The Nature of God

I enjoy listening to Richard Dawkins. He’s brilliant, sophisticated, and has wit. I was recently watching some short video clips of him on YouTube. In general, I agree with, if not his conclusions, at least the logic of how he got there. But then, I came across this video clip:

If you don’t feel like watching, let me summarize the relevant parts. He parallels the incoherence of matter coming about on its own with the idea of God’s existence coming about on its own. He argues that God is too improbable to have formed completely by chance. A questioner from the audience asks, isn’t it problematic to apply natural laws and probability on God? Dawkins retortes, “Well isn’t that just convenient? You talked your way out of providing a rational argument by just decreeing by fiat that God simply declares himself outside of matter… If you’re convinced by that kind of thing, you’re welcome.”

I’m sorry, but this highlights the deep-rooted ignorance in the New Atheist Movement. They don’t even know what they’re arguing against. Its akin to a creationist declaring that humans did not evolve from monkeys. At least know what you’re arguing against! Dawkins is a biologist, not a theologian, and his banter only serves to demonstrate this fact. And here’s why:

But first, a tangent to help illustrate the point!

Imagine if someone programmed an Artificial Intelligence (AI). This AI was truly self-aware and existed entirely inside  a computer. One day, it questioned the existence of a programmer. It pre-supposed that everything is composed of bytes/bits and obeys the laws of the CPU. Employing the scientific method, it sought evidence of a programmer. It combed every bit of computer memory and applies every law of the CPU, but returned empty handed. Therefore, it concluded that there is no such thing as a programmer.

Seem problematic? It should. The fallacy of the AI was to assume that all existence was contingent on the laws of the CPU and composed of bytes/bits. But, the programmer’s existence is outside of the AI’s world, distinct, separate and sharing virtually no common qualities.

By its very nature, the creator can share no common qualities with the created, nor be subject to any of the laws that govern it. This fundamental principle is adhered to by most theologians, and is especially strong within the Islamic and Jewish tradition by al-Ghazali and Rambam, respectively. They argue that God’s existence is not contingent on any created things, including and especially time and space.

The fallacy of Dawkins is the same fallacy of the AI. While the AI assumed that all of existence was within the laws of the CPU and consisted of bytes, the Dawkins implicitly assumes that everything in existence obeys the laws of physics and consists of particles. Ironically, this he implicitly declares “by fiat”. Both limit the scope reality and dismiss all that might exist outside of that scope.

I do not believe in a God that exists within the 3 dimensions, is subject to time-space or consists of particles. Most traditions state that his existence is unlike the existence of anything else. As a theologian once said, anything that comes to your mind about God is in opposition to him.

Next is the improbability of God coming about on his own, because of how complex God must be. This is the same problem rehashed in a different way. Again, we do not believe in a God that consists of physical particles and is mechanically complex, like some sort of divine machine. No, nearly all classical theologians argue that God is indivisible, unique, absolute oneness. But, Dawkins explores this “definition” of God and substitutes it with a God who is essentially a big machine in the sky who formed through an improbable occurrence. A true Strawman fallacy.

So, when Dawkins says things like “you’ve just declared by fiat”, he’s demonstrating his profound ignorance of exactly what he’s arguing against. Again, I’m sorry, but naiveté backed by rhetoric is no substitute for an argument. The problem is, this kind of ignorance is as rampant amongst the New Atheist Movement as science is amongst the radical Christians who interpret the Bible literally. No one denies (or should deny) the New Atheist Movement’s scientific acclaim, but that does not translate to other areas of knowledge, namely theology.

There was a time when anyone who read Dawkin’s The God Delusion would laugh and move on. But now his books convince the masses.