The delusion of Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”
But where did God come from?
Atheists allege that if one cannot explain where God came from, theism cannot be viewed as a legitimate explanation for such things as the origin of life and the origin of the universe.
The more time one spends debating atheists online, the more one will realize that this is likely the most prominent argument in favor of atheism present on the internet today. It is also the self-described “central argument” of atheist Richard Dawkins’ now famous book The God Delusion.
If every explanation required an explanation, science would be impossible.
But, unfortunately for atheists, this is a particularly weak argument. If every explanation required an explanation of its own, we would immediately be caught in an infinite regress of explanations, and science would be impossible.
Imagine the following dialogue between two scientists:
Scientist 1: “Traits are passed down from a parent to its offspring through genes.”
Scientist 2: “But where do genes come from?”
Scientist 1: “I don’t know.”
Scientist 2: “Then your explanation is invalid.”
Please note that, even if scientist #1 could produce an explanation for where genes come from, scientist #2 could then ask for an explanation for that explanation, and an infinite regress of explanations result, thus rendering science impossible.
…In order to recognize an explanation as the best, one needn’t have an explanation of the explanation. This is an elementary point concerning inference to the best explanation as practiced in the philosophy of science. If archaeologists digging in the earth were to discover things looking like arrowheads and hatchet heads and pottery shards, they would be justified in inferring that these artifacts are not the chance result of sedimentation and metamorphosis, but products of some unknown group of people, even though they had no explanation of who these people were or where they came from.
Similarly, if astronauts were to come upon a pile of machinery on the back side of the moon, they would be justified in inferring that it was the product of intelligent, extra-terrestrial agents, even if they had no idea whatsoever who these extra-terrestrial agents were or how they got there. In order to recognize an explanation as the best, one needn’t be able to explain the explanation. In fact, so requiring would lead to an infinite regress of explanations, so that nothing could ever be explained and science would be destroyed. So in the case at hand, in order to recognize that intelligent design is the best explanation of the appearance of design in the universe, one needn’t be able to explain the designer.
Dawkins’ commits circular reasoning
Further, as Dean Overman notes in A Case Against Accident and Self-Organization, Dawkins’ argument amounts to circular reasoning (circulus in probando):
Assumed contradictions are often hidden premises in arguments. For example, the question, “If a designer designed the universe, who designed the designer?”, assumes the contradiction by asserting that the designer was designed. Such an assertion is an assumed contradiction hidden in the question. This is similar to asking the question: who or what made triangles circular?
One may argue that if everything has a cause, then a designer must have a cause. Given the assumption in the dependent clause, the conclusion follows logically. If the assumption, however, was modified to: if everything that has a beginning has a cause, the conclusion would not follow if the designer was defined as something that does not have a beginning. If this modification was made and applied to the universe, the argument could be stated:
Everything that has a beginning has a cause.
The universe had a beginning.