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Blog // Thoughts
January 9, 2007

The Dawkins Delusion

H. Allen Orr has a piece called A Mission to Convert, on Richard Dawkins’ new book in the current New York Review of Books. It’s a good read for anyone interested in this debate, especially the weaknesses in Dawkins’ rant-based approach to religion. “As you may have noticed, Dawkins when discussing religion is, in effect, […]

H. Allen Orr has a piece called A Mission to Convert, on Richard Dawkins’ new book in the current New York Review of Books. It’s a good read for anyone interested in this debate, especially the weaknesses in Dawkins’ rant-based approach to religion.

“As you may have noticed, Dawkins when discussing religion is, in effect, a blunt instrument, one that has a hard time distinguishing Unitarians from abortion clinic bombers. What may be less obvious is that, on questions of God, Dawkins cannot abide much dissent, especially from fellow scientists (and especially from fellow evolutionary biologists). Indeed Dawkins is fond of imputing ulterior motives to those “Neville Chamberlain School” scientists not willing to go as far as he in his war on religion: he suggests that they’re guilty of disingenuousness, playing politics, and lusting after the large prizes awarded by the Templeton Foundation to scientists sympathetic to religion.[2] The only motive Dawkins doesn’t seem to take seriously is that some scientists genuinely disagree with him.

Despite my admiration for much of Dawkins’s work, I’m afraid that I’m among those scientists who must part company with him here. Indeed, The God Delusion seems to me badly flawed. Though I once labeled Dawkins a professional atheist, I’m forced, after reading his new book, to conclude he’s actually more an amateur. I don’t pretend to know whether there’s more to the world than meets the eye and, for all I know, Dawkins’s general conclusion is right. But his book makes a far from convincing case.”

What’s interesting to me is that Orr seems, on the whole, to be sympathetic to Dawkin’s Atheism, yet profoundly dissapointed with his forms of argument and rhetoric. I suspect as the year passes we will more of this kind of criticism of Dawkins’ outdated positivism. There is an intellectual, ethical and philosophical poverty to Dawkins writing against religion that seems clearly motivated by an irrational hatred. What Orr makes clear, is the extent to which Dawkins has abandoned (or is unable to muster) the kind of rigourous argument that one would expect from a scientist in his position.

Dawkins is in no special or unique position to comment on religion and it is pretty obvious that his understanding of religious thought is limited and superficial. Although he is generating a lot of attention for his diatribes, it may well be that the angrier he gets, the more he undermines his goals and demonstrates the shallowness of his objections.

[tags] God Delusion, Richard Dawkins [/tags]

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Responses
Steve Lowe 16 years ago

“Although he is generating a lot of attention for his diatribes, it may well be that the angrier he gets, the more he undermines his goals and demonstrates the shallowness of his objections.”

Let’s hope for that, while praying the man does ‘get’ religion before his time on earth is through.

Toni 16 years ago

I’ve noticed the anger and also the lack of discernment in his blanket statements about ‘the religious’. I’m grateful in a way, because it does make discussing his point of view and highlighting where it breaks down easier with those that are just along for the ride.

Chris O'Connor 16 years ago

I want to invite you and your readers to join us in reading and discussing Dawkins “The God Delusion” during Q1, 2007. I’m working on getting him in a live chat session for some time in March 2007, but nothing is set in stone. If this chat happens you are welcome to attend.

We had Richard Dawkins for a live chat back in 2003 where we discussed “Unweaving the Rainbow.”

BookTalk – online reading group and book discussion forum

Chris O’Connor

Fernando Gros 16 years ago

Steve – I agree.

Fernando Gros 16 years ago

Toni – you are right. You come up against a lack of intellectual curiosity in Dawkins’ view of religion pretty well straight away. By contrast, most people I meet a little more (or a lot more) circumspect when you actually try to bring some detail into the conversation.

Fernando Gros 16 years ago

Chris – thanks for the invitation. I will check it out.

Paul 16 years ago

being a fundamentalist is never that pretty whether you faith is that there is a God or there isn’t one… it’s always as you say pretty blunt…andseldom pretty!

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