Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Reactions and Responses to The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, Part 8

[Note: I took some time off from this discussion last week. To read my previous posts on Chapter Three, “Arguments for God’s Existence,” go here, here, and here. I conclude my dialogue with Chapter Three in this post.]

Dawkins treats “The Argument from Admired Religious Scientists” as another category of argument for God’s existence that is to be shot down. Shockingly, from Dawkins’ perspective, some scientists do believe in God. Dawkins thinks that most of those scientists who admit to a belief in God actually only believe in the sense that what one can’t understand or what one hasn’t yet discovered one can choose to call “God.” Studies have shown, he points out, that very few eminent scientists believe in a personal God.

Dawkins gets downright snobby in this section. He asks the question whether there is “any evidence that, in the population at large, atheists are likely to be drawn from among the better educated and more intelligent” (p. 102). He then goes on to cite studies that seem to indicate that such is the case. (Now, at times Dawkins throws in claims that he is trying to be funny; unfortunately, he throws in no such claim in this section.) It’s an interesting argument, really. First, point out that there are some believing scientists, even a few (Polkinghorne in England, Collins in America, for example) who are well-known and respected. Second, point out that such believing scientists make up a small percentage of the larger population of scientists. Third, claim that atheists tend to be drawn from the better educated and more intelligent segments of society, implying that religious people are really just not very bright. I would try to make a counter-claim that Dawkins has only proven that folks of his ilk are drawn from the more arrogant segments of society, but I’ve known too many arrogant religious folks to make that one stick.

Let’s be fair. Dawkins values what he values. He values science, logic, proof, intelligence, and education. Given his values, and given his inability to consider the possibility of faith, he may really have nowhere else to go. It is interesting, though, that he really has no counter to the faith stance of the believing scientists whom he mocks. Granted, such scientists have made the leap of faith and have come to believe in the God whom they cannot see but whose presence they sense in the wonders of nature and in the stirrings of their hearts. But, as we will see in the next chapter, Dawkins is just as capable of making just as big a leap of faith when it comes to certain “theories” or “probabilities.” If we can grant that God is love and that he revealed himself most fully in the self-giving, other-embracing love of his Son Jesus, I’d rather leap into those arms than into those of a logical probability.

I think that Dawkins reveals something in this section that may just be the true dividing line between him and those who think like he does and me and those who think like I do. He says that he asked Jim Watson, founder of the Human Genome Project, if he knew any religious scientists. He approvingly quotes Watson’s response: “Virtually none. Occasionally I meet them, and I’m a bit embarrassed [laughs] because, you know, I can’t believe anyone accepts truth by revelation” (p. 99). So there you go. Some of us believe in truth that has been revealed by God. I and others would say that God has revealed his truth in nature, in history, in the Bible, and most fully in Jesus Christ. Dawkins and his camp will have none of it. And there lies the great divide.

By the way, Dawkins reveals his very condescending attitude toward believing scientists in this section. On p. 99, Dawkins refers to three scientists involved in the study of the human genome. He refers to the Christian Francis Collins simply as “administrative head of the American branch of the official Human Genome Project” which he says in a footnote is “not to be confused with the unofficial human genome project, led by that brilliant (and non-religious) ‘buccaneer’ of science, Craig Venter.” He also refers to Jim Watson, quoted in the paragraph above, as the “founding genius of the Human Genome Project.” From Dawkins’ point of view, one apparently cannot be a Christian and “brilliant” or a “genius” at the same time; such designations are reserved for atheists, who, after all, come from the more intelligent and better educated segments of society!

Most “intelligent” and “educated” folks that I know have the good sense to maintain an open mind.

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