Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters, a blog where we dive into the ocean of truth! We’re right now reviewing the book of Victor Stenger’s called “The New Atheism: Taking A Stand For Science And Reason.” Tonight, we review chapter 4, The Design Delusion.
Upfront, I will say I am not a scientist and do not intend to enter in any depth into the scientific areas. I believe that is supposed to be the area of those with that kind of expertise. Would that the new atheists did the same with philosophy and theology.
To begin with, Stenger quotes Richard Dawkins for the chapter header saying the following:
We are trying to understand how we have got a complicated world, and we have an explanation in terms of a simpler world, and we explain that in terms of a slightly simpler world and it all hangs together down to an ultimately simple world. Now, God is not an explanation of that kind. God himself cannot be simple if he has power to do all the things he is supposed to do.
Those like Dawkins can only think in terms of science and everything is scientific. That Stenger gives this any authority shows me the kind of thinker I’m dealing with. Dawkins’s argument assumes that God must be a physical being. He must be highly complex in order to do the things that he is able to do.
If you think back to our look at the doctrine of God based on the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, you’ll recall that we constantly spoke of the simplicity of God. God is being by nature and therefore not composed of parts. He can do all things for he can do all that being is capable of doing and he can know all the ways that being can be.
Hard to understand? Yes. Dawkins’s objection however is not a scientific objection but a theological one, and it is built on very bad theology. We could attempt to excuse Dawkins for ignorance, except in “The God Delusion” Dawkins does go through the five ways of Thomas Aquinas and the very next section after the five ways is on the simplicity of God.
Looking through this chapter, much of what Stenger says is scientific. As I said, I will not get into that. However, he comes to history and says that evolution immediately came under attack from religious spokesmen because it clearly conflicted with Genesis.
In contrast, a good friend of Charles Darwin’s was the botanist Asa Gray, who was also a devout Christian. Charles Kingsley, a minister, wrote to congratulate Darwin on his theory because it brought great glory to the creator who built machines capable of building more machines.
Richard Dawkins in his own work on “A Devil’s Chaplain” wrote of his education and his teacher Sanderson, who happened to be an evolutionist and a devout Christian. The new atheists readily list examples of Christians who find no conflict between evolution and science, but they still play the same card over and over. Now as for me, I don’t personally believe the theory on a macro scale, but if I was wrong, it wouldn’t matter to me. It’s not a major issue.
The problem however for the atheist is what Alvin Plantinga pointed out. As it stands right now, evolution is the only game in town so naturalistic evolution must be true then. I, as one who believes in creation, can say that I can think of any number of ways God could have created and whichever one is right is fine with me.
Stenger goes on to explain why Intelligent Design should not be taught in schools. Stenger says it is a science, but it is a wrong science. It should not be taught any more than that the Earth is flat should be taught, which he says that the Bible implies.
Any reference given? Not a one. It’s amazing atheists like Stenger chide Christians for taking the Bible literally and what do they do? They turn around and take the Bible literally. The Bible uses language to describe phenomena in ways people can understand. I have no more problem with the four corners of the Earth than I do with the idea of the sun rising.
Stenger ends the chapter with Dawkins’s argument about how God must be more complex than anything else if he created this world.
Now this I find interesting as evolutionary theory always has it that complex things come from simpler things and even simpler things. If Dawkins was being consistent, he would say that God is absolutely simple since he brought about the most complex things of all. If he said that, he would actually be right.
Instead, he goes against what he has taught about evolutionary theory and instead says that in this case, what is complex must have come from something even more complex. If he wishes to believe that that is the case, then I will say “Fine. Show me the more complex things that the complex things we have today came from.” If he does not, then I will say he has no objection.
To say God is not an answer however is not to do science, (Remember science? It’s what Stenger said Collins should have based his argument for belief in God on. Apparently, you’re supposed to use science to believe in God, but it’s okay to use philosophy to disbelieve in God. Amazing how Stenger picks and chooses.) but it is rather to do theology and this kind of understanding involves philosophy as well.
In this case, it is bad theology and philosophy. Why should I assume God has a body? Now it could be the case that he does, but Dawkins gives no reason to think such. Does he cite any theologians who believe such a thing? Does he give any biblical references? Not a one. He assumes his scientific understanding and applies that to theology and philosophy. As has been said, the scientific method is an excellent way of discovering truth….if you are doing science. It is not the way to do philosophy or theology.
I will conclude then with my own thoughts on the matter of design. I am a believer in design and in that case also believe in teleology. There is a purpose behind this universe and a reason why things are the way they are. Some things are wrong in this world because of the fall. I accept that.
I believe that to know something is designed, you don’t have to know who designed it, or how, or for what purposes. I’m not against finding the answers to those questions, but it should not be that we eliminate design because we do not know the answers to those questions. In fact, not knowing those answers gives us all the more grounds for further inquiry. It allows science, philosophy, and theology to work together.
I accept simply that I have numerous wonders around me that are technological that I do not doubt were designed. I also realize however that the most amazing work I see around me is that which I see in the mirror. Not me specifically, but humanity. I realize the uniqueness of the human mind and the DNA sequence and think “No. This is not an accident.”
I also realize the implications of it being an accident. There is no teleology then to anything and therefore no purpose. Such is not the world we live in for we do things with purpose regularly and believing that we are serving a purpose beyond ourselves. Evolution is about the survival of the fittest, but for what purpose? That their genes may be passed on. For what purpose? Even evolution has creatures seeking an end, the end of survival.
But if that survival is pointless, then why even bother? It makes no difference whether you die out or not. If however we have a purpose, then our survival is good and it is on a scale above other animals and the bacteria that we wash off of ourselves whenever we take a shower.
If you believe you are here for a reason, even if you don’t know that reason, I see enough reason for you then to believe in design. I see the only reason someone denies design to be that they have a worldview prior that cannot allow for that.
We shall continue tomorrow.