des consolation for the believer. But, “the consolation content of the belief does not raise its truth value,” Dawkins observes. He adds that if the consolation that religion offers is founded on the neurologically highly implausible premise that we survive the death of our brains, do you really want to defend it? Due to the failure of many people’s educations to provide palatable alternatives, nonbelief is not an option.
Dawkins’s Treatment of St. Thomas Aquinas’s Five “Proofs”
Without hesitating, Richard Dawkins claims that the five “proofs” asserted by St. Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century don’t prove a thing. In fact, Dawkins attacks Aquinas’s first three arguments — the Unmoved Mover, the Uncaused Cause, and the Cosmological Argument — in one fell swoop.
Aquinas’s first argument, the Unmoved Mover, says that nothing moves without a prime mover. In Aquinas’s mind, however, this leads to a chain of motions going back in time indefinitely and the only escape from the regress is God. In similar fashion, the Uncaused Cause argument says that nothing is caused by itself. Since every effect has a prior cause, this chain of causes will also go on indefinitely, unless God is invoked. Finally, his third argument — the Cosmological Argument — states there must have been a time when no physical things existed, but it is apparent just by looking around that physical things exist now. Therefore, a nonphysical entity must have brought them into existence, and this we call God.
An outspoken atheist, Dawkins is renowned for his contempt for religious extremism, from Islamist terrorism to Christian fundamentalism. Besides taking on extremists, he has also argued with liberal believers and religious scientists.
Dawkins’s terse treatment of the argument says that each makes use of a regress and then brings God into the picture in order to terminate the regress. This move assumes without proof that God himself is immune to the regress. All of this is arbitrary, according to Dawkins. To conjure up a being and give it a name is one thing, but to go further and give that being the qualities normally attributed to God — such as omnipotence, omniscience, goodness, creativity of design, listener to prayers, miracle performer, and listener to innermost thoughts — is quite another matter.
Aquinas’s fourth argument is an argument from gradation or degree. We notice in the world degrees of goodness or perfection, but these degrees can only be judged by comparison with a maximum. Since human beings can be good or bad or a mixture of both, the maximum of goodness does not reside with us. So the need for a maximum brings God into the picture, since He sets the standard for perfection. The problem with this argument, according to Dawkins, is that just positing a maximum of goodness doesn’t bring existence to that maximum.