Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dawkins/O’Reilly Debate

I recently watched as Bill O’Reilly interviewed Richard Dawkins on the subject of atheism. Everyone knows that Dawkins is one of the most outspoken proponents of atheism and can argue his position quite well from a scientific perspective.

Unfortunately, O’Reilly isn’t the deepest thinker at a pot party and failed to point out what could be the most important counter argument to disqualify Dawkins as the final arbiter on the subject.

The point that is overlooked in these discussions was articulated in passing by Dawkins in that interview.  Dawkins disqualified O’Reilly’s points time after time by explaining that O’Reilly’s arguments were not scientific. O’Reilly didn’t grab the ball and run with it. Evidently it didn’t occur to him that Dawkins had boxed himself in when he defined his arguments as “scientific.”  He had inadvertently handed O’Reilly the weapon he needed, but O’Reilly didn’t recognize it.


There is no shortage of atheists running loose in the world. We have Richard Dawkins and his book “God Delusion,” Christopher Hitchens and his “intellectual” attacks on religion and even Stephen Hawking, the brilliant scientist, who is confined to a wheel chair.  Despite his brilliance, Hawking once claimed that “nothing created everything.”  Hawking essentially believes in spontaneous creation.

The reason we will always lose the argument with smart guys like those is that they have forced us to play the game by their rules and on their football field.  To attempt to win the game with them on a scientific basis is futile.  Unfortunately, they can’t see beyond the football field and are unaware of the bleachers.

Science, as Hawkins readily admitted in the O’Reilly interview, deals with the physical universe. That means that only what can be observed, tested, and defined using the scientific methodology is truth.  Anything beyond the physical world – this world that science can measure – is unknown and, to the scientific mind, unknowable. Hawkins is satisfied to pitch his tent in that particular valley and is not inclined to peek over the next hill. Science is the atheist’s comfort zone.

Origins, cosmology, teleology, spirituality and God are beyond the reach of science. So to expect a scientist to enter into an intelligent discussion of areas outside the boundaries of the scientific method is like asking a fish to describe fire. Fortunately, many scientists can understand that there is more than what science can measure.

When I was a kid, we had a speaker at a high school camp explain this limitation. He explained it in simple terms that I’ve always remembered. He drew a circle on a blackboard and began to fill the circle with everything we know. Everything in the universe went inside that circle. When we were satisfied that all human knowledge and everything in existence was inside that circle, the speaker asked a simple question, “Is it possible that anything could exist outside of that circle?” Well, is it? To answer in the negative implies that you have access to all knowledge. You are omniscient.  You are also delusional. You are almost forced to leave the door open to that possibility.

So this is the flaw in the arguments put forth by Dawkins, Hitchens and others.  Yes.  If nothing exists outside of that circle; outside of the physical universe, outside of what can be determined by the scientific method, the atheists may be right. If we can’t “capture” God within our scientific testing laboratory, i.e. the physical universe, then maybe He doesn’t exist. What do you think?

18 comments:

  1. Vincent Bugliosi's latest book points out the flaws in the thinking of three noted atheists: Hitchens,Dawkins and Sam Harris. you've covered some of his points.

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  2. Atheists' belief that there is no God is based solely on faith and not a single scrap of evidence.

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  3. Dawkins tries to 'prove' the non-existance of God by stating that no being could be that complex and have that much power. Dawkins conceives of an incredibly complex universe but not a being that created it that has to be even more complex. Why is the complexity of the universe the ceiling of our imagination?

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  4. Chuck - GREAT comment. Thanks.

    I especially like your last sentence; "Why is the complexity of the universe the ceiling of our imagination?" I guess we can't think "outside the box," which is the point we are both making.

    Isn't Dawkins' attempt to prove a negative, futile? I'd like to read the book your mentioned.

    Thanks again for a thoughtful comment.

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  5. Read "The Reason for God" by Timothy Keller. He founded a church in downtown Manhattan. This contains the discussions he had with the many questions and objections his congregants raised about the existence of the Christian God and the possibility of Faith in such a God. Very good read.
    I also want to read the book you referred to, Chuck.
    Jeff

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  6. Thanks for the book reference, Jeff. I'll check it out.

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  7. Ralph, you and Chuck & Jeff did an excellent job in defining the issue and giving logical thought to the creationist viewpoint.

    I cannot write or express my viewpoint as you do so I appreciate your thoughtful discussion on the subject..

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  8. Obviously you spoke of more than creation. Atheism was your starting point.

    The circle illustration was very interesting as I have not heard it used before.

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  9. Bill OReilly is only at his best when he has some bright female fox commentators on his show to give him insight. His best shows are when he has Laura Ingraham hosting for him (in my opinion). Most novice Christians would have a ready answer for Dawkins who suggests science is on his side.

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  10. I didn't get into the "creationist" ideas, just Dawkins, et al. I'm more of an "Intelligent Design" guy than a strict "creationist", but I'll get around to that one sometime too. Thanks for the comments, Ed. Glad you're out there.

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  11. I know you, Warnock. You only watch Fox for the women.

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  12. C'mon my friend, you know I love the intellectual discussion. The Five is the best show and they are so kind to the blind Bob Bekel. This show puts O'Reilly to shame. I can't help it if the women are beautiful and bright at the same time.

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  13. Okay, Warnock. I have to admit that, although you are a Canadian, you know more about American politics than most Americans. That's actually an understatement. So try to keep your intellectual focus when watching the girls on The Five swing their legs. Remember...your wife is watching you.

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  14. This may be a little off topic but if man evolved from monkeys, why do they still exist. Darwin said: "...each new form will tend to take the place of, and finally exterminate, it's own less improved parent... Thus, extension and natural selection will go hand in hand" What is it I don't understand?

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  15. I meant EXTINCTION and natural selection.
    The leap from bacteria to Mozart is beyond my comprehension !

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  16. Chuck -
    To answer your question I think the confusion stems from a common misconception. According to Darwin, we didn't evolve directly from monkeys. He would say that monkeys and human beings may have had a "common ancestor." My daughter Shannon's kid and my other daughter Juliane's kids have a common ancestor...that would be me.

    Picture branches in a tree. The point at which two branches split and grow in different directions would represent the common point or intersection of the two branch, which in turn grow and divide on up the tree.

    Remember...when we look at life forms existing now, we are looking "across" the "branches of the tree," so to speak. To find ancestors, you have to look "down" the branches.

    I hope that helps.

    Chuck - Since science became aware of the complexity of DNA, Darwinism has become irrational. (But we've known that.)

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  17. Then there was the monkey who believed in evolution and asked the key question: "Am I my keeper's brother?"

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  18. Ed - I guess the monkeys don't get it either...

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