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Why did Richard Dawkins say this about the teleological argument for God?

The teleological argument, also known as the fine tuning argument for God, which states that the conditions for life to exist on the universe are too precise to have happened by accident.

Richard Dawkins confided to Francis Collins, a notable Christian apologist, that the teleological argument is "the most troubling argument" for his atheism. Is Richard Dawkins beginning to leave atheism and lean towards agnosticism?

19 Answers

  • 8 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Richard Dawkins, says: "Living objects . . . look designed, they look overwhelmingly as though they're designed. Biology is the study of complicated things which give the impression of having been designed for a purpose." Francis Crick, an atheist, says, "Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved."

    The theist responds that things look designed because they were in fact designed by a Creator. The teleological (telos, from the Greek word which means "design") argument for God contends that one way we can validate the existence of a Creator is through the marks of intelligence and design that the universe and humankind exhibit. The argument is stated in the following way:

    • Behind every complex design is a designer

    • The universe has a complex design

    • Therefore, the universe has a designer

    Who is right? Is everything simply the product of time + matter + chance or is there a transcendent Creator? Which way does the evidence lead?

    Opponents of religion such as Dawkins and Crick may say things only appear designed, however even they cannot refute the presence of intelligent design that appears in life's building blocks, which is DNA. DNA represents what is called "specified complexity," meaning it contains a complex design that defies any rational attempt at explaining it other than by an intelligent source.

    Atheist Richard Dawkins admits that the message found in just the cell nucleus of an amoeba is more than all thirty volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica, with the entire amoeba itself having as much information in its DNA as 1,000 complete sets of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The important thing to understand is that the makeup of these entities is not random, not just meaningless data, but instead is highly organized information.

    Noted biophysicist Dean Kenyon states the conclusion on DNA plainly when he says: "If science is based on experience, then science tells us that the message encoded in DNA must have originated from an intelligent cause. What kind of intelligent agent was it? On its own, science cannot answer this question; it must leave it to religion and philosophy. But that should not prevent science from acknowledging evidences for an intelligent cause origin wherever they may exist."

    What do Dawkins and Crick postulate as the source for the specified complexity and information found in DNA? Crick, speaking for Dawkins as well, says: "Given the weaknesses of all theories of terrestrial genesis, directed panspermia should still be considered a serious possibility." Those unfamiliar with the term "directed panspermia" should understand that Crick and Dawkins say the best explanation for DNA is that aliens came to earth and planted it here.

    It needs to be noted that even if Crick and Dawkins are correct and their argument granted, it only extends the issue to that supposed race of beings. Dawkins proposes space aliens for the reason we see intelligence here but he also says that the alien would have had to have evolved as well. The problem is if you cannot get the evolutionary process to solve the information process here on earth, why think it could happen elsewhere? Kicking the dilemma to outer space does not help at all. The truth is those who deny that an ultimate Creator is responsible for the intelligence and design reflected in life exhibit far more faith than those who affirm the teleological argument for God.

    In fact, it was the argument from and to design that convinced what used to be atheism's greatest philosopher and spokesman – Anthony Flew – to abandon his atheism and embrace the concept of a Creator. Stating his position on the matter, Flew simply said: "I think the origins of the laws of nature and of life and the Universe point clearly to an intelligent Source. The burden of proof is on those who argue to the contrary."

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    Source(s): TR
  • 8 years ago

    I get the feeling that they're selectively misconstruing what he actually said. A telltale sign is how they don't quote him directly. If he actually said that, I'm sure they would be more than delighted to include the entire exchange between Richard Dawkins and this Collins guy.

    I'm going to take a guess, and say that what Dawkins was actually saying is, it's difficult to refute, but that doesn't make it true. It's about as difficult to refute as a five year old insisting that the Earth is flat because if the Earth were round some people would fall off. Sure, you could explain to them the concept of gravity, or explain what a zenith or a meridian is, but good luck getting them to accept it. Those concepts are too advanced for them.

    Same thing with the teleological argument. To a simple mind, I'm sure it seems very plausible.

  • 8 years ago

    It might be a problem if there is and has been only one version of the Universe.

    Physics is facing the possibility that there are or have been many versions of the Universe (which I have trouble in accepting) but if it is true then the fine tuning argument is negated. With multiple versions of the Universe then it should not be surprising if there are one or several versions that are good enough to support life.

    There is nothing new about this multiverse idea, there has been mathematics to support it since about 1978 from Andre Linde and observational evidence of the Harrison-Zeldovich spectrum of the cosmic microwave background in the 1990s seems to support the idea.

    Aside from that, the question was addressed by Timothy Ferris in the last chapter of "The Whole Shebang: A State of the Universe(s) Report" in 1997, by Sir Fred Hoyle in the 1970s - 1980s, by Bertrand Russell in the earlier 20th century, by Immanuel Kant in the 1800s and by Bernard de Fontenelle in 1686!

    These questions are not new. Dawkins does not have to be a philosopher, philosophers have already been over this ground. In any case, like Darwin before him, he is an agnostic.

    The accumulation of facts, or the elimination of errors by science tends over time to make many of the arguments of theologians and philosophers obsolete.

  • NDMA
    Lv 7
    8 years ago

    It's troubling because, if the Physical Universe is fined tuned for life, and life is just a natural process the whole universe should be filled with life. But there is no empirical evidence of life anywhere but the Earth or places that have interacted with the Earth,

    Of course the classical teleological argument fails because observational evidence demonstrates the the constants needed to make life possible are not really constant (alpha - fine structure constant of the universe) and as result much of the universe either does not support life or is hostile to life.

    This of course is equally troubling to Dawkins Central Argument in "The God Delusion" because Dawkins relies on the Teleological argument to assert that there are 'a billion billion' planets that acted as petre dishes for abiogenesis and the earth just happened to be the one that succeeded... Now that we know life can only exist in a very narrow band that 'billion billion planets' is more like a few hundred million (being generous) and his argument fails.

    In a way Dawkins was quite shrewed in re-framing an opposing argument in a way that supports his own argument. But using that re-framed argument as a important part of his Central Argument proved to be a mistake now that the fine-tuning argument has been disproved by observations.

    Guru Hank: Yes, and the theory of evolution originated in the First Century BC by Titus Lucretius in De rerum natura. If historical origins for a line of thought being ancient or pagan disqualifies them from being true then do you also deny Evolution? [HINT] Your argument is a variation of what is known as the Genetic Fallacy.

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  • Anonymous
    8 years ago

    ""Outspoken evangelical geneticist Francis Collins revealed that combative atheist Richard Dawkins admitted to him during a conversation that the most troubling argument for nonbelievers to counter is the fine-tuning of the universe.""

    and his proof is?

    Oh, he hasn't any,,Just a wild UNSUPPORTED Claim? aka a LIE!

    LOL..Fine tuning of the Universe?

    would that be the Universe that would KILL us Instantly if we ventured off this little Rock without MASSIVE support and environmental technology?

    The universe that is FILLED with DEADLY radiation, Fatal to all life?

    the universe where if the rock like we live on is NOT in the proper position to it's sun,,it will be massively TOO HOT or TOO COLD for life to start? a type of planet we have YET to discover out there..

    the universe is Out to kill has NOT been fin tuned for us...

  • 8 years ago

    The only person who can speak for Richard Dawkins is Richard Dawkins.

    You are not in his mind, you will not be in his mind, and you cannot predict what another human will do, when that person has free will to decide answers for himself or herself.

    As far as the Intelligent Designer arguement, you can also consider the reverse, where if there are infinite possibile realities and/or futures, then the entire works of Shakespeare will be typed out by a monkey sitting in front of a typewriter by at least one monkey.

    Infinity is just that darn complex and expansive. Billions and Billions and Trillions of monkeys will type gibberish, and at least one will write "Romeo and John", but to get them all letter perfect is just that incredible.

    If you can conceive of that possibility, then having a planet with a 7% axis tilt, being at a water-warming distance from a stable star, and having a good variety of minerals and 75% coverage of the surface by water so that some miracle can cause chemicals to form life, is just a lot more possible.

  • 8 years ago

    Teleological arguments for God originated with the Pagan Greeks.

  • 8 years ago

    Maybe Dawkins own spirit is trying to tell him that all life has a spiritual basis and that the Great Architect and Power behind this incredible universe is the awesome spirit that we call God.

    And I wonder when JACK on this page is going to wake up to the eternal facts of life. God is real and alive, but not to those whose spirit is still dead.

  • 8 years ago

    Richard Dawkins will make a fine Christian pastor someday.

  • 8 years ago

    Hardly. Creationists started to lie about SJ Gould because of his theory of natural selection was not strictly Darwinian. They said he was rejecting evolution. Before he died he set them straight, but some still continue to distort and lie about his views. That is what you are doing with Dawkins (BTW Gould and Dawkins had deep disagreements on the nature of natural selection but neither ever rejected it)

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