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

**First Antony Flew, now perhaps Dawkins?


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

**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.


Dawkins has said that for a while now. He doesn’t mean that he recently found more proof or he used to be sure and now he is not. Gnosticism and agnosticism are terms referring to the belief that one can know whether or not there is a god. A gnostic atheist believes it is possible to know if there is a god and says the answer is no. An agnostic atheist believes that it is impossible to know for sure if there is a god, but does not believe there is one.
The distinction is made because many atheists know that certain descriptions of higher beings (like the deist god) can’t be proven false, and so they acknowledge this means such a god could exist. At the same time, they don’t think there is evidence to prove any such higher power exists. This makes sense when looking at the word, the prefix “a” meaning without and “theism” meaning belief in some form of higher power.

Dawkins has never claimed that he was sure God did not exist, so I really do not know why this is supposed to be a big deal.

Somebody who claims to know for certain that God does or does not exist is either lying or fooling himself.

I think that depends on which god is being discussed. For instance, I’d be shocked if many at CAF would allow for even the slightest possibility that Zeus exists.

The headline for this story is a complete fabrication. According to the story, Richard Dawkins said no such thing.

"The philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny, who chaired the discussion, interjected: “Why don’t you call yourself an agnostic?” Prof Dawkins answered that he did. "

…sounds to me like he said it.

This isn’t news to anyone who’s actually read The God Delusion.

6.9 out of 7 is 98% certain. Would you take a plane flight if they said it had only a 2% chance of crashing en route? :eek:

I’m not sure what you’re point is here.

Yes, but he also said he can’t disprove the tooth fairy or goblins. Obviously you cannot disprove God. It would be impossible

Will you settle for a 2% chance that you will go to Hell?

Nowhere in the article does RD use the words attributed to him in the headline. If the writer had written – RD: I can’t be sure a god does not exist – I’d have no objection. Uppercase “God”, however, implies the Christian God. It’s a dishonest representation of RD’s views IMO.

Given that I only have one life, sure. That’s not a tough call.

I’d fly on a plane with a 2% chance of crashing too. But the difference is that in a lifetime, I’ll probably fly several times. And if the statistic is more than just descriptive, then it means if I fly 50 times, the plane will crash once.

It is a curious comment form someone who so publicly lambasted agnosticism in his book. You would think he would at least hold true to the doctrine he preaches in his books

2% is high enough to make me a bit nervous but only if I was reasonable certain of the data behind it.

Something on the order of 80 billion people have lived and died so far. How many are in hell, how do you know and which ones are they?

He does. This is not something new except maybe to the author of the article. Bit research of research will show Dawkins has always indicated that you can’t disprove invisible sky people.

I did some research.

I suspect the reason is that most people … have a residue of feeling that Darwinian evolution isn’t quite big enough to explain everything about life. All I can say as a biologist is that the feeling disappears progressively the more you read about and study what is known about life and evolution. I want to add one thing more. The more you understand the significance of evolution, the more you are pushed away from the agnostic position and towards atheism. Complex, statistically improbable things are by their nature more difficult to explain than simple, statistically probable things.
– Richard Dawkins, from The New Humanist, the Journal of the Rationalist Press Association, Vol 107 No 2

I wonder what has changed in his view.

Nothing has changed his view. Agnosticism and Atheism are answers to two different questions. An Agnostic says he doesn’t know if God exists or not (because it’s not knowable). An Atheist says he doesn’t believe in God (because there’s a lack of compelling evidence).

You can be Agnostic and an Atheist simultaneously. Dawkins is, and so am I. There’s no contradiction between these positions.

This should clarify the matter I believe. Dawkins rates himself 6 on a 7-point atheism scale:

That’s an interesting statement.

I didn’t know Dawkins has never claimed that he was sure God did not exist. I thought he was pretty sure God does not exist. Not that I have never heard him say that, or read anywhere he said it. I just thought he was an atheist, and atheists are sure God does not exist.

I’ve heard many atheists says God does not exist. They have told me personally that God does not exist, that it is a lie and anyone who tells people God exists is lying and knows they are lying. I have been told telling my children God exists is tantamount to child abuse, because I am telling them lies. I have been told by these atheists I couldn’t possibly be intelligent because I believe in God - that belief in God and intelligence cannot go hand in hand because belief in God is a stupid belief.

Therefore, it would be a big deal for me if a person (Dawkins) such atheists have adopted as their guru doesn’t actually agree with them - and what they are telling people he thinks is not in fact what he thinks.

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