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Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Dawkins has a Successor (but Nothing has Changed)

Marcus du Sautoy
Richard Dawkins was professor of public understanding of science at Oxford until recently. A mathematician has taken over from a biologist in the person of du Sautoy. This is a review of Sautoy's book "The Great Unknown."

Sautoy distances himself from the previous holder of this role: "a certain Dawkins" is how he introduces his predecessor. So we hope to hear a new tone? A more intelligent tone, a more reasonable tone, a more widely-read tone?

In terms of subject matter a new note is sounded. The shift from biology to maths and physics is interesting and Sautoy is a good writer who surveys seven fields of science on the hunt for the unknowns and unknowables. He shows that in at least six of those fields there is knowledge that we don't have access to - even can't have access to. For example, in chaos theory our inability to input data with sufficient accuracy into some equations renders their output unpredictable (and hence unknowable to us). In quantum physics, there is a basic uncertainty born of the very nature of the physical world of the tiny.

A new "god"
So far, so good. The next step might be to acknowledge the smallness of the human mind and then suggest that perhaps there is Someone in the universe who in fact does know everything. Or perhaps use the vastness of unknown knowledge as evidence of that Someone who invented it all; after all we're not talking random knowledge but highly sophisticated knowledge.

But so determined is mankind to suppress the existence of a personal God before whom we are accountable, that any way of doing this will be invented. Du Sautoy's method is clever:

(i) Deny the existence of a personal God - like the one all religions suggest, one with feelings, compassion, and so on. Without one piece of evidence, this God's existence is denied - in just the same manner as his predecessor.

(ii) Invent a new religion - Sautoy conjurs up an idol, a god of his own making who is "what can't be known." Talk about a weird new religion. This "god" - normally a personal proper name - is the sum of all unknown knowledge. Think about it. This god is nothing but the subset of knowledge unknown to mankind. Freakin' weird idol.

What does he say about his new god? Well this god clearly exists, because there is still stuff we cannot know. But how can knowledge "exist"?

He therefore cleverly manages to distance himself from Dawkins because he can say that some kind of "god" exists, but since the real and living God is denied, he is just a chip off the old atheist block.

There are so many problems with Du Sautoy's book and outlook:

(i) A new religion. Du Sautoy has started a new religion. No religion has ever taught the existence of a god like this, a god that consists of a subset of all knowledge, a god of the academy.

(ii) A silly inbalance. For most of life, and for most peoples, knowledge plays a 0.0001% role in their lives, which are otherwise occupied with relationships, jobs, families, holidays, friendships, beauty, hobbies, etc. To make knowledge the be and end all of life, makes books like this relevant to almost no-one in the world (except for the rare boffin types). 

(iii) A profound ignorance. The most remarkable thing about both Du Sautoy and Dawkins is that despite their ability to apply their minds to other fields of knowledge they are utterly ignorant of all things religious and spiritual. Du Sautoy freely admits that the heights of his knowledge about Christianity was acquired as a choir boy!

What has happened to our Universities?
What on earth do they teach at our universities these days? When our supposed learned teachers are so ignorant, what hope is  there for the students?

Long gone are the days when great men and women were to be found to be teaching in our universities - and especially at our Cambridge and Oxfords. Men and women with wide and interesting learning and the courage to buck the narrow PC paradigms that stifle research, narrow the human mind, constrict the heart and kill the soul. 

Evidence for God, the Creator, is all around us. The beauty of the world demands an artist. The fine-tuning of the universe demands a Designer and the wonderful practical care we experience demands a good personal God who can be known through the Bible, his Word, and through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.