Richard Dawkins: I can’t be sure God does not exist

The Telegraph | He is regarded as the most famous atheist in the world but last night Professor Richard Dawkins admitted he could not be sure that God does not exist.He told the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, that he preferred to call himself an agnostic rather than an atheist. The two men were taking part in a public “dialogue” at Oxford University at the end of a week which has seen bitter debate about the role of religion in public life in Britain. There was surprise when Prof Dawkins acknowledged that he was less than 100 per cent certain of his conviction that there is no creator. The philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny, who chaired the discussion, interjected: “Why don’t you call yourself an agnostic?” Prof Dawkins answered that he did.

This is not the first time Dawkins, a leading voice of the New Atheist movement,  says similar things. In a New York Times interview,  he talks of the possibility that we might co-evolve with computers, a silicon destiny.  “It’s highly plausible that in the universe there are God-like creatures,” he says. In his book, “The God Delusion,” he writes:

Whether we ever get to know them or not, there are very probably alien civilizations that are superhuman, to the point of being god-like in ways that exceed anything a theologian could possibly imagine. Their technical achievements would seem as supernatural to us as ours would seem to a Dark Age peasant transported to the twenty-first century.

Imagine his response to a laptop computer, a mobile telephone, a hydrogen bomb or a jumbo jet. As Arthur C Clarke put it, in his Third Law: ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’ The miracles wrought by our technology would have seemed to the ancients no less remarkable than the tales of Moses parting the waters, or Jesus walking upon them. The aliens of our SETI signal would be to us like gods . . .

In what sense, then, would the most advanced SETI aliens not be gods? In what sense would they be superhuman but not supernatural? In a very important sense, which goes to the heart of this book. The crucial difference between gods and god-like extraterrestrials lies not in their properties but in their provenance. Entities that are complex enough to be intelligent are products of an evolutionary process. No matter how god-like they may seem when we encounter them, they didn’t start that way. Science-fiction authors . . . have even suggested (and I cannot think how to disprove it) that we live in a computer simulation, set up by some vastly superior civilization. But the simulators themselves would have to come from somewhere. The laws of probability forbid all notions of their spontaneously appearing without simpler antecedents. They probably owe their existence to a (perhaps unfamiliar) version of Darwinian evolution…

Of course, I completely agree with Dawkins and these are precisely the arguments that we use in support of a new transhumanist spirituality or, if you like, religion.

  • Right on again Giulio.

  • René Milan

    “I can’t be sure God does not exist” – of course not, Dawkins is no dummy. Anybody claiming otherwise is committing the same error as those who ‘are sure’ that it does exist. The same of course is true for the existence of the FSM as has been pointed out almost a decade ago.