Friday, November 17, 2006

The Selfish Geneticist

Dr. Richard Dawkins is once again in the news. I am sure that Prof. Dawkins is the paragon of wit, substance, and bonhomie, but nevertheless I cannot help but suspect that he is a terrible bore at cocktail parties. He strikes me as the sort of man who only ever speaks on one subject, and invariably (and subconsciously) works all conversations back to that subject, which once on one can never get him to change. That subject is of course the complete and total denial of God.

Dr. Dawkins is an atheist of the rather more militant sort, and therefore deserves keeping an eye on, just as we keep an eye on crackpots and fascists. When not watched, atheists have a tendency to get up to mischief, which, historically speaking, tends to be vastly more harmful than the mischief perpetrated by the religious, at least on any absolute scale.

The universe stripped of God is a very bleak and cold place indeed, and I think it tragic that a man considered as great a thinker as Dawkins is should be led so far astray. However, I feel no sympathy for him, as Dawkins would remove all meaning and purpose from our lives in the name of his nihilistic beliefs. I for one would point to the fact that nearly all great art has been created by believers, that Christianity in particular has been a great force for good in this world, but I doubt any of my arguments would hold much truck with a man who has described religion as a mental illness.

This is of course the great difficulty in dealing with a man like Dawkins, in that militant atheists are invariably intractable. I note with great interest that Dawkins came into his atheism at the ripe old age of 16, which is when the vast majority of us do our deepest theological speculation. I remember that I believed quite a lot of things when I was 16, most of which I do not believe in now. There is the air of the adolescent in the man who absolutely will not admit any possibility of his being wrong.

And, of course, there is the smugness. Anyone of a religious inclination can usually identify the various attitudes adopted by those of differing faiths. The evangelicals are earnest, the fundamentalists are filled with a kind of stern rage, the Episcopalians and other mainline churches have apathy, and we Catholics have the iron bedrock of tradition and the comforting knowledge that we've been around forever. The atheists have smugness. No vicar or priest, descending upon the benighted heathen, has done so with the sheer infuriating smugness of an atheist attacking a believer. Now, all religion is fundamentally about revelation. But most religions are not gnostic cults, which based on their behavior, is what many atheists regard their system as, in which "enlightened ones" shall be set free due to their understanding of secret knowledge that tragically the rest of the swelling mass of sheep what calls themselves "humanity" are unable to comprehend. They carefully and patronizingly nod their heads while listening to you, and then proceed to ignore whatever you have said, in favor of points which you and no reasoning person could ever rebut, because what do you know, you sheep you?

Personally, I think most atheists agree with Dr. Dawkins, and regard believers as not merely fellow humans with differing views from their own, but as insane. Thus they fall into the CSE trap (Crazy-Stupid-Evil). In fact, as fond as they are of Crazy, they're also pretty darn fond of Stupid and Evil too:

"Without religion you have good people doing good things, and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion." - Richard Dawkins

"Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence." - Richard Dawkins

I find it ironic that Dawkins, a man who almost certainly would shoot himself before admitting he had a soul, would attribute more corporeality to ideas than he would to human consciousness. I also find it ironic that Dawkins works at a university which owes its existence to religion, in a field that owes its existence to religion, in a nation that for better or worse (primarily for the better) has been shaped by its idiosyncratic ideas about religion into a world power, after being born into a nation that would not have existed if that selfsame world power hadn't felt itself to be on a divinely inspired mission to conquer the world in the name of Britannia.

I also think that geneticists should get down on their knees every day and thank the Catholic Church for giving Mendel all that time with his peas.

Dr. Dawkins should remember that in denying the existence of God simply because he has no proof of God's existence, he is arguing from ignorance, and generally speaking in science that is a no-no.

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