Dawkins assumes that God must be probable or he does not exist. Because he fails to recognize that theology, and to some extent philosophy, can be useful, he can not see beyond the confinement of one specific limited worldview. That anything exists is possibly improbable. That the six constants in nature are what they are is possibly improbable. I, for one, have no problem in seeing, from the perspective of science, that God is also improbable. But from other perspectives, I clearly see evidence, hence probability, of God’s existence. It is the issue of what is ultimately for any individual the arbiter of truth, what Stephen Jay Gould called nonoverlapping magisteria or NOMA, by which he means teaching authority.
McGrath, who Dawkins singles out for criticism in The God Delusion, has summarized this subject well in his book, The Dawkins Delusion: “The beginning of a real answer lie in some wise words of Stephen Jay Gould, whose sad death from cancer in 2002 robbed Harvard University [and I might add the whole world] of one of its most stimulating teachers, and a popular scientific readership of one if it most accessible writers. Though an atheist, Gould was absolutely clear tha the natural science – including evolutionary theory – were consistent with both atheism and conventional religious belief. Unless half his scientific colleagues were total fools – a presumption that Gould rightly dismissed as nonsense, whichever half it is applied to – there could be no other responsible way of making sense of the varied responses to reality on the part of the intelligent, informed people that he knew.”
McGrath continues: “This is not the quick and easy answer that many would like. But it may well be right – or at least point in the right direction. It helps us understand why such people hold such fundamentally different beliefs on these matters – and why some others consequently believe that, in the end, these questions cannot be answered with confidence. And it reminds us of the need to treat those who disagree with us on such questions with complete intellectual respect rather than dismissing them as liars, knaves and charlatans.”
Dawkins, in his previous book The Selfish Gene (Updated), acknowledges that there are many "good scientists who are sincerely religious [Christian believers].” He names Polkinghorne; Oxford biochemist Arthur Peacocke; a Templeton Prize winner who also taught at Cambridge, Georgetown University and Tulane; Open University physicist Russell Stannard, a recipient of the Bragg Medal of the Institute of Physics; and Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute. We could add many more to the list among them McGrath and Simon Conway Morris, a member of the Royal Society and Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology at Cambridge.
But he seems to have departed from allowing this to be acceptable in The God Delusion. Dawkins argues that they certainly don’t mean what they say or he accuses them, very distastefully, of being Neville Chamberlain-like appeasers to less moderate strains of Christianity. Scientist should not believe in God.
Files: Fine Tuned Universe, Richard Dawkins, Frank Tipler, Alister McGrath, Christianity, Evolution
Lobster Tank is a Metaphor. These posting were imported from an old blog.