Why There Almost Certainly Is A God: doubting Dawkins

Ward, Keith
Lion (2008)
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If God had wanted a publicity officer he couldn't have done better than Richard Dawkins. That is one of the nicer ironies of the recent controversy. Since The God Delusion was published, Christian apologists have been falling over each other to join the fray. There hasn't been a bigger burst of apologetics since Bishop John Robinson's ground-breaking book Honest to God.

Keith Ward's contribution easily be misappropriated, in the way that people bought Stephen Hawkins’s A Brief History of Time, thinking that it would be a breeze. As he is such a good-humoured and mild-mannered professor who has produced a volume of modest dimensions with a title that parodies one of Dawkins' own chapter titles, it might be thought that this is the "Simple man's guide" to Dawkins but it is far from that. The brevity of the book is largely the result of Ward using technical terms with little or no explanation. If you don't know your Plato and Aristotle, your Aquinas and Ockham, you will be somewhat at sea.

If your grasp of the history of philosophy, theology and the philosophy of religion are near competent, however, and if you have access to Wikipedia to fill in the gaps, this book is more than useful. It is devastatingly effective, not least because, in the Ward tradition, it is superbly under-stated.

Put simply, the Dawkins case could be taken from Madonna: "I'm living in a material world; and I am a material girl" whereas Ward says that our individual and collective experience tells us there is more to life than that and, if there is more, it requires an explanation. On balance, says Ward, the hypothesis that there is a God is more persuasive than that there isn't.

Some Christians will find his 'high level' impartiality, his attempt to be objective about a variety of theories, somewhat irritating; but, believe me, while it might seem uncommitted to the most enthusiastic, it is the kind of writing that is likely to command respect from doubters. After all, as Ward says, if you are for Dawkins or God, a book by an intellectual is not going to change your mind; but there are millions of people out there who are not committed one way or the other.

So it will be a good read for the uncommitted; and, Christian apologists, if you are not up to scratch with the philosophical terminology, getting to grips with this book is a good incentive.

Kevin Carey
7th August 2009