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David Hart, author of Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies, writes about Richard Dawkins’s The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution in First Things. Perhaps surprisingly, Hart thinks the work on the whole is an admirable production. But he lays into Dawkins when it comes to logic and philosophy. Here’s an excerpt:

[W]hat makes The God Delusion so frustrating to any reader who has a shred of decent philosophical training and who knows the history of ideas is its special combination of encyclopedic ignorance and thuggish bluster. . . . His own pet proof of "why there almost certainly is no God" (a proof in which he takes much evident pride) is one that a usually mild-spoken friend of mine (a friend who has devoted too much of his life to teaching undergraduates the basic rules of logic and the elementary language of philosophy) has described as "possibly the single most incompetent logical argument ever made for or against anything in the whole history of the human race."

That may be an exaggeration. My friend has spent little time among theologians. But that is neither here nor there. All of these failings would be pardonable if Dawkins were capable of correction. But his habitual response to any concept whose meaning he has not taken the time to learn is to dismiss it as meaningless, with the sort of truculent affectation of contempt that suggests he really knows, at some level, that he is out of his depth.


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10 thoughts on “Encyclopedic Ignorance and Thuggish Bluster”

  1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    “possibly the single most incompetent logical argument ever made for or against anything in the whole history of the human race.”

    Did anyone else chuckle when reading this?

  2. Mark Walsh says:

    Presumably, your meant to refer to “The God Delusion” than “The Greatest Show on Earth” since the quute mentions it and “the Greatest Show …” only came out in Sept months after Hart’s book?

    Which makes one wonder how Hart “found the work on the whole is an admirable production”.

    No matter how much you might respect his intellect, I would have thought The God Delusion to be Dawkins poorest work – the incompetence of his logic is obvious to anyone with even a shallow understanding of the issues he claims to be debating – his approach is so unscientific it really is laughable at times.

    Mark

    1. jordan buckley says:

      Mark, if you click through to the article you’ll see he’s reviewing The Greatest Show on Earth: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2009/12/the-dawkins-evolution

  3. I think we should let the Word of God speak on this:

    “His own pet proof of “why there almost certainly is no God” (a proof in which he takes much evident pride)”

    Psalm 10:4 – “In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.”

    I believe that verse sums up why they are saying and writing what they are, not any evidence THEY may think they have.

  4. Jake Meador says:

    The whole review is worth a read, while he’s pretty hard on Dawkins on issues of philosophy and theology, the overall tone of the review is quite positive. Personally, it made me want to read more of Dawkins’ scientific texts.

  5. Jeremy says:

    What is this logical misstep that everyone seems to be talking about in relation to Dawkins?

  6. John says:

    That would be “missteps”, in the plural.

  7. Richard Dawkins is thorougly unimpressive. Bertrand Russell would roll over in his grave if knew the pathetic state of atheism today (the “New Atheism” or “Atheism 2.0″). Dawkins is like Bart Ehrman. Ehrman rehashes a 150 year old argument that has been thoroughly refuted yet is still highly regarded in ‘academic circles.’ Dawkins relies heavily on name-calling and not cogent argumentation. Dawkins also wants to cling to morality, Nietzsche would roll over in his grave too. I have to agree with Hart on this one.

  8. Mike says:

    I don’t understand the point of this post, nor of the remarks that follow. What good is it to simply state that Dawkins is a poor philosopher or that Bertrand Russell would be disappointed with him? It seems like the Christians here are virtually unfamiliar with Dawkins… and Ehrman for that matter.

    Now, I am a Christian, so obviously I do disagree with both Dawkins and Ehrman. But at least I read their books and try to understand where they are coming from. It grieves me when I read posts like this because it makes me think that most Christians (even the calvinists associated with the Gospel Coalition) are not intellectually honest, fair, or humble with their criticisms. And if you are one who has read their books, I apologize, but please demonstrate that you understand where these men are coming from before you criticize them.

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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