Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
Richard Dawkins' Failed Rebuttal of Natural Theology

Peter S. Williams (MA, MPhil)

The man described as ‘Darwin’s Rotweiller’[1] (by supporter Charles Simonyi) has evolved to metaphorically resemble the big bad wolf of nursery rhyme fame[2], and he is on a bestselling mission to liberate the pigs (the analogy is mine, not his) from what he sees as their prisons of straw. Zoologist Richard Dawkins, who is Oxford University’s Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, has been described as ‘materialistic, reductionist and overtly anti-religious.’[3] Nevertheless, The God Delusion – which is descended by design from Dawkins’ controversial two-part television series The Root of all Evil?[4] - is his first book written to make a direct (undoubtedly well-intentioned) attack upon theistic religion: ‘If this books works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.’[5]

Dawkins thinks that if his book fails to have the desired effect, this can only be because ‘dyed-in-the-wool faith-heads are immune to argument, their resistance built up over years of childhood indoctrination using methods [such as issuing] a dire warning to avoid even opening a book like this, which is surely a work of Satan.’[6] On the other hand, anyone who is ‘open-minded’, whose ‘childhood indoctrination was not too insidious… or whose native intelligence is strong enough to overcome it’, will ‘need only a little encouragement to break free of the vice of religion altogether.’[7]

The God Delusion is the work of a passionate and rhetorically savvy writer capable of making good points against religious fundamentalism. As Stephen Law (editor of the Royal Institute of Philosophy’s journal Think) observes: ‘what Dawkins attacks is typically a highly Authoritarian brand of religion.’[8] Christians should wholeheartedly agree with Dawkins about the hazards of illiberally encouraging an unbiblical blind faith:

Teaching children that unquestioned faith is a virtue primes them – given certain other ingredients that are not hard to come by – to grow up into potentially lethal weapons for the future jihads or crusades… If children were taught to question and think through their beliefs, instead of being taught the superior virtue of faith without question, it is a good bet that there would be no suicide bombers.[9]

However, Dawkins’ attack upon the historical reliability of the bible, which draws upon scholars like agnostic Bart Ehrman (who follows Hume’s discredited proposal that miracle claims cannot in principle be supported by evidence[10]), is full of demonstrably false and misleading claims. Indeed, Dawkins’ critique constitutes a ‘greatest hits’ of the sort of thing I expect to hear from students who have uncritically lapped up philosophically outdated sceptical treatments of scripture that confirm their prejudices.[11] Plenty of contemporary scholars reject Dawkins’ opinions concerning the reliability of the bible, on evidential grounds.

Moreover, Dawkins simply doesn’t recognize when he is out of his philosophical depth. Antony Latham is correct when he laments that ‘Dawkins clearly has an inflated idea of his competence in metaphysics.’[12] And as Oxford theologian Alister McGrath comments: ‘Dawkins’ engagement with theology is superficial and inaccurate, often amounting to little more than cheap point scoring… His tendency to misrepresent the views of his opponents is the least attractive aspect of his writings.’[13] Terry Eagleton passes similar comment in the London Review of Books:

Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don’t believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince. The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be. If they were asked to pass judgment on phenomenology or the geopolitics of South Asia, they would no doubt bone up on the question as assiduously as they could. When it comes to theology, however, any shoddy old travesty will pass muster…critics of the richest, most enduring form of popular culture in human history have a moral obligation to confront that case at its most persuasive, rather than grabbing themselves a victory on the cheap by savaging it as so much garbage and gobbledygook.[14]

The God Delusion is liberally sprinkled with imaginary opponents (‘Here is the message that an imaginary “intelligent design theorist” might broadcast…’[15], ‘the following statement from an imaginary apologist…’[16], ‘My imaginary religious apologist…’[17], ‘Let’s invent an imaginary quotation from a moral philosopher…’[18]), as if Dawkins can’t be bothered to engaging with the real opposition. The best that can be said about Dawkins’ The God Delusion, then, is that it is a mixed bag. Jim Holt’s assessment is, in my opinion, actually rather understated:

The book fairly crackles with brio. Yet reading it can feel like watching a Michael Moore movie. There are lots of good, hard-hitting stuff about the imbecilities of religious fanatics and frauds of all stripes, but the tone is smug and the logic occasionally sloppy.[19]

This review will focus upon Dawkins’ treatment of the arguments for God’s existence, for according to Professor Dawkins: ‘there is no evidence to favour the God Hypothesis.’[20]

Dawkins and Natural Theology

‘I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down’ – The Big Bad Wolf

According to biologist P.Z. Myers: ‘The first half of The God Delusion delivers a thorough overview of the logic of belief and disbelief. Dawkins reviews, dismantles, and dismisses the major arguments for the existence of the supernatural and deities.’[21] Myers is seriously mistaken. Dawkins’ review of the arguments for God is anything but ‘thorough’ in either breadth (e.g. there is nothing on the arguments from rationality[22] or mind[23]) or depth. As Jeremy Pierce comments: ‘Dawkins is not a philosopher, never mind a well-trained one, and what he says demonstrates that he is hardly familiar with the literature in philosophy of religion. He regularly commits easy-to-spot fallacies when it comes to religion.’[24] American philosopher Thomas Nagel likewise castigates Dawkins for his ‘amateur philosophy’[25] and follows up with a similarly sharp reprimand: ‘Dawkins dismisses, with contemptuous flippancy the traditional… arguments for the existence of God offered by Aquinas and Anselm. I found these attempts at philosophy, along with those in a later chapter on religion and ethics, particularly weak.’[26]

Jim Holt points out that Dawkins:

dismisses [Anselm’s] ontological argument as ‘infantile’ and ‘dialectical prestidigitation’ without quite identifying the defect in its logic. He seems unaware that this argument, though medieval in origin, comes in sophisticated modern versions that are not at all easy to refute. Shirking the intellectual hard work, Dawkins prefers to move on… Dawkins’ failure to appreciate just how hard philosophical questions about religion can be makes reading [The God Delusion] an intellectually frustrating experience.’[27]

Alvin Plantinga, a contemporary defender of Anselm’s line of thought, defines God as a ‘maximally great being’ and argues that a maximally great being must exist if its existence is possible because ‘necessary existence is a great making property.’[28] (A great making property is one that is objectively good and admits of a logical maximum. The goodness of existing per se is a great making property that admits a logical maximum in necessary existence. And although - as Hume and Kant pointed out - saying that something ‘exists’ does not add to the list of its properties, to say that something ‘exists necessarily’ does add to its list of properties.) Given the additional premise that ‘the existence of a maximally great being is possible[29], it follows that a maximally great being therefore ‘exists, and exists necessarily.’[30] Contra Dawkins, the ontological argument can be expressed as a logically valid syllogism:

  1. By definition, if it is possible that God exists, then God exists
  2. It is possible that God exists
  3. Therefore, God exists

Faced with the ontological argument, the atheist does have a ‘get out’ clause; but embracing this get out clause is not without its price. The ontological argument shows that ‘the person who wishes to deny that God exists must claim that God’s existence is impossible.’[31] That is, denying the existence of God is not on a par with denying the existence of the Loch Ness monster. To deny the existence of the Loch Ness monster one needn’t make the claim that its existence is logically impossible, because one can coherently claim that Nessie simply fails to exist despite being logically possible. However, to deny the existence of God one does have to make the claim that God’s existence is logically impossible, because one cannot coherently claim that God fails to exist despite being logically possible. This seems to be a price that many non-theists are willing to pay, despite the fact that no independent argument has ever shown the concept of God to be incoherent. Nevertheless, Plantinga argued that his version of the ontological argument at least showed that belief in God was no less rational than disbelief:

it must be conceded that not everyone who understands and reflects on its central premise – that the existence of a maximally great being is possible – will accept it. Still, it is evident, I think, that there is nothing contrary to reason or irrational in accepting this premise. What I claim for this argument, therefore, is that it establishes, not the truth of theism, but its rational acceptability.[32]

He has subsequently contended that the modal ontological argument: ‘provides as good grounds for the existence of God as does any serious philosophical argument for any important philosophical conclusion.’[33] The ontological argument may or may not be a sound theistic proof, but it is not logically invalid.

In a quotation free discussion of the matter, Dawkins claims that the famous five ‘ways’ of Thomas Aquinas[34] ‘are easily – though I hesitate to say so, given his eminence – exposed as vacuous.’[35] Dawkins should have hesitated more and written less. For example, noting Aquinas’ use of the principle that a causal regresses must terminate somewhere (lest, per impossible, it becomes infinite), Dawkins complains that Aquinas’ cosmological argument makes ‘the entirely unwarranted assumption that God himself is immune to the regress.’[36] Dawkins fails to recognize that the cosmological argument just is an argument for the necessity of postulating the existence of a being that is ‘immune to the regress’! Consider the following cosmological argument:

  1. Some things are caused (e.g. this sentence)
  2. It is impossible for everything to be caused
  3. Therefore there must exist an uncaused thing

This argument is logically valid, and the first premise seems to be beyond dispute, so the only question is whether or not it is possible for everything that exists to be caused. As soon as one asks ‘caused by what?’ one can see the problem with hypothesising that everything is caused. Outside of everything is nothing, and ‘from nothing, nothing comes’.

In the fourth ‘way’ of his Suma Theologica, Aquinas argued thus:

Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But ‘more’ and ‘less’ are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being [i.e. maximally ontologically secure]; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as it is written in [Aristotle’s] Metaph. ii. Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum heat, is the cause of all hot things. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.[37]

In Aquinas’ own words, the fourth way appears to be made up of two overlapping syllogisms:

    1. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like

    2. But ‘more’ and ‘less’ are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum

    3. so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being

    4. Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus

    5. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God

After merely summarizing Aquinas’ fourth, Dawkins attempts a reductio ad absurdum (a ‘reduction to absurdity’):

That’s an argument? You might as well say, people vary in smelliness but we can make the comparison only by reference to a perfect maximum of conceivable smelliness. Therefore there must exist a pre-eminently peerless stinker, and we call him God.[38]

Unfortunately, Dawkins fails to notice that Aquinas’ argument works with ‘great-making properties’, a class of properties into which ‘smelliness’ – the subject of Dawkins’ rebuttal – simply does not fall. Christopher F.J. Martin observes Aquinas is concerned with the existence of more and a less in terms of properties that by definition admit of an intrinsic and logical maximum, rather than a merely de facto maximum.[39] As E.L. Mascall explains: ‘Goodness, so the argument claims, demands as its cause a God who is good; while heat, though it necessarily demands a God whose knowledge of possible being includes an idea of heat, does not demand a God who is hot as its cause, but only a God who can create.’[40] In modern philosophical terminology, Aquinas is arguing along the following lines:

  1. Things exist in the world around us that exhibit finite degrees of great making properties (e.g. being, goodness, truth, beauty)

  2. The existence of something exhibiting a great making property to a finite degree implies the existence of something that possesses the property in question to a maximal degree

  3. Therefore, all great making properties possessed in finite degree by beings in the world around us, including being, are possessed to a maximal degree by something

  4. An effect cannot exceed the greatness of its cause

  5. Therefore, there exists a maximally ontologically secure being that possess every great making property possessed by its effects to a maximal degree; and this we call God

It should at least be clear that Aquinas’ argument is logically valid, and consequently that, pace Dawkins, this line of thought cannot be dismissed with a jeering reference to smelly people.

Dawkins’ response to the argument from religious experience (which he never actually bothers to spell out)[41] is merely to point out that experiences can be delusional: ‘the brain’s simulation software… is well capable of constructing “visions” and “visitations” of the utmost verdical power. To simulate a ghost or an angel or a Virgin Mary would be child’s play to software of this sophistication.’[42] This single observation concludes Dawkins’ attempted rebuttal:

This is really all that needs to be said about personal ‘experiences’ of gods or other religious phenomena. If you’ve had such an experience, you may well find yourself believing firmly that it was real. But don’t expect the rest of us to take your word for it, especially if we have the slightest familiarity with the brain and its powerful workings.[43]

This really isn’t ‘all that needs to be said’, since Dawkins’ failure to advance more than one premise means that his supposed rebuttal doesn’t even rise to the level of an argument. Merely observing that the brain can create illusions provides no support for the conclusion that all religious experiences are illusions. Indeed, without a second premise that both links and restricts the illusion-giving power of the brain to religious experiences, Dawkins’ rebuttal counts equally against all experiences; including those which lead him to believe that human beings have brains ‘capable of constructing “visions” and “visitations” of the utmost verdical power.’

As Paul Copan writes, the moral argument urges that although ‘Belief in God isn’t a requirement for being moral... the existence of a personal God is crucial for a coherent understanding of objective morality.’[44] Here, then, are the two core claims made by the moral argument: 1) that morality is objective, and 2) that the existence of a personal deity is crucial for a coherent understanding of objective morality. Given these two premises it follows that a personal deity exists. Dawkins’ chapter on the roots of morality observes that belief in God isn’t requirement for being moral and simply fails to engage with the central question of whether or not objective moral values exist and entail God’s existence. As Stephen Unwin comments:

As for Dawkins’ assertion that moral behaviour for believers is simply ‘sucking up to God’, or that morality doesn’t need faith… such observations miss the more fundamental question of why we have moral or aesthetic values at all - such as the ones by which Dawkins, myself and others venerate rational analysis.[45]

Self-inflicted defeat looms for Dawkins, since his dissection of natural theology assumes that people ought to be rational.

Last but not least, I present a more extended review of Dawkins’ treatment of just one aspect of the argument for design (which, as Dawkins recognizes, is one of the most popular arguments in general use today). Dawkins notes: ‘Physicists have calculated that, if the laws and constants of physics had been even slightly different, the universe would have developed in such a way that life would have been impossible.’[46] There are, according to Dawkins, two main explanations given for the fact that our universe permits the existence of life: ‘The design theory says that God…  deliberately set up all the details for our benefit.’[47] Bizarrely, according to Dawkins, the alternative non-design explanation is the anthropic principle:

It is a strange fact… that religious apologists love the anthropic principle. For some reason that makes no sense at all, they think it supports their case. Precisely the opposite is true. The anthropic principle, like natural selection, is an alternative to the design hypothesis. It provides a rational, design-free explanation for the fact that we find ourselves in a situation propitious to our existence. I think the confusion arises in the religious mind because the anthropic principle is only ever mentioned in the context of the problem it solves, namely the fact that we live in a life-friendly place. What the religious mind then fails to grasp is that two candidate solutions are offered to the problem. God is one. The anthropic principle is the other. They are alternatives.[48]

However, the ‘problem’ that needs to be solved is not ‘the fact that we live in a life friendly place’[49] as Dawkins says (given our existence we obviously could not exist in a life unfriendly place), but rather the fact that a life friendly place exists. The anthropic principle ‘provides a rational, design-free explanation for the fact that we find ourselves in a situation propitious to our existence’[50], but it does not provide an explanation of any kind for the question of why a situation propitious to our existence should exist in the first place. As Thomas Woodward explains, sometimes ‘the name anthropic principle is brought in as a quasi-synonym for fine-tuning.’[51] When this quasi-synonymic substitution happens, as it happens in The God Delusion, one obviously cannot appeal to the ‘anthropic principle’ to explain ‘fine tuning’. That would be like trying to use the concept of ‘bachelors’ to explain the existence of unmarried men! This, in effect, is precisely what Dawkins attempts to do, deploying the anthropic principle as an explanation for this observation when it is in fact a restatement of the observation: ‘It follows from the fact of our existence that the laws of physics must be friendly enough to allow life to arise.’[52] It follows from the observation that we exist that the laws of physics are compatible with our existence, but it does not follow that the laws of physics are necessarily compatible with our existence! Dawkins’ anthropic ‘explanation’ flounders by equivocating over the meaning of the term ‘must’; and by treating the data to be explained as an explanation of the data to be explained. As Jimmy H. Davies and Harry L. Poe explain: ‘The Weak Anthropic Principle is a tautology; it states the obvious. If the universe was not fit for life, then we would not be here.’[53] This tautology does nothing to explain the surprising existence of a life friendly universe.

Dawkins himself gives the lie to his false claim that the anthropic principle is itself an ‘explanation’ by referencing John Leslie’s analogy of the man sentenced to death by firing squad who survives to muse that ‘Well, obviously they all missed, or I wouldn’t be here thinking about it.’[54] As Dawkins says: ‘he could still, forgivably, wonder why they’d all missed, and toy with the hypothesis that they were bribed…’[55] Noting that the sentenced man wouldn’t exist if the firing squad hadn’t missed doesn’t explain why they missed. Was it by chance or by design? The anthropic observation that the man’s existence post firing squad depends upon an unlikely set of preconditions (the squad missing), does nothing to explain his existence, exclude the hypothesis of intelligent design, or guarantee the truth of a non-design explanation. As Guillermo Gonzalez points out:

The [anthropic principle] has been acknowledged for about a quarter of a century, but it was not until John Barrow and Frank Tipler published their massive technical work The Anthropic Cosmological Principle in 1986 that it was widely discussed. The Weak Anthropic Principle (WAP) is the most basic version--the simple recognition that the parameters we observe in our environment must not be incompatible with our existence. It is difficult to quarrel with the simple physical interpretation of the WAP: it is just a type of observer selection bias. We should not be surprised to observe, for example, that we are living on a planet with an oxygen-rich atmosphere, for the simple reason that we require oxygen to live. The WAP ‘explains’ why we should not observe ourselves to be living on, say, Titan, but it fails to account for the origin of the oxygen in our atmosphere… However, Barrow and Tipler… have burdened the basic physical interpretation of the WAP with unwarranted philosophical extrapolations. In considering the WAP with regard to the observable universe, they claim that we ought not be surprised at measuring a universe so finely tuned for life, for if it were different, we would not observe it.But as Richard Swinburne first explained and as William Lane Craig and John Leslie later argued, we should indeed be surprised at observing features of the universe that are highly improbable and are necessary for our existence….[56]

Swinburne famously used the example of a card-shuffling machine to advance the design argument from cosmic fine-tuning:

Suppose that a madman kidnaps a victim and shuts him in a room with a card-shuffling machine. The machine shuffles ten decks of cards simultaneously and then draws a card from each deck and exhibits simultaneously the ten cards. The kidnapper tells the victim that he will shortly set the machine to work and it will exhibit its first draw, but that unless the draw consists of an ace of hearts from each deck, the machine will simultaneously set off an explosion which will kill the victim, in consequence of which he will not see which cards the machine drew. The machine is then set to work, and to the amazement and relief of the victim the machine exhibits an ace of hearts drawn from each deck. The victim thinks that this extraordinary fact needs an explanation in terms of the machine having been rigged in some way. But the kidnapper, who now reappears, casts doubt on this suggestion. ‘It is hardly surprising’, he says, ‘that the machine draws only aces of hearts. You could not possibly see anything else. For you would not be here to see anything at all, if any other cards had been drawn.’ But of course the victim is right and the kidnapper is wrong… The fact that this peculiar order is a necessary condition of the draw being perceived at all makes what is perceived no less extraordinary and in need of explanation. The teleologist’s starting-point is not that we perceive order rather than disorder, but that order rather than disorder is there. Maybe only if order is there can we know what is there, but that makes what is there no less extraordinary and in need of explanation.[57]

The fact that an event is a pre-condition of its being observed does not explain the occurrence of the event, or negate the obvious fact that ‘the victim is right and the kidnapper is wrong’ about design being the best explanation for the event described (which Swinburne offers as being a parallel to the fine-tuning of the cosmos). While he seems to remain somewhat confused on the issue, Dawkins clearly admits that the anthropic principle does not negate surprise at our existence:

The evolution of complex life, indeed its very existence in a universe obeying physical laws, is wonderfully surprising – or would be but for the fact that surprise is an emotion that can exist only in a brain which is the product of that very surprising process. There is an anthropic sense, then, in which our existence should not be surprising. I’d like to think that I speak for my fellow humans in insisting, nevertheless, that it is desperately surprising.[58]

According to Dawkins: ‘This objection [to the no-design hypothesis] can be answered by the suggestion… that there are many universes…’[59] Whether or not Dawkins is right about this (the ‘many worlds’ move commits the ‘inflationary fallacy’ of multiplying probabilistic resources without independent evidence[60]), it is important to notice that Dawkins accepts that the anthropic principle is not ‘an alternative to the design hypothesis’[61] as Dawkins states, but is rather a description of the problem to which the design hypothesis is one answer and the many world’s hypothesis is another. As Gonzalez comments: ‘World Ensemble advocates are obviously driven by the desire to avoid the “God-hypothesis,” and, in adopting such extravagant and unnecessary assumptions, they are effectively conceding that the WAP has been impotent in discrediting the teleological interpretation.’[62] It is the ‘many world’s’ hypothesis that competes with the design hypothesis to explain the observation of a ‘life friendly’ universe, planet, etc., not the anthropic principle itself. The reason that ‘religious apologists love the anthropic principle’ is clearly not ‘some reason that makes no sense at all’, as Dawkins opines, but the belief that the design hypothesis is a better explanation of the anthropic principle than the many world’s hypothesis.

Dawkins’ ‘Unrebuttable Refutation’ of the God Hypothesis - Rebutted

Having supposedly dismantled the case for God, Dawkins goes on the offensive to argue that God’s existence is, if not impossible (he admits that God’s existence cannot be strictly disproved), then at least very improbable. Dawkins champions what he considers ‘a very serious argument against the existence of God, and one to which I have yet to hear a theologian give a convincing answer despite numerous opportunities and invitations to do so. Dan Dennett rightly describes it as “an unrebuttable refutation…”’[63] Dawkins writes that this unrebuttable refutation of the God hypothesis is ‘the central argument of my book’, the heart of which runs as follows:

One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect, over the centuries, has been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe arises. The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself. In the case of a man-made artefact such as a watch, the designer really was an intelligent engineer. It is tempting to apply the same logic to an eye or a wing, a spider or a person. This temptation is a false one, because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer. The whole problem we started out with was the problem of explaining statistical improbability. It is obviously no solution to postulate something even more improbable. We need a ‘crane’, not a ‘skyhook’, for only a crane can do the business of working gradually and plausibly from simplicity to otherwise improbable complexity. The most ingenious and powerful crane so far discovered is Darwinian evolution by natural selection.[64]

Theists can welcome Dawkins’ re-affirmation of the fact that there exists an ‘improbable appearance of design in the universe’ and that the ‘natural’ thing to do is to attribute this ‘appearance of design’ to actual design. As Danish philosopher Jakob Wolf argues:

Biological entities appear to be designed. It is very important to note that everybody agrees on the phenomenological description of the living organism. Disagreement sets in when it comes to explaining the nature of what everybody observes. Is it possible to account for the evolution of the complex organism by appeal to unintelligent causes alone, or does an intelligent cause need to be invoked? The most obvious conclusion to draw is that… an intelligent cause is needed. This perception of the matter is the one that most readily imposes itself upon us and has done for centuries. If you think otherwise, the burden of proof rests squarely with you.[65]

Darwinian evolution by natural selection may indeed be the ‘most ingenious and powerful crane so far discovered’, but being the best available explanation compatible with the assumption of naturalism does not guarantee being a plausible explanation (let alone the best available explanation). Of course, Dawkins has what he considers an unrebuttable response to this line of thought ready and waiting:

the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer. The whole problem we started out with was the problem of explaining statistical improbability. It is obviously no solution to postulate something even more improbable.[66]

There may actually be two overlapping objections here: the ‘who designed the designer’ objection, and the ‘explaining something with something more complex’ objection. The ‘who designed the designer’ objection is a question that can be posed to all design inferences, but as Jay Richards observes, no one would raise this question as an objection to the design inference in any other field of explanation: ‘If someone explains some buried earthenware as the result of artisans from the second century BC, no one complains, “Yeah, but who made the artisans?”’[67] Even supposing we can’t answer the ‘who designed the designer’ question, this does nothing to invalidate the inference that there was a designer. Dawkins fundamentally misunderstands the nature of explanation. William Lane Craig comments:

It is widely recognized that in order for an explanation to be the best explanation, one needn’t have an explanation of the explanation (indeed, such a requirement would generate an infinite regress, so that everything becomes inexplicable)... believing that the design hypothesis is the best explanation... doesn’t depend upon our ability to explain the designer.[68]

As William A. Dembski notes: ‘The who-designed-the-designer question invites a regress that is readily declined... because such a regress arises whenever scientists introduce a novel theoretical entity... the question is whether design does useful conceptual work.’[69] Dawkins objects that: ‘A designer God cannot be used to explain organized complexity because any God capable of designing anything would have to be complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation in his own right. God presents an infinite regress from which he cannot help us to escape.’[70] In other words, Dawkins’ argument appears to be that:

  1. Once you posit one designer to explain organized complexity you have to posit an infinite regress of designers (because any designer capable of designing anything would necessarily demand the same kind of explanation in its own right, and so on),

  2. but there cannot be an infinite regress of designers,

  3. therefore one cannot rationally posit a designer in the first place.

Being consistent, one must of course make the same objection to the design inference in every case, including the cases that Dawkins himself admits are legitimate (such as the design inference from a sequence of prime numbers in a radio signal). The obvious legitimacy of design inferences in some cases constitutes an ad absurdum argument against the soundness of the above, logically valid argument. Dawkins rejects the plausibility of explanations framed in terms of an infinite regress, and objects to the design inference using a premise that implies the necessity of just such an infinite regress of explanations in all cases, despite the fact that he accepts the design inference in some cases. He can’t have it both ways. Unless Dawkins is prepared to eliminate design inferences altogether, he must reject the ‘who designed the designer’ objection as unsound. Since the argument is logically valid, he can do this either by embracing explanations framed in terms of an infinite regress (an option frowned upon by most philosophers), or by rejecting the premise that once you posit one designer you have to posit an infinite regress of designers. Dawkins actually rejects the first premise of the ‘who designed the designer’ objection, accepting the validity of design inferences where the posited designer is an agent that he thinks he can maintain is a wholly physical being that must (he deduces) have some sort of an evolutionary explanation: ‘The crucial difference between gods and god-like extraterrestrials lies not in their properties but in their provenance. Entities that are complex enough to be intelligent are products of an evolutionary process. No matter how god-like they may seem when we encounter them, they didn’t start that way.’[71] Dawkins here (as elsewhere) simply resorts to asserting his naturalistic worldview, begging the question against his opponents. As Thomas Woodward explains: ‘Dawkins… veers here into blatant circular argumentation. He simply asserts – without any evidence-based argument or philosophical proof – that no intelligence can ever exist who is a necessary (uncaused) being…’[72]

According to Dawkins: ‘God, or any intelligent, decision-making, calculating agent, would have to be highly improbable in the very same statistical sense as the entities he is supposed to explain.’[73] This is incorrect. Part of the crucial difference between a God and god-like extraterrestrials is that the former’s provenance is radically different, because some of its properties are radically different from those of the latter. For example, if God exists then God is a necessary being and not a contingent being. If an alien exists it would be a contingent being and not a necessary being. Hence while the existence of God may be more or less epistemologically probable relative to our evidence, as the ontological argument makes clear, God’s existence is nevertheless, ontologically speaking, either impossible or necessary.

Richard Swinburne argues that, as ‘the greatest possible being’, God is metaphysically simple in a way that finite entities are not. With a finite entity one always has questions about why it has this or that property and why it has this or that degree of this or that property. Such questions do not arise with God, because, as a matter of definition, God must have the maximum possible amount of every great making property (goodness, power, knowledge, etc), including the great making property of ontological security (being uncaused, independent and necessarily existent).

As J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig point out that: ‘A mind’s ideas may be complex, but a mind itself is a remarkably simple thing, being an immaterial entity not composed of pieces or separable parts.’[74] Unlike a watch, God is not a contingent physical object composed of separable parts that are combined in a contingent order which can therefore be assigned a statistical probability of one possible arrangement out of a certain finite number of possible arrangements. As Thomas Nagel comments in his review of The God Delusion: ‘God, whatever he may be, is not a complex physical inhabitant of the natural world.’[75] Not only is God not a physical object, but God is not even a contingent one (and it is a pre-requisite of the design inference that it begin with a contingent object).

Precisely because it is unreasonable to posit explanations framed in terms of an infinite regress (cf. the cosmological argument), it is reasonable to hold that not all designers can require a designer (and therefore that not all designers exhibit specified complexity). If the universe exhibits signs of design that would otherwise imply an infinite regress of designers, it is reasonable to hypothesise the existence of a designer the conditions of whose existence do not exhibit such signs of design and thus do not trigger a design inference. A necessarily existent theistic deity is clearly a prime candidate for such an un-designed designer.


‘The reviews have been mixed – it’s the luck of the draw whether or not you get a religious person.’ – Richard Dawkins[76]

Dawkins’ only reviews a subset of the available arguments for God; but having swiftly dismissed these arguments as ‘vacuous’[77], he invalidly concludes that there is therefore ‘no evidence to favour the God Hypothesis.’[78] Even if Dawkins’ critique of the arguments he examines were sound, this conclusion simply would not follow. In point of fact, Dawkins’ critique of the arguments from God is unsound in each and every one of the cases reviewed above. Dawkins repeatedly depends upon blowing over ‘straw man’ versions of his targets, and he offers objections that are themselves easily revealed as ‘vacuous’. Indeed, Dawkins’ rebuttals are self-contradictory on several occasions. Moreover, Dawkins’ supposedly ‘unrebuttable rebuttal’ to the God hypothesis is, as we have seen, anything but.

Far from wanting to warn anyone against ‘even opening a book like this,’[79] I recommend that believers and non-believers alike apply their ‘native intelligence’[80] to reading The God Delusion. However, I suggest doing so with help from a list of logical fallacies. Readers can then enjoy a stimulating game of ‘Eye Spy’. In particular, look out for examples of: self-contradiction, begging the question[81], attacking a straw man[82], data picking[83], wishful thinking[84], appeal to ridicule[85] and various ad hominim attacks[86] from simple name-calling[87] to ‘poisoning the well.’[88] Blowing away houses made from philosophical straw is a praiseworthy endeavour; but Dawkins’ frequent substitution of straw houses for the real thing means that his critique of religion has more puff than bite.

Recommended Resources

On Logical Fallacies


Nigel Warburton, Thinking from A to Z, (Routledge, 2000)

Peter S. Williams, ‘Darwin’s Rottweiler and the Public Understanding of Scientism’ @ www.arn.org/docs/williams/pw_dawkinsfallacies.htm

Other Reviews of The God Delusion

Terry Eagleton, ‘Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching’, London Review of Books Vol. 28 No. 20 dated 19 October 2006 @ http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n20/eagl01_.html

Jim Holt, ‘Beyond Belief’, New York Times @ www.nytimes.com/2006/10/22/books/review/Holt.t.html?_r=1&8bu&emc=bu&oref=slogin

Thomas Nagel, ‘The Fear of Religion’, The New Republic Online, @ www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20061023&s=nagel102306


Access Research Network @ www.arn.org

Apollos @ www.apollos.ws/

The Apologia Project Video Library @ www.theapologiaproject.org/video_library.htm

Bethinking @ www.bethinking.org

Discovery Institute Centre for Science and Culture @ www.discovery.org/csc/

Richard Dawkins @ http://richarddawkins.net/

Lee Strobel @ www.leestrobel.com/index.html


Craig L. Blomberg, ‘In Search of the Historical Jesus’ @ www.veritas.org/mediafiles/VT-Blomberg%20UCSB-XC.mov

A Rotary Nano-Machine @ www.nanonet.go.jp/english/mailmag/2004/files/011a.wmv

Gary R. Habermas Debates & Lectures @ www.garyhabermas.com/video/video.htm

Scott Minnich, ‘Paradigm of Design: The Bacterial Flagellum’ @ http://webcast.ucsd.edu:8080/ramgen/UCSD_TV/8547.rm

ID Debate: Stephen C. Meyer vs. Peter D. Ward @ www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=3456&program=DI%20Main%20Page%20-%20News&callingPage=discoMainPage

Robert C. Koons, ‘Science & Religion: Concord not Conflict’ @ http://webcast.ucsd.edu:8080/ramgen/UCSD_TV/7828.rm

Jonathan Wells, ‘Icons of Evolution’ @ http://webcast.ucsd.edu:8080/ramgen/UCSD_TV/6466IcoEvoJonWel.rm

Unlocking the Mystery of Life (Illustra Media) @ www.theapologiaproject.org/media/unlocking_the_mystery_of_life.ram

The Privileged Planet (Illustra Media) @ www.theapologiaproject.org/media/the_privileged_planet.ram


William lane Craig, ‘The Evidence for Christianity’ @ www.bethinking.org/resource.php?ID=100&TopicID=1&CategoryID=2

William Lane Craig, ‘Defending the True Historical Jesus’ @ www.isucru.com/debate/audio/Defending%20the%20True%20historical%20Jesus%20by%

John Lennox, ‘God and Richard Dawkins’ @ www.bethinking.org/resource.php?ID=290

J.P. Moreland (intro Ronald Larson) @ ‘Love Your God With All Your Mind’ @ http://hisdefense.org/LinkClick.aspx?link=Audio%2fMoreland+-+Apologetics+Seminar.ram&tabid=136&mid=938

J.P. Moreland, ‘The Modern Search for the Historic Jesus’ @ www.veritas.org/mediafiles/VTS-Moreland-1997-UNCA-97VFNC04.mp3

J.P. Moreland, ‘How do we know Christianity is right out of all the religions?’ @ www.bethinking.org/resource.php?ID=191&TopicID=1&CategoryID=2

Peter S. Williams, ‘An Introduction to Intelligent Design Theory’ @ www.cis-centralsouth.org.uk/media/2006-intelligent-design/PeterWilliams.vbr.mp3

On-Line Papers

Denis Alexander, ‘A Clash of Fundamentalisms’ @ www.bethinking.org/resource.php?ID=252&TopicID=2&CategoryID=1

Thomas Aquinas, ‘Does God Exist?’ from Summa Theologica @ http://newadvent.org/summa/100203.htm

Richard Baukham, ‘The Eyewitnesses and the Gospel Traditions’ @ www.apollos.ws/nt-historical-reliability/BauckhamRichardJHRG1.pdf

Stephen J. Bedard, ‘Paul and the Historical Jesus: A Case Study in First Corinthians’ @ www.mcmaster.ca/mjtm/pdfs/vol7/MJTM_7-1_Bedard.pdf

Michael J. Behe, ‘A Response to Critics of Darwin’s Black Box’ @ www.iscid.org/papers/Behe_ReplyToCritics_121201.pdf

Michael J. Behe, ‘Answering Scientific Criticisms of Intelligent Design’ @ www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?id=60

Michael J. Behe, ‘A True Acid Test: A Response to Ken Miller’ @ www.arn.org/docs/behe/mb_trueacidtest.htm

Michael J. Behe, ‘The Pilgrim’s Regress: A Review of The Ancestor’s Tale’ @ www.arn.org/docs/behe/mb_ancestorstalereview_0506.htm

Craig L. Blomberg, ‘The Historical Reliability of the Gospels’ @ www.4truth.net/site/apps/nl/content3.asp?c=hiKXLbPNLrF&b=784441&ct=981289&printmode=1

F.F. Bruce, ‘The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?’ @ http://ananswer.org/school/certification/ntdocumentsandreliability/new%20testament%20documents-%20are%20they%20reliable_%20ff%20bruce.pdf

Paul Copan, ‘Jesus’ followers fabricated the stories and sayings of Jesus’ @ www.bethinking.org/resource.php?ID=9&TopicID=1&CategoryID=2

Paul Copan, ‘You Can’t Trust the Gospels. They’re Unreliable’ @ www.countercult.com/r14ac.html

Paul Copan, ‘The Moral Argument for God’s Existence’ @ www.4truth.net/site/apps/nl/content3.asp?c=hiKXLbPNLrF&b=778665&ct=1264233

Paul Copan, ‘Can Michael Martin be a Moral Realist?: Sic et Non’ @ www.gospelcom.net/rzim/publications/essay_arttext.php?id=4

Paul Copan, ‘Morality and Meaning Without God: Another Failed Attempt’ @ www.paulcopan.com/articles/pdf/Morality-Meaning.pdf

William Lane Craig, ‘The Indispensability of Theological Meta-Ethical Foundations for Morality’, @ www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/meta-eth.html

William Lane Craig, ‘Rediscovering the Historical Jesus: Presuppositions and Pretensions of the Jesus Seminar’ @ www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/rediscover1.html

William Lane Craig, ‘Rediscovering the Historical Jesus: The Evidence for Jesus @ www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/rediscover2.html

William Lane Craig, ‘Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus’ @ www.leaderu.com/truth/1truth22.html

William Lane Craig, ‘The Problem of Miracles: A Historical and Philosophical Perspective’ @ www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/miracles.html

William Lane Craig, ‘The Teleological Argument and the Anthropic Principle’


William Lane Craig, ‘Barrow and Tipler on the anthropic principle vs. Divine Design’@ www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/barrow.html

William Lane Craig & Bart Ehrman, ‘Is There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus?’ @ www.holycross.edu/departments/crec/website/resurrdebate.htm

Dave Crofts, ‘The Root of all Evil? Part 1’ @ www.christchurchcentral.co.uk/culture/rootofallevil1_1.html

Dave Crofts, ‘The Root of all Evil? Part 2’ @ www.christchurchcentral.co.uk/culture/rootofallevil2_1.html

William A. Dembski, ‘Still Spinning Just Fine: A Response to Ken Miller’ @ www.designinference.com/documents/2003.02.Miller_Response.htm

William A. Dembski, ‘Irreducible Complexity Revisited’ @ www.designinference.com/documents/2004.01.Irred_Compl_Revisited.pdf

Trent Dougherty, ‘Concise Introduction to the Modal Ontological Argument for the Existence of God’ @ www.abarnett.demon.co.uk/atheism/ontol.html

Logan Gage, ‘Who wrote Richard Dawkins’ new book?’ @ www.evolutionnews.org/2006/10/who_wrote_richard_dawkinss_new.html

Norman L. Geisler, ‘The Dating of the New Testament’ @ www.bethinking.org/resource.php?ID=233&TopicID=1&CategoryID=2

Mike Gene, ‘Evolving the Bacterial Flagellum Through Mutation and Cooption’ @ www.idthink.net/biot/flag1/index.html

Gary R. Habermas, ‘A Summary Critique: Questioning the Existence of Jesus’ @ www.garyhabermas.com/articles/crj_summarycritique/crj_summarycritique.htm

Gary R. Habermas, ‘Recent Perspectives on the Reliability of the Gospels’ @ www.equip.org/free/JAR011.pdf

Gary R. Habermas, ‘The Facts Concerning the Resurrection’ @ www.ankerberg.com/Articles/_PDFArchives/editors-choice/EC3W0302.pdf

Gary R. Habermas, ‘Jesus’ Resurrection and Contemporary Criticism: An Apologetic  (Part I)’ @ http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/NTeSources/NTArticles/CTR-NT/Habermas-Resurrection1-CTR.pdf

Gary R. Habermas, ‘Jesus’ Resurrection and Contemporary Criticism: An Apologetic  (Part II)’ @ http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/NTeSources/NTArticles/CTR-NT/Habermas-Resurrection2-CTR.pdf

Gary R. Habermas, ‘Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection: Hallucination – The Recent Revival of Theories’ @ www.equip.org/free/DJ923.htm

Gary R. Habermas, ‘Reinterpretations of the Historical Jesus’ @ www.garyhabermas.com/books/historicaljesus/historicaljesus.htm

Gary R. Habermas, ‘Ancient Non-Christian Sources’ @ www.garyhabermas.com/books/historicaljesus/historicaljesus.htm#ch9

Robert C. Koons, ‘Do Anthropic Coincidences Require Explanation?’ @ www.leaderu.com/offices/koons/docs/lec11.html

Greg Koukl, ‘No Lost Books of the Bible’ @ www.bethinking.org/resource.php?ID=22&TopicID=1&CategoryID=2

Peter Kreeft, ‘The Divinity of Christ’ @ http://catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0020.html

Alister McGrath, ‘The Resurrection’ @ www.bethinking.org/resource.php?ID=205&TopicID=5&CategoryID=5

Stephen C. Meyer, ‘The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories’ @ www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=2177&program=CSC%20-%20Scientific%20Research%20and%20Scholarship%20-%20Science

J.P. Moreland, ‘Does the argument from mind provide evidence for God?’ @ www.boundless.org/features/a0000901.html

J.P. Moreland, ‘Philosophical Apologetics, the Church, and Contemporary Culture’ @ www.apologetics.com/default.jsp?bodycontent=/articles/faith_and_reason/moreland-philapologetics.html

J.P. Moreland, ‘The Historicity of the New Testament’ @ www.bethinking.org/resource.php?ID=207&TopicID=1&CategoryID=2

J.P. Moreland, ‘A Legendary Jesus and New Testament Dating’ @ www.trueu.org/Academics/LectureHall/A000000262.cfm

Luke Pollard, ‘Does Morality Point to God?’ @ www.bethinking.org/resource.php?ID=305&TopicID=10&CategoryID=9

Nick Pollard, ‘The Root of all Evil? The problem with Richard Dawkins’ faith - part 1’ @ www.bethinking.org/resource.php?ID=243&TopicID=2&CategoryID=1

Nick Pollard, ‘The Root of all Evil? The problem with Richard Dawkins’ faith - part 2’ @ www.bethinking.org/resource.php?ID=244&TopicID=2&CategoryID=1

Tom Price, ‘Religion Causes Wars’ @ www.bethinking.org/resource.php?ID=227&TopicID=4&CategoryID=6

Victor Reppert, The Argument from Reason’ @ www.infidels.org/library/modern/victor_reppert/reason.html

Dallas Willard, ‘Language, Being and God: The Three Stages of Theistic Evidence’ @ www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=42

Peter S. Williams, ‘Atheism and Child Abuse’ @ www.arn.org/docs/williams/pw_atheismandchildabuse.htm

Peter S. Williams, ‘Darwin’s Rottweiler and the Public Understanding of Scientism’ @ www.arn.org/docs/williams/pw_dawkinsfallacies.htm

Peter S. Williams, ‘Is Life Designed or Designoid? Dawkins, Science and the Purpose of Life’ @ www.arn.org/docs/williams/pw_purposeoflife.htm

Peter S. Williams, ‘“What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?” – Comparing Dawkins’ Blind Faith with Flew’s Evidence’ @ www.arn.org/docs/williams/pw_comparingdawkinsflew.htm#_ednref6

Ben Witherington III, ‘The Top 10 New Testament Archaeological Finds of the Last 150 years’ @ www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/138/21.0.html


William P. Alston, Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious Experience, (Cornell University Press, 1991)

Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony, (Eerdmans, 2006)

Francis J. Beckwith, William Lane Craig & J.P. Moreland (ed.’s), To Everyone An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview, (IVP, 2004)

Michael J. Behe, Darwin’s Black Box, 10th anniversary edition, (Free Press, 2006)

Craig A. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, (IVP, 1987)

John Angus Campbell & Stephen C. Meyer (ed.’s), Darwinism, Design, & Public Education, (Michigan State University Press, 2003)

Paul Copan, That’s Just Your Interpretation, (Baker, 2001)

Paul Copan, How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong?, (Baker, 2005)

Paul Copan (ed.), Will The Real Jesus Please Stand UpA Debate between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan, (Baker, 1998)

Paul Copan & Paul K. Moser (ed.’s), The Rationality of Theism, (Routledge, 2003)

Paul Copan & Ronald K. Tacelli (ed.’s), Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Figment? A debate between William Lane Craig & Gerd Ludemann, (IVP, 2000)

William Lane Craig, The Son Rises, (Wypf & Stock, 2000)

William Lane Craig & J.P. Moreland, Philosophical Foundations For A Christian Worldview, (IVP, 2003)

William Lane Craig & J.P. Moreland (ed.’s), Naturalism: A critical analysis, (Routledge, 2001)

William Lane Craig (ed.), Philosophy of Religion: A Reader and Guide, (Edinburgh University Press, 2002)

Stephen T. Davies, Risen Indeed: Making Sense of the Resurrection, (SPCK, 1993)

William A. Dembski, The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions about Intelligent Design, (IVP, 2004)

David DeWolf, John West, Casey Luskin & Jonathan Witt, Traipsing Into Evolution: Intelligent Design And The Kitzmiller vs. Dover Decision, (Discovery Institute, 2006)

R. Douglas Geivett & Gary R. Habermas, In Defence of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God’s Action in History, (Apollos, 1997)

Guillermo Gonzalez & Jay Richards, The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery, (Regnery, Jan. 2004)

Gary R. Habermas: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Jesus: Historical Records of His Death and Resurrection, (Thomas Nelson, 1984)

Colin J. Humphreys, The Miracles of Exodus: A Scientist’s Discovery of the Extraordinary Natural Causes of the Biblical Stories, (Continuum, 2003)

Antony Latham, The Naked Emperor: Darwinism Exposed, (Janus, 2005)

Stephen Law, The War for Children’s Minds, (Routledge, 2006)

Alister McGrath, Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life, (Blackwell, 2005)

Alister McGrath, Making Sense of the Cross, (IVP, 1992)

J.P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City, (Baker, 1987)

J.P. Moreland, Love Your God With All Your Mind: The role of reason in the life of the soul, (Navpress, 1997)

Amy Orr-Ewing, Why Trust The Bible? Answers to 10 tough questions, (IVP, 2005)

Randall Price, The Stones Cry Out: What Archaeology Reveals About the Truth of the Bible, (Harvest House, 1997)

Fazale Rana & Hugh Ross, Origins of Life, (NavPress, 2004)

James F. Sennett & Douglas Groothuis, In Defence of Natural Theology: A Post-Humean Assessment, (IVP, 2005)

Jeffery L. Sheler, Is The Bible True?, (Harper Collins, 2000)

Michael J. Wilkins and J.P. Moreland (ed.’s), Jesus Under Fire – Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus, (Paternoster Press, 1996)

Peter S. Williams, I Wish I Could Believe in Meaning: A Response to Nihilism, (Damaris, 2005)

Thomas Woodward, Doubts About Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design, (Baker, 2003)

Thomas Woodward, Darwin Strikes Back: Defending the Science of Intelligent Design, (Baker, 2006)


[1] cf. Robert Downey in Eastsideweek, December 11, 1996 @ www.world-of-dawkins.com/Media/seattle.htm

[2] cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bad_Wolf

[3] Dorothy Nelkin, ‘Less Selfish than Sacred? Genes and the Religious Impulse in Evolutionary Psychology’, Alas, Poor Darwin, (Vintage, 2001), p. 15.

[4] cf. Dave Crofts, ‘The Root of all Evil? Part 1’ @ www.christchurchcentral.co.uk/culture/rootofallevil1_1.html;

Dave Crofts, ‘The Root of all Evil? Part 2’ @ www.christchurchcentral.co.uk/culture/rootofallevil2_1.html;

Nick Pollard, ‘The Root of all Evil? The problem with Richard Dawkins’ faith - part 1’ @ www.bethinking.org/resource.php?ID=243&TopicID=2&CategoryID=1;

Nick Pollard, ‘The Root of all Evil? The problem with Richard Dawkins’ faith - part 2’ @ www.bethinking.org/resource.php?ID=244&TopicID=2&CategoryID=1

[5] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, (London: Bantam, 2006), p. 5.

[6] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 5-6.

[7] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 6.

[8] Stephen Law, The War for Children’s Minds, (Routledge, 2006), p. 23.

[9] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 208.

[10] cf. Dillon Burroughs, Misquotes in ‘Misquoting Jesus’: Why You Can Still Believe, (Nimble Books, 2006); Craig L. Blomberg, ‘Review: Bart D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why’ @ www.denverseminary.edu/dj/articles2006/0200/0206.php; William Lane Craig & Bart Ehrman, ‘Is There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus?’ @ www.holycross.edu/departments/crec/website/resurrdebate.htm; Daniel B. Wallace, ‘The Gospel According to Bart’ @ www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=4000; P.J. Williams, ‘Review of Bart Ehrman: Misquoting Jesus’ @ http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com/2005/12/review-of-bart-ehrman-misquoting-jesus_31.html; Ben Witherington, ‘Misanalyzing Text Criticism - Bart Ehrman's “Misquoting Jesus”’ @ http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2006/03/misanalyzing-text-criticism-bart.html

[11] On Hume’s scepticism regarding miracles, cf. Peter S. Williams, ‘Design and the Humean Touchstone’ @ www.arn.org/docs/williams/pw_humeantouchstone.htm

[12] Antony Latham, The Naked Emperor: Darwinism Exposed, (Janus, 2005), p. 243.

[13] Alister McGrath, Dawkins’ God, (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005), p. 83-84..

[14] Terry Eagleton, ‘Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching’, London Review of Books Vol. 28 No. 20 dated 19 October 2006 @ http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n20/eagl01_.html

[15] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 132.

[16] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 230.

[17] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 231.

[18] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 293.

[19] Jim Holt, ‘A passionate atheist’s case against religion’, International Herald Tribune, Saturday-Sunday, October 21-22, 2006, p. 10.

[20] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 59.

[21] P.Z. Myers, ‘Bad Religion’ @ http://richarddawkins.net/article,211,Bad-Religion,PZ-Myers--Seed-Magazine

[22] cf. Victor Reppert, The Argument from Reason’ @ www.infidels.org/library/modern/victor_reppert/reason.html

[23] cf. J.P. Moreland, ‘Does the argument from mind provide evidence for God?’ @ www.boundless.org/features/a0000901.html

[24] Jeremy Pierce @ http://prosblogion.ektopos.com/archives/2006/10/dawkins_review.html

[25] Thomas Nagel, ‘The Fear of Religion’, The New Republic @ https://ssl.tnr.com/p/docsub.mhtml?i=20061023&s=nagel102306&bl=1&n=peterwilliams&success_url=%2Fp%2Fdocsub.mhtml%3Fi%3D20061023%26s%3Dnagel102306

[26] Thomas Nagel, ‘The Fear of Religion’, The New Republic Online, @ www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20061023&s=nagel102306

[27] Holt, op cit. cf. Trent Dougherty, ‘Concise Introduction to the Modal Ontological Argument for the Existence of God’ @ www.abarnett.demon.co.uk/atheism/ontol.html

[28] Alvin Plantinga, God, Freedom and Evil, (Eerdmans, 1977), from Michael Peterson et al, Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, (Oxford, 1996), p. 158.

[29] ibid, p. 163.

[30] ibid, p. 159.

[31] C. Stephen Evans, Philosophy of Religion, (Downers Grove: IVP, 1982), p. 50.

[32] Plantinga, op cit, p. 163.

[33] Alvin Plantinga, ‘Reason and Belief in God’, in Roy Abraham Varghese (ed.), The Intellectuals Speak Out About God, (Regnery Gateway, 1984), p. 191.

[34] Thomas Aquinas, ‘Whether God Exists?’ from Summa Theologica @ www.newadvent.org/summa/100203.htm

[35] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 77.

[36] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 77.

[37] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica @ www.newadvent.org/summa/100203.htm

[38] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 79.

[39] cf. Christopher F.J. Martin, ‘The Fourth Way’ @ http://users.colloquium.co.uk/~BARRETT/Viae4.htm

[40] E.L. Mascall, He Who Is, (London: Longmans, 1954), p. 53.

[41] cf. William P. Alston, Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious Experience, (Cornell University Press, 1991); William P. Alston, ‘Why should there not be experience of God?’ in Brian Davies, Philosophy of Religion: a guide and anthology, (Oxford, 2000); J.P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City, (Baker, 1987); Richard Swinburne, The Existence of God, revised edition, (Clarendon, 1991)

[42] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 90.

[43] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 92.

[44] Paul Copan, True For You But Not For Me, p. 45.

[45] Stephen Unwin, ‘Dawkins needs to show some doubt’, Guardian Online @ www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1883586,00.html

[46] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 141.

[47] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 136.

[48] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 136.

[49] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 136.

[50] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 136.

[51] Woodward, op cit, p. 160.

[52] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 141.

[53] Davies & Poe, op cit, p. 110.

[54] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 144-145.

[55] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 145.

[56] Guillermo Gonzalez, ‘Home Alone in the Universe’ @ www.arn.org/docs/gonzalez/gg_homealone_.htm

[57] Richard Swinburne, ‘The Argument from Design’ @ http://mind.ucsd.edu/syllabi/02-03/01w/readings/swinburne-design.pdf

[58] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 366.

[59] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 145.

[60] If there were enough monkey’s typing for long enough then they might produce the works of Shakespeare by chance; but it is unreasonable to explain the works of Shakespeare as the product of a monkey typing-pool rather than as the product of intelligent design unless one has independent evidence that a big enough monkey typing-pool does in fact exist. Likewise, if enough universes exist then one might be expected to be like ours just by chance; but it is unreasonable to explain our universe with reference to such a ‘many worlds’ hypothesis rather than intelligent design in the absence of independent evidence for the existence of many worlds.

[61] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 136.

[62] Gonzalez, ‘Home Alone in the Universe’ @ www.arn.org/docs/gonzalez/gg_homealone_.htm

[63] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 157.

[64] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 157-158.

[65] Jakob Wolf, ‘A Critique of “Theistic Evolution” As a Supplementary Model of the Relationship between Darwinian Theory and Religion’, @ www.iscid.org/papers/Wolf_TheisticEvolution_011505.pdf

[66] Dawkins, The God Delusion, (Bantam, 2006), p. 157-158.

[67] Jay Richards, quoted by Dembski, No Free Lunch, (Rowman & Littlefield, 2001), p. 255.

[68] William Lane Craig, ‘Why I Believe in God’, in Norman L. Geisler and Paul K. Hoffman (ed.’s), Why I Am A Christian, (Baker, 2001), p. 73.

[69] William A. Dembski, No Free Lunch, (Rowman & Littlefield, 2001), p. 354.

[70] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 109.

[71] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 73.

[72] Thomas Woodward, Darwin Strikes Back, (Baker, 2006), p. 166.

[73] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 147.

[74] J.P. Moreland & William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations For A Christian Worldview, (IVP, 2003), p. 490.

[75] Thomas Nagel, quoted by Paul Nelson, ‘Thomas Nagel Critiques Dawkins: The Design-Cannot-Possibly-Be-True Argument’ @ www.idthefuture.com/2006/10/nagel_on_dawkins.html

[76] Richard Dawkins, ‘Wide-eyed and Godless’ @ http://richarddawkins.net/article,213,Wide-eyed-and-Godless,Terry-Grimley--Birmingham-Post

[77] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 77.

[78] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 59.

[79] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 5-6.

[80] Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 6.

[81] cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question

[82] cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

[83] cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherry_picking Jonathan Richardson berates Dawkins for ‘Detailing a selection of believers, largely consisting of clearly-deranged nuts rather than his scholarly equals’, cf. Jonathan Richardson, ‘The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins’, inthenews.co.uk @ www.inthenews.co.uk/entertainment/reviews/reviews/books/the-god-delusion-by-richard-dawkins-$453480.htm

[84] cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wishful_thinking

[85] cf. www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/appeal-to-ridicule.html

[86] cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poisoning_the_well

[87] e.g. ‘dyed-in-the-wool faith-heads are immune to argument’ (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 5).

[88] e.g. tendentiously talking about ‘Phillip E. Johnson who leads the creationist charge against Darwinism in America’ (Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 5, my italics) and ‘creationist Michael Behe’ (Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 129, my italics.) Johnson and Behe are Intelligent Design theorists, not ‘biblical creationists’