Gregg Davidson: The Resurrection, With a Little Help from Richard Dawkins

For Geologist Gregg @davidson , the words of Richard Dawkins were a gift from God, helping solidify his confidence in the Resurrection.

There was a correction to this article,

This section,

Addressing the latter questions led me to the works of Richard Dawkins, perhaps the most well known and outspoken apologist for evolution and atheism at the time. I started with The Blind Watch Maker – a tome dedicated to replacing antiquated religious belief with faith in science. He did a reasonable job building a case for how natural processes could have brought about life, and even how evolutionary adaptations in sentient populations could have given rise to a sense of moral and religious belief. I also took no issue with his insistence that there is no evidence that can be subjected to scientific testing for the effectiveness of prayer, the verification of miracles, or life after death.

Based on his scientific observations, Dawkins felt confident in declaring there is no God, or at least not one with any involvement on planet Earth. Here, the wheels of his argument started to wobble.

Was replaced with,

Addressing the latter questions led me to the works of Richard Dawkins, perhaps the most well known and outspoken apologist for evolution and atheism at the time. I read two of his books in full, and The God Delusion, along with articles and chapters from his other books. As I progressed through his work, starting with his scientific arguments, I felt he did a reasonable job building a case for how natural processes could have brought about life, how the notion of “selfish” replicating genes could have given rise to increasing diversity and complexity of life, and even how that same process could have led to a sense of moral and religious belief. As he moved into more direct challenges against religious belief, I also took no issue with his insistence that there is no evidence that can be subjected to scientific testing for the effectiveness of prayer, the verification of miracles, or life after death.

Based on his scientific observations, Dawkins felt confident in declaring there is no God, or at least not one with any discernible involvement on planet Earth. Here, the wheels of his argument started to wobble.

The following note was added to the article.

Note: This article was updated on April 10, 2020 at the author’s request to more accurately describe the contents of The Blind Watchmaker, which is not best described as “a tome dedicated to replacing antiquated religious belief with faith in science.” We are grateful to readers on the forum for pointing this oversight out to us.

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Thanks Josh - I linked to the essay from my author website.

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Seriously? Dawkins’s supposed contradiction, more or less, is that he invokes morality without having an absolute basis for it. The obvious answer to that is that there is no possible absolute basis. Again, Euthyphro. God is no better basis than any other, and we are all in the same boat. Fear of punishment in the afterlife, i.e. self-interest, which Davidson appeals to, is no better — I would argue it’s worse — than an evolutionary basis of being part of a social species. Don’t thank Dawkins; this is your own misunderstanding.

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A second issue I had with Dawkins’ logic was his confidence that only that which is testable by science is true.

I’m pretty sure Richard Dawkins has never said any such thing. He might have said something along the lines that only if it is testable can you have a good reason to believe it.

The tools of science are, by definition, limited to the natural realm. Miracles, by definition, are acts superintended outside of the natural realm. How, exactly are tools confined to time and space supposed to test that which may lie beyond?

They’re not, but that is your problem, not Dawkins’.

What evidence could you have in support of the claim that a miracle occurred, if it cannot by definition leave evidence behind? What distinguishes an event that didn’t even occur, from one that occurred but left no evidence behind? Aren’t you here essentially just arguing for belief in the absence of evidence, as in blind faith for it’s own sake?

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28 posts were split to a new topic: How to Read “The Blind Watchmaker”

From the article:

Why should we care about morality? Because morality is important to us and we choose to care about it. Morality doesn’t have to be absolute or objective in order to be important to us. Subjective human emotions are just as vital to the human condition as anything else.

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Exactly. And the existence of a supernatural being – or the non-existence of a supernatural being, for that matter – is irrelevant to morality.

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I’ve always very much respected that type of argument. After all, morality naturally arises in the form of societal rules and social mores because cultures find that they are advantageous for order and cooperation.

Rampant murder and theft, for example, wreck havoc on economies and public health that goes far beyond the immediate damages of the crime. For example, massive capital and otherwise potentially productive work-hours must be invested in maintaining each family’s individual fortress and 24/7 security patrols if there is no punishment for crimes. And why plant crops and toil in the fields all season if anyone can freely enter at harvest time and steal the crop—and thereby destroy all incentive to farm in the first place? These are just a few of the ways in which everyone has a “motivation” for caring about “moral standards.”

Yes, there many reasons why Homo sapiens care about morality. They are essential to the thriving of human civilization. Morality matters to people because survival matters.

POSTSCRIPT:
It is also worth mentioning that Christian theology has long maintained that everyone and every society has a sense of morality, even if they have no personal familiarity with Torah or Christian concepts—because conscience and a natural sense of morality is part of the Imago Dei which defines humans.

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That might explain why the the line
“Addressing the latter questions led me to the works of Richard Dawkins, perhaps the most well known and outspoken apologist for evolution and atheism at the time.”
is repeated.

Addressing the latter questions led me to the works of Richard Dawkins, perhaps the most well known and outspoken apologist for evolution and atheism at the time. I read two of his books in full, The Blind Watch Maker and The God Delusion , along with articles and chapters from his other books. As I progressed through his work, starting with his scientific arguments, I felt he did a reasonable job building a case for how natural processes could have brought about life, how the notion of “selfish” replicating genes could have given rise to increasing diversity and complexity of life, and even how that same process could have led to a sense of moral and religious belief. As he moved into more direct challenges against religious belief, I also took no issue with his insistence that there is no evidence that can be subjected to scientific testing for the effectiveness of prayer, the verification of miracles, or life after death.

Based on his scientific observations, Dawkins felt confident in declaring there is no God, or at least not one with any discernible involvement on planet Earth. Here, the wheels of his argument started to wobble.

Addressing the latter questions led me to the works of Richard Dawkins, perhaps the most well known and outspoken apologist for evolution and atheism at the time. I started with – a tome dedicated to replacing antiquated religious belief with faith in science. He did a reasonable job building a case for how natural processes could have brought about life, and even how evolutionary adaptations in sentient populations could have given rise to a sense of moral and religious belief. I also took no issue with his insistence that there is no evidence that can be subjected to scientific testing for the effectiveness of prayer, the verification of miracles, or life after death.
Gregg Davidson: The Resurrection, With a Little Help from Richard Dawkins

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That is the view of a believer. As a non-believer I think that our conscience and natural sene of morality has a lot to do with our evolutionary lineage as social animals. If we had evolved from cats our sense of morality might have looked very different.

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Furthermore, we only need to believe in the value of caring about people (and other living things) to wipe away the “why should anyone care about molecules” notion. Davidson apparently feels he needs to believe in a plan, something that cares, and a final judgement. More power to him if we reach the same end goal, I guess, but my belief works for me. If he could demonstrate that those things exist, he might have something. Until then I don’t see how he’s any better than in the same boat as me. IMO my belief is superior for eliminating unnecessary and potentially complicating and fouling steps on the way to the clearly desired end goal.

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Absolutely. The Imago Dei concept has evolved from many centuries of theological discourse among Christian scholars.

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Do chimpanzees and monkeys have a form of Imago Dei? They certainly have a form of a moral sense.

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Funny thing, but I find his argument even worse than uncompelling. My experience of decades in evangelicalism added up to compelling data for the opposite conclusion: that the Christian god weakens moral reasoning and deconstructs human goodness. Perhaps like Davidson, my faith was built to a large extent on the premise that this god was a force for good and that human life and even the universe were outgrowths of his power and his goodness. American Christianity provided refutation, at first unwelcome and troubling, and now something I celebrate. In short, for me, while I never bought the simplistic “hey you can’t explain morality without gods” argument (it’s too silly to take seriously), I did base my belief to a large extent on the power of the Christian god to change people for the better. It was hard to learn that was a lie, but it’s so so so so much better living without it.

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Is there not an absolute basis for affirming that killing babies like the Khmer Rouge have done is evil?

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No. If there were one, what would it be? Of course, just because there’s no absolute basis doesn’t mean there’s no basis.

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What does “absolute basis” mean here, and how would the subjective opinions of a supernatural being have anything to do with the matter?

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My experience has been pretty different, I never was a Christian as an adult, in short. I can recall believing that Christianity was true as a child in Catholic school, but I don’t think I ever had any major expectations of it; I more just took it for granted that that was the way things were. Also I’ve been living overseas in a pretty thoroughly non-Christian country for almost all of my adult life. My main exposure to evangelical Christianity was from a relative who had a pretty toxic personality, and I didn’t gain a positive impression. My impression has turned much more positive from spending time on these websites the last few years and some other friends, but there are some counter-examples from the news and stuff as well, though not on a personal level. I don’t know, I wonder what’s going on in the heads of a lot of people a lot of the time basically. Not sure Christians are any different :slight_smile: I see a lot of good people of all stripes all over too.

the Christian god weakens moral reasoning and deconstructs human goodness.

How do you figure?

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Yes. Just another example of theologians giving credit to God for some trait that was derived thru evolution.

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Let me get this straight: when the Khmer Rouge kills babies it is absolutely evil, but when God commands the Israelites to kill the Amalekite babies this is all fine and dandy?

1 Samuel 15:3

“3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”

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