Summary: After reading Richard Dawkins' excellent contribution to religious and scientific debate, I have come to the (to me surprising) conclusion that he and I agree on much more than I thought we would. I recommend The God Delusion to anyone seeking to further their understanding of life in general and how both religion and science can contribute to life in the fullest sense.
I recently finished reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, and I found it surprisingly refreshing (perhaps because I enjoyed his sarcasm at various religions that I interpreted not to include mine.) Obviously I disagreed with him on issues, but in probably more cases I agreed with his thesis (at least my interpretation of what he said). I was perhaps most surprised with his admission that he does not claim to 'know' that God does not exist, but rather rates the probability of such an existent entity as very low.
Here are some ways that I agree with Richard Dawkins:
- We both think it is entirely probable that life exists on other planets in the universe someplace.
- We agree that our existence probably has a significant deal to do with evolution.
- There is much which masquerades as religion which is nothing more than superstition.
- A real God would be more pleased with reason and the search for truth than He is with blind obedience.
- A real God would have a perfect understanding of and be bound by the laws of the universe.
- A real God would be knowable and understandable.
- A real God would be a loving God.
My disagreements with Dawkins are more perhaps in degree rather than in substance. He, for example, trusts probability until the evidence is in, while I believe that men exist on earth today to whom some of that evidence has been delivered. To me, faith is not superstition. Any person's beliefs should either be regularly rewarded with evidence or disproven, which in the case of disproof, it was not faith in the first place. We should seldom jump to a swift conclusion that we know that something is (that we have all the evidence) or that it isn't (that it has been categorically disproven). To coin a phrase by a former LDS Church president and prophet: "Faith [and reason] precede the miracle [of knowledge]."
Life on Other Earths
Dawkins states on page 72:
Whether we ever get to know them or not, there are very probably alien civilizations that are superhuman, to the point of being god-like in ways that exceed anything a theologian could possibly imagine.
The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ teaches that indeed life does exist elsewhere in our universe, and that it has a purpose:
That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God. (Doctrine and Covenants 76:24)How it got there, we probably disagree on, but the likelihood of human existence on other worlds is a point we can agree on.
Evolution as a Contributing Factor to Existence
Dawkins states on page 73 that
Entities that are complex enough to be intelligent are products of an evolutionary process. No matter how Godlike they may seem when we encounter them, they didn't start that way.
For me to say that I know that the above is a false statement would be worse than foolhardy. In fact, it is a statement with which I quite agree.
Many Christians, and even some Mormons, are troubled by the prospect of evolution. Interestingly, however, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has (as far as I know) never taken an official stand on evolution. Former Church President David O. McKay studied the works of Charles Darwin, and had some very interesting things to say about evolution. David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism writes:
Although McKay never made a public statement affirming his acceptance of biological evolution, he was sympathetic to that viewpoint... He kept his views private...for a simple reason..."The thing you need to remember about evolution is that the Lord has never revealed anything about the matter."
I guess that leaves me in the same realm as Dawkins, speculating as to the probability of something for which no revelatory evidence has been given by God--for or against. And I am quite comfortable with that. There is no reason to be offended by--nor to religiously campaign for or against--a subject on which God has not spoken.
McKay, interestingly, also said:
[Evolution] claims: "Man is a creature of development; that he has come up through uncounted ages from an origin that is lowly." Why this vast expenditure of time and pain and blood? Why should he come so far if he is destined to go no farther? ...Believing as I do that man in the distant future will be a far more perfect creature than he now is, it is an intolerable thought that he and all other sentient beings are doomed to complete annihilation after such long-continued, slow progress."
In (my) other words: It is entirely possible that life began from a single cell. But if it continues to evolve, why would it not eventually evolve into something perfect, which we can call God?
The LDS Church teaches that:
As man is God once was.
As God is, man may become.
Evolution seems to me to support this thought very elegantly.
As I have written elsewhere, it is difficult to contemplate that if there is a God, where did he come from? Equally puzzling is if the universe came into existence by a big bang, where did the stuff bang from? Oh well. But I think we'll find out some day. Dawkins agrees that "one day we may know the answer." (p. 48)
The following topics will be discussed in upcoming posts in this series:
Superstition Masquerading as Religion
God is a God of Reason
God Understands and Follows Nature's Laws
God is a Loving God