Saturday, May 05, 2007

Richard Dawkins part 1: Dawkins and O'Reilly

I have been having some fun reading over at the
Naked Pastor Blog, which is where I saw this video (below). I am very intrigued by Richard Dawkins and how he thinks. Dawkins is the leading atheist thinker in the world today and wrote the bestselling book The God Delusion. I disagree with much of what he says, including and primarily his world view, which is evolutionary and naturalistic, but he is challenging Christians to think much more deeply than most have and to abandon their pad answers for legitimate, well researched and logical answers.

That being said, I m starting a series of posts inspired by videos of Richard Dawkins to which I will be responding. This first one shows Dawkins being interviewed by Bill O'Reilly on The O'Reilly Factor.

Hoping that you have just seen the video, I am now going to make some comments (time will tell if a theme runs through this series of posts). First, I will discuss O'Reilly. I thought he did a very poor job of representing Christianity in the interview. Here is why.

1. First of all, O'Reilly seemed pampas and condescending. This is seen in a lot of ways, I think, like tone of voice, and how he interrupts Dawkins several times. He uses phrases like "you guys" several times. I think as Christians we need to have respect for everyone and give those with whom we are debating the right to be heard. We certainly expect the same. There is a certain quality that the majority of Christians (perhaps all people) lack, and that is the ability to disagree and debate respectfully. Why does disagreement make us so uncomfortable? Anyway, back to the original point, O'Reilly does not come off well in his demeanor, and it is a stark contrast to Dawkins' demeanor, which is very respectful and humble, willing to answer questions and listen.

2. Secondly, after seeming to argue for truth early on (although quite poorly), O'Reilly seems to take a relativistic standpoint towards the end of the interview. He even uses the phrase "it's true for me." Dawkins rightly comes back and states that truth is truth and what is true for one person is true for everyone. does it strike anyone else as odd that the Christian is the relativist and the atheist is the truth guy?

3. Thirdly, and I'll end on a good note about O'Reilly, I think he had a firm grasp of the founding fathers and their beliefs. He mentions how they wanted faith in Christ and all that comes with it to be the "moderating influence" that will make the country great. I think this is a pretty good argument against Dawkins' theory that Religion is a bane to civilization, though it certainly doesn't settle the issue.

Now, let's examine Dawkins.

1. I completely disagree with what he said about atheists not needing faith. I think that is one of the great mistakes that atheists and secularists make is thinking that they do not have faith. Everyone has faith in something, whether it is evolution or God or Zeus or a Totem Pole etc. It is absurd that he asserts that he doesn't have faith.

2. Dawkins also makes a statement about proof of evolution and the explanations of the mysteries of the universe, saying "We're working on it," presuming that the answers are in the (near?) future. First off, isn't that having faith in science, which negates his statement above? Secondly, after over a century of digging and scientific exploration, we still have not found any transitional fossils, which Darwin himself said we should find millions of if evolution were true, nor have we come any closer to answering the questions of abiogenesis and entropy. Scientists are quick to reference Copernicus and Galileo as examples of this, but I seem to think that these two comparisons are apples and oranges. I think time works more as the enemy of science in this aspect rather than the friend, because the longer we dig and find nothing, the more glaring the evidence against evolution seems to be.

3. Lastly, as alluded to above, it seems as though Dawkins ignores the very reason the founding father started this country, which was religious freedom. I am simply pulling from one line he stated about this, so I may be reaching, in addition to the fact that he is not American, but he seems to have a cloudy view of early American history.

That's all I got. Again, I am thankful for thinkers like Richard Dawkins who force us as Christians to think and figure these issues out for ourselves, rather than sticking to the Sunday School pad answers or retreating to relativism. May we (continue to) be thinkers. May we love Jesus enough to turn over every stone, research well, and do all we can to represent Christ well in the public academic arena. May we not shy away from disagreements, because it is there that we learn and grow.


Michael Krahn said...

Hey Nick,

I'm starting a series on "The God Delusion" on my blog at

I also just finished a series on Rob Bell's "Velvet Elvis" that I think you'd be interested in.


Chip Burkitt said...

Just so you know, it's "pat" answers not "pad" and "pompous" not "pampas."

Many atheists define "faith" as belief in something for which there is no evidence. In that sense, Dawkins may be right in asserting that he does not need faith but theists do. The problem, as I see it, is not so much with how faith is defined as with what counts as evidence. Dawkins wants to exclude anything that does not come within the provenance of science. Personal experience is thereby excluded because it is subjective and not repeatable and observable. Likewise arguments that depend on appeals to common understanding, history, literature, and the arts carry no weight because they do not rely on repeatable, observable phenomena. Christians have two very powerful arguments to offer: 1. Personal accounts of lives transformed by an encounter with Jesus Christ. 2. Inexplicable answers to prayers on behalf of those not yet persuaded.

Nick said...

Thanks for correcting my grammar, Chip. Spell check can't solve all of the problems in the world, unfortunately.

Cineaste said...

Hello, this is my first post on Nick's blog. Nick, I just wanted to point out there are many transitional fossils. So many that I can only link to the list, if your interested.

I wrote this FAQ as a reference for answering the "there aren't any transitional fossils" statement that pops up on several times each year. I've tried to make it an accurate, though highly condensed, summary of known vertebrate fossil history in those lineages that led to familiar modern forms, with the known transitions and with the known major gaps both clearly mentioned. Version 6.0 of the FAQ has been almost entirely rewritten, with:

1. A completely rewritten introduction & conclusion, discussing what "transitional" means, why gaps occur, and what the fossil record shows.
2. A greatly expanded list of "chains of genera" for most groups, especially mammals.
3. References for documented species-to-species fossil transitions, mostly for mammals.
4. Explicit mention of the notable remaining gaps in the fossil record.