Personal incredulity

14 March 2007

Jeremy Craddock reads a fine rebuttal of Dawkins’s reasoning


The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist fundamentalism and the denial of the divine
Alister McGrath with Joanna Collicutt McGrath

SPCK £7.99 (978-0-281-05927-0)
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ALISTER and Joanna McGrath attend rationally to evidence, and present their findings unemotionally to answer The God Delusion. There, Richard Dawkins had done neither. The McGraths write as Alister, and make many justified criticisms, including these.

Dawkins is naïve: he says God, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy are equivalent. But people move from atheism to theism; they don’t convert to the Tooth Fairy in old age. Dawkins is rude about those with whom he disagrees: scientists claiming to be religious are fools; religious people (even the Pope) who claim to believe in evolution are hypocrites.

Dawkins invented the “virus-of-the-mind” as an analogy of our belief in God; but now he treats it as though it had physical reality. How can he be certain he has not been infected by a “no-God virus”? If Dawkins can’t believe in something, he thinks that is proof that it isn’t true. Thus, “I do not believe there is an atheist in the world who would bulldoze Mecca — [or other holy places].” Apart from his ignorance about Soviet Russia, he forgets that he himself coined the phrase “the argument from personal incredu-lity” in order to insult those who ignore evidence.

Dawkins asserts that God is so improbable that he cannot exist, and that, if he did, he would need explaining. McGrath did not point out that, at Douglas Adams’s funeral, Dawkins asserted that the fine tuning of the universe (if constants such as gravity and the strong nuclear force had values other than those observed, we could not exist) needed no explanation. So why should God?

That (and an understandable typographical error in one of the references) aside, The Dawkins Delusion deserves to sell many more copies than The God Delusion. I am sad that Dawkins, once my hero, has descended to unscientific nonsense. McGrath makes much more sense.

The Revd Jeremy Craddock was a forensic biologist.

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