterprise becomes at once a humble endeavor (as it should be) and a fruitful one, full of promise.

Finally, my student said, “I believe God does offer an explanation, one even better than science, but my main basis for that is faith, and I can’t make an argument with that.” To which I responded:

“Everyone’s position, absolutely everyone’s, is based on faith. If they tell you otherwise, they haven’t thought about it. Dawkins takes it on faith that there’s no God and we got here by Darwinian evolution. The secularist takes it on faith that we are reasonable creatures (just ask a secularist for a reason why we should believe that humans have reason. Whatever his “reason” is will be based on faith, ultimately). You certainly CAN make an argument by starting with God and the Bible. What you need to ask others is: Where do you suggest we start? With man? With nothing? Just bald assertion? Where? We are Christians and so we start with Jesus Christ. That’s a good place to start, seeing as He is risen from the dead, as he claimed he would be.”

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

September 8, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Posted in Duenes, Philosophy, Science

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