Dawkins’ Argument for the Existence of God
As you write your paper, have two maxims in mind: “Lean and mean” and “Spell it out.” These may seem opposed, but they’re referring to two different aspects of your writing. The first maxim has to do with prose style, which should be (1) direct, (2) simple in vocabulary and sentence structure, (3) containing no tangential remarks or topics, instead always aiming at the argumentative goal. The second maxim concerns the development of core ideas or arguments. Don’t assume your reader ‘basically knows what you’re talking about.’ Maybe she doesn’t at all. Or maybe she does in a rough-and-ready manner, but assumes things about the details that you don’t intend. So you need to say enough to get the idea clearly across and to ward off misunderstanding. And don’t just gesture at replies to your opponent: patiently say just where you think their arguments go wrong and why.
(a) Write a clear, concise introduction that identifies the issue you will consider and indicates what position you intend to defend and how you intend to proceed.
(b) Carefully explain the issue. Make clear any key notions, premises, and inferences.
(c) Argue for your position. If you are rejecting an argument for a controversial conclusion, make clear exactly what about the argument you reject—one of the premises or the inference from the premises to the conclusion—and why. Then state the best objection to your position that you can think of and reply to it. This may, but need not, be an objection in our text or one we considered in class discussion. If you are accepting some argument for a controversial position, proceed to state the best objection to your position that you can think of and reply to it. Again, this may but need not be an objection noted in our text or class discussion. Then proceed to respond to the objection. Make clear exactly what claim or inference you are rejecting and why.
Topic: Dawkins’ ‘Boeing 747’ Argument for Atheism
Explain why Dawkins believes that an extraordinarily intelligent designer, as God is conceived to be, (a) must be extremely complex and so (b) must be the result of a long causal process starting from much simpler causes. Then explain why you think the argument succeeds or fails.
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