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Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, And The Meaning Of Life Unknown Binding – 2004

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  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: Blackwell Publishers (2004)
  • ASIN: B006LU429S
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)

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3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jenny Mackenzie on 28 May 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I might as well come clean straight away - I'm an unashamed fan of Alister McGrath. He has helped me - a scientist - to become convinced of the rationale for faith and the intellectual integrity of the Bible . My debt to him, and to Francis Collins, Denis Alexander, John Lennox and the BioLogos community is immeasurable. All have greatly influenced my world-view and strengthened my faith, but it is perhaps with Alister that I can identify most closely because I've heard him speak on more than one occasion, and he has patiently and graciously answered my questions. So I didn't come to this book as an entirely "neutral" reader.

Nevertheless, I seriously believe that this book will challenge even the most committed "New Atheist", and clarify the thinking of Christians, too. One of McGrath's real strengths is his ability to speak to the academic in a style nonetheless accessible to the intelligent lay-reader, and in that regard this book is a real tour-de-force. I definitely recommend reading what Dawkins himself has to say in The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker first, however, since this book specifically addresses those. And it seems only fair to tackle The God Delusion, too. But for those who feel that is all a bit too much, there is the excellent full debate between Dawkins and McGrath available on Youtube to set the stage for understanding them both.
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33 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Arquebusier1572 on 7 Sept. 2008
Format: Paperback
Reading many of the other reviews of this book, it's pretty clear that most had their minds made up before they ever opened it. I don't recognize in many of the hostile reviews the book that I read. This probably shows that both Dawkins and McGrath are inevitably preaching to the choir, to use a religious metaphor - that Dawkins (writing about religion) will persuade many zealous atheists, despite the (sometimes almost unbelievable!) superficiality of his analysis, and that McGrath will persuade many devout Christians, despite the circularity of some of his arguments.
So, having said all that, Dawkins' God is a lucidly written book, which homes in relentlessly on the weaknesses in Dawkins' treatment of religion - it's strength is that it covers a wide range of Dawkins' writings (rather than just book - a number of Amazon reviewers seem to have missed this, terming Dawkins' God a rebuttal of The God Delusion - read the footnotes!). Its weaknesses are threefold, I think.
First is that at times McGrath on Dawkins is guilty of the same sin as Dawkins on religion - he asserts without sufficient evidence. Yes, this is a short book, for general readers, but some more substantiation is needed of claims about the nature of faith. McGrath is doubtless right that many university-based theologians don't treat faith as simplistic, which is one of Dawkins' major arguments, and very annoying to the many Christians who do blend faith and reason. But there are also many religious people who DO have a very simple faith - and in fact many Christians, at any rate, are proud of that, and actively try to promote simple and simplistic faith, rejecting any use of reason or science.
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164 of 228 people found the following review helpful By Musadin on 17 May 2006
Format: Paperback
This book it is a prolonged attack on Dawkins and, indirectly through him, on Darwin. Nothing new in that. What did surprise me, however, was the selective way McGarth, an Oxford academic, treated his quoted sources, frequently dropping parts of them which do not support his argument. Another ploy is to constantly reiterate throughout the book that atheism is a sort of childish delusion, an adolescent phase intelligent people like McGarth grow out of.

McGrath says that "Darwin's 'Origin of Species' and later writings must be seen as a nineteenth-century refutation of of an early eighteenth-century idea [Paley's] - an idea already rejected by leading Christian writers of the age. He offers no evidence why they 'must' be seen in this light; far from being simply `an early eighteenth-century idea', Paley's `Natural Theology' wasn't published until 1802. Darwin was a prodigious letter writer, over 13,700 have survived, but in only one letter (Cambridge reference No. 2,532), dated 15 November 1859, did Darwin mention Paley. Hardly the actions of a man obsessed with him. The reason why a few Christian theologians dropped Paley's approach was that Natural Theology was eventually seen as counter-productive in promoting Christian dogma, having nothing to say about Christ and his miracles. Paley's `watchmaker' argument logically led to theism, little better than atheism in the eyes of some 19th century theologians. McGarth fails to say that Newman, and every other theologian, in all other respects was in full agreement with Paley and with his `demonstration' that man and the universe had been created by God.

But there are further distortions and half-truths in this book.
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135 of 188 people found the following review helpful By J. Knight on 23 Oct. 2006
Format: Paperback
Alistair McGrath wrote this before Richard Dawkins brought out "The God Delusion", and it will be interesting to see later revisions because Dawkins answers many of his points. However, The God Delusion is, for the most part, a more thorough articulation of points Dawkins has made in various other forums, so McGrath's book remains mostly relevant.

I recommend this book, it is, with momentary exceptions, an enjoyable read, and a good introduction to the wonderful world of modern liberal Protestant theology. The language is accessible except where McGrath is forced to descend into the obscurantist world of theo-babble. McGrath's arguments against Dawkins are about as sophisticated as they get. And therefore it is extremely interesting how totally unsatisfactory, in fact rather pathetic, they are.

McGrath starts with a precis of the mechanism of Darwinian evolution, and of Richard Dawkins' work that is correctly described by Dawkins himself as admirable. He has criticisms of Dawkins' sometimes confrontational approach that is, to some extent, justified. His criticism of Dawkins' idea of 'memes' is understandable. But you may already be seeing where the problem is; while his arguments are without doubt more sophisticated, the actual points being made are just the same as everyone trots out whenever they're criticising Dawkins: he is arrogant, his meme theory is flawed, he is claiming authority beyond his qualifications, and his characterisation of religion is a flimsy strawman. None of these really address the arguments made and are distinctly unsatisfying.

The claim of authority, for instance, presupposes that there is a qualification one must obtain before one can legitimately comment on religion.
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