Dawkins’ 747 Gambit: Replying to Richard’s Forum

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We’re grateful to Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science for drawing attention to the brief comments Graham made about Dawkins’ understanding of God. While some commenters seemed a tad grumpy, no-one expressed their views in a cruel or intimidating manner. We have been treated fairly, and we think this demands a fair response.

Some complained that the article attempted to define God into existence; others that it provided no evidence for God. But this misses the point of the article, which was to respond to an objection to theism: Dawkins’ 747 gambit. It is an abject failure because Dawkins has given us no reason to believe that theism is a complex hypothesis; in fact, there are good reasons for thinking that theism would be a simple hypothesis. So sceptics beguiled by the rhetoric of The God Delusion should reconsider the evidence for theism.

Another common complaint was that the article speculated on the nature of God. Yet this is precisely what Richard Dawkins does in his Boeing 747 Gambit! Of course Dawkins does not believe that there is a God; but he speculates on what a creator would be like if one existed.

 ”…a designer God cannot be used to explain organised complexity because any God capable of designing anything would have to be complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation.The God Delusion (Bantam:2006)p109

God, or any intelligent, decision-taking, calculating agent, would have to be highly improbable in the very same statistical sense as the entities he is supposed to explain. The God Delusion (Bantam:2006) pp. 146-147

For Dawkins, organised complexity results when a number of parts are arranged in a very specific manner. Things with organised complexity are improbable because it is improbable that they came into existence by chance. Dawkins believes that God would have organised complexity; it follows that God would be improbable.

Like it or not, this is a metaphysical argument, and a very poor one. The argument for God’s improbability collapses because no one has ever asserted that God sprang into existence! Furthermore, God cannot be complex in the sense that Dawkins requires. To have organised complexity an object must be made of numerous parts (it is not enough to have numerous thoughts, or to know many things). And, to be blunt, God is not made out of other stuff!

Of course, we realize that atheists will disagree with us about the strength of the evidence for theism; but we think that all atheists who are serious about evaluating arguments rationally should agree with us that Dawkins’ 747 gambit fails. However, we should all acknowledge one merit of the Gambit: it attempts to take the concept of God seriously.

Some atheists argue that the concept of God is no more meaningful than a “magical spell”. The underlying argument seems to be that God is meaningless because terms like “consciousness”, “personhood”, “understanding” and “power” cannot be mathematically quantified or experimentally tested. This is a poor objection. These terms are as clear as “knowledge”, “love”, “hate”, “good”, “evil”, “cause” and “existence.” The assertion that theism is meaningless is a thinly disguised bluff, and we are glad that Dawkins sought a firmer foundation for his atheism.

Further reading:

Atheism’s New Clothes

The 747 Gambit

Darwin, Design and Dawkins’ Dilemma

There’s Probably No God: a Response to Richard Dawkins

God and Agent Explanations

Theism and the Evidence

How to Think About the Evidence

The Universe



 The Resurrection




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