I watched the “God Delusion” Debate between Professor Richard Dawkins and Dr. John Lennox both esteemed scientists from Oxford University. The debate touched on six of the main arguments Dawkins gives against the existence of God in his book The God Delusion. I regretted that the debate format did not permit much freedom for back and forth dialog. Instead it focused on concise discussion about certain particulars of the book. While I understand this choice of style for the debate, I agree with Dawkins frustration at not having more time to delve deeper into the very important issues discussed. I was glad to see that the Christian organization hosting the event gave Dawkins the first and last slots in the debate.
I did notice that Dawkins and Lennox agreed on several key assertions of Dawkins. Dawkins raised the point that religion ought to withstand the test of science and not be afraid of scientific investigation. Lennox wholeheartedly agreed that there should not be a division between the two and that Christianity is able to be verified or falsified by historical science. Dawkins and Lennox both agreed that science was birthed out of theism. Dawkins was the first to make that assertion in the debate and then Lennox agreed referring to the Whiteheads Thesis.
Dawkins asserted that children should not be taught faith, but skepticism on the grounds that saying “that’s my faith” removes objective thinking and debate and provides an avenue for extremism. Lennox agreed, as he should, that children ought to be taught to be critical thinkers and that they ought to learn how to think and understand the evidences for what they believe. However, Lennox rightly maintained that Christianity is based on evidences some objective some subjective. Moreover that biblical Christianity does provide a framework for scientific investigation, knowledge, thinking etc.
Dawkins has a list in the beginning of this book The God Delusion of wars and atrocities that would not have occurred, he asserts, if there was no religion. Lennox responds, speaking only on behalf of biblical Christianity, that Christianity does not support this kind of thing in the world and gives a counter argument of Stalin, Mussolini and Mao atheistic beliefs rooted in Marxism. I was surprised that Dawkins granted that these men, if Marxist, were products of atheism, albeit as Lennox granted not the sort of atheists Dawkins and other atheists proponents support. I think that Dawkins was saying that it still had to be proven that they were operating out of their Marxism in committing these atrocities, but if it could be proven to come from their Marxism then he agrees it also stems from atheism. I don’t do their arguments justice in this post, please watch the debate yourself.
Lastly I wanted to touch on the issue of God based morality. Dawkins asserts that one does not need God to be moral. Lennox grants that atheists certainly can be moral without believing in God. Dawkins, however, gives two main arguments of why we don’t need God for morality. One is that we don’t need a holy book to give us morality because he says that we pick and choice what is moral from the text. Two he asserts the only reason to need a God based morality is out of fear of God’s retribution or out of a desire to earn His favor and be divinely rewarded. He then says humanity universally accepts a moral right and wrong. It’s common sense, he claims. He posits the development of morality coming from the relationships of small hunter gatherer groups that valued good and sympathized with suffering and as time evolved this concept was passed on through the generations. He said there seems to be “something in the air” that gives modern consensus of morality. He says that attitudes towards slavery and women have changed, thus morality changes therefore it is not based on a fixed system.
Lennox responds that indeed we have moral understanding, because we were created with it by God. Our behavior can mirror good actions without knowing God, but we cannot support the foundation of what “good” is without God. He quotes from Dawkins previous books that he grants that we are merely products of our DNA in a world with no good and no evil. From there he asks Dawkins how he can then discuss good and evil if there is no such thing. Dawkins said the two don’t contradict; it is true that there is no real good and evil and yet we experience a humanity who has a moral construct.
I will close this post without adding my own thoughts to Dawkins discussion on morality. However, I will write another where I address them. I do wish that such a debate happens again with more time for dialog on these and other issues. I feel it is very profitable to have such discussions.