Saturday, August 20, 2011

"There Almost Certainly Is No God"

Lately I've been reading a little bit from the books The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and The Dawkins Delusion by Alister and Joanna McGrath. Today's post is based on the chapters "Why There Almost Certainly is no God" and "Deluded About God."

In The God Delusion Dawkins devotes an entire chapter to an argument, or more accurately, a loosely collected series of assertions, to the general effect that “there almost certainly is no God.”  This chapter is essentially an expansion of the “who made God then?” question. Dawkins’s states, “Any God capable of designing anything would have to be complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation in his own right. God presents an infinite regress from which he cannot help us to escape.”

Dawkins is particularly derisive about theologians who allow themselves “the dubious luxury of arbitrarily conjuring up a terminator to an infinite regress.” Anything that explains something itself has to be explained and that explanation in turn needs to be explained, and so on. 

However, I feel that it needs to be pointed out here that the holy grail of the natural sciences is the quest for the "grand unified theory” the “theory of everything.” Why is such a theory regarded as being so important you ask? Because it can explain everything without itself requiring or demanding an explanation. If Dawkins's brash and simplistic argument carried weight, this great scientific quest could be dismissed with a seemingly profound yet in fact trivial question: What explains the explainer? 

Now maybe there is no such ultimate theory. Maybe the “theory of everything” will turn out to be a “theory of nothing.” However, there is no reason to suppose that this quest is a failure from the outset simply because it represents the termination of an explanatory process. So we see that a search for an irreducible explanation lies at the heart of the scientific quest. There is no logical inconsistency, no conceptual flaw, no self-contradiction involved.

After this argument, Dawkins continues with another argument where he points out the sheer improbability of our existence. Belief in God, he then argues, represents belief in a being whose existence must be even more complex, and thus, even more improbable. Yet this leap from the recognition of complexity to the assertion of improbability is highly problematic. Why is something complex improbable?

Now let us think for a moment. The one inescapable and highly improbable fact about the world is that we, as reflective human beings, are in fact here. Now it is virtually impossible to quantify how improbable the existence of humanity is. Dawkins himself is clear, especially in Climbing Mount Improbable, that it is very, very improbable. But we are here. So now I must state the obvious, that there are many things that seem improbable, but improbability does not, and never has, entailed nonexistence. The issue then is not whether God is probable but whether God is actual. 

How can we know that God is actual? Well, we can't really. I hope to be able to provide some evidence though throughout this blog to show that even though we can't prove God exists, we can still believe rationally.

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