A Critical Evaluation of Dawkins’ Question: “Who made God?”

A Critical Evaluation of Dawkins’ Question: “Who made God?”


One of the 'Four Horsemen of New Atheism', Richard Dawkins, argues that an explanation must be simpler than what it explains (1). But when we explain the organised complexity of the universe as a handiwork of God, our explanation (God) happens to be far more complex than what it seeks to explain (the universe). Thus, rather than being an explanation God Himself needs an explanation. The idea of God has no explanatory power until and unless it is explained how He came into existence through some simple mechanism or act of creation by another creator. But, then, the creation-creator hierarchy may go on ad infinitum. Therefore, the way forward is to seek a simpler, natural explanation for the universe, without invoking any supernatural ideas. He summarises his argument as follows:

"The whole argument turns on the familiar question 'Who made God?', which most thinking people discover for themselves. A designer God cannot be used to explain organized complexity because any God capable of designing anything would have to be complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation in his own right." (2, p. 109)

Contrary to Dawkins' assumption, however, an explanation needs not be simpler than what it explains. Consider an archaeologist discovering some simple but information-carrying marks on a cave's wall. Would she not immediately explain them as a work of a human brain? Although a human being is far more complex than any semantic marks and we do not know how life came into existence[1], there is nothing wrong with this inference to the best explanation[2](1). One of the colleagues of Dawkins at Oxford, John Lennox, has something interesting to say in this regard:

"Postulating the existence of a being that is even more complex than the thing you are attempting to explain is something scientists constantly do. I read a 400-page book entitled The God Delusion: is the fact that as an explanation I postulate a being called Richard Dawkins who is immeasurably more complex than the book itself really to be thought of as a non-explanation?" (3, p. 180)

As for the universe, the question of its external creator arises simply because we can readily observe that it is made, but the maker cannot be found anywhere within it. This observation is further corroborated by empirical evidence. Advancements in science and technology has made it ever so clear that the awe-inspiring dispositions (powers) of matter and energy are not self-explanatory. The unfolding of these powers has shaped a universe demonstrating thorough planning, diligence, deep wisdom, meaning, beneficence[3], creativity, harmony, mathematical order, control, self-sustainment, and so on. All this is impossible without knowledge, intellect, wisdom, will, and volition, but matter and energy are void of these. That is why there ought to be an external mind behind the universe – the mind of an all-wise and all-powerful creator (4)(5). As a concrete example, consider DNA. The information-content of DNA is a feature not simply analogous but identical to language. Since the only source of any language is intelligence, we are compelled to infer a mind behind it.[4] [See (3, pp. 135-192)]

The fact that the universe is or, at least, "appears to be" designed and requires explanation is so obvious that Dawkins wholeheartedly acknowledges it (6, pp. 3-11). He even goes on to say that one may make a "reasonably respectable case" for a deistic God. Although he does not endorse that hypothesis, we may have, in his opinion, a "serious discussion" regarding such a creator who "devised the laws of physics" necessary to make the universe possible, but has been indifferent to it ever since. The theistic God, however, does not make sense to him. That is because man is so petty and worthless compared to the size and age of the universe that it is highly unlikely that such a God, if any, would listen to his prayers, interfere in his world, care about his morality, and so on (7). This argument is a typical example of pessimism and undue scepticism ingrained in the atheistic mindset. Man is not a piece of rock to be compared with the size and age of the material universe; he is an intellectual being, entrusted with a will, an aesthetic and a moral sense. Seen thus, he is the most special entity in the known universe and a masterpiece of creation. Therefore, contrary to Dawkins' opinion, what should come as a surprise is any creator's indifference to his masterpiece, not care.

Dawkins assumes that it is the organised complexity of the universe that urges believers to look for a creator. God, he argues, must also be complex; that is why the question of His creator should also arise. It is, however, not the complexity but the inability of the universe to explain itself that raises the question of its external creator. Thus, the real question is this: is the universe self-explanatory or does it point to a mind behind it (4)? Whether that mind itself is created or not is a secondary question and ought to be dealt with later. A chair from its very being necessitates a carpenter, whether or not the carpenter himself is created. If upon meeting God, He happens to be created, not self-explanatory, then we will look for His creator too, but how can we evade an immediate question because of the one that has not even arisen yet?

Finally, the question "Who made God?" presumes that God must be within a universe similar to ours in which things have prior causes and which is governed by some law similar to the second law of thermodynamics – giving rise to the notion of time (7, pp. 24-26). However, without any such knowledge about God, this assumption is mere anthropomorphism. We know our universe, that is why we can pose the question if it is self-explanatory or created. The theistic God, however, is unlike anything in our universe and is beyond our comprehension. Until we get to know Him the same way as we know our universe, questions like these are merely anthropomorphic and irrelevant: Work requires energy in our universe; how does God acquire energy for carrying out daily activities? Everything we know has a size; how big or small is God? All effects have a cause in our universe; who or what, then, caused God?

References:

1. John C. Lennox and Richard Dawkins. "The God Delusion" Debate. University of Alabama at Birmingham, the USA: Fixed Point Foundation; 2007.

2. Dawkins R. The God Delusion. Boston: Bantam Books; 2008.

3. Lennox J. God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? 2nd ed. Oxford: Lion Books; 2009.

4. Ghamidi JA. Ghamidi: Wujud-i-Bārī kae Dalāil (Episodes: 4) [Internet]. Pakistan: Geo Television Network; 2006. Available from: http://www.javedahmadghamidi.com/videos/view/ghamidi_wajood_e_bari_kaay_dalail_01

5. Ghamidi JA. 'Ilm-o-Hikmat: Ghamidi kae Sāth: Arguments for God (Episodes: 3) [Internet]. Pakistan: Dunya News; 2016. Available from: http://www.javedahmadghamidi.com/videos/view/the-intellectual-arguments-for-existence-of-god-ilm-o-hikmat-dunya-news-02

6. Dawkins R. The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design. In New York: W. W. Norton & Company; 2015. p. 9.

7. John C. Lennox and Richard Dawkins. "Has Science Buried God?" Debate. Oxford Museum of Natural History, the UK: Fixed Point Foundation; 2008.

8. Andrews E. Who Made God? Darlington: Evangelical Press; 2012.

Notes:

[1] Just to get facts right, evolution by natural selection attempts to explain how life diversified and evolved into higher animals, but the question of how life originated is beyond its scope (3, pp. 100-134).

[2] An inference to the most likely or best explanation of some observation(s) is formally known as 'abductive inference' or, simply, 'abduction' and is ubiquitous in all fields of study, including science.

[3] However, we also find bloodshed, disease, genetic disorders, pain, distress, natural disasters and other such apparent evils in the world. The revealed religion elucidates that such things seem evil because of man's limited knowledge and perspective (See, for example, the Qur'ān 18:60-82 and 2:216). God is all-good, and everything He does or allows to happen has a good purpose and meaning attached to it. Consider a mother forcibly waking her little girl every day before sunrise and pushing her out of the house in the bitter cold. It may seem evil to the little girl; however, when she would realise the importance of school with age, she would eventually acknowledge it as an act of care, wisdom, and dutifulness. Similarly, although we cannot yet make sense of everything that happens, we must not lose our trust and faith in God. He deserves to be thought positively about because of His countless blessings upon us, myriad good things He has created, and all the good purposes He has revealed (or we have discovered) behind the ups and downs of this world.

[4] We do not propose a 'god of the gaps' here, i.e., a god postulated because we cannot explain how DNA or RNA originated, and who would perish as soon as our scientific research will fill this knowledge gap (7). Firstly, the explanation or, rather, description of mechanisms through which DNA came about is one thing and the explanation of the whole show of life is quite another, i.e., the ability of matter to transform into chemical elements, DNA, ribosomes, proteins, a functional cell, and then evolve into higher animals with brains capable of appreciating this whole show. This complete story of life – with information (genetic code) lying at the heart of it as an obvious indicator – requires a metaphysical explanation, irrespective of any scientific descriptions. Secondly, this inference is based not on ignorance (gap), but on knowledge of DNA gained through scientific research. [For details, see (3, pp. 31-46 & 174-192) and (7, pp. 28-38).]