Thursday 20 April 2006

Richard Dawkins

What is the view of Richard Dawkins among serious atheist philosophers such as, say, A C Grayling? Do they not resent the attention that he receives, as theologians used to (and sometimes still do) resent the attention received by C S Lewis? To be fair, Lewis was a much better theologian than Dawkins is a philosopher.
Yet the cult of Dawkins is the most fanatical in Britain today. Just try pointing out that a gene can no more be selfish than it can be envious, or empathetic, or altruistic. Or that memes are a ridiculous concept, as evidenced by (to use only the example of religion) the fact that people regularly change religions, or become religious having been atheistic and secular, or become atheistic and secular having been religious. The Dawkinsolaters believe, as Dawkins himself shows signs of believing, that whatever he says is by definition science, so that anyone who questions or denies it is by definition anti-scientific.
But then, try pointing out that the theory of the survival of the fittest is tautologous, since the only way to spot the fittest is that they are the ones that survive. Or that the hugely popular drawings of an ape slowly moving upright until it becomes a man are dishonest on every conceivable level. Or that nothing at all is proved by the fact that one species inhabited a place later than another to which it was, in whatever way, relatively similar, there being no ground whatever for supposing on this basis that the later species was descended from the earlier one.
And never, ever ask about irreducible complexity. Or, since all cells come from cells, about where the first cell came from, and why this can never be repeated. Or why, for example, Dawkins and the late Stephen Jay Gould agreed with each other about practically nothing in any specific way, except their shared disagreement with Darwin about practically everything specific. Or whether some “races” must be more evolved than others, as recently insisted upon by “Dr Phil Edwards” (whose real name is Dr Stuart Russell) of the BNP in correspondence with a horrified Stephen Green of Christian Voice. It is forbidden to ask these questions at all.
And now we have the tiktaalik, “the fish with shoulders”. For what imaginable reason might a limbless organism need shoulders, literally to hang about for who knows how many generations while they waited to grow the limbs that were their only conceivable purpose in the first place? There is no suggestion that these shoulders were any sort of remnant limbs. Rather, the shoulders came first. Apparently. Do we observe today any species in any comparable transitional stage? And how would this whole process be reversible, as it would have to be if exactly the opposite circumstances applied?
The suspicion grows and grows that it is the atheism that comes first, and that everything else must be constructed to fit that atheism.
Finally, to return to Dawkins, given how time-consuming experimental science is, how much, if any, does he actually do? When, if ever, did he last publish a strictly scientific book, or even a strictly scientific paper? I only ask.

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