In John Lennox’ book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? the author poses a simple but very informative illustration. Suppose a primitive man sees a car driving down the street. He might conclude that there is a god, Mr. Ford, down inside the machine making it go. When the car performs well, Mr. Ford is pleased, and when the car is not performing well, it is because Mr. Ford is unhappy. Let us then also suppose that the primitive man takes a few courses at the local community college and learns a few things about internal combustion engines. He takes the car apart and spreads the parts across the driveway, and behold, there is no Mr. Ford inside the engine making it go. The man has learned all the physics and chemistry that make the car go. But as Lennox so rightfully points out, it is absurd to conclude that because there is no Mr. Ford in the engine, then no Mr. Ford has existed. Such a conclusion is patently absurd. Lennox goes on to explain:
The basic issue here is that those of a scientific turn of mind like Atkins and Dawkins fail to distinguish between mechanism and agency. In philosopical terms they make a very elementary category mistake when they argue that, because we understand a mechanism that accounts for a particular phenomenon, there is no agent that designed the mechanism.
When Sir Isaac Newton discovered the universal law of gravitation he did not say, ‘I have discovered a mechanism that accounts for planetary motion, therefore there is no agent God who designed it.’ Quite the oppoisite: precisely because he understood how it worked, he was moved to increased admiration for the God who had designed it that way. (p.45)
We can join in with Lennox in admiring the God who designed the world, without giving up the search for explaining how the world works. But for folks like atheist Richard Dawkins, he is guilty of taking apart the engine and concluding that since he did not find Mr. Ford in there, then no Mr. Ford exists.