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How to Be an Intellectually Fulfilled Atheist (Or Not)

It’s out! To order go here.

Darwin Bites the Dust

Book Description:

Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, writes Richard Dawkins, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. This little book shows that atheism must seek intellectual fulfillment elsewhere decisively demonstrating the need for intelligence in explaining life’s origin. This is the best overview of why traditional origin-of-life research has crashed and burned and why intelligent design is necessary to explain the high-tech engineering inside the cell.

Author William A. Dembski worked closely as an advisor with the producers of the Spring 2008 documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed starring Ben Stein. How to Be an Intellectually Fulfilled Atheist (Or Not) is the intellectual argument that helped inform significant elements of the movie. This controversial feature-length documentary film about researchers, professors, and academics who claim to have been marginalized, silenced, or threatened with academic expulsion because of their challenges to some or all parts of Darwin’s theory of evolution is one of the top twelve highest grossing documentary’s of all time. It has attracted both praise and controversy in its challenge against Darwinism.

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9 Responses to How to Be an Intellectually Fulfilled Atheist (Or Not)

  1. 1

    Congratulations, Bill. I just ordered the book, look forward to reading it.

  2. Dr. Dembski,

    I hope you have seen the article in the Spectator where Richard Dawkins once again concedes ID’s scientific potential. Some of my atheist friends and colleagues are now interested in the ID arguments. It seems that all we need is patience and persistence for the truth to reveal itself even to the most ardent materialists.

    Here it is:

    On Tuesday evening I attended the debate between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox at Oxford’s Natural History Museum. This was the second public encounter between the two men, but it turned out to be very different from the first. Lennox is the Oxford mathematics professor whose book, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? is to my mind an excoriating demolition of Dawkins’s overreach from biology into religion as expressed in his book The God Delusion — all the more devastating because Lennox attacks him on the basis of science itself. In the first debate, which can be seen on video on this website, Dawkins was badly caught off-balance by Lennox’s argument precisely because, possibly for the first time, he was being challenged on his own chosen scientific ground.

    This week’s debate, however, was different because from the off Dawkins moved it onto safer territory– and at the very beginning made a most startling admission. He said:

    A serious case could be made for a deistic God.

    This was surely remarkable. Here was the arch-apostle of atheism, whose whole case is based on the assertion that believing in a creator of the universe is no different from believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden, saying that a serious case can be made for the idea that the universe was brought into being by some kind of purposeful force. A creator. True, he was not saying he was now a deist; on the contrary, he still didn’t believe in such a purposeful founding intelligence, and he was certainly still saying that belief in the personal God of the Bible was just like believing in fairies. Nevertheless, to acknowledge that ‘a serious case could be made for a deistic god’ is to undermine his previous categorical assertion that

    …all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all ‘design’ anywhere in the universe is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection…Design cannot precede evolution and therefore cannot underlie the universe.

    In Oxford on Tuesday night, however, virtually the first thing he said was that a serious case could be made for believing that it could.

    Anthony Flew, the celebrated philosopher and former high priest of atheism, spectacularly changed his mind and concluded — as set out in his book There Is A God — that life had indeed been created by a governing and purposeful intelligence, a change of mind that occurred because he followed where the scientific evidence led him. The conversion of Flew, whose book contains a cutting critique of Dawkins’s thinking, has been dismissed with unbridled scorn by Dawkins – who now says there is a serious case for the position that Flew now adopts!

    Unfortunately, so stunning was this declaration it was not pursued on Tuesday evening. Instead, Dawkins was able to move the debate onto a specific attack on Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus, which is a very different argument and obscured the central point of contention – the claim that science had buried God. The fact that Dawkins now appears to be so reluctant publicly to defend his own position on his own territory of scientific rationalism – and indeed, even to have shifted his ground – is a tribute above all to the man he was debating once again on Tuesday evening.

    Afterwards, I asked Dawkins whether he had indeed changed his position and become more open to ideas which lay outside the scientific paradigm. He vehemently denied this and expressed horror that he might have given this impression. But he also said other things which suggested to me that some of his own views simply don’t meet the criteria of empirical evidence that he insists must govern all our thinking.

    For example, I put to him that, since he is prepared to believe that the origin of all matter was an entirely spontaneous event, he therefore believes that something can be created out of nothing — and that since such a belief runs counter to the very scientific principles of verifiable evidence which he tells us should govern all our thinking, this is itself precisely the kind of irrationality, or ‘magic’, which he scorns. In reply he said that, although he agreed this was a problematic position, he did indeed believe that the first particle arose spontaneously from nothing, because the alternative explanation – God — was more incredible. Later, he amplified this by saying that physics was coming up with theories to show how matter could spontaneously be created from nothing. But as far as I can see – and as Anthony Flew elaborates – these theories cannot answer the crucial question of how the purpose-carrying codes which gave rise to self–reproduction in life-forms arose out of matter from which any sense of purpose was totally absent. So such a belief, whether adduced by physicists or anyone else, does not rest upon rational foundations.

    Even more jaw-droppingly, Dawkins told me that, rather than believing in God, he was more receptive to the theory that life on earth had indeed been created by a governing intelligence – but one which had resided on another planet. Leave aside the question of where that extra-terrestrial intelligence had itself come from, is it not remarkable that the arch-apostle of reason finds the concept of God more unlikely as an explanation of the universe than the existence and plenipotentiary power of extra-terrestrial little green men?

    The other thing that jumped out at me from this debate was that, although Dawkins insisted over and over again that all he was concerned with was whether or not something was true, he himself seems to be pretty careless with historical evidence. Anthony Flew, for example, points out in his own book that Dawkins’s claim in The God Delusion that Einstein was an atheist is manifestly false, since Einstein had specifically denied that he was either a pantheist or an atheist. In the debate, under pressure from Lennox Dawkins was actually forced to retract his previous claim that Jesus had probably ‘never existed’. And in a revealing aside, when Lennox remarked that the Natural History Museum in which they were debating – in front of dinosaur skeletons — had been founded for the glory of God, Dawkins scoffed that of course this was absolutely untrue.

    But it was true. Construction of the museum was instigated between 1855 and 1860 by the Regius Professor of Medicine, Sir Henry Acland. According to Keith Thomson of the Sigma XI Scientific Research Society, the funds for the project came from the surplus in the University Press’s Bible account as this was deemed only appropriate for a building dedicated to science as a glorification of God’s works. Giving his reasons for building the museum, Acland himself said that it would provide the opportunity to obtain the

    knowledge of the great material design of which the Supreme Master-Worker has made us a constituent part…The student of life, bearing in mind the more general laws which in the several departments above named he will have sought to appreciate, will find in the collections of Zoology, combined with the Geological specimens and the dissections of the Anatomist, a boundless field of interest and of inquiry, to which almost every other science lends its aid : from each Science he borrows a special light to guide him through the ranges of extinct and existing animal forms, from the lowest up to the highest type, which; last and most perfect, but pre-shadowed in previous ages, is seen in Man. By the aid of physiological illustrations he begins to understand how hard to unravel are the complex mechanisms and prescient intentions of the Maker of all; and he slowly learns to appreciate what exquisite care is needed for discovering the real action of even an apparently comprehended machine.

    Truth is indeed the crux of the matter – but Dawkins seems to understand the word rather differently from the rest of us.The great question, however, is whether his own theory is now in the process of further evolution — and whether it might even jump the species barrier into what is vulgarly known by lesser mortals as faith.

    by Melanie Phillips

  3. Even more jaw-droppingly, Dawkins told me that, rather than believing in God, he was more receptive to the theory that life on earth had indeed been created by a governing intelligence – but one which had resided on another planet.

    Maybe there’s a basis for some common-ground discussion here. But if he pursues this, Dawkins will find that most believers in Panspermia (I am one of sorts) reject the standard Darwinian paradigm.

    http://www.panspermia.org/index.htm

  4. It’s anecdotal, but since Dawkins’ debate with Lennox I’ve seen a few declared atheists (usually the same handful that manage to show up in the comments section of blog upon blog) conceding their own at-times inclination towards deism, along with a renewed insistence that deism is markedly different from any other faith.

    I’ve long thought that the concept of deism is both the first intellectual step for many towards faith, and a pivotal weakness for the New Atheists. Hopefully we’ll see more focus on this as time goes by.

  5. I’ve seen a few declared atheists conceding their own at-times inclination towards deism

    I guess the inclination starts with “where did matter come from?”

    It defies logic and reason to suppose mindless matter, unguided, assembled itself into a thinking brain while at the same time establishing connections to ears so as to hear and eyes so as to see.

    A person would have to tell oneself a huge whopper of a tale deluged with rationalizations to maintain such defiance against the obvious.

  6. It all makes sense now! Bye, bye atheists.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27425462/

    ————
    “When you hear groups starting to get into that type of rhetoric it may be because they’re starting to realize they’re in a losing position and that they need to do something to try to drum up respect, to drum up the kind of status that they feel they’re lacking,” Pickett said.

    Next, the researchers hope to figure out whether or not the boasting and false pride works to make others perceive the group as having higher power and status.
    ————

  7. I can’t say I’m completely surprised with this. I’ve always thought that the evidence easily makes a convincing case for deism. The idea of a personal, loving, theistic God, however, is not as tenable.

  8. The answer for theism is in the wonder if their is a God. Much like Descartes, why would we ever consider the possibility of the divine if there was no such for to be reckoned with. Logically, we can only come with two responses: 1. The feeling for a divine creator is something this is a figment of our imagination, OR 2. It is there because there is something divine out there that placed that idea in our minds. Each thought takes a kind of faith that lends itself to scrutiny. Let us look at the arguments a priori, rather that filled with hubris or hidden agenda. Perhaps academia as well as the church will be surprised at what they find.

  9. It seems that the—science leads to atheism—sect of atheism argues from what I call the expectation of future human omniscience.

    They claim that we cannot come to supernatural conclusions until we learn everything that there is not know and everything about everything, how it all interacts in every possible scenario.
    Short of this, they can always say, “Someday we will find a natural cause, an as of yet unknown natural law,” etc.

    It seems that what Prof. Dawkins means by being intellectually satisfied is that he can concoct tales about how things may have occurred, or could have occurred (or should have occurred?) by materialistic means. As long as he can tell a story that is premised upon his worldview, he is satisfied.

    When he was asked to provide his “most persuasive version” of Darwinian theory and he was commenting on “a series of advantages” for evolutionary change he referred to “my faith in natural selection.” But what if you cannot think of an advantage? He states, “If you can’t think of one then that’s your problem, not natural selection’s problem.”

    Thus, whether there is evidence or not or an imagined reason or not is irrelevant. Ultimately, Prof. Dawkins has spent his professional life-time seeking to justify his boyhood rejection of God. When he was 16 he was “taught about Darwin” and accepted that it was “big enough to do the job” of explaining life and getting rid of God and “it was only later that I decided yes – it is big enough.”

    This is from The Atheism Tapes, Part 4: Richard Dawkins and Jonathan Miller or my comments on it and gap filling issues.

    aDios,
    Mariano

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