Below is an article by Dr. Norman J Lund of Oxford. Lund purports to “debunk” Dawkins’ God Delusion by exposing certain logical fallacies contained within the God Delusion. I will dissect Lund’s complaints as not all of them fit. The original text is in italics, and my responses will be in normal text.
A. Fallacies of Irrelevance (Distraction)
In an essay entitled “Viruses of the Mind” (Free Inquiry, 1993), Dawkins argued that religion is an “accident of birth” and a mental “virus.” Religious beliefs are “mind-parasites” which breed upon “mystery.” According to Dawkins, the religious virus is adverse to reason and evidence. In the God Delusion Dawkins applies this theme to children. Dawkins declares that religion is the greatest danger facing children. “Christianity,” he asserts, “just as much as Islam, teaches children that unquestioning faith is a virtue. “You don’t have to make the case for what you believe,” he says (p. 346; cf. pp. 323, 347, 379). Apart from isolated personal attacks like those mentioned above, Dawkins presents no serious evidence or justification for that accusation. This is not a personal attack at all. This is actually the very heart of the matter in the argument between reason (be it philosophical or scientific) and religion. Religion requires faith. And what is faith? it is belief without evidence. This is not a virtue, but a catastrophe. To save space, I won’t rehash what I’ve already written on the subject of faith. You can read about it, or watch it HERE. What Lund ignored is an accusation made by Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens as well: the idea of original sin is child abuse. Imagine this: If you overheard a parent tell their child that if the child doesn’t do as the parent says, then the parent will throw the child into a pit of fire. Would you think them abusive? Of course you would! You’re a moral person. But Christian parents tell this to their kids every time they bring up getting saved: You have an evil that only Jesus can get rid of, and if you don’t follow certain rules (they vary by denomination) then you will go to hell. How is the threat of fire different when the doer is shifted to a godhead? It is not. It is abuse. His accusation is categorically false. His own university was established as a Christian institution for the sake of pursuing the truth. The motto of Oxford is Dominus illuminatio mea: “The Lord is my light.” The Natural History Museum, where Dawkins has debated, and most of the oldest colleges and universities in the world were established by Christians. Harvard, the oldest and most revered of American schools, bears the motto: “Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae” (“Truth for Christ and the Church”) on the official seal. Students today may be surprised to learn that Harvard was originally established to train Christian ministers and that one of the founding “precepts” in 1646 was the belief that Jesus Christ is “the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.” Typical of other American universities is Duke in Durham, North Carolina. Founded in 1924, there is a plaque in the center of the campus which states: “The aims of Duke University are to assert a faith in the eternal union of knowledge and religion set forth in the teachings and character of Jesus Christ, the son of God.” It’s not surprising. Scripture exhorts Christians: “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15). Dawkins’ ad hominems even extend to an astonishing assault upon the character of God as (among other things): “a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak” (p. 51). From a logical perspective, even if Dawkins’ outrageous comments were somehow true, it still wouldn’t address the issue of God’s existence. The above is basically one large red herring. That universities founded in the 1600s or even the 1920s were founded by Christians is not relevant. It would be like asserting that algebra was inspired by and proves the validity of Allah because it was invented by Muslims. But perhaps Lund is getting paid by the word.
4. Ad populum (popularity appeal): The popularity of a belief isn’t relevant in science or logic. Truth isn’t democratic. It doesn’t depend on a majority vote. Nevertheless, Dawkins implies that atheistic evolution Ugh! I am so sick of seeing the term “atheistic evolution”. Evolution is evolution, atheism is Atheism. the two have absolutely nothing to do with the other. must be true because of what he calls “the overwhelming preponderance of atheists” among Nobel Prize winners, and in the membership of prestigious groups like the Royal Society, the National Academy of Sciences, and Mensa (a group of people with high IQs) (p.126-130). Even if Dawkins was right about intellectuals favoring atheism, it wouldn’t prove its truth. One of Dawkins’ heroes, Bertrand Russell, confessed his own disillusionment with intellectuals: “I had supposed that intellectuals loved truth, but I found here again that not 10 per cent of them prefer truth to popularity” (Autobiography of Bertrand Russell: London, 1962; vol. 2, p.17; cited in Paul Johnson, Intellectuals: Harper, 1988, p. 202). However, Dawkins’ statistics are questionable. In 2003 the Pulitzer-prize winning sociologist, Rodney Stark, presented evidence that “levels of religiousness [among science professors] are relatively high” (p. 194). After reviewing the current survey data, Stark concluded: ”But perhaps the most striking finding is that… faculty in the ‘hard’ sciences turn out to be far more likely to be religious than are their counterparts in the ‘softer’ social sciences: they attend church more regularly, are more likely to describe themselves as ‘deeply’ or ‘moderately’ religious [55-60 %] and to say they are ‘religiously conservative’” [34-40%], and are far more likely to claim religious affiliation” (For the Glory of God, Princeton U. Press: 2003, p. 195). Dawkins doesn’t seem to have looked very far. He omits many obvious names of eminent scientists who have been open about their religious convictions, including Henry Schaeffer III. Dr. Schaeffer (Ph.D. Stanford) is one of the most distinguished chemists in the world (U.C. Berkeley, 1969-1987), a Fellow of the Royal Society (London, 2005), a five-time nominee for the Nobel Prize, and an out-spoken Christian (Science and Christianity: Conflict or Coherence, The Apollos Trust, 2003). He is one of over five hundred doctoral-level scientists who have signed “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism” which states: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life” (http://ift.tt/OgXXGb).
Lund appropriately named this category. The ad populum here, is Lund’s though. He is appealing to the number of scientists who identify as theist as to imply that there is something to it. But, truth is not democratic. How many people believe in it is irrelevant.
But the study Lund mentions above is suspect. Another study by Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Ulster covered 137 countries and found that 7% of the American National Academy of Sciences believed in God, and only 3.3% of the fellows at the Royal Society believed in God (source). But did you notice that the 7% figure is for those who believe in God, while Lund’s figures give a claim of religious affiliation. Cannot one identify with a religion and not believe in God? Many in the clergy are atheists, but that is neither here nor there. How many people believe in something has nothing to do with the reality of it.
This passage is more evidence that Lund is getting paid by the word. What do bumper stickers and blasphemy have to do with anything?
7. Straw man (misrepresentation): This fallacy misrepresents an opponent’s actual position through exaggeration or distortion. A good precaution is to ask an opponent whether or not you have stated his viewpoint clearly and accurately. Very few if any Christians will recognize themselves in Dawkins’ caricatures. He repeatedly accuses religion of demanding credulity (mindless belief) and of discouraging science (rational inquiry). For example, according to Dawkins, the great majority of Christians teach their children that: “unquestioning faith is a virtue” This again. (p. 323) and that “truth comes from scripture rather than from evidence” (p. 379). Thus, he concludes: “Religious faith is an especially potent silencer of rational calculation… because it discourages questioning, by its very nature” (p. 346). Thus, he concludes: “Religious faith is an especially potent silencer of rational calculation… because it discourages questioning, by its very nature” (p. 346). Dawkins blandly assumes that all religions are basically the same in this regard. While his characterization may apply to some cults and false religions, What is a “false religion”? One that Lund doesn’t believe in? it is categorically false when applied to historic Christianity. (For a more complete discussion see: False Dilemma) Oh I can’t wait. I’ll hold off until then. Though the bit I said above about faith still holds.
B. Fallacies of Ambiguity (Confusion)
1. Composition (misapplication): This fallacy assumes that what is true of the parts of something must also be true of the whole. Dawkins commits this fallacy by treating evolution as a monolithic process, and refusing to distinguish between micro- and macro-evolution. The micro/macro thing is a creationist distinction. All evolution is micro (excepting mutation) meaning that all changes are minute. But after millions if not billions of minute changes that often build on each other, the end result is drastically different than the beginning. The idea of micro/macro evolution is a case of creationists wanting to have their cake and eat it too. What they call micro evolution happens in a lab. Viruses and bacteria change rapidly leading to multiple strains of the flu, and drug resistant bacteria. The micro/macro distinction allows creationists to be able to accept germ theory but allow humans to still be God’s unique little pet. No one denies micro-evolution. The evidence for adaptation and change within species is overwhelming. However, there is no such evidence for change between species (transmutation), nor for the appearance of life from non-life by natural processes (abiogenesis).
2. Equivocation (obscurantism): To equivocate is to mislead someone by confusing them. When a debater equivocates the proper response is to call out: “Distinguo!” (“I distinguish!”). Dawkins is guilty of equivocation on a grand scale. He refuses to distinguish between religions as radically different as Christianity and Islam. He insists on treating all religions as equally irrational, superstitious and unscientific. Right. Because there are some religions that are fare more sane than Christianity and Islam. Baha’i is one, Buddhism is another. They are still built upon somewhat irrational grounds, but those two religions, and there’s others too, do not practice ritual cannibalism, or believe that their prophet rode a flying horse. This broad generalization is grossly unfair and misleading. An equally unjustified tactic would be to treat alchemy and astrology as the equivalents of chemistry and astronomy. The motivation and freedom for scientific inquiry did not happen by accident. It came from a Biblical worldview towards which the Koran is suspicious and unfavorable. As Islamic scholar Salman Rushdie has pointed out: “Islam has failed to create a free society anywhere on earth” (Columbia U.; Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism, 1981-1991). Freedom and encouragement for scientific study is unique to a Biblical worldview (See: Straw Man). This is addressed below. But no, Christianity and Islam both claim to be “truth” and is why at times both religions have suppressed science, but European and Arabic cultures, at different times, promoted science when the culture was more secular than sectarian.
1. False Dilemma (Either/Or): Dawkins presents a false option between two extremes. On the one hand he portrays science as the heroic, rational pursuit of facts. On the other hand he portrays religion as the hypocritical, irrational pursuit of faith. Where is the dilemma? Not all either/or choices are a dilemma. And the middle ground is not always the best option. Here, Lund assumes that is the case, otherwise there would be no dilemma. This is the fallacy of the Appeal to Moderation. Some of his criticisms may apply to certain cults and false religions, but not to historic Christianity. Faith and facts are not opposites. Neither are deer and Gorillas. But then again, maybe they are. Faith: Belief without evidence. Fact: The record of an observed and measured event. No, they are not opposites, but Faith is to believe something to be true with out any facts to back it up. Delusion is to believe something is true when the known facts are counter to that belief. This is the delusion, Dawkins was talking about in the God Delusion. There’s no necessary contradiction between the two. In fact, the Pulitzer-prize winning historian, Rodney Stark, has argued: ”not only that there is no inherent conflict between religion and science, but that Christian theology was essential for the rise of science” (For the Glory of God, Princeton & Oxford, 2003: p. 123). If this is true, then why was it the Muslims who were the Wests leaders in Science during the Dark Ages? Why were the Chinese more advanced than the West until the Renaissance? In both cases it was when secular ideals of skepticism and curiosity were in favor, and pious obedience to ideas was waning. Dawkins argument is clearly distorted and false. For almost a millennium fides quaerens intellectum (“faith in search of understanding”) has been a Christian motto expressing the Christian motivation to seek the truth. It was Anselm’s dictum, echoing Augustine, about the positive relationship between faith and reason. All Biblically literate Christians know that they have been exhorted to use their minds to the best of their ability (Phil. 4:8); to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16); and to “always be prepared to make a defense to any one calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15). The oldest universities in the world, including Oxford, were founded by Christians who shared that conviction. Granted that Dawkins’ criticism may apply to some individuals or groups in the history of Christianity, but they have been the exception, not the rule. The above is a common thread in Abrahamic apologetics. Faith is belief without evidence. At least, that is how Dawkins uses the word. If there is evidence for something, then it is a fact. The real argument here goes back to Descartes and his theory of doubt: begin with a null hypothesis. In other words, do not believe until it is proven. Religion requires a certain amount of faith (believing first) to exist. Never have there been evidence of miracles, supernatural phenomenon, or deities. Yes people believe in them, claim to “feel” them, but these are not evidence. They are not verifiable. If you have evidence for something, you have a reason to believe in it, and it your belief stops being based in faith.
Eminent historians and philosophers of science have acknowledged the unique formative role of Christianity in the origin of modern science. French-born American historian, teacher and cultural critic (Columbia U.: 1927-67) Jacques Barzun wrote that the ‘so-called warfare between science and religion [could] be seen as the warfare between two philosophies and perhaps two faiths, [a] dispute between the believers in consciousness and the believers in mechanical action; the believers in purpose and the believers in pure chance’” (Darwin, Marx, Wagner: Critique of a Heritage; U. Chicago Press, 1941). Dinesh D’Souza points out in his recent study, What’s So Great About Christianity, modern science relies upon an “unsupported belief” both in the rationality of the universe and of our own minds. In a lecture at Harvard University in 1925 the eminent British philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, asserted that “faith in the possibility of science… is an unconscious derivative of medieval theology” (Science and the Modern World: Free Press, p. 53). No. Science requires no faith. Why? It works! Observe nature. Question what you see. Guess at the answer (hypothesis) [NOTE: this is where the faithful stop]. Experiment to eliminate your hypotheses. Observe and record results. Submit the whole shebang to other experts to see if they can duplicate your findings. This is science, this and nothing more. It is this process that took us to the moon, eradicated small pox, and tamed the electron.
Herbert Schneidau, in his widely acclaimed study of mythical cultures, Sacred Discontent: The Bible and Western Tradition (University of California Press: Berkeley, 1977), concluded that the Biblical worldview led to the rise of science and technology. By “desacralizing” nature, the Bible sanctioned critical, objective investigation of the world and a linear concept of time. Um, no. The middle ages are proof that science was not born from Christian ideas. Science often ran counter to Christian doctrine to the misfortune of the scientists, like Copernicus and Galileo. Science did not blossom in Europe until the Muslims reintroduced science to Europe, as they had no problem with science at that time. Also, ancient Greek and Roman writings, knowledge lost in Europe for nearly 1,000 years were reintroduced thanks to the preservation efforts of the Muslims. Loren Eiseley, the late distinguished professor of Anthropology and the History of Science at the University of Pennsylvania went so far as to suggest that science was an “invention” of Christianity: “it is the Christian world which finally gave birth in a clear, articulate fashion to the experimental method of science itself” (Darwin’s Century: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1961; cited in Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton, The Soul of Science, 1994; pp. 17-18). John Lennox, a Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Oxford, has pointed out to Dawkins (in formal debates) that the Natural History Museum (where they have debated) was originally “dedicated to God and the investigation of divine design” http://ift.tt/1AHDkdi This is an irrelevant point.
2. Begging the Question (circular reasoning): Dawkins constantly assumes that which he purports to prove, namely, that a godless process of evolution is the cause of everything, including “apparent design.” No. For example, he asserts that: “Creative intelligences, being evolved, necessarily arrive late in the universe, and therefore cannot be responsible for designing it” (p. 52). This is why scientists are a little behind when it comes to purely logical arguments. Dawkins is trying to apply evolution to the creation of life. See my next comment. Although Dawkins claims that he will “show” the reader evidence for this belief, he fails to deliver. He does, actually. It’s called the whole book. Sometimes, and we all do it, we are so in dissecting the organelle, we become oblivious to the organism. When the issue comes up again later, he simply repeats the assertion: “Entities that are complex enough to be intelligent are products of an evolutionary process” (p. 98). Dawkins announces his “commitment to naturalism” in Chapter 1. He explains that: “An atheist in this sense of philosophical naturalist is somebody who believes there is nothing beyond the natural, physical world, no supernatural creative intelligence lurking behind the observable universe” (p. 35; italics added). He seems unaware that he is making the same kind of unsupported faith commitment which he otherwise finds so inimical. In other words, Dawkins’ foundation is not facts or evidence, but a reductionistic faith in materialism. And we are back to pious belief, and not supported evidence. Naturalism, the way Lund uses it, assumes nothing; only when facts are present then do they come to be regarded as truth. Naturalism assumes that nothing exists besides matter and energy. That is not an assumption, that is an observation. There is even a foundation to discover supernatural phenomenon, complete with a one million dollar reward! But so far, no supernatural phenomenon has ever been demonstrated. The end result of naturalism is self-contradiction. If our thoughts are nothing more than a random, bio-chemical process (p. 34), then we have no basis to believe that our thoughts are true. That is because they are not random. A die is random. The lottery is random. What impulses and cranial regions that elicit thought and emotion are not random. Here, Lund is trying to build up a straw man fallacy. They are equivalent to the secretions of our kidneys and other physical organs. In Darwin’s (and Dawkins’) world, our thoughts need not be “true,” only “useful” (p. 413). This is oddly true. For instance, think of Newton’s laws of Gravitation. It describes a universe where objects are mutually attracted (in love?) with a force equal to the sum of their mass divided by the square of the distance between them. This is a simple formula that reliably describes the motion of the planets, the trajectory of a bullet, and why a five pound bowling ball and a 20 pound bowling ball hit the ground at the same time. However, this is an inaccurate description of the universe. Gravity isn’t a force, like magnetism, but rather a curvature in the space/time continuum (think of a bowling ball on a mattress; the curvature of the mattress is the “gravity” made by the bowling ball). The math behind it is highly complex as well. Yet, Newton’s laws and formulas make an adequate rule of thumb for all but the most exotic of uses. Think of it this way: The number Pi is a wholly irrational number without end — it goes on forever. Yet skyscrapers and moon rockets get built by only going to the third or fourth decimal place of Pi. 3.1415 is good enough. But there’s no way to know which ideas are most useful at any given time. There is: Critical thinking! That is what critical thinking is all about: Finding what idea is most useful at that time, in that situation. Only later will it be revealed which ideas “survive.” People are reduced to random metabolic units which receive and emit random sensory input. Although others might find this view dismal and dehumanizing, Dawkins claims to find it “liberating” and “emancipating” (p. 419-420). And there’s the fruition of Lund’s Straw man. By saying that evolution reduces people to “random metabolic units” and “random sensory input” (Lund keeps using the word random, but I don’t think he knows what it means) he implies that only religion can make “metabolic units” into people — a moral agent, if you will. Naturally, it would highly weaken Lund’s position to admit that one can be good without god, or have dignity without faith in religion.
When Dawkins is so transparent about his dislike for God, he opens himself to the charge of ‘theophobia,’ that is, a fear of (or revulsion against) God. C. S. Lewis identified this phenomenon and applied it to Sigmund Freud. As a result, Dr. Armand Nicholi, a professor at Harvard University has taught a course comparing the ideas of Freud and Lewis. In 2002 he published his findings in a book entitled: The Question of God: C. S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex and the Meaning of Life (New York: The Free Press). Lewis agreed with Freud on one basic thing, that human beings have a tendency to “suppress” unpleasant truths.” However, Lewis disagreed with Freud regarding which truths we find most unpleasant, and which truths we try hardest to suppress. Like Dawkins, Freud asserted that we are most afraid of “being alone” (i.e. without God) and of “being unloved” (i.e. without God’s love). Lewis disagreed. Lewis said that when he became a Christian he reaIized that for many years his greatest fear had been “not being alone” (i.e. not being free to do whatever he wanted) and afraid of “being judged” (i.e. accountable to God). Similarly, whereas Freud argued that we “project” our “wishes” for moral order and life after death by “creating” (an imaginary) heaven, Lewis argued that we “project” our “wishes” for personal freedom and supremacy by “creating” (an imaginary) kingdom of our own. (See Armand M. Nicholi, Jr.: The Question of God: The Free Press, 2002). I admit to not having anything clever to say here. Partly because I am not that familiar with Lewis’ work, nor am I familiar with the work of Nicholi. Perhaps a helpful reader will contribute to this little passage. However, from what is presented here is only partial philosophies. Just enough for Lund to cherry pick to make his, albeit weak, point. That point being that Dawkins hates god. Absurd. What dawkins hates is abusive religions that tell people they are inherently evil (original sin) or insist on accepting ideas that have no bearing in reality (creationism).
The renowned philosopher, Anthony Flew, has called Dawkins’ argument “bizarre.” Dawkins offers no evidence in support of these assertions other than his admitted preference for any viewpoint which precludes divine activity. The logic of Dawkins’ argument (‘simple-always-precedes-complex’) is disproved by all human artistry and engineering as well as all forms of biological reproduction. Not at all. The argument is that the complex is always preceded by the simple. What Lund is trying to argue against is that the complex can never produce the simple, which is not Dawkin’s argument. Lund has tried to pull a logical bait and switch; or create a straw man fallacy. The artist always precedes the work of art; the chicken always comes before the egg. And that art is a simple part of a complex myriad of art that motivates culture, and inspires other artists. The simple egg matures into a chicken as equally complex as its parents. If Dawkins’ logic was valid, then any human agency capable of designing something as improbable as a watch, a cathedral, or a spaceship would have to be considered “improbable.” It is improbable! Out of all of the species on Earth that have ever lived, only humans have evolved the mental capacity to leave Earth. That’s a strong argument for the impossibility of higher intelligence, but it is possible. After all, it did happen. There’s obviously something wrong with that. It is an accepted practice in logic to “infer to the most sufficient explanation.” In the debate about human origins, a strong argument can be made that only divine agency can account for human life and reason. And this argument is? Evolution provides a sufficient explanation for complex life on Earth adding a creator, be it Yahweh, Brahma, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster add another layer of complexity that must be justified in itself. By refusing to consider the possibility of divine creativity and causation, Dawkins ends up by threatening human creativity and causation as well. These two sentences do not link. By adding the divine to human creativity, an additional layer of complexity is added that must be justified. Lund fails to provide this.
I am sad to see such an educated mind fall prey to such bad arguments. I can understand the personal need to believe that it doesn’t all end six feet under. The need to believe that we will see our loved ones again in a world without pain and suffering. If a person were to believe just that, then only the biggest of asses would argue. But it is all of the other stuff that comes with religion. The hell concept, the sin concept, the misogyny, the cognitive dissonance religion requires is the source of conflict between religion and the secular world.
Lund may never see this, and for that I am sad. But for those who do, the world is a beautiful place and will only be more so.