Sunday, January 08, 2006

Root of All Evil

As a pretty convinced atheist, I'm rather worried by Richard Dawkins' upcoming Channel 4 series, The Root Of All Evil?, at least to judge from the trails. He is heard saying that religion alone causes good people to do evil things - without it good people would continue to do good things, and evil people would still do evil things, but good people would not do evil.

There's just one problem with that - it's twaddle. Good people have done evil in the name of other things than religion. Nationalism springs to mind, and racism. The latter is particularly pertinent, as some of the racist theory that caused such suffering in the imperial colonies of the European parties was evolved by the sort of secular humanists of the Enlightenment that Dawkins, I suspect, would like us all to model ourselves upon.

It is undeniably true that many religious people these days are enemies of science and reason. But that does not mean that religion itself is an enemy of science and reason, and it is a betrayal of enlightened thinking for Dawkins to suggest otherwise.


Carla said...

I hope the programme itself is less trenchant than your description of the trails (I haven't seen the trails but I'm intending to give the programme a try). I admire Dawkins for the crisp clarity of his ideas on evolutionary theory ('Selfish Gene', 'Blind Watchmaker') and I would be sad to see him descend into polemic. I hope he isn't going to. To my mind the target is surely 'any ideology that claims a monopoly on absolute truth and the right to impose it on others', regardless of whether it's a religion or any other -ism.
Will you post again when you've seen the programme?

Tony Keen said...

I shall certainly watch and see what Dawkins actually says. But I fear that, in advocating intolerance of religion within a secular society, as he seems to be, Dawkins is turning scientific thinking into exactly the sort of ideology that you describe. I think he has spent so much time battling with monsters that he has become a monster himself.