Monday, January 7, 2008

Richard Dawkins and the "Who Made God?" Question

The child's question "Who made God?" has never been answered by our Christian friends. It isn't a legitimate inquiry, they might say; or maybe they'll respond by stating God is outside of time so we can't ask something that appears so obviously in need of an answer. Here is a Christian's critique of Dawkins infinite regress objection to the "design inference".

They start by summarizing Dawkins' argument:

1. One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect has been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe arises.
2. The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself.
3. The temptation is a false one because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer.
4. The most ingenious and powerful explanation is Darwinian evolution by natural selection.
5. We don’t have an equivalent explanation for physics.
6. We should not give up the hope of a better explanation arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology.

Then they point out what they believe are problems with Dawkins' argument:

The first problem with this premise is that it makes a fundamental mistake about the nature of explanation. In order to offer a good, compelling explanation of some phenomena, one does not need to offer an explanation of the explanation. If you think carefully about this, then you may notice that we could never explain anything using the Dawkins approach. Such an approach leads to an infinite regress. Any explanation you offer would need an explanation, that explanation would require an explanation, and so on forever. It would literally be impossible to have any knowledge.

You can see here how Christians typically turn things around and accuse others of doing exactly what they do. Theists are the ones who demand an explanation for the apparent design of the universe and then postulate "God" as their solution. Of course explanation stops somewhere, and at some point it is no longer productive to keep asking "why." Atheists stop with the Universe itself, as explanation is only possible within the context of existence, and therefore existence itself, the "universe", needs no explanation. For explanation to even be possible existence has to be taken as a given.

On the issue of biological design Dawkins' point is simply that God explains nothing as then we would have to explain who designed God and who designed God's designer and so on forever. The idea is that God would have to be very complex in order to design anything complex. As a typical theist, however, this Christian wants to stop with God, and not answer any troubling questions of where his god came from. Christians only ask "why" questions in order to get to god, so naturally they want stop at that point and are supremely irritated when thinking people refuse to comply.

Next it is asserted that Dawkins is wrong to state that God must be complex:

A second problem with this premise lies with Dawkins’ assumption that God is complex, and therefore cannot be invoked to explain the design in the universe. Although he constantly claims throughout his book that God is extraordinarily complex, he never actually defends this assertion. In fact, many theologians and philosophers have plausibly argued that God is actually very simple. God, as an immaterial mind, is not composed of any parts. Dawkins probably assumes that God must be complex because the human brain is complex, and God, as an omniscient being, obviously has a lot more knowledge than any human. However, God is not a brain, and so we need not assume that He is extraordinarily complex.

There are several problems with this approach. First, what does it mean to say that god is "simple"? We have no examples of something intelligent and capable of creating complex machines that is not also itself complex. That is not to say that complexity cannot arise from simplicity, for this is a fact of nature and is the whole argument of Darwinism in the first place. But that simplicity is not intelligent itself and does not create with purposeful intent. It is quite another thing altogether to just assert that your imagined creator is both "simple" and at the same time able to create complexity from nothing, answer prayer, perform miracles and know everything, but that he doesn't need to be designed himself.

But there is a further problem with this notion of a simple god. If god is so simple that he doesn't have any parts and is just pure mind (how this is possible no theist ever really explains) then what was he conscious of in eternity? To be conscious is by definition to be conscious and aware of something else, of something that exists external to your own mind. Therefore the concept of a god who is simple and has not even any parts to be aware of is incoherent. In other words, it doesn't make sense. So for a god to exist and create the universe it would have either had to be complex itself and therefore useless as an explanation for complexity, or so simple as to be pure mind, which is nonsense, for to assert such a thing takes consciousness out of context.

Then it is said that God is "timeless" and therefore doesn't need any explanation:

The final problem with Dawkins’ third premise is that, in this case, we don’t need an explanation of who designed the Designer, since God is, ex hypothesi, timeless. Since He never began to exist, there is no need to explain His existence (unlike, for example, the universe, which did begin to exist). This is not special pleading either, since atheists often claim that the universe does not require an external explanation because it has existed forever.

If god is a mind, then how does he exist timelessly? To think is to have one thought after another, in sequence, and this could not happen without time. The whole idea of a timeless mind is therefore also an incoherent idea. A timeless something that was not a conscious intelligence, however, could exist and that may be where our observable universe comes from. There is also no evidence that the universe as a whole "began to exist"; even the big bang theory does not require an absolute beginning to existence.

So, we are back where we started. Who made God?

1 comment:

  1. "It's turtles all the way down." Or wait, who created the creator? God is, will be and always has been.

    How can anyone be convinced they know the answer to this question?


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