Thursday, June 29, 2006

Is Dawkins right to insinuate that religion is The Root Of All Evil?'

asks fellow blogger Tim Hague. Thanks for your suggestions, Tim. I never intended this blog to be full of my unworthy opinions, so any more ideas for threads will be gratefully accepted (especially if I can just copy and paste from a post on the suggestions thread.)

I have all Dawkins' books. "The Extended Phenotype" was a struggle but worth it, and "The Ancestor's Tale" is a masterpiece, with a usable index, and a proper reference section. It is recent enough for me to use as an initial reference for all things evolutionary. I don't find his atheism intrudes, and the little creationist bashing he indulges in is passing and peripheral to the main thrust of the book.

His recent venture into TV punditry, "The Root of All Evil" seems to have offended fundamentalists. (I suspect almost anything would offend that creepy Southern Baptist minister. Is he typical?) But Dawkins is expressing a personal view. He is not proselytizing for the atheist religion.

Are there parallels with PZ Myers recent "we should be proud to be atheists" outburst and spat with Lenny Flank? PZ did not cover himself with glory, not because of his views, but in calling for an argument then banning Lenny from his thread. I never expected to see such unfairness from PZ, whose site is a wonderful source of information on evo/devo. I can't imagine Dawkins acting in such a way. His stance of refusing to debate with creationists seems so much more sensible.

8 comments:

JohnADavison said...

To be a declared atheist in the face of the living world is unthinkable and an indictment of both ones character and his integrity not to mention his powers of observation. Richard Dawkins is nothing but a snake oil salesman. By his own admission he has a "product to sell." So have I. Mine is called the Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis. Take your choice folks. They are miles apart. Let's have a poll. What do you say? Do you have the guts is the only question.

I love it so!

Alan Fox said...

John,

If you ruled the world, what would you do with atheists?

If you want to sell me something, you should try an appeal to reason.

Would you like a thread with a poll question? I don't know if such an option is available on "Blogger" but maybe somebody could enlighten* us.

*I love that word!

JohnADavison said...

Enlighten is all I have ever done dummy.

"You can lead a man to the literature but you can't make him read it."
John A. Davison

haliaeetus said...

" Enlighten is all I have ever done dummy."

Behave you senile old fart, or I'll call the nursing home and have them take away your computer privileges.

Tim Hague said...

I think Dawkins goes a bit far with his claims. He paints all religious people with the same brush as the most fundamental. Not that he's alone in that regard - many creationists do exactly the same to the atheists (and yes, atheism has it's 'extreme' and moderate elements too).

Alan Fox said...

He doesn't really push his atheism in his popular science books, Tim. I know he is fairly forthright and confident in his own views. I don't get the impression he spends much time as a proselytizer for atheism, though I think he made some good points about the dangers of Christian, Jewish and Islamic fundamentalism in "The Root of All Evil".

I grant he is somewhat dismissive of those who have religious faith, but I suspect he does not advocate a political/atheist takeover to establish an atheist state "religion". Whilst it may be possible to be mildly atheistic, wouldn't that be similar to being mildly pregnant?

Tim Hague said...

Hi Alan,

I think Dawkin's books are usually spot on. I thought he raised some interesting points in his program, but I thought he painted a slightly unfair picture by concentrating mostly on only the more radical religious people out there.

You say: "Whilst it may be possible to be mildly atheistic, wouldn't that be similar to being mildly pregnant?". Not at all. It's possible to be a religious moderate and a religious fundamentalist, and the same thing is quite possible for atheists as well.

Atheism is the lack of belief in any deities. Strong atheism is the denial that any deities exist. So yes there is a difference. There are a few atheists out there who believe that science has disproved the existance of God. And there are a few evangelical atheists out there as well. So I don't think that it's unfair to say that atheism - like religion - is also a spectrum from moderate to 'fundie'.

Alan Fox said...

This PT thread seems to address what you are saying. Would PZ Myers qualify as an evangelizing atheist? I read him as saying he shouldn't be expected to moderate the expression of his views just because they might upset religious people.(link)

However, I think I am with Lenny on the Myers-Flank debate, religion should be a personal matter. I am uncomfortable listening to others' prozeletyzing, and would never argue my own reliious view (or lack of it) unasked.