The God Delusion – Dawkins

July 27, 2007 at 6:41 pm Leave a comment

 Away back in early May I decided I didn’t want to own “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins. I went to the library. They had a copy but it was out to the first borrower so I put it on order. Long story short; it never came back. The library figured a fundamentalist type took it out to get it out of circulation. Ya never know…  Finally (in late July!), a copy arrived from another library. I dove into the book fully expecting to get a good rant out of it but my balloon slowly deflated.

Dawkins starts off with lots of invective. He rails about theologians and how they and their field are irrelevant. He cites many famous atheists and insists that “the presence or absence of a creative super-intelligence is unequivocally a scientific question” (pg 58). Yet, he quotes Cambridge astronomer Martin Rees saying, “The pre-eminent question is why anything exists at all. What breathes life into the equations, and actualized them in a real cosmos? Such questions lie beyond science; they are the province of philosophers and theologians.”

Dawkins seems to be arguing over a definition and description of God. What do we call that “super intelligence” that created the cosmos? The fact is, nobody knows. The vast majority of (religious) people call it God but Dawkins has no name and classes himself an atheist. Fair enough. I think what really bugs him though, is Christian fundamentalists. He does a good job of promoting evolution and pointing out the problems with taking the Bible literally. There is nothing new here for progressive Christians. I did find Dawkins to be a dismissive of theologians the way the ancient philosophers were dismissive of the powers of the day. They were petulant because they felt their learning and wisdom should be unquestioningly deferred to, yet society went on listening to their less learned secular and religious leaders. They wondered why people didn’t worship them. Could it be their arrogance? Dawkins lets a little of that creep in on page 197 where he is in full scientific flight discussing evolution, genes and memes:

“For didactic purposes I treat genes as if they were isolated units, acting independently. But of course they are not independent of one another, and this fact shows itself in two ways. First genes are linearly strung along chromosomes, and so tend to travel through generations in the company of particular other genes that occupy neighbouring chromosomal loci. We doctors call that kind of linkage linkage, and I shall say no more about it because memes don’t have chromosomes, alleles or sexual recombination.”

Please, say no more! Thank you for helping me understand that you doctors call linkage linkage. (The second linkage is italicized in the book and in this original but may not show up on the blog page)

One of the interesting stories he relates concerns the Cargo Cults of Fiji, New Hebrides, New Guinea and the Solomons in the 1940’s and 50’s.  In explaining the roots of religion he talks about how religious cults are so easy to start, basing their religion on almost anything. In the theistic world that “thing” we call God. He relates how cargo cults sprung up by witnessing affluent looking soldiers getting packages from home that arrived in a cargo plane. When black soldiers later arrived and looked much more affluent than the islanders, they were amazed that their now departed prophet was correct. His prophecy?

An apocalyptic vision including a ” great cataclysm; the mountains would fall flat and the valleys would be filled, old people would regain their youth and sickness would vanish; white people would be expelled from the island never to return; and cargo would arrive in great quantity so that everybody would have as much as he wanted”

He uses this to demonstrate how humanity is prone to latch onto something to explain the unknown. Well, I agree and my religion has been growing (and evolving) since the early first human days when physical things like the sun were the focus of religion. We’ve come a long way Richard. Well most of us have. There are still the fundamentalists who cling to a literal interpretation of the Bible, and that’s what sticks in his craw. It sticks in my craw too.

This book paints all religious with the tar brush of literalism and that is wrong. Christianity is moving past what Dawkins rails against. Religion, like science, is a living thing and both are evolving. Thanks for the interesting facts stories though. Sorry you don’t deserve a rant but still, stick to science Richard.


Entry filed under: Wrestling With God.

Catholic Rant! Turm Your Computer OFF/ Star Wars

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