Origins, Dawkins, and the Myth of Origins: A Faith Account

It is often assumed by atheists/fundamentalists like Richard Dawkins and the so called new Atheists that macro-evolutionary biology, and big-bang cosmology (amongst other disciplinary distinctives) is the death-knell for richard-dawkinsthe Christian explanation of things; i.e. that reality has an explanation that is extra nos (outside of us), and thus is not absolutized or made immanent to material nature itself. These new Atheists though, move too quickly; they presume that their explanation for reality—metaphysical materialism—comes with its own explanatory power as to the origins itself. But one major problem with this supposition is that the categories with which their supposed explanation for origins comes, does not by definition come with something outside of material reality; and thus by definition—if material reality is the end in itself that these new Atheists naïvely presuppose it to be—the confines of thought from which they have to work, at a first order level (or a general knowledge level) is defined with the prior commitment that material reality is all that there is. But, again, this does not tell us about the origin of material reality, it only tells us that there is material reality, and that material reality, enclosed in on itself, as it is, has a set of conceptual categories through which to think; but these categories, by definition, do not include the kind of conceptual ingression required to explain the origins of material reality itself. And so these new Atheists fool themselves into thinking that they have a corner on reality, that left to their own devices, they really don’t have after all. David Bentley Hart makes my point more prescient:

There is, after all, nothing inherently reasonable in the conviction that all of reality is simply an accidental confluence of physical causes, without any transcendent source or end. Materialism is not a fact of experience or a deduction of logic; it is a metaphysical prejudice, nothing more, and one that is arguably more irrational than almost any other. In general, the unalterably convinced materialist is a kind of childishly complacent fundamentalist, so fervently, unreflectively, and rapturously committed to the materialist vision of reality that if he or she should encounter any problem—logical or experiential—that might call its premises into question, or even merely encounter a limit beyond which those premises lose their explanatory power, he or she is simply unable to recognize it. Richard Dawkins is a perfect example; he does not hesitate, for instance, to claim that “natural selection is the ultimate explanation for our existence.” But this is a silly assertion and merely reveals that Dawkins does not understand the words he is using. The question of existence does not concern how it is that the present arrangement of the world came about, from causes already internal to the world, but how it is that anything (including any cause) can exist at all. This question Darwin and Wallace never addressed, nor were ever so hopelessly confused as to think they had. It is a question that no theoretical or experimental science could ever answer, for it is qualitatively different from the kind of questions that the physical sciences are competent to address. Even if theoretical physics should one day discover the most basic laws upon which the fabric of space and time is woven, or evolutionary biology the most elementary phylogenic forms of terrestrial life, or palaeontology an  utterly seamless genealogy of every species, still we shall not have thereby drawn one inch nearer to a solution of the mystery of existence. No matter how fundamental or simple the level reached by the scientist—protoplasm, amino acids, molecules, subatomic particles, quantum events, unified physical laws, a primordial singularity, mere logical possibilities—existence is something else altogether. Even the simplest of things, and even the most basic of principles, must first of all be, and nothing within the universe of contingent things (nor even the universe itself, even if it were somehow “eternal”) can be intelligently conceived of as the source of explanation of its own being. [David Bentley Hart, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies, 103.]

The author to the Hebrews has written:

 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, ~1:3

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. ~11:3

Thomas Torrance articulates the God-world relation by using the concepts of God’s non-contingent independence, and the world’s contingent independence; I think this asymmetric mutually implicating binary correlates well with what Hart is getting at. The world cannot provide its own ground for its own being. The world can speak of things from within its own being because the being of the world is given an intelligible order and coefficient knowledge because of its contingent dependence upon something else as the given for its being as the world. It is thus unintelligible to assert that the world has its own independent giveness based upon what we can emperically observe in the given world. In other words, the fact that there is a given world presupposes something that the world itself, left to itself, cannot explain under its own strength. This is what the author to the Hebrews is asserting; that is, that we cannot explain the being of the world by the being of the world by finding an analogy in the being of world for its own being (this is circular). Instead we must relate to the giver of the giveness of the world through an analogy or relation of faith; and this is only possible if the giver of the giveness of the world graciously chooses to reveal himself to us, breaking in on the world he has given its being to.

In short, the new Atheists need something more than they have available to them, left to their own bereft machinations and apparatuses. They need more than the being of this world has to offer them; they need some grounding that will allow them to discern the possibility, more, the reality, that the world itself, by definition, is contingent; not upon itself, of course, but upon a ground that comes before the being of the world itself. But this would mean that they would have to walk by faith, not by sight; and unless they have the Spirit they will never be able to say that Jesus is Lord—of all men (and women), then, they are the most to be pitied.

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4 thoughts on “Origins, Dawkins, and the Myth of Origins: A Faith Account

  1. Good word. In the clips I’ve seen of Dawkins I’ve been struck by his willingness to use his platform as a scientist to make definitive statements pertaining to matters that fall outside the realm of science (things more suited to the realm of philosophy and theology) and do so in a manner that suggests that he is offering the only logical conclusion from a “scientific” perspective.

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  2. Hi Mike,

    Thanks. Yeah, Dawkins, as some have labeled it, definitely suffers from a hard form of scientism; since he is previously committed to this belief system, he does not have the intellectual capital to think outside of an absolutized metaphysical materialism. And thus he makes dogmatic pronouncements based on an unreasonable faith because his object of devotion simply can’t provide the categories he is forcing it to.

    Great to hear from you, Mike. Thanks for the good word!

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