Luke over at 'Common Sense Atheism' has written a post about 'naive reasons for being an atheist':
I think there is a great deal of naive atheism that is worth debunking. We can begin, for example, with Dawkins’ central argument against theism, found in chapter four of The God Delusion.
To explain [something] by invoking a supernatural Designer is to explain precisely nothing, for it leaves unexplained the origin of the Designer.
Luke seems to think that William Lane Craig's reply to this point was adequate:
Dawkins says that you cannot infer a Designer of the universe [from] the complexity of the universe because this raises a further question: namely, “Who designed the Designer?” [But] this argument is quite inept, because philosophers of science recognize that in order to recognize an explanation as the best explanation, you don’t have to have an explanation of the explanation…
Let me give you an example. Suppose archaeologists digging in the earth were to come across artifacts looking like arrowheads and pottery shards… it would obviously be justifiable to infer that these artifacts were the products of some lost tribe of people, even if the archaeologists had no idea whatsoever who these people were or how they came to be there.
Similarly, if astronauts were to discover a pile of machinery on the back side of the moon, they would be justified in inferring that these were the products of intelligent design, even if they had no idea whatsoever where this machinery came from or who put it there…
Craig's response is inadequate. I don't think Dawkins did the best job articulating what he was trying to say, but I think his objection to God as a designer is that, if we are trying to find an ultimate explanation for the existence of complexity, then the exlplanation cannot itself be complex or it does not (by definition) truly explain complexity. If we are allowed to posit complex things as unexplainable brute facts then why not posit the universe as a brute fact rather than God as a brute fact? And if we aren't allowed to posit complex things as brute facts, then that completely does away with positing God (who, by definition, cannot have an explanation besides metaphysical necessity).
I've actually read a lot of criticisms of Dawkins' work and I do not believe any of Dawkins' critics have made an adequate response to him. 'God is simple' is false (as I tried to show in my recent debate), and simply asserting that God is necessary, without argument, overlooks the fact that atheists could simply assert that the universe is necessary, or that some nontheistic entity brought the universe into existence (Stephen Hawking's 'Wave-Function'?) and was/is necessary.
However, Dawkins' argument, as he formulated it, is flawed. I believe that Dawkins was wrong in asserting that a designer must be 'at least as complex' as whatever he designs. I'm going to quote from an unpublished essay I wrote on the subject:
"Given an infinite amount of time (or at least several billion years), a human being would be capable of tinkering with every possible arrangement of matter, and therefore it might create something more complex than itself (if such things are possible). Of course this is not how theists typically think of God creating, but nevertheless it is a conceptual possibility which defeats Dawkins’ sweeping assertion.
"There is another way that a creative being could bring about a creation more complex and more improbable than its creator. Suppose that we accept Dawkins’ assertion that a being must be at least as complex (and therefore, as improbable) as whatever it seeks to explain. At the risk of sounding anthropocentric, let us also suppose that human beings are the most complicated animals in the universe. If a being was complex enough to create a human being, could it not create all of the less-complex animals, plants, and bacteria? It would seem so. This is relevant for the following reason: If we did not have any explanation for the origin of the complexity of life other than sheer chance, it could still very well be the case that an intelligent designer might act in reducing the improbability we faced, therefore acting as a good explanation. By Dawkins’ own criteria the designer only needs to be as complex as the most complex things that he designs. Therefore he is no more improbable than the most improbable thing he designs. It follows from that that in the example above the designer would only have to be as improbable as human beings originating by sheer chance. This would be more probable than all plants, animals, and bacteria originating independently by sheer chance."
Even though one of Dawkins' assertions (a designer must be at least as complicated as his designs) is false, my own meditations on the subject have led me to believe that Dawkins has stumbled on a sound proof that the existence of God is incredibly, devastatingly improbable a priori. I've tried to formulate this argument as best I could in my recent debate, although I feel it is quite difficult to articulate and very easy to misunderstand.
Anyway, those are just a few of my thoughts on the subject. What do you guys think?