Monday, January 09, 2006

Richard Dawkins on religion

Well, I've watched part one of Root of All Evil?

The trouble with Richard Dawkins is something that the Evangelical Pastor he met put his finger on - he is arrogant. He's not conducting an investigation of faith - he's searching for evidence to demonstrate how bad religion is. He is constantly stacking the deck in his favour. Science is true, religion is based on nonsense. These are conclusions he has already drawn before he enters into any investigation. Dawkins is right to be concerned about the dangers of fundamentalism in all religions (though note how he has a tendency of speaking as if the Judaic-derived religions are the only ones that exist). But he goes wrong when he implies that any belief in faith fosters such extremism. He goes wrong, because it renders science open to the same criticism. It's all very well to say that a pilgrimage to Lourdes is the slippery slope that leads to suicide bombers, but one could just as easily argue that children with chemistry sets is the slippery slope that leads to the Nazis' eugenics experiments. Dawkins claims he wants people to think for themselves, but evidently only within the confines of the scientific method. And eliminating religion will not stop people wanting to see the world in black-and-white terms and denying the world's complexity.

The Root of All Evil? is a passionate piece, but one that is as vulnerable to criticism as the positions Dawkins attacks. Compare the rather more productive approach of Robert Beckford in Who Wrote The Bible? In the end, I don't think that science and reason are advanced by scientists being unreasonable.

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