Wanting to read Richard Dawkins’ latest book The God Delusion but being too cheap to purchase a copy, I am on a waiting list at the local library. In the meantime, I discovered Dawkins’ website, RichardDawkins.net, where he’s posted (among other things) the first chapter of the book. However, I’m not sure this was a wise thing for Dawkins to have done; as Simon Cowell would say, “that’s just not good enough.”
From Dawkins’ website, it would seem that he’s given up on science in favor of a full-on assault on religion (however, I have to admit that the Mr. Deity clips are hilarious). This doesn’t seem to be a good move for Dawkins, as he apparently was at one time a gifted science writer. He doesn’t seem to know or understand enough about religion of any kind to speak about it with any authority; not liking it is not enough.
The first chapter spends a lot of time proving that Einstein and Stephen Hawking were not religious; I don’t doubt this at all, and I’ll give him Carl Sagan and Gould as well. He seems to be trying to lay a case that “great” (to use his word) scientists know how to be in awe of creation (or nature, if you prefer) and avoid falling into some kind of religious nonsense. He fails to mention the scores of “great” scientists who are people of faith. What is clear is that he seems repulsed by the term “religious,” although to be honest, he presents himself as a very religious naturalist.
Dawkins seems to have a misconception about both “the religious mind” (which he characterized as weak) and religion itself. Whether he believes this or not, he at least presents flawed logic in using the example of a couple of unknown Christians to represent a larger mindset. This is like me using the ramblings of some high school science teacher to represent the “scientific mind.”
He is, however, straightforward in stating that underlying his view of science is philosophical naturalism; that is, the presumption that “there is nothing beyond the natural, physical world.” He is undoubtedly trying to distance himself and his philosophy from “religion,” although I don’t think it is working. It sounds as though he would agree with Stephen Jay Gould’s concept of “non-overlapping magisteria,” which is a flawed concept but another topic. Whether he likes it or not, Dawkins comes across as a religious zealot defending his faith in naturalism, and in the process resorting to the same types of flawed logic as those he is criticizing.
Overall, I was greatly disappointed in this first chapter. I still plan to read the rest of the book, but my expectations have been certainly lowered.
The video clips on the Dawkins site are indeed hilarious. They have the feel of the popular PC vs. Mac advertisements. And now that I think about it, maybe Dawkins is on to something. I too find the PC (all references intact) God silly; then again, I find the McDiety of bubblegum Christianity kind of funny too. Dawkins may be doing the whole religious landscape a favor with his blanket ridicule. By stirring up the pot, the religious flotsam can float to the top where it can be skimmed off, leaving the savory spiritual stew for us to eat.