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Dawkins' GOD: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life Paperback – November 15, 2004
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“In this book McGrath does a good job of condemning aspects of Dawkins’ zealotry but in the process does much to condemn his own arguments as well.” (Journal of Religious History, 20 January 2014)
"The book is important for a number of reasons ... Dawkins' God ends with a valuable and more general chapter on science and religion, emphasising the limitations of the human mind." (The Journal of SJT, 2012)
"In Dawkins' God, McGrath has written a brilliant book, and it is difficult to think that the exposition of Dawkins' writings and their religious implications, will ever be better stated, explored and criticised... at once dispassionate, robust and readable." Richard Harries, Times Higher Education Supplement
"Alister McGrath's book Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes and the Meaning of Life does a fair and sophisticated job of summarising my position." Richard Dawkins, Times Higher Education Supplement
"Dawkins is disposed of with panache, and with McGrath's ususal clarity and conciseness." Theology
"Lucid and brief, without being perfunctory or dismissive, and fulfils the role of guide to the educated layperson without eliciting boredom from the academic familiar with the field ... The end result of this effort by McGrath is that, once again, I would have no hesitation in recommending the book as a basic text for A-level or first-year undergraduate students looking for their appetite to be whetted for a number of connected fields of scholarship, or indeed for the 'educated layperson' seeking a grasp of the issues without having to wade through hundreds of pages of science and theology ... A very finely judged piece of writing." Kaleidoscope
"With clear and incisive argumentation, McGrath takes Dawkins on and exposes many of the weaknesses in his case for atheism." Reformed Theological Journal
"Wielding evolutionary arguments and carefully chosen metaphors like sharp swords, Richard Dawkins has emerged over three decades as this generation's most aggressive promoter of atheism. In his view, science, and science alone, provides the only rock worth standing on. In this remarkable book, Alister McGrath challenges Dawkins on the very ground he holds most sacred - rational argument - and McGrath disarms the master. It becomes readily apparent that Dawkins has aimed his attack at a naive version of faith that most serious believers would not recognize. After reading this carefully constructed and eloquently written book, Dawkins' choice of atheism emerges as the most irrational of the available choices about God's existence."
Francis Collins, Director of the Human Genome Project
“In this tour-de-force Alister McGrath approaches the edifice of self-confident, breezy atheism so effectively promoted by Richard Dawkins, and by deft dissection and argument reveals the shallowness, special-pleading and inconsistencies of his world-picture. Here is a book which helps to rejoin the magnificence of science to the magnificence of God’s good Creation.”
Simon Conway Morris, Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology, Cambridge University
“This is a wonderful book. One of the world’s leading Christian contributors to the science/religion dialogue takes on Richard Dawkins, Darwinism’s arch-atheist, and wrestles him to the ground! This is scholarship as it should be – informed, feisty, and terrific fun. I cannot wait to see Dawkins’s review of Alister McGrath’s critique.”
Michael Ruse, Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy, Florida State University
“A timely and accessible contribution to the debate over Richard Dawkins’s cosmology which exposes philosophical naivety, the abuse of metaphor, and sheer bluster, left, right and centre. Here Alister McGrath announces what every Darwinian Fundamentalist needs to hear: that science is and always has been a cultural practice that is provisional, fallible, and socially shaped – an enterprise to be cultivated and fostered, but hardly worshipped or idolised. A devastating critique.”
David N. Livingstone, Professor of Geography and Intellectual History, Queen’s University, Belfast
“Alister McGrath critically examines the places where Richard Dawkins’ well-established biological science changes into the speculations which undergird Dawkins’ own anti-religious faith. In his appreciative examination and ruthless analysis of Dawkins writings and the polemics associated with them, McGrath has done a marvellous apologetic job, as well as providing a particular service for those daunted by scientific authoritarianism. We are all in his debt for rigorously identifying and exposing the weaknesses of some of the commonly used arguments against the Christian faith.”
R. J. Berry, formerly Professor of Genetics, University College, London and President of the Linnean Society
“Alister McGrath subjects the atheistic world-view of Richard Dawkins to critical analysis and finds it severely lacking in intellectual rigour. As a former atheist himself, and a biochemist turned theologian and philosopher, the author is well placed to appreciate Dawkins’ well-deserved reputation as a populariser of evolutionary theory, but equally well qualified to assess his stratagem of using a biological theory for ideological purposes. This book is essential reading for those interested in the traffic of ideas between science, philosophy and religion.”
Dr Denis Alexander, Chairman, Molecular Immunology Programme, The Babraham Institute and Fellow of St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge
This is the first book-length response to Richard Dawkins, author of some of the most popular scientific works, such as The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker. Dawkins has become perhaps the world's best-known atheist, noted for his hostile and controversial views on religion. This wonderfully argued book explains and examines Dawkins' scientific ideas and their religious implications. Head-to-head, it takes on some of Dawkins' central assumptions, like the conflict between science and religion, the "selfish gene" theory of evolution, the role of science in explaining the world, and brilliantly exposes their unsustainability. Moreover, this controversial debate is carried on in a style which can be enjoyed by anyone without a scientific or religious background.Alister E. McGrath is uniquely qualified to write this book. He is a world-renowned theologian who also has a doctorate in molecular biophysics. He is acclaimed as a highly lucid writer, vastly experienced in explaining difficult ideas to lay audiences.
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I would tell anyone expecting a review of Christian theology or even McGrath's own personal beliefs to look elsewhere. And that's a good thing. McGrath points out what is wrong with Dawkins' claims, not why someone should be offended by them personally as a Christian. He doesn't say that Dawkins is wrong because the Bible says he is. The only time he even seems to bring Christianity itself into the picture is when he is correcting a false conviction or claim about Christianity that Dawkins has made. Even now I really don't know what the particulars of McGrath's personal Christianity are - he just doesn't go into them.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the rest of his work.
My problem with the book is my problem, not his, for i've heard it all before. The ideas are familiar and don't challenge me anymore, at least not like they did when i first encountered them. So the book feels slow and mild, but it isn't, it's me.
It's the audience that is important here. It is not addressed to people who have read much in the topic, but those who have just encountered Dawkins (maybe SJG, and Dennett or Wilson as well) and find his argument that science has disproved God and that it is irrational to be a Christian in this time of scientific epistemology, persuasive or at least unsettling.
To them it will present a very competent and interesting travel through the issues, both the metaphysical and the scientific levels. For this reason alone it is recommended to it's intended audience as the best accessible reply to the metaphysical ideas of Dawkins masquerading as scientific truth when they are nothing more than Dawkins strong anti-theological opinions.
First and foremost, Mr. McGrath asserts that the God that Dawkins doesn't believe in is not the Real God, not the God of "thoughtful Christian theologians." Alternately, McGrath tries to make the case that the faith that Dawkins criticizes is not what Christians mean by faith. McGrath makes one of these two claims on, at least, pages: 10, 42, 52, 59, 60, 71(3-times), 73, 75, 76, 80, 83, 85, 86, 89, 92, 93, 96, 99, 101, 108, 117, 118, 140, 143, 146, 151, 156, 157, and 158. (29 pages of the 159 pages of the text.) I think one can safely say that this is one of McGrath's major assertions.
Mr. McGrath repeats that Mr. Dawkins disbelieves the wrong God or faith on at least 18% of the pages of the book. Emphasis through repetition I suppose. Strangely, Mr. McGrath never straightens us out with the Real definition of the God Christians believe in. The closest he comes, anywhere in the book, is in on page 93, where, after he trashes the "Divine Designer" God of William Paley, he states, "A theologian might respond by arguing that God created an environment within which incredibly complex entities could develop from quite simple beginnings by quite simple processes." This is the deistic God: the God who set up the natural laws and set the thing in motion [initiated the Big Bang perhaps?] This God is extremely difficult [seemingly impossible] to distinguish from nature. Mr. McGrath never describes the Christian God in the entire book. Why? Because the essential features of the Christian God are exactly the ones that Dawkins doesn't believe in, contrary to McGrath's repeated assertions.
And, not surprisingly, Dawkins specifically addresses the deistic God on page 147 of "A Devil's Chaplain:*" "If God is a synonym for the deepest principles of physics, what word is left for a hypothetical being who answers prayers, intervenes to save cancer patients or help evolution over difficult jumps; forgives sins or dies for them?" Why doesn't McGrath answer Dawkins' challenge, since he spends much this book attacking "A Devil's Chaplain" and "Unweaving the Rainbow?" Because he can't.
(* Not to mention his more recent, "The God Delusion.")
I was raised a Christian and the God I was taught about had at least these features: He created the earth, flooded it during Noah's time, specially created all of life, sent his "son" to be born from a young virgin Jew in Palestine, the "son" died to atone for everyone's sins, even sins not yet committed, this God was all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, this God answered prayers and "saves" people from natural disasters, etc. Which of these features does Mr. McGrath disavow? And how would that God fit with Christian theology? He never tells us.
Here is Mr. McGrath in print elsewhere (National Catholic Register online):
"The second point I'd want to make is that certainly I believe in the Nicene Creed, but I don't believe it because someone has rammed it down my throat. I believe it because I've looked at it very closely and I believe it to be right. I am very happy to be challenged about that because I believe in being open and accountable."
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"Yes, I have, of course, met this point before. It sounds superficially fair.Read more