God is Not Great - an Appraisal  - Chapter 6


This is the Chapter 6  Page for the appraisal of the contents

of Christopher Hitchens' book, God is Not Great.

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Chapter 6: Arguments from Design




Page Contents






Chapter Content


Use the links and drop down to the comments if you would like to see each comment applying to each paragraph here.


P.73 Opening Quote: the supernatural is manufactured   Link below


P.73,74 Complaint about subservience : Why are we so self centred yet subservient? Link below


P.74-76 On Superstitions: Number thirteen, astrology, luck, innate feelings, random outcomes. Link below


P.76,77 The human wish to credit things to God: The grace of God, wanting to ascribe miracles, looking for meaning behind good and bad. Link below


P.77-80 William Paley and Design: The watch, the eye of an eel, assumed design, evolutionary effects Link below


P.80 Imperfect design: Masses of emptiness, a winding down world Link below


P.80-85 Micro world: detail to be investigated, the human eye, redundant features. Link below


P.85,86 The validity of theories: what a theory is and how it verified Link below


P.86,87 Disputes & Derision: Disputes between evolutionists and derision of ‘designers' Link below


P.88 Callous evolution: the tendency towards extinction Link below


P.88 Distant History: Quibbles about the Flood Link below


P.89,90 The Americas forgotten: much of distant history never known Link below


P.90 Genesis adrift: Things omitted?    Link below


P.91 Our smallness in things: futility   Link below


P.91-94 The Burgess shall and the evolutionary tree: interpreting the finds, indeterminate evolution   Link below


P.94 Micro-evolutionary changes: finch beaks   Link below


P.95 Lab work & jumping to conclusions: genetic advances      Link below


P.96 Concluding comments: wishful thinking about no God, and no faith   Link below




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General Comment


Having recently finished researching and writing answers to the shallow real questions of The God Delusion, a book written by a committed atheistic biologist, I have become aware afresh of a) the tendency to misquote or wrongly interpret the work of scientists and b) the very large amount of disagreement by scientists over the findings before them. As we show elsewhere on this site, our presuppositions are all important.


I say this, having come to the end of this particular chapter and have wondered about the following scenario. Supposing Almighty God revealed Himself dramatically and without any question of doubt to our author, I wonder how he would comment upon the factual basics (for I assume that is what they mostly are – although I do have a question I'll raise in the individual notes), seeing everything from a God perspective, because although he cannot possibly see how that is possible, I can. I can see everything he says here, not his interpretations and assumptions of which there are many, but the basics, and see them as part of the divine creation plan without any problem. It is a matter of perspective.


In this chapter, perhaps more than any before, although it has been growing, his angry intolerance and negative comments come out into the open. This is not the benign, mild-mannered, civilised person of chapter one. This is a crusading atheist putting his slant. Although I have not tended to do it in previous chapters, I am going to point out this crusading intolerance in this chapter.




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Specific Comments


Again we look at the specific points we have observed in the ‘Content' part above


P.73 Opening Quote: 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 - CLICK HERE).


It 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 your humanity.


P.73,74 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.


Yes, 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.


His 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.


His 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'.


Self-centred 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.


Likewise 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.


I 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.

He 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 the chapter.


P.74-76 On Superstitions: 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?


The 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 sin.


P.76,77 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.


The 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.


I 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 and selfishness.


P.77-80 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).


It 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.


At 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).


P.80 Imperfect design: 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!


In 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?


P.80-85 Micro world: 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.


Intriguingly 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!


What 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.


Before 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.


Before 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)


P.85,86 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 against God.


P.86,87 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.


He 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 HERE


P.88 Callous evolution: 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.


P.88 Distant History: 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?


P.89,90 The Americas forgotten: 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?


P.90 Genesis adrift: 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.”


Let's 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.


Having 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)


Now 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!

Whether 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!


When 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 existence.


P.91 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).


How 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.


P.91-94 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 column. CLICK HERE


P.94 Micro-evolutionary changes: 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!


As 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.”


The 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!


P.95 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.”


Now 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 need God.


As this is all about gene knowledge, we need to be very much aware that:

a) the effect of genes is still very unclear as to human outcomes, and

b) the whole area is still so much in its infancy that claims to this or that outcome need to be held very lightly.

As a number have observed, minor changes in genes do not mean changes in species.


Again I would recommend reading the evolutionary quotes we're already referred to, together with our recommended reading, especially that of Alister McGrath. [CLICK HERE]


P.96 Concluding comments: 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.



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On this page we have:

  • highlighted some of the key points he makes,
  • noted
    • the tendency to misquote or misjudge scientific work, all on the basis of presuppositions which here, are all about there being no God,
    • it's a matter of perspective and the conclusions of this chapter were established in the writer's presuppositions, not in the findings,
    • a growing angry intolerance that is revealed by increasingly snide comments.
  • responded, point by point, to the points he makes.


As previously, we note the author's errors as


  •  using quotes from the romanticism of fellow sceptics
  •  completely misunderstanding the Christian faith and
    •  the desire to worship
    •  the desire to pray
    •  being blessed being children of God
  •  being over-negative about superstitious mankind, instead of seeing the need for God
  •  misunderstanding the grace of God
  •  not understanding the problem of evil
  •  expressing poorly founded prejudices against creationists coming from naturalism
  •  speaking derogatorily about mistakes in design when he doesn't understand it
  •  in respect of the ‘design school', being unwisely derogatory, using massive assumptions and jumping to wrong conclusions, personifying evolution to make it more believable, and just been foolishly derogatory about God
  •  tries to turn theories into facts
  •  reveals bias and prejudice with derogatory comments about Biblical history
  •  reveals lack of understanding of early Genesis which he badly misquotes
  •  conforms the arid outlook of atheism
  •  leans on a highly questionable geological scale
  •  misunderstands the ‘finch research
  •  jumps to conclusions about genetic research
  •  and expresses wishful thinking over the knowledge we think we have.


Perhaps all this could be summarised by a comment we made earlier. What we have here is a classical example of a man's view of the world through his clear presuppositions. The things he refers to could be given a completely different slant if he started from the opposite viewpoint. It's all about where you view things from – from the start!




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