After reading peoples’ opinions of Dawkins over the years where he is known to be arrogant and brash, I decided to actually delve into what he says and watch some of his videos and read some of his books.

From doing this, it seems that not only is he at the very least well versed in arguments pertaining to God, he is arguably even a good philosopher. Some of his arguments (such as his primary argument that God cannot function as an explanation simply because He must be more convoluted than what He explains) are arguably unique and so basic that I’m surprised other more recent philosophers have not directly come up with it before. Funnily enough, the only philosopher who argued a similar thing was Hume himself where he criticizes the design argument by claiming that God does not create any sort of explanatory advance. If Dawkin’s argument is unsophisticated, are people prepared to say Hume’s is as well?

Almost all of the criticism I have seen of Dawkins seems to be against his character which is irrelevant to his argumentation or his unfamiliarity with certain esoteric concepts in philosophy which is again irrelevant to the points he makes. So, are there any specific examples or quotes of his argumentation/reasoning that are palpably horrific or nonsensical or is this just another meme that philosophers conjured up? I’d love to be shown actual examples.

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    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Commented Mar 27 at 9:29
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    How does it follow from A being more convoluted than B that A cannot be an explanation for B? Also, what (rigorously) does convoluted mean when it comes to explanations? Also, how can an entity be an explanation or convoluted? Commented Mar 28 at 20:41

6 Answers 6


Because he often indulges in rhetoric/polemic rather than truth-seeking discussion. If you strongly imply that your opponents are "delusional" (e.g. in the title of a book) then you put yourself in a position where you can't back down without looking an utter fool in public, and most people can't do that. If you are genuinely interested in the truth (rather than selling books or "preaching to the converted") you don't feed your own cognitive biases or poison the debate.

This is based on having read "The God Delusion" many years ago, so I may have misremembered, but ... I seem to remember that he made a scale from 1 to 7 of belief, so that if you were level 1 then your belief in God is utterly certain and no evidence would persuade you otherwise (i.e. you were beyond the reach of rational argument). If you were level 7 then your disbelief in God is complete and no evidence would persuade you otherwise (i.e. you were beyond the reach of rational argument). Dawkins was willing to place many theists at 1 (which doesn't match my experience), but himself at 6. This is very blatant rhetoric, portraying your opponents as highly irrational, but yourself as rational and reasonable. However it is obvious Frankfurtery in a book, the title of which is making the implicit claim that the non-existence of God is an objective fact. Also if Dawkins had a divine experience of some kind, there is a good chance that he would dismiss it as a mental aberration of some kind, as that would be more likely given a strong atheists prior beliefs. If there was ever a level 7 disbeliever it is Dawkins. Rashomon...


Because Dawkins is a scientist not a philosopher

You might, reasonably, say that Dawkins is making philosophical arguments but he does not engage with philosophy as a subject. He does not know the history of philosophy, he does not read recent philosophical papers, he does not publish in philosophical journals, he does not teach philosophy, he does not attend philosophical conferences, and he does not level his arguments or their construction at working philosophers.


Dawkins’s Ultimate 747 Gambit is in deep trouble... Whether simplicity is construed as syntactic or ontological, as qualitative parsimony or quantitative parsimony, it is simply too strong to claim that any explanation more complex than that which it potentially explains is automatically a bad explanation or that God is more complex than the world... Dawkins not only called this the “the central argument” of his book but actually his “main reason for actively disbelieving in God’s existence.”63 As Dawkins’s Gambit is the New Atheists’ most well developed argument against God’s existence, it is questionable whether the movement provides any new reason to think that God does not exist.


The part in bold is the general impression I get. He, like new atheists in general, can also be a bit polemical.

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    This article is a good breakdown and explanation for why Dawkins' "Ultimate 747 Gambit" ultimately has no force against almost any serious, longstanding theist argument. It shows that he's actually ignorant of such arguments and is content with attacking low-hanging fruit (and thinking himself the cutting edge of atheism), while a serious atheist philosopher would address them. OP will do good to read the article and to actually learn what theists have to argue beyond blurbs on StackExchange.
    – Mutoh
    Commented Mar 26 at 15:03
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    @Mutoh I could turn what you say around, and point to any skeptic providing a breakdown of any known theist argument, and thereby assert that those arguments have "no force" and that theists are "ignorant" and they're presenting "low-hanging fruit". That's ultimately just a rhetorical tactic with no argumentative value. At worst, you could probably say that Dawkins doesn't do enough to address possible objections, especially from existing literature, but that doesn't mean that such objections are automatically valid (and he writes for compelling layperson reading, not for academia).
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Mar 27 at 0:26
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    @NotThatGuy for your analogy to hold, Dawkins' atheist argument has to be as good as any other atheist argument. But that would be quite a offense to serious atheist thinkers, because his is demonstrably one of the worst out there - and failing against millennia-old theistic arguments is just one factor why. Now, you don't need to be on par with the best atheist arguments to be an atheist yourself - but in that case you have no business writing books against theism as a whole, and even if your audience is laymen instead of academia you're still selling snake oil.
    – Mutoh
    Commented Mar 27 at 12:37
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    @Mutoh It just fails against those arguments in your opinion, whereas I see some massive problems with the rebuttal provided in the linked response. And my point with saying he's writing for laypeople is not that it being bad is okay, but rather that you wouldn't expect that to contain an endless amount of caveats and footnotes and qualifiers to address every possible objection, because laypeople would find that to be extremely boring.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Mar 27 at 15:29

As a philosopher he is not original, or offer a novel approach to a argument, a philosophical argument, mind you. As a counter-apologist, he's pretty ok. As a philosopher of science, he's, again not original or contributing much. Graukroger is way better and happens to be also quite underrated. As a biologist, idk his work for myself, but was novel and continues to be very well respected.

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    – Community Bot
    Commented Mar 27 at 23:02

With respect due to all parties in this duel, Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion was more/less on the mark.

Read this about 2 or so decades ago, in an Oxford book on psychiatry. Bear with me.

Delusion: A persistent belief, not in keeping with one's religious/cultural background, that is not abandoned despite sufficient evidence that the belief is false. The clause in bold is interesting to say the least.

  • Touché Agent Smith! But it would be good if you could provide the reference you found in the Oxford shop
    – Rushi
    Commented Mar 31 at 9:21
  • If it is a mass delusion, you get a free pass. Commented Mar 31 at 9:38
  • It's ancient history and much has changed. In all likelihood the clause was removed. It's a pleasure/relief to know that people have been engaged in Cartesian meditation. I'm sure the position taken by old psychiatry is now no longer defensible. A gazillion papers must've been published in reputed journals on the "accuracy" of the definition of delusion.
    – Hudjefa
    Commented Mar 31 at 10:11
  • If people are deluded, it follows that delusion is the first thing they would be deluded about.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Mar 31 at 15:27
  • @ScottRowe, exactamundo!
    – Hudjefa
    Commented Mar 31 at 17:54

Let me attempt to address this question in a unique way that has recently become available thanks to ChatGPT. The purpose is to go straight to the philosophical heart of the question bypassing the emotions and passions of the humans involved in evaluating Richard Dawkins as a philosopher.

This conversation God Delusion or Misperception discusses the book The God Delusion with a ChatGPT persona meant to embody an atheistic philosopher. In an easy-going and detached way this dialogue explores the philosophical flaws in Dawkins' approach to promoting atheism.

This topic is further treated in hairsplitting depth in my article How my Thomistic chatbots handle atheism. An intriguing moment is my conversation with a Richard Dawkins ChatGPT persona who admits that it doesn't agree with Richard Dawkins' approach, being like an actor performing according to a scripted role.

Another fascinating moment is when both emulators (Richard Dawkins and Thomas Aquinas) concede that they maintain personal metaphysical positions without being able to objectively challenge opposing views on the existence of God.


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