Mark Sharlow has written a solid paper critiquing Dawkins’ argument from complexity against the existence of God — the core argument in Dawkins’ book The God Delusion. The paper is called “Playing Fast and Loose with Complexity: A Critique of Dawkins’ Atheistic Argument from Improbability”. It’s not mind-blowing philosophy, but I think it does a nice job explaining some of what’s wrong with Dawkins’ argument. 

(And just to make clear, one can reject Dawkins’ argument for atheism while still being an atheist.)

Nick Matzke, formerly of the anti-intelligent design National Center for Science Education, has sometimes given me a hard time via email for my views on intelligent design. So that is reason enough for me to highlight an important area of agreement between him and me, which shows up in this interesting post by Matzke. But also, I want to highlight this because I think Matzke makes some key points regarding what’s wrong with the Dawkins-style approach toward religion:

My opinion on Dawkins’ critiques of religion is that they are just not hugely convincing. It is not at all clear to me that monotheistic religion is really on exactly the same low level of credibility as Zeus and Thor. I agree that the Bible isn’t good evidence for the truth of one religion over another, any more than any other holy book; but the bare notion that Mind is behind the Universe doesn’t seem that much more implausible than the idea that everything just exists or that reality has always existed, or that there are multiple Universes or whatever. These are all pretty much incomprehensible and incredible ideas, and probably however far human science advances, there will always be the question of why or how the starting stuff – quantum vacuum foam or whatever – exists. What I think is really lacking in Dawkins’s view is humility on this point. It’s fine if he thinks that “stuff just exists” is better than “God just exists”, but at best this is a parsimony argument, and parsimony is just a rule of thumb in science, not some absolute logical principle allowing deduction with certainty. If that is accepted, I think that even those who disagree strongly with theism should allow that it is not simply a stupid and crazy thing to believe. And, once you concede that, once you’ve got God as an option, the idea that God might find it interesting to interact with humans is not such a stretch.

Matzke does put in a qualifier:

Please note that I am not arguing for these positions, I am just trying to explain to the Dawkinses of the world how it might be possible that people could disagree with them on the religion issue and yet still be sane. Pretty much any conclusion about these ultimate cosmic philosophical issues is pretty darn crazy when considered in everyday terms, and I think a little allowance for that, instead of just insulting everyone who disagrees, would be beneficial in several ways.