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The Dawkins Delusion?


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ALISTER McGRATH is Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University. JOANNA COLLICUTT McGRATH is lecturer in the psychology of religion at Heythrop College, University of London.


When authors write books that criticize other books, they have usually already lost; the original book has set the agenda to which the critics respond, and the outcome is foretold. Not in this case. The McGraths expeditiously plow into the flank of Dawkins's fundamentalist atheism, made famous in The God Delusion, and run him from the battlefield. The book works partly because they are so much more gracious to Dawkins than Dawkins is to believers: Dawkins's The Blind Watchmaker "remains the finest critique" of William Paley's naturalistic arguments for deism available, for example. The authors can even point to instances in which their interactions with him, both literary and personal, have changed his manner of arguing: he can no longer say that Tertullian praised Christian belief because of its absurdity or that religion necessarily makes one violent. The McGraths are frustrated, then, that Dawkins continues to write on the a priori, nonscientific assumption that religious believers are either deluded or meretricious, never pausing to consider the evidence not in his favor or the complex beliefs and practices of actual Christians. They conclude disquietingly: perhaps Dawkins is aware that demagogic ranting that displays confidence in the face of counterevidence is the way to sway unlearned masses. (July) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Alister McGrath invariably combines enormous scholarship with an accessible and engaging style.' Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury 'Oxford University?s McGrath has distinguished himself not just as an historical theologian, but as a generous and witty writer who brings to life topics that would turn to dust in others? hands.' Publishers Weekly 'Addressing the conclusions of The God Delusion point by point with the devastating insight of a molecular biologist turned theologian, Alister McGrath dismantles the argument that science should lead to atheism, and demonstrates instead that Dawkins has abandoned his much-cherished rationality to embrace an embittered manifesto of dogmatic atheist fundamentalism.' Francis Collins, Director of the Human Genome Project

In his 2006 best seller, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, who has made his reputation as generally a fine popularizer of science, argued that belief in God is no more than a delusion and that atheism is the only respectable position for a thinking person to adopt. Alister McGrath (historical theology, Oxford; Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life), originally an atheistic molecular biophysicist, and his wife, Joanna (psychology of religion, Heythrop Coll., Univ. of London; coauthor, Meeting Jesus: Human Responses to a Yearning God), see Dawkins as a brilliant thinker who went down the wrong path with his last book. Combining scholarship with a popular style, the McGraths examine Dawkins's arguments and find them wanting. They do not respond to every one of his points; instead, they show the inadequacy of his argument on the major points, contending that Dawkins's critique of religion is based on hearsay and anecdotal evidence rather than on hard research and that he employs rhetoric rather than rationality. Where Dawkins's criticisms are justified, they have no problem agreeing with him and in fact have nothing but praise for his earlier works. Recommended for all libraries.-Augustine J. Curley, Newark Abbey, NJ Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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