In God and the New Atheism, John F. Haught describes what he sees as the big question facing Richard Dawkins and Intelligent Design (ID) theists, respectively: ”how to explain the incredible complexity and diversity in living organisms and cells” (88).
ID proponents see the hand of a “master intelligence” making order from chaos, or complexity of simplicity. Dawkins cuts out the theological middle man by sticking to a naturalistic, Darwinian account summed up by Haught:
“All the scientist needs…is the simple evolutionary recipe consisting of three ingredients: random variations or genetic mutations, blind natural selection of survivable variations, and an immense amount of time” (88).
Dawkins then one-ups the ID proponents, noting that if they “are going to use God as an explanation of living complexity, then they have to take the next step and explain the existence and ‘complexity’ of God (whatever ‘complexity’ might mean as an attribute of God)” (90).
Dawkins objects to ID’s initial assumption that a personal designer (God) already exists in order to account for the creation of other complexities. Thus, Dawkins’s assumptions about what God must be include: “(1) God, if God exists, is an instance of complex design; and (2) like any other instance of design the existence of God requires an explanation, such as the Darwinian one, in which complexity arises gradually out of physical simplicity by way of cumulative small changes over an immense period of time” (90).
Haught’s theologically-grounded objection to these assumptions may seem foreign to many Latter-day Saints:
“The God of theology is not an instance of complex design in Dawkins’s sense of a composite put together over the course of time out of simpler components. Rather, God is the ultimate reason that there is the possibility of any complexity at all….What Dawkins is demanding is is that theology agree to drop its timeless understanding of God as the ‘ultimate ground of all being’ and substitute for that understanding one in which God–if God exists–needs an explanation just like every other instance of complex design. That is, God would have to come into existence gradually out of a primordial simplicity” (91-92).
Like other responses to new atheism before, God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens invokes an absolute view of Deity to overcome evolutionary objections. Some Later-day Saints will feel such a response does not resonate with them and wish for a more specifically LDS response. In that regard I recommend Steven L. Peck’s “Crawling Out of the Primordial Soup: A Step toward the Emergence of an LDS Theology Compatible with Organic Evolution” (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 43.1 : 1-36). Peck relates some reasons why a move to invoke God as the Absolute or rational ground of all being might not be adequate to an LDS view of God.
Who’s down with the “ground of all being” defense? How well does it overcome Dawkins’s objections?