Richard Dawkins' Delusion about God

 A critical review of the Questions and Answers session

in Eden Court Theatre, Inverness 2/4/2008


Dr Donald Boyd


Dr. Donald Boyd

Donald Boyd1

THE archbishop was in town and his disciples came to meet him. The details of this historic meeting of the faithful in Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, on 2nd April 2008 are available elsewhere on this website. Richard Dawkins had come to Inverness to rally the faithful and to make as many converts to atheism as he could. His book The God Delusion was on sale, to be autographed by its evangelising author who tells us plainly “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.” p. 28. Ex opere operato as the theologians would say.

I wish to begin this review by acknowledging that Richard Dawkins is doing his best, with the materials that he has available, to discredit false religion. This is a good work.  If he cannot make the distinction between false religion and true Christianity, it is possible that this is the fault of the Christian church more than his fault. The fact that he has not met enough intelligent arguments to convince his reason may not be his fault.
This well-attended meeting began with an Introduction by the UHI's Principal Professor Bob Cormack followed by a staged hour-long Conversation between Dawkins and a local atheist activist Paula Kirby followed by about one hour of Questions from the floor The auditorium was well filled by the generous provision of free tickets under the auspices of the fledgling University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Millennium Institute.
The Conversation was more or less a summary of The God Delusion. The format allowed Richard Dawkins to explain his atheistic views, and as these appear in his book, and I have no desire to spread these views uncritically, I will concentrate on the Questions and Answers session which was chaired by Gary Robertson, who presents BBC Radio Scotland’s flagship morning news programme Good Morning Scotland.
Like a skilled evangelist, Richard Dawkins made his dogmatic assertions with boldness. Possibly he hoped that no-one would notice the difference between assertion and fact; like the speaker’s marginal note ‘argument weak, shout loudly’. As he likes to do at public meetings, he quoted a particularly offensive sentence from The God Delusion about the God of the Bible which he thinks is funny and which raises a laugh from his sympathetic audience. His readiness to live up to his bruising reputation was unsurprising, and this behaviour may yet rub off on his admiring followers; but what surprised me was the number of childish titters at what were thought to be good points. Yet the audience was not made up of admiring teenagers but a mature body of people. Perhaps they are not used to hearing an atheist scoring points in such a brusque manner. Long may this continue.
There were a number of questions which had the appearance of lobbing a cricket ball for Dawkins to hit. This was expected from the Conversational half, with a suitably soft interviewer, Paula Kirby, a Christian-turned-atheist – a billing which no doubt did not meet with Richard Dawkins’ approval as he thinks ‘atheist-turned-Christian’ billings are beside the point. During the Questions and Answers section there were suitable questions to allow a few more hits from the brickbat. Very few questions seemed to come from Christians, although there were some. There were some interesting questions, some of which were not answered.
The Questions and Answers Session
During the Questions and Answers session Dawkins demonstrated his usual, incisive ability to analyze and answer questions.
1. The first question was a fairly easy one, to the effect: Will animals ever be conscious like us? He doubts it will happen in the near future and, besides, evolution cannot predict what will happen.
2. The second question: If the whole world becomes atheist, what will society look like in view of the fact that people get solace in religion? Dawkins doubts that there is much solace in religion. He quoted hell as an example and emphasised that those who preached on hell were evil, putting emphasis on the word ‘evil’. So evolutionists have their moral standards too, and Dawkins believes in evil, unlike some psychologists. This reviewer doesn’t know why we should subscribe to Dawkins’ moral standards any more than he is willing to submit to God’s moral law. I would be happier to say that those who manipulate others with the doctrine of hell are doing evil work. Dawkins prefers to judge the character of some of the most mild-mannered people I know. He does not credit them with being mistaken. No – they are evil by Diktat of Dawkins.
3. One questioner could understand apes evolving into humans but not bacteria into humans. This gave Dawkins an opportunity to demonstrate the fertility of his imagination as he mimed some of the evolutionary process.
4. It can be more interesting to note what is not said by a speaker as well as what is said. In this regard, this reviewer found it quite interesting to notice the questions which were not answered. The next question was not answered. He was asked a question by one of the foremost legal minds in the country. The question was: “Can you give a succinct definition of life?” This must be a simple question, or judged to be so by Dawkins’ admirers, for there was a general titter at the question; not for the first time, mind you. But then, the former Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, has spent a lifetime in court asking simple-sounding questions which lead unsuspecting people into exposing themselves. This was to be no different.
To retrace our steps a bit... Dawkins had been asked by Paula during the Conversation: Why give offence to religious people? He replied that religion has been given a free ride for too long, and that religion should not be immune from offence. Asked if religious people did not deserve respect, he replied that respect is what people deserve, the implication being that one earns respect, and if they deserve ridicule they should get it. Perhaps this is why his disciples followed in their master’s footsteps and don’t know how to show respect to people’s questions. This may give a glimpse into the spirit of an atheist society. Perhaps it is because they do not recognise a complex question because of the reductionist simplicity of their thinking, which likes to reduce complex issues to simple ones that they can understand; and if they cannot understand it, it must be foolish. Anyway, Lord Mackay’s question deserved a teenage titter.
So, unbeknown to the tittering audience, the foremost legal mind in Britain asks the Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science a succinct question, looking for a succinct answer from a man trained in zoology to the highest level.   You see, a man who had spent his life watching witnesses and listening for flaws in legal arguments had heard Richard Dawkins assert in his Conversation that the appearance of design is a strong argument “and life was the theists’ trump card. Darwinism blew it out of the water; so they have abandoned biology and retreated to physics and astronomy.” This reviewer thought that it was the other way round, that evolutionists were looking for their kick-start in life from astronomy, but he is happy to learn that Professor Dawkins feels that he can still win the argument with mundane evidence. I hope that he won’t take to the stars to try to hold his ground.
Anyway, back to the question, or more particularly, to the answer – or non-answer. Life was the theists’ trump card, was it? And Darwin blew it out of the water? So Lord Mackay asks ever so simple a question: “Can you give a succinct definition of life?” So what did the Professor say? After all, zoology is about life. Surely he has a pat, well-rehearsed answer to so simple a question, this man who majors in reducing the complex to simplicity. Surely he has answered this question at least to himself many times before? Well, this reviewer is still waiting to hear a sensible answer.

So what did we hear? His first attempt at an answer was that life began with the first self-replicating molecule. I don’t think Dawkins was tittering – more like stuttering. After a few more sentences he told us that it was the first gene. Sorry, did I catch it correctly? Life is the first self-replicating molecule, or it is the first gene? ‘Respect is what a man deserves?’ My teenage children, being taught critical analysis by their father in after-church fellowships, would fall about laughing if they heard this answer, and I would need to teach them some self-restraint. I would remind them that this is a very famous professor and he deserves more respect while he composes himself to give us a proper and better answer. But it didn’t come. This was the sum and the substance of the answer. Not very succinct, but very clear in its barrenness. “By their fruits you shall know them” said a better Teacher. As a good Calvinist, I leave the reader to judge for himself with his God-given freedom of thought and conscience, but for myself I assert clearly that this is no definition of life. The questioner exposed the emperor’s nakedness.
The sad epilogue to my tale is that it probably went unnoticed by most people present. You see, if Lord Mackay explains his credentials, then these people may listen to his question with more respect. When an anonymous individual arises from the audience to ask a simple question, you can be rude and show your supercilious knowledge with titters. Lord Mackay concluded his questions unannounced and our teenage titterers are probably no wiser about Dawkins’ exposure.

It is a pity that they cannot recognize good questions for what they are without an authority figure being identified with them. Is this part of the atheist baggage – this judging a question important and sensible only if they think an important person asks it? or is it just learned behaviour from the master? If these titterers cannot learn from Christians, possibly they should read their Bertrand Russell beginner’s manual in philosophy to appreciate a little profundity in life – assuming that they discover what life is after Professor Dawkins has brushed up his answer for the next time.

Back to more mundane questions....

5. One questioner asked if some religious leaders were using God as a cover for their own agenda? Dawkins miscalled a particular religious leader, who may have deserved it for all I know, and gave the witty reply that he would hate to blame God for him. This drew another titter; but we won’t be mean nor hard on them – it was quite funny. At least he doesn’t blame God for all the evil in the world; that’s a relief.
6. Another questioner asked if Dawkins thought theists are bad scientists? He replied that religion and science don’t mix. He claimed that those scientists who are Christian believe in God in the sense that Einstein did, merely as a manner of speech to describe the wonder of the universe. He had been in Edinburgh and claimed that Bishop Richard Holloway is an agnostic. Dawkins found it hard to understand how Christian scientists could find compatibility between their religion and science; he assumes that they must be compartmentalizing their thinking.  Am I concluding correctly from this answer that Richard Dawkins has never met a scientist who believes in the Christian God? Have I made a wrong inference from his answer? Woe to Christianity when its scientists are too frightened to confess the same in Dawkins’ confessional box.
7. Another questioner asked if science could give any meaning to life? Like Jesus, but with less purpose and effect, Dawkins responded with another question: Why ask this question? He knocked back the questioner: Some questions don’t deserve an answer. Ah! We can discern one of the axioms of the atheist science curriculum. Don’t ask awkward – sorry – ignorant questions, or unanswerable questions. So Dawkins went on to illustrate: What is the colour of jealousy? is a legitimate grammatical question, but it has no meaning and does not deserve an answer. This raises a few thoughts in my mind.

    (a) I remember Dawkins in The God Delusion accusing Christians of forestalling scientific enquiry. Is the kettle calling the pot black by this Index of Forbidden Questions? No matter – it is a tendentious accusation.

    (b)  Is Dawkins really saying that science cannot give any meaning to life? This seems to be a fair deduction from his reply. Could he have meant it is a rhetorical question, and thus it does not need rather than deserve an answer? My Christian charity, which does not suffer me to think ill of my neighbour, will put this construction upon his answer, although I think I discerned a collective Ouch! from the audience.

    (c) Rather, there are some questions that people cannot answer because they don’t understand the question. Possibly ‘meaning’ has no meaning for Professor Dawkins; or was it ‘meaning in life’ which upset him? Thankfully his genes are made of stern stuff. This student of natural selection has learned to cope admirably with unpredictability adverse conditions.
8. A more sympathetic questioner allowed him some breathing space to regain his composure. Britain may be smug about its secular society compared to the United States, intoned the next questioner, but as a teacher he did not see increased levels of rationality in society. (For rationality read atheism.) What can we do to increase it? Dawkins said that we must teach critical thinking in place of indoctrination. Yes, Jesus agrees with this; and He was even more radical than Dawkins – which may be why Dawkins thinks this is the path to fame and influence. Dawkins seemed to admit that the distinction is difficult in practice, but this reviewer did not catch this part of his argument as I was making my way to the microphone with my own question. I was surprised that he did not lay on thick the indoctrination of children at this point. You see, an atheist state will not be well pleased if you teach your children your religion.
In China parents are not allowed to teach their own children their religion. You are meant to procreate for the good of society or, according to Dawkins, for the good of your genes, because Dawkins’ Diktat asserts that group-selection or society is not the reason. Correction–good is not the appropriate word for natural selection; read ‘survival’. Even if you cannot follow the argument, just don’t teach your children your religion. Sorry? Whose children are they, Professor Dawkins? If they are not their parents’ children, and they don’t belong to God, they are certainly not society’s. Ah! the answer: Suffer the little children to come unto Dawkins, and forbid them not for of such is the kingdom of atheism.

The next questioner wondered if the CERN accelerator would find the ultimate particle and building blocks of nature, and if this will put the final nail in the coffin of religion? Dawkins is too smart to put his faith – yes, he does have faith and he is smart – in the CERN particle accelerator. He reminded us that he is not a physicist. Mind you, Dawkins’ Delusion reminds us that he is not a theologian either. A big prediction about the future, which he had already told us evolution cannot do, might have been better avoided by claims to being a non-theologian than by not being a physicist. I suspect that physicists would claim that they are not good at hammering nails into coffins, although God has quite a lot to say about coffins and their contents.

Dawkins continued – experimental physics might provide answers, but we may have to go much deeper than this. He joked that he confessed to having an ‘almost religious feeling about this!’ This is not wholly tongue-in-cheek as Dawkins would like to transfer our wonder and awe from God to science. Gary Robertson asked if Dawkins had any fears about CERN trying to recreate the conditions of the Big Bang. He replied that physicists had assured him that it was unlikely to cause a problem. So he has faith in physicists’ predictions about an unknown future. I wonder what evidence he used to reach this faith? Does he just trust these physicists? Naughty boy!
I made a serendipitous discovery while writing this up, which illustrates nicely our topic. I wished to ascertain the exact location of CERN, in Switzerland. After downloading a 44 page PDF file and wading through a myriad of facts and fine details to do with What? When? How? Will? Why? - with multiple Why? subsections (who said Science does not ask Why?) the question Where? was still unanwered! So where is CERN?
Eventually on p. 34 buried in ‘10 Fascinating Facts’ we are told it is ‘between Lake Geneva and the Jura mountain range’ - not to increase your knowledge of its location but to show you the accuracy of their tunnelling technique.
I hope your geography is good enough to get the answer from this. I think at least one interesting fact in this long document might be to tell us where it is! Herein is a secular parable. Even scientists can miss the wood for the trees. Keep this mind; sleight of hand distracts you.
10. Another questioner asked about the apparent ‘arms race’ between evolution producing varied offspring and intelligent humans wanting no children. Dawkins replied that contraception, the arts, and other pleasures were distracting us from the real business of getting on with reproduction. It is difficult to know how serious he was with this answer. It is, of course, preposterous that human culture and pursuits are distractions. Perish the thought! This pessimistic worldview is supposed to be the preserve of Calvinists and Puritans, not world-famous atheists.
11. One women asked why the cells of a new infant did not have the age of its parents. Dolly the sheep, cloned from an adult sheep, had signs of premature aging. Do genes have an age? Dawkins replied that the germ cells of a 75-year-old adult would be sub-standard, but he did not answer the question. He had struggled to hear the question and I think that he genuinely did not hear it properly. This is a pity, for this was one of the more interesting questions and although the answer is quite straight-forward, one would like to hear his answer to it. It is interesting that this is the second biological question which was not answered by our professor trained in zoology.
12. He was asked if any philosopher had influenced his thinking as he seemed to be reviving the teaching of Nietzsche that God is dead. This was an easy ball: he replied that he was not influenced by many philosophers and he didn’t believe that God was dead because he believed that God never existed.

13. A Christian youth worker said that he had learned from Dawkins’ book about the importance of teaching critical evaluation to children but he wondered why Dawkins insisted that the source behind the universe had to be simple and not complex. Dawkins repeated the standard answer in his book which was the mere assertion that it must be so - Dawkins’ Diktat again.   He employed the statistical improbability of a complex Being at the beginning of the Universe. He said that complexity is what we are trying to explain, so we cannot have a complex God at the beginning. There are at least two mistakes with this.

    (a) Dawkins petulantly refuses to heed the Christian doctrine of God and prefers to insist on his own definition. He has thus produced a god of his own devising and knocked down this proverbial aunt Sally. Christians agree that God is not complex in the sense that the material Universe is complex, and Christian theologians declare that God is simple. Dawkins knows this The God Delusion pp. 185-187, but he insists on saying that God must be complex. More Dawkins’ Diktat. He is not arguing against the Christian God.

    (b) His second mistake is to assume that God is part of this Universe (or Multiverses as astrophysical evolutionists imagine) and thus He must partake of the properties of the Universe, including composition from basic particles, or complexity. This is a fundamental mistake of enormous proportions which comes from Dawkins’ refusal to even try to be a theologian. This just makes him a bad theologian instead of a good or non-theologian. In his answer Dawkins accepted that if we mean by God that there may be a quantum fluctuation in the Universe, hitherto undiscovered, then he could agree with this - but then the argument is about words. What Christians called God he would call a quantum fluctuation, and this is simple and not complex. However there is no reason to give that quantum fluctuation the properties of the Christian God Who hears prayer and forgives sin.

Precisely, Professor Dawkins, Christians would never demean their God so as to identify Him with a quantum effect, for the Christian God is not part of His universe, which is a pantheistic error. It is evident that God upholds the Universe through such quantum effects throughout the Universe and thereby controls the whole. I use ‘evident’ advisely, as related to the word evidence, the holy grail of Dawkins’ non-quest for God Whom he appears to hope he will never find. Richard Dawkins doesn’t want to contemplate the Christian God; he wants a god he can handle in his mind or not at all. In Psalm 50:21 God points out the error of human beings thinking that God is like themselves.

14. The chairman, Gary Robertson, reminded us that time was short so questions should be brief. The next question came from this reviewer who said that Richard Dawkins had appealed for evidence before he could believe in God. The questioner suggested that we must take all the evidence into account, not just part of it, yet The God Delusion did not handle two of the principal arguments used in the Bible for the being of God. He said that the God of the Bible’s own proof of His Being was that He could foretell the future. We know that Newtonian Physics can predict the future at one level, but the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle showed that we could not do it absolutely. (Dawkins had already said in his answer to the first question that evolution cannot predict what will happen.)  
Dawkins expressed his astonishment that anyone would use the Bible as an authority. The questioner said that God showed that He could foretell the future by the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies. Dawkins sought refuge from this argument by quoting modern biblical scholars who say that the New Testament text has been doctored to fulfil the Old Testament prophecies, (thus putting a lot of sparsely available Dawkins’ faith in these biblical scholars, who wouldn’t have got a salary to do their work if it was up to Dawkins).
The questioner came back that Dawkins was asking for evidence and that some of the Old Testament evidence was quite independent of the New Testament as it was used by early Christians before there was any New Testament, thus the evidence can be impartially analysed now and it is independent of the New Testament text. So Dawkins challenged him to prove fulfilled prophecy. The questioner said it was quite easy and well-known to many Christians, with many prophecies available.
Gary Robertson stepped in to allow only one. So the questioner stated that the Old Testament prophecies can be independently shown to have been written 300 years before Christ because the Septuagint Greek translation was made at that time. Yet Dan 9:25-27 predicted that Christ would come and be killed before the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.
Dawkins responded that people can make prophecies say what they want them to say and that we only the notice the ones which come true. The questioner responded that these Old Testament prophecies can be dated and the fulfilment can be dated. So there the exchange had to end to allow time for the remaining questions. With Dawkins’ beaten from his New Testament defence, he retreated to the defence that people make prophecies mean what they want. So let readers read them for themselves instead of relying on Dawkins’ interpretation.
15. A question whether teaching religion is tantamount to child abuse yielded a balanced reply from Dawkins with a less balanced but pointed quotation from Steven Weinberg that “For good people to do bad things – that takes religion.” (applause). Does Richard Dawkins think that good atheists don’t do bad things? This is what this quotation implies. Dawkins believes that atheists are good people; so this translates into “For atheists to do bad things – that takes religion.” Ergo:as atheists don’t ‘do religion’ they don’t do bad things! This shows how truth must give way to the propaganda value of a catchy quote.

There is a way by which we can make the statement stand, and that is to recall that agnosticism and atheism are just bad religion and thus their devotees can be included in the statement. However, this is not what Dawkins meant. A Christian may think that the quotation can be made more accurate if we substitute the phrase ‘false religion’ for religion, but, sadly, even true religion has its perverters. The pertinent idea in this catchy slogan is that the sensitive religious conscience of good men can be coerced to do bad things. This is an alarming truth. Thus the 16th Century Protestant Reformers spent much time on the subject of liberty of conscience, studying its limits and how it operates in order to escape the ensnaring tentacles of Roman Catholic dogma. Modern man knows very little about this and thus his conscience is easily manipulated and coerced, including religious man. However atheists and agnostics fool themselves if they think they are immune from this.
16. The next question drew attention to the intellect of human beings enabling us to bring about our own destruction and possibly that of the planet. Will we destroy ourselves? This brought forth the depressing answer that “evolution has no foresight” implying that if an evolutionary development moves in a self-destructing direction then it will continue as it cannot see the future. Dawkins gives examples of this in The God Delusion, for example, why moths fly into candle flames p. 201. Dawkins advocated that foresight came into world with advanced brains. He concedes that it appears that human beings are unique in their ability to look ahead.

This reviewer couldn’t help thinking of the prophecy or foresight argument mentioned earlier for the Being of God and of the second biblical proof for the Being God – that man is made in the image of God. A thoughtful observer of the rationalist-religion debate will notice the large number of cross-over ideas and points where the same reasoning processes are arriving at different conclusions because of the different initial presuppositions. Back to Dawkins–he reminded his questioner that natural selection does not favour humans so if we engage in self-destructive behaviour, so be it. After all, 99% of species have already become extinct.   This is ‘bad news’ – Richard Dawkins has no gospel.
17. The next questioner asked if Dawkins thought that an atheist society will have a secular church. Dawkins accepted that it appears to be part of the human condition that people need fellowship, but he saw no need to have an alternative to church.

18. The last questioner asked Dawkins what he had to say to someone like him who had many decades of Christian witness and experience? Dawkins replied that if he had been born in India he would say the same thing about Krishna, if he was born in Afghanistan he would say the same thing about Allah; and so on with a well-rehearsed list of the religions and gods of the Vikings and Greeks. He concluded that the human mind is very susceptible to hallucination. The questioner responded that he was not building his life on a hallucination but on the Rock Jesus Christ. Dawkins concluded that he did not doubt the questioner’s sincerity but he thought that he was hallucinating.

This reviewer acknowledges that Dawkins is quite right to say that people too readily adopt the religion of their parents in an uncritical fashion, but Dawkins did not address nor explain how conversion from one religion to another takes place by adults even at great personal sacrifice. He has an evolutionary explanation for this behaviour, but it is a subject which cannot be subsumed under the category of uncritical acceptance of the teaching of authority figures, which I think was the essence of his answer. Anyway, the answer to the question asked ‘what do you have to say?’ was ‘you are hallucinating’. Thus the Questions and Answers session finished on this note of the gratuitous assumption that hallucination can explain all religious experience.
Concluding thoughts
Goliath came to town to defy the God of Israel as well as the false gods of all history. He stalked up and down the valley issuing his challenges to the armies of Israel to fight with him. Many Christians stayed at home this day; they had better things to do. Others watched in bemusement, pretending they could engage him if only he was not so strident. Others, more honest, considered themselves not up to the fight, and like the armies of Israel remained on the sidelines watching.
Thankfully some have taken him on, such as David Robertson in The Dawkins Letters. The Christian Church will need to address the arguments and take to the field of battle. Disparaging, impassioned, ad hominem arguments will not do, nor will phlegmatic condemnation, nor a patronising, supercilious, sanctimonious sigh. Let the Christian Church pray, and when God answers its prayers it will be by someone answering Dawkins’ arguments. Can someone not answer him, or is the only way to answer Dawkins for God to convert him so that he will expose the weakness of his own arguments? Happy day for Dawkins if this happens; meanwhile the Christian Church will need to work as well as pray. Proper prayer is goal-directed, unlike blind evolution. We don’t want blind faith, blind prayers nor blind watchmakers. We have a goal and a vision, directed by our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us live worthy of Him.
One Christian magazine carried a review of The God Delusion from a former atheist who stated that one of the strongest critiques of The God Delusion came from the Marxist philosopher Terry Eagleton in the London Review of Books for 19 October 2006. It is a pity that the strongest critique did not come from a Christian. Eagleton is an ex-Roman Catholic atheist. His review is more of an outpouring of angst at Dawkins’ lumping all religion together. “Critics of the richest, most enduring form of popular culture in human history have a moral obligation to confront that case at its most persuasive, rather than grabbing themselves a victory on the cheap by savaging it as so much garbage and gobbledygook.”

His review supplies a reassertion of garbled theology which will not persuade nor move Dawkins one iota. He does not address Richard Dawkins’ arguments about God, and it is more of a protest rather than a reasoned rebuttal of Richard Dawkins’ arguments. Atheist though he was, Eagleton did not like Dawkins’ strident knocking of his former religionists. Doesn’t it show how hard it is for old loyalties to die? This review was an impassioned rant against Dawkins which amounted to: how dare he miscall so many good religious people! If this type of response is typical, then Goliath will continue to stalk the Christian camp. Our Protestant Reformers knew how to debate and win arguments.
Having listened to Richard Dawkins and reported here his answers to individual questions, there is not one answer to any of these questions which lays a finger on the Christian religion. He doesn’t even deign to consider the Christian God.
However it is important to make distinctions. Richard Dawkins divides The God Delusion into two. The first half explains why he does not believe in God, the second half why he does not believe in religion. It is correct to make such a distinction. For a man who does not believe in God Richard Dawkins has many things to say about His non-existence. It reminds me of a more radical Teacher Who declared: “You do err, not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God.”

However, we need to recognise that Dawkins’ real target is religion, not God. His method of attacking religion is to deny the Being of God. In our Christian zeal to honour God we must not be seen to defend false religion. We join common cause with Dawkins against the superstitious bondage of false religion, the hallucinations which are passed off for religious experience, the manipulation of the religious conscience, blind faith and the islamic terrorism which motivates his passion against false religion.
Jesus was more radical than Dawkins is on these subjects, and He used strong language against false teachers of religion. The Reformers delivered us from such false religion but we have fallen upon poor times, although not hopeless times. Richard Dawkins is taking on false religion in a manner that too many Christians are failing to do. Christians should not make excuses for false religion but seek to win its devotees to Christ.
There is a spell on Richard Dawkins, but it is not a God-spell. Dawkins has no Gospel. The report of his performance in the local newspaper The Inverness Courier highlights his depressing message. “Outspoken atheist warns of human extinction threat” reads the banner headline, with a highlighted quote: “I don’t think there has been a mechanism by which a species took steps to halt a headlong rush to extinction.”
Christians have the Gospel, the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. We need to present the evidence for it and not promote blind faith. We do not ‘leap in the dark’. We must re-learn the gentle art of ‘persuading men’ with arguments which commend themselves to every man’s conscience (2Cor 5:11). “Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Isa 1:18.
Dawkins will do damage to Christianity as long as its devotees bury their heads in the sand and hope the danger will go away. We need to notice that Dawkins does not attack the Christian God as he refuses to consider Him in his orbit of notice. We need to notice what Dawkins does not admit as evidence, such as the fulfilment of biblical prophecy. We need to notice that Dawkins has chosen the battleground; he wants to focus attention on natural selection which, after all, is his familiar territory.

By the way – Christians agree that natural selection takes place. His strongest argument on which he expends so much energy is a non-starter. There is no dispute over it. He is boxing his shadow, or beating the air as the apostle Paul would say. It is evolution which is false. There is a lot more evidence in this world than the evidence on which Richard Dawkins would try to focus our attention.
When the apostle Paul was teaching about the resurrection, he presented some arguments against it and then he concluded: ‘But now is Christ risen from the dead.’ Christians have good news to proclaim; we will leave pessimistic evolutionism to atheists.


Dr Donald Boyd, 29/04/2008

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Alan Hughes 25/01/2010 23:31

Some of the statements you have made are just lot’s of air and no substance at all.

“Mr Benn points out that science does not have all the answers but as time goes on, the gods have less answers and science burns more brightly than ever.”

God has all the answers. That is why the Bible is unchanging and science text books change as often as the wind. Goodness, it wasn’t so very long ago that scientists thought mice were created by damp and dirty socks.

“I don’t paste my posts with quotes from a book written to service the fears of tribes people with little to look forward to.”

I quote God’s Word because it is good and it’s got the answers that you don’t have.

“Mr Hughes, one of the most ignored truths of observation is that clear thinking and free enquiry has the potential to set mankind free from unsubstantiated dogma that can only lead to group delusion and self deception.”

You obviously have never looked at history then? Those clear thinking ‘atheist societies’ like the USSR. A failed experiment which killed more poor people than Hitler. Talking of which, he’s another ‘freethinker’ who believed in eugenics.

Need I say more?

I will anyway, scan the globe. Look for the most prosperous societies – you’ll see societies that have a strong foundation in Christianity. Or at the very least, give some honour to God.

Be honest.
Alec (Guest) 26/01/2010 09:15
Alan Hughes said, "That is why the Bible is unchanging and science text books change as often as the wind. Goodness, it wasn’t so very long ago that scientists thought mice were created by damp and dirty socks.

The Bible certainly doesnt change (except in the sense that certain archaelogical discoveries, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, have actually shed light on the meaning of certian words - the NIV makes this clear in several places

However, as a scientist, your comment about science changing is disengenuous. Science is a "refining" process - eg Newtonian physics (which explains most day to day physical effects) was refined by Einsteinian physics - it didnt disprove it - it showed that the Newtonian case was a "particular" part of a general one

Likewise our understanding of Earth processes - as the science of geology has advanced, the models have become refined, the biggest major "refinement" since the 60s being the developemnt of plate tectonics.

(Which incidentally, explains the Haiti earthquake better than Pat Robertsons rantings)

The model I prefer to use is that of 2 books - the Bible in one hand, the book of nature in the othe. The bible doesnt change (there is no extra-biblical revelation) but the book in the other hand does get added to as we discover more about the universe

The anti-science rhetoric you used above in response to Veronique plays right into the hands of atheists. It creates an image of Christianity, as Christian geologist Davis Young described it as "anti-intellectual obscurantism"
W Benn (Guest) 26/01/2010 09:53
Alan - your attack on the views of Veronique says a lot about you. Some of the Christian community can put up decent debate, as far as it goes, but your church leaders must be cringing at your latest contribution.They probably feel a touch embarrassed that one of their flock has strayed and shown such ignorance.

Please do not introduce Joseph Stalin or similiar into your argument.If you like he was a terrible human being - but that does not at all further your cause in defending and promoting Christianity.

I will now get to the crux of my astonishment:
[1]You have smirked at science wil all its wonderful achievements [medical discoveries - getting to the Moon - DNA etc. etc.]and compared it unfavourably with the rather static - take it or leave it - books. Let us go back a few centuries and rediscover what Christian leaders pontificated about - the wrath af God to explain disconcerting weather etc. It is one thing to express the thought that science might have shortcomings but quite another to compare it unfavourably with religion. Elgin Rovers v Arsenal comes to mind.

[2]God is good you say. Actually 'his/her/its' messages are pretty mixed.You seem to be one of those Woolworth's pic and mix merchants when you boldly say God is good.Some of his/her/its utterances would be illegal and subject to life imprisonment these days.
Veronique Denyer (Guest) 26/01/2010 11:36
Mr Hughes – you astound me. You exhort me to be honest. Where have I been dishonest? On matters of opinion, I have expressed mine clearly. I do not make up my own facts.

You try on the old canard of atheist Stalin that has been addressed more times than we have all had breakfast. Stalin had a belief alright – he was a megalomaniac with absolute belief in himself. Hilter was an RC who was consumed with Germany, also an unstable character. His attempted reconstruction of Germany was a lot more complicated than you appear to realise.

In any case, how do you consider mass murderers like Amin, the Duvaliers, the Tutsi, Saddam, the Sunni, the Zionists, the Taleban, Hirohito’s Japan (and he was divine), Milosevic at al.? What about the misinformation dealt out by the RCs re. condoms in Africa thus consigning millions of men, women and children to the horrors of HIV? What about the millions America has been responsible for murdering since 1945, all in the name of righteous democracy? All ‘atheist societies’? I don’t think so, sir. And we are only talking 20th Century, and only naming a few – we could go back if you like.

On the science front, Alec understands what you have done to your (non)argument and has described your foot in mouth disease adequately. No one is able to describe your lack of honest education about the hard won disciplines that are science. What would you prefer: Intelligent Design instead of Evolution; Intelligent Weather instead of Meteorology; Astrology instead of Astronomy; Homeopathy instead of Medical Science; Noah’s Flood instead of Geology? The list is expandable.

Mr Benn has also addressed some of your more outlandish comments.

You say your God has all the answers. Well, no your God doesn’t. What happened to the opinions of all the other gods? Their followers would be rightly miffed if you excluded their gods. However, the answer from people like me is that you can’t show me your god and until you can don’t expect me to take anything unprovable on faith. I, like most people, require some evidence, observable and repeatable, not of the anecdotal kind. At the very least I need to be able to see what I and others are talking about (except for extreme physics that is), haha.

Prosperous societies are often’ first world’ (outdated phrase) societies that historically have systematically killed indigenous populations and occupied their land. The countries include much of secular Europe, former British colonies and US aligned countries. America historically headed the list and is the single most religious western country. China, fast on its heels is not Christian but will end up running the global economy fairly soon. Japan is not a Christian country.

So, yes Mr Hughes, you need to say a lot more and accurately too if you don’t mind. In the meantime don’t expect me to honour a man-made fiction that has been the excuse for that age old call to war – resource theft and territory occupation.
W Benn (Guest) 26/01/2010 13:11
I am a released man and it is thanks to Veronique's latest contribution! I was already aware of the points she has raised but I could never have expressed them as well or in a reasonable timeframe.I can now get back to studying rebellious women of the 19th century - essay to get in - they had a lot to be rebellious about.
John Wilson (Guest) 26/01/2010 14:50
I don’t see that this discussion is going to go anywhere because some Christians are talking as if Science and the Bible are opposed to one another or as if Science is hostile to the bible and vise versa therefore attacking Science. I happen to resent that. I love science. And in my opinion when the scientific evidence is interpreted from a biblical rather than secular worldview it makes far more sense (my opinion). For some Christians and atheists it might be God vs Science or the bible vs Science. But not for me. Christians need to remember the atheists that come on forums like this are not representative of the whole scientific community no matter how often they include the word “science” in their comments.
As I’ve already stated on an earlier forum The problem is not science or ones understanding of the scientific method. There are many biological and geological professors who have taught and believed evolution for years and switched to creationism or intelligent design including those from distinguished universities. In fact one could strongly argue the rules of Logic show that the Scienctific method is only possible because Jesus upholds everything by the power of his word. (Hebrews) If he didn’t uphold the laws of physics in a consistent manner it wouldn’t be possible to make scientific predictions, hypothesis or experiments.
I find that the words “Science” and “Scientists” and “evidence” “evolution” are used a lot by atheists as if science is in their corner, yet like Richard Daw kings most of the questions and objections and topics are not Scientific but theological, concerning religion or the character and nature of God. Please don’t reply with rants or mantras like Geologists this, Scientists that.
There are too many accusations beginning to fly around on this thread. If anyone would like to debate or just discuss the science or theology one topic at a time in a way that is to the point and not condescending or patronising I would be happy to oblige,
My email is
Veronique Denyer (Guest) 26/01/2010 16:40
Mr Wilson, discussions like this rarely go anywhere. I came on board to support W Benn (yes, Mr Benn, women did have a lot to be rebellious about. 9th October in Edinburgh was the 100th anniversary of the suffragette march and was a sight to behold!!. Enjoy your essay).

You may love science Mr Wilson but science has nothing to do with superstitious and fanciful writings. There has been no scientific evidence gleaned from the Bible; interpreted, yes, I have no doubt. Apologists for the Bible seem to be able to argue from whatever stance takes their fancy. I have heard many of them in so-called debate with rationalists. They never take the medal home.

You say: “There are many biological and geological professors who have taught and believed evolution for years and switched to creationism or intelligent design including those from distinguished universities.”

Well, there are some who seem able to compartmentalise religion in some sequestered part of their brain, but they have all, to a fellow, lost credibility with their intellectual and scientifically trained equals. I trust you aren’t going to quote The Discovery Institute staff who have suffered so much legal defeat lately due to intellectual dissembling. That’s embarrassing for all scientists and makes quite a few angry at the misrepresentations that Behe and others make.

No one, may I repeat, no one has ‘switched’ from evolution to creationism. Intelligent Design is merely a politically disingenuous cousin of creationism and just as bereft of reason. In my experience intellectual understanding stops dead any possible backsliding to religious belief. Once having clawed one’s way out of the religious morass, no one actually wants to surrender his brain again.

Again: “In fact one could strongly argue the rules of Logic show that the Scienctific method is only possible because Jesus upholds everything by the power of his word. (Hebrews) If he didn’t uphold the laws of physics in a consistent manner it wouldn’t be possible to make scientific predictions, hypothesis or experiments.“

Excuse me, Mr Wilson but I have to call you out on twaddle!! You show yourself to be a religite of the first order and therefore have surrendered all claim to reason, logic and debate methodology. Now I don’t have a problem with that but you do see why my first sentence is obviously so.

I have yet to meet any apologist for religion who is able to maintain and develop a rational discussion without coming up with the ultimate throw-away line ‘Goddidit’. Sorry, Mr Wilson, Jesus didn’t either. Nor did Allah, Zeus, Thor or any of the others.

Part of the problem as I see it is that religites are unable to stand on their own two feet, accept total responsibility for themselves and live a fulfilling life. Until religites stop seeing themselves as individual little sparks in their god’s eyes, they will never open themselves up to the wonder of, not just this little backwoods of a planet, but the immensity of the universe in which we live.

It’s a mighty big place out there and the antiquated holy books could never conceive of the immensity. Hiding your head in the desert sand of Mesopotamia has long since been overtaken by knowledge (I won’t capitalise it Mr Wilson) that has grown in leaps and bounds because of the curiosity of humans who needed better explanations than ‘Goddidit’.

That's just not intellectually satisfying you see. A stop gap at most while we figured (and continue to figure) things out. Religious texts have never been satisfying to the curious mind and, indeed, are arguably contain some of the most horrible, vengeful, nasty, inhumane and genocidal, sexually depraved and torture-ridden texts in all literature.

And that’s only the three monotheisms, each of which holds itself up as a shining example of light and tolerance. Tolerance??? Where’s the evidence that outweighs the nasties? I have never seen anything except token gestures and usually from individuals who were just nice people regardless of religious tendencies.

And it is no good any religite saying "That's not my god you are talking about. I have taken Jesus to be my personal (???) saviour and am now a charismatic or evangelical" or whatever the new moniker may be.

So no, Mr Wilson, others may but I won’t enter into any exchange of emails with you. As we both agree, this discussion goes nowhere.

BTW, Dawkins deserves a correct spelling and he has written one book against religion and 8 books on evolutionary biology. I am sure that he considers evolutionary biology to be his important work. He is certainly held in high regard amongst his peers.

It’s just his views on religion make such good copy for public consumption that that’s all one hears about, unless, of course one is interested in the science. It would seem few are. Sob.
W Benn (Guest) 26/01/2010 16:40
Thank you for a well written and no doubt sincere piece. Not only do you seem to have claimed science for Jesus Christ's portfolio you also have concern that rants may be forthcoming. Not at all. Having read the bible for years I am totally at ease with my personal decision that on the very strong balance of probabilities Christian doctrine is false.To debate your contribution is not feasible for me: for one thing there are opportunity costs to consider and for another the gulf between us is much too large.
John Parker (Guest) 26/01/2010 17:11
(The existence of) God cannot be proved or disproved. So the 'science to prove/disprove God' are ultimately futile.

Christianity has to be accepted or rejected by faith. But it is not (accepted as) a 'blind faith' - and millions and millions throughout the centuries will testify to how their lives were changed (from within i.e. 'born again').

But its a bit like learning to swim. Even an agreement with and understanding of the Principle of Archimedes is not enough. The potential swimmer has to get into the water to find out it out for themselves. The problem for atheists is that they will not believe those who testify to their relationship with God. (And the 'deluded' argument is futile against the mass of evidence from believers throughout the centuries.) So they will never get into the water.

Basically what Christians should be seeking to do is to spread what they believe is the Good News of Jesus Christ. When it is rejected, the Bible teaches believers to 'move on' (Matt 10:14;Matt 7:6).

Those that argue against the Christian faith do so with their 'heads'. But it's the heart that actually dictates what we do and don't believe.
The Bible says 'that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved (Romans 10:9)
John Wilson (Guest) 26/01/2010 18:13
Thankfully the last post by Vronique Denyer has more than emphasised the point my previous post. Also spelling and Dyslexia are a problem for me and I apologise about spelling Dawkins wrong. Since I’m in the company of Albert Einstein who was also dyslexic and I’m sure you’ll be gracious enough to let me go on that one.
Mr Benn you wrote. “To debate your contribution is not feasible for me for one thing there are opportunity costs to consider and for another the gulf between us is much too large.”
I’m sorry you feel that way Mr Benn and that you have declined to discuss the Science. If what you say is true it would have been a real walk in the park for you.
For now, I will choose the foolish things of the world and shame the wise
I wish you every luck in your search for truth.
Kindest reguards,
Ps I agree with John Parker, I just wanted to call the atheist bluff on the Scientific side of things.
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Christians Together in the Highlands and Islands > Archive > Around the Region > Wider News > Richard Dawkins' Delusion about God