on 31 July 2010
This is a short, yet well-researched work, in which, John Blanchard outlines Richard Dawkins views and arguments for atheism. These include the view that science gives and answer to everything, and that religion is the cause of all evils. Blanchard then goes on to show how flawed those views are, and offers vastly better views pointing towards the existence of an Almighty God. This will be an encouraging read for Christians and could help them sharpen up their own arguments for the existence of God and the person of His Son Jesus Christ. It will also be of use for interested non-Christians who are seeking.
John Blanchard not only deals with Dawkins he wraps him up and sends him packing with this brief but telling account of Dawkins' evangelistic atheism. He traces Dawkins' intellectual development from "The Selfish Gene"(1976) which claimed humans and animals "are machines created by our genes" and the suggestion that cultural replication was transmitted from generation to generation as memes. In 1986 Dawkins wrote "The Blind Watchmaker" denying complexity in nature pointed to the existence of a supernatural creator. A decade later in "Climbing Mount Improbable" Dawkins argued "that evolution produces amazing results not by sudden massive leaps but by countless tiny changes over millions of years". In "Unweaving the Rainbow" (1998) Dawkins claimed science alone is the key to understanding the beauty and wonder of the universe.
Blanchard makes no direct comment on Dawkins' various scientific claims but argues that his books intertwine scientific and non-scientific statements while failing to distinguish between the two. The weakness of the gene-centred theory of evolution has been exposed by philosophers of science, such as Evelyn Lane Fox, who stated that, "evidence from the Human Genome Project challenged "familiar notions of genetic determinism" suggesting that the gene-centred approach "had achieved its apotheosis" and in so doing "radically undermined ....the concept of the gene." Many scientists regard the gene as a derived, rather than a fundamental, entity. Ernst Mayr wrote, "Dawkins' basic theory of the gene being the object of evolution is totally non-Darwinian."
Mayr, like Dawkins, was an atheist and "The God Delusion" (2006) made no pretence of being scientific or objective. Dawkins wrote, "If this book works as I intend, religious readers will be atheists when they put it down." He added, "I am attacking God, all gods, anything and everything supernatural, wherever and whenever they have been or will be invented." The book condemned all religions and rested on unacknowledged metaphysical assumptions. Critics accused Dawkins of being as fundamentalist in his views as religious fundamentalists were in theirs. He based his opposition to religion on a lack of evidence, admitting he was agnostic. He established the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science whose mission was, "to support scientific education, critical thinking and evidence-based understanding of the natural world in the quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and suffering." Seeing atheism as a social movement, Dawkins preserved the purity of its doctrine by establishing a "Non-Believers Giving Aid" bank account to provide financial help, untainted by religious association, in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake. As if the people of Haiti cared whether aid was from believers or non-believers!!
Blanchard does not contest science with Dawkins, as some appear to suggest, he considers eight key issues around which Dawkins builds his case against God. The first is whether science can explain everything, either now or in the future. Dawkins argues "Religion is no longer a serious candidate in the field of explanation. It is completely superseded by science." As Blanchard points out Dawkins' view is an opinion not a scientific statement. This is exacerbated by Dawkins lumping all religions together and demonstrating a lack of knowledge of theology. Blanchard claims that science neither explains the origins of life nor what purpose, if any, lies behind human existence. The Dawkins version of these events preclude asking questions about what is real and what is guesswork. For Dawkins those who do not share his views about evolution are "ignorant, stupid or insane". All three descriptions are non-scientific.
Blanchard discusses the relationship between science and morality quoting Dawkins as stating, "Science has no methods for deciding what is ethical". That leaves Dawkins falling back on an unproven general consensus that there is no obvious connection between morality and religion. Sadly, there is and, although people have acted according to their religious belief, not all actions are positive as witnessed by "honour killings" and sectarianism. Blanchard agrees with Dawkins that science is irrelevant to the determination of moral questions. As a counter argument Blanchard calls for an act of faith in God's role as the author of morality. He finds it in the underlying Christian doctrine that humankind has been alienated from God by its own perverse selfishness. However, just as science has no means of determining morality, the claim that morality i.e. the sense of right and wrong, good and evil, is divinely inspired requires a leap of faith within a Faith that is doctrinally divided.
To claim with Hitchens that "religion poisons everything" is to misread human history. Northern Ireland's two communities have different religious traditions but the "troubles" were essentially political and were dealt with by political action. The events of 9/11 were political rather than religious. Bin Laden stated that U.S. Support for Israel, sanctions against Iraq and the presence of U.S. Troops in Saudi Arabia were the motives for the attacks. Christendom was a sociopolitical idea which enabled the Roman Catholic Church to exercise political power and social control in medieval times. Yet Dawkins makes no attempt to distinguish between the varieties of religious expression, tarring all with the same brush while ignoring explanations of atheistic suppression in Communist countries.
Dawkins, while maintaining the God portrayed in the Old Testament does not exist, berates the "sky fairy" which he incorrectly assumes is a fair representation of Christian literalism. He simply creates a straw man to demolish him and prove the superior intelligence of the "Brights". Blanchard establishes Dawkins' non-scientific weaknesses but his alternative is not necessarily a complete or accurate statement of Christian theology. And there's the rub. Blanchard has exposed Dawkins' non-scientific statements and confronted Dawkins' atheist campaign. In opposition Blanchard advocates God-centred alternatives which he regards as superior. Whether he has succeeded is moot. It's unlikely anyone will alter their viewpoint, for or against, by reading this book but it's well worth a read for anyone with an open mind. Four stars.
on 16 March 2012
I'll admit that it must be difficult to write a short work rebutting anything whilst still keeping that work accessible. It cannot, though, be made easier by a lack of focus either on the arguments you are seeking to rebut or on your own counter arguments. What you really need to do is encapsulate the argument you're trying to rebut and then show where it's gone wrong. Blanchard does neither.
Blanchard quotes bits of the "proof beyond all doubt" and "proof beyond reasonable doubt" distinction in the opening chapter of The Greatest Show on Earth without clearly stating it. Blanchard then argues against evolution as "beyond reasonable doubt" by quoting Dawkins using "proof beyond all doubt" in another context on a wider subject.
Blanchard criticises Dawkins for trying to base arguments in the improbability of God. But Dawkins simply does no such thing. Dawkins uses probability to *characterise* his attitude to God not to *determine* it.
Blanchard attacks Dawkins criticisms of the behaviours caused by religions. His counter argument is that Christianity would like its followers to behave differently.
Throughout all this is the irritating attitude that to quote the Bible is relevant in an argument against an atheist. In a book of less than ninety pages we could do without biblical quotes and references crowding out actual arguments about the actual matter at hand.
All in all, far from dealing with Dawkins this book fails even to engage with him.
on 20 September 2010
As the author himself asserts that he is not a scientist and as such any attempt to debunk Dawkins' work in this way would be inappropriate, he unfortunately attempts to debunk it with ill-thought out arguments. Thankfully to anyone with half a brain this short book is more of a bonus to evolutionists - it shows up the ignorance of the author and that of creationists in general.
Each of the typical anti-Dawkins points are rolled out with a hazy half-scientific explanation that no doubt fools a few lay people who are determined to carry on believing in one of the many ~2000-year old religions.
Let's Deal with Dealing With Dawkins:
1) The universe is approx 9 billion years old - light from stars is evidence of this as is the ongoing expansion of the universe. The speed of light is constant - fact - and there is absolutely NO evidence to the contrary.
2) The Earth is hundred of millions of years old (at least), not the paltry 6000 years from the bible. This is proven by radiometric dating of a range of overlapping isotopes all of which corroborate the other. Half lives of the isotopes are constant - again a proven fact since radioactivity was first identified. Nothing can alter the rate of decay.
3) Evolution can't occur as information cannot be created(complexity cannot arise from simple forms) This again is a ridiculous statement and vaguely supported by the Laws of Thermodynamics; at least by a creationist who may have heard of it. Well, yet again the Laws don't apply here as the system is not closed - it gains energy from our Sun. Additionally the LoT doesn't govern cellular replication.
4) It is unbelievable to think that we evolved from single cells. Good grief - this is SO facile! If you want a nice example that you CAN get your head round, man, you yourself were a single cell in your mother's womb and took a measley 9 months to form into a functioning human being: not bad eh? Chemicals in solution do form more complex structures solely with energy from the sun or heat from a Bunsen(!)
5) It's called The 'Theory' of Evolution so it hasn't been proven. In science the word 'theory' has a slightly different context to that used in standard English. 'Theory' when used in this way means a statement or question that has been posited and then proven beyond reasonable doubt by scientific reproduceable evidence. So it could be written in standard English as The Fact of Evolution. If you're still not sure then think of gravity - even creationists must accept gravity- its full expression is The Theory of Gravity.
6) The Big Bang. Well this is a bit more intriguing and a topic that is feverishly seized on by creationists. As a physicist i am the first to say that we don't know exactly what was happening but we are steadily learning more and more. It may be that the universe is cyclical and self creating and destroying. It may not be but we will find out more and more and even perhaps arrive at an answer within say 100 years. Spacetime was created with the Big Bang thus the question of what happened before the Big Bang is redundant.
Well I'm only half way though this book - given to me by a creationist friend. If I can find the strength to struggle through the rest I'll post some more debunkings but really I think I've made my point.
This 83 page book is short, simply written and aimed at ignorant people desperate to hold onto the flimsy idea of 'god'. Dawkins' works are long, well researched, packed full of examples and REAL scientific work combined with arguments and counter arguments that further back up his claims. If a respected biologist ever writes a title that goes against Darwin I'd love to read it. Of course that will never happen.
I've recently read four of Richard Dawkin's books including "The God Delusion" and "The Greatest Show on Earth" and I bought this book in a rare visit to a religious bookshop in Belfast , curious to see if his arguments could be effectively challenged by a Christian writer. Having read the book, I must admit that I still agree with Dawkins arguments. The book throws a lot of random biblical quotations at the reader and relies heavily on the First Cause Argument to back up his antagonism to Dawkins opinions, which didn't convince me. The God of the Bible is a partisan local deity of a race of Bronze Age tribesman and the Bible with it's genealogy of the direct link between Adam and Jesus indicates that the creation of humanity only occurred 6000 years ago in the Middle East,a belief which fossil evidence totally undermines. If Adam and Eve didnt exist then there is no need for Jesus to redeem humanity of its original sin as it never existed. Dawkins picture of a race of advanced monkeys gradually evolving into the fairly civilised and intelligent Homo Sapiens of today is much more convincing. The writers of the Bible knew nothing of cosmology,bacteriology, paleantology and geology (to name but a few sciences) and science ,represented by Dawkins, provides a much more rigorous and accurate approach to the big questions of life than the Bible even though there are still some grey areas such as how did life originate on Earth and why is there something (eg. quarks) rather than nothing ? However I would prefer to wait for science to come up with answers to such contentious questions rather than posit the existence of some immense cosmic intelligence who created it , which begs the question ,of course , of Who Created God ? A question which can be extended an infinite number of times...