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: