Thursday, September 24, 2009

On Dawkins and Non Sequiturs

If one is looking for a case study in non sequiturs just check out Dawkins' text The God Delusion. He gives a summary of his argument in chapter four of his book in the section "An Interlude At Cambridge". In his words, the argument of the book falls or stands on his presentation. Unfortunately, even by conventional rules of logic, his argument doesn't stand at all.

Namely, even if all six points of his argument were true, then it still wouldn't follow that "the God hypothesis is untenable." It should be noted that where he does think Christians are in error, they are still sincere -just in error (pg. 154). So we should do same should we not? Yes. Anyways, when reading at what point do his points, by the laws of logic, dissuade the hypothesis of God's existence?
"This Chapter has contained the central argument of my book, and so, at the risk of sounding repetitive, I shall summarize it as a series of six numbered points.

1. One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect, over the centuries, 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. In the case of a man-made (sic) artefact such as a watch, the designer really was an intelligent engineer. It is tempting to apply the same logic to an eye or wing, a spider or a person.

3. The temptation is a false one because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer. The whole problem we started out with was the problem of explaining statistical improbability. It is obviously no solution to postulate something even more improbable. We need a 'crane', not a 'skyhook', for only a crane can do the business of working up gradually and plausibly from simplicity to otherwise improbable complexity.

4. The most ingenious and powerful crane so far discovered is Darwinian evolution by natural selection. Darwin and his successors have shown how living creatures, with their spectacular statistical improbability and appearance of design, has evolved by slow, graduate degrees from simple beginnings. We can now safely say that the illusion of design in living creatures is just that -an illusion.

5. We don't have an equivalent crane for physics. Some kind of multiverse theory could in principle do for physics the same explanatory work as Darwinism does for biology. This kind of explanation is superficially less satisfying than the biological version of Darwinism, because it makes heavier demands on luck. But the anthropic principle entitles us to postulate far more luck than our limited human intuition is comfortable with.

6. We should not give up the hope of a better crane arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology. But even in the absence of a strongly satisfying crane to match the biological one, the relatively weak cranes we have at present are, when abetted by the anthropic principle, self-evidently better than the self-defeating skyhook hypothesis of an intelligent designer.

If the argument of this chapter is accepted, the factual premise of religion -the God hypothesis -is untenable. God almost certainly does not exist."

- Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Hougton Mifflin, 2006), 157-158.

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