One question to Richard Dawkins


Today I attended Richard Dawkins' presentation of his latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, which took place, believe it or not, at First Congregational Church of Berkeley. During the Q&A session, I asked Dr. Dawkins:

Dr. Dawkins, you've written 10 books, so this question is going to be extremely difficult...

[he interrupted: "I would've written 20 books, if I hadn't taken up computer programming", poking fun at the numerous programmers in the church]

could you think of one sentence, which would convince a creationist to strongly doubt their belief, and ideally a believer in God to really doubt their belief?

My mistake was that I compounded the question, and he only took the easy part - creationism. Keep It Simple Stupid applies to PhDs too...

The reply was twofold:

  1. The organization of genes in all living beings either suggests evolution extremely strongly, or suggests that a Creator intentionally set up the entire mechanism in order to deceive us. Besides, why would a creator make all beings in such a way that evolution leaves traces anywhere, explains everything, and renders Him with nothing to do?

  2. The geologist Kurt Wise, a creationist, told Dawkins that even if all the evidence in the Universe pointed to an old Earth, he would still be a creationist, because that's what the Bible teaches. To this kind of mind, no argument for evolution will ever make any difference. I quote Dawkins here: These people stick their fingers in their ears and go "La... la... la...".

I had been trying for a while to see if one simple, cruel, brutal sentence would shake belief in God. The sentence is:

If God is good, why do 26500 children die each day?

These are some of the more frequent answers that I got:

  • we can never understand God / there is a reason for everything
  • "Suffering is the result of sin. Unfortunately, those who suffer are not always those who committed the sin." [twitter]
  • it's actually our fault that the children die, not God's, because: we have freedom of choice / rich nations don't help the poor children / etc.
  • "Our human hearts are evil, deeply entrenched in sin, that is the problem" [Romanian believer]
  • "What did YOU do to help those kids?" [San Jose student of Public Relations, Political Science and Business]
  • "If we didn't know what pain and suffering was, how would we know what love and happiness is?" [same student]
  • "God isn't punishing us. He's teaching us everyday what love is, and what it means to be loved." [same student]

I think I'm going to give up on the search for any such sentence. Its flaw is that it speaks to the reason, which we clearly lack in these cases.

See also

How to debate religious believers (with a chance to shake their beliefs)

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