April 17, 2011
Richard Dawkins: Atheist Stranded in a World of PurposeBy Miguel A. Guanipa
Fifty years ago, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave a speech at an antireligious rally, where he declared that the celebrated cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had confided to him that while in space, he had peered into the infinite distance before him, but could find no traces of God. Someone in the audience is alleged to have murmured then that if he had removed his helmet, the proud space traveler would have instantly secured a personal audience with the one whose creation he so carefully surveyed in hopes of finding.
This amusing story illustrates the doleful plight of the itinerant Atheist, who is perennially engaged in trying to disprove the existence of something he is certain does not exist; which begs the question: if God does not exist, why spend so much time and energy trying to disprove his existence?
Take Richard Dawkins, the famous evolutionary biologist and atheist, for example.
In a recent interview with Der Spiegel, Dawkins was asked if he ever experienced a religious phase in his life. Of course, responded Dawkins -- I was a child, wasn't I?
Presumably Dawkins has moved on to matters that only grown ups consider worthy of serious consideration. To justify this inexplicable contempt for the religiously inclined, Dawkins goes so far as to casually wrench the Apostle Paul's admonition to "give up childish things" from its long established scriptural context. Dawkins would have us believe that the intent of the most prolific writer in the New Testament was to demonstrate that belief in God is either a passing fancy of those still in infancy -- like the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus -- or the imaginary wishes of well meaning adults who lack the basic reasoning skills to appreciate the absurdity of such a mindset; by far among the least disparaging of many an indignant remark Dawkins has typically leveled against his contrarians.
But this latent hostility against those who disagree with his conclusions only distracts from the obvious question which so few seem to be asking, which is why such a presumably brilliant man like Dawkins would uncritically accept the patently self-defeating logic inherent in the atheistic proposition in the first place; a proposition which collapses under the weight of its own logical inconsistencies.
The short answer is that Dawkins' repugnance for anything that imports a deistic model into the public discourse is not grounded on reasoned skepticism because of lack of evidence, but on a willful refusal to believe despite any available evidence.
Initially one must ask how much of the universe has Dawkins spanned to come to a definitive conclusion that God does not inhabit it. And that is not the most devastating objection against his basic premise.
As a scientist, Richard Dawkins is aware that it is through direct observation that we discern the melody of an encoded universe, where the slightest variation in any of the Antrophic constants which regulate and sustain it would cause it to cease to exist. This order is so pervasive we cannot help but stumble upon it. In fact some of the major discoveries in the sciences have been made by sheer accident.
The universe is most easily understood by using intentionally calibrated methods to observe its fastidious regularity. Curiously enough, the scientific methods we employ to make sense of the universe's architecture also possess an inherent order that facilitates the detection of the details in this meticulous arrangement.
But we do not arrive at these methods by accident; they mirror the order which permeates the universe we live in. We intuitively devise these methods and instruments of scientific inquiry as an extension of the minutely exact alignment we discover in the complex systems that surround us; thus naturally, this complexity is best apprehended through a framework of likewise precision.
According to Dawkins, this complexity is purely random, and the result of extraordinary coincidences. But since he cannot entirely dismiss purposeful design in the universe, he cleverly bypasses the inherent theological implications by describing it as something short of an illusion; in his own words, things that "give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose." In Dawkins' view, it is the fact that this fortuitous arrangement of the cosmos can be explained -- in solely naturalistic terms -- that makes them so fascinating and "beautiful."
But how does a magnificent construct like beauty arise from the random, purposeless, haphazard "blueprint" of chance? Can that which is the product of random forces be called beautiful, or viewed as having purpose, or even be accepted as true within an amoral framework that is governed by the same blind forces which brought all things into being? In other words, how do ultimately purposeless birthing mechanisms give rise to life, or structured and meaningful values like truth, purpose, beauty, etc., values which incidentally, we must appeal to in order to judge the merit of Dawkins' thesis?
Moreover, if the universe is the merely a product of blind forces, then Dawkins himself -- and by extension his sloppily arrived at conclusion about the origin of all things -- cannot claim special exemption from his reductionist criteria of origins. For in a universe governed by chance, as C.S. Lewis once wrote, "all thoughts are mere events with irrational causes." One in which ideas, including Dawkins' intimations about the beauty of an explicable universe, are mere reactions "determined by ultimately amoral and irrational sources, and no more capable of rightness or wrongness than a hiccup or a sneeze."
And yet Dawkins remains undeterred by this glaring inconsistency in his worldview. In fact his next goal is to write a children's book. No doubt he recognizes that it is far easier to impress those at the very early stage; one which he has decidedly forgotten, presumably in lieu of more mature undertakings.
Perhaps Dawkins might do well to give the doctrinaire beliefs he clings to as an adult a well- needed rest, and boldly revisit the wonder that is to behold reality anew through the eyes of a child; or at least a man less inclined to upbraid the God whose existence he so fiercely denies.