The next book that I have chosen to read is one from the atheists’s point of view. Richard Dawkins, the author of The God Delusion is primarily a ethologist, and evolutionary biologist, but also served as the Professor for Public Understanding of Science. In this position, his job was to take the complex findings of today’s particle physics, genetic tests, and chemical innovations and simplify the results into something that the average citizen can digest. With this in mind, I have no doubt that Dawkins is one of the most intelligent people of our age; however, I regret to say that his book in most cases does not reflect that. For the majority of the book Dawkins’ arguments rely mostly on examples of when a certain circumstance transpired. That is to say for instance, when on the discussion of prayer (to disprove a personal God) he cites an example of a medical study with heart disease patients in which they scientifically tested whether or not praying (without the prayee’s knowledge) affected the outcome of the procedure. While this certainly seems like a good bit of evidence it isn’t something that I would have expected from such a respected scientist. Certainly scientists are trained and meant to see correlations and draw conclusions from what they find, however they are certainly not trained to draw a definite conclusion from a limited scope of evidence, especially that based on feeling and fractured evidence. This offers a stark contrast to On Guard by William Lane Craig which lays out the premises of a proof at the beginning of the chapter and then subsequently elaborates on the points. Personally, as a scientifically oriented mind, I find the latter proofs to be more compelling, while the former simply raises questions about the arguments (and a few very good ones at that, which I find myself struggling to answer). In a debate between two sides it is said that in order to be persuasive, one must not only tear down the other side’s argument but also erect an argument of their own that the first side cannot debate against. While Dawkins raises questions in his book and offers examples of his own, he actually debates relatively few of the most common moderate proofs (as in not extreme and preposterous proofs) and offers no way to tear down their premises and therefore their arguments. when creating his own argument, he just repeats this process, offering evidence contrary to what the atheists believe but erecting no new evidence of his own.
C. S. Lewis is often an author that the public associates with the Chronicles of Narnia and their respective movies. Although upon further inspection, analysis of his writing reveals Christian themes, most don’t associate Lewis and his works with Christianity. The truth of the matter is that C. S. Lewis, a logical and reasonable man, was converted to Christianity by his friends and fellow writers. In Suprised by Joy he says, “When we [Warnie and Jack] set out [by motorcycle to the Whipsnade Zoo] I did not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did.” This gave him an interesting perspective into both sides of the Apologetics argument, and from this perspective he wrote a book, Mere Christianity. As the second of the books I’ve chosen to read, I hope to get the version of Apologetics in which many of today’s scientific arguments about the creation of the universe. From what I’ve read Lewis delivers exactly this. In his first argument, he attempts to prove the existence of God through the stance of moral absolutes. He basically says that there is something called The Law of Human Nature which all people have. This law states that everyone knows there is a moral right and a moral wrong. It doesn’t mean that everyone will necessarily follow this moral standard, rather that there is an absolute right and wrong. Apologists claim that because there is indeed a moral absolute there must be something against which you have to measure that absolute… in other words, a God who is perfect. While this might deal with some of the older theories to prove the existence of God, by nature it fails to discuss the first of my questions about Apologetics. The first of these questions ask who are the prominent apologists, atheists, and agnostics. crossexamined.org gives a comprehensive list of the top 20 apologists in the world. Among them are William Lane Craig and C. S. Lewis. Another website, thebestschools.org, lists the top 50 atheists and lists Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Stephen Hawking. First before listing some of the agnostics, its important to define the term agnostic. An agnostic is a person who believes there is no way to ascertain whether or not there is indeed a deity or creator. Often they provide a middle ground between the two sides of atheism and religion. The Wikipedia page on Agnostic philosophers include Confucious and Democritus; however, finding a comprehensive list of agnostics is much more difficult because often they dismiss the argument of religion and often don’t speak much on the subject, choosing to speak on other issues instead.
I am studying apologetics and the Christian view of the creation of the universe to learn about the misconceptions that people have about the common apologist’s position. I want to use this information to be a more effective apologist and have a deeper understanding of everyone’s views of the universe. The first book that I have read on this subject is On Guard by William Lane Craig. It approaches the issue of whether or not Christianity is logical from the affirmative view. The book is split into three major sections that cover the following questions: what is apologetics and why does it matter if there is a God at all? did a personal creator actually create the universe? and why is Christianity the path to this creator? The first of these questions is the easiest to answer. Craig first defines apologetics and goes over some of the basic rules of logic. All of his overarching statements throughout the book are composed in a simple if-then format where if you agree that the universe complies with all of the “if” statements the following “then” statement must be true. He also argues in this first section that without a God there is “no objective meaning, value, or purpose” to life as we know it (51). We will make no impact on the universe, have no purpose for morals, or have any sort of goals here other than to survive. He uses the analogy of a stranded astronaut on a desolate planet with only his space suit, a vial of poison, and the ability to live forever (excluding effects the poison). He states that this is like the position of an atheist. In the second and only slightly more peppy section he goes over a series of ways to logically defend the existence of God including his favorite and most simple argument, the Kalam Cosmological argument which works off of only the first three premises in the visual (4,5, and 6 are optional). He also includes arguments such as Leibniz’s cosmological argument, the design argument, the moral argument, and the problem of suffering. In the third and final section he discusses the legitimacy of Christianity as the religion to the creator of the universe. He discusses who exactly Jesus was historically as a person, whether or not his resurrection is historically accurate and therefore true, and finally objects to some of the common religious pluralists objections. Please, if you have any questions or objections, comment them so that I might be able to go further in depth and explain how On Guard grapples with them.
The following are some of the questions that I had, and some that I still have about the subject of apologetics:
- Who are the prominent apologists?
- Who are the prominent atheists?
- Who are the prominent agnostics?
- Do agnostics provide a central ground?
- What are the leading theories for the existence of God?
- What are the leading theories against the existence of God?
- What are the shortcomings of each theory?
- How does each theory utilize logic?
- How does each theory utilize the facts of science?
- Are there any new models that fit the creation of the universe better?
- How has our understanding of science changed apologetics?
- How do we justify a personal God?
- How do others refute apologist’s logic?
- What are the rules of logic?
- What are the common scientific misconceptions?
- How do these affect apologists?
- How do these affect atheists?
- How does science support the existence of God?
- Is God merely an excuse for not understanding all of the universe?
- How do the statistics of life support or refute apologetics?
First thing that comes to mind is usually the word apologize right? Although the words today have almost nothing to do with each other, they do indeed share the same roots. The pair both come from the late latin and earlier greek word apologia, meaning, “speaking in defense” or “an explanation or justification of ones motives, conviction, or acts.” Today, apologetics is defined as “the branch or theology concerned with the defense or proof of Christianity.” Believe it or not, this epic battle of wits, logic, and reason is one to which people devote their entire lives. It is also the topic of debate for many mental giants, as is seen in the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. This is one of the topics that has evaded man throughout the ages, and might be one of those essential questions which will never be truly answered. My purpose is not to attempt to change your mind about choosing a faith. Rather my purpose is to change your mind about the many misconceptions that have arisen in society due to today’s education about science and the logic behind the existence of a being beyond the time and space that we know. As the late, great C. S. Lewis wrote in his book, Mere Christianity, this debate “…is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted” (20).