Archbishop Attacks Dawkins

October 15, 2007 at 8:42 pm (Dawkins, Religion) (, , , , , )

Several newspapers have covered the attack by Rowan Williams on Richard Dawkins. The Telegraph coverage is here:

Apparently, “Dr Rowan Williams responded to critics of religion by arguing that atheists had missed the point and failed to understand what Christians really believe in.” Unfortunately, The Telegraph fails to report what Williams thinks Christians really do believe in.

Williams further states that “There are specific areas of mismatch between what Richard Dawkins may write about and what religious people think they are doing.” Okay, what are the areas of mismatch and what do religious people think they are doing? The article in the Telegraph doesn’t say. Maybe another paper has reported these points. The Observer hasn’t:,,2191002,00.html. No sign in the Press Association report either: Nor on the BBC report: Williams also says that “There are few things more annoying than people saying ‘I know what you mean’.” Well no danger of that, Rowan. I don’t think I have a clue what you’re talking about.

So, what do Christians believe in? Well, Williams said that God is real for believers and existed before the universe did. He said Dawkins had “picked up on” the fact that theologians talk about God as a simple explanation but if God was around before the Big Bang, “he must be complex”. Firstly, he seems to be  criticising Dawkins for ‘misunderstanding’ what theologians mean when they talk about God as a simple explanation and he certainly states that if God was around before the Big Bang, he must be complex – but Dawkins in The God Delusion refutes the idea of a complex being such as this and in the book itself, Dawkins does not seem to be labouring under any misapprehensions with regards theologians using the term ‘simple’. Secondly, why should anyone assume that God was around before the Big Bang? Third – why is God only real for believers?

Finally, Williams says: “Don’t distract us from the real arguments by assuming that religion is an eccentric survival strategy or irrational form of explanation”; if religion is not an irrational form of explanation or eccentric survival strategy then what is it? Is it a rational form of explanation? Is it a sensible survival strategy? Is it a superstition? Hard to tell with Archbishop Rowan Williams.



  1. kermittheagnostic said,


  2. LeonardOhh said,

    “Secondly, why should anyone assume that God was around before the Big Bang”

    I think that would fall under the argument of cause and effect, or the idea of motion. As some philosophers argue, everything in the universe is in motion (Circulation of the planets, stars, atoms, etc). We understand through simple observation that in order for something to move in our physical world (exp: a ball), it must be moved.

    With this movement (the effect) needing a push (a cause), the philosopher comes to the conclusion that the universe must have a Universal Mover, or as some call, a First Cause.

    That would be one role, and seeing that the Big Bang, if following these day-to-day observations of cause and effect, would also need a first cause. One would argue something that it (The Big Bang) has a first cause; or a pusher, that isn’t material because it would be illogical (that material pusher would only need another pusher before that).

    One argument to why a God (a Divine Being, with intellect, and not of this material world) would work as a First Cause, or the Pusher, is that this God would be eternal and not of this world. The reason why a God wouldn’t need a first cause, is because he doesn’t exists in this material universe. God is not a product of time, matter, space, and light because He would have created time, matter, space, and light (and logically, a creator cannot be dependent on its creation in order to exist).

    For this reason, all material things (as mentioned above), would stem from a first cause, and this first cause could be a Divine Being existing on a Heavenly/Divine/Non-Materialistic world (non-material as in not being made up of matter, which be know matter as not eternal as it decomposes and dies).

    Hope that helps explain number 2 for you.

    God Bless,

  3. RS said,

    Heh – who says you need logical consistency?

  4. jdc325 said,

    “That would be one role, and seeing that the Big Bang, if following these day-to-day observations of cause and effect, would also need a first cause.”

    Paul Davies has an excellent page here:
    called “What Happened Before the Big Bang?”.

  5. danny said,

    ‘”Our culture is one that deeply praises science, so we assume because someone is a good scientist, they must be a good philosopher,” he said in a lecture at Swansea University.’

    Whereas Rowan seems to be assuming that he himself is a better one, and a better scientist it seems (if he wants to debate evolutionary psychology, for example) just because he’s a good… actually, what’s Rowan Williams good at?

  6. Joe Dunckley said,

    The wonderful Marcus Brigstocke put the “mismatch” question to Dawkins on BBC Four’s fantastic Late Edition last night. Dawkins pointed out that any mismatch between what he is criticising and what the Archbish believes is due to the fact that the Archbish is a wishy-washy liberal Anglican, while Dawkins is criticising the more common forms of religion in the world.

    Also, the issue is not that scientists think they’re better philosophers than the theologians (though, on average, they probably are). The issue is that a lot of old philosophical (and theological) questions and posturing have been rendered obsolete by scientific discoveries.

  7. PJ said,

    for an interesting critique of Dawkins’ book by a fellow militant (albeit ex-Catholic) atheist:

  8. jdc said,

    Interesting, but long PJ! I’ve copied and pasted into MS Word and have printed a copy to take home and read. I think (from first glance) that Eagleton has made some criticisms that have been answered already by Dawkins. I have a paperback copy of the God Delusion at home so will take a look at the book review when I have the book to hand. Thanks for the link.

  9. jdc said,

    Joe – Marcus Brigstocke was one good reason to watch Trev McDonald’s NewsKnight! I wish I had digital TV now, I would have liked to have seen Late Edition.

    Danny – am still trying to work out what Rowan is good at. I’ll let you know if I come up with anything. Am a bit busy right now reading the latest posts on

  10. PJ said,

    jdc – you mentioned that Dawkins had already addressed some of Eagleton’s criticisms.

    Link please, if possible?

  11. jdc325 said,

    PJ – the paperback edition addresses some of the criticisms made in reviews of the earlier hardback edition. I’m afraid I don’t have a link.

  12. kermittheagnostic said,


    How can a God cause a world he is not a part of?

    And is it not feasible that the universe has always existed. Forever expanding and collapsing on itself?

  13. kermittheagnostic said,


    Your argument for God being the first cause only requires that the first cause “would be eternal and not of this world.” Suppose that you are correct. Then the only thing that we know of this first cause is that it “would be eternal and not of this world.” I can name a large number of objects that would fulfill this requirement. You have not supplied a sufficient reason why this first cause would be a God, let alone the Christian God, assuming that you are Christian. Is it not the case that this “not of this world” cause could just as easily be the Devil? Or an alien of another dimension? Or that it could be some unknown effect from an alternate dimension?

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