Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book Review: Why There Almost Certainly Is a God

Numerous books have been written in response to Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. Keith Ward's contribution to this topic is brief (only 149 pages), but offers a convincing refutation to several of Dawkins' main points.

The book begins by addressing the idea that God, as the creator of the universe, must be more complex than his creation. Dawkins' assumption seems to be that God would have had to evolve as any other living creature has, and that this makes God's non-existence a virtual certainty (it also allows Dawkin's to ask "Who made God?").

Part of Dawkins' argument is the position that matter is fundamental to reality, which Ward challenges at the outset of his response. He points out that no one is even sure what matter is, and then proceeds to build his case that 'mind is the ultimate reality. This is nicely summed up in the following quote from page 20 of Ward's book:

Obviously such arguments will not work if you simply assume that materialism
is true. Then you will see the arguments as starting from a purely physical universe, and magically arriving at God as an extra entity just outside the universe, or snuffling around its boundary, who is made of very thin supernatural matter, and needs just as much explanation as the universe does. That seems to be exactly how Dawkins sees the arguments for God. No wonder he thinks he can dispose of them quite easily!

Arguments for God do not work like that. They are arguments to show that mind is the ultimate reality, and that materialism is a delusion caused by a misuse of modern science. The arguments do not 'prove' that there is one extra pseudo-physical thing in or just outside the universe. They provide good reason for thinking the
ultimate character of the universe is mind, and that matter is the appearance or manifestation or creation of cosmic mind.

The remainder of the book is Ward's case that the 'ultimate character of the universe is mind'. And to make his case, he addresses the idea of God as an unembodied mind that is not composed of parts, and is thus not complex (Divine Simplicity). He also talks about issues such as the multiverse, which is very popular as an ultimate explanation by materialists.

While Ward is happy to admit the existence of the multiverse, he describes this as all possible worlds existing in the mind of God. And while all possible worlds may exist in God's mind (including universes in which horrific evils prevail), only those universes that can be characterized as good will ever be actualized (or brought into actual existence).

There is a brief mention of Anselm's Ontological Argument, with Ward making the point that while this argument doesn't prove God's existence it does require one of two conclusions. Either God is necessary (in the sense that He must exist) or the very concept of God is logically incoherent, thus He cannot exist. According to Ward, there is no middle ground.

The book concludes that God's existence is both logically coherent and necessary. As he describes it, if the universe is coherent then it calls for an explanation. And if it has an explanation, that explanation will be personal in nature. God's existence is not only necessary, but with God we have a personal explanation that renders the universe purposeful and explainable.

While this is only a short book, it is quite dense with some excellent thoughts by a great Christian theologian and philosopher. It serves as an excellent addition to the growing body of literature that offers convincing responses to the claims of Dawkins and his fellow atheists.

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