The Blind Watchmaker -truths & philosophical jumps

Hi! I am a Christian and very comfortable with the Genesis account AND evolution. My background is in social sciences (we use research, stats, etc., but no, it is not the same as the hard sciences!). Question: is Dawkins’ book a compelling argument or a huge philosophical leap? I love science and respect scientists—but can’t seem to see things the same way as described in the book. Can anyone who understands and accepts evolution help sift out opinion from fact here?

Hi Vanessa.
I haven’t read Dawkins’ book but BioLogos just published a blog series where a professor discusses the book with a student. It might be helpful:

Or maybe if you could be a little more specific about what you think might be opinion…

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Thank you! I do not have the caliber of Dawkins’ background in science. However, the explanations of how we all got here feel insufficient to me. This makes me question—is it that I just don’t know enough science to see this as clearly as it seems to the author? Or, if I ever were able to “catch up” in my scientific knowledge, would I still suspect that these processes of evolution still needed God as the ground of all being? As a working mother of 3, I doubt I will have the chance to “catch up”, haha! I want to see how someone so smart can accept/see what to me seems incredibly difficult to believe—all the elements collided and over time, here is my incredibly complex body…that built three other brains besides mine, all without any conscience effort on my part. Bearing children is really drives my astonishment over our human bodies and seems unfathomable that it all just accidentally happened that way over time. And then I want to grasp if if this is just me that can’t see that it is IS possible and so on. This isn’t necessarily a faith/crises, etc. I want to understand—I want to engage with the world and science. Thanks!

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I apologize for the errors in grammar! I am multitasking, as usual!

Hi Vanessa; most of us around here will not have anything close to the caliber of specialists writing in their own field, unless we happen to also be professionals in the same field - so you’re not really different from any of us as we try to contemplate what those experts know, and to understand what current ‘cutting edges’ they may be pursuing.

But that is what makes places like this so worthwhile to hang out at, because there are a lot of other good-hearted experts here (Christian and otherwise) who make for wonderful guides all along the way to those of us who are lay people with interest, and maybe some reading, but not much more depth in any particular field. There is something to be said for hanging out with people that share in your commitment in pursuit of truth and understanding.

And besides, we can also then become more aware of when experts like Dawkins stray outside of their field of knowledge, and the playing field becomes much more level. While I have learned much from Dawkins’ writings in evolutionary biology, I’ve also seen his weakness exposed as he attempts to apply his knowledge to theology. Suddenly (at least this was true for me) … it was apparent that an author’s strength in one field is not automatically shared across other fields or explorations. But instead of dismissing him whole cloth then, I’m happy to glean the grain and let the chaff blow away - one of the more useful discernment skills to have! We try to encourage that practice a lot around here.

I’m glad you’re here.

-Merv

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By the way, you can use the grey pencil icon underneath any already existing post of your own, to go back and edit or correct that post as much or as many times as you desire.

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Thank you! Here is a question—I always saw God as a logical “must” in however creation happened (more than God-of-the-gaps sort of thing). Does Dawkins’ argument hold up that all of this world can be perfectly accounted for by random processes alone? Any other material available that can discuss different perspectives on this question from a scientist?

Thanks Merv!!

Hi Vanessa,
I don’t think that more scientific knowledge would necessarily change your (or anyone else’s mind) about the core argument of TBW. That argument is not about gods or whether they are the ground of all being, etc. His argument is simply that the basic evolutionary mechanism (variation + selection) is a sufficient answer to Paley’s challenge about design. In my opinion, his argument is compelling, not as a refutation of the existence of a god or even of the actions of a god. It is compelling as an explanation of why evolutionary thought (as of 1986 when the book was written) provides an answer to Paley’s challenge. This is not a “huge philosophical leap” in my view, or even a leap at all, but that’s a matter of opinion that will be influenced by preferences and opinions and prior beliefs about gods. Scientifically, there’s nothing in TBW that is open to reasonable challenge.

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I think that “completeness” of an explanation is in the eye of the beholder. Some may be happy to think a phenomenon is “perfectly accounted for” if it takes them as far as they want … (maybe mere ability to predict or use the thing observed is all they need to satisfy them in life). But others of us may still have questions that remain untouched by those so-called “complete” explanations of things. I think many of us here might be in that latter category.

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Thanks! I know it can be hard to communicate clearly through the web. I would love to hear if you or anyone who would like to comment—find his arguments satisfying to the point one is comfortable with evolution being enough without a god for creation to occur. If so, is there any physical connection to the concept of a god or would it be left entirely to philosophy and maybe mathematics? Thanks for the patience!

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I just saw your post—thanks. Yes. I often have self-doubt (more like self-analysis). Do I not find the description of the processes to be sufficient because I am not as aware/knowledgeable or would I still find them insufficient regardless of how much knowledge I acquire. Your comment was helpful. Thanks!

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I am an unbeliever (an apostate, in the parlance of Christianity) but I never thought that evolution was remarkable as a scientific explanation. Many years ago as a Christian, I proposed a comparison between theistic evolution (which is discussed ad nauseum) and theistic embryology (which, curiously, doesn’t exist at all) as an illustration of why it doesn’t make sense (to me) to care about whether evolution (or embryology or meteorology) “needs a god.” That question (about whether one needs a god “for creation to occur”) should always be examined very carefully. It is not a question specifically about evolution. It’s a question about preferences for interventionist gods or for supernatural explanations.

Or to put it more succinctly: Dawkins may think that he eliminated god, but he didn’t, and he couldn’t. He just eliminated the Paleyan god of the biological design gap. That was never my god, and so I lived comfortably as a Christian for decades knowing that evolution could explain most or all of biological design.

Now that is a huge philosophical question and it’s far beyond evolution.

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Thank you. That was helpful to hear. I loved hearing your perspective and would love hear more if anyone else happens to stumble upon this!

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What would it mean if any of Dawkins’ claims in TBW were shown to be false? Is his idea disjoint, so pieces can be jettisoned while the general theory retains integrity, or is Dawkins’ argument in TBW a unified whole?

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In reading your words, I can’t help but wonder (I also understand that this might not be something you want to do) your views now. I understand that you do not believe in the Christian God but do you believe there is nothing supernatural? I just ask because you seem to find evolution insufficient as an explanation of creation. Again, I totally respect the fact you may not want to discuss this further. I promise I have no hidden agenda towards you—just can’t stop thinking myself and am always enlightened when listening to others, even if I don’t eventually reach the same place.

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Depends on the claim. If we discover that the earth is only 6000 years old and that therefore all species are products of magic on a huge boat, then that would be that. But there are no scientific claims in TBW that, having been either updated or refuted, would affect his argument.

TBW doesn’t advance a theory, at least not a scientific theory. It describes how evolution as of 1986 explains design. The argument doesn’t depend on any particular piece of data. In fact many interesting questions about evolution have been answered since then, so a new version of TBW could add a lot of compelling new stuff (most notably genetics/genomics) but that was never the point of TBW.

Have you read it? It’s dated but it’s pretty great. My opinion, of course.

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Yes, I wish there was one with data linked to each claim.

I’m agnostic on the supernatural but I think and act as though no such things exist.

Oops I must have been unclear. I find evolution sufficient to explain what it aims to explain, which is the diversity and history of life. Evolution doesn’t attempt to explain the origin of life, and if that’s what you mean by “creation” then that’s a different topic.

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Hi Vanessa, can you point to what you are responding to? This can be done by highlighting that text then clicking on “quote”, at least when working in a browser in my experience. Otherwise I don’t know what we’re talking about below.

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Thanks! Helpful!

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