Look, here is a summary of Dawkins’ argument against God from Common Sense Atheism.
Can we put [Dawkins’ argument] into logically valid form? Sure. That’s what Erik Wielenberg did in his recent paper “Dawkins’ Gambit, Hume’s Aroma, and God’s Simplicity.” Here is Wielenberg’s formulation:
(1) If God exists, then God has these two properties: (i) He provides an intelligent-design explanation for all natural, complex phenomena in the universe and (ii) He has no explanation external to Himself.
(2) Anything that provides an intelligent-design explanation for the natural, complex phenomena in the universe is at least as complex as such phenomena.
(3) So, if God exists, then God has these two properties: (i) He is at least as complex as the natural, complex phenomena in the universe and (ii) He has no explanation external to Himself. (from 1 and 2)
(4) It is very improbable that there exists something that (i) is at least as complex as the natural, complex phenomena in the universe and (ii) has no explanation external to itself.
(5) Therefore, it is very improbable that God exists. (from 3 and 4)
This is less rhetorically engaging than Dawkins’ formulation, but at least it is logically valid.
So what can be said of this argument? Is it compelling?
Not really. The problem is that Dawkins’ argument engages the existence of a God that nobody believes in.
For example, consider premise (2). It’s not clear what Dawkins means by saying that God must be at least as complex as the complex universe he supposedly designed. Some writers2 have assumed Dawkins to have meant that something is complex if it has many different physical parts. But if so, then premise (2) becomes:
(2a) Anything that provides an intelligent-design explanation for the natural, complex phenomena in the universe has at least as much physical complexity as such phenomena.
Of course, theists do not assert that God is physical. I suppose Dawkins could support such a premise as (2a) with an extended defense of physicalism, but he provides no such defense, and that discussion would move far beyond the scope of Dawkins’ critique of religion, and of course would make the argument from complexity itself unnecessary.
But perhaps Dawkins has in mind the definition of complexity he arrived at after an extended discussion in The Blind Watchmaker:
…complicated things have some quality, specifiable in advance, that is highly unlikely to have been acquired by random chance alone.
But this gets us nowhere. If we plug this definition into Dawkins’ argument, then Dawkins misses his mark. It makes no difference whether God is complex in this sense, for theists do not assert that God acquired “some quality… by random chance alone.” Rather, God is usually thought of as a necessary being, not one that contingently evolved by chance from previous being.
Wielenberg explains this by showing two versions of the God Hypothesis:
(GH1) There exists a contingent, physical, complex, superhuman, supernatural intelligence that created the universe and has no external explanation.
(GH2) There exists a necessary, nonphysical, complex, superhuman, supernatural intelligence that created the universe and has no external explanation.
Dawkins’ argument might be effective against (GH1), but few theists assert (GH1). Theism asserts something more like (GH2), but Dawkins’ argument does not apply to it.
So Common Sense Atheism thinks that Dawkins is saying that God is contingent, physical, complex – basically an improbably arrangement of parts.
I read a post about this on TreeSearch, and it listed some Christian scholars who agree that God is not a complex arrangement of parts.
a) *William Lane Craig: “As an unembodied mind, God is a remarkably simple entity. As a non-physical entity, a mind is not composed of parts, and its salient properties, like self-consciousness, rationality, and volition, are essential to it. In contrast to the contingent and variegated universe with all its inexplicable quantities and constants, a divine mind is startlingly simple. Certainly such a mind may have complex ideas-it may be thinking, for example, of the infinitesimal calculus-, but the mind itself is a remarkably simple entity. Dawkins has evidently confused a mind’s ideas, which may, indeed, be complex, with a mind itself, which is an incredibly simple entity.” [Reasonable Faith 3rd (Crossway, 2008), 172.]
b) *Robert Koons: “…an infinite mind might be extremely simple. God needs no representations and no sense organs: everything (including every possibility) is immediately present to His mind. God needs no inference engines, because God never has to infer anything. …all of God’s attributes take values zero or infinity …We need so many parts precisely because our knowledge is limited and mediated by physical processes. God has immediate access to all facts, and so needs no internal complexity at all.” [“LECTURE #15: Objections to Design” online at leader.edu]
c) *Richard Swinburne (Professor of Philosophy at Oxford): “A ﬁnite limitation cries out for an explanation of why there is just that particular limit, in a way that limitlessness does not. As I noted in Chapter 3, scientists have always preferred hypotheses of inﬁnite … when both were equally compatible with the data… [listing multiple examples] There is a neatness about zero and inﬁnity that particular ﬁnite numbers lack. Yet a person with zero powers would not be a person at all. So in postulating a person with inﬁnite power the theist is postulating a person with the simplest kind of power possible. God’s beliefs have a similar inﬁnite quality. …” [The Existence of God 2nd (Oxford, 2004), 97.] Swinburne continues to emphasize the point for 13 more pages, covering all God’s essential properties.
d) In fact, as noted by *Robin Collins (Physicist, Prof. of Philosophy): “Medieval philosophers and theologians often went as far as advocating the doctrine of Divine Simplicity, according to which God is claimed to be absolutely simple, without any internal complexity.” [“The Teleological Argument” in The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion eds. Meister & Copan (Routledge, 2007), 417.]
So, remember this if you ever hear that Dawkins argument – ask them what they mean by God being “complex”, “fine-tuned” or “improbable”. If God is a mind, like you and I are minds, then he is non-physical. Minds are not a complex, improbable arrangement of parts.