Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dawkins Wins Again!

Yesterday, Hugh Hewitt, the conservative Christian pundit, conducted a radio interview with Richard Dawkins, the pro-Darwin biologist and forceful advocate for atheism.

To be honest, I've never been impressed with Mr. Hewitt. In the 4-5 years I've been aware of his political commentary, I can't think of a single time in which I thought to myself, "Hmm, that's an interesting point." During the Bush Years, he basically regurgitated the White House talking points without any sense of thoughtfulness or nuance.

Needless to say, even before I started reading through the transcript of his debate with Mr. Dawkins, I was skeptical he could come out on top. Even though Mr. Hewitt is a law professor who graduated from Harvard University cum laude (shocking, right?), I knew from his previous work that he couldn't beat Dr. Dawkins. And indeed, I was right.

In the one-hour interview, Mr. Hewitt didn't land a single punch on the arch-atheist. Dr. Dawkins answered every question and criticism thoughtfully and reasonably. I've provided a
link to the transcript, but to be honest, there are only 2 interesting sections that are worth sharing, which I've posted below...

Part One:

HH: Did you ever believe in God, Richard Dawkins?

RD: Of course, I was a child.

HH: And when did you put off your foolish belief in God?

RD: When did I put away childish things?

HH: Yes.

RD: At the age of about fifteen.

HH: And under who’s influence was it?

RD: I suppose it was the influence, not of Darwin directly, but of the education in evolution that I was receiving.

HH: And did you just up and one day declare that’s it, no God?

RD: No, it was a more gradual process than that, as it was with Darwin himself. I mean, he gradually lost his faith.

Part Two:

HH: Professor Gould, whom I referenced earlier, is quoted in your book, and quoted in Collins’ book, excuse me. And Gould says to say it for all my colleagues, and for the umpteenth million time, science simply cannot by its legitimate methods, adjudicate the issue of God’s possible superintendence of nature. We neither affirm it nor deny it. We simply cannot comment on it as scientists. If some of our crowd have made untoward statements claiming that Darwinism disproves God, then I will fine Ms. McInerney, and have their knuckles rapped for it. Your reaction, Professor…

RD: Yes, I mean, that’s a very politically expedient thing to say, of course, because if you’re trying to, if you’re an educator, as he was and I am, trying to get scientific education on the rails, and to stop the anti-evolution Creationists in education, you want to get the sensible religious people on your side. You want to get the bishops and vicars and people on your side. And of course, they do believe in evolution. However, to say that science cannot say anything whatsoever about the existence of God, I think that is complete nonsense. When you think about what most people’s conception of God is, it is of a miracle-working being who raises people from the dead, who turns water into wine, who walks on water. These are all scientific claims, and they’re all, as Gould of course would agree, false.

Yes, I agree with Dawkins (and disagree with Hewitt and Gould) about this whole "Non-Overlapping Magisteria" nonsense. Truth is Truth. Whatever the Truth is, it's still the Truth. There's no "Get out of Jail Free" card for anyone.

One final point:

As Sherlock Holmes might say, "Always look for the dog that didn't bark."

What was the dog that didn't bark in this debate?

I'll give you a hint. Yesterday, they came up in a conversation with Luke "The Common Sense Atheist." They are: The Anthropic Principle, Intelligent Design, and Near Death-Experiences.

Altogether, I used those 3 concepts as the foundation for my short essay,
The Best Evidence for God in One Paragraph. And yet none of those concepts were addressed in the interview!

Why? Luke would probably say it's because "those are some of the WORST evidences I can think of."

Perhaps. I don't think so, but perhaps. Even so, isn't it strange that none of them were brought up even in passing? Instead, we were treated to endless minutes in which Mr. Hewitt tried to pick Dr. Dawkin's brain about the history of common descent between humans and monkeys, which never climaxed into an argument of any sort (and Dawkins called him out on it).

Why do I bring this up? Because - like I told Luke yesterday - you're not going to really learn about the arguments I raised in my essay by just following debates between Christians and atheists. Those arguments are not particularly interesting to most Christians, because they also raise doubts about the validity of Christianity itself. And since these arguments are rarely raised, most atheists aren't really aware of them. That's why I asked Luke...

Just out of curiosity: Have you done any research and/or thinking about the 3 issues I bring up in my essay (The Anthropic Principle, Intelligent Design, and Near Death Experiences)? And I don't just mean regurgitating Richard Dawkins screeds ("Intelligent Design is Creationism in a cheap tuxedo", etc).

I'd honestly be interested to know how much time (if any) you've spent examining the validity of those arguments.

When Luke responded in a confusing way, I replied..

I did not ask whether you were familiar with Intelligent Design (obviously, the atheists love to bash I.D. with sham arguments, etc.). No, I asked whether you had researched the validity of I.D. overall (which would require - at a minimum - reading articles, etc. from I.D. proponents, giving them a chance to advocate their viewpoint, and contrast it with Darwinism).
So again, I ask: Did you do that? If you didn't, that's fine. I'm just curious.

In my last email to Luke, I wrote...

To the extent that you are sincere in being a lover of truth and reason, I want to make sure you have all of the facts and arguments at your disposal, knowing full well (based on my own experience) that those facts and arguments cannot be found in either the Bible or in the New Atheist literature. They require an even deeper search than most people can even begin to imagine.

2 notes...

1) In Luke's essay, Mistakes Made, Lessons Learned, he said that he should have "tweaked his tone" when making the argument that my essay used "the WORST evidences [he] can think of." I commend Luke for saying that, but - as far as I know - his only regret is the "tone" of his email, not the actual content.

2) In my essay, The Best Evidence for God in One Paragraph, I used the 3 arguments I offered above. But by means are they the ONLY arguments. There are at least 5-6 other good ones. I just think the ones I used are the best.


Sabio Lantz said...

I think Luke will be answering these eventually. Have faith !

Todd White said...

Ha. I'd say it's about 50/50. But we'll see...