Saturday, 2 May 2009

The Truth Delusion of Richard Dawkins

The most famous atheist in the world, biologist Professor Richard Dawkins, poses as the arch-apostle of reason, a scientist who stands for empirical truth in opposition to obscurantism and lies. What follows suggests that in fact he is sloppy and cavalier with both facts and reasoning to a disturbing degree.

I previously wrote about the remarkable debate (which can be seen at this website) between Dawkins and John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics and Fellow in the Philosophy of Science at Oxford. Lennox is the author of God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? which demolishes Dawkins by showing not only that there is no inherent conflict between science and faith but that the argument for faith is now being bolstered enormously by the remarkable developments in science. Dawkins was on the back foot because Lennox was attacking him from his own platform of science. He was on safer ground only when, in a further debate between the two at Oxford’s Natural History Museum last October, he attacked Lennox for his Christian faith which he could more easily ridicule. But to Lennox’s core arguments, he seemed to me to have no convincing response.

In a lecture earlier this month to the American Atheists’ Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, Dawkins chose to attack Lennox (about 15 minutes into this video) from the safety of an unchallenged speaking spot in front of a sycophantic audience – but in a manner which inadvertently revealed rather more about himself than he bargained for. Describing Lennox belittlingly as a ‘Christian apologist’ and an ‘Irish mathematician’, he took a comment Lennox had made at a meeting two days after the Oxford debate and tried to debunk it by claiming that Lennox had misrepresented him.

Lennox had observed that, in the Oxford debate, Dawkins appeared to have made a stunning admission by saying that ‘a good case could be made for a deistic god’(a generalised kind of deity as opposed to the personalised God of the Bible). Lennox observed that acknowledgement of a deistic god was the position arrived at recently by the celebrated former atheist philosopher Anthony Flew; and that saying a good case could be made for such a god ‘knocked the heart out’ of Dawkins’s core contention that complex life forms had derived from simple ones.

In response, Dawkins tried to maintain that Lennox had grossly misrepresented him. Pointing out that he had gone on to say that he didn’t accept the deistic argument – which indeed he had said – he claimed that Lennox had selectively quoted him to give an entirely false impression. To make his point, he drew an analogy with the conceit, once employed by a particular astronomer, of ironically disdaining authoritative sources purely as a rhetorical device to underscore the truth of an argument. Just as it would be dishonest to treat such ironic disdain as if it was seriously meant, he said, so by analogy Lennox was being dishonest by treating Dawkins’s remark about deism as if it was seriously meant when in fact he had merely been

making the concession about deism to show up the fatuousness of his [Lennox’s] belief.

But it was Dawkins’ argument which was surely disingenuous. Read more
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Anonymous said...

Hi - the Dawkins - Lennox debate you quote....there is no link in your above text when you say "can be seen on this website". I presume you meant to hyperlink the word 'this'.

Do you mind please re-posting the link to the debate ?

Many thanks

Revd John P Richardson said...

If you follow the 'read more' link, you'll get to the original article which has the html for the link. However, I've added it above for convenience.

Revd John P Richardson said...

If you follow the 'read more' link, you'll get to the original article which has the html for the link. However, I've added it above for convenience.

Michael Roberts said...

Before we as Christians or even Anglicans and evangelicals worry to much about Dawkins' typical inaccuracies about the Christian faith, we need to consider what too many Christians do about science.

We have a growing Young earth Creationist constituency (and Lennox is NOT part of that and nothing I write applies to him at all) including among Anglican evangelicals . The whole YEC position i.e a young earth, most rocks and fossils laid down in the Flood etc is far far more untruthful than anything Dawkins has ever said. I could give lots of examples.

Worse than that YEC is being taught as science in at least on Cof E aided school, with the knowledge of the governers and presumably the vicar.

That is a gross delreliction of duty and care by the teachers and governers as what is being taught in that school is utter falsehood and will probably create a good number of atheists in the future when they see through their bad teaching.

P{erhaps we need to remove the mote in our own eye before worrying about anything inDawkins (unevolved eye!)

John Thomas said...

Michael Roberts says that it is a gross dereliction of duty on the part of school governors, that they allow the teaching of young earth creationism. Surely the more usual circumstances (where evolutionism is taught as undoubtedly true, and any questioning is not allowed) is a far, far greater abuse of the position of supposed-"educators".

Michael Roberts said...

John Thomas

can you explain to me what evolutionism is? It is a word I hear a lot in certain circles but is never spelt out.

John thomas said...

Michael - Evolutionism (as opposed to evolution) is a materialist philosophy based, or supposedly based, on a scientific theory (evolution). 99.9 pc of people who say they "believe in evolution" know nothing about science, and care nothing for beetles and finches and suchlike. They believe in the materialist philosophy (materialism, secularism, hedonism ... - the Spirit of the Age) they pretend/choose to think science legitimises. the scientific idea(s) of evolution are something else. Read Phillip Johnson - great man.