Thursday, May 31, 2007

Richard Dawkins, Part 3: Dawkins and Allister McGrath

For the 3rd installment of the series on Richard Dawkins, I will be commenting on Dawkins' debate with former Atheist and current Christian Allister McGrath. It is a two part audio file that you can download here.

There are better thoughts than these in the discussion that follows on the link above, but I will make a few of my own comments.

1. I feel like the participants were arguing apples and oranges

It seemed like they were going to be arguing about the existence of God, which is what Dawkins is primarily concerned about. Dawkins even says at one point that he is concerned with what is true. McGrath seesm to be making complete social arguments. Dawkins, in response, at one point states, "All of that may be true, but it doesn't say anything about the existence of God." Thus, I feel like there was some wheels spinning in the debate.

2. I liked McGrath's question: Does science move us toward atheism or toward theism?

I think this is a million dollar question. Complexity. Order. Design. Irreducibly complex systems. These all seem to me to point towards a creator God. Dawkins certainly disagrees. However, I would agree with Erwin McManus who says that if all truth really is God's truth, and we are crazy if we think it is not, than any true quest for knowledge in any discipline will eventually lead back to God. McGrath holds God as the "best explanation" of the world. I think he makes a great point. From my perspective, God makes much more sense that chance plus time plus nothing.

3. Dawkins makes the very interesting claim the religion is "intellectually impoverishing."

This is a fair statement, and not a low blow, in my opinion. It is up to us as followers of Christ to prove to everyone that we are as interested in investigation as anyone else if not more. Dawkins says that religion "cuts off investigation by providing easy, facile answers to deep and troubling questions like the questions that science tackles." May we not fall guilty of this by casting off exploration with a trite, religious statement. Christians do this far too often. May we thirst for truth in all sectors of life.

I could continue, but I will leave it alone at this. I hope this series on Richard Dawkins was helpful and it inspired thought. Let's keep the conversation going.


Michael Krahn said...


Another good post. I linked to your post at

Also, added you to my blogroll.

Ken said...

Watched a McGrath/Dawkins interview last night (Don't know if it is the one you refer to - I downloaded from the Richard Dawkins site - - just over 1 hr long).
Found it interesting as it was the raw unedited version (clips were used in the "Root of all Evil" programme)so one can see the body language and McGrath's unwillingness to clearly respond to some questions.
Can't see your point 2 - with many years of scientific research in my career (now retired) I have never felt in any way that a "true quest for knowledge in any discipline will eventually lead back to God." Certainly don't think that "God is the "best explanation" of the world". Far from it as god hypotheses usually mean the end of inquiry.
To me your third point about religion being intellectually (and I would add spiritually) impoverishing is very real for me. Carl Sagan describes this very well.
After working as a researcher and feeling the awe and spiritual fulfillment of reality and our attempts to understand reality the religious messages seem banal to me and I could not imagine any fulfillment with them.

Nick said...

Thanks for your comments, Ken. thanks for the link as well.

You say that "god hypotheses usually mean the end of inquiry." I would agree, and I think it is clear from point 3 that I think this is a great mistake that some Christians have made. We need to hold 2 things in balance: (1) is the insatiable thirst for knowledge and understanding and the other (2) is the ability to embrace mystery. there are ditches on both sides. The first ditch is the Christian who accept everything on "blind faith" and never investigate. The other is when a person says "I will only believe what I can recreate in a jar." Both are missing it.

Ken, you say "religious messages seem banal to me and I could not imagine any fulfillment with them."
Others would argue that they cannot imagine any fulfillment through science. Both are possible. i think God shows up through thought and scientific exploration. He also shows up in personal and community worship experiences. I think God will reveal himself to anyone who seeks after him.

Thanks again for contributing, Ken. I hope to keep the discussion going.