Home Page

Douglas Lancashire Home Page

The Dawkins Delusion

Alister McGrath with Joanna Collicutt McGrath

SPCK 2007

ISBN 0-281-05927-6

spck - To Order Book

World-renowned scientist Richard Dawkins writes in
The God Delusion: 'If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists wher they put it down.' The volume has received wide coverage, fuelled much passionate debate and caused not a little confusion.

Alister McGrath is ideally placed to evaluate Dawkins' ideas. Once an atheist himself, he gained a doctorate in molecular biophysics before going on to become a leading Christian theologian. He wonders how two people, who have reflected at length on substantially the same world, could possibly have come to such different conclusions about God. McGrath subjects Dawkins' critique of faith to rigorous scrutiny. His exhilarating, meticulously argued response deals with questions such as:

  • Is faith intellectual nonsense?
  • Are science and religion locked in a battle to the death?
  • Can the roots of Christianity be explained away scientifically?
  • Is Christianity simply a force for evil?

This book will be warmly received by those looking for a reliable assessment of The God Delusion and the many questions it raises - including, above all, the relevance of faith and the quest for meaning.

The Dawkins Delusion? has mostly been written M Alister McGrath, presently Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University, and Senior Research Fellow of Harris Manchester College. His primary interest is the history of Christian thought, with a particular emphasis on the relation between the natural sciences and Christian belief. He used to be an atheist, and attributes his lapse partly to the discovery of the philosophy of science, and partly to a belated decision to investigate what Christianity really was, rather than accepting the stereotypes uttered by his atheist friends (not a few of which recur in The God Delusion). After studying chemistry at Oxford, he researched in the field of molecular biophysics, developing new methods for investigating biological membranes. He then moved on to study Christian theology, specializing the history of Christian thought, and especially in issues of science and religion. A prolific author, his recent publications include Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes and the Meaning of Life (Blackwells, 2004).

Joanna Collicutt McGrath studied experimental psychology at Oxford, then went on to specialize for some years in clinical neuropsychology, and subsequently studied Christian theology, specializing in biblical studies. Currently Lecturer in the Pschologv of Religion at Heythrop College, University of London, she has been involved in the whole of this work, but has made a particular contribution to those sections dealing with biblical studies, and the relationship of religion with psychology and the neurosciences. Her book, Meeting Jesus: Human Responses to a Yearning God co-written with Jeremy Duff, was published by SPCK in 2006.

Michael Ruse, Professor of Philosophy, Florida State University

The God Delusion makes me embarrassed to be an atheist, and the McGraths show why.

Francis Collins, Director of the Human Genome Project

'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.'

Owen Gingerich, Professor of Astronomy, Harvard University

'Richard Dawkins' utopian vision of a world without religion is here deftly punctured by McGrath's informed discourse. His fellow Oxonian clearly demonstrates the gaps, inconsistencies, and surprising lack of depth in Dawkins' arguments'

Copyright © Alister McGrath and Joanna Collicutt McGrath 2007

Book Review by Douglas Lancashire

In this modestly sized (78 pages) examination of Richard Dawkins book The God Delusion, Alister McGrath has made an important, and timely, contribution to the debate on the role of reason in philosophical, theological and scientific circles in the parts played by each of these disciplines in the exposition of the significance of life and creation as experienced by man.  The issue was highlighted by Pope Benedict XVI in Cologne in 2005 in an address to seminarians when he insisted ‘that the study of Scripture and of the faith and life of the Church “must be linked with the questions prompted by our reason.”’.

Fr. Francis Selman, in his article Why Philosophy in the Easter 2007 issue of the Allen Hall publication The Mulberry also reminds us that John Paul II asserted that, among other things, ‘philosophy shows us that it is possible to know things with certainty and unless we can do this it is not possible for anyone to commit himself wholly to Christ.’

The word ‘modest’ may also be applied to the manner in which Alister McGrath deals with Richard Dawkins arguments, through which Dawkins seeks to dismiss all attempts to argue the case for the existence of God.  He willingly accepts Dawkins’ positions where he believes them to be justified, and readily acknowledges his important contributions to his own fields of research, but he does not hesitate to point out those areas where he believes Dawkins to be wrong.  On page 15, for example, he writes, ‘To avoid misunderstanding, let’s be quite clear that suggesting that science may have its limits is in no way a criticism or defamation of the scientific method.  Dawkins does, I have to say with regret, tend to portray anyone raising questions about the scope of the sciences as a science-hating idiot.’

McGrath’s book is, I believe, capable of being an important contribution to the understanding of anyone who may be puzzling over the issues raised in Dawkins’ book, and who may be looking for clarity on the whole so-called science versus religion debate.

As a one-time atheist, Professor McGrath is in a unique position to help others in their search for a firmer foothold on which to base their lives,


Copyright © Douglas Lancashire 2007

Version: 7th June 2007

Home Page

Douglas Lancashire Home Page