In chapter 4 of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins attempts to demonstrate that the existence of God is extremely improbable. He gives pride of place to his ‘Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit’. This argument, he says, is ‘the big one’.
The starting-point is the comment attributed to Fred Hoyle that the probability of life originating on earth by chance is no greater that a tornado in a junk-yard asembling a fully-functioning Boeing 747. Theists often like to say that that the universe is so complex that only God could have brought it into being.
Dawkins attempts to flip this argument by asserting that the chances of something as complex as the universe having been created by a god are exceedingly remote, because that god would have to be even more complex than the universe, making the existence of that god even more unlikely.
It is an infantile argument. It is simply another version of the question posed by many thoughtful ten-year-olds: “Who made God?” Of course, this does not prove that the argument is false, but it does suggest that it is neither new nor particularly clever.
It is a ‘straw man’ argument. The argument could only work if God were of the same substance as the universe. But no theist (and it is mainly theism that Dawkins has in his sights in TGL) believes that to be the case. Theists believe that God is an eternal, uncreated spirit.
It is a self-defeating argument. Dawkins’ preferred account of the origin of the universe is to postulate a ‘multiverse’ – an infinite (or almost infinite) series of universes. But, according to Dawkins’ argument, a multiverse must have a cause more complex than itself.