ppt A Response to The God Delusion: Power Point 21/07/2008,19:46

John M. Oakes, PhD       Click the link below to see an outline of the class, or on the power point icon above to view the power point.


A Response to Scientific Materialism and The God Delusion

Richard Dawkins, author of A River out of Eden, The Blind Watchmaker, The Selfish Gene and Unweaving the Rainbow.


Main points in this book:


Evolution by a completely random process of mutation and natural selection from bacteria to humans is a proven fact.


Therefore it is proven that the Universe has the ability to spontaneously create more complex systems from less complex systems.


Therefore, by analogy, there must be some sort of natural selection-like process which produces a universe like ours (although he does not even propose this theory, never mind providing any evidence for it).


(It is essentially a known fact that there are multiple universes).


Completely ignoring the insolvable problem of the generation of life from prebiotic material, he then concludes that science is the only legitimate means by which we can acquire useful knowledge of our world.


Therefore, all belief in moral absolutes, in infallible ethical principles is sheer nonsense.


Here is where we start to get into trouble.


Belief in some sort of supernatural force which exists as creator of our universe is therefore a delusion.


(The name for this philosophy is scientism or materialism or naturalism)


The idea that certain behaviors (stealing, homosexuality, adultery, lying, stealing, etc) are inherently wrong is an artifact, and a harmful one at that, of human brain evolution.


There is no "truth" except that which is obtainable from empirical observation.


He offers only blatantly pseudoscientific ideas of a "religion virus" brain evolution and "memes"


He concludes that the greatest enemy of knowledge, of human progress, of scientific discovery is religion, in all its forms.


Nothing good has ever come from religious belief, but only delusional distraction from the pure pursuit of the only truth there is, which is found through naturalistic science.


.  "As a child, my wife hated her school and wished she could leave." 

On page one, he mentions the BBC documentary about religion, The Root of All Evil? Dawkins says he does not believe religion is the root of all evil, but he then proceeds to undermine that statement in the book by basically stating that it is in fact the root of all evil-at least all the evil he can think of. 

"When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity.  When many people suffer from a delusion, it is called Religion." 

He calls religion a vice (p. 6) 

"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction." (p. 31

He calls belief in God silly (p. 36). 

He calls the Christian God a psychotic delinquent (p. 38) and a monster (p. 46) 

He calls believers weird (p. 53) 

He is "amused" by the things "religionists" do.  Ridiculing and laughing at his enemies.

We should reject Deuteronomy "as all enlightened moderns do" (p. 57).  Well, by definition, anyone who accepts the historical accuracy of Deuteronomy is not enlightened or modern.  The list of those who do accept Deuteronomy will show the bias of this statement. 

He calls his opponents (i.e. all believers) unworthy (p. 57) 

He calls attempts to test the viability of prayer pathetic (p. 61) 

He calls those who believe in evolution but also believe in God members of "The Neville Chamberlain School of Evolutionists." (p. 66). 

This is a sampling from the first 20% of the book. 

on p. 321 he says that he regrets the doctrine of hell is not true, because part of him wishes the nuns he knew when he grew up could go there.

He argues (p. 317) that being influenced by the Catholic Church is more harmful than being sexually abused.  I am not kidding! 

To summarize the book, the title should have been, "Why I hate religion and all religious people." 

Logical Fallacies

1. Ad Hominum. 

The use of personal attacks against your opponent, rather than arguing against their position.

He calls Mother Theresa a sanctimonious hypocrite (p. 292). 

Dawkins uses words such as "barking mad" (p. 253), "sado-masochistic" (p. 253), "viciously unpleasant" (p. 253), and "infantile" (363) to describe Christians’ belief in God in general. 

This is not the sort of technique used by people who have a solid, convincing argument to make.

2. No True Scotsman. 

Dawkins repeatedly states that no true scientist will accept even the possibility that God’s finger somehow has intervened in the course of nature. 

Then Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Lord Kelvin and an almost unlimited list of the most eminent scientists are not good scientists.

3. Begging the Question.  Assuming the answer to a question as a precondition to asking the question.

Dawkins reasons that anyone who believes in a supernatural force is, by definition, not scientific, and therefore, science proves that there is no supernatural force.

4. Straw Man Argument. 

Any religionist is part and parcel with the Taliban and Al Quaeda or one slippery slope step away from being a violent, hateful fundamentalist.

He does not concede a single positive contribution to human society or culture from religious people. 

Marks of Pseudoscience:


1. Argument by analogy. 

Darwinian evolution is a proven mechanism by which nature produces increased complexity.

By analogy there must be some sort of complexity-causing mechanism which can explain why we live in a fine-tuned universe.

Where is the evidence for this? 

Religious belief is "like a virus of the mind."

2. Claims of suppression. 

Talks about how, historically, atheism has been actively persecuted by religion (conveniently forgetting what the communists have done in China, Russia, etc.)

3. Quoting others out of context.      (skip this part?)

He quotes Hitler, "We were convinced that the people need and require this faith." in an attempt to prove that he was a Christian (p. 274).

Misquotes Tertullian "It is by all means to be believed because it is absurd."

Quotes Luther dramatically out of context.

4. Bogus use of statistics to create a false case for an argument. 

(mistake correlation with cause and effect)

He states (p. 229) that the more religious states in the United States have higher crime rates, implying that the greater amount of religion in those states is what leads to their higher rate of violence.

Bogus use of statistics is found in several places in The God Delusion (p. 237, 255, 257 and others). 

5.  Appeals to mysteries and myths.    (skip this part?)

He tries to argue by analogy to the work of Julian Jayne, The Bicameral Mind. Interestingly, this is one of the case studies I use in my section on pseudoscience.

The bicameral mind is a completely unsupported effort to explain the (supposedly) sudden increase in human knowledge about 2000 BC as being due to some sort of sudden change in human brain chemistry. 

Dawkins uses this to explain how human beings acquired the universal tendency toward believing in absolute moral truth and in a spiritual dimension to life.


Ethical Answers in an Unethical World

What is Truth?

Subtitle:  World View Apologetics

John 18:37-38    Jesus:  "I came to testify to the truth.  Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."


Pilate:  "What is truth?"


Now that is a good question.  This is the question of epistemology:  How do we know things are true?


The problem as I see it:


1. The secularization of culture-the banishment of religious thought and of ideas of absolute truth and morality from public discourse.


2. The loss of morality-the relativization of moral truth.  The loss of a public and private sense that certain things are just plain wrong or right.


3. The loss of God.  We are at risk of becoming a people for whom God is somewhere in with the ranks of fairies and lepruchans.


4. The loss of the intellectual high ground at the University for belief in God and an ethically-centered point of view.


Example of that Lady in Phoenix


The "enemy:"


1. Naturalism/scientism/materialism.   The only "truth" is that discovered by scientific



Define Scientism:   The belief that the only reliable or valid instrument to deciding the truth or even the value of any proposition is the scientific method.


No ethics, no morality, no supernatural, no God, no truth except that found by science, no consciousness, no "I." Justice is a figment of our imagination.


None of us can accept this.


This is a (false) religious assumption, as I will show.


A sample statement:


Richard Dawkins:


In the universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt and other people are going to get lucky: and you won’t find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice.  The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good.  Nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.  DNA neither knows nor cares.  DNA just is, and we dance to its music.


Thomas Huxley:


We are as much the product of blind forces as is the falling of a stone to earth, or the ebb and flow of the tides.  We have just happened, and man was made flesh by a long series of singularly beneficial accidents.


A little intellectual history.


Aristotle:  We can apply logic and human reasoning to determine the truth about the nature of the world in which we live.


Fact: Despite amazing progress brought about by the application of reason to questions, the Greek model made virtually no progress in describing nature.   Aristotle’s 7 laws were all wrong.  Nature does not behave rationally (according to human ideas)




A Manichaean who held to the teaching of Manes.  But Manes made overconfident statements about the cosmos which were proven wrong by science.  Augustine:  "All he achieved by his numerous statements on these matters was this: he was shown up by people who had an accurate knowledge of them, and it was thus made perfectly plain how much reliance could be placed on his understanding of other more abstruse matters.  When he was caught out making false statements about the heaven and the stars and the movements of the sun and moon, even though these things are not an integral part of his religious doctrine, yet it was clear enough that his presumption was sacrilegious: he was talking about things he did not know.


Thus, Augustine left Manichaeism and eventually became a Christian.


Example:  Hebrews 11:3   By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what is visible.   Creation ex nihilo.


Thomas Aquinas


If something is true, it must be reasonable.  Used Aristotle to analyze Christianity.


Roger Bacon, William of Ockham, Copernicus, etc.


These men began with an assumption:   The universe was created by a single, all-powerful, loving unchanging God with the single purpose so that we can live in it and experience a relationship with him.


And thus, science was created.   The Greeks could not discover the laws of Nature because they had an incorrect understanding of Nature.  The physical world is bad.


It is an undeniable fact that belief in the Christian God is the historical and logical foundation for what we now call science.


These are the religious, philosophical underpinning of science.


1. The universe is ordered and essentially unchanging.

2. The universe is observable and understandable.  There is a 1:1 match between how the human mind works and how the universe in which live funcitons.

3. The universe is governed by mathematically precise laws.


Roger Bacon;  To acquire truth about nature, use   "External experience, aided by instruments, made precise by mathematics"




For the Holy Scripture and the phenomena of nature proceed alike from the divine Word, the former as the dictate of the Holy Spirit and the latter as the observant executor of God’s commands."


Isaac Newton:


Universal Law of Gravity.  The idea that we live in a mechanical universe.


This is no surprise to Bacon et al.


In fact that seems to be how God works in everything.  He sets up physical and moral laws.  He sets into a world operating by those laws.  It is (apparently) the nature of God to only intervene in the workings of those laws very rarely and for very definite purposes, yet God’s hand is the power behind everything and he is always upholding and sustaining the system.  (Colossians 1:17  In him all things hold together.  Hebrews 1:3 "sustaining all things by his powerful word.")


Evolution falls into this category, but I digress.

18th century:  Naturalism/The Mechanical Universe naturally leads to skepticism.  How can we know anything about morality, religion, truth.  Voltaire, Hume and others and the rise of skepticism.   (Was bad Christianity to blame for this?)


19th century.  LaPlace,   Darwin.  Materialism/Modernism appeared triumphant.


20th Century.  Quantum Mechanics questioned the deterministic nature of Nature.


Reason and Logic cannot explain WWI  WWII    Hiroshima.


The idea of the completely independent, individualistic person, outside a community looked down upon.


Scientism appears to be hubris.  Scientism cannot do justice to beauty, art.


The very idea of the rightness of Western culture came into question


(All this was good!!!)


But, intellectuals overreacted (typical)


We got postmodernism.


Postmodernism.  Cultural Relativism.


Reality is a social construction.  Is it?  If so, science is wrong.  But we cannot accept that.


One major reason we know postmodernism is wrong is that science is right.

Response to Scientism.


The Theorist who maintains that science is the be-all and the end-all-that what is not in science textbooks is not worth knowing-is an ideologist with a peculiar and distorted doctrine of his own.  For him, science is no longer a sector of the cognitive enterprise, but an all-inclusive world-view.  This is the doctrine not of science but of scientism.   To take this stance is not to celebrate science but to distort it.


This is the dominant (not necessarily the majority) view of scientists.


Problems with scientism


1.  It is self-defeating


Science pre-supposes:


1. The universe is ordered and essentially unchanging.

2. The universe is observable and understandable.  There is a 1:1 match between how the human mind works and how the universe in which live funcitons.

3. The universe is governed by mathematically precise laws.

4. Language is adequate to describe the natural realm.


None of these assumptions can be proved by experiment.  In a sense, science is not scientific.


Scientism requires faith.


2.  It is wrong.


If materialism/naturalism/scientism is right then


"I" do not exist.  Consciousness is just a word.    Love is just chemicals.


Belief in God is just a "meme"  an unfortunate accidental result of random evolutionary processes.


No soul, no spirit.


Religious thought is total nonsense.  Prayer is my chemicals talking to my chemicals.


Life is completely and fundamentally without purpose.


Nothing has value.   There is no reason to say that the works of Shakespeare are better or more valuable than anything else.


Beauty is a mathematical formula.


Why do materialists/naturalists believe all these things?  Because they assume they are true.  They have no evidence against any of these things.  None.


Circular reasoning.


Why is this wrong?


The universe was created.                     The evidence is overwhelming!


Life was created.                Despite the unscientific claims to the contrary, this is for sure!


Anthropic Principle


Virtually no one can accept that sex with anyone is OK, that consciousness is a simply a complex chemical phenomenon, that art and beauty and love and inspiration and a purposeful life are just epiphenomena.



3. It is dangerous.


There is no good and evil.


There is no reason to believe that stealing is bad.


Any kind of sexual relationship is only "right" or "wrong" depending on whether it helps the human race to survive.


Violence, genocide, hatred are neither good nor evil.


Justice is a meaningless word.  There is no logical argument to defend the claim that one must act justly.


Human rights have no basis.


Racism is justifiable.  Make no mistake about it…


Avowedly God-free societies have been tried:   USSR,  Red China,  Pol Pot,   North Korea.


A way forward.


God needs to make a comeback.  I do not mean prayer in schools and the Ten Commandments in the courthouse.


Why are postmodernism and naturalism wrong as philosophies?


There is truth, and science is not the sole arbiter of truth.


Because Jesus is right.


John 14:6              


Jesus:  I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the father except through me.


Two possibilities:  Jesus is the truth or he is not.


John 8:31,32    Hold to his teachings


Hold onto them as truth.  Cling on to the truth.  Grab hold of it

I hold (declare)  that…..  declare them to be true.

Hold to the truth. Uphold the truth.  Obey the truth.  Apply the truth to your life.


John 1:14   Jesus full of grace and truth.


Because Jesus Christ is right.  Jesus gave us a world view which agrees with reality and which works.


John 6:35   I am the bread of life.   He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.


Christian theology answers the big questions that real people really care about.


•n      Jesus answers the big three questions:  Where did I come from, why am I here, and where am I going? How did I get here?


•n      Why am I here?


•n      Where am I going?


•n      Why are human beings able to comprehend the universe?


•n      Why is there pain and suffering and evil in the world?




Christianity offers solutions to the big human problems-the ones real people care about!


•n      The Problem of Sin (the substitutionary death of Jesus)

•n      Romans 7:24,25


•n      The Problem of Suffering (compassion)

•n      Matthew 9:35-36  


•n      The Problem of Death

•n      1 Corinthians 15:54-56



Just before that, Jesus fed 5000 people-created food out of nothing


John 11:17-27       followed by    John 11:38-44


What is your response?


John 11:45-53   Which response is yours?


A call for action:    We need to take back the intellectual high ground.  Let us confront this foolishness in a loving way.  Let us not be intimidated by these sophomoric intellectuals.   Let us get degrees in science, philosophy, history, etc.





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