Book Reviews

Book Review: “Outgrowing Dawkins: God for Grown-Ups” by Rupert Shortt

Outgrowing Dawkins: God for Grown-Ups by Rupert Shortt is a pithy response to Richard Dawkins’s Outgrowing God

The book is divided into three chapters which read like individual essays. In the first chapter, Shortt argues that science and religion are not incompatible. He uses some anecdotes to show the power of citing, say the fact that it was a Catholic priest who proposed the Big Bang theory (3) or simply saying science doesn’t exhaust all of reality (4) in everyday conversation. Shortt also notes that honest inquiry can lead to belief in God, that God as ground of existence can provide a way for relating science/Christianity, that the Bible is not a scientific textbook, and that even those who allegedly demonstrate warfare between Christianity and science are largely Christians themselves (eg. Galileo, Newton, etc.) (5-10). 

Shortt also notes that Dawkins’s general assault on religion is so acontextual and broad that it almost becomes nonsensical. Because Dawkins aims at religion (in general) as causing false or harmful beliefs (in general), it’s not difficult to parody Dawkins’s own style to say, for example, that science has a history of causing harmful or false beliefs (19). Here’s an example of where Shortt may have been served providing additional examples. Perhaps Shortt could have quickly cited examples of scientists using racist or racially biased methods or studies to cause direct harm to people. The example he did use–broadly noting that one could just as easily say all “left-wing endeavour is bogus… because of the horrors perpetrated by Stalin, Mao, and Fidel Castro” (ibid) is one that may strike home for some readers but is so broad that it could be conceived as committing the same error of Dawkins. Of course, this is partially Shortt’s point–that Dawkins’s critique is absurd because he either doesn’t know or can’t be bothered to focus on any specifics. 

Shortt also fires broadsides on Dawkins’s general style, noting that Dawkins “substitutes mockery for analysis” (36). Shortt notes, briefly, many other difficulties with Dawkins’s understanding of claims of robust Christianity (for example the creation of the universe on p 37-41). The book closes out with an offering of a more robust Christianity and an exhortation to deeper understanding of the same.

Ultimately, Outgrowing Dawkins is somewhat unsatisfying as a reader. It’s possible this is because Dawkins’s own work is so bereft of knowledge of religion that responding to it is difficult, but Shortt’s responses are so pithy that it often left this reader wanting more. The book is a good way to get simple talking points in response to Dawkins’s brand of one-liner atheism, but it doesn’t have the depth to fully respond to a more robust charge. Again, that might be because Dawkins is incredibly surface-level when it comes to discussing religion himself, but it would be nice to go beyond such simplistic responses and counter-points. 

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

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SDG.

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.

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