Re: [asa] Dawkins, religion, and children

From: David Campbell <>
Date: Wed May 02 2007 - 12:58:28 EDT

> I think that Dawkins position is a bit more subtle than that. Dawkins'
> position is not one of a-priori non-existence of God but rather a more
> subtle, and thus much harder to reject, argument based on
> improbabilities.

In other words, the same arguments as ID, but making up different
numbers for the unknown probabilities in order to generate opposite

>How does one respond to Dawkins' statement without
presuming that one is right? Is the answer, as some have suggested, a
coherent worldview? But then the question becomes, that there are many
coherent worldviews and coherency cannot be defined to be 'Christian
God' without becoming tautological.<

Not that I have tried to live out a variety of worldviews, but as far
as I can see all worldviews have difficulties explaining certain
things. Choosing the one that seems most coherent will be strongly
affected by presuppositions, what issues you place a priority on, what
you are willing to dismiss as noise, etc.

Proving that atheism is wrong is challenging. (The "slam-dunk"
argument for Christianity is the work of the Spirit convicting an
individual. Any attempt to replace that with intellectual arguments
is a false gospel, though it might be supplemented by such arguments.)
 Proving that atheism is not clearly a better choice than theism is
trivial. Atheists can be violently totalitarian (has Dawkins heard of
North Korea or the Khmer Rouge?), non-violent but verbally abusive
like Dawkins, or nice people. Atheistic arguments range from rotten
to coherent. Why all humans show this curious moral pattern does not
seem well-addressed by atheism, whereas it is a fundamental precept of
Christianity. The reader must decide what weight to put on this

>To accuse science of robbing life of the warmth that makes it worth
living is so preposterously mistaken, so diametrically opposite to my
own feelings and those of
most working scientists, I am almost driven to the despair of which I
am wrongly suspected.<

This combines two falsehoods. One is the claim that it is science,
rather than atheism, that causes trouble for many people. The second
is that Dawkins speaks for most working scientists. The total who are
either theistic or who don't bother thinking about such issues is
surely well ahead of those who think like Dawkins. Although Dawkins
is correct that his worldview does not have to entail despair, it also
gives no answer to it. One might choose to be e.g., a great composer
or a mass murderer. All is vanity, and it does not matter which you
choose, as someone who thought more deeply about the issue than
Dawkins pointed out long before.

Talking about the basis for presuppositions seems a little off the
mark. Rather, how to recognize and assess them is the important
issue. It is silly to a priori reject flying spaghetti monsters
simply because you don't believe they exist. Rather, consideration of
the evidence, which includes how well it fits into your worldview,
leads to the conclusion that it's just a joke.

Collins' argument addresses the claim that "I know there is no god".
As such, it would apply to the possibility of any sort of god. To
some degree it also addresses Dawkin's claim that no god is likely,
because he is presupposing certain characteristics of gods that do
not match well with traditional Christian understandings, not to
mention more obscure options. Obviously, Collins' argument is
inadequate for any meaningful spiritual issues, which hinge on what
type of deity exists. Rather, it addresses the delusion that atheism
is water-tight and perfectly logical in addressing all issues.

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections
University of Alabama
"I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Wed May 2 12:59:03 2007

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