October 20, 2009 by Hugh Hewitt Radio Show Filed under Radio Show, The God Debates
10200903 Hugh Hewitt: Hour 3 – Hugh spends the hour discussing the new book, The Greatest Show On Earth with celebrated atheist, Richard Dawkins.
While listening to Mr. Hewitt’s interview of Mr. Dawkins, it became clear to me that Mr. Dawkins’ views on atheism and evolution rely on several false assumptions. I’ll describe three of these below.
First, Mr. Dawkins assumes that human observations of the natural order disprove the existence of God because natural beings begin at some point in time and change over the course of natural history. However, God is, always was and ever will be (I AM that I AM and I will be that I will be; Exodus 3 vs 13-14), and thus He does not change. These characteristics of God’s nature place Him in an entirely different class of being apart from everything observable in the natural order. Therefore, it follows that the observed characteristics of natural beings cannot disprove God but can only place Him in a different class of being. Thus, to the extent that Mr. Dawkins’ atheism relies on the assumption that evolution disproves God, it is false.
In truth, the essential claim of atheism is that there are no beings apart from the natural order because such beings cannot be systematically evidenced by repeatable human observation. It is not the burden of natural history to go beyond repeatable human observations and carry water for atheism, and it appears that Mr. Dawkins knows this very well.
Second, Mr. Dawkins discounts the authority of revelation for all claims concerning the nature of God, leaving him free to mock the Old Testament (e.g. Exodus 3 vs 13-14) as a quaint collection of musings by ignorant Semitic Tribesmen. Yet men far more brilliant and erudite than Mr. Dawkins (e.g. Augustine and Pascal) have written great works in full agreement with Moses’ claims concerning the nature of God. The secular authority of these works lies in their demonstration of the erudition and brilliance of their authors. Therefore, the reliance of a claim on the authority of revelation does not necessarily discredit the claim, which means that Mr. Dawkins’ assumption to the contrary is false. This is why he appears cowardly and ignorant when he casually dismisses the Old Testament.
Third, Mr. Dawkins claims that the retina’s imperfections demonstrate that it is not the design or creation of a perfect god. Whence this standard of perfection? Is it not a purely human standard, and does it not rely completely on a human understanding of the nature of perfection? Indeed it does, but humans and what we understand about perfection are flawed.
The first functioning tungsten filament light bulb was perfect relative to all previous light bulbs that didn’t exist or work, but it is utterly imperfect relative to modern light bulbs. In hindsight, by what standard do we measure the perfection of the first light bulb?
See the problem? The standards of dynamically changing beings are also dynamic. Before the 20th Century, the retina seemed perfect relative to anything else on offer. Today science and technology have rendered the retina imperfect and thus evidence against a perfect God. But this claim does not necessarily follow from the evidence itself but from the standard of perfection that changed in light of the evidence. Thus, the imperfection must be in the mutable human standard of perfection and not the retina.
Many thanks to Mr. Hewitt for interviewing Mr. Dawkins. It’s necessary for the opponents of atheism and secular humanism to encounter such views if we are to confront and demolish them. That’s why Mr. Hewitt’s radio show is the best on offer.
The following clip (2 min) succinctly demonstrates that Dawkins’ scientific conclusions are highly influenced, if not driven by, his worldview (ie his “faith”). He demonstrates that there is “zero evidence” for his beliefs about the evolution of feathers, in contrast to the historicity of the crucifiction/ resurrection, for which he says there is zero evidence.
It is obvious that Dawkins thought he was encountering a standard schlub DJ/ liberal apologist — I bet he was shocked that Hugh had a grasp of the subject matter, much less that he had read the book. In spite of accepting a return engagement, I bet he immediately turned to his agent and said, “Who the hell is this guy?!” — and that will be the end of it.
My God, pardon the pun, could Dr. Dawkins have been more derisive toward Hugh – particularly after realizing Hugh’s vocation? His flippant comment, “now I know what I’m dealing with” after pressing Hugh’s belief in Jesus’s turning water into wine was stunning.
What really struck me, though, was the realization that this sort smarmy attitude is not only pervasive in the academic community it is also emblematic of the Obama Administration as a whole. In fact, a pragmatic argument could easily be made that his administration is so full of “scholars” that it may be the first truly “Academic Government” in this nation’s history. The problem, as this interview illustrates, is that many of the academians in Obama’s administration not only hold many of the same views as Dr. Dawkins, they exhibit open contempt for anyone who ardently believes in god, supports individualistic endeavors over collectivism or wants government to wield limited powers and control over their lives. Moreover, their careers have been so sheltered by the marbled halls of academia that they haven’t had to put their “theories” of governance into practice until now. They’ve had the luxury of positing these nifty little theorems about “democratic management,” “new public management,” “participative governance,” etc. in a vacuum. The only test of their hypothesis has been through peer-review by other intellectually incestuous scholars absorbed in their own little worlds. Trouble is, now that these people are in true positions of power they’re finding these theories are inarticulate, unworkable and unsustainable in the real world. Unfortunately, they, like the very evangelists Dr. Dawkins detests, are true believers of their own inbred postulates; because, hey, when you’ve been constantly validated by your peers how can you possibly be wrong?
KUDOS TO HUGH for having the intellectual fortitude to have Professor Dawkins on the radio show.
More kudos for Hewitt’s clear, unequivocal statements on his personal beliefs on evolution (in contrast to, say, the shameful, dithering, vague, evasive public statements on the subject by Representatives Mike Pence (IN)* and Dana Rohrabacher (CA)**).
Still more kudos for Hugh publicly saying he believes our universe is some 13 billion years old (the scientific consensus, incidentally, is 13.7 billion, give or take 100 million).
As to the logic on how our beloved Chancellor of the Hughniverse can twist Dawkin’s clearly-stated, easy-to-understand explanation as to why he won’t to debate Mr. D’Souza into “his unwillingness to debate folks like Dinesh D’Souza is an indictment of his confidence in his atheism,” well, maybe that’s something best left to wiser hugholigists than myself. (Sorry, dear Hugh, but the only one in today’s commentariat who can consistently pull off that “they-refuse-to-debate-me-so-that-just-proves-that-they’re-wrong-and-I’m-right” routine remains the master neosophist himself, Mr. Bill O’Reily. (Good try, though, Hugh!))
* http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQMakgyEK90 (at ~1 minute, 40 seconds mark)
** http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JREbT6FCCFA (at ~6:00 minute mark)
Terrific interview. I was particularly interested that Hugh brought up Berlinski’s book early on – I’ve read it three times and I find it thought-provoking and funny. It’s unfortunate that Dr. Dawkins was not familiar with it.
Dr Dawkins unintentionally reinforced Berlinski’s thesis that atheism requires a leap of faith at least equivalent to that of religious believers.
All above posts are well-done.
The most laughable part of the hour was Dawkins’ claim that he can’t be bothered to debate those like D’Souza who are his intellectual peers on the opposite side. I have seen a few of his video ambushes of creationists and religious leaders, so he certainly can find the time to embarrass and intellectually bully such people in order to make himself look good. As smarmy and dismissive as Hitchens can be on this issue, at least he is willing to debate anyone at any time.
Dawkins is like a guy in your neighborhood who’s a pretty good basketball player and claims he’s Jordan-esque, but all he does is play pickup games with teenagers and beats the snot out of them. If you ask him why he doesn’t walk on an NBA team, he’ll say he doesn’t have time and doesn’t need to prove anything…then he goes down to the local junior high and dunks on a 14-year-old.
Forget the complexity of the eye argument. Is Dawkin’s rolling his eyes at my faith an argument? “You can’t possibly believe that.” is weak sauce. I’d roll my eyes at Dawkins who looks at the miracle of the human form and says, “It was a meaningless accident.”
My 16-year-old young skull full of mush (to quote another talk radio colleague of yours!) was actually willing to listen to this podcast yesterday–honest! No maternal arm-twisting involved! And he enjoyed it! Thank you, Hugh, for having consistently having this calibre of guest on your show; you educate your audience like none other–above-mentioned individual included!