Why There Almost Certainly is a God

I was bracing myself for Richard Dawkins’ chapter “Why There Almost Certainly is No God.”  After all, this is Dawkins area of specialization.  I was surprised as to what I read.  Obviously, Dawkins believes that Darwinism is a sufficient explanation for life.  But he did not really let loose on evidence for evolution.  The focus in this chapter is the anthropic principle.  Dawkins admits that at first glance the odds of the universe being life permitting and life beginning on this planet seem unlikely.  However, according to the anthropic principle the only reason we can think about such things is that we happen to live in the universe and on the planet and at the time when humans are alive.  Still, as Dawkins goes through six fundamental constants of the universe or the requirements for life to exist on this planet, I was drawn to how amazing creation really is, something that I see as more likely the result of God.  Dawkins uses the example of the man put before a firing squad and when the command is given, all bullets miss.  He would only be surprised because he was the one to survive.  Even so, it still would suggest that something strange happened, someone intervened in some way to allow him to survive the execution.  The anthropic principle is limited in its explanatory scope.

The other part of Dawkins’ argument is the complexity of God.  Dawkins looks to the theist argument that something so complex could not have come from nothing.  Dawkins then turns around and suggests, if God exists, he would have to be much more complex than simple humans, therefore the universe could not have come from God.  I am not sure that Dawkins understands what theists believe about God.  He is not an entity with moving parts, so that you could look at his apparatus for omniscience, for omnipotence, etc.  God is an all powerful mind and is simple in essence.

One of the things that I noticed is that in terms of human life and the universe, Dawkins is comfortable with some mystery, with some questions that we do not know the answers to.  For some reason he will not give that same sort of grace to theists.  Theism leaves too many questions and must be rejected.  Anyway, Dawkins did not mean to do it, but his inspiring description of the complexity of life strengthened my faith in God.  Thanks Richard!

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3 thoughts on “Why There Almost Certainly is a God”

  1. I like your writing, very thoughtful. However, about the firing squad miracle, you write: “someone intervened”. That doesn’t hold unfortunately. It’s an assumption from your part. The only facts are: 1. the firing squad fired their weapons, and 2. you’re still alive (as unlikely as that may seem). In no way do these two facts necessarily require any “human intervention”. Likewise, for the anthropic principle to hold, it in no way requires the need for any “intervention”. It’s merely stating unlikely, but true, facts. You may find that unsatisfactory. However, in no way do any of the facts that lead up to the anthropic principle, make the assumptions you make based on those facts more likely to be true. Gaining anything from the anthropic principle requires careful explorations of those facts by themselves, without any blurring assumptions. So, in the case of the firing squad, we’d have to examine the facts. If, after careful examination, either of those point to human intervention, than that’s fine. But the mere unlikeliness of still being alive after the shooting is not enough to assume any intervention.

    Also, “all powerful mind” and “simple in essence” seem contradictory. Powerful minds aren’t simple in essence. In fact, the more powerful a mind, the more complex “in essence” it becomes. So, by extrapolation I conclude that an all powerful mind should be the most complex in essence, rather than “simple in essence”. Can you explain what you mean by “simple in essence”?

    1. That’s a little lazy, alas, you might want to go and read John Leslie’s original “firing squad” analogy (Dawkins stole it). The issue is that *something* needs explaining: to shrug one’s shoulders and say “huh” simply isn’t science. (As one philosopher of science put it: ‘When scientists say ‘chance’, what we mean is ‘we don’t know what the hell is going on.'” Dawkins fumbles the analogy and so makes it far less clear than in the original. You might also enjoy Paul Davies book, “The Goldilocks Enigma” — a great survey of the “fine tuning” question from a non-theist and one of the best minds in cosmology.

      1. I really don’t argue that there’s nothing to be explained, on the contrary. My point is that the observation that something is very unlikely to have happened, doesn’t mean that “someone intervened in some way”. But I’ll check the original analogy, thanks for pointing to it.

        I don’t know which philosopher of science you are referring to? It sounds a bit like something Richard Feynman might have said, but he sure wasn’t a philosopher… 😉

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