This Magazine Staff
Almost lost in the media parade recently was this fascinating debate that Time Magazine arranged on the nagging minor question of the existence of God. They put preeminent Darwinist Richard Dawkins (author of the bestselling The God Delusion) together in their board room with preeminent geneticist (and devout Christian) Francis Collins. Collins is responsible for a little thing called the Human Genome project. You may have heard of it. Very scientific stuff.
Time, never shy about using Christ as a cover model, can reasonably be expected to sit in God’s corner at such a cage match, but to their credit they play this debate with remarkable fairness, asking simple questions to get things started and then letting each man define their own positions with their own words.
I think both men are brilliant scientific minds, but judging by the transcript of their discussion (clearly edited, for what that’s worth), Collins has it all over Dawkins in the philosophy department. I’m kind of shocked by the really rather simple-minded argumentation from Dawkins, which begins with an attempt to link the concept of religious faith with the scientifically fallacious belief in intelligent design — as though he forgets that he was asked to debate a fellow scientist, not the Pope, or George Bush.
Why both dudes insist on calling God “he” is an interesting side question.
Here’s a sample:
COLLINS: By being outside of nature, God is also outside of space and time. Hence, at the moment of the creation of the universe, God could also have activated evolution, with full knowledge of how it would turn out, perhaps even including our having this conversation. The idea that he could both foresee the future and also give us spirit and free will to carry out our own desires becomes entirely acceptable.
DAWKINS: I think that’s a tremendous cop-out. If God wanted to create life and create humans, it would be slightly odd that he should choose the extraordinarily roundabout way of waiting for 10 billion years before life got started and then waiting for another 4 billion years until you got human beings capable of worshipping and sinning and all the other things religious people are interested in.
So, God can’t exist because the evidence we have of creation suggests that God takes way too much time to do things, within our concept of time?
If this were a chess match, Dawkins would already be running his king.
On the topic of fundamentalist approaches to the Christian Bible, we get this:
DAWKINS: … It would be unseemly for me to enter in except to suggest that [Francis Collins would] save himself an awful lot of trouble if he just simply ceased to give [fundamentalists] the time of day. Why bother with these clowns?
COLLINS: Richard, I think we don’t do a service to dialogue between science and faith to characterize sincere people by calling them names. That inspires an even more dug-in position. Atheists sometimes come across as a bit arrogant in this regard, and characterizing faith as something only an idiot would attach themselves to is not likely to help your case.
If, as I suspect, Dawkins’ real motive in writing his book and advancing his views is to force organized religion to take responsibility for its horrifying dogmatism and the very real damage it has caused in the world of humans, he fails utterly.
What a waste.