RESPONDblogs: …but Who Made God?

dawkins

Who made God?

 

It’s an interesting question that many have pondered. Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins has expressed the question this way.

 

“The whole argument turns on the familiar question ‘who made God?’ which most thinking people discover for themselves. A designer God cannot be used to explain organized complexity because any God capable of designing anything would have to be complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation in his own right.” (Dawkins 2008: 109)

 

If God is the creator – he’s big…he’s complex…so who made him? There is the question again.

 

What is interesting is that as Professor Dawkins asks the question, he makes a crucial assumption. And the assumption is this – that any explanation must be simpler than the thing being explained. This sounds a lot like evolutionary thinking – and of course this is exactly what it is. The assumption of the gradual evolution of life from simple to more complex forms is exactly what he brings to the question of God.

 

He is saying that because God – by definition – is bigger and more powerful than the universe he has created – there surely cannot be a God. The thought is absurd to Dawkins.

 

Given his assumption, I can see his problem. And unfortunately he has passed his problem on to many vulnerable people who are taken in by this reasoning.

 

But to me, Dawkins’ reasoning makes no sense for 2 reasons. The first reason is from our normal, observable personal experience. The second is a philosophical reason.

 

First Reason – imagine an Archaeologist finds some primitive paintings on the wall of a cave. That scientist will NOT assume the cause of those marks on the wall to be simpler than the marks themselves. Instead – they will excitedly assume intelligent activity from an ancient being that is infinitely more complex than the marks themselves.

Imagine a SETI scientist detects an ordered signal amongst the random noise in our Galaxy. And that ordered signal is emanating from a star system somewhere distant in the Milky Way Galaxy.  You can bet that scientist will want to be the first to break the exciting news. And suddenly social media, news stations, newspapers and discussions around the coffee machine at work…will be full of the exciting news that alien life has been discovered! Why? Because the SETI scientist does not naturally assume the source of the ordered signal to be simpler than the signal itself but more complex…an entity with the intelligence to not only communicate, but transmit their communication over vast distances. So that complex creatures like us can detect it.

What I’m saying is this. That in many areas of Science – the assumption that the cause must be simpler than the effect – is simply an invalid one. And I would suggest – that it is also an invalid assumption to bring to the question of the origins of the Universe…and therefore the existence of a creator God.

 

Second Reason – it makes good philosophical sense to quickly dismiss the question – “who made God?” The Kalam Cosmological argument – or the argument from first cause – says this.

 

Whatever began to exist must have a cause for its existence

The universe (and we) began to exist

Therefore the Universe must have a cause for its existence

 

People naturally think in these terms. We are finite beings ourselves. We literally did have a beginning. My birth certificate and the testimony of my parents confirm it.

Anything that begins to exist – had a first cause. We began to exist. Therefore we have a first cause. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to point towards our parents again for that cause. Yet my parents are entities who – themselves – had a beginning and therefore they themselves had a first cause.

We live within the ebb and flow of beginnings and first causes. And so it would be natural to project that understanding onto God. But doing so shows we misunderstand the philosophical argument from first cause.

Why?

Well – the argument begins with the words, “Whatever began to exist…”. You see we are not claiming that absolutely EVERYTHING has to have a first cause. It doesn’t make sense to suppose that God had a first cause. The creator God is by his very nature outside of our Universe. So he is therefore also timeless and space-less. So the question – who made God – is an inappropriate use of the argument from first cause. No-one made him – he’s the cause who starting everything off for all of us. He is not bound by the laws around first cause – because he is the cause of that law to begin with.

Imagine a parent of twins. And the little children are bored. So the parent digs out a bunch of big cardboard boxes. And he makes a game for them to play. He sets out the rules of the game. And then he steps back – and watches his children play! And because they are happily playing now…he’s able to safely go and watch TV! It’s a pretty silly example – but it illustrates my point. The creator of the game – isn’t bound by the rules. Rather – he has set the rules up for a good reason (in my example…because he wanted to watch telly!)

The God presented to us in the pages of the Bible IS the explanation of the beginning of it all for us – he doesn’t demand an explanation.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1, NIV

 

The cause need not be simpler than the effect. And the creator is not bound by the laws he creates. This thinking is absurd to Dawkins and so many more. Yet it is an argument that makes perfect logical sense. It makes sense as long as we stay open to the possibility that there are realities outside of the one we exist in today that we need to learn more about.

Surely this is the very nature of an honestly inquiring scientific mind?

 

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stuartgrayuk

I live in the UK, I'm married to Janet and I'm passionate about proposing a case for the historic Christian faith. You can find me on Twitter at @stuhgray.

4 thoughts on “RESPONDblogs: …but Who Made God?”

  1. I’m going to repeat something I said in reply to you on my blog:
    Not every refutation of a bad argument FOR something claims to actually be an argument AGAINST it.

    I don’t even like Dawkins and I definitely disagree with a lot of things he’s said, but you’re seriously misrepresenting him.

    Richard Dawkins absolutely does not believe that this one counterargument proves that there can’t be a god. (In fact, he doesn’t believe “there CAN’T be a god” at all. He believes there’s no evidence FOR a god and that it’s irrational to believe in one without evidence.)

    “And the assumption is this – that any explanation must be simpler than the thing being explained.”
    There is no such assumption in the Dawkins quote. He says that the idea that everything must have an explanation more complex than itself is flawed, but nothing he says depends on the exact opposite being true.

    1. Hi Mate –

      “I’m going to repeat something I said in reply to you on my blog:
      Not every refutation of a bad argument FOR something claims to actually be an argument AGAINST it.”
      Oh dear – yes you did level that statement at me before. And it made no sense to me last time either – lol. Please don’t take this the wrong way…but help me understand what you are saying here please? Cheers!

      The last thing I want to do is to misrepresent ANYONE. So – I’m reading your feedback carefully here. I agree with you that Richard Dawkins “probably does not believe that this one counter argument proves that there can’t be a God.” But I never said he did.

      What I did in my blog was – to quote some specific reasoning in his book The God Delusion. I then applied some more of his reasoning (that he is VERY vocal about!!) also from the book to his quote. OK – I’ll take your feedback and request to be clearer in my quoting of Richard Dawkins. (I am certainly don’t agree I am misrepresenting him)

      You say there is no such assumption that “any explanation must be simpler than the thing being explained” in the quote I used. Well – I see this as one of the very foundation premises of his book. Occam’s Razor – got for the simpler explanation. He says it this way in chapter 4:

      “The temptation [to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself] is a false one, because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer. The whole problem we started out with was the problem of explaining statistical improbability. It is obviously no solution to postulate something even more improbable”

      In other words – God is even more improbable than the appearance of life. By the way – no prizes for guessing, but I would turn that reasoning round – I would say that giving God like powers to Nature – and arguing for the evolution of Biological life from chemicals to complexity by randomness combined with natural selection…is much more improbable than the personal creator God revealed in the Bible and presented to us personally as Jesus Christ.

      Anyway – thanks for taking the time to respond to my Blog – I appreciate it!

      Stu

      1. Sometimes the primary arguments FOR something and the primary arguments AGAINST it don’t look at all like replies to each other.
        And often, people feel like they don’t even need arguments AGAINST the things they don’t believe in at all. (Do you have a well-reasoned proof for why there are no such things as leprechauns?) The burden of proof lies with the people claiming that something unproven DOES

        “But I never said he did.”
        Not in so many words, but you did say “He is saying that because God – by definition – is bigger and more powerful than the universe he has created – there surely cannot be a God.”
        This carries the implication that “God would have to be more complex/powerful/whatever than the universe” is Dawkins’ primary argument against the existence of a deity, or at least one of them. But he only said that to demonstrate that “God did it” does not solve the apparent problems that some people suggest it was.

        And your second quote still does not contain the assumption that you assert it does. Dawkins is explaining problems with the absolute and provably false statement that any explanation must be more complex than the thing being explained; he is not arguing for its equally absolute and false exact opposite.

      2. I’m quite happy if you don’t feel like you need an argument for Gods non-existence. Good luck with that! But it’s not going to stop me pointing out an alternative viewpoint.

        “Do you have a well reasoned proof for why there are no such things as Leprechauns?”
        No I don’t. But the implication I am hearing is…it works the same way with God. Well – actually – no it doesn’t. There is no credible literary or historical evidence I am aware of that points to the existence of Leprechauns. The situation is very different with the God of the Bible. In order to dismiss Christianity one has to dismiss the abundant historical evidence supporting to claims of the New Testament. I suspect you have some reading to do there… And as far as burden of proof goes…how can you be sure the Gods existence is unproven? Do you know all there is to know in our Universe? So it doesn’t sound like solid ground you are standing on there! The burden of proof actually lies with the atheist on the subject of Gods non existence, IMHO

        As far as your ongoing criticism around my perceived misrepresentation of Richard Dawkins – It feels like we are beginning to wade thru treacle now. Frankly I’m happy to disagree with you, mate. Good grief – my quote from chapter 4 is what I paraphrase in the title of the original blog. 🙂

        Cheers for now

        Stu

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