For those of you Spiritual Warriors who may be a little timid about taking on a big, bad, evolutionist I’m going to push you a bit here. Yes, he’s big, bestselling author and media darling Richard Dawkins.Yes, he’s bad, a scientist and avowed evolutionist. But, he’s also vulnerable, susceptible to sharp questioning even by those of us who aren’t scientists or specialists in this field of sharing Krishna Consciousness.
In a September 12, 2009 essay published in the Wall Street Journal (Man v. God – WSJ.com) in his response to the question, “Where does evolution leave God?” Dawkins leaves himself open for attack.
After a brief description of the physics of evolution Dawkins concludes, “Never once are the laws of physics violated, yet life emerges into uncharted territory. And how is the trick done? The answer is a process that, although variable in its wondrous detail, is sufficiently uniform to deserve one single name: Darwinian evolution, the nonrandom survival of randomly varying coded information. We know, as certainly as we know anything in science, that this is the process that has generated life on our own planet.”
Before completely turning his attention to the question posed by the Wall Street Journal about God Dawkins sets up his argument by saying, “Making the universe is the one thing no intelligence, however superhuman, could do, because an intelligence is complex—statistically improbable —and therefore had to emerge, by gradual degrees, from simpler beginnings: from a lifeless universe—the miracle-free zone that is physics. To midwife such emergence is the singular achievement of Darwinian evolution. It starts with primeval simplicity and fosters, by slow, explicable degrees, the emergence of complexity: seemingly limitless complexity—certainly up to our human level of complexity and very probably way beyond. ”
Finally, he takes his swipe at God, “Where does that leave God? The kindest thing to say is that it leaves him with nothing to do, and no achievements that might attract our praise, our worship or our fear. Evolution is God’s redundancy notice, his pink slip.” Dawkins’ theory is that because evolution encompasses everything and every being, and because in evolution you start with the simple and move to the complex, God could not be a “divine designer” superior to the intelligence men of today because due to natural selection man’s evolution has already evolved beyond what a God who existed in the beginning would even be able to explain. Thus Dawkins say of God, “He was never alive in the first place.”
So, Spiritual Warriors, let’s take a look at his arguments. Where are the omissions, assumptions, and fallacies?
First, question the limits of the scientific method.
Science by definition is an empirical or observable discipline. Even in this short essay Dawkins examines the observable laws of physics to begin his argument. So, Spiritual Warriors, our first question would be, “Are there phenomena in nature beyond what we can observe?” It seems the answer would have to be yes. Scientists are constantly discovering things previously unobserved by us. Thus, at best, it is premature to conclude that nothing is being done before or unless we can observe it. Therefore, it would seem prudence to speak with conjecture rather than certainty about the “process that has generated life on our own planet.” Granted Dawkins does use the conditional language, “as certainly as we know anything in science,” but he doesn’t show a similar restraint in the conclusion of his reasoning when he says, “God is not dead. He was never alive in the first place.” How does such certainty follow from the empirical processes of science or the continued process of evolution both of which by definition are ongoing processes? Any serious scientist will acknowledge there is no possible way to make conclusive metaphysical statements based on naturalistic evidence.
Second, question the premise of the science of evolution, i.e. observable orderly change, movement from chaos to complexity.
Dawkins says evolution starts “with primeval simplicity” or from “a lifeless universe—the miracle-free zone that is physics.” Our question here would be, “If evolution is a constant force in nature which assumes that something more developed evolved from something less developed, why arbitrarily dub the laws of physics as the starting point? The laws of physics already are orderly. What less orderly source did such laws evolve from? Dawkins’ omission, he offers no explanation of where the original something, the “primeval simplicity,” comes from. And, apparently scientist have not yet been able to observe where that “primeval simplicity” comes from, therefore are we speaking of science at all? Without specifying where the process starts how can we say with certainty that it does not come from something God did or is doing?
Third, question Dawkins’ self-serving conception of God.
Here, Spiritual Warriors is where you should pick up the pace of your questioning as Dawkins leaves the veil of science and ventures out on his own agenda.
In relation to the question, where does evolution leave God, Dawkins makes the assumption that for there to be a God, He must be doing something in relation to the creation and maintenance of this observable universe, that He may be defined solely and wholly within terms of our observation of His relationship with this observable universe, that He has nothing better to do with His time, and therefore because He is not doing anything within the power of science to observe in relation to creation and maintenance of the universe, “God is not dead. He was never alive in the first place.”
Our questioning would be, “How sir is your argument logical? If one observes phenomena within this universe, specifically eliminating God from involvement in the scheme of things, then makes some assumptions about the nature of how things are taking place, how does one then jump to the conclusion that God has nothing to do? If God is not part of your equation, then wouldn’t it be logical to assume that He is not within the realm of your calculations? And, if He is not within the realm of your calculations, you may have opinions about Him, but why are you offering opinions about what He is or isn’t doing as if you are an expert?”
As it turns out, Dawkins opinions about God are more than just his opinions. Dawkins is disingenuous. His opinions, given while hiding under the cloak of science, they are meant to establish a self-serving “Straw God,” a God that facilitates Dawkins own ideas about evolution, not a God as He is. It’s easy to say “I don’t see you doing what I think you should be doing and therefore you have nothing to do, thus I conclude you are not alive,” but this is fallacious reasoning. Call it a “Straw God” argument.
According to target=”_blank”>Jim Norton, “In a straw man fallacy the opponent’s argument is distorted, misrepresented or simply made up. This makes the argument easier to defeat, and can also be used to make opponents look like ignorant extremists.”
Now Spiritual Warriors is the time to assert positive knowledge about God. The playing field has been leveled, Dawkins himself has leveled it and now you have the advantage based on the extensive knowledge about God in the Vedic literature.
What is the nature of God? God is transcendental to this universe. The Vedas say, Narayanah parah avyaktat. Srila Prabhupada explains, “The cosmic manifestation, this is called vyakta, and when it is not manifested, it is called avyakta. Just like a house is manifestation of the five elements: earth, water, air, fire. So earth, water is there already, but that is not manifested as the house. But the same combination, it becomes a house, big skyscraper building. This is difference between vyakta and avyakta. Avyakta means the whole material energy, when it is not manifested, that is called avyakta; and when it is manifested it is called vyakta. Narayana paro ‘vyaktat. That means Narayana is not of this material world. God is nothing of this material world. He’s transcendental. Para, narayana paro ‘vyaktat. Para means superior, transcendental.”
What is God doing? Srila Prabhupada relates a story about how one man used reason, as opposed to prejudice (i.e. fallacies intended to discredit), to understand God and what he is doing, “Then what is Krishna doing? He is simply enjoying. Once a European gentleman went to Calcutta in search of a temple of God. He saw many temples of Kali and some of Shiva, but only when he came to the temple of Radha-Krishna did he say, “Here is God.” Why? He remarked, “I saw that in the other temples Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva are working, but here God is simply enjoying.” This is confirmed in the Vedanta-sutra, with the statement anandamayo ‘bhyasat (Vedanta-sutra 1.1.12)—”The Lord is by nature full of transcendental happiness”—and also in the Brahma-samhita (5.1), which states that Krishna is sat-cid-ananda-vigraha, possessed of an eternal form of knowledge and bliss.”
God is the independent, original creator of this universe. Yet, He is neither inexorably linked to His creation, nor part of the evolutionary process. Thus, He cannot be wholly understood or judge in terms of His creation. As noted by the European gentleman who visited the various temples in Calcutta, God delegates responsibility for the creation, maintenance, and destruction of this universe to his trusted agents who act under His laws, which include the laws of physics and other observable natural phenomena. All the while He remains aloof. He has He own existence where He engages in His own pleasure pastimes with His devotees.
Take heart Spiritual Warriors, although Dawkins will never accept these facts others who can see through the shame presented by Dawkins will accept the factual nature of God. That’s our victory. They may be big and bad, but these evolutionists can be taken down.
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies