This was the core question addressed during the debate between Oxford colleagues and intellectual rivals Richard Dawkins and Dr. John Lennox with emphasis on Dawkin’ atheistic views expressed in his best-selling book The God Delusion. Dawkins, is an atheistic evolutionist while Lennox, a Christian apologist. Dawkins was made to explain six main claims in his book that were utilized to secure a ground to refute religion and to refer to belief in God’s existence as a delusion. In proving God’s non-existence, Dawkins releases his first premise by attacking the basis or lack of it in faith.
Because religion is not based on hard evidence, faith has no eyes, and is therefore blind. As a means of interpreting the world, it fails in comparison to science which can explain the world elegantly. As a result, religion suppresses the human mind to explore and understand because essentially, religion regards “not understanding” as a virtue that should bring satisfaction. This paper will highlight two of Dawkins’ main arguments, counter-arguments and a personal reflection. Dawkins’ Arguments Dawkins explained his first claim as thus: Faith is blind, and science is evidence-based (Dawkins 92).
He accepts the natural inclination for human beings to be swept away by the beauty of the universe to an almost inexplicable reverence. Sometimes, Dawkins says, we are compelled by a “desire to worship something”, and because of gaps in information, are sometimes led to attribute it to a Maker. However, attributing it to a maker does not explain to us the reality of how things come into being. Dawkins asserts that science emancipates us to the helpless feeling of not being able to understand. Through scientific inquiry, we seek out details and answers. On the other hand, religion tells us “God did it” and all possible inquiry stops.
As a result, “religion stifles the desire to pursue knowledge”. Dawkins further explains his second argument from The God Delusion: Science supports atheism, not Christianity. In explaining this point, he asserts an excerpt from his book purporting that “the real war is between rationalism and superstition” and that “science is but one form of rationalism, while religion is the most common form of superstition”. (92) Dawkins insists that science has the capacity to empower us to define and determine which truths to believe. Because it is based on facts and it requires us to use logic and reasoning, it lies within the realm of rationalism.
Religion, on the other hand, capitalizes on miracles to command belief. Because religion derives conviction from unexplained phenomena, it lies within the realm of superstition. To Dawkins, the so-called NOMA or Non-overlapping Magisterium does not apply. Science and religion are two overlapping realms and they conflict with each other. To this extent, belief in the existence of God would be a different kind of universe from one without God. In the realm of claims on truth, because religion makes claims on existence, they are making scientific claims in the process. Hence, science and religion are irreconcilable.
Counter-arguments Lennox disagrees with the general assertion that faith is blind but qualified it to say that “some faiths are blind”. In saying that “not all faith is blind faith”, he illustrates the basis of biblical Christianity as something based on evidence. Lennox disputes the blind faith assertion by saying that if faith were not based on objective facts, this statement is easily disproved with the fact that Christianity has been proven with science, history, logic and experience. By debunking faith as a means of searching out the truth, Dawkins is asserting the power of science to explain everything rationally.
Theists would crush this assumption by asserting, like Lennox did, that “science should not be equated with rationality” and that there are limits to science. As a matter of fact, religion was the driving force behind science. When Isaac Newton encountered the law of gravity, he praised God first. According to John Haught, science cannot be relied upon to explain all phenomena: Science…filters out other kinds of information that bombard each of us in the affective, intersubjective, narrative and aesthetic regions of our experience.
Because of its methodological self-limitations science cannot look squarely at what is truly emergent about natural phenomena (46). With this argument, science cannot persuade us to believe that it alone can be the yardstick for ascertaining reality or determining whether or not God exists, as science itself has its inadequacies. In the matter of Dawkin’s assertion that atheism related to rationalism while religion to superstition, Lennox accuses him of reducing rationality to mere responses to chemical reactions in the brain.
In essence, atheism is in fact undermining science because theism believes in the rationality of the universe, and that concept is not derived from science but from God. Christian apologists welcome the assertion that science has opened up “good gaps” in science but in doing so, science has merely fine-tuned the evidence. The Big Bang theory resembles the Book of Genesis, but because the level of intellectual knowledge has not reached modern proportions, it was not explained scientifically until 1960.
Opponents to Dawkins’ assertions would suggest that the purpose of human intelligence is not limited to mere explanation of natural phenomena. The ultimate explanation of human intelligence is that it participates in a transcendent, purposive intelligence, what some call god (Haught 26). Reflection The question of God’s existence has been dealt with and debated over time. While Dawkins’ makes a striking argument to account for the lack of physical evidence to prove God’s existence, apologists also pose a credible question in relation to science’s limitations in explaining phenomena and reality.
Religion, in my opinion, has been used, to the detriment of everything it stands for, for wars and political causes that have wreaked havoc upon nations and populations. I refer to it as a misuse and betrayal of the concept and driving force of religion, which is faith. However, it would also be unfair to take side with Dawkins’ accusations against religion as the one to blame for almost all of the horrors of this world. Every major religion has derived its teachings and purpose for spreading morality and good in the world.
Karl Marx purports to religion as “the opium of the masses” only because it has been used by the ruling classes to oppress the lower class. But with classes stripped, religion is an entirely harmless belief, much like science. What Lennox refers to as “blind faith” however, or the extreme use of faith to perpetrate harm against another is something that religion’s true purpose does not intend. To a certain extent, religion in my view restricts human understanding only because it maintains a conservative and cautious view of reality.The bottom line is belief in the existence of God depends on how the person evaluates his reality, his worldview or his experiences.
Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Houghton: Mifflin Harcourt, 2006. Haught, John. God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens. Westminster: John Knox Press, 2007. —. Is Nature Enough? : Meaning and Truth in the Age of Science. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Fixed Point Foundation. “The Dawkins Lennox Debate. ” 2007. University of Alabama <http://www. dawkinslennoxdebate. com/>.