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Dawkins Agrees With Saint Thomas


Saint Thomas Aquinas was not content to rest upon received wisdom.  He questioned everything, and at the end of his questioning he came back around to Christian orthodoxy.  In his questioning Aquinas took great pains to examine his opponents’ arguments on their own terms.  He did not, as most of us are inclined to do, attack a straw man caricature of his opponent’s position.  In his magisterial Summa Theologiae Aquinas employed a dialectical approach.  He set out the arguments for his opponents’ position; then he set out the arguments for the orthodox position.  Only then did he draw a conclusion.  Importantly, it has been said that not only did he take his opponent’s arguments on their own terms, but perhaps the best exposition and most forceful presentation of those very arguments are found not in his opponents’ writings, but in Aquinas’ own consideration of them.   

Richard Dawkins agrees with Aquinas’ approach.  By far the most powerful statement in the film clip of William Crawley’s interview with Dawkins posted by Dr. Dembski earlier today is this statement by Dawkins: 

“But if millions of people believe that, say, Jesus is the son of God, then we no longer call it a delusion.  But if you think about it, it doesn’t actually make much sense to go around and count the number of people who believe something in order to decide whether its a delusion or not.  The best thing to do is to go and look at the arguments for or against the belief, and that’s what I’ve done.” 

Just so.  Print this statement off and keep it handy, and the next time someone tells you that the overwhelming majority of scientists believe in Darwinism, the best response is to say, the world’s most famous Darwinist would say your appeal to the majority “doesn’t actually make much sense.”  Then quote the above statement.  Dawkins and Aquinas agree.  Give us arguments and counter-arguments and evidence pro and con.  Head counting and received wisdom do not impress us.

Absolutely right. An idea or argument should be judged solely on the merits of the evidence that supports it. When two ideas or arguments conflict, they should be placed side-by-side and examined with a critical, totally unbiased eye. And, as is the case with evolution and ID, whichever one has the most overwhelming evidence to support it will no doubt be immediatly recognizeable as right. Monik
"Maybe we need an Aquinas or his ilk today to do something similar." I do not at all mean to compare myself to Aquinas ... nonetheless, I am certain I can show you, in its own terms, that 'modern evolutionary theory' is false. The reason I say "I am certain I can" rather than "I can" is because I have never been able to get a proponent -- or an opponent -- of NDE to actually *engage* the argument I can offer. Thus, if there is some subtle flaw that my bias is hiding from me, I must perforce remain unaware of it. Ilion
Great post Barry. Thanks. Sal scordova
But if you think about it, it doesn’t actually make much sense to go around and count the number of people who believe something in order to decide whether its a delusion or not.
It's interesting that Dawkins does exactly this in The God Delusion when he claims that the majority of "good" (as opposed to "mediocre" I suppose) scientists are atheists. I don't recall exactly how he defined "good", but I believe it had to do with Nobel Prizes and other pats on the back from fellow (presumably like-minded) scientists. Is there a double standard at work here, or am I missing something? C Bass
When one defends evolution or Darwinism, the ‘appeal’ is (should be) to the science, not the quantity of people who support it. That’s the difference between belief and science. One of course can compile such lists of who supports and who does not, mealy as an “in your face” exercise, nether actually debating the merits of any given point. chance
idnet, thank you. Jerry, I could not agree more. I am, in fact, working on that project, but progress is slow. If only I did not have to do a day job to keep the wolves at bay. We absolutely must take Darwinist arguments seriously. We do ourselves no favors in the long run when we attack a staw man. It is a lazy (albeit powerful) tactic. BarryA
Great post Barry. Dawkins is one of the only people in the scientific world who truly appreciates the power of Intelligent Design. He has only one retort. "Who designed the designer?" I like what Alistair McGrath asked. "If believing in Jesus Christ is the same as believing in the tooth fairy, how many people do you know who started to believe in the tooth fairy in their mid twenties whilst at university?" If Christianity is so irrational, why were such intellectual greats as Lewis convinced in their adulthood? idnet.com.au
I think we would be a lot better off if we appreciated just what the arguments of Darwinists are and why they lead them to accept a naturalistic view of evolution. We tend to focus on a few of the obvious flaws and dismiss NDE in whole without thought and because of that I believe we fail to understand just what we are up against. One of the methods of diplomacy that is supposedly used frequently is to have a diplomat be able to state his oponents position so that his opponent agrees with his statement of the problem. Maybe we need an Aquinas or his ilk today to do something similar. I think we could find someone who supports ID to do it. I wonder if we could get a prominent Darwinist to do the same. jerry

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