The Shoddy Research of the New Atheists

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! We’ve been looking at atheist sound bites lately and I’d like to post on something tonight that’s similar to that, but is not in itself a sound bite. I got the inspiration for this in posting earlier today on in reply to a skeptic there who was pointing out the importance of fairly representing the other side. Do they? I wish to look at Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins as two such examples:

Let’s start with Dawkins in “The God Delusion.” Here in the bibliography of books cited and recommended, I only count three that I could in any way consider evangelical authors.

Michael Behe of “Darwin’s Black Box.”

Alister McGrath: “Dawkins’s God”

John Polkinghorne: “Science and Christian Belief.”

How fares the index?

“Answers in Genesis” is cited once.

Thomas Aquinas is mentioned a few times, but I can assure you as one who studies at a Thomistic school that Dawkins badly misrepresents the Thomistic arguments. He frankly does not have a clue.

Augustine on two pages

Michael Behe gets mention on four pages in a row.

G.K. Chesterton on one page

Francis Collins on one pages

James Dobson on one page (And I would not count him an apologist)

Dostoyevsky on one page, though I would not necessarily name him an apologist either.

Dons Scotus on one page and I know that page and it never references his arguments.

Philip Johnson on three pages.

C.S. Lewis on two pages.

Alister McGrath on one page. (McGrath is also probably Dawkins’s main critic, seeing as they are both at Oxford and McGrath is an atheist turned Christian trained in the sciences and a theistic evolutionist. Dawkins’s only citation of him is incredibly weak as he doesn’t really acknolwedge McGrath’s arguments.)

Henry Morris on one page.

Blaise Pascal on four pages.

John Polkinghorne on three pages.

Karl Rahner on one page.

Richard Swinburne on seven pages.

Kurt Wise on three pages.

Note that these are only citations. It does not mean actual interaction with the argumentation. I have been doing some more checking lately and looking at what Dawkins says about Thomistic arguments. For instance, he says the problem with omnipotence and omniscience together is that God cannot change His mind. I really don’t see this as a weakness but as a strength. The point is that Dawkins cites a poem by Karen Owens that shows how apparently silly it is that God cannot change his mind.

Who is Karen Owens? No citation is given. No description whatsoever. A google search of Karen Owens along with Richard Dawkins points to a trustee in Richard Dawkins’s own foundation. What are their educational credentials? How old are they even? Don’t have a clue. Dawkins presents this as an authority, a move I consider dishonest.

If Dawkins is bad however, Sam Harris in “The End of Faith” is worse.

Harris’s bibliography?

Augustine’s “The City of God” and “Confessions”

Rene Descartes “Discourse and Method and Meditations.”

Paul Johnson “A History of Christianity.” (I believe I have heard he’s a Christian. I’m not sure.)

Bruce Metzger: “The Oxford Companion to the Bible.”

Blaise Pascal “Pensees.”

Richard Swinburne “The Existence of God.”

Might sound more impressive, but consider the index. I have each reference listed with how many pages they appear on.

Augustine, 8.

Rene Descartes, 5.

Soren Kierkegaard, 3.

Blaise Pascal, 5

The new atheists in these works are not interacting with Craig, Geisler, Habermas, Licona, Plantinga, Moreland, Kreeft, Zacharias, and numerous others. The argument is entirely one-sided.

As a student who still writes research papers, one of the first things I do when I have decided on my topic is to go and order books from the other side. I want my opponents to have their views presented in the best possible light so I can show all the more how weak that they are.

These books do not do that at all. Richard Dawkins does not interact with Alister McGrath, for instance, who is one of his strongest critics being an Oxfordian trained in the sciences. I find it hard to believe that Harris is a graduate from Stanford in philosophy when I read a book with such poor argumentation as the one that he wrote.

If I was a professor and a student turned in assignments to me written like these books are, that student would fail that assignment. The poor research and weak argumentation should have these authors being seen as shameful disgraces. Instead, there are actually pastors who apparently wrote to Harris saying they deconverted upon reading his book, enough to convince me that they should not have been pastors to begin with.

When I encounter an atheist who cites these books as authoritative, I already know that this is someone who does not take research seriously. The sad reality is that their works get absorbed by the atheists on the net and lower the quality of the debates. It’s really hard to have a serious discussion with someone when they think the question of “Who made God?” is an ultimate stumper that Christians have never answered.

If an atheist wishes to be an atheist, very well. Take my advice in this however. Distance yourself from the new atheism. Read instead the old atheists like Mackie, Martin, Nielsen, and Flew. (Granted, Flew did deconvert, but he was a giant in atheism in his time) These writers took theism seriously. They were not driven by an emotional hatred of theism and were willing to acknowledge some good Christianity had done for the world.

As for my Christian brethren, while our opposition is lazy, it is not necessary for us to lower our level of study. We will continue to study and see this as an opportunity. If atheism sees this as its pinnacle, then our serious studies in all fields if we do so can allow us to, as it were, corner the market. We need to have people of high education in every body of knowledge out there.

I also wish to let readers know that tomorrow I could be heading out to spend Christmas with in-laws. It all depends on what my doctor says due to my recent surgery. If you do not see a new blog in awhile, do not worry.

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