The God Conclusion v. The God Delusion: Keith Ward Tries to Tackle Richard Dawkins

Philosopher Keith Ward has probably written the best book attempting to counter the antitheist claims in Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion  (Houghton Mifflin 2008). Ward’s book is titled Why There Almost Certainly is a God: Doubting Dawkins  (Lion 2008), and on page 11 of his book I like the concision with which Ward addresses the need for critical thinking in all areas of belief:

[I]t is important to be critical of all our beliefs—to ask what we mean by them and what reasons there are for accepting them.

What attracts me to this sentence is how Ward foregrounds definition. Definition, after all, is central to any rational discussion, for it is in definition that Aristotle’s three (justly famous) “laws of logic” adhere:

  • the law of identity (yes is yes)
  • the law of noncontradiction (yes is not no  at the same time)
  • the law of the excluded middle (yes is not kind-of-yes or half-yes or half-no; yes is yes )

If you’re pregnant, you’re pregnant.

And so, once we arrive at some sort of agreed upon definition of a matter, such as what we mean when we speak of God, then we’re off to the races with respect to arriving at good reasons to affirm or deny it. And this is exactly what Ward does in his book. He starts with a definition that both he and Dawkins can agree upon (p. 11):

Dawkins begins by stating the God hypothesis: ‘there exists a superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us’. This is one of the few statements he makes about God that I entirely agree with.

Ward then offers Dawkins’s alternative hypothesis (p. 12):

Dawkins advocates an alternative: ‘any creative intelligence of sufficient complexity to design anything, comes into existence only as the end product of an extended process of gradual evolution’.

Ward then observes of Dawkins’s definitions of the God and no-God hypotheses the following:

He has put his finger at once on the central point at issue. Is intelligent mind an ultimate and irreducible feature of reality? Indeed, is it the ultimate nature of reality? Or is mind and consciousness an unforseen and unintended product of basically material processes of evolution?

And from there Ward proceeds: is it reasonable to think that a materially transcendent mind precedes (or is at least coterminous with) matter? If you have the time, you might want to check out his book to see the arguments that he makes.

Here’s Keith Ward in a YouTube clip:

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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3 Responses to The God Conclusion v. The God Delusion: Keith Ward Tries to Tackle Richard Dawkins

  1. Eric Reitan has also written a book on this topic – which I have not read. Here’s his blog

  2. Z. says:

    Dawkins pretends the materialistic evolution (that is in accordance to the materialistic philosophy) to be true. He presumes that intelligence is developing along with the evolution of material bodies of living creatures. He uses these premises to make a conclusion. But these premises lack on sufficient evidences to be set as categorical. His hypothesis is completely influenced by the materialistic paradigma (somebody could even say: dogma).
    “Science” based on the materialistic philosophy can not give answers on the elementar questions like:
    What is life, what is life force (vis vitalis)?
    What is the difference between live and dead natural organisms (plants, animals, humans)?
    What is conscience, what is selfconscience?
    What is soul? Can psychical processes (thought, feeling, will) be the consequence of the chemical processes only? If yes, can you give evidence?
    Does exist spirit, spiritual world, (Plato`s) world of ideas? If not, can you give evidence?

  3. Vincent says:

    Let’s get to the real often asked question….”Why is there something rather than nothing?”
    Science likes to speculate about quantum flucuations bringing about something from nothing (but where did the quantum flucuation come from?) and a multiverse theory of an infinite number of universes coming into existence and we just happen to be the lucky one with all the right physic laws and elements. All of which cannot be proven by the scientific method but just some math that cannot also be proven. This may sound like the Kalam argument but it does seem that anything that exists must have a cause. What science will never be able to answer is the “Why.” I think Dawkins real issues is not with an Intelligent cause of things but with religion and if it is I’m not too adverse to that point. Religion is a real killer….Intelligent Design is not.

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