by Paul Copan
In my last post, I mentioned my brief interaction with Richard Dawkins when he came to Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale last month.
A week later, I responded to Dawkins at Nova in an open forum. (Here is one of the video clips from the Q&A time that followed—on “If God Made the Universe, Who Made God?” Look for more postings in the future.) I mentioned that I would post (in serial form) my modified notes from my open forum at Parchment and Pen. So here is Part II of my “Dawkins Series.”
When scholars step outside of their discipline, their authority doesn’t automatically carry over to other fields of study. In the case of Dawkins at Nova Southeastern, one wouldn’t know this from the rousing applause he received following his cheapshot slams on “religion.” (I gave one such audio sample in my last blog posting.) Yes, Dawkins has done some creative work when it comes to evolutionary theory, and I’m not really concerned about this. Evolution is a secondary consideration in the big scheme of things; it doesn’t at all disprove God’s existence. The bottom-line issue is not evolution but naturalism—God vs. no God. The assumption that “evolution did it all; so we don’t need God” is false. Evolution, first of all, needs a universe (think “Big Bang”)—not only this, but a life-permitting universe; and not only that, but a life-producing universe; beyond all of these, a life-sustaining universe. All of these stages would be necessary before evolution has a chance of advancing from a bacterium to homo sapiens. A being like God is capable of bringing this off without a problem, however. And what’s so far-fetched about design in the universe and even organisms? Dawkins himself acknowledges the strong appearance—indeed, the “illusion”—of design. Biology, he claims, is the study of complicated things that appear to be designed but are not! If God exists and could use the evolutionary process to bring about his purposes, then we don’t have to talk about mere appearance of design, but actual design. But let that pass.
When Dawkins steps outside of his field—into theology or philosophy—he’s a lightweight, and even fellow atheists acknowledge this. The atheist philosopher of science Michael Ruse at FIU has said, “Richard Dawkins makes me embarrassed to be an atheist.”  Terry Eagleton, an English literature and cultural theory professor (not a theist, so far as I know), severely criticizes “Ditchkins”—his composite name for Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. He considers them to be both out of their depth and misrepresenters of the Christian faith: “they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince. The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be.”  Sociologist Rodney Stark (at that time writing as an agnostic-moving-toward-Christianity)  put it this way: “To expect to learn anything about important theological problems from Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett is like expecting to learn about medieval history from someone who had only read Robin Hood.” 
In a book I coedited with fellow-philosopher William Lane Craig, he wrote an essay entitled “Dawkins’s Delusion,” which replies to Dawkins’s book The God Delusion. Craig does his darndest to piece together Dawkins’s argument against God’s existence—which, Craig concludes, is “embarrassingly weak.” At the end of his essay, Craig writes:
Several years ago my atheist colleague Quentin Smith unceremoniously crowned Stephen Hawking’s argument against God in A Brief History of Time as “the worst atheistic argument in the history of Western thought.”  With the advent of The God Delusion the time has come, I think, to relieve Hawking of this weighty crown and to recognize Richard Dawkins’ accession to the throne. 
At Dawkins’s talk, he claimed that a divine designer who is as complex as the universe he designed doesn’t explain anything; rather, a naturalistic scenario, which moves from simplicity to complexity, does explain things. But this is naïve and misguided for a number of reasons.
First, according to the prevailing big bang cosmological model, the universe’s beginning looks like the “traditional metaphysical picture of creation out of nothing,” as naturalistic astronomers John Barrow and Joseph Silk affirm. Something coming from nothing—now that’s a really simple beginning! But of course, it makes no metaphysical sense that being came from non-being; something coming from something is metaphysically obvious.
Second, this argument doesn’t really have any traction among the critics in the philosophy of religion. One big reason for this is that such a criterion is rather arbitrary. Why not argue that the designer should be more complex than what was designed? To make a claim is one thing; to justify it is another. Why think that Dawkins’s mere assertion should be taken as authoritative?
 Michael Ruse’s comment is found on the cover of Alister and Joanna McGrath’s book The Dawkins Delusion? (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2007).
 Terry Eagleton, “Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching,” London Review of Books (October 19, 2006). Available at URL: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n20/print/eagl01_.html (accessed November 25 2007). Eagleton gives a fuller critique in Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009).
 After reading an interview with Stark in 2006 (where he identified himself as agnostic), I emailed him, inquiring as to where he was in his pilgrimage. He replied to me(30 August 2010), Stark stated this: “I slowly wrote my way to faith.”
 Rodney Stark, What Americans Really Believe (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2008), 120.
 Quentin Smith, “The Wave Function of a Godless Universe,” in Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 322.
 William Lane Craig, “Dawkins’s Delusion,” in Contending with Christianity’s Critics: Answering New Atheist and Other Objectors (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2009), 5
 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 38