An Argument for Atheism – Part 6

Enough about Jesus. Let’s get back to God and Mr. Dawkins.

Since Part 5 was posted about eight months ago, I will review some key points from previous installments to get back into the Dawkins groove.

In Chapter 2 of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins gives an argument for atheism. The argument is a chain of reasoning consisting of five inferences. The first inference is a non sequitur, but I have attempted to repair the argument by making explicit an unstated assumption (A), and by clarifying the first couple of premises:

1a. Any creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything, comes into existence only as the end product of at least one million years of gradual evolution.

A. The process of the evolution of a creative intelligence cannot have started until after the universe began to exist.

Therefore:

2a. Any creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything, necessarily arrives no earlier than at least one million years after the universe began to exist.
The meaning of the phrase “the universe” in (A) and in conclusion (2a) is unclear. There are at least three possible interpretations of this phrase:
- everything that has ever existed
- our universe
- the multiverse

Interpretation 1: “the universe” = everything that has ever existed

1a. Any creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything, comes into existence only as the end product of at least one million years of gradual evolution.

B. The process of the evolution of a creative intelligence cannot have started until after something else (other than a creative intelligence) existed.

Therefore:

2b. Any creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything, necessarily arrives no earlier than at least one million years after something else (other than a creative intelligence) existed.
The “God Hypothesis” implies that there is a “superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it…” (TGD, Mariner Books paperback edition, p.52). Therefore, if “the universe” includes everything that has ever existed, then it would also include every “superhuman, supernatural intelligence” who ever existed. Therefore, any superhuman, supernatural intelligence who designed and created “everything in the universe”, would have also designed and created itself!

But it is logically impossible for person or intelligent being to design and create itself. Thus, on the proposed definition of “the universe”, the God Hypothesis would be a necessary falsehood, and there would be no need for any factual or empirical evidence to refute the God Hypothesis. The God Hypothesis would be analogous to the hypothesis that there exists a four-sided triangle or a married bachelor.

Thus, it is not open to Dawkins to define “the universe” so that it includes everything that has ever existed, for as soon as he adopted such a definition, “the God Hypothesis” would be an analytic falsehood. So, on this interpretation, the existence of God would be a logical impossibility, and this contradicts a key point of TGD, which is that the existence of God is logically possible and subject to empirical investigation.

Interpretation 2: “the universe” = our universe (see TGD p.59, 81-82, 174, and p.169)

1a. Any creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything, comes into existence only as the end product of at least one million years of gradual evolution.

C. The process of the evolution of a creative intelligence cannot have started until after our universe began to exist.

Therefore:

2c. Any creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything, necessarily arrives no earlier than at least one million years after our universe began to exist.
Interpretation 2 seems most likely to be what Dawkins intended, but on this interpretation the truth of the assumption (C) is highly doubtful. Dawkins takes seriously, and even advocates, the view that there are multiple universes (TGD, Mariner Books edition, p. 173-174), and if this is so, then there might well have been some other universe in existence prior to our universe. But if our universe was not the first universe, then a creative intelligence could have evolved in a previous universe and then brought our universe into existence. On Dawkins’ own view that there are mulitple universes, and interpreting “the universe” to mean “our universe”, assumption (C) appears to be false.

Interpretation 3: “the universe” = the multiverse (a system of many universes, including our universe)

1a. Any creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything, comes into existence only as the end product of at least one million years of gradual evolution.

D. The process of the evolution of a creative intelligence cannot have started until after the multiverse began to exist.

Therefore:

2d. Any creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything, necessarily arrives no earlier than at least one million years after the mulitverse began to exist.
On Interpretation 3, the assumption (D) appears to be true (unless there can be multiple multiverses–I smell an infinite regress cooking), but then the significance of the intermediate conclusion (2d) is seriously diminished, because (2d) leaves open the possibility that our universe was designed and brought into existence by a creative intelligence that evolved in a previously existing universe. Thus, on Interpretation 3, Dawkins’ argument fails to rule out the possibility that our universe is the product of a creative intelligence.

However, if our universe is the product of an intelligent designer who came into existence as the result of a process of evolution in some other previously existing universe (that was part of the multiverse), then that intelligent designer would be a finite being rather than an eternal being, and that designer would be just another part of nature, a creature that came into existence as the result of various natural processes that are subject to scientific investigation. The existence of such a being does not appear to amount to proof or verification of the God Hypothesis, because it would be a natural being, not a supernatural being, which is one of the criteria Dawkins uses to define the God Hypothesis (TGD, p.52).

We can toss out Interpretation 1, because it simply will not fit with Dawkins’ view about the empirical nature of the question of God’s existence. If we go with Interpretation 2, then Dawkins’ argument is based on a false or dubious assumption (C), and should be rejected as unsound. Interpretation 3 avoids the problem of a false or dubious assumption, but it leaves open the possibility that our universe is the product of an intelligent designer who evolved in another universe that existed prior to our universe.

To be continued…

What is Faith - Part 6
Eternal Accountability
What Explains God's Moral Grounding Power? Part II
Geisler & Turek Rebuttal: Chapter 9 (Part 2)
About Bradley Bowen

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