Tag Archives: Chrisitanity

The All-or-Nothing Criterion

GUWG-All-or-NothingOf all the objections I’ve heard to the Kalam Cosmologial Argument, one of the most interesting is, surprisingly, that given by Richard Dawkins.

Even if we allow the luxury of arbitrarily conjuring up a terminator to an infinite regress, and giving it a name, there is absolutely no reason to endow that terminator with any of the properties normally ascribed to God: omnipotence, omniscience, goodness, creativity of design, to say nothing of human attributes such as listening to prayers, forgiving sins, and reading innermost thoughts. (Dawkins, The God Delusion)

Usually, I don’t think it fruitful to interact with Dawkins, and I’ll limit my focus here. This is because he’s made, in many ways,  a poor objection. We’ve already seen why the idea of a cause of the universe isn’t at all arbitrary, and many of the attributes ascribed to God would be implied by such a cause. Still, I do think he makes a significant point: that quite a bit of what one thinks about, when one thinks about God, is not part of the conclusion of this argument.

William Lane Craig, in defending the argument, points out that the argument was never designed to do what Dawkins complains it does not do. He goes on to point out that this is more concession than rebuttal.

It would be a bizarre form of atheism, in fact an atheism not deserving the name, that believes that there in an uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, unimaginably powerful, personal creator of the universe who may–for all we know–have all of the properties listed by Dawkins. (Craig)

I find that I agree with Craig that we’ve clearly left the materialistic atheist view promoted by Dawkins, and that Dawkins’ objection is no defense of that view. But these men agree that we haven’t shown the God of any particular religion to be the correct one.

We need to seek a balance here. First, it is true that the Christian cannot simply leap from this to the conclusion to her religion without additional arguments. But, second, this is no reason to dismiss the argument in the way that Dawkins does.

I’ve seen this pattern in many, and it seems to be a strange variation on the Plurium interrogationum fallacy (demanding a simple answer to a difficult question). At least, Dawkins seems to be reasoning that, if an argument can’t conclude to all the attributes of God, but only some, that’s a good reason to stop thinking about the subject.

Rather, unless something can be shown to be wrong with the argument, we’ve moved to a general affirmation of theism. The question has, therefore, changed from “Does God exist?” to “Which God exists?”.

It is also worth mention that, while this doesn’t show a particular religion to be true, it does point to a rather narrow range of concepts. Those who worry that there will be thousands of religions to sift through can rest at ease. The percentage of gods proposed in human history who fit the conclusion of this argument is razor thin.

So, though he fails to defend his atheism, Dawkins has correctly pointed out that we have further to go before arriving at Christianity. But, rather than use that as an excuse to halt inquiry, I think this is a reason to ask ourselves what further conclusions might be reached.