Debating Dawkins A point-by-point response to Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion.


A Search for Truth: Almost eight years ago, in the spring of 2010, I heard an announcement that the scientific community was elevating Charles Darwin's theory of evolution to the level of established scientific fact. At the time, I was preaching at a small church located just outside Madison, Georgia. We had just completed an ambitious (for the size of our congregation) building project that had kept me very busy, but the pressure had reduced to the point that I was able to take on a search to determine what the scientific community had established that led them to elevate Darwin's theory to the “established fact” level.

As I began my search, I told myself that I wanted the truth no matter what the truth was – even if it meant I would have to acknowledge I had been wrong about the Bible and had been preaching a lie for most of my life. I was convinced that Darwin and the Genesis account of creation could not both be right. I remain convinced of that even after studying the views of those who argue that the Genesis account of creation can be reinterpreted to make room for the billions of years scientists say it took to develop the universe. From the beginning, I told myself I had to be prepared to give up the ministry if my search revealed that Darwin was right.

From the beginning, I also acknowledged to myself that I was biased and that it would be difficult for me to keep an open mind, but I was determined to work to insure my biases did not prevent me from identifying the truth because truth, even if it is not what I had always believed, is better than error. I believe any honest search for truth must begin with an examination of the biases we bring to the table and must include a concerted effort to not let our biases blind us to the truth when we find it.

Among the books I bought in April of 2010 was Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion. I had never heard of Dawkins before that time, but research on the Internet indicated he was a leading advocate of the "natural causes" view of origins, so I felt I needed to read his book. Not only did I read his book, but I looked him up on YouTube and in several magazine articles. My search for the truth about origins ultimately led me to believe Richard Dawkins and others who support the "natural causes" view of origins and ridicule the Bible are wrong. While conducting my search, I became aware of the devastating impact the promotion of the natural causes view of origins has been having on the faith of Christians. This is especially true for younger Christians.

More and more I became aware that the church in America is in trouble. I believe this is primarily because the Genesis account of creation has been undermined in two ways:

1. The scientific community has uncovered evidence of great age in our world and in the universe that conflicts with Bible dating.

2. The Christian community has reacted by reinterpreting the Genesis account of creation in what has had the appearance of a “grasping at straws” effort to shore up the Bible as attacks from the natural causes community mount. While well intentioned, it now appears that this effort has done more harm than good. Young people growing up in an age of skepticism seem to feel that reinterpreting the Genesis account of creation suggests Christians would rather change their story than face reality.

As a result of these events, the Genesis account of creation is now viewed as mythical by most Americans. That view, in turn, undermines the authority of the Bible. After all, if the first chapter of the first book of the Bible is a myth, why would we want to use the Bible as an authority to tell us anything about anything?

It comes down to this: Either the Bible is wrong, or there is evidence of great age in our world and in the universe as a whole because God created the heavens and the earth with evidence of great age existing from the beginning. The question is, "Why would he do that?" The answer is that God would create the universe with evidence of great age for the same reason he would put a tree in the Garden of Eden and then tell Adam and Eve they were not allowed to eat from it – in order to give human beings a choice.

In the case of Adam and Eve, the choice was to obey or not to obey. In the case of evidence of great age, the choice is to believe or not to believe. Faith is, according to the Bible, key to our relationship with God.

In order for faith to have any meaning whatsoever, there must be an alternative to faith that appears – at least on the surface – to be viable. In our day, that requires evidence of billions of years to allow scientists to suggest everything could have happened by chance. Absent the evidence of great age, the existence of God would be impossible to deny.

Debating Dawkins: Richard Dawkins has been called “Darwin’s pitbull” – a title that gives us a picture of who he is and what he is attempting to achieve. Dawkins has gained notoriety by writing several books and by making many public appearances. He is a biologist. He likes to emphasize that scientists think at a level nonscientists cannot comprehend – a level where problems are welcomed as challenges to expand knowledge. He and his fellow scientists are not intimidated, they are thrilled that they still have challenges to overcome. It is a level where superior minds flourish – at least that is the view Dawkins presents. Somehow this argument puts me in mind of Hans Christian Andersen's The Emperor's New Clothes. Those who are wise in their own eyes are rarely as wise as they think they are.

Dawkins argues that accepting the God of the Bible as the creator of all that exists is, “just too easy.” It is, in his mind, a lazy way to address origins. I do not have a problem with that view as an initial view for the study of origins as long as the God of the Bible remains on the table as an option. For Dawkins and scientists in the “natural causes” community, he does not. Their search for truth about origins is limited to an “absent God” view. Their theories reek of contrived explanations in an “any explanation is better than none” environment where membership is limited to those who agree never to view the God of the Bible as a solution to any challenge.

I maintain that any search for truth that takes a “prime suspect” off the table before the search begins is not valid. Dawkins and his fellow scientists have the “held in high esteem” advantage. We sometimes say, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to . . . “ about a variety of challenges. The implication is that, while we nonscientists are capable of solving basic problems, we are not able to think at the level of scientists, let alone rocket scientists. I have a family member who is a rocket scientist – having worked on the space shuttle program in the past and working on its replacement at present. He has complained to me about decisions made by other rocket scientists that he thought were just wrong. I know him to be highly intelligent, but not without his own failings – particularly when he is operating outside the rocket science arena.

Scientists – including Richard Dawkins and my rocket scientist relative – are human beings. They fall short of perfection as all human beings do. In the search for the truth about origins, human beings need to be honest with themselves about their limitations. This is tougher for scientists like Richard and my rocket scientist relative. Being admired as scientists, it is easy for them to begin to believe they operate at a higher level of intelligence than those of us who are nonscientists.

As I have read Richard Dawkins’ books and viewed him speaking in various environments – from addressing a large group to one-on-one interviews – I have come to the conclusion that Dawkins is a slick promoter who will go to any lengths to make his points. Having people accept his view of origins is very important to Dawkins. He views that as winning and he, like all human beings, likes to win.

In the search for the truth about origins, winning in the sense of convincing people we are right is often an illusion. If we win by establishing a view of origins that is not true, we fool ourselves as well as others. I believe this is a fact that Richard Dawkins fails to appreciate – perhaps because he has “won” in the sense that he has convinced a lot of people that he is right. Unfortunately for Richard and for his followers, the goal of identifying the truth about origins has been set aside in order to “win” by convincing. Anytime identifying truth is set aside, that is not a win for anyone.

I would love to debate Richard Dawkins face-to-face, but I do not see much chance that will ever happen. Richard Dawkins has never heard of me and almost certainly would not be interested in debating me. Since an "in person" debate with Richard  is not likely to happen, I have decided to use The God Delusion as representative of Richard's view of origins and to answer arguments found in his book in lieu of an actual debate. I will leave much of what Richard writes unaddressed because I believe it is not relevant to the specific issue which is, according to the title of his book, the question of whether believers in the God of the Bible are deluded or not.

Richard would argue that he does not limit himself to the God of the Bible and he is right, but it is clear that believers in the God of the Bible are his prime target. Richard finds easy targets in believers inside and outside of the Christian community who often do and say things that are well intentioned, but are not helpful. Any attempt to address every attack Richard makes on these easy targets would bog things down to a degree that relevant points to the main issue would be lost in the verbiage.

As I alluded to in my description of Richard Dawkins, human beings are competitive beings. We want to win. Winning in the search for the truth about origins is viewed as defeating those who oppose our point of view. As with virtually all human beings, I have been guilty of being more interested in "winning" by successfully arguing my point of view than I have been with insuring that what I believe is the truth. Recognizing this failing in myself and others, I have come up with this maxim:

In reality, we are all in this together. We all live on this planet. In America, men have a life expectancy of roughly 76 years. Women have a life expectancy of roughly 81 years. If that’s all there is, then sensible people should do all they can to make life on this earth all that it can be.

If the Bible is true, life on this earth is a moment in time compared to what happens to us after we leave this world. According to the Bible, eternity hangs in the balance with monumental consequences depending on how we live our lives on this earth relative to what God reveals in the Bible.

Whatever the truth is, we need to know it. The best we can do is to examine all of the facts with minds as open as we can possibly make them. With that in mind, let the debate begin!