Sean McDowell | June 4, 2009

The God Delusion

So many people have been reading and talking about The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, so I finally decided to pick up a copy and read it (twice). While Dawkins is an engaging and entertaining writer, his arguments are surprisingly weak. It is clear that he is completely unaware of the revolution in philosophy of religion that has taken place over the past few decades. It’s amazing to me that he could write a book against God and not deal with philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, or J.P. Moreland. Maybe he knows of them and simply ignores them (just as he refuses to debate someone of the likes of Craig). Or maybe he really is unaware. I lean toward the former.

While this is not the place to respond to all of Dawkins book—after all, it’s over 400 pages!—I do want to respond to Dawkins key claim that the design argument fails because it can’t explain who designed the designer. He says, “A designer God cannot be used to explain organized complexity because any God capable of designing anything would have to be complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation in its own right” (136).

The problem with this objection is that it simply ignores how science actually works. Scientists don’t accept explanations that themselves have been explained. It’s always possible to ask for further explanation. There comes a point when scientists recognize that they have made fruitful progress. Apologist Greg Koukl has observed “An explanation can be a good one even if you do not have an explanation for the explanation.”1

Consider an archaeologist who discovers an ancient object that appears to be either an arrowhead or a digging tool. Wouldn’t she be justified in concluding the object was designed, even if she couldn’t account for the designer? Of course she would! Even though she may have no idea as to who made the object or where it came from, certain patterns on the artifact would indicate design (as opposed to chance or some law of nature).

If every explanation needed a further explanation, then we could never explain anything! For example, if designer B was responsible for designer A, then we would naturally wonder who designed B. The answer, of course, is designer C. And so on ad infinitum. Given such an infinite regress of explanations, nothing could ever be explained since every explanation would require still a further explanation. Science itself would come to a standstill!

This is a conclusion that Dawkins would be unwilling to accept, especially since he spends the last chapter praising science for giving us a life-affirming and positive view of the world. Either he has to give up his objection to God or his commitment to science. He can’t have both.

There is much more that could be said in response to the God Delusion (for example, Dawkins solution to the origin of life is luck. Yes, luck!) And that is why I have recently written, Understanding Intelligent Design with William Dembski. The case for design in the universe is compelling. To whet your appetite, the first chapter is available for free at along with a study guide. Check it out!

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author, popular speaker, and part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell, TikTok, Instagram, and his blog: