Read Why There Almost Certainly Is a God: Doubting Dawkins by Keith Ward Online


Pronounced atheist Richard Dawkins has claimed that no theologian has ever produced a satisfactory response to his arguments that there most likely is not a God. In this open-minded and innovative philosophical challenge, theologian David Ward addresses Dawkins’s various ideas with sharp, clear arguments. He points out that when Dawkins—a scientist—enters the world of philPronounced atheist Richard Dawkins has claimed that no theologian has ever produced a satisfactory response to his arguments that there most likely is not a God. In this open-minded and innovative philosophical challenge, theologian David Ward addresses Dawkins’s various ideas with sharp, clear arguments. He points out that when Dawkins—a scientist—enters the world of philosophy and religion, his passion often leads his argumentation to descend into stereotyping, pastiche, and mockery. Stimulating and thought-provoking, this study both locates the flaws in Dawkins's arguments and makes a perfectly rational case for the existence of God....

Title : Why There Almost Certainly Is a God: Doubting Dawkins
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ISBN : 9780745953304
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 160 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Why There Almost Certainly Is a God: Doubting Dawkins Reviews

  • Mark
    2018-09-13 18:47

    This was a response to Richard Dawkins' ' The God delusion' which I found quite helpful. Ward is a philospher and theologian who, in fact, Dawkins misquotes a couple of times in his book. It is quite interesting to see a rigourous mind at work and although his grasp of the philosphical niceties is far and beyond mine he does express himself clearly and concisely. His humour and ribbing of Dawkins' approach is far more respectful and open than that of his opponent but he still manages to make his points well. In gently pointing out that in Dawkins dismissing in three pages the work of centuries with his pronouncement of Acquinas' proofs of God as vacuous Dawkins himself is perhaps being a little lazy and failing to actually understand to what the proofs refer is a clever piece of analysis. He is genuinely explorative and seems quite able to handle the fact that perfectly intelligent and morally upright men and women do not share his point of view, this is something Richard Dawkins singularly failed to do. His over-riding point is an obvious one; if you dwell in a universe in which you refuse to contemplate the possibility that there might be a God, however you may envisage that, then no amount of arguing is going to make a difference. However, if your mindset is such that you are open or at least not totally closed to discovering hints or glimpses of such a possibility then this book could be for you. It is a rational, analytic approach to the God hypothesis.Enjoyable, amusing in parts and, as with Dawkins' own book, i found it thought provoking.

  • William
    2018-09-07 13:27

    Reading this book I was reminded of the line in Frasier where his production assistant Ros calls him "the dumbest smart guy I ever met".Reverend Professor Keith Ward is an Oxford lecturer in philosophy, logic and (ahem) theology with a career spanning decades, and yet he begins by claiming that consciousness is an irreducible feature of reality, and bases much of his subsequent reasoning on this claim. Now to most people, or non-philosophers at least, it is evident that consciousness can be reduced by sleep, medication, injury or afternoon meetings, and "semi-conscious" is a useful term describing a frequently observed state. I am sure that animals such as my adorable cat experience their own existence richly, but they do seem to have a less acute sense than we do of their own personal circumstances, of history, of what is likely to happen next and much else. They can't generally follow TV shows, play video games, take philosophy courses, or in my cat's case, use catflaps. This reduction in consciousness becomes more marked as you go down the scale from chimp to cat (no disrespect) to ant to amoeba. Of course we can't measure this directly or explain the precise brain mechanisms, which lends consciousness a certain mystery and allows philosophers to speculate about what it all means, but to say that it is irreducible is fairly obviously wrong.Update: Chris pointed out (comment 7 below) that Ward may be using the word 'irreducible' in a philosophical sense of a basic feature of reality, rather than simply 'incapable of being reduced'. While this would allow semi-consciousness to make sense, I am still not sure what it means as a claim about our natural universe. We thought the universe was made of matter, energy and forces - which are reducible, if you will, to energy - but in fact it is made of energy *and consciousness*. Did they both arise from the Big Bang? Does consciousness really not require energy? Can such a fundamental building block of reality really be discovered only by philosophers with no formal training in physics or neurology, armed with little more than a pipe and an armchair?Update again: Chris has left the building, leaving only gaps from which we can deduce his existence.Ward also jumps straight from the animal brain to his vision of a disembodied supreme consciousness with little more than a cheerful "why not?" Well, we may not be able to understand brains and consciousness fully (and we may never do so) but we can confidently say that every consciousness we have ever encountered has been associated with a physical brain, so the idea that there might be a huge consciousness that doesn't need one is rather a leap, to say the least. Where would it store information without cells? How would it recall it without connections? Anyone familiar with Laurence M Krauss' The Physics of Star Trek will recall that the Transporter is far-fetched because (amongst other reasons) the information storage requirements are so astronomical, not to mention in breach of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. The mind of God would suffer the same practical difficulties, with further problems from the laws of relativity and thermodynamics. And while we're at it, the idea that when setting the parameters for the Big Bang, God could predict specific events later on is hard to swallow on several levels. Is Ward not familiar with chaos theory? You can't just set off a complex iterative process and accurately predict what it's going to do, at least not without knowing the starting values to an infinite degree of accuracy (Heisenberg problems again) and having infinite processing capability. And if God just set it off in the right general direction and then gave things a nudge here and there to keep them on track, how is that possible, especially for a disembodied being?Many people born from the late 20th century onwards won't have too much difficulty in visualising software states that exist in memory at a level above hardware, foreground and background processes coordinating to produce them, and the idea that it can all end when powered down if not saved to persistent storage in a way that can be recovered later. However, the great majority of philosophers who have ever lived did not have the advantage of that model in front of them, and as a result they have tended to be rather mystical about consciousness (is a thought a real thing, is my mental commentary actually me, and so on) but surely it's time we moved on. It's like a software state, Aristotle, get over it. I felt that the great thinkers of the past, for all their brilliant insights into meaning and existence, had left Ward somewhat ill-equipped to speculate about neuroscience.And then there is his requirement for a "personal explanation" as an element in any explanation of the cosmos. Despite claiming to come from a "world of clear definitions, sharp arguments and diverse conclusions", Ward is never quite able to articulate what he means by this, but it seems to refer to something teleological (that is, the explanation of phenomena by the purpose they serve rather than by postulated causes - apparently popular amongst theologians) in which things have to fit into a lovely story. He is not satisfied with a merely factual account of how things might have come to be as they are, but seems additionally to want to fit them into some sort of fable in which there is a point at the end, to which they were drawn all along. At least I think that's what he's talking about - it's a bafflingly backwards way of looking at things and, I can't help thinking, worryingly indicative of some sort of mental condition. ("What is the point of wasps?" my wasp-averse friend asked recently in a moment of exasperation during a picnic. Well, because there is an environmental niche for them, because they can live and reproduce, because they are good enough at surviving not to all die at once but not so good that they wreck their entire environment like humans, because life will find a way - hasn't she seen Jurassic Park for heaven's sake? I think she knew all this and was not really expecting a Wardian personal explanation about wasps being there to teach us about life or remind us to close jam jars or something, but that seems to be how Ward wants us to think about the cosmos.) For a lecturer in logic and philosophy to be so fundamentally confused about causality and (in Dawkins' words) what it means to explain something is frankly worrying.The trouble with Dawkins, apparently, is that he is a Materialist. Materialism is a school of philosophical thought with a substantial Wikipedia entry in which reality is seen as arising from matter - common sense to most of us in the 21st century you might think, although as Ward points out, many, indeed most, philosophers of the past held various more mystical and to us far-fetched views, and indeed matter itself is not straightforward when you start thinking about quantum physics and string theory, so Ward remains unconvinced by Materialism. Once again I felt that with all due respect to Plato we need to get real now that we know more about our physical universe. The discovery of n-dimensional Hilbert space and the rest of it does not make it the slightest bit more likely that we are living in a supreme being's virtual reality construct like the unwitting citizens of The Matrix, which in the end seems to be the view of existence that Ward considers "almost certain". Anyone skimming this book and awarding it a bunch of stars because he seems like a smart guy arguing rationally for God should be aware of what they are signing up to.Ward's discussion of multiverse theory and the convenient basic settings that provide a universe capable of supporting philosophers (number of spacial dimensions, Planck's constant and so on) is also frustrating. If they were different we wouldn't be here. So what? Perhaps they can't be different. Perhaps if they were different for a new universe it would immediately vanish in a puff of logic. Perhaps this happens all the time. Perhaps there are or have been many universes - either through quantum event proliferation or multiple Big Bang events - and we could only exist in some of them. In Ward's backwards way of looking at things our ability to exist in this particular universe suggests that it was configured with us in mind. That is nonsense as a moment's thought will tell you, and yet Ward contrives to get a whole chapter out of it.All in all, two stars for being not quite as inane as John F. Haught's embarrassing God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens, and better written (by a proper philosopher), but in the end it is still irresponsible silly drivel from a fantasist who should really know better. It's all very well setting out to prove the existence of an invisible supreme being and his Matrix-like reality construct through logic alone as some sort of fun intellectual challenge for a wet Tuesday, but the trouble is that many people really do think there is one (a real one that is, not a Karen Armstrong-style symbolic focus for their spiritual life), and this serious problem for humanity needs more constructive input than Ward's cheery jaunt through neo-platonism.

  • Lesli
    2018-09-18 17:29

    I'm 9% of the way through this book, and already, I'm breathless at the utter lack of logic. His foundational argument seems to be: Just because we've never seen a superintelligent consciousness that exists without a physical structure doesn't mean that such a thing can't or doesn't exist. Waving your hands and saying, "Why not?" isn't much of an argument. Maybe it will improve. I chose this because I thought an Oxford scholar would have better arguments than the undereducated, creationist Evangelicals on this side of the Atlantic. Guess not.

  • David
    2018-09-21 19:17

    Having just completed Keith Ward's "The Big Questions of Science and Religion", and deeply impressed by its depth and eloquence, I purchased his recent book "Why There Almost Certainly Is a God: Doubting Dawkins". I was not disappointed.In this book, Ward responds to several recent works, written by scientists and scholars, that blast religious belief as hopelessly deluded and out-of-date in a scientific age. Primary on his list is "The God Delusion", written by prominent British biologist Richard Dawkins. Ward responds to this foray with this very well researched and reasoned book, which in my view is clearly the best response to Dawkins and others currently available.As Ward explains, "Whether he likes philosophy or not, Dawkins is doing philosophy in Chapters 2 and 4 of The God Delusion. He has come into my world, ... I want to challenge his arguments, to show that they are not at all strong, and to show that there are much stronger arguments in favour of believing in a God -- in fact, that it is almost certain that there is a God."Ward concludes his methodical destruction of Dawkins' scholarship with an eloquent appeal for peace in the "war" between science and religion:"Those who believe in God for good reasons will be those who believe that the universe is rational and intelligible, and who are concerned for the trustworthiness of human reason. ... They will be lovers of truth and beauty, and they may even feel themselves to be --and may in truth be, as far as human ever can -- beloved of God and sharers in divine immortality. This is the life above all others that humans should live. For if theists are right, it is in the contemplation of truth, beauty and goodness, both in themselves and in all their manifold finite forms, that humanity finds its highest fulfilment and happiness. And that will be humanity's highest truth -- a life fulfilled in the knowledge and love of the supremely beautiful and good reality that theists call God."

  • Chas Bayfield
    2018-09-14 17:33

    Wow, this is certainly the heaviest book I've ever read, and makes The God Delusion seem light. Ward is never going to hit the bestsellers list but his book is a measured debunking of the first four chapters of Dawkins' book. Ward starts from a position of strength - he is a professor of Philospohy rather than biology and argues that theology and philosophy are close cousins and that there are philosophical reasons why their might be a God. Ward's style is in stark contrast to Dawkins - he is generous towards atheists where Dawkins swaggers round like a gang leader in a playground. One of Ward's arguments is that in a multiverse, where every possible random configuration of universe could exist, who is to say that there might be a universe that contains a God? There is also the big question of what created the Big Bang, which science has yet to tell us. Having read Ward's book, I am more inclined to feel that atheists are as anti knowledge as those they despise on the fundamental religiuos extremes. They have closed their minds to the possibility that science might prove them wrong, and seem hell bent on fighting religious extremists whose medieval beliefs are not shared by millions who claim to have a faith.

  • Ben
    2018-09-09 12:21

    The author, by his own account, intends this book to be a direct rebuttal to Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. The first problem is that this book was, for me, a lot less interesting to read. As a work of philosophy by a philosopher, I found it very often either boring or so tricky to work out that reading became a chore, and more than once, both. The style of the writing aside, in this not-even-amateur-philosopher's opinion Ward does make a few points to which I would be interested in Dawkins response. But much more often I found Ward making logical moves that seemed simply illogical to me, or at least that did not follow from the previously given information. And in some places he simply throws out statements offhand that, to me, require some serious explanation (e.g. where he claims that Christian society has always been a firm supported of science and the expansion of knowledge). Whether my uncertainty or need of an explanation are due to a fault on his part or simply my own sluggish brain, I may never know. But of the fact that this is a less-than-thoroughly convincing reply to Dawkins' bestseller, I am fairly sure.

  • Nazri Awang
    2018-08-29 13:32

    Refuting Dawkin's philosophical arguments in "The God Delusion". Highly engaging, easy language. :)

  • Mike Blyth
    2018-08-29 17:45

    This book, written in an conversational, low-key and interesting style, attempts to refute the main arguments in Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion and to show that “the God hypothesis” is reasonable, even highly likely, given a couple of basic premises. In the end, Ward makes clear that Dawkins’ conclusions are reasonable given his (Dawkins’) materialistic premises, while “the God hypothesis” is quite reasonable given a different starting point which, in Ward’s view, is better at explaining the universe.The most important difference between the two viewpoints is that materialism sees everything as derived from physical laws of nature. In this view, consciousness, values, relationships, and other aspects of our personal world are somehow merely results of the physical phenomena and could, in principle, be fully explained by physical laws.Ward argues that idealism, “in the very broad sense of accepting consciousness or mind as the fundamental character of reality,” is a stronger foundation. His arguments are based partly on the problems of explaining consciousness on the basis of materialism, and partly on the problem that materialism itself is looking more problematic as the very concepts of matter, time, space, and energy have become highly complex.As I understand it, the barest outline of Ward’s argument has two threads. The first is the one above, that consciousness if fundamental and that personal causation exists alongside material causation. That is, some thing happen because someone, a conscious entity, wants them to happen; our sense that we are agents, capable of doing things, is not just an illusion but real. If this is true, then it is not unreasonable, he argues, that consciousness could exist apart from matter and outside the physical universe.The second thread argues that if the universe is rational, able to be understood in terms of logic and causation, then it must have a necessary (non-contingent) and eternal cause. This cause is not necessarily conscious—it could be an equation, or the fact that all possible universes must exist—but there must be something that is itself uncaused. I think this what another reviewer says is just the kalam argument.One of the more interesting aspects of the book for me was the discussion of multiple universes and how they do or don’t solve the problems of ultimate causation and the fine-tuning of our own universe.I doubt that a truly new argument for the existence or absence of God arises as often as once a century, though I don’t really know since philosophy is not my field. Still, it’s not the novelty of Ward’s arguments that makes the book worth reading, but rather the clarity of the writing and the way the arguments directly speak to those of Dawkins.

  • David
    2018-09-03 20:45

    Keith Ward is one of my all-time favourite theologians. He is entertaining to listen to - full of wit- and his books generally (with the exception of Pascal's Fire) are pacey and a delight to read.This book is a direct response to Richard Dawkin's The God Delusion. It is one of several books that have emerged from theologians and other Christian thinkers in what has come to be called the "Oxford God Debate".The book is structured in chapters directly tackling specific chapters in Dawkin's book. It is a short book(155pp)and not overly technical. Ward's main approach is to tackle Dawkins on metaphysical grounds. He shows how exceptional Dawkins' materialism is in historical terms; and how contestable it is today; both as a metaphysical position and even in terms of science, especially in light of the most recent thinking in physics and cosmology. Ward's main focus is the question of the reality of consciousness, value and purpose.The book shows clearly that belief in God is rationally viable.

  • Edoardo Albert
    2018-09-09 15:41

    An excellent, witheringly witty take down of Dr Dawkins' philosophical pretensions. But reading some of the Goodreads reviews, it seems clear that the two sides are simply talking past each other - one seeing as a knockdown, killer argument something the other barely registers. I'm really at a loss how to get past this - civil conversation and civil society depend on dialogue being possible, but this seems to be getting dangerously close to parallel monologues, hearing only what they want to hear. Any ideas for a way out of this impasse will be received with interest.

  • Mike Richards
    2018-09-03 18:19

    After a recent heated discussion a friend asked me if I knew anything about theology. I had to answer that I didn't so decided to swot up. I enjoyed this book and it's well written explanations of the metaphysical arguments for God. The book is interesting and informative and is written a lot more respectfully than the Dawkins book that it counters. However, the presentation of baseless arguments in a pseudo-scientific way (personal explanations!) did make me wince more than once. Ultimately I remain totally unconvinced but I am slightly better educated.

  • Joel
    2018-08-29 19:34

    I've been sort of tangentially interested in the 'new atheist' thing but have neither time nor energy (nor desire, really) to really dig into it. This book by an Oxford philosopher was on sale for $5 at a discount bookstore so thought I'd take a look.

  • Calum Miller
    2018-09-22 16:37

    Probably the most substantial book refuting Dawkins I've read. Good for a fairly quick read.

  • Shea
    2018-09-22 18:36

    Blah, blah, blah. Ward basis his whole book on the presupposition that God exists. So you h e to believe God exists for him to convince you God exists.

  • Kath
    2018-09-14 17:33

    Sorry, too clever for me.

  • Chris Lawrence
    2018-09-05 17:17

    At last – a Delusion-basher that is actually worth reading. Please see: Serious about delusion.

  • Tim
    2018-09-20 12:17

    A careful and gentle, yet powerful, response to the arguments of Dawkins in The God Delusion.

  • Pavel
    2018-09-18 20:18

    Not impressed. Without the assumption of substance dualism, all the arguments in the book collapse.