The Curious Case of the Atheist Who Denied Dawkins Was Disputing Deity

Curious. He denies Dawkins was disputing the deity, in a book where Dawkins clearly was doing just that.

The Arizona Atheist continues to maintain that Dawkins does not address God in The Blind Watchmaker:

I’ve been reading Dawkins’ book the last week or so, double checking to ensure I wasn’t in error in thinking Dawkins does not address god [sic], and there is indeed nothing there.

I responded to him by way of two comments on his website. Here I quote excerpts:


I’m rather confused as to how you can say that Dawkins didn’t address god (well, he didn’t, actually) or that he didn’t address God, in The Blind Watchmaker. This is quite a crucial point in your article here, and it’s crucial in my mind, too. It’s so crucial, in fact, that I really want to hear further from you on it before I go into any other topics you’ve brought up. I’ll explain why at the end of all this.

You wrote,

I’ve been reading Dawkins’ book the last week or so, double checking to ensure I wasn’t in error in thinking Dawkins does not address god, and there is indeed nothing there.

I think this is quite obviously wrong. He opens the book with fully two chapters focused largely on the question of God. They form the framework within which his evolutionary arguments are made, and (as opening chapters usually do) they explain the purpose for the rest of the book.

You know, because I wrote it and you quoted it here, bhtat In the intro to his book he made it clear that he was addressing the “most influential argument for God.” He devotes several paragraphs, early on, quite pointedly to William Paley’s design argument for God.

Then he summarizes that section, and briefly states his problem with it, and goes on to add,

I shall explain all this, and much besides…. I said [at dinner with a well-known atheist] that I could not imagine being an atheist at any time before 1859, when Darwin’s Origin of Species was published.

The question of God is obviously in his mind as he discusses his disbelief in God. But there’s more.

He goes on to speak of Hume’s treatment of God, following which he goes on to a lengthy discussion of complex things and eventually, “what kind of explanation for complex things would satisfy us.” Back to Paley’s argument for God again, and then on to a chapter on “Good Design,” where Paley was again prominently featured in the chapter’s introduction. Not just that, but Paley comes back into the picture again, well into the chapter, where Dawkins writes,

His [Paley’s] hypothesis was that living watches were literally designed and built by a master watchmaker. Our modern hypothesis is that the job was done in gradual evolutionary states by natural selection.

Nowadays theologians aren’t quite so straightforward as Paley.

[Recall that Paley used the analogy of an intentional, intelligent watchmaker to argue for God. Do you really think the title of the book wasn’t meant to convey that the book would be a counter-theistic argument?]

Then follows a couple of pages on other theologians’ and a bishop’s arguments in favor of design, and against naturalistic evolution, both of which (it takes little knowledge to understand) tend to be arguments for God when they’re offered by theologians and bishops.

That amounts to two entire chapters setting the stage for the rest of the book. The rest of the book, of course, is his exposition in favor of evolution and against design; where design was situated in the book as being an argument for God.

How about the close of the book? Look at the third-to-last paragraph. It ends,

The same applies to the odds against the spontaneous existence of any fully fashioned, perfect, and whole beings, including — I see no way of avoiding the conclusion — deities.

Look back a page or so earlier, in the portion beginning, “We have dealt with all the alleged alternatives to the theory of natural selection except the oldest one,” and ending “In short, divine creation, whether instantaneous or in the form of guided evolution…. give[s] some superficial appearance of being [an] alternative to Darwinism” but fails the test of evidence.

He begins the book talking about God. He ends the book talking about God. He places his whole argument in a framework of what he clearly argues to be failed reasons to believe in God.

Do you still maintain that Dawkins does not address God in this book?


My further (and I hope final) reply to him there on his blog:


I should have caught this in my previous comment but I missed it:

there is not a single quotation in the book that can be pointed to where Dawkins remotely says anything like, ‘because evolution explains biological design, there is no god.’

The whole book is an argument against intentional/teleological design. God, as God is understood in theism, acts intentionally/teleologically. Syllogism:

1. If there is a God as understood in the prevailing theistic views of God, then God acts intentionally/teleologically in nature.
2. There is no intentional/teleological action in all of nature.

Now, Dawkins doesn’t spell out the major premise. He doesn’t have to. In his discussions on Paley and other natural theologians he makes clear that this is the God he has in mind.

Regarding the minor premise, recall what I wrote earlier: Dawkins thinks that if he explains away biological design, he has as good as explained away all design in nature. So there’s no doubt that he affirms 2 in this book, even if he doesn’t say it in those exact words.

Regarding the conclusion, he doesn’t spell that out either. That’s because any dummy can figure it out.

3. Therefore there is no God, as God is understood in the prevailing theistic views of God.

Collapsing all that into one short paraphrased sentence, we have something that’s logically equivalent to, “because evolution explains biological design, there is no god God [Dawkins knows how to capitalize proper nouns].

I can’t imagine how that isn’t obvious to you.

As I said [in a paragraph in my first comment, not included here], if you continue to maintain these strange interpretations of Dawkins’ book, you will continue to have credibility problems.