One of the reasons that Dawkins' book has touched a nerve is that many scientists are outraged by the religious tide in world affairs. Using theology as a shield, politicians are undermining the whole rational structure of scientific progress. This brings us to another major point for Dawkins.
3. The universe is a complex machine whose workings are steadily being demystified by science. Any other way of viewing the world is superstitious and reactionary.
What is so strange about this argument is that Dawkins himself is totally reactionary. His defense of a material universe revealing its secrets ignores the total overthrow of materialism in modern physics. There is no world of solid objects; space-time itself depends upon shaping forces beyond both space and time. The notion that Dawkins stands for progress while religion stands for anti-progress may be true in a broad social sense: Nobody would pick a Baptist preacher to lead the human genome project.
But arch materialism is just as superstitious as religion. Someone like Dawkins still believes there are solid objects randomly colliding to haphazardly form more and more complex objects, until over the course of billions of years the universe produced human DNA with its billions of genetic bits.
What's wrong with this argument is that if you trace DNA down to its individual atoms, each is more than 99.9999% empty space. If you take an individual electron, it has no fixed position in either time or space. Rather, ghostly vibrations wink in and out of the universe thousands of times per second, and what lies beyond the boundary of the five senses holds enormous mysteries.
Enough mysteries, in fact, to be consistent with God. I don't mean a personal God or a mythic one or any God with a human face. Set aside all images of God. What we observe once we get over the superstition of materialism (one that Dawkins defends to the last degree) is that random chance is one of the worst ways to explain how the universe evolved. Here are a few reasons why:
--The various constants in nature, such as gravity and the speed of light, are too precisely fitted with each other for this to happen by chance.
--If any one of six constants had been off by less than a millionth of 1 percent, the material universe couldn't exist.
--Events at opposite ends of the universe are paired with each other, so that a change in the spin of one electron immediately produces a twin effect in another electron. This ability to communicate instantly across millions of light years cannot be explained by materialism. It defies all notions of cause and effect. It defies chance.
--Every electron in the universe exists as a wave function that is everywhere at once. When this wave function collapses, we observe a specific isolated electron. Before the wave collapses, however, matter is non-local.
The ability of objects and events to be everywhere at once seems like an attribute of God--omnipresence. The ability of electrons separated by millions of light years to "talk" to each other seems like another attribute of God--omniscience. This doesn't mean that God explains the universe. It means that there may be governing forces at work which allow the existence of universal consciousness. The self-aware universe is a plausible theory. Many writers have described it, although Dawkins disdains such theories.
If the universe is self-aware, it would explain the formation of a self-replicating molecule like DNA far more elegantly than the clumsy, crude mechanism of random chance. As the astronomer Fred Hoyle declared (Hoyle was one of the first to seize on the notion of an expanding universe in the 1950s), the probability that random chance created life is roughly the same as the probability that a hurricane could blow through a junkyard and create a Boeing 707.
Before proceeding with the next step in refuting the anti-God position, let's pause to see what you think. Is a random universe of concrete objects colliding by chance is the right model for creation?
Share your thoughts on our mini-board to the right.