Richard Dawkins Lecture Commentary

This commentary was written shortly after having attended the Dawkins lecture in 2006. I have never viewed the recording of the lecture, otherwise I may take issue with some of the things I wrote in my comments on the lecture.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe7yf9GJUfU&hl=en&fs=1]

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On October 23, a Monday night, I had the privilege of attending a Richard Dawkins lecture at Randolph Macon Women’s College. I found Dawkins to be a very talented speaker and storyteller, and a man who, for the most part, follows through on what he believes. Dawkins has somewhat of a bad name in some circles because of his tendency to come out and say what he wants to say, but I find this to be a result of honesty and consistency rather than anything else less desirable. Dawkins made his points rather clearly. He was easy to understand and humorous. During the Question and Answer period, I was impressed with his patience and civility towards those posing questions to him, usually with the intent of stumping him or refuting his belief system.

That is, of course, what he has. Richard Dawkins adheres to a system of beliefs. He would not like this, as he does not distinguish between blind faith and reasonable faith (I am using belief here in the same sense as faith). Dr. Dawkins remains consistent with his atheist worldview further than many other atheists do, but nowhere near as far as he should remain consistent in order to convince the discerning Christian that there is no God, something which Dawkins claims is almost entirely certain.

Dr. Dawkins is not an irreligious man. He addressed this right away, claiming that he is, in fact, an irreligious man. However, Dawkins wears colored glasses like all of the rest of us, governed in his reasoning and actions just as the rest of us are. His ultimate presupposition is that of autonomous human reasoning. This necessarily excludes the alleged neutrality and objectivity that so many want to claim for themselves, as well as any epistemological, ethical, or scientific succcess.

Yet, Richard Dawkins is a well known intellectual, civil, biologist. How is this resolved? Quite easily, once it is realized that the presupposition of human autonomy in matters of knowing, morals, and induction cannot support the weight of its own worldview. Atheists (and all other non-Christians), must necessarily borrow from the Christian worldview in order to render anything intelligible at all. Dr. Dawkins is no different. He has an unregenerate person’s knowledge of God, and must start from this presupposition rather than his own in order to accomplish what he does. The careful reader will note that this means Dr. Dawkins knows and shows that God exists even in the midst of arguing against His existence. It is a self-defeating endeavor from the very start.

Consider, for example, Dawkins’ complaints against the character of the Christian God. He picks through the Old Testament, pulling out instances of God acting unjustly, at least in his own view. This is rather problematic for Dawkins though. While he abhors God and insults Him (in Dawkin’s own words) because he finds God to be an immoral and unjust God, he has no platform from which to shout such insults against God. Certainly we could understand conventional moral values arising from the process of evolution since we all presumably share the same ancestry, but this does not explain from whence the actual value of the values comes from. Ought cannot be derived from is. Dawkins is well aware of this, but did a poor job of addressing the problem when questioned on it. He seems to think that we all (regardless of beliefs) share such problems, but this could not be further from the truth. By rejecting the existence of the Christian God a person rejects along with Him any claim to some sort of universal and binding justice or moral good. Dawkins has to be inconsistent with his belief system and borrow the Christian presupposition of the Christian God in order to even argue the way He does. Yet once he has done this God is shown to be there, and his arguments are shown to be faulty, whether or not we point out the specific fallacies in them or not. In his case, the specific fallacies usually involve misconstruing the nature of God thus not taking into account how such a God can and should act in order to act justly for any given situation.

We may also take a brief look at the way Dr. Dawkins explains induction. Induction requires the assumption of the uniformity of nature. The Christian has a reason to adhere to this principle, for God is sovereign and brings about all things according to the purpose of His will. Dawkins must simply assume the uniformity of nature. This is rather fideistic, arbitrary, and thus absolutely unwarranted from within the confines of his worldview which starts with the presupposition of the autonomy of humanity. Dawkins may, I think, be leaning towards an axiomatic acceptance of the uniformity of nature, but this again hardly accounts for why he should accept it at all. All attempts to solve this problem have failed, aside from the presupposition of the Christian God. This is precisely what Dawkins must borrow in order to reason in this fashion. Again, Dawkins has an unregenerate person’s knowledge of God, and it shows in his behavior.

Somewhat disturbing is this idea that Dawkins holds to where he has faith in nothing at all. Presumably, Dawkins believes reason to be the only or correct way to come to a bit of knowledge. As has been shown rather easily in the past though, this is a completely unwarranted and incoherent assumption. If we were to say, “We should only adhere to what reason brings us to” or something along those lines, we would only have what our own reason dictates to us. Why should we trust our own reasoning though? Why should we only adhere to what reason brings us to? Should we do so because our reason dictates it? Rationalism ends up in circles. By this line of reasoning, Dawkins again ends up accepting everything that he does based totally on faith. This is not a reasonable faith at all, but a blind and arbitrary one. Such is the end result of a commitment to human autonomy.

Dawkins is either a Fideist or a Theist. The first option does not account for anything; indeed cannot. The second falls right in line with what Christian Scripture teaches, namely that all of humanity knows that God exists and knows His nature. Dawkins must fight awfully hard…awfully hard in order to suppress this all encompassing truth. In the end, he fails, just as all other non-Christians do. He manages only to testify to the existence and glory of God. It is sad, very sad, that Richard Dawkins will not recognize this, feel the magnitude of his sinfulness, and repent, turning to Christ Jesus for salvation and life.


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