we look at the specific points we have observed in the ‘Content' part
Like Dawkins, Hitchens loves to quote from fellow sceptics as if somehow
this legitimises his own position. This quote, to start this chapter,
is full of the romanticism that atheists so delight in resorting to,
to somehow cover up the barren landscape they paint. Bear in mind,
if you will, that the atheist HAS to believe that life is pure blind
chance and, however you dress it up, according to their way of things,
all we are is a bunch of chemicals electrically charged. (Go to our
apologetics section if you haven't thought this one through yet -
is pure romanticism because, coming from the atheists' stable, there
is no room for such word as ‘marvels' and ‘mysteries' and ‘enchanted'
and ‘dignity'. Electrically charged chemicals don't have meaning and
all these words are utterly meaningless with that starting place.
If there is any denial in these discussions, it is at this point.
It is logically meaningless and you know it! Be honest. Face
Complaint about subservience:
The chapter kicks off with a misunderstanding from the word go. We
are accused of thinking abjectly of ourselves, as miserable and guilty
sinners, prostrate before an angry and jealous God. I have to tell
you, sir, that my abject, miserable and guilty sinner phase lasted
a couple of hours. For others it lasts a couple of minutes. That was
a recognition (which I still have but not miserably and guiltily)
that my life was a mess and I needed help and the only help big enough
was God. That was now over forty years ago.
there have been times since when I have blown it and feel bad (does
the author tell me that he has no conscience and never feels he has
blown it?) but that is soon dealt with. This is, despite the author's
negative comments about our self-centred complacency or whatever (have
you noticed how many times he had used the word ‘solipsism'), a simple
recognition that God has said He's dealt with my sin and His forgiveness
is there for me.
rather silly comments about prayer, so often being like a supplicant
serf before an ill-tempered monarch, lack the understanding that can
only come from an encounter with a Being so great, so beautiful and
so wonderful that adoration is the only response possible. There is
nothing subservient (at least in a negative sense) about this. This
is simply a gloriously wonderful acknowledgement of reality.
claims, of religion teaching people to be “extremely
self-centred and conceited”, again utterly lacks understanding
and completely misses the point. There is a vast difference between
‘self-centred' and ‘self-aware'.
is living for self. Self aware is actually what he should mean, which
is having a realisation of both our inadequacy (in reality) and our
potential greatness with God's help.
he confuses conceit with humility. Conceited is thinking yourself
wonderful or having an assessment of yourself above what it really
is. Humility is recognising both your weakness and your greatness
without attributing the greatness to your own making.
can only assume that the author's own apparent sense of inadequacy
(I can't see whatever else it can be) is what makes him defensive
in the face of Christians who are at ease with themselves because
they know they are loved and accepted just as they are. From his standpoint,
I can understand that he thinks them supercilious (haughty), but that
is more to do with his feelings than what they are.
obviously doesn't feel as positive about his atheism as they feel
about their faith, that finding it is the most wonderful thing that
has ever happened to them. It is very difficult to suppress that feeling
of, “I wish you had this too.” which is obviously what upsets him
because it comes up again and again, and is in the closing words of
He moves into a discussion on superstition because we are “naturally
solipsistic”, meaning, I think (though according to my dictionary
this is a bad use of the word), self-centred and self-concerned. Examples
of following the stars or talking about ‘luck' are used to show we
are like this but the world is not in fact ordered around us. I am
intrigued by what could be a tongue in cheek comment about
“the many faults of my design.” Not wanting to be too picky
but why hasn't evolution worked these faults out of him, because they
surely are working in him to make him less than the fittest for survival
purposes? Why is it, as he says, innate? Why should our genes include
this tendency to believe what we agree is ridiculous?
biblical solution to these “faults in my design”
is more clear. God made us perfect but when we decided to sin and
reject God, we start to ‘malfunction'. The faults are a sign of our
The human wish to credit things to God:
The “there by the grace of God goes someone
else” comment is valid, yet perhaps it means more than he is
willing to concede. Isn't the expression “There but by the grace of
God go I,” more fully expressed, “If I hadn't grabbed and received
the grace of God, I would be like that”? It is actually a two sided
thing: an acknowledgement that I reached out for it, and that God
gave it. It is simply a grateful acknowledgement of God's help, that
I happened to take.
example of a mining disaster in West
Virginia is simply an acknowledgement
that we live in a ‘fallen world' where things go wrong and accidents
happen. The Biblical explanation of that is that it is because we
choose to disregard God, do our own thing which is so often less than
perfect, get into messes, and generally open the world up to ‘go wrong'.
There may also be spiritual forces at work of which most of us are
unaware this side of death. If the point of this story is the implied
criticism of God for not turning up and saving those men, you need
to go to our “Problem of Evil” section [CLICK
HERE] to understand that more fully. Unless you're willing
to think it through logically, please don't carp and quibble.
wonder if he is genuine when he speaks about our “overwhelming
tendency to stupidity and selfishness in myself and among our species”?
Is it possible that inadvertently he is agreeing in part at least
with the Biblical need we have? Sin most clearly expressed by stupidity
William Paley and Design:
Solipsism comes up again, now blaming us for ‘design' theories. He
cites William Paley who was well known for his watch analogy. The
only reason it falls down in respect of mankind is that a watch is
manufactured and mankind is organic, which gives evolutionists the
opportunity to suggest that we are the end product of an incredibly
long period of organic activity, a staggeringly chancy activity, but
if you give it long enough you can get yourself to believe anything
(we'll come to the evidences later).
is later in this section that we find his blatant prejudice creeping
out as he refers to “creationist stupidity.”
Now if you look at some of the quotes included in the Appendices
of our appraisal of The God Delusion, you will see we pick
up on the staggeringly unscientific but philosophically biased attitudes
of naturalist philosophy which disregards creation possibilities even
if evolution is shown to be utterly wrong, simply because it requires
a belief in God [CLICK
HERE]. Despite the fact that evolution has massive questions
over it and many scientists are unhappy with it, we teach it in schools
without any alternative, simply because the naturalist atheist lobby
have been granted their way.
the end of page 79, speaking of getting old and infirm, he comments,
“This of course raises the uncomfortable
(for believers) idea of the built-in fault that
no repairman can fix.” We don't know what Adam and Eve were
like when they reached old age, but I'm sure it wasn't ‘broken down'.
When we later read of Moses' death, Moses who had spent a lot of time
in God's presence, we read, “Moses
was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were
not weak nor his strength gone.”
(Deut 34:7). The clear indication is that God made the first man and
woman perfect, but it was the effect of sin that caused physical breakdown.
For those who will seek and know God there comes the promise, “The
righteous will flourish like a palm tree… They will still bear fruit
in old age, they will stay fresh and green,” (Psa 92:12-14).
He speaks of the “howling wilderness of outer
space,” and comments that “the design
hasn't been imposed quite yet,” which sounds knowingly arrogant.
Think about it!
his ongoing comments he is unhappy about the instability of the solar
system and assumes that the popular story of the dinosaurs being wiped
out by meteors is true and shows a world out of control. A lot of
assumptions there! The fact that some ‘think' that the sun is going
to burn out in however millions of years time also raises his eyebrows.
So he thinks the odds on us surviving the next hundred years are good?
As he abrasively hacks into the design-believers, he discusses the
whole question of the human eye. Rather than repeat ourselves, I would
ask the reader to go to the appraisal of The God Delusion
and see the comments there [CLICK
HERE]. We are into an area of total speculation and staggering
assumptions that defy the imagination.
on P.84, I note he speaks with warmth about Darwin
even when he was wrong and didn't
have as much knowledge as we do. I wonder about the obvious lack of
integrity that didn't grant the same graceful comment in respect of
the religious writers of hundreds of years before, who he spoke about
in an earlier chapter!
is also intriguing is the personification of evolution both here and
on following pages. Atheists write about their pet as if it is a living
thing. It's a belief! A little later his veneer slips again with the
description of “the stupid notion of
intelligent design.” That fact that the majority of the large
number of scientists who support the concept of intelligent design
are considerably more qualified than the author rather leaves us wondering
who is stupid, even if it is just for being so derisory.
he moves on to the ideas of theories, he speaks about the “overwhelming
evidence of evolution.” Let's get something clear. No one has
ever witnessed evolution. Micro, limited-within-species evolution,
yes, up to a very limited point. Macro evolution changing from one
species to another, no! Scientists across a wide spectrum of disciplines
are unhappy about Darwinian evolution as our quotes and guided reading
from our previous appraisal makes clear.
we move on, listen to the disparaging language of this apparently
mild-mannered author: “they choose to make a
fumbling fool of their pretended god, and make him out to be a tinkerer,
an approximator, and a blunderer…” That is his view, not ours,
his assessment, not ours, his abusiveness, not ours. I am put in mind
of one of the questions that were in the minds of some of the early
Christians, “Why doesn't God sort out and judge these mouthy unbelievers,
if He is all-powerful?” Peter's reply to the implied question was,
“He is patient with you, not wanting anyone
to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (complete
change of mind)” (2 Pet 3:9)
The validity of theories:
He then moves into discussing what a theory is and how it is verified.
A theory, he says, evolved to fit the known facts. The only trouble
is, that according to many of the scientists I've come across, it's
not as clear cut as that. The facts are unclear and therefore the
theory is premature and only used by atheists to beat their drums
Disputes & Derision:
I liked his acknowledgement that there are disputes between evolutionists
as to how the evolutionary process worked and how it began. The acknowledgement
simply confirms what I have said in the paragraph above.
then moves in derision of ‘designers'. His apparent lack of knowledge
of modern science doesn't tell him that modern scientists are frequently
unsure of their facts, and not settled on their conclusions and frequently
resort to philosophy with assumptions galore. Interpretation of the
facts becomes more and more varied, the more detailed the research.
“Intelligent design” is as much a bona fide theory as the so-called
theory of evolution. To think more on this, please CLICK
There is little to comment upon here apart from his personification
again of his ‘random-chance' theory called evolution. There is nothing
personal about it. It is starkly cold and lifeless and any life that
ensues by this theory is total chance. Survival of the fittest is
still questionable theory and no way personal.
The first part of this section is really given over to disparaging
comments about Noah and the Flood and he is quite unclear as to the
point he is making. Somehow he seems to be saying that there was a
water ‘catastrophe' in the Middle East but he doesn't want to associate
Noah with it – presumably for the sole reason that that story involves
God. He makes a strange comment here about Christians looking for
remains of Noah's ark: “This effort is futile
and would prove nothing even if it were successful.” Surely,
if they did find such remains of such a massive boat, that would lend
even more credibility to the Biblical account?
I think the point here
is that a) we don't know even about the things we think we know about
(Flood etc.), but b) there are massive areas of history we know nothing
about. Here he cites the Americas
but, as interesting as it may
be, I'm a bit lost as to see how this says anything about God?
What follows seems to be an incredibly petty-minded and inaccurate
approach to the early chapters of Genesis. Listen to what he says
about the book of Genesis: “How can it be proved
in one paragraph that this book was written by ignorant men and not
by any god? Because man is given “dominion” over all beasts, fowl
and fish. But no dinosaurs or plesiosaurs or pterodactyls are specified,
because the authors did not know of their existence, let alone their
supposedly special and immediate creation.”
look at what the Genesis account actually says! “Then
God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and
let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over
the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that
move along the ground."
(Gen 1:26). In your Bible you will find a footnote next to the word
‘livestock' that says an alternative translation may be “wild animals”.
That was God's intention stated.
made man and woman He then speaks to them:
“God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase
in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the
sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature
that moves on the ground." (Gen 1:28)
if that wasn't clear enough, He continues about food provision:
“Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing
plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit
with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts
of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures
that move on the ground--everything that has the breath of life in
it--I give every green plant for food." (Gen 1:29,30).
There is nothing specific here and so talk of distinguishing dinosaurs
or marsupials (which he goes on to mention) is just silly, careless
or ignorant, nasty nit-picking!
you believe earliest man lived before, during or after the period
of the dinosaurs is really irrelevant in respect of what he has been
saying. If man was before them, then the above Genesis verses cover
them; if man lived after then the absence of any mention of them means
nothing - they weren't there to rule over!
he moves into derision about the absence of mention of microbes, he
is really being ingenuous if not actually two faced. On one hand he
believes in evolution but on the other won't give room for that within
the Biblical account. The Biblical picture reveals the first members
of genuine mankind living incredibly long periods of time. We have
already commented on the fairly clear link between health and a relationship
with God. We may have microbes galore today, and may be succumbing
more and more to them, but whatever the truth of their existence or
development (which is purely speculative from all points of view)
it is clear that their impact was non-existent in terms of bringing
illness or terminating life in those early centuries of genuine human
Our smallness in things:
For a brief moment he acknowledges the reality of the logic of the
atheist's position, the futility of mankind. We've already referred
to the difficulties that Richard Dawkins got himself into when he
was honest is describing this world as “cold,
bleak, empty and purposeless… nihilistic pessimism.. an arid and joyless
message” (Unweaving the Rainbow).
staggeringly different this is to the Christian message that the author
derides, that God made this world for our pleasure, and made us with
the purpose of enjoying it and Him, to have a sense of goodness of
life, with a sense of achievement and fulfilment in life. That was
the purpose so many of us have turned our backs on.
The Burgess shale and the evolutionary tree:
interpreting the finds, indeterminate evolution. Rather than go into
detail here, I would refer the reader to Appendix 4 of our appraisal
of The God Delusion to see the quotes about the falsity the geological
finch beaks. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing! The author cites
Darwin 's little observation of finch' beaks changing and speaks of
a couple of modern scientists following “In
the steps of Darwin”.
Well they only did that in as far as they went to the Galapagos Islands.
What they noted was that finch beaks enlarged and went back again,
according to local conditions!
Nancy Pearcey, in her book Total Truth, points out, the changes
we're talking about were “measured in tenths
of a millimetre – about the thickness of a thumbnail” and after
“the rains returned, restoring the original
range of seeds….the average beak size returned to normal.”
As she put it, “the change was a minor adjustment
that allowed the finches to stay finches
under adverse conditions.”
author's two scientists did exactly this, yet somehow he seems to
convey that living under harsh conditions they somehow helped confirm
the evolutionary theory. No, they didn't. They did exactly the opposite!
Lab work & jumping to conclusions:
genetic advances. This section is a classic example of the media (of
whom the author is a part) giving science a bad name. Listen to this:
“The evolution of humans has been generally
thought to have completed itself about fifty to sixty thousand years
ago… yet those two genes have apparently been evolving faster in the
past thirty seven thousand years.”
this is one of those points where page note referencing would have
been useful but I did remember to look up the source material for
this paragraph, an article from the New York Times. A careful reading
of that article indicates what we have so often said if modern science,
that it is built on speculation and assumption. The article starts
out with how “genes appear
to have been reshaped”.
A little later we find, “Many of these instances of selection
may reflect the pressures…” and later “may
underlie the present-day differences” and so on. A further careful
reading shows it is not all as clear as evolutionists would like us
to think. One of the Stanford scientists was honest enough to say,
“it was hard to correlate the specific gene changes in the three
populations with events in the archaeological record.” The article
gives no reference to thirty seven thousand years. The objective of
the page is, I believe, to suggest that evolution ploughs on and doesn't
this is all about gene knowledge, we need to be very much aware that:
the effect of genes is still very unclear as to human outcomes,
the whole area is still so much in its infancy that claims to this
or that outcome need to be held very lightly.
a number have observed, minor changes in genes do not mean changes
I would recommend reading the evolutionary quotes we're already referred
to, together with our recommended reading, especially that of Alister
wishful thinking about no God, and no faith. The concluding page drops
in little glimmers of wishful thinking: “knowledge
now at last capable of reviewing and explaining ignorance”.
There is also a meaningless Sam Harris quote, meaningless in that
it comes from vain speculation. He concludes that we no longer need
religion to try and provide answers because we have them without it.
And that, I say, is wishful thinking and arrogance of the first order.