-For context see “Inexcusable Ignorance Part I“-

The same could be said of Richard Dawkins. On numerous occasions he has appealed to the supposed problem of the origin of God as an objection to theism and ID. It is central to his argument. I will quote a couple different versions so you can feel the force of his argument. During an interview on NPR Dawkins said:

It was the genius of Darwin to show that organized complexity can come about from primeval simplicity. It precisely does not require an original intelligence in order, or an original complexity in order to get it going. And it’s just as well that it doesn’t, because if it did we would be left with an infinite regress, saying, where does the original intelligence come from? … If life is too complex to have been produced by natural selection, then it’s sure as hell too complex to be produced by another complex agent; namely a divine intelligence. That is an absolutely inescapable piece of logic. If you are going to say that life is too complex to be explained by natural selection, then you cannot invoke an even more complicated agent. … The task of biology is to explain where all that complexity comes from. Now to invoke a complexity-an intelligence, a complex agent-as the designing being is to explain precisely nothing, because you are left asking where did the designer come from?

Some people are tempted to invoke…a creator to fine-tune the constants of the universe. Once again that cannot be right because you are left with the problem of explaining where the fine-tuner comes from. So wherever else the tuning comes from, it cannot come from an intelligent creator.[1]

And again:

Most of the traditional arguments for God’s existence, from Aquinas on, are easily demolished. Several of them, such as the First Cause argument, work by setting up an infinite regress which God is wheeled out to terminate. But we are never told why God is magically able to terminate regresses while needing no explanation himself.

Even before Darwin’s time, the illogicality was glaring: how could it ever have been a good idea to postulate, in explanation for the existence of improbable things, a designer who would have to be even more improbable? The entire argument is a logical non-starter, as David Hume realized before Darwin was born.[2]

Again, it is obvious that Dawkins does not do much reading of theistic apologists because the answer to this question is readily available. Such ignorance is unacceptable for an Oxford scholar.

As I wrote one year ago, science highly suggests and philosophy demands that the universe came into being a finite time ago. Everything that comes into being has a cause, so the beginning of the spatio-temporal-material universe must have had a cause as well. Whatever caused space, time, and matter to come into existence cannot itself be spatial, temporal, and material because you cannot bring something into existence that already exists. That means the first cause of the universe must be eternal, non-spatial, and immaterial.

So who caused God? Nothing. He doesn’t need a cause. As just noted, the First Cause of the universe must be eternal. By definition eternal things never come into being, and thus do not need a cause. The Law of Causality only applies to things that begin to exist. As an eternal being God never began to exist, and thus needs no cause. We conclude, then, that God is a necessary being, acting as the first cause of our contingent universe when He willed it into existence a finite time ago. So much for Dawkins secret weapon!

But let’s say the answer to Dawkins’ objection was not accounted for. Would it matter? Would it lessen the force of the argument that the universe needs a cause, and that the cause must be a personal, powerful, intelligent being? Dawkins thinks so. In The Blind Watchmaker Dawkins wrote, “To explain the origin of the DNA/protein machine by invoking a supernatural Designer is to explain precisely nothing, for it leaves unexplained the origin of the Designer. You have to say something like ‘God was always there’, and if you allow yourself that kind of lazy way out, you might as well just say ‘DNA was always there’, or ‘Life was always there’, and be done with it.”[3]

Clearly this thinking is wrong-headed. We can still identify God as the cause of the universe even if we don’t know what caused Him. Our ignorance of His origin no more argues against His existence and causal necessity than the fact that I don’t know who my great-great-great grandparents were argues against the fact that my great-great grandparents are the cause of my existence.

Biologist, Stephen Jones, responded to Dawkins’s reasoning by pointing out that “if science was required to explain everything along an infinite regress, before it could explain something, then there could be no scientific explanation of anything new.”[4] Delvin Lee Ratzsch had similar sentiments:

Dawkins seems to be presupposing that if explanations are not ultimate they are vacuous. …. He seems to be assuming that no origin has been explained unless the ultimate origin of anything appealed to in the explanation has also been explained. In addition to being mistaken, that principle is surely as dangerous for the naturalist as for the theist. To take the parallel case, one could claim that to explain the origin of species by invoking natural processes is to explain precisely nothing, for it leaves unexplained the origin of natural processes. And, of course, attempts to explain natural processes by invoking the big bang or anything else- will generate an exactly similar problem with anything appealed to in that explanation. Any explanation has to begin somewhere, and the principle that no explanation is legitimate unless anything referred to in the explanation is itself explained immediately generates a regress that would effectively destroy any possibility of any explanation for anything.[5]

Where did God come from? I’m glad we have an answer, but the answer is irrelevant to our recognition that the universe was designed by an Intelligent Designer. ID does not attempt to find the ultimate designer, but only the proximate designer. They could be one and the same, or they could be distinct. That is for philosophy to determine, not science.

[1]Richard Dawkins, interview with Tom Ashbrook on Boston’s NPR radio show, 10 August 2005. Available from http://www.onpointradio.org/shows/2005/08/20050810_a_main.asp and http://realserver.bu.edu:8080/ramgen/w/b/wbur/onpoint/2005/08/op_0810a.rm.
[2]Richard Dawkins, “Richard Dawkins Explains His Latest Book” available from http://richarddawkins.net/mainPage.php?bodyPage=article_body.php&id=170 as of 9/20/06, but subsequently removed on 9/23/06. It was reproduced at http://id-idea.blogspot.com/2006/09/richard-dawkins-explains-his-latest.html; Internet; accessed 03 October 2006.
[3]Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design (W.W. Norton & Co: New York NY, 1986), 141.
[4]Stephen Jones, “Frequently Asked Questions”; available from http://members.iinet.net.au/~sejones/idfaqs30.html; Internet; accessed 17 March 2006.
[5]Delvin Lee Ratzsch, The Battle of Beginnings: Why Neither Side is Winning the Creation-Evolution Debate (InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL, 1996), 191-192.