In my four week MOOC course, “New Atheism”, we were asked to discuss: “Which of Dawkins’ critiques provides the greatest challenge for you?” This is directed at Dawkins’ bestselling book The God Delusion. So in my best attempt to imitate Dawkins’ prose, which would probably take years off my life, here is my answer.
I could write a book on the subject but Scott Hahn beat me too it with Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins’ Case Against God, which is the complimenting book for the course. It’s good, and although I wish we could move on to other atheists, we have to answer the New Atheism. So check out the book by Hahn.
I’ll tell you what bothers me and gives me trouble about Dawkins: his capitol ignorance. Let me explain. (And unlike Dawkins, I’m going to get to my point now instead of jumping off into the universe on some other trip to condemn religion, and confuse the reader, and make them wonder when I will actually get around to doing what I said I would do) On page 58 of Delusion he runs through the monotheistic religions then claims he will only comment on Christianity because he is “most familiar with it.” But less than 200 words earlier he says that Paul of Tarsus founded the Christian religion. What history book did he read that in? You’d think such an asinine statement would be followed up with some clarification as to why Paul is observed as the founder, contrary to what the reader would expect, like, from, you know, Jesus? But he doesn’t. And that was the starting point of the “trouble” for me.
His other begrudging statements about Mary give me trouble. Here’s one: Where he refers to Pope John Paul II speaking with great joy about his conviction that Our Lady of Fatima guided the bullet that nearly killed him, and like the smart-alec he is, goes on to say something to the tune of, “I wonder what Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Lourdes, … Were preoccupied with.” This is all in the middle of a chapter in which he tells us over and over about the idiocy of Christians. Insert hashtag “hypocrite”.
Then there is the inescapable fact that Dawkins is not really mad at God, he is rather infatuated with what he thinks God is: a bloodthirsty… do I have to say it the way he would? Okay… A bloodthirsty, woman hating, unbeguiling, more-bigger-wordier-words, sobigthatyouneedadictionaryinordertoreallyknowwhathemeans, smack talking, animal raping, Metallica loving, bunny hating, super duper demanding, pot head who loves it when people touch his big bad ark, tent building, makes people climb mountains, sets that mountain on fire, and then wonders why the people at the bottom got bored… I think I nailed it.
After he thinks he pulls a “gotcha” on Aquinas, he celebrates by advocating that in the Five Ways, the concluding “God” is the same god that demands animals to be burned in sacrifice. St. Nick probably would have given him the Nicene-punch for that sort of jackassery.
Outside of his snide and sarcastic remarks, which I’m sure his fan-base loves, he builds such strict standards to answer his remarks that make it difficult to discuss. This goes along with a reductionists such as him. For example, he claims that the first three “Ways” of Thomas’ Five Ways (Latin, quinqae viae) are “the same” because they rely on the “assumption” of an infinite regression, to which then he charges Aquinas with this “god” having willed the regressing to stop.
There are several problem with this. I’m just going to answer the infinite regression “problem” though. Haven’t most scientist, including Stephen Hawking recognized a beginning of time? Wouldn’t a beginning be a “start”? Wouldn’t that end an infinite regression?
Infinite regression is not a problem. It’s only a problem for those who have a problem with the consequence of it being a real thing, and a being (God) intervening with it. That’s Dawkins’ problem. The involvement of related criteria does not create an identical hypothesis. Thomas is pointing out that the Prime Mover, God, is observable in multiple ways a posteriori, a cause by studying the effects. Aquinas confuses Dawkins. Dawkins accuses Aquinas of some sort of dependence fallacy – of which exist all over the scientific world. “If this is true, what happens next, and if that is true…” “Aquinas assumes he is right…” Well duh. You wrote this book didn’t you? I don’t suppose you didn’t believe what you were writing. There’s an original thought.
With the simplicity of successive arguments built upon one another, Aquinas successfully created an understanding of the Christian God. It’s no form of trickery; we all learned how to form conclusions in the 3rd grade. And about the first three Ways, he and other scientists still have trouble explaining the origin of all matter. I’m no scientist but doesn’t the first Law of Thermodynamics — Energy can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed. The total amount of energy and matter in the Universe remains constant, merely changing from one form to another — serve Thomas’ Third Way, Contingency, better than any other? Things don’t have to exist but they do. If there was a beginning, where did all the matter come from?
This is but a taste of all that is wrong with his book. I think the only “delusion” is the one Dawkins capitolizes on. Dawkins has a successful following not because he has a sharp ability to provide evidence or prove non-evidence, but because he works under the attraction of confirmation bias. That is, his audience is not seeking truth, but is seeking assent and validation by disregarding others as stupid and pointless. That’s what gives me “trouble”.
The opinions expressed by the DPS blog authors and those providing comments are theirs alone; they are not necessarily the expressions or beliefs of either the Dead Philosophers Society or Holy Apostles College & Seminary.