Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Friday, September 21, 2007

    CS Response to Dawkins YouTube Video – “What If You’re Wrong?”

    Richard Dawkins responds to the question “What if you’re wrong?”

    The errors and weaknesses of his response are found in the following:

    1. Dawkin’s Ontological Suggestion

    Dawkin’s argument that “anybody could be wrong, we could all be wrong…” combines and/or is related to several fallacies: arguing from ignorance (absence of proof is proof of absence”), ad hominem tu quoque (trying to escape from an accusation by directing the same accusation right back), and avoiding the question (while pretending to answer a question, really talking about something else.)

    Dawkin’s suggestion does not deny the Christian ontological presupposition that if there is a God who chooses to be reveal himself and be known that he can be known.

    2. Dawkin’s Revelational Strawmen

    Dawkin’s argument that we could all be wrong about the “flying spaghetti monster or the pink unicorn or the flying teapot” seeks to deny arguments based on evidence by referring to the absurd. While there is evidence which can logically point to a creator who has and continues to reveal himself, there is no evidence (besides prejudiced imagination) that points to the existence of the three objects he refers to. While absurdity can be used for illustrative purposes, it can also be used as diversion and/or deception.

    3. Dawkins Environmental Fallacy

    While Dawkins, if given more time and thought, might have provided a better or more detailed answer, the argument that he did give suggesting that one’s environment is responsible for one’s beliefs not only fails to recognize the experience of those whose beliefs differ from the predominant view of their environment but fails to recognize the difference between spiritual awakening and conversion and human/cognitive choices.

    For example, as I grew up in a Christian family in a Christian environment, not only did this environment on one level point me in the direction of Christianity, on another level it was the very obstacle that stood in the way of my embracing true Christianity. For a time, I believed I was a Christian, though I was not (in that I was looking only to the outward signs and trusting based on my own environmentally encouraged cognitive choice rather than trusting by faith, having been encountered and called by God through the word of his power).

    Not only does Dawkin’s answer fail to recognize or deny spiritual possibility, it’s offensive in that it insults the intelligence of man, though on another level it affirms the biblical principle that apart from God man is like one without a shepherd and is not only lost but will follow anything.

    While it's true that religions are often found to sprout and survive in places where they are taught (which BTW is logically expected, should we expect them to sprout en mass where they are not communicated?), at the same time it is intellectual and religious ignorance to try to simply and directly equate belief with one's temporal and geographical exposure. If anything, Dawkin's belief here is antiquated and speaks more of the past when religions spread based on limitations with communication rather than the present where communications (at least in more advanced people groups) are not as limited.

    Additionally, if one were to apply Dawkin's argument to science, we would all still believe the earth was flat and man could not go to the moon. But just as in science, where revelation (evidence) and new ability or insight can raise one above one's present environment, we should not be surprised to find it the same when it comes to religion.

    3. Dawkin's Philosophical Inconsistency

    Dawkins makes the assertion that there's no particular reason to believe in the Judeo-Christian God which by "sheerest accident" a person is brought up. If events and activities are by sheer accident alone, then is not Dawkin's own beliefs and statements by sheer accident alone and therefore purposeless and meaningless. Does not evidence such as (order, law, principles, etc.) in addition to reason itself suggest something other than accidentalism is behind what takes place, including the possibility of providence. That's why the Scripture not only declares the time of our birth and the places where we will live are not due to accident or fate but design, but that even the issues of receiving revelation, coming to salvation, etc., are all included and brought about in keeping with God's sovereignty.

    4. Dawkin's Retaliatory Accusation

    Dawkin's closing question to the questioner asking "What if you're wrong..." is nothing more than ad hominem tu quoque.

    5. Dawkin's Admission of Uncertainty

    While Dawkin's suggestion that we could "all" be wrong could speak to the question of the validity of differing attempts of interpreting the evidence, at the same time his statement along with the lack of accompanying reason for confidence opens itself to the legitimate conclusion that he not only does not possess assurance in his position but as with others who embrace an atheistic worldview have no ability to possesses assurance (not only of this, but of anything).

    On the other hand, Christians who stand on a foundational presupposition that truth can be known because it is revealed by one who is truth, not only can but do possess assurance not only based on revelation but experience.

    6. Dawkin's Absence of Answering

    In all that Dawkin's said, he failed to answer the question. Put another way, he dodged the answer. What he failed to say, as most unbelievers do not like to address, is that if he is wrong (and Christians are right), he will suffer the wrath of God and the torments of hell forever. While one could argue unbelievers might prefer to not state this because to do so would narrow the possibilities to only the Christians position and thereby give preference or credence to it, it's also true that in the same way that children whose conscience tells them they are wrong do not like to voice the rule or the penalty... so can the reason be for Dawkins.

    7. Dawkin's Greatest Error

    While not stated, inherent to Dawkin's argument is that by suggesting that the truth cannot be known will excuse error on his part if and when the truth is made clear. But this is to deny that the truth has been revealed and that orientation, attitudes and statements on his part are not in opposition to and in seeking to suppress or overthrow not only the truth but the one about whom the truth is spoken. However, ignorance is cannot always be counted on as a defense, especially if the evidence is clear and convincing and aspects of one's own life prove it.


    jazzycat said...

    I see the ole sword has been active this week..... I've been thinking about a new series on my blog called irrational nonsense. I believe this Dawkins guy may be a rich source for material.

    swordbearer said...

    I think you've described it well. While his rhetoric seemed to be a crowd pleaser at the time, in the end and to the discerning it fits just perfectly with what you have described.