There’s Probably No God: A response to Richard Dawkins

by David Glass

 

In his best-selling book The God Delusion (TGD)[1], Richard Dawkins claims that belief in God is not only mistaken but irrational, especially in the light of modern science. He criticises belief in God from many angles, but in what he considers to be the central argument of his book, he claims to have shown that ‘God almost certainly does not exist’ (TGD, p. 158). His argument is based on probability and indeed he refers to it as the argument from improbability, which he thinks ‘demonstrates that God, though not technically disprovable, is very very improbable indeed’ (TGD, p. 109).[2] For those who believe in God, this might be somewhat disconcerting. If such a well-known and high-profile scientist makes such claims, mustn’t there be something to them even if we acknowledge that his rhetoric is a bit overblown at times? What exactly is his argument? And does it stand up to scrutiny? These questions will be the focus of this article.

The Ultimate Boeing 747

The cosmologist Fred Hoyle claimed that the probability of natural processes producing living organisms is no greater than the probability of a hurricane assembling a Boeing 747 in a scrapyard. This illustration is often used to show that just as a Boeing 747 points to a designer so too does the existence of life. Dawkins attempts to turn this argument on its head. According to his ‘argument from improbability’ God is even more complex and so he claims that God’s existence is even more improbable than a Boeing 747 coming about by chance. He puts it like this:

However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable. God is the Ultimate Boeing 747.[3]

Far from improbability (of living organisms) providing evidence for God, Dawkins claims:

The argument from improbability, properly deployed, comes close to proving that God does not exist.[4]

Let’s get back to the argument itself. Although Dawkins does not state his argument in quite this way, it could be summarized as follows:[5]

1.   Complex things are very improbable if there is no explanation for their existence.(That’s why they need an explanation.)

2.   God is very complex (if he exists).

(In fact, God would be even more complex than other things we want to explain and so God would be even more in need of explanation.)

3.   There could be no explanation of God’s existence.

Therefore, God is very improbable.

Why the Argument Fails

If any one of the three premises (1-3) of the argument is false, the argument fails. Let’s consider the first one…

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There’s Probably No God – a response to Richard Dawkins – Saints and Sceptics