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Richard Swinburne’s Is There a God?

Richard Dawkins reviews Swinburne’s book, Is there a God. The following is published in Think:

In this review of Richard Swinburne’s Is There a God? (which contains the same two arguments from design that may be found in his article in issue one of Think), Richard Dawkins admires Swinburne’s clarity but is unconvinced by his arguments. Dawkins questions, in particular, Swinburne’s suggestion that the hypothesis that God exists and sustains his creation is simpler than the hypothesis that there is no God.

It is a virtue of clear writing that you can see what is wrong with a book as well as what is right. Richard Swinburne is clear. You can see where he is coming from. You can also see where he is going to, and there is something almost endearing in the way he lovingly stakes out his own banana skin and rings it about with converging arrows boldly labelled ‘Step here’.

It is surprising that a writer as clear as Swinburne has risen to the top of his profession as Nolloth Professor of Philosophy of Religion at Oxford. Theology is a field in which obscurantism is the normal path to success, and a favourite trick is to insist that religion has its own ‘dimension(s)’, completely separate from those of science; science and religion are about different kinds of truth and you cannot use the criteria of one to judge the other; religion answers those questions which are outside the territory of science.

Richard Swinburne will have none of these flabby evasions. His opening chapter expounds what he is going to mean by the God whose existence he plans to demonstrate, and it is very much not a vague synonym for The Ground of All Is-ness or Caring in the Community, but a spirited, supernatural intelligence whose existence, if demonstrated, would actually make a difference to something. Swinburne returns to an earlier, braver and more intellectually honest – some might say foolhardy – theology.

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