Under pressure to add some new content to my blog! I’ve been so busy enjoying cultural activities this week that I haven’t had any time to reflect on them.
Since several people have asked me what I thought of Richard Dawkins’s lecture (The God Delusion, Birmingham Library Theatre, Weds. 11th Oct.) – part of the Birmingham Book Festival, I thought I would answer their question first.
Richard Dawkins began his lecture as little more than a farce. He took easy shots at organised religion (naturally in it Judaeo-Christian form), by quoting from the King James Version, which would make anything sound archaic. Of course, he quotes portions of the Old Testament that show it in the worst possible light, and he delights in the laughter of the audience.
It gradually becomes clear that Dawkins is trying to show that all human beings, including religious ones, decide their morality on other grounds than their holy book. Christians simply cherry-pick quotations that support their chosen morality, ignoring anything that seems to contradict it (including much of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy). The point is that we do not need the Bible to decide what is right and wrong.
(Interestingly from my point of view, Dawkins does not address the more fundamental question of how we can have right and wrong in a world without God and without meaning. Nor does he suggest what meaning might mean in a world without meaning… Sadly, I did not feel empowered enough to stand up and ask either of these questions.)
However, even without my intervention, Dawkins singularly failed to disprove the existence of God. In fact, he actually admitted that this cannot be done. He passed over chapters on the arguments for and against the existence of God, which I thought was odd for a lecture entitled ‘The God Delusion’.
Dawkins’s central premise is that consciousness (and therefore intelligence) has necessarily arisen late in the evolutionary process, and so it is impossible that intelligence could have designed the process – not having yet evolved. The complexity of the universe only has the appearance of intelligent design because it is the product of a process (natural selection) that weeds out less elegant mutations because they fail to survive.
(All of which still leaves the question undecided for me: whether an intelligent God from outside the universe may have set in motion this very elegant natural system within it. The evidence of the mechanism is not enough to prove or disprove God’s existence. That is the job of faith…)
I have not given you a very full account of the event, yet I already feel I’ve gone on for long enough! I would just add that Dawkins speaks very articulately and draws fine logical distinctions. For these abilities he is to be praised.
The heading for this entry comes from my friend Tim, by the way…