• Answering the New Atheism, by Scott Hahn & Benjamin Wiker: A Refutation, Part 1


    This is a review/refutation of a book by two theologians in Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker whose attempt at refuting Richard Dawkins’ bestseller, The God Delusion, is called Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins’ Case Against God, published by Emmaus Road Publishing in 2008.

    Like the other refutations I’ve written, [1] I am going to point out the absurdities and errors of these two authors and show that their case really isn’t made up of much at all.

    Before I begin with the chapter by chapter breakdown I wanted to comment on something they mentioned in their Introduction about Antony Flew, the once great philosopher who seems to have become a deist. On page six they mention Flew and how he was convinced of a god because the arguments swayed him, but either Wiker and Hahn are being knowingly deceptive, or they are simply mistaken. The facts seem to be that Flew is suffering from acute memory problems due to his old age, or perhaps some kind of pathology. Either way, Flew doesn’t seem to believe in any personal god, but an impersonal creator god, the kind a deist would believe in. This is also hardly any reason to celebrate for theists. Some christian apologists seem to have taken advantage of an elderly man whose memory is badly failing him and he can’t seem to remember all of the reasons for his previous disbelief. The book that is partially credited to Flew, There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, didn’t even seem to contain much of anything written directly by Flew at all. It seems that Roy Varghese, the author and editor of several books about God and science, was the main author and wrote the vast majority of it, so who can be sure if the words attributed to Flew are even true, or accurate? [2] To me, that is downright unethical and for these two christians to champion Flew for their cause is just downright despicable in my book. Even if Flew was convinced of some creator god that doesn’t make theists’ beliefs true in the slightest. We also have here another set of christians relying purely on an argument from authority [3] (and a very questionable one at that…), which is no proof of anything.

    Chapter 1: Dawkins’ God, Chance

    In the first chapter, Hahn and Wiker take issue with Richard Dawkins’ chapter about miracles and the origin of life in his book The Blind Watchmaker, specifically his description about how a statue could possibly wave at you if its molecules spontaneously moved in one direction. [4]

    Hahn and Wiker say, “In short, if God is only highly improbable, could His existence be any less probable than an event of such mind-numbing improbability that one couldn’t write down the calculated improbability in 13 1/2 billion years? […] If on Dawkins’ reckoning God is at least as probable as the sudden waving of a marble statue, then according to his own reasoning God causing the miraculous waving of the Virgin Mary statue is at least as probable as random atomic jostling.” [5]

    At the end of the chapter they sum up their gripe against Dawkins’ argument:

    “The reason, as we have seen, is that Dawkins wants to use chance to replace God in regard to the origin of life. Since it must have the powers of the God it displaces, then it grows accordingly, becoming a god that can do anything. Of course, Dawkins doesn’t need his god to do everything, but only those things that he surmises natural selection cannot do, and that would seem to require a real God to do: create the first living things.” [6]

    They claim that they will provide evidence for their god in later chapters, but I remain highly skeptical, but despite their I’m sure poor attempts, their argument that god had to have created the first life is nothing but a god of the gaps argument. The authors do not want to understand Dawkins’ argument that given the billions of years the universe has been here, the chances of life forming can be calculated, and is not impossible. These “chance” occurrences have even been replicated in the lab, [7] though several details have yet to be worked out, but as I’ve said many times before, this gap in our knowledge about the origin of life is no reason to plug the gaps with god. That’s really all that Dawkins is arguing anyway and is not as unreasonable as the authors would like their readers to believe.

    The authors would like to claim that by Dawkins’ own argument their god is just as likely an explanation as the example of the statue waving, but here is where so many theists hit a snag in their attempts at logic. They assume their god is real, while Dawkins’ example made use of molecules that we know exist and are aware of how they react, which is how Dawkins came to his calculation to begin with. It makes no sense to postulate some unproven entity to solve ones problems, which is exactly what Hahn and Wiker are doing.

    Chapter 2: Pride and Prejudice

    This second chapter starts where the last one leaves off with the authors explaining to their readers how “fine-tuned” the universe is, and how individual cells and everything else must have been arranged by some kind of intelligence. They claim that Dawkins’ refusal to allow a god into the explanation for the complexity of the universe and life is a case of “prejudice – prejudgment – against God. [Dawkins] seems intent on any explanation, as long as it doesn’t allow for God.” [8]

    Like the last chapter, the authors engage in needless and ignorant “god of the gap” explanations, when it’s not even necessary, especially when it comes to the universe. The Anthropic Principle that the authors bring up doesn’t seem to be much evidence for a god, at least according to some physicists, such as Victor J. Stenger [9]

    The authors’ attempts at critiquing evolutionary theory is laughable. On page 49 they ask why, given the “useless” features of the brain, such as “entirely theoretical purposes”, would natural selection create such needless baggage!? ‘It must be for some higher purpose, put there by my god!’ is what it sounds like they are arguing. They quote Paul Davies as saying that, “We have certain skills – for example, we can jump streams and catch falling apples […] These are completely outside the domain of everyday experience…not at all necessary for good Darwinian survival.” [10]

    I’m sorry, but what did Davies just say??? That our very acute coordination, which can be put to use catching a falling object is useless? Or “jumping streams?” I suppose I could see how jumping over a body of water to aid in our speed of flight wouldn’t be useful if we were running away from a predator…now, why in the world would natural selection allow us to do such “useless” things?! As far as our abilities to “discern […] what’s going on inside atoms or black holes”, how is that not explained by evolution? These quests to find answers are nothing more than an expansion upon our need to figure out about the world that are much grander and larger than, say, figuring out how the body works to cure an illness, or figuring out an animal’s patterns so that we may be able to more effectively hunt it, kill it, and eat it. Science is simply about our need to know; to ponder about the world, which is likely the reason for religion, which was replaced by the more reliable and logical methods of science.

    All joking and sarcasm aside, these authors and the individual they quoted clearly haven’t got a clue about evolution.

    On page 32 they clearly demonstrate their hypocrisy by boldly stating about Dawkins:

    “It should be obvious that there is something very fishy about assuming what you would have to prove” [referring to Dawkins’ claim that because life is here, this chance event he speaks of must have happened]. If only they would turn that statement back around on themselves, they’d see how silly it was because they’re making use of their own very large assumption, one no theists have ever been able to prove to begin with – that their god exists.

    Not to pick on the authors’ ignorance again, but on page 45 they are guilty of another lapse of reasoning when they attempt to refute Dawkins’ analogy (a purely hypothetical example) of monkeys, given enough time, typing out the works of Shakespeare. They cite an experiment that was done in which monkeys were put in a cage with computers and the monkeys “did very little typing” over the course of several months, along with a “fair dose of computer abuse.” They end this sound thrashing of Dawkins’ analogy (there’s that sarcasm again…) with the following:

    “Real monkeys don’t generate much of anything literarily, let alone something of the caliber of Shakespeare.”

    My head is spinning. Dawkins’ illustration is meant to demonstrate the effects of time plus natural selection! This experiment demonstrated precisely what Dawkins always has said in his books. Without natural selection the random mutations will not do anything! In that case it would just be chance, but that’s not the case when natural selection takes over. [11]

    1. These refutations can be found here:

    The Truth Behind the New Atheism: The Definitive Refutation
    The Delusion of David Aikman
    The Evidence Bible: Irrefutable Evidence for the Thinking Mind Refuted!

    2. Is Antony Flew an Unwilling Pawn in Several Theists’ Power Play?

    3. Arguments from authority seem to run rampant in theistic literature. I suspect this is because their entire worldview is based upon authority to begin with and because they lack the critical thinking skills to properly evaluate arguments, they think an argument from authority is somehow a good argument. If someone says it, it must be true (which was actually somewhat a kind of argument David Marshall proposed as well)! As I’ve said in my review of David Marshall’s book, The Truth Behind the New Atheism, which used an immense amount of arguments from authority without any evidence to back up his claims, those kinds of arguments mean nothing.

    4. The Blind Watchmaker, by Richard Dawkins, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1996; 227-228

    5. Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins’ Case Against God, by Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker, Emmaus Road Publishing, 2008; 13-14

    6. Ibid.; 22

    7. Self-Replicating RNA

    8. Answering the New Atheism, by Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker; 50

    9. Against the Gods: Arguments Against God’s Existence; Please refer to the fourth section titled Teleological Arguments. Their arguments have also been answered about “complexity” and “design” in that post as well.

    10. Answering the New Atheism, by Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker; 50

    11. The Blind Watchmaker, by Richard Dawkins; 66-70

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    Article by: Arizona Atheist