|The Early Days of a Better Nation|
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion is, for those caught in the crossfire, intellectually unsatisfying. How can one of the greatest scientific minds of our era be so simplistic? Because - according to The Case For God - Dawkins is a biologist. Had he been a physicist he would not have stumbled so imprudently into his illiberal prejudices. Physicists have long resigned themselves to the unknowableness of the world while "some biologists", Armstrong observes, "whose discipline has not yet experienced a major reversal, have remained confident of their capacity to discover absolute truth".I've typed that out in full, just so that people can point at it and laugh. Onward:
The God Delusion is deficient on two counts. First, it attacks a very particular form of religion, claiming it to be representative of of any experience of spirituality or transcendence. In fact there are very few Creationists [...]That would be the same book [i.e. The God Delusion] whose very first chapter is titled 'A Deeply Religious Non-Believer'? The book that says (about creationist drivel being taught in state-supported schools): 'The implication that the scriptures provide a literal account of geological history would make any reputable theologian wince. My friend Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford, and I wrote a joint letter to Tony Blair, and we got it signed by eight bishops and nine senior scientists.'? Yup, same book. I could go on, but I won't. Dolan does:
The second deficiency [...] is a blind faith in the Supreme Truth of Science. If only! [Blah world wars Holocaust Aids blah can't even cure the common cold blah poverty blah now they're saying tomatoes cause Alzheimers blah blah.] And science is no more immune to opinion, fashion and political bias than any other endeavour of humankind. (Evidence of that, I would suggest, is Dawkins's 1976 The Selfish Gene, ushering in the Thatcherite era. The clue is in the title.)If there's one infallible sign of not having a clue about, and not having read, The Selfish Gene, it's this smug, stupid remark. The clue is, indeed, in the title, but it has whizzed past Dolan's head.
Armstrong - according to Dolan, anyway - blames literalist fundamentalism on the Enlightenment, when religious people mistakenly tried to 'mimic science's objectivity':
For millennia before, no-one had taken any religious text as being literally true - or "gospel", in the modern sense of the word.Bless.