Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 131, 2010 March)

I refer to the report on Keith Ward's book Why There Almost Certainly is a God (#130, page 31).

I have found some book reviews that may be useful to readers who wish to find out more. This no substitute for reading the book itself but the following concluding remarks of the reviewer may prove useful:

Throughout the book Ward tries very hard to pretend that he is just building a purely logical case for God based on what we know of the world and on some reasonable extrapolations and assumptions. But the more you read the more you realize he is just rationalizing ideas he wants dearly to believe. There is no sound basis for going from, "Something must exist eternally and necessarily," to "That something must be an omnipotent being." Having made that leap, there is absolutely no basis for thinking that being is omnibenevolent. Having made both leaps, he then dutifully tries to explain why the sheer relentless awfulness of human and animal existence does not pose a challenge for his theory. He wants to create room for religious revelations, so he invents a lot of argle-bargle about what God would or would not do, and simply ignores the enormous harm that has been done by God's unwillingness to communicate clearly what He wants from us.

Ward uses one of science's finest achievements — the discovery of the bizarre quantum world
as a weapon with which to undermine the materialist world-view championed by Dawkins. The appealing simplicity of the latter evaporates when you look at the building blocks of the universe closely enough: "What is the point of being a materialist when we are not sure exactly what matter is?" The fact that modern physics' best theories about the universe are verifiable experimentally counts in their favour, but Ward only needs you to concede that his "God hypothesis" is simpler to have exposed a chink in Dawkins' armour.

Exploiting it, Ward's line of reasoning becomes increasingly abstract, but never less intellectually intriguing. Dawkins' blazing polemic is by far the more fun to read (and to my mind the more convincing) but Ward's courteous objections are stimulating and elegant nonetheless.