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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

dawkins abandons atheism?

That's the subject line (but with an exclamation point rather than a question mark) of a recent post on Peter Kirk's Gentle Wisdom blog. But is it true?

According to a story by Melanie Phillips in The Spectator, Dawkins said this in a recent debate:

A serious case could be made for a deistic God.

In her article, Phillips responds with this:

This was surely remarkable. Here was the arch-apostle of atheism, whose whole case is based on the assertion that believing in a creator of the universe is no different from believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden, saying that a serious case can be made for the idea that the universe was brought into being by some kind of purposeful force. A creator.

So has Richard Dawkins abandoned atheism? I doubt it.

In fact, Phillips got a clarification from Dawkins after the debate:

Afterwards, I asked Dawkins whether he had indeed changed his position and become more open to ideas which lay outside the scientific paradigm. He vehemently denied this and expressed horror that he might have given this impression.

So when Dawkins says, "A serious case could be made for a deistic God," what does he mean?

My best guess is that his meaning can be found in what he didn't say. First, he didn't say that a serious case has ever been made; he is only acknowledging that it could. Second, in saying that the serious case could be made only for a deistic God, he is in essence denying that a serious case could be made for a personal God.

Richard Dawkins has never been a friend of theism, and I don't see any reason to believe his statement last week represents a change of heart.

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