Dawkins’s Aesthetic Argument for Evolution


An “aesthetic argument for evolution”–I hope it’s obvious to you, just by looking at it that this is self-contradictory. When arguing from some fact to a worldview, one ought to be pointing toward a worldview that can accommodate the fact.

Richard Dawkins apparently takes an aesthetic argument as valid, yet as reported by Matt and Dana Higgins, he almost simultaneously supplies the material for his own refutation. They report from a lecture he gave in Austin,

[Dawkins says] “Evolution is more elegant than creationism.” In terms of evolution vs. creationism/intelligent design, he primarily argued from a point of aesthetics. His highly complex theories are preferable to the plain statement: “God did it.” Like saying that a couture dress is prettier than a dress made out of the living room curtains. Fans of “Gone With the Wind” may prefer the curtains. A matter of preference….

Later in the same talk he reportedly said,

Since there is no God and no moral reality, there is no morality that should be held by all persons at all times…. In “The God Delusion,” he strongly argues that morality evolves and changes with society (“the moral zeitgeist”).

So: apparently there is a strong enough argument for aesthetic realism/objectivity that we ought to take it as evidence on which to base our whole worldview. “Evolution is more elegant” is an objective fact, not a subjective opinion. But there is no moral reality. “Child abuse is wrong” is a subjective belief, not an objective fact. (Dawkins happens to agree with that subjective opinion, but that doesn’t make it objective in his mind.)

Does anybody see something being turned upside down there?

Ironically, this showed up (via Uncommon Descent) just minutes after I wrote this.

5 Responses

  1. Tom Gilson says:

    BTW, one could also take issue with Dawkins’s tiresome straw-man image that scientific interest stops when one says simply, “God did it.” This is so often stated, and so often refuted, that I don’t care to do it again this time. So I’m choosing to let it go with this one comment in passing. You’re welcome to take it up if you wish.

  2. JJS P.Eng. says:

    The only issue I have with Dawkins et al’s “God did it” argument is they leave out a word. As a curious Christian, I want to know “HOW God did it” which, IMO, would lead to further scientific investigation rather than “stopping” it.

  3. These are very difficult, very important questions. Unfortunately, as we\’ve seen with the \”Expelled\” debacle, people on both sides of the debate aren\’t above throwing ad hominem attacks, or even lying, to promote their views.

  4. clasch says:

    I have a little question for you “religious people” : Since you so solemnly declare that there is no conflict between science and religion, being one big science-stopper the millennia old meme “God did it” and noticing that the goalposts of our invisible friend in the sky has the last two hundred years constantly been receding , leaving very little room for his powerful presence to interact with the real world.

    What do you think of the current interdisciplinary attempt to unravel the true origins of our morality based on evolutionary biology, neuroscience and to some extent ethology and anthropology . Do you support it?

    I don’t take your answer for granted or pretend to know it but …
    Do you take the position that it’s something unknowable? Or just state that God simply hardwire us to be moral, being created in his image?

  5. Tom Gilson says:

    Clasch, I’m not going to go into it now, but “science stopper” is a false canard and easily refuted. And God’s place to interact with the world has not receded an inch. But that wasn’t your main question, so I’m not going to do anything here but note that there are some jabs in your comment that don’t really connect with the reality. (And I’m not interested in taking that part of your discussion any further in this thread–it’s off topic.)

    I do ask you to look at the discussion guidelines (#5). I’ve corrected your grammar error.

    What I think of that interdisciplinary effort is that it is philosophically misguided. You may start here and follow the links therein for more information if you’re interested. I’ve only dealt directly with the neuroscience aspect of it so far, but I think the perspectives there would very easily generalize.

    God created us in His image with awareness of morality, though now our understanding of that morality is hardly perfect, and we must depend on His revelation for guidance on it.

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