Dealing with The ‘little’ Richards

File:Richard dawkins.jpg

NOTE: Thanks to my friend Lonnie Welch for the title for this post.

Richard Dawkins is the most well-known and outspoken evangelist for atheism today. His God Delusion sold quite well and he has now made many disciples. I won’t go into the problems with the God Delusion. I feel the book has been reviewed enough (also see here) and there has been plenty of criticism leveled against it. I just want to point out some signs that you will help you know for sure when you are dealing with a ‘little Richard’ or a disciple of Dawkins. I will by no means stereotype everyone and I am not going for the straw man fallacy. I am speaking from experience here. So for myself and others, we continue to hear  this rant over and over. How about you?

#1: “The God of the Old Testament is an egostatistical, monstrous, genocidal god that should never be worshiped! He kills people and approves of rape and slavery. How in God’s name could anyone serve a god like this?”

Now when I hear this, I try to do some hermeneutics with these people. In other words, it might be a good idea to back up and try to learn how to interpret these passages correctly. But of course, the next charge from them is that I am trying to weasel my way out of the objection or appealing to some lofty theological discipline called hermeneutics! How dare us to do such a thing! With this issue I could summarize their arguments with the following: “It doesn’t matter how much evidence you present for this issue or for your God because I hate him!” Never mind that Paul talks about God haters (see Rom 1:30).  So this is nothing new. If interested, here are some resources:

A Look at Hermeneutics 101

Dr. D.A. Carson on 12 Principles of Biblical Interpretation

Killing the Canaanites: A Response to the New Atheism’s “Divine Genocide” Claims By Clay Jones

9/11: Are We All Moral Monsters? by Clay Jones

Does the Old Testament Endorse Slavery? An Overview: Paul Copan

Why Is the New Testament Silent on Slavery — or Is It? By Paul Copan

Paul Copan: “Are Old Testament Laws Evil?” from God Is Great, God Is Good: Why Believing in God Is Reasonable and Responsible, eds. William Lane Craig and Chad V. Meister. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009.

#2: What caused God or who designed the Designer?

Yes,  this question carries on. Despite the fact that it is category mistake and many people were not asking this until the cosmological evidence came in (the universe has a beginning), people just can’t help but keep asking this one. I suppose if I found a field with 500 arrowheads and inferred Indians left  them there, I would then ask “Where did these darn Indians come from?  After all, don’t  all explanations need an explanation?” See more here: If God Made the Universe, Who Made God? By Paul Copan

#3: “Science is the only way of knowing reality and it is the no doubt the best way of arriving to knowledge.” 

In this case scientific reductionism strikes again. Therefore, strong scientism ends up committing the reductive fallacy by taking one area of study and reduces all reality to this one area alone. Furthermore, for those that assert that all truth claims must be scientifically verifiable end up making a philosophical assumption rather than a scientific statement.  It might be helpful to remember that  naturalism (as currently discussed and advocated by Richard Dawkins, some atheists, etc) is not a discovery of science. It must always be viewed as a presupposition of science as presently practiced. Both Dawkins and Francis Crick both admit that while the world shows every indication it is designed and have purpose, they add one qualification; it only looks that way. It won’t matter how much evidence there is for a designer in nature because they will just cry “God of the Gaps.” To read more on this subject:


Medieval Science and Philosophy: The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution: by James Hannam

The Supposed Warfare Between Christianity and Science

Why Trying to Explain Away God With Science is an ERROR

Has   Science Eliminated God? Alister McGrath

Why Is Evolution So Widely Believed? by William Lane Craig

Intelligent Design Is a Historical Science, Just Like Darwinian Evolution

What Are the Top Ten Problems with Darwinian Evolution?

The Evolutionists’ Complaint: It’s Wrong to Argue For ID By Arguing Against Evolution (Part 1 of 3)

God and Evolution: A Healthy Debate

John Lennox: God’s Undertaker – Has science buried God?

Is Science a Threat or Help to   Faith?

Complementarity, Agency Theory,   and the God-of-the-Gaps

#4: “Christianity and religion in general is just terrible for the world so let’s get rid of it.”

In this case, I find that many of these people don’t have any understanding of the history of Christianity or know the contributions it has made to Western Civilization. So it is so one sided it is not even worth discussing. And even if you can show plenty of cases where Christianity has made or makes valuable contributions to the culture, it probably won’t matter. To read on, click here:

What if Jesus Had Never Been Born?

#5: “ Evolution is a fact and it means God probably does not exist!”

In this case, the person never defines what evolution is. After all, there are many different definitions of evolution. So once we work our way through trying to define it correctly, we can then ask whether there is no God. See more here: Why Is Evolution So Widely Believed? by William Lane Craig


I don’t want  to make it sound as if The God Delusion has only led people to atheism. I know there are people that have left atheism by digging deeper and then came to faith after reading this book. But  I suspect that the little Richards are not going away anytime in the near future.


2 thoughts on “Dealing with The ‘little’ Richards

  1. Ray Ingles November 28, 2012 / 5:25 pm

    “Despite the fact that it is category mistake and many people were not asking this until the cosmological evidence came in (the universe has a beginning), people just can’t help but keep asking this one.”

    Actually, you’re making a different category error here. A universe could conceivably exist without design – e,g. a random cloud of fluff. It’s the existence of design that’s the issue in this question.

    To explain the existence of complexity – like, say, an intelligent human – by appealing to another intelligence that designed it just puts off the problem. Sure, you’ve explained one instance of complexity, but posited another. At some point out have to break out of this infinite regress and switch to a different kind of explanation.

    Theists like to appeal to ‘divine simplicity’ at that point – and note that Dawkins doesn’t ignore that but explicitly argues against it. Evolution is interesting because it (at least purports to) account for biological complexity without recourse to a complex intelligent agent.

    So you can account for arrowheads by recourse to Indians, and account for Indians by recourse to evolution.

    Whether the universe had a beginning is a separate question – and note that science cannot yet say what may or may not have preceeded the Big Bang. Indeed, our models break down a few femtoseconds after the Big Bang; science makes no definitive pronouncements about what happend before that point because it can’t. (Yet?)

  2. chab123 November 28, 2012 / 9:09 pm

    Thanks for your comments:

    Let me clarify the category mistake issue: First, a category mistake occurs when we by assign something a property which applies only to objects of another category. Hence, people confuse two categories- the made and the Unmade. Science is limited in that it only provided natural explanations for the material (the things that are made)… world. Of course, this is not the way science always was. The theists that helped launch the scientific revolution in the Middle Ages understood there were two kinds of causes- Primary or Intelligent and secondary/natural (see James Hannam’s Medieval Science and Philosophy: The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution Today). Today, modern science only goes with secondary causes. Anyway, since God is not a material object, it makes it awfully difficult to say “Hey, unless your God has materiality, He must not exist, and furthermore, what caused God? Dawkins assumes God has parts and is material. Also, Dawkins misunderstands the law of causality which states that everything that comes to be had a cause. Since God did not come to be, he does not need an explanation. If we had to continually offer an explanation for an explanation it would lead to an infinite regress.

    Hence, there would be no science. If you want to read more about the history of this issue- see here: If God Made the Universe, Who Made God? By Paul Copan

    As far as evolution, Dawkins assumes that Darwinian evolution has provided a real defeater to God’s existence. But is this really the case? Apparently, Darwin himself didn’t see God and evolution in conflict with each other. Darwin wrote in The Origin of Species (1859), “To my mind, it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes . . . .” And again: “There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one . . . from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.”– Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, orig. pub. 1859 (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, n.d., corr. ed.). Quotations from pp. 459 and 460.

    Regarding complexity, complexity can be expressed as how improbable it would be to get that same thing a second time without intelligent guidance. Specificity is the match between the thing and an independent. So we are talking about a specific kind of complexity, not just that things are complex must automatically be designed meaningful pattern (one with a functional result).

    The issue is a certain kind of complexity that being specified complexity. In that is the case, when we actually study some of the arguments behind a design inference in the natural world we see that they apply a principle from Darwin’s work. Darwin read Charles Lyell’s The Principles of Geology while onboard the Beagle and employed its principles of reasoning in The Origin of Species. The subtitle of Lyell’s Principles summarized the geologist’s central methodological principle: Being an Attempt to Explain the Former Changes of the Earth’s Surface, by Reference to Causes Now in Operation . Lyell argued that when scientists seek to explain events in the past, they should not invoke unknown or exotic causes, the effects of which we do not know. Instead, they should cite causes that are known from our uniform experience to have the power to produce the effect in question.

    Historical scientists should cite “causes now in operation” or presently acting causes. This was the idea behind his uniformitarian principle and the dictum, “The present is the key to the past.” You can read more about this in Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell.
    To offer a natural explanation for anything (which atheists all do), one must always appeal to existing natural laws/nature itself (or at very least plausible hypotheses). But the laws of nature cannot exist without nature itself existing but the origin of nature cannot be explained scientifically without pre-existing laws. So what brought nature/these natural laws into existence at the Big Bang which allows you to posit all natural explanations?

    Attributing the cause of the big bang to the laws of nature does not solve the problem because natural laws are simply descriptions of interactions of material parts within the universe including
    its space-time structure. The natural laws that we do know actually originated in the big bang and its aftermath. Something cannot cause itself. Natural laws are no exception to this rule. Hawking gave some support to this point when he (and George Ellis) wrote: “The results we have obtained support the idea that the universe began a finite time ago. However the actual point of creation, the singularity, is outside the scope of presently known laws of physics.”- see Stephen Hawking and George F. R. Ellis, The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time, Cambridge Monographs on Mathematical Physics (Cambridge University Press, 1973), 364.
    Flew dedicated an entire chapter in his book called There is a God on this topic.

    Dawkins appeal to the “the blind forces of nature” as being able to explain all the observable complexity (such as anticipatory, irreducible and specified complexity) makes no sense. Natural laws (gravitation, magnetism, etc) do nothing and set nothing into motion. A “law of nature” is a description of what happens when no agent (whether it be divine, human, etc) is interfering or intervening into the casual order. So while natural laws are descriptive, they are not prescriptive.. It is true that a law of gravity, or the strong and weak nuclear forces don’t have minds or are conscious. However, while they may be blind, we must not forget that these laws are not agents, but mechanisms. Agents have goals and plan ahead. Mind or intelligence is the only known condition that can remove the improbabilities against life’s emergence. It is hard to see how a blind, naturalistic, undirected process could anticipate the universe that is required for our life to get started on our present earth and then go on to create life from non-life as well as the genetic code, etc.

    Furthermore, natural laws don’t generate complex, specified sequences. The laws describe highly regular, repetitive and periodic patterns. Information has four attributes-codes (syntax), meaning (semantics), action, and purpose. All living systems contain DNA and DNA information contains all four of these attributes. Information is a nonmaterial entity. Of course, this means materialism is false (given that materialism states that everything is just matter and energy). Also, Dawkins says that “Each [cell] nucleus… contains a digitally coded database larger in information content, than all 30 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica put together.”

    So I want to ask the following: “If the full text of the encyclopedia were to arrive in computer code from outer space, would you say the following?
    1.It can explained as the workings of random forces?
    2.It can be explained by alien intelligence?

    Eventually to keep pointing to nature and chance as an explanation runs into limitations. Chance is not a cause and nature has limits as well. As of recent date. William Lane Craig had a pretty good article on the different kinds of evolution and confusion over this issue here:

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