Sunday, February 06, 2011

The use of Analogy in Understanding the Probablity of God: Defeating Dawkins' major argument.


Atheists continue to present the notion of God as a big man in the sky. They draw the analogy between God and biological life so they can subject God to the same rules as humans must endure. That way they can argue the improbability of such a complex "creature" (as the creator--creature as the creator) and argue that God would suffer from entropy and so on. Dawkins is the most visible of those who have made such an argument.

Take the view point of Richard Dawkins in his most celebrated work The God Delusion. [i]

The argument from improbability is the big one. In the traditional guise of the argument from design, it is easily today’s most popular argument offered in favor of the existence of God, and it is seen, by an amazingly large number of theists, as completely and utterly convincing. It is indeed a very strong, and, I suspect, unanswerable argument—but in precisely the opposite direction form the theist’s intension. The argument from improbability, properly deployed, comes close to proving that God does not exist…[ii]

This quotation tells us several very important things about the major leader of the new atheist movement thinks. The first thing this quotation tells us is that Dawkins views evolution as an atheist territory, he doesn’t think of evolution as a theistic possibility, he can only conceive of belief in God being the domain of people who can’t understand evolution. He thinks of God belief as strictly creationist territory. He basically says as much in following up this quotation above he talks about the analogy of a 747 being assembled by random chance from a junk yard. “This in a nutshell is the creationist favorite argument.”[iii] He doesn’t say there are other theological views and he doesn’t deal with them, as though they don’t exist. One might forgive this tendency if he thinks liberal theology is just out of the main stream and thus beyond the focus of the popular audience. Nevertheless he goes even further, “It turns out to be the God hypothesis that tries to get the free lunch…however statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by evoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable. God is the ultimate 747.”[iv]

He is doing more than just reversing the design argument he’s trying to apply the logic of the design argument to a critique of belief in God. This led to the often repeated refrain on message boards and blogs, “who designed the designer?” That’s not exactly what he’s saying either. He’s establishing the idea that God has to meet the same requirements of probability that nature has to meet as an alternative to God. The point here, however, is the thing that enables him to make this argument is the badly misconstrued nature of theology in the evangelical camp that allows for an application of the same principle to God that we take to examining nature. He is treating God like a big man in the sky. God is subject to the laws of probability? Since when is God a “thing” in creation to be discussed in the same manner one discusses planetary formation? Since fundamentalists and evangelicals began thinking of God as a big man in the sky rather than the foundation of all that is. When we think of God as “creator” and “designer” rather than “ground of being” we put God in the category to be analyzed by the laws of probability. There is no logical reason why the ground of being could be analyzed as though it is just another thing in creation alongside flush toilets and swizzle sticks. God is not probable at all, but not because “the divine” is too complex, but because there’s no way to compare complexity when the word itself is made meaningless by trying to compare the basis of all reality to things in reality. This is like trying to apply up and down, north, south, east, and west in outer space. Which way is up when there’s no down? Which way is west when there’s no horizon? The creationists really put all of this in motion by thinking of God a “designer” rather than preserving the truth of God that the church fathers taught us, that God is beyond our understanding. In their haste to produce an argument that modern science could relate to and prove these apologists, such as William Paley (really Newton and Boyle before), tried to ground proof in empirical data and succeeded only in creating the impression, perhaps even against their own beliefs, that God can be thought of analogously to a big man in the sky. Dawkins is not going to work very hard at correcting the impression. When we do correct we can see that there is a way offered by the basic concepts of God as the ground of being to realize the reality of God in such a way that we don’t have to rely upon data or empirical scientific observations to know that God is real.

It's easy to dismiss this concept. We need only remind the reader that God is not a biological organism. Since God is off scale for anything we can study it's no good trying to compare God to things in nature in this fashion as though the God-likeness is limiting. I've seen atheists (HRG on CARM) argue in response that we argue for cosmological argument (sometimes) on the basis of empirical inductive argument; we say "we never see anything come to be without a cause." The atheist says "that's assuming we can reason from probability of the world based upon our observations of the world." So how can it be that we can reason from our limited understanding of the world to establish God but not to reject God?"

On the face of it this seems to be a good argument, but it's really not. It's really dealing with two very different things. To based an assumption about cause and effect upon it's 100% absolute nature, not one counter example is valid becuase we are not trying to draw an absolute fact from a limited sample but merely to justify and assumption; and it is justified since there are no counter examples. Yet we are comparing two things we know that we can compare, cause and effect, the things around us in the world. We are not comparing anything we know when we compare God to nature, we are comparing something beyond our understanding that we can experience, yet is not given directly in sense data and not understood. There is no basis for comparison. Its' not an apt comparison at all, everything we see around us needing a cause and God not being comparable to biological life; the whole modern science shoot'n match is a construct based upon empiricism in philosophy. Atheism is built upon the assumption of cause and effect and it's subsuming of the for God as an explanation. So the assumption about c/e being built into a naturalistic world view is absolutely the case form the word go.

Moreover, the argument assumes God would be complex. Beyond this assumption is nest of other assumptions such as the about complexity being necessary to produce a complex product. The atheists will say "we could not produce such a complex universe without something at least as complex." In saying that they just basically forget their own concept as atheists. The whole modern science alternative to God is based upon the idea of complexity from simplicity; evolution! That's just what happens with evolution. Life grows from a single cell to a complex human, plants grow from one set of subatomic particles that attack enough charges to become atoms, molecules, gas, develop gravitation, spit off stuff that becomes solid mass, planets form.

What meaning would there be in comparing something beyond our understanding, that is the basic foundation of all that is, to something we know about from our little world? We know about c/e form every single relationship on earth. We have an elaborate explanation worked out that our whole modern way of life is based upon, in fact even modern atheism is based upon it; naturalistic cause and effect.

As stated by Alfred North Whitehead, famous atheist who helped Bertrand Russell Write the Principia, and who invented process thought:

We are content with superficial orderings form diverse arbitrary starting points. ... sciene which is employed in their deveopment [modern thought] is based upon a philosophy which asserts that physical casation is supreme, and which disjoins the physical cause from the final end. It is not popular to dwell upon the absolute contradiction here involved.[V]

By the logic of those relationships the universe needs a cause. Yet there is no way to compare God to anything we know except analogically, and that let's out a argumentation relationship. In other words, you can't prove a relationship by making an analogy that's the fallacy of argument from analogy. We are not proving the universe's need for case and effect from analogy but from empirical observation. The atheist is making an analogy between God and biological life, which is based upon no observation of God but only a limited sample of biological life, then literizing the analogy.

[i] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion. New York: First Marionor books, Houton Mifflin Company, 2008 first published in Great Britain by Bantam, 2006. On line version Google Books URL:

[ii] Ibid. online page number 138 all quotations from this source are from the Google books online version.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

[IV]Science and The Modern World, Alfred North Whitehead.
NY: free Press, 1925, (1953) p.76


Kristen said...

Can't God be both the ground of being and a conscious, self-aware designer?

Metacrock said...

Sure I think so but that doesn't make him analogs to a biological man.

Miles said...

Didn't Whitehead become a process theist later on. I remember him devoting an entire section to God in Process and Reality.

Metacrock said...

Yes he invented process theology. I think philosophers tend to trace process thought to Hegel, but process theology was basically Whitehead's baby.