Oxford theology professor punctures Dawkins' blind certainty

By staff writers
February 2, 2007

Oxford theologian Professor Alister McGrath, whose book ‘The Dawkins Delusion?’ is published by SPCK on 15 February 2007, has previewed his latest arguments against the well-known author of best-seller ‘The God Delusion’ in a two-part interview with The Salvation Army's weekly newspaper, starting tomorrow (3 February 2007).

McGrath, who holds doctorates in both molecular biophysics and theology, was formerly an atheist himself, and has praised the scientific writing of Richard Dawkins, the Simony Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, also at Oxford. But he argues that Dawkins’ increasingly shrill critique of religion is simplistic.

In an earlier book, ‚ÄòDawkins‚Äô God: Genes, Memes and the Meaning of Life‚Äô, which Professor Dawkins has declined to respond to, other than through a short rhetorical dismissal, Professor McGrath claimed his colleague‚Äôs anti-religious pronouncements were philosophically na?Øve and deficient.

This is a point which non-theists, such as scientific commentator Professor Michael Ruse and doyen skeptic Michael Shermer have also made.

McGrath tells the Salvation Army paper: "Dawkins works on the assumption that his readers know very little about Christianity. He asserts that if you believe in evolution then you cannot believe in God, because evolution is by definition atheistic. But that is a very inaccurate interpretation. Dawkins also interprets a Christian's 'faith' as 'blind trust'. To him 'faith' means running away from evidence. But that's not a Christian definition of faith… People like simple answers to hard questions. That's why Dawkins is so popular."

He continues: "When I was an atheist, I sounded like Richard Dawkins. I focused only on the things that fitted my theory. One of the things that made me stop being an atheist was realising things are rather more complicated."

Nigel Bovey, editor of popular paper – which, given the heated argument that can surround such issues, is perhaps unfortunately called ‘The War Cry’ – says: "Science and the meaning of life are issues which our regular readers might not ordinarily consider but the issues that Professor McGrath is tackling are fundamental to our understanding of life and faith."

Next week Professor McGrath will tackle creationism and Intelligent Design, of which he is a critic, along with the great majority of scientists and theologians, believing or otherwise.

Professor Dawkins has increasingly concentrated on attacking religion rather than promoting science in recent years. He engaged in debate with Keith Ward, Emeritus Professor of Divinity at Oxford, some years ago, but has so far declined to discuss publicly with Professor McGrath.

The Dawkins Delusion? by Alister McGrath with Joanna Collicut McGrath is published on 15 February by SPCK. Also by McGrath: Dawkin's God; The Science of God: An Introduction to Scientific Theology; The Foundations of Dialogue in Science and Religion; The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World.

Also on Ekkesia: Turning God into a disaster area. Simon Barrow says that Dawkins is right to attack naive God-talk, but misinformed to dismiss theology as 'fairyology'. Dawkins anti-religion school crusade is met with scepticism; Broadcaster says atheism is not the answer to our prayers; Stop stereotyping secularists, Archbishop Sentamu is asked.

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