Playwright just plain wrong

David Catchpoole and Jonathan Sarfati

Photo by wonderboymadonnactweb
Madonna starred in the London premiere of the David Williamson play Up for Grabs.

Internationally-renowned Australian playwright David Williamson1 is angry. At God.2 Actually, Williamson probably wouldn’t put it that way, seeing he doesn’t actually believe in a Creator. Instead, he has directed his anger at those who believe ‘in a god of any kind’.

Writing in The Australian, Williamson says that belief in God is ‘a delusion that has wreaked untold damage on the world since the dawn of recorded time.’3

God is ‘a delusion’? From Williamson’s atheistic perspective, yes—we were not created, but are the result of chance processes over billions of years. ‘Evolution has built into our psyches a strong tendency to obey authority,’ writes Williamson. His stated desire for 2007 is that ‘religious extremists of the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths in particular’ will read Richard Dawkins’s book The God Delusion and be won over by its ‘rational’ argument and ‘evidence’.4 In essence, Dawkins’s ‘evidence’ is evolution, which, as he logically points out in his book, automatically consigns ‘the God Hypothesis’ as he calls it—that there exists ‘a super-human, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us’—to being a mere figment of human imagination, which itself is a product of evolution. ‘Any creative intelligence of sufficient complexity to design anything, comes into existence only as the end product of an extended process of gradual evolution,’ says Dawkins. ‘Creative intelligences being evolved necessarily arrive late in the universe, and therefore cannot be responsible for designing it. God is a delusion, … a pernicious delusion.’5>

However, Dawkins is wrong.6 Evolution did not bring everything (or anything, for that matter) into existence. And there is no shortage of evidence of a supremely masterful Designer—as Romans 1:20 says: ‘men are without excuse’. Thus, as Dawkins is wrong, so too is Williamson, an enthusiastic Dawkins-follower who is urging others to do the same. It’s a case of ‘the blind leading the blind’, with both of them heading (and leading others) towards the pit (Matthew 15:14)—sadly, yes, the consequences are eternal (Matthew 25:46).

And the famous playwright is not only wrong about evolution, but in suggesting increased acceptance of evolution as a strategy to reduce human violence and to boost decency and compassion, Williamson is also deluded. For example, evolutionary belief provided the justification for many of the horrific Nazi atrocities, including eugenics (invented by Darwin’s cousin Galton)—something which Richard Dawkins himself recently defended as being practical and desirable. And David Williamson may not realize, despite his obvious talents as a playwright, that in blaming belief in God for the bad things we see on our nightly TV news Williamson is being utterly inconsistent with his own belief in evolution. For evolutionary philosophy says that there can be no objective measure for calling anything ‘bad’ (as Dawkins himself admitted). In that case, Williamson has no basis for being emotional about the ‘horrors’ of living in a dog-eat-dog world (indeed, Dawkins thinks it’s as irrational to be angry at child-molesters as someone punishing a faulty car).

However, everything was in fact created, by a Creator Who is a God of Love—and the eternal One who created time itself, so had no beginning, so doesn’t need a creator, despite Dawkins’ faulty philosophy. So it is understandable that from time to time even unbelievers like Williamson—descended as we all are from Adam and Eve created in the image of God—can recognize evil behaviour in the world and feel a stirring in their hearts (Romans 2:15) to speak out against it.

So, Williamson is right to highlight the tragedy of human violence in the world, but wrong in his suggested solution. What a shame that Williamson is not a Christian—with his obvious communication skills and high public profile he would be well-placed to proclaim the Good News of Christ to many. In fact, Williamson admits to not always having been of an atheistic mindset. He recounts what happened:

‘I went to church in suburban Melbourne and had an intensely religious phase until I was 12, but then I heard the theory of evolution and it cured me of any idea we were God’s children. We’re just a life form that’s evolved reasonably successfully. There’s no grand plan for the universe or our lives, we’re the lucky recipients of random chance.’7

Photo by Christopher G. Street
Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion

How sad. And so Williamson now derides the Christian belief that the earth is 6,000 years old as ‘arrant nonsense, given the overwhelming evidence available that the earth is much older than that’, as if he would know.3 If only Williamson had been taught the truth about the age of the earth, and the veracity of the Bible’s account of history, surely it could have all been so different.

Interestingly, Williamson’s mentor Richard Dawkins is also reported to have had an evolution-influenced ‘turning point’ in his own youth:

‘The child of colonial forest officers in east Africa, Richard Dawkins was nine when it occurred to him that there were a lot of different, often incompatible religions. Since they all couldn’t be right, he figured, why should any of them be? At 15, he read Charles Darwin for the first time and the course of his life was set.’8

Alas for today’s Dawkins (and Williamson?), the Dawkins of youth made an error of logic: ‘Since they all couldn’t be right’ is logical, but ‘why should any of them be?’ is ridiculously illogical, because it ignores the possibility that one of them might be correct. So when Dawkins marked an exam and read the different answers by students, he concluded that none of them were right?

And when comparing what the various religions say about origins and the earth’s history, it is the Christian’s Bible which stands out as the best (only!) historical account which helps us to make sense of why the world around us is the way it is—see ‘Holy Books?’ and The Impossible Faith. If the young Dawkins had been shown that, quite likely he would have spotted the flaws in Darwin’s attempt to explain origins from a naturalistic perspective, instead of blithely accepting evolutionary theory as the best explanation of where we come from. (Of course, this assumes that this ‘reasoning’, if it can be described as such, wasn’t merely a smokescreen hiding the fact that he never really wanted the truth, as Romans 1:18–32 indicates).

We should note, too, that the notion that ‘all religions are equally valid—and wrong’ has as its basis the assumption that evolution is true, which leads to the notion of God being ‘a delusion’ (and likely also explains the apparent widespread interest in Dawkins’s latest book). It also lets atheists blame ‘religion’ (i.e. including Christianity) for ‘religiously-inspired’ violence such as the ‘9/11’ and London ‘7/7’ terrorist attacks—just as Williamson has done in his latest article in derogatorily lumping Christianity with Islam when accusing ‘religions’ of imperiling humanity. The God of the Bible is not ‘Allah’ of the Koran, and their respective followers are instructed to behave very differently—see ‘The Koran vs Genesis’. And it is the nadir of intellectual dishonesty for Dawkins’ thralls to excuse the huge atrocities of atheistic communism by equivocating and calling this a ‘religion’.

It’s sobering to consider that right now, there are many more youngsters in the same position as Williamson and Dawkins were in their childhood—i.e. with at least some exposure to the church and Christians, but with minimal likelihood of hearing or learning of the powerful arguments exposing evolutionary deception and highlighting the truth of God’s Word. More likely, the youngsters will hear compromise, which certainly fills Dawkins with contempt. What a difference it could make if more Christians were to act now to redress the balance, just as some have been (and are) doing. For example, the current issue of Creation magazine features the story of a young lady (‘the “fish gills” girl’) who, through having been taught the true (biblical) account of origins, was well-equipped to resist evolutionary misinformation later foisted onto her. Please consider how you, too, can help young people to stand firm in the faith and develop a Christian mind, being equipped in advance to recognize a delusion when they see it.

Published: 14 February 2007

References and notes

  1. Williamson is by far Australia’s most successful playwright, with more than 30 plays, several feature films and a score of awards to his name. His plays have been performed in Britain, the United States, Canada and across Europe—several have been translated into foreign languages. Probably his best known play internationally is Up for Grabs (Madonna starred in the London premiere). Other well-known Williamson plays include The Removalist, The Club, Brilliant Lies and Don’s Party. Return to text
  2. And his country. See the columns by the secular conservative Australian journalist Andrew Bolt, Williamson on those violent, foul-mouthed “ordinary Australians” and Williamson complains: It’s Howard’s fault the “aspirationals” hate us. Return to text
  3. David Williamson: Deliver us from the god delusion that imperils our humanity, The Australian, Wednesday 3rd January 2007, p. 9. Return to text
  4. Leading Australian Christian commentator Bill Muehlenberg notes that Dawkins’s The God Delusion ‘is quickly becoming the atheists’ Bible’. Muehlenberg has already written an excellent commentary on Williamson’s outburst at An Anti-theist Outburst, Again, and astutely reviewed the book itself (see part 1 and part 2). Return to text
  5. ‘Richard Dawkins and God’, episode of Background Briefing broadcast by Australia’s ABC Radio National on 26 November 2006; online transcript. Return to text
  6. And according to leading philosopher Alvin Plantinga, it is an insult to sophomores to call his philosophical sections sophomoric. Dawkins also does himself little credit by his pathetic ignorance of biblical context, and by his approval of ludicrous anti-Christian ranters like Brian Flemming and Sam Harris. Return to text
  7. The Sunday Telegraph, 9 January 2005, Sunday Magazine p.7. Return to text
  8. Preston, J., Dawkins and the missionary position, The Sunday Telegraph, Saturday 23 December 2006, pp. A2:18–19. Return to text