August 19, 2010
THE TEST OF RATIONAL COHERENCE...:
On Dawkins’s Atheism: A Response (GARY GUTTING, 8/11/10, NY Times)
[T]he ideas behind premises 3 and 4 suggest a more cogent line of argument, which Dawkins seems to have in mind in other passages:
1. If God exists, he must be both the intelligent designer of the universe and a being that explains the universe but is not itself in need of explanation.
2. An intelligent designer of the universe would be a highly complex being.
3. A highly complex being would itself require explanation.
4. Therefore, God cannot be both the intelligent designer of the universe and the ultimate explanation of the universe.
5. Therefore, God does not exist.
Here the premises do support the conclusion, but premise 2, at least, is problematic. In what sense does Dawkins think God is complex and why does this complexity require an explanation? He does not discuss this in any detail, but his basic idea seems to be that the enormous knowledge and power God would have to possess would require a very complex being and such complexity of itself requires explanation. He says for example: “A God capable of continuously monitoring and controlling the individual status of every particle in the universe cannot be simple” (p. 178). And, a bit more fully, “a God who is capable of sending intelligible signals to millions of people simultaneously, and of receiving messages from all of them simultaneously, cannot be . . . simple. Such bandwidth! . . . If [God] has the powers attributed to him he must have something far more elaborately and randomly constructed than the largest brain or the largest computer we know” (p. 184).
Here Dawkins ignores the possibility that God is a very different sort of being than brains and computers. His argument for God’s complexity either assumes that God is material or, at least, that God is complex in the same general way that material things are (having many parts related in complicated ways to one another). [...]
Religious believers often accuse argumentative atheists such as Dawkins of being excessively rationalistic, demanding standards of logical and evidential rigor that aren’t appropriate in matters of faith. My criticism is just the opposite. Dawkins does not meet the standards of rationality that a topic as important as religion requires.
...is one that Reason can't pass.
Posted by Orrin Judd at August 19, 2010 5:03 AM