Deism: About the God who went away
Origins of life & species.
Is Richard Dawkins a Deist?
About the origin of the species and of life itself:
There are multiple theories concerning the origins of the multitude of
species of life on Earth that currently exist or have existed in the past:
- Creation Science: One version of this theory teaches that God created all of the
species of life, from bacteria to dinosaurs to oak trees, and humans. This
happened during less than a week, perhaps 6 to 10 thousand years ago. This
is one of many interpretations of the creation stories in the book of
Genesis in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). Creation Science is
incompatible with the beliefs of Deism. They accept the conclusions of
science that all life did not appear on earth suddenly, recently, and in
more or less its present form and diversity. They believe that the fossil
record and radiometric dating show that evolution happened over an interval
of about 3.5 billion years. "In
Deism, Intelligent Design has absolutely nothing to do with the ... Biblical
myth of creation."
- Naturalistic evolution: This theory suggests that the evolution
of the species from the first one-celled form of life to present day humans
took place over about 3.5 billion years as a result of purely natural
processes, including natural selection. God was not involved in these
processes. This is compatible with the beliefs of most Deists because it
allows for a God who set up the world and the rest of the universe, started
it up and then left.
- Theistic evolution: This theory accepts most of the theory of
evolution but suggests that God used evolution as a tool to guide the
process towards the eventual development of humans. This is also
incompatible with the beliefs of most Deists who believe that God set up a
set of natural laws when he initially created the universe about 15 billion
years ago. Then God left, and hasn't been actively involved in events on
Earth since that time. However, some Deists do believe that God has
interfered with species evolution. For them, theistic evolution is a viable
- Intelligent design: This theory suggests that there are
processes, organs, and designs in nature that could only have been created
by an advanced intelligence -- either a deity or deities or some life form
that has advanced far beyond what humans are capable of. This designer intervened at multiple times in the history of the
Earth. This is also in conflict with the beliefs of most Deists because,
like theistic evolution, it is incompatible with belief in an creator God
who is now absent.
Not included in the theory of evolution is the study of abiogenesis: the
origin of life itself. Evolution only covers the origins of species that
developed from the original single-celled life form. There is believed to be no
consensus at this time among Deists as to whether the development of the first
life from from inanimate matter was an act of creation by God or a natural
process without divine intervention.
An article about theistic evolution in Wikipedia states:
"Some deists believe that a Divine Creator initiated a universe in which
evolution occurred, by designing the system and the natural laws, although
many deists believe that God also created life itself, before allowing it to
be subject to evolution. They find it to be undignified and unwieldy for a
deity to make constant adjustments rather than letting evolution elegantly
adapt organisms to changing environments. 2
Are Richard Dawkins' beliefs evolving toward Deism?
In his book "The God Delusion" Richard Dawkins stated that "Creative
intelligences, being evolved, necessarily arrive later in the universe and
therefore cannot be responsible for designing it." 3
That is, he does not believe in a creator God. Some commentators have cited this
and other passages in Dawkins' writings to assert that he is a strong
person who absolutely denies the existence of God.
During In 2005 an Internet site "Edge: The World Question Centre"
asked some leading scientists: "What do you believe is true even though you
cannot prove it?" Richard Dawkins responded:
"I believe that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and
all 'design' anywhere in the universe, is the direct or indirect product of
Darwinian natural selection. It follows that design comes late in the universe,
after a period of Darwinian evolution. Design cannot precede evolution and
therefore cannot underlie the universe." 4
Since he admits that he cannot prove that no creator God existed, it would
seem that he might be better referred to as an Agnostic: a person who believes
that the existence of God can neither be proven nor disproven.
Melanie Phillips wrote a column for The Spectator -- a UK magazine --
suggesting that Dawkins' beliefs are "still evolving" towards Deism.
5 She quotes
a debate between Dawkins and John Lennox at Oxford University in which Dawkins
said: "A serious case could be made for a deistic God." Phillips speculates that
Dawkins still regards belief in the God of the Bible is equivalent to "...
believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden." However, an entirely
different creator deity just might have existed: one that created and
kick-started the universe, but has not been involved with humanity or the rest
of the universe since. Unfortunately, this topic was not further pursued during
in Dawkins's 2006 program "The
Root of All Evil?," he says:
Science can't disprove the existence of God. But that does not mean that God
exists. There are a million things we can't disprove. The philosopher,
Bertrand Russell, had an analogy. Imagine there's a china teapot in orbit
around the sun. You cannot disprove the existence of the teapot, because
it's too small to be spotted by our telescopes. Nobody but a lunatic would
say, 'Well, I'm prepared to believe in the teapot because I can't disprove
Maybe we have to be technically and strictly agnostic, but in practice we
are all teapot atheists.
This last statement, we suspect, reflects Dawkins' true beliefs: that one
cannot rigorously disprove or prove the existence of Deism's absent creator God,
the Jewish Yahweh, the Christian Trinity or Islam's Allah or Russell's teapot,
or the Invisible Pink Unicorn, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Thus one must
remain Agnostic unless and until some proof is found. But that does not preclude
an individual from having an opinion on the likelihood of any of these seven
entities. If forced to make a decision based on the existence of one of these
entities, Dawkins would probably assume that none exist. We suspect that he is a
technical Agnostic but practical Atheist.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Deism Defined," World Union of Deists, at:
- "Theistic evolution," Wikipedia, at:
- Richard Dawkins, "The God Delusion," Bantam, (2006), Mariner Books, (2008),
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. Last
time we looked, used copies cost $2.05 plus shipping costs.
- Richard Dawkins, "Broadcasting House," BBC Radio 4, 2005-JAN. Cited in "The
Big Bad Wolf, Theism and the Foundations of Intelligent Design - Page 4,"
Evangelical Philosophical Society, at:
- Melanie Phillips, "Is Richard Dawkins still evolving?," The Spectator,
- Richard Dawkins, "The Root of All Evil?," a 2006-JAN TV documentary from
Channel 4 in the UK.
- Part 1 of "The Root of All Evil?" can be viewed at:
http://video.google.com/; Part 2 is at:
Copyright 1999 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2008-NOV-24
Author: B.A. Robinson