Richard Dawkins and Evidence

17 Jul
Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins
(Image from Google Images)

Recently, I was given a link to Richard Dawkins’ open letter to his ten year old daughter. According to the website (found HERE), the letter was written September 20, 2006, so his daughter at my writing would be coming up on her 17th birthday this September. In the letter he describes how she could understand the world around her and the key for her, and presumably for everyone who reads his now public letter to his daughter, is evidence.

I agree with much of what Dr. Dawkins claims about seeking truth in his letter, but what surprises me most about it is his nearly total lack of personal accountability for what he claims is true, and I’ll get to this in a moment. After advising the reader (his daughter in particular and us in general) to look for evidence for what is claimed to be true, he warns about taking tradition, authority and revelation of what is true on its own merit without some kind of (physical – seeing, hearing, hands-on) supporting evidence. And, for the most part, I can agree with what he is trying to tell us. For example, Dr. Dawkins warns that tradition is a belief handed down from grandparent to parent to child, or through books handed down through the centuries and people believe what is claimed “simply because people have believed the same thing over centuries.”

That’s true, and we need to be aware that, just because something is believed to be so, it doesn’t mean it is true. Dr. Dawkins makes a good point. Equally so is his warning against believing authority simply on the basis that we are impressed with that authority, whether parent, grandparent, or even Dr. Dawkins for that matter. If the evidence doesn’t support what the authority claims, then we need to reconsider what is told us.

Finally, Dr. Dawkins warns his daughter/the reader about believing revelation or the feeling that something is true. This revelation or feeling may be very important, but it needs to be proved. He uses the example of a scientist having a “hunch” about a matter, but such a thing needs to be proved experimentally or looking for other evidence for its validity. This is true, and even the Bible supports Richard on this point, by saying “believe not all the spirits (revelation) but try the spirits to see if they are of God” (1John 4:1). So, we can see that Dr. Dawkins’ letter is quite valuable for those seeking truth.

My problem with his letter came when he returned to the subject of “tradition” and told his daughter/reader: “I want to try to explain why tradition is so important to us. All animals are built (by the process called evolution)…” This is what I meant above by Dr. Dawkins failing to be accountable for his claims. His letter treated religion (all religions) as something not worthy of belief, because they lacked evidence. Yet, without offering any evidence whatsoever, he introduces the subject of evolution as though it were empirical truth. The fact is, however, there is absolutely no evidence for its claims that all life has arisen from much simpler life forms—like from particle to philosopher or from soup to scientist kind of thing. One may search the world for evidence in billions and billions of fossils, yet one would not find a single intermediate lifeform. Everything on the evolutionary tree of life is inferred except for the very tips of the tree itself where science places all living lifeforms observed today.

The fact is the theory of evolution has been taught for centuries and believed by some influential people long before Charles Darwin wrote The Origen of Species. It is a naturalist ideology that interprets science. It is an ideology dressed up in scientific sounding garb and taught in our schools and universities, but at the end of the day it is no more scientific than the Christian faith. Like the Christian faith, it is a worldview and science is interpreted according to one’s worldview. And to use Dr. Dawkins’ own words…

“Next time somebody tells you something that sounds important (like ‘God created us’ or ‘we all have a common ancestor and evolved into what we are through natural means), think to yourself: ‘Is this the kind of thing that people probably know because of evidence? Or is it the kind of thing that people only believe because of tradition, authority or revelation?’ And, next time somebody tells you that something is true, why not say to them: ‘What kind of evidence is there for that?’” [parenthesis  mine]

In the next series of blogs I’ll address the theory of evolution from a scientific perspective. Let’s see what evidence there is for the theory, and, while we do this, take to heart what Dr. Dawkins advises us to do—ask: “What kind of evidence is there for that?”

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Posted by on July 17, 2013 in Religion, theory of evolution


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