Richard Dawkins Admits that Nothing Can Persuade Him God Exists

We have seen that the central claim of New Atheism – “There is no evidence for God” – is equivalent to saying “There are no Gaps.” That is, the evidence that the atheist demands is a Gap – something that cannot be explained by natural laws. Yet the same atheist will insist that the God of the Gaps approach is not a valid way of determining whether God exists. Heads I win, tails you lose.

Of course, don’t make the mistake of thinking that if only you could find a big enough Gap, the New Atheist would have to embrace that as evidence for God. After all, that’s not how it would work with Richard Dawkins, the most famous atheist alive. Dawkins made this clear some time ago in an interview with atheist Peter Boghossian. You can see the demonstration for yourself in the video below. It starts at 12:30 and goes to 15:30. I’ll post a transcript below the fold.

Here is the transcript (with the relevant claims):

Boghossian: What would it take for you to believe in God?

Dawkins: I used to say it would be very simple. It would be the Second Coming of Jesus or a great, big, deep, booming, bass voice saying “I am God.” But I was persuaded, mostly by Steve Zara, who is a regular contributor to my website. He more or less persuaded me that even if there was this booming voice in the Second Coming with clouds of glory, the probable explanation is that it is a hallucination or a conjuring trick by David Copperfield. He made the point that a supernatural explanation for anything is incoherent. It doesn’t add up to an explanation for anything. A non-supernatural Second Coming could be aliens from outer space.

[Peter Boghossian begins to speak and is in full agreement with Dawkins, arguing, for example, that if the stars spelled out a message from God, we would first have to rule out alternative explanations, like an alien trickster culture.]

Dawkins then agrees with Boghossian.

Boghossian then asks him: So that [stars aligned into a message] couldn’t be enough. So what would persuade you?

Dawkins: Well, I’m starting to think nothing would, which, in a way, goes against the grain, because I’ve always paid lip service to the view that a scientist should change his mind when evidence is forthcoming.

As Dawkins says, even if the Second Coming of Christ were to actually occur, Dawkins would not consider even that evidence for God. In his mind, it would be more likely that aliens would be playing a trick. Dawkins has painted himself into a corner with his extreme skepticism. In his mind, God = the supernatural and natural explanations, no matter how vague or incomplete, are always better than explanations that invoke the supernatural. Thus, it is not surprising he effectively admits nothing would persuade him to believe in God. In fact, he even makes a Freudian slip in acknowledging that all along, he has merely been paying “lip service” to the view that “a scientist should change his mind when evidence is forthcoming.” It’s all been an illusion.

As atheist activist PZ Myers once wrote, ” There is no valid god hypothesis, so there can be no god evidence, so let’s stop pretending the believers have a shot at persuading us.”

It is indeed time New Atheists stop pretending they can persuaded with Gaps.

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33 Responses to Richard Dawkins Admits that Nothing Can Persuade Him God Exists

  1. John says:

    This is certainly a good expose of Dawkins’ closed-mindedness,but I still think that more can be looked at here.

    To me,it is interesting exactly why this Steve Zara guy thinks that the supernatural is incoherent or even logically impossible.

    What do you think?

    He claims that a supernatural explanation can never be true because it is incoherent for some reason and that this means there is no valid God hypothesis and therefore we cannot say the supernatural can exist

    His argument seems,to me,to also be that the concept of God is logically impossible.The same thing atheists try to argue when trying to refute the Modal Ontological argument.

    I don’t know if that is what Zara claims.He only says that the concept of the supernatural and God is incoherent,but we don’t know exactly why.Maybe in some of his other comments he goes on to explain why he believes such things.

    But so far we don’t know why he says the supernatural and/or God is incoherent and therefore impossible and can never be true.

    So,what do you think of Zara’s claims there?

  2. Dhay says:

    Could they be similar to the ones which Jerry Coyne criticised in his blog post dated March 14, 2011 and entitled “Dawkins and Grayling: can there be evidence for god?” Coyne gives links to websites — the RDF links don’t work now — but I reckon the views are:

    On his “Pharyngula” blog, biology professor P. Z. Myers insists, “There is no god hypothesis, so there can be no god evidence, so let’s stop pretending that the believers have a shot at persuading us” (October 9, 2010).

    Steve Zara, custodian of the “Ask the Atheist” blog, wrote the following in a guest column for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, entitled, “There can be no evidence for god,” July 30, 2011: “We [atheists] should make it clear that all arguments that lead to gods are wrong because they lead to gods! God is a singular mistake, a philosophical division by zero, a point at which the respectability of arguments breaks down. God is out of the question, the ultimate wrong answer.”

    http://www.catholic365.com/article/2130/atheists-objections-to-evidence-for-gods-existence-part-1.html

    Coyne goes into more detail in the other blog posts of his that he links to, but the bottom-line summary is that Coyne thinks that:

    The statements by P.Z. and Zara seem to me more akin to prejudices than to fully reasoned positions.

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/dawkins-and-grayling-can-there-be-evidence-for-the-supernatural/

    So I rather think we know what Coyne thinks of Zara’s claims.

  3. Dhay says:

    Ah yes, Michael has commented on Zara already, in his April 12 2015 blog post entitled “The Subjective Essence of Atheism”: see https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2015/04/12/the-subjective-essence-of-atheism-2/

  4. Isn’t it Gods fault that he has made it that inconceivable to believe that he exists that even his own presence would be ridiculed and another explanation looked for?

  5. Crude says:

    Isn’t it Gods fault that he has made it that inconceivable to believe that he exists that even his own presence would be ridiculed and another explanation looked for?

    How terrible must the evidence for evolutionary theory be that almost half the country thinks it’s a load!

  6. Dhay says:

    I’ll just throw this is the mix, seeing that Jerry Coyne has recently used a Dilbert comic strip entry as ‘support’ for his No Free Will position. Has anyone any thoughts on this other entry I found, which possibly not only challenges and subverts Coyne’s rigidly deterministic views and his No Free Will position, but possibly even challenges and subverts evolution itself?

    Dogbert and Dilbert sit outdoors.
    Dilbert says, “Evolution must be true because it is a logical conclusion of the scientific method.”
    Dogbert replies, “But science is based on the irrational belief that because we cannot perceive reality all at once, things called ‘time’ and ’cause and effect’ exist.”
    Dilbert says angrily, “That’s what I was taught and that’s what I believe.”
    Dogbert replies, “Sounds cultish.”

    http://dilbert.com/strip/1992-02-08

    Enjoy.

  7. Isaac says:

    “Isn’t it Gods fault that he has made it that inconceivable to believe that he exists that even his own presence would be ridiculed and another explanation looked for?”

    Given that human beings appear “hardwired” to believe in God… and that the universe has the appearance of design…and that the previous two facts have made God-belief the human standard since caveman times…I think it’s rather nice of God to not QUITE so obviously exist that persons of a certain temperament can still insist he doesn’t if they want.

  8. Kevin says:

    I don’t know how they handle the mental gymnastics but atheists somehow seem to honestly think they are the people of Reason. Thus they consider themselves the best judges of whether evidence is good enough. It’s cute in theistic debates and outright amusing when they turn on each other, like Atheism Plus.

  9. Michael says:

    Isn’t it Gods fault that he has made it that inconceivable to believe that he exists that even his own presence would be ridiculed and another explanation looked for?

    LOL. Blaming God for Dawkins’ closed mind.

  10. I really don’t think Dawkins has the closed mind here

  11. Doug says:

    um, RE, Michael supplied evidence for Dawkins’ closed mind. Aren’t you supposed to be willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads?

  12. Billy Squibs says:

    OK, so you have described your psychological state. You lack the belief that Dawkins is closed minded. Now can you actually directly address the claim being made by referring to the supporting evidence – i.e. DR’s own words?

  13. Kevin says:

    “There is nothing that could convince me.” That is the very definition of a closed mind. Stop trying to defend your hero and just admit he is close minded. Among other things.

  14. Michael says:

    I really don’t think Dawkins has the closed mind here

    Of course you don’t. But he is.

  15. Wouldn’t it be more logical to assume any contact with earth would be ET life? For thousands if years deities have failed to contact us or show any definitive signs if their existence, so if it happened now I would assume that an alien race has contacted us. Why has it taken so long? Well, the universe is huge.

  16. Doug says:

    Of course you would assume…

  17. Doug says:

    For thousands of years deities have failed to contact us or show any definitive signs if their existence

    …which would be why the vast majority of human beings throughout history have never believed in a deity… wait. what?

    Oh. I get it. You’re hung up on “definitive”. Why so? Why is the “definitiveness” of revelation so important to you. And why do you suppose that it must also be so important to a deity?

  18. Kevin says:

    So given two options – one being a god, the other being aliens (for whom there is no evidence whatsoever) expending time, effort, and resources to travel no telling how many light years in order to prank us – the latter is deemed more logical by Dawkins and religionerased.

    I think that says a whole lot more about the reasoning capabilities of atheists than it does the quality of evidence for God.

  19. Dhay says:

    religionerased > Wouldn’t it be more logical to assume any contact with earth would be ET life? For thousands of years deities have failed to contact us or show any definitive signs of their existence, so if it happened now I would assume that an alien race has contacted us. Why has it taken so long? Well, the universe is huge.

    On our present understanding of physics, astronomical distances take astronomical times to traverse. At light speed it takes 80,000 years or so just to cross our very own galaxy. An ETI from across there would have had to have set out our way at least 80,000 years ago to get here now, and acceleration and deceleration would have added somewhat to the time taken. Even a delusion-inducing psi-beam would take 80,000 years, and each test cycle to see what works on humans would take a here-and-back 160,000 years, so they started all that some n x 160,000 years ago.

    I rather think the advent of detectable intelligent life on Earth was rather more recent than that, so any aliens detecting it and interacting with us today would necessarily be very local indeed.

    Of course, the aliens could have just stumbled on us, recently; which implies either lots of aliens (or lots of alien races) and lots of detectable signs of aliens which we mysteriously have not detected.

    If there’s lots of alien races, and they are on a character continuum, how likely is it we should encounter the ‘teenage prankster’ type first.

    Of course, Erich von Daniken, has claimed, in a series of best-selling books such as Chariots of the Gods (rated by Amazon readers very nearly the same as they rated Fact versus Faith, last I looked, so they must be a similarly serious and scholarly books?), that the aliens have already visited. Scholarly consensus is dead against that, but if you wish to align yourself with von Daniken and his claims, fine, and I’ll treat you with the seriousness I consider appropriate.

    Stars seen to have moved into message-spelling configurations, because of astronomical light travel times (and the speed of light limit on their velocities) must have been acted on, either to move or brighten them, astronomical times ago — or if delusion-inducing psi-beams were used, n x 160,000 years or so ago even assuming the aliens live just across the road in astronomical terms.

    (I note in passing that if the message-spelling stars were found to be so far away that the light from them must have started out before life on Earth could be detected, that would probably rule out aliens.)

    Would these signs be given by aliens? As argued, vanishingly unlikely!

    Would these signs be given by God — probably not. Miracles need to be very few and far between, I think.

    The best gift a loving God can give humankind is a regular universe susceptible to methodological naturalism; heck, it seems to have been regular for 13.8 billion years; once the regularities of nature become irregularities manipulated by the magical incantation of Peter Boghossian, Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne and religionerased, eg “Give me an arbitrary sign of my personal choice — a star message (or Second Coming/amputee healing/insert gap of choice) and I will believe” — once the regularities of nature can be arbitrarily jerked around to conform to the demands of Boghossian, Dawkins, Coyne and religionerased, it becomes a very arbitrary, unpredictable and frightening universe indeed.

  20. Michael says:

    Wouldn’t it be more logical to assume any contact with earth would be ET life?

    Are you sure you want to go there?

  21. Michael says:

    Seems to me you’re digging yourself deeper into the hole. I post a blog entry on it come Tuesday.

  22. TFBW says:

    On the off chance that anyone is interested, I’ve already had a lengthy exchange with religionerased on his blog.

  23. Dhay says:

    religionerased > Why not?

    Doubtlessly you are working up a devastating critique of the figures and ideas in my last response, and developing your own proposals for how an encounter with super-intelligent aliens at the juvenile-minded end of the spectrum is both possible and to some extent probable this very afternoon — I rather think Richard Dawkins and co. want their demonstration now, rather than as a vague but unfulfilled promise.

    It seems odd and implausible to me that alien first contact should take the form of a “demonstration” that there is a God; there are so many other, presumably more likely, forms first contact could take. If I take seriously your proposal that first contact by super-intelligent aliens would be in the form of a “God does exist” message, I rather think I end up with the probable conclusion that your (hypothetical) super-intelligent aliens must be, at the very least, Theists — or in the Jerry Coyne version, where the stars move to spell YHWH in Hebrew characters, the super-intelligent aliens must be observant Jews.

    Now that’s quite a Diaspora.

    *

    > On the off chance that anyone is interested, I’ve already had a lengthy exchange with religionerased on his blog.

    Very interesting.

  24. Michael says:

    Wouldn’t it be more logical to assume any contact with earth would be ET life?

    If so, it would mean that reason and logic are useless tools when it comes to determining whether God exists. See: Dawkins Neuters Logic and Reason

  25. And if that was the case, why bother worshiping or respecting a God that makes any search for him almost impossible?

  26. Kevin says:

    You would be correct, if that was the case.

  27. TFBW says:

    Dawkins cites Steve Zara in his discussion with Boghossian; as Dhay has already noted, the old.richarddawkins.net site is no longer available, but the article lives on in the Wayback Machine. It’s already been quoted, but it bears repeating: the conclusion of that article includes the following assertion.

    We should make it clear that all arguments that lead to gods are wrong because they lead to gods! God is a singular mistake, a philosophical division by zero, a point at which the respectability of arguments break down. God is out of the question, the ultimate wrong answer.

    I hope that it is clear to everyone — even religionerased — that if you accept this assertion, then you have closed your mind tightly against the idea that God might exist. This isn’t about God making the search for Him impossible — it’s about a person being as resistant as is humanly possible to the possibility of God’s existence.

  28. Isaac says:

    “religionerased”…you ignored my response to you, but here it is again. The entire universe IS one great big screaming tract on the existence and nature of God. The nature of invisible laws of science and logic, cosmology, biology, and philosophy. That alone is the reason that the vast majority of humans throughout all of history have believed in God. If he’s “hiding,” he’s not doing a great job, considering all the people who are aware of him.

  29. John says:

    I would like to make a comment about the plausability of aliens contacting us.

    About the idea that a grand miracle is the work of prankster aliens,Kevin and Dhay say that aliens contacting us would need to travel light years which would take tens of thousands of years.

    But if aliens are advanced enough,they could use teleportation or bend time/space in a way to reach us in a very short time.

    Such ideas already exist and are hypothesised upon by futurists and some scientists:

    http://www.express.co.uk/news/science/602529/Human-teleportation-is-possible-and-your-great-GRANDCHILDREN-will-do-it-claims-scientist

    So that way,prankster aliens who are advanced enough could easily reach us without much effort.

    As for the stars in the sky moving,if they were sufficiently advanced enough,aliens could do that.

    But that might not even be necessary.

    Aliens could easily manipulate light waves from stars far away to only make it look like the stars are moving.

  30. Doug says:

    @John,

    What compels us to treat sentences that begin with the words “Aliens could easily” as no more than “magical thinking”?

  31. Kevin says:

    Even if we agree on the premise that technology could do those things, the question becomes what seems more plausible: aliens (no evidence they even exist, and we would expect scientific evidence to back up belief in aliens) who happen to detect us, happen to have technology to get to us, happen to decipher our writing, happen to have a warped sense of humor, and happen to have the technology to pull off their prank…or God? The alien theory is so ridiculous as to not even be worth the comparison.

  32. nawdew14 says:

    Religionerased says that he doesn’t think that Dawkins is being closed minded. Interesting considering the name you go by is religionerased.

    That being said, I find it interesting, the self-defeating argument for free will that many of the most vocal atheists adhere to, namely Dawkins, Krauss, and Coyne.

    It is said to “follow the evidence where is leads.” So let’s see, by their own philosophy, where this leads shall we. From an article was written in the USA Today, Jan 1, 2012, by none other than Jerry Coyne:

    “We are biological creatures, collections of molecules that must obey the laws of physics. All the success of science rests on the regularity of those laws, which determine the behavior of every molecule in the universe. Those molecules, of course, also make up your brain — the organ that does the “choosing.” Our brains are simply meat computers that, like real computers, are programmed by our genes and experiences to convert an array of inputs into a predetermined output.”

    Does anyone see the self-defeating argument here?

    Let me help Mr. “I Don’t Think Dawkins is Closed minded.”

    If we only respond to our predetermined brain functions, then how can I know that what you say is true?
    If we are just moist robots dictated by the laws of physics, then how does anyone know what is true and what is not since our brain output is already predetermined?

    So, if Jerry Coyne is correct, then how can Dawkins make the argument that NOTHING can persuade him? Seems to me that one needs free will to make such a decision.

    And yet, these atheists self-defeat themselves with their circular arguments.

    Oh by the way, why is that there is a growing list of Ten Commandments by and for atheists? Even Dawkins has a list of them. Seems to me, to follow a command, one would still have to have a free will to follow them. Again, self-defeating.

    I like what Alistair McGrath said about atheistic arguments:
    “Atheism, I began to realize, rested on a less-than-satisfactory evidential basis. The arguments that had once seemed bold, decisive, and conclusive increasingly turned out to be circular, tentative, and uncertain.”

    And as I pointed out, and confirmed by Alistair McGrath, all those like Dawkins, Krauss, Harris, Dennett, Hawking, Coyne, Penn, Meyers, Maher, etc. have nothing but circular arguments. Funny how they make up the rules for others but do not apply the same rules to themselves.

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