I said this in The Big Questions and I’ll say it again: Richard Dawkins is an international treasure and one of my personal heroes, but he’s got this God thing all wrong. Here’s some of his latest, from the Wall Street Journal:
Where does [Darwinian evolution] leave God? The kindest thing to say is that it leaves him with nothing to do, and no achievements that might attract our praise, our worship or our fear. Evolution is God’s redundancy notice, his pink slip. But we have to go further. A complex creative intelligence with nothing to do is not just redundant. A divine designer is all but ruled out by the consideration that he must be at least as complex as the entities he was wheeled out to explain. God is not dead. He was never alive in the first place.
But Darwinian evolution can’t replace God, because Darwinian evolution (at best) explains life, and explaining life was never the hard part. The Big Question is not: Why is there life? The Big Question is: Why is there anything? Explaining life does not count as explaining the Universe.
Ah, says, Dawkins, but there’s no role for God there either:
Making the universe is the one thing no intelligence, however superhuman, could do, because an intelligence is complex—statistically improbable —and therefore had to emerge, by gradual degrees, from simpler beginnings
That, however, is just wrong. It is not true that all complex things emerge by gradual degrees from simpler beginnings. In fact, the most complex thing I’m aware of is the system of natural numbers (0,1,2,3, and all the rest of them) together with the laws of arithmetic. That system did not emerge, by gradual degrees, from simpler beginnings.
If you doubt the complexity of the natural numbers, take note that you can use just a small part of them to encode the entire human genome. That makes the natural numbers more complex than human life. Unless, of course, human beings contain an uncodable essence, like an immortal soul—but I’m guessing that’s not the road Dawkins wants to take.
Now I happen to agree with Professor Dawkins that God is unnecessary, but I think he’s got the reason precisely backward. God is unnecessary not because complex things require simple antecedents but because they don’t. That allows the natural numbers to exist with no antecedents at all—and once they exist, all hell (or more precisely all existence) breaks loose: In The Big Questions I’ve explained why I believe the entire Universe is, in a sense, made of mathematics.
So while Dawkins believes that complexity can arise only from simplicity, I believe that complexity arises from even greater complexity. I’m not sure I’m right, but I’m sure he’s wrong.