Talk:Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit

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Fixing my conerns...[edit]

Well, I just decided to fix the concerns I had, instead of just complaining. Here are my objections, and what I did:

  1. This is an unfair straw man, unless this is article is renamed "Criticism of the Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit", we should follow Dawkins. And so I added a section about him, I will further expand this until the article is neutral.
  2. I'm still unhappy about the formalizations, as these are clearly based on the views of critics, thus violating the principle of charity that I strongly believe in. There was nothing I can do about this. Inserting the above formalization by Stenger is probably slightly inaccurate, and probably original research anyway. Perhaps Dennett will formalize it, and (1) alleviates this concern.
  3. Here is my biggest objection. Even if we are thus uncharitable and follow the outline of a critic. At the very least, we should be honest about this. The source for the formalization is NBeale's reading of Plantinga! That's fine, but for us to intersperse references to Dawkins, as if the statements can be backed by the book, is just misguiding the reader. It is also contrary to WP:SYNT to mix sources in the way we do. I have done this before (see my comment), and many good editors agreed that we should not mix sources in this way. I have therefore removed the references to the book.

The rest of the edits and removing of material was because I felt it was repetitive. If I accidentally deleted something relevant other than the refs cited above, then I apologize, please re-insert it. Thank you! --Merzul 20:52, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

Hi Merzul. Dawkins certainly makes an argument like the one you describe in the Chapter in question. I don't think however that this the "statistical demonstration of the improbability of God" that he is referring to by "The Ulimate Boeing 747 Gambit". On the Plantinga/philosophical formulation point, this is simply following the way in which most of the other arguments for the existence of God articles work. NBeale 22:17, 18 March 2007 (UTC)
I'm not sure, I think he consider the entire line of thinking to be "the gambit". What makes you think it is not the argument that he summarizes at the end of the chapter? Note that the alternative formalization (Erik Wielenberg) is more-or-less in tune with this, and Plantinga in the cited article discusses the whole argument, but out formalization focuses mainly on Plantinga's analysis of point #3. In any case, I'm open to be convinced on this issue...
Regarding the problems I have with Plantinga' formalization. Well, since that logical form doesn't appear directly in the text, I would have to read it very carefully to verify that it really is Plantinga's formalization and not our own. That's perhaps a smaller issue for me, the main problem I had was that it contained direct references to Dawkins, which I could not verify were supporting what we are writing. If Plantinga is the source for this, then we trust his interpretation of Dawkins and attribute it to Plantinga, we shouldn't add direct refs to Dawkins, unless Plantinga also does so and then I think we should add "as cited in..."
The problem otherwise is that we are taking an outline roughly following Plantinga, and then we are adding references to Dawkins to back up Plantinga's outline. But who is attributable for the scholarly judgement that Plantinga's statement is backed up by page 113 in Dawkins book? I sure hope this is not the way other articles on philosophical arguments are handled on Wikipedia. Any logical formalization we present should be taken from standard textbooks, or from the original proponents of the argument. --Merzul 23:02, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

Well done, Merzul, and thank you. That is a really big improvement. At last, an attempt to summarise the argument in Dawkins' own words, and not simply to use the phrase as a launch-pad for OR and POV philosophising. I am still concerned:

  1. that there really isn't enough here to merit a standalone article (hence my support for keeping it as a redirect, as expressed in the AfD debate)
  2. that the "Suggested statements" section is so far off the mark (not on subject, and a blatant breach of WP:OR) that it should simply be deleted (there isn't even any attempt to show that these comments are related to the 747 idea)
  3. that a lot of what follows in "Comments" is also only tangentially relevant, and the section should be substantially pruned.

The problem is to define the point at which "the 747 gambit" becomes the more general question of "the improbability of god". My take on this would be to draw the line very very close to the words themselves, and to rule out the wider discussion, leaving only discussions of this particular formulation. Otherwise, why call the article "Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit"? Some might have suspicions about some editors' motives, but I will continue to assume good faith, and continue to do my best to help improve the article, if it does not revert to a redirect. Snalwibma 08:51, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

I fully agree with you that a redirect is the most prudent vote, I think pastor David said it most succinctly: the book is WP:N, each individual chapter or argument is not. But since it seems we are going to have an article, and since drawing the line and defining what exactly Dawkins considers the Boeing 747 gambit is difficult, I see no other option than expanding the entire chapter 4 in this article. While the right thing would be to redirect this article, I actually look forward to expanding the article even further. There is a lot to summarize here, and the argument is not at all so weak when put in proper context. Sure, this argument fails in a dry philosophical analysis, but it is very appealing to people who think scientifically. I think it has good popular appeal, and once this article is properly expanded to follow Dawkins's treatment, we will have what an article of this title really should be: an atheist POV-fork. Perhaps, we can AfD it again once this turns into the atheist propaganda article that the title really merits. :) --Merzul 09:49, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
Thanks. I am somewhat hempered in my desire to help by the fact that at present I do not have a copy of TGD to hand, and am therefore unable to do much in the way of summarising the points made in the chapter. Snalwibma 10:35, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
I don't think we need to hurry right now, as I have to go to work, and I have already made it quite clear that this article will be expanded with some serious Dawkins fan-cruft, once the AfD is over... If it is a keep, it will be fun; if it will be a redirect, it will be good for Wikipedia. Considering the title being so Dawkins specific, supporters of Dawkins even have a bit of WP:BLP on their side. What a gift to pro-Dawkins POV-pushers this article is :) --Merzul 10:49, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

What is the 747 Gambit?[edit]

In some places it seems Dawkins refers to the complexity argument, but in many other passages it seems like he is referring to the entire chapter. In particular, the reference to Dialogues concerning Natural Religion is puzzling, does anybody know where Philo could be seen as arguing the "747 Gambit"? --Merzul 01:55, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

I think he's quite clear: "My name for the statistical demonstration that God almost certainly does not exist is the Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit". Now of course he gives no statistical demonstration (or even shows any signs of knowing what a statistical demonstration might be) but he does try to argue that a designer must be more complex than the thing designed and that the more complex a thing is the more "statistically improbable" it is. I don't really mind including Dawkins' additional 6 point argument (partly becasue even by Dawkins standards it is a truly terrible argument. At least his "747" argument can be formulated as a logically valid argument, albeit from false premises. This is not even formally valid, and points 5 and 6 really are statements of blind faith.) It is at least closely related to his 747 point, and well worth discussing. Also the sheer volume of this article makes it obvious that it could not sensibly be merged into the God Delusion. NBeale 09:50, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

The entire 6 point argument is a statistical demonstration, an argument against empirical theism like Philo's in the cited dialogue. I rather see the complexity aspect as a minor point in his wider argument. Also, you are treating this argument as if it was a paper published in the journal of religious studies, it hasn't been presented as such, it has been presented in the context of a popular book. And this is a book by a scientist, not a philosopher, and the argument is presented within the context of considering God a competing "scientific hypothesis" to evolution. Once you take this into account, the argument is not so weak, and Dawkins is no longer such an incompetent moron. I think his main failure is to accept that religion can be seen as an experience, almost like poetry or a work of art, and there can be good and bad religion, but that these are primarily aesthetic and moral judgements, where scientific criteria aren't always relevant to the experience. So Dawkins, I think, is wrong, but certainly not the blatant idiot this article tries to expose. --Merzul 10:11, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
That's like saying, "If you consider that Dawkins is completely unqualified for the job at hand, he didn't do such a bad job." >.>
And you accuse the other guy of being uncharitable. :D
I can't imagine any man of intelligence positing God as a competing scientific hypothesis. That sort of paradigm only works when it comes to two mutually exclusive explanations of the same observed phenomenon. In this case, the two "alternatives" are not--that is, they are not exclusive in any way.
What that says about Dawkins, I'm not sure. But you can just thank your lucky stars that I'm not editing the article, because I think it's pretty clear that I'm not neutral in the least.
J.M. Archer (talk) 20:08, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
NBeale - a little challenge for you: see if you can contribute to this discussion without slipping in a cheap swipe at Dawkins at every turn! It really doesn't help your argument: every time you do this (and it is virtually every time you add a comment) I am pushed further towards an uncharitable view of your motives, and towards seeing breaches of WP:NPOV in your editing of the article. For your own sake, and for the sake of the arguments you are trying to make, keep to the facts and avoid the character-assassination. Go on, you know you can do it... Snalwibma 10:42, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

Already Covered[edit]

Surely this class of argument has already been covered, under teleological argument. If this material is notable at all, it should surely be a subsection of that article. 1Z 17:33, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

Well first of all that article is in terrible shape with no refs at all and full of POV. Secondly the argument Dawkins proposes is actually somewhat new: although it has mistaken premises it is at least formally valid (in the form given after Plantinga) and understanding why designer -> complexity -> improbability doesn't work is philosophically quite interesting. Thridly, the fact that there is another article which covers related material is not a valid reason for deletion, and with 8 notable commentators, 6 menitoning it by name, the material is clearly notable. NBeale 18:50, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
The TA article is much better than this one, AFAICS. As usual, you are assuming that if your put in enough refs, the POV doesn't matter.
The fact that something is already covered by another article is a perfectly good reason for deletion, or merger if it is notable, as you say. 1Z 19:25, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree with you, and merging with teleological argument is one of the best proposals so far. It's a bit late though, the AfD is going towards a keep (or a no consensus keep). --Merzul 20:02, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

The argument that NBeale is most intent on exposing is essentially Dawkins's probabilistic rephrasing of this objection; we even point this out in The God Delusion article. The problem with a merger is that Alvin Plantinga wouldn't be given enough room on that page; poor Alvin, he has such a cute name. --Merzul 20:25, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

So long as Mr Beale is active, Professor Plantinga is in no danger at all of under-exposure.1Z 20:38, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

Indeed, Polkinghorne will soon be quite jealous. --Merzul 21:26, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

What would we re-name to?[edit]

As noted about I think the name is slightly unfortunate but we are probably stuck with it because Dawkins gave it to the argument and there appear to be no notable alternatives. But if anyone can propose a alternative that has at least half as many notable commentators and ghits perhaps we should consider it. Any suggestions?NBeale 18:52, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

Probability of God would work (or Improbability of God, whatever) but we shouldn't restrict our focus to the one god but apply it to all gods so a title like Statistical arguments related to supernatural entities (though that does sound like a category). Then at least Christians can add why all the other gods from competitive foundation myths are unlikely and why just the one god they use is likely. Ttiotsw 19:22, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
The Probability of God is a book by Stephen D. Unwin. The Improbability of God is a book by Michael Martin So we can't use those at titles for this article. NBeale 22:04, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
They could be distinguished by capitalisation. 1Z 12:54, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

The article has been much expanded, and I am happy to accept that there is enough to merit keeping it, as decided in the AfD debate. But I assume the suggestion of renaming it is still very much on the agenda. Can someone put me straight on this? I assume a decision to keep does not mean we are forced to stick with the present title, which, as virtually everyone (including NBeale) agrees, is unsuitable. My concern is still that it is not sensible to take a phrase by one writer and use it as a basis on which to build an article about a whole (range of) philosophical argument(s), most of which has nothing whatever to do with the title. I can still see two possible approaches: (1) keep the title as it is and prune the article right back down to what is strictly relevant; (2) include the fuller discussion but find a new title. This does need sorting out. Snalwibma 08:24, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

I think the discussion is very much open, and depends on what we want here. Having the title as it currently stands would center this article on Dawkins, and then I will be very tempted to further expand the article so that Plantinga's mischaracterization of the argument becomes more obvious. My first judgement was that Plantinga is right, but the more I think about this issue the more I'm leaning towards Dawkins. I think most disturbing is Plantinga's ridiculous formalization of the very process of normal science. This is perhaps due to his agenda to undermine science and push intelligent design into the classrooms, or he honestly and sincerely doesn't understand how the scientific intuition works. I think Yann Martel's Life of Pi was a convincing way to argue against Dawkins's demand to pick the best scientific theory, but characterizing the basic process by which we accept scientific theories as if these are based on a simple logically inference... well it only convinces me that Plantinga's understanding of science is quite sophomoric, except that's of course an insult to science sophomores... Anyway, the current title serves well for a battleground between Dawkins and his critics, but if we want a more general discussion of scientific arguments drawing on more sources, then we should change the title. I'm fine with it either way. --Merzul 11:00, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

Merger suggestion[edit]

The community has alredy discussed at length whether this article should be deleted or merged or renamed and the result was keep. It makes no sense to put up a merge tag immediately after this. NBeale 07:20, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

  • No - the community has discussed at length whether to delete or merge, but has hardly touched on the suggestion of renaming it. The decision was to keep - but that does not preclude renaming. It may make no sense to put up a merge tag, but it makes every sense to discuss and agree on a more suitable title. Snalwibma 08:26, 20 March 2007 (UTC)
  • Yes I was quite annoyed that the consensus was "keep" as it was wildly in favour of "rename". We do need to talk about this as the more this article develops the more misplaced th name is. Please don't defend and wikilayer NBeale - if we can't sort it out ourselves then we will have to call an RfC. Some sort of Argument from probability name referenced from the Existence of God article is the best I can think of at the moment. Sophia 07:10, 21 March 2007 (UTC)


"First, is God complex?"

That is an assumption that follows on from Natural Theology/Intelligent Design line of thinking. If we should assume that a complex thing like a watch has a watchmaker, we should assume, by the same common-sense reasoning that the watchmaker is complex. if, instead, the argument is based on abstract, apriori reasoning, e.g the ontological argument, that should be made clear. in the article.

"But ... suppose we concede, at least for purposes of argument, that God is complex...why does Dawkins think it follows that God would be improbable?"

Same again. That is assumed by Paleyan arguments, Natural Theology/Intelligent Design. Dawkins cannot be refuted without rejecting a swathe of religious thinking.

"The point is we aren't trying to give an ultimate explanation of organized complexity, and we aren't trying to explain organized complexity in general; we are only trying to explain one particular manifestation of it (those tractors)."

Who is the "we" in this passage? Theologians are in the business of Ultimate explanantion, obviously. This needs clarifying.

"God as the original creator of life, we aren't trying to explain organized complexity in general, but only a particular kind of it, i.e., terrestrial life. So even if (contrary to fact, as I see it) God himself displays organized complexity, we would be perfectly sensible in explaining the existence of terrestrial life in terms of divine activity."

Except that once you have assumed "complexity requires a creator", that would lead to regress.

'1. We know of no irrefutable objections to its being biologically possible that all of life has come to be by way of unguided Darwinian processes; ... His conclusion, however, is 2. All of life has come to be by way of unguided Darwinian processes.

The argument form seems to be something like: We know of no irrefutable objections to its being possible that p; Therefore p is true."'

It is actually abduction, as used throughout science. Does Plantinga really not know this? (well, if he has a problem with scientific epistemology, and not just specific scientific theories, that, too needs to be made clear).

"one wants an ultimate explanation, then one must accept an entity whose own existence and complexity has no explanation in terms of something distinct from it"

which would lead, if this article were written NPOV, into the "why bother with God - it's simpler to take the Big bang as the Ultimate Explanation".

1Z 14:45, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

Yes, but I don't know what exactly to do about your concerns, all your criticism is about direct quotations from Plantinga. My idea is to continue expanding the Dawkins section, and then let the reader decide the value of Plantinga's glorious analogy of alien tractors for himself. --Merzul 02:35, 21 March 2007 (UTC)
The Plantinga quotes already have way too much undue weight as it is and need trimming so more are really not needed. Sophia 07:12, 21 March 2007 (UTC)
Well I got found a balancing quote for Orr but Plantinga is harder to pin down. The quoted analysis by Alvin Plantinga of what Dawkins says is fine but then Plantinga becomes rather slippery by introducing first "classical theology" which states that God is simple. This is on a par with a discussion on the probability of UFOs and then having someone bring in Star Trek. We all appreciate what Star Trek has contributed to culture but most people know where the line is between fantasy and reality. One delusion begets another and Plantinga goes on with "But of course God is a spirit, not a material object at all, and hence has no parts. A fortiori ... God doesn't have parts arranged in ways unlikely to have arisen by chance. Therefore, given the definition of complexity Dawkins himself proposes, God is not complex". This is strawman argument by Plantinga.
The second section to Plantinga's review also derives support from "classical theism" and he is quite right that Dawkins argues from the position of materialism but it seems too convenient how Plantinga plucks one unfounded claim from theism that "But if God is a necessary being,..." to then state that "if he exists in all possible worlds, then the probability that he exists, of course, is 1, and the probability that he does not exist is 0. Far from its being improbable that he exists, his existence is maximally probable.". One almost understands now why Plantinga created the logic to describe his delusion given how he repeats this as an argument. It is illogical that Plantinga makes a case against Dawkins for using "an argument that doesn't just start from the premise that materialism is true" as theism has not yet presented any evidence to support the existence of the supernatural entities we call god.
So I agree that in both cases what is said misrepresents Dawkins' position and it is suitable for certain audiences but do we have to give it any space here as I too feel it is giving undue weight to what can only be considered an anti-materialist view. Plantinga is amusing but he should have argued the case within a perspective of materialism but I feel that in that world he would seem somewhat naked. Ttiotsw 10:02, 21 March 2007 (UTC)
Perhaps we could move the brilliant material by Plantinga to a separate page called "argument from classical theism":
  1. According to classical theism, God is a necessary being.
  2. A necessary being exists in all possibility worlds.
  3. God's existence has probability 1 (from 1 and 2).
  4. God's non-existence has probability 0 (from 3 and Plantinga's immense intellect).
And Dawkins seem to think arguments like these aren't even necessary... (if anyone considers this is a misrepresentation of Plantinga, then that's precisely the point.) Now, where is the "undue weight section" template? ;) --Merzul 11:50, 21 March 2007 (UTC)

Including opinions...[edit]

We are including a reference to Krauss saying "this is a weak argument", it's funny how I was refused including Graham Oppy and Dawkins's saying the same thing about the ontological argument, see Talk:Ontological_argument#Regarding "opinions". --Merzul 12:01, 21 March 2007 (UTC)

Now, in any case, I did include Oppy's opinion on this page, although it's far from something that I consider a quality source. But I have immense respect for this guy, he is probably one of the most lucid philosopher of religion I know, and he has written the most carefully argued book on the ontological argument I've ever seen, it's no wonder he was asked to write the Stanford Encyclopaedia entry on the ontological argument. In any case, the fact that he isn't impressed by the argument in my opinion shouldn't be seen as POV-pushing on either side, for me as an atheist it just shows that atheists are fair and independent thinkers, and on the other side I'm sure NBeale is happy to have more people saying Dawkins is incompetent. What do you guys think? --Merzul 15:08, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

Two Thumbs Up[edit]

H. Allen Orr in The New York Review of Books[19] suggests that Dawkins .......

Is this entry a critique of the "God Delusion"? It reads like the book review section of the NY Times. H. Allen Orr gives Dawkins two thumbs down ... New York Review.

Your discussion page has suggestion for changing the entry title to something that reflects the true nature of the article. Perhaps you should reconsider those suggestions. --Random Replicator 16:24, 21 March 2007 (UTC)

  • I agree. Most of the article is a mixture of long-winded philosophising on the probability or otherwise of God, and a lot more of it consists of general reviews of "The God Delusion" (which belongs on that page, if anywhere, not here). Very little of it is about the Boeing 747 gambit as such. It needs a new title, or chopping right back. Gnusmas 16:51, 21 March 2007 (UTC)
    It is very difficult to chop Dawkins's formulation of the argument, he claims that the 747 Gambit dates back to Hume, and that he has added the twist with natural selection to turn it into an argument against God (as opposed to merely a refutation of empirical theism), recall his remark "how hume would have liked it". If we say that this is an argument against the existence of God, then we need all the context. The narrower argument only refutes empirical theism and leaves us agnostic, the fact that natural selection is a viable explanation for complexity is what validates for someone with a scientific intuition to take the radical step to atheism. --Merzul 17:43, 21 March 2007 (UTC)

I'm currently trying to restructure the criticism section to give reduce quotations and try to make the criticism less like a book review, but more like a discussion of the argument. I promise I will do my best to present the best possible criticism that I can, I'm not entirely sure how to structure things and we can discuss the exact titles, but basically something needs to be done. --Merzul 15:17, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

The argument, again...[edit]

I have now edited the article to reflect what Dawkins not Plantinga considers his argument against the existence of God. Compare the situation to the following argument, which is not entirely isomorphic, but close enough to illustrate the point:

  1. We need an explanation of why the stellar bodies appear on the sky the way they do.
  2. The natural temptation is to believe they are revolving around the earth.
  3. The ptolemaic system is a too complex, and therefore an unsatisfactory theory.

At this point we can express our dissatisfaction, but we cannot yet claim that Almost Certainly the Earth Is not In the Center of the Universe. Dawkins does not do this, he only rejects the Ptolemaic hypothesis of a designer when a simpler and better theory is available. This is incredibly important, and it is at the very core of Plantinga's strawman argument. He construes the rejection of empirical theism to be the argument against God; this is absolutely not what Dawkins is claiming. Nowhere in Dawkins's writing can you find anything implying something like "God would have to be monumentally complex, hence astronomically improbable; thus it is almost certain that God does not exist." Dawkins is saying: God is complex and improbable, and hence a bad scientific explanation of complexity. Therefore, when a better theory is available, it is prudent to reject the God Hypothesis. This is not my own personal reading, it is a very explicit in the book, especially the comment that Hume "caved in" because he didn't have a better theory. --Merzul 00:04, 22 March 2007 (UTC) (comment was slightly edited as I made some changes after my first post here --Merzul 00:27, 22 March 2007 (UTC))

Alright, massive change, so what are the opinions?[edit]

I'm actually quite happy with it, I think it states the argument in Dawkins's own terms, and I really really did my best to present the best criticism that I could find, and most of the stuff that is now on the page I think is very strong on both sides of the argument. Any comments? --Merzul 18:25, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

On first reading nothing glaring stuck out and said "bite me". A grammar error (bold) in "When theologians hold God to be simple, who is scientist like Dawkins "to dictate to theologians that their God had to be complex?" in which I think it needs the indefinite article "a" added. I say excellent job mingling the references we were given. Ttiotsw 19:37, 22 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes, but I don't recall taking ownership of this article, and my English is not that good, so please do edit the article :) I will fix this one though. About mingling the sources, I can tell you that the hardest part was trying to make sense of Plantinga, I'm not at all impressed with what he had to say. I frankly think the less of him we have here, the stronger the criticism section, but out of respect for his authority I tried to keep some of his arguments. --Merzul 20:05, 22 March 2007 (UTC)
(My edit summary "fixing grammer" was not a deliberate attempt to prove my point. If only 'a' and 'e' were adjacent on the keyboard...) --Merzul 21:18, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

On the whole, a great improvement. Perhaps you could add the troublesome extracts from Plantinga to this talkpage. 1Z 20:17, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

Well, it's difficult to say, all of his reasoning is difficult, the version with all the quotations are here, so I have to see actually what I threw out. The main trimming was to throw out the alternative formalization as the criticism is quite adaptable to Dawkins's own formulation, and the alternatives leave out Dawkins's twist with natural selection, which therefore reduces this to Hume's argument. Below are some of the difficult parts where my summary might need some checking. (I have signed my comments there so people can comment after each bullet.) --Merzul 21:08, 22 March 2007 (UTC)


  • According to classical theism, God is a necessary being; it is not so much as possible that there should be no such person as God; he exists in all possible worlds. But if God is a necessary being, if he exists in all possible worlds, then the probability that he exists, of course, is 1, and the probability that he does not exist is 0. Far from its being improbable that he exists, his existence is maximally probable. So if Dawkins proposes that God's existence is improbable, he owes us an argument for the conclusion that there is no necessary being with the attributes of God — an argument that doesn't just start from the premise that materialism is true. Neither he nor anyone else has provided even a decent argument along these lines; Dawkins doesn't even seem to be aware that he needs an argument of that sort.

This is now at the end of the article, I don't know if I'm understanding him correctly, but it seems somewhat strange to demand that if you believe God has probability 0.005, then you owe Plantinga an argument to prove that there is no necessary being. I presume the logic here is that if the probability is 0.005 then there are a few possibility worlds where God exists and due to the nested modal predicates of modal logic system whatever, God then spreads to all possibility worlds and pops into existence in our universe! In short, am I correct to assume Plantinga is arguing that no probability arguments are at all is valid against a necessary being? --Merzul 21:08, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

This isn't really about the 747 argument.
The necessity argument is basically a different line of reasoning to ID-type (teleological) arguments, which is what Dawkins is criticising in the 747 argument. he is entitled to assume things like "designers must be complex", since it is in line with the kind of arguments ID-ers themselves make. 1Z 22:20, 22 March 2007 (UTC)
  • The point is we aren't trying to give an ultimate explanation of organized complexity, and we aren't trying to explain organized complexity in general; we are only trying to explain one particular manifestation of it (those tractors). And (unless you are trying to give an ultimate explanation of organized complexity) it is perfectly proper to explain one manifestation of organized complexity in terms of another. Similarly, in invoking God as the original creator of life, we aren't trying to explain organized complexity in general, but only a particular kind of it, i.e., terrestrial life. So even if (contrary to fact, as I see it) God himself displays organized complexity, we would be perfectly sensible in explaining the existence of terrestrial life in terms of divine activity.

Here is just don't see how this addresses Dawkins's arguments, or perhaps I now do, let's see what people think, it's in the second-last paragraph, have I represented it correctly? And is the juxtaposition with Vallicella appropriate. This is the second last paragraph I think, is it clear enough? --Merzul 21:08, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

But arguments for God are supposed to be ultimate. By tradional definition God, is supposed to be ultimate just as he is supposed to be simple. Otherwise, ID collapses into the von Daniken /Fred Hoyle theory.1Z 22:27, 22 March 2007 (UTC)
  • The argument form seems to be something like: We know of no irrefutable objections to its being possible that p; Therefore p is true.

This has already been discussed above, I think is a terrible misrepresentation of the scientific process. I have left it out as H. Allen Orr makes essentially a related, but in my opinion more valid argument against Dawkins's application of scientific thinking to existence of God. Does anybody insist on keeping this? --Merzul 21:08, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

Informative vs Opinionated[edit]

A difficult topic to retain neutrality. I saw red on the Orr article; no doubt I came in this one expecting the worst. I had prepared my epistle for this discussion page; which as it turns out will not be needed. Personally, I have never seen such a good faith effort of maintaining neutrality than what has been demonstrated by Merzul.

One observation. The article is written on a very high level. Sentence structure, vocabulary, etc... are considerably above the average reader. I level this criticism frequently, as it is an inevitable outcome of highly educated writers. Especially when they are walking a tightrope trying to please other editors, circling like wolves around a wounded buffalo. Granted the “average” reader is not likely to pursue this topic; however, if you see any opportunities to extend the range of your audience, you should consider doing so. The easiest is through word selection and reducing sentence length. I would offer some assistance … but even a minor word change might upset the very fine line Merzul is walking. Snalwibma is a very skilled writer and does have a knack for shifting between technical and general writing. I hope he revisits this work, I would be very curious as to his overall perceptions of your efforts. --Random Replicator 14:13, 23 March 2007 (UTC)

Well, thank you very much for the compliments, I did indeed try very hard to keep neutrality, and yet there are always cases when one's POV slips through. I'm referring to what was fortunately fixed here. As this was a sensitive topic, I tried to stay as close to the originals as I possibly could. I'm also not entirely fluent in English, so please be extremely bold in changing what I have written. If there are any concerns that that the meaning might change, I and others can point it out here, and we can discuss it. The intention should be to make both sides of the argument as clear and lucid as possible, and then perhaps while doing this, we will learn more about the merits of the argument and the criticism. I will contribute a bit over the weekend, but I will be very busy in real life now. In any case, I am in full agreement with your criticism, especially the part about me being highly educated :D --Merzul 15:36, 23 March 2007 (UTC)
Unfortunately, I have been quite engaged in useless meta-activities :), I will come back to earth and take a look at this again sometime soon. --Merzul 22:03, 26 March 2007 (UTC)

Divine simplicity[edit]

The doctrine of Divine Simplicity is that God is simple in the sense that God has "no body, parts or passions". This is not the same as asserting that God is a simpler explanation of the universe than something else. So the principle of parsimony is really orthogonal to divine simplicity: you could believe in a complex God who was still (allegedly) the simplest explanation or a Simple God who was not the simplest explanation. The only way I can see to unconfuse this is to remove the heading and adjust the text a bit. Though note in passing, Dawkins admits that Natural Selection does not and can not explain the existence of the physical universe, and is simply expressing the hope that "something might come up". Imagine his withering language if someone he disagreed with used this approach! NBeale 21:30, 30 March 2007 (UTC)

Thank you for pointing this out. And in passing, let's pretend I didn't read the last sentence of your comment. :) --Merzul 22:25, 30 March 2007 (UTC)

Why would one expect a biological theory to explain a cosmological fact?1Z 16:40, 31 March 2007 (UTC)
Also, Dawkins explains at length that it is not troubling for science to not know things, but rather science is based upon seeking out things which we do not know yet, and then seeking solutions to them. It is not hypocritical of Dawkins to not be troubled with not being able to explain the universe. It would be hypocritical if he thought we should not take this ignorance as a cue to investigate, which is a viewpoint I am quite certain he does not espouse.
Well with enough faith anything is possible; with faith even ut+\frac{1}{2}at^2 works at relativistic speeds. At least NBeale is consistent with our understanding of the trinity. Obviously god cannot have parts else Muslims would then accuse Christians of polytheism ;) Actually to anyone who has done any bit of OO Programming the idea of the trinity is easy to understand. God is a single object of a god class and has 3 interfaces as opposed to 3 instantiations of the god class. Trivial actually. I glad that's cleared up. OK enough smalltalk. Ttiotsw 17:12, 31 March 2007 (UTC)
I'm glad you cleared that up. Still, this leaves unsolved the question, who designed the God class? --Merzul 20:27, 31 March 2007 (UTC)
Man. Ttiotsw 02:37, 7 April 2007 (UTC)


This article is still too POV. It also seems to cover the same content as the page about the book and several hundred wiki pages with variations on the theme of religous philosophy. The article lacks references, structure and balanced POVs. To be honest, after reading the page on The God Delusion, this article was a real let down. I think things could be improved if this articles content is summarised, sorted into categories and merged with the relevant articles. I'd do it myself but I think I'd be a little over zealous with the editing. 14:55, 12 April 2007 (UTC)

Just plain silly[edit]

I have no idea what the "Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit" is, but only that some presumably really smart people think some other really smart people are whacked. And vice-versa. There's a place for a play-by-play of the great god debate, but it's not here. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:32, 22 September 2011 (UTC)

Oh look - another distinguished philospher says he disagrees with Dawkins. Oh goody! Let's add a line to this already overblown, overstuffed and ill-structured article. After all, Wikipedia's main purpose is to serve as an extension to NBeale's blog. Snalwibma 17:00, 7 September 2007 (UTC)

Leaving aside the NBeale-frustration, which thanks to my break from Wikipedia I no longer feel, I fully agree with what you say. Just like the reviews section of The God Delusion, it would be nice to have less names and fewer quotation! Instead one could focus on actually trying to explain the critique in human-readable form. By this time, yet another person finding the argument unconvincing isn't really that interesting... (Actually, one of the earliest attacks on this argument was in the review by Thomas Nagel, and in my opinion, very little new has been added in subsequent reviews). --Merzul 11:48, 8 September 2007 (UTC)

Consistent spelling[edit]

My previous attempt to harmonise the spelling/usage of "Dawkins's" or "Dawkins' " in this article was sharply reverted (see here and here). I reiterate: having two different spellings/usages in the same piece is sloppy and unencyclopaedic: Both usages seem acceptable, according to Apostrophe#Singular nouns ending in s, z, or x, but there is the strong proviso that "the best advice is to respect [...] consistency". I propose to correct this inconsistency once again, probably going with the majority—eight examples from nine—although in the real world the balance of usage is reversed.

--Old Moonraker 14:44, 19 October 2007 (UTC)

Alternatively ... I have just changed Dawkins's to Dawkins' throughout the article, except for one occurrence in a quote, which clearly needs to be retained. OK? Snalwibma 15:40, 19 October 2007 (UTC)
Hadn't noticed the quotation: well spotted! --Old Moonraker 16:08, 19 October 2007 (UTC)

Why is "skeptical" misspelled "sceptical" at least twice, and then annotated as being "UK spelling", even though the misspellings don't appear to be quotes? I thought US-English was the accepted standard for WikiPedia articles' text (yeah, I agree with no ...s's). Steve8394 (talk) 05:15, 5 October 2013 (UTC)

See WP:ENGVAR. In the context of an article about a British subject, this is not a "mis"spelling. The word is correctly spelt (yes, spelt) sceptical. SNALWIBMA ( talk - contribs ) 11:20, 5 October 2013 (UTC)

WikiProject class rating[edit]

This article was automatically assessed because at least one WikiProject had rated the article as start, and the rating on other projects was brought up to start class. BetacommandBot 03:29, 9 November 2007 (UTC)


I try to understand both parties points of view (Dawkins atheism and religious theism)

Definition of God: God is generally defined as the creator and designer of Universe (incling but not limited to Earth, biosphere and our life)

Dawkins (probably most atheist) : The Universe has no creator. The first cause of life and universe is just a simple element. Because there are natural law exists before universe formed, and we need those physical law to let it evolve . In other words, Universe is generated by the Physical law. Physical law is the first cause.

Religious and Theist: God create the universe and physical law (including time). Some theist believe that God directly create the universe, the earth, life and human. Other may believe that God create the physical law only and let it evolve. So that it is possible that one can believe the God, the Big Bang theory and Evolution theory simultaneously.

But many religious scripture stated explicitly that God directly create human. So the major argument between both parties today is that, whether or not God are directly create the Earth and Human.

However, because we are using the present science and technology to discover the past. No one can go to past directly, and most theory has developed only for few hundred years, it is always not able to convince other parties to "convert people's belief" by science theory. Religious text is based on faith, so it is also challengable and difficult to use religious text to "convert people's belief". (talk) 02:17, 18 October 2010 (UTC)

The God Delusion?[edit]

It was introduced by Richard Dawkins in chapter 4 "Why there almost certainly is no God" of his 2006 book The God Delusion.

If I remember, Dawkins already wrote about this in The Blind Watchmaker. Maybe not as much than in The God Delusion (that I haven't read yet), but if we say “introduced”, that doesn't work. Nicosmos (talk) 16:39, 3 June 2011 (UTC)

The previous books (Climbing Mount Improbable and Blind Watchmaker) address the misguided claim that because chance could not assemble a Boeing 747, so natural selection could not assemble a complex organism. The "ultimate" twist was first introduced in The God Delusion (i.e. that if the existence of a complex organism demands a designer God, so that complex designer demands an earlier designer. Johnuniq (talk) 01:19, 4 June 2011 (UTC)