Richard Dawkins, my hero

Mea culpa. In the past – even recent past! – I’ve been beastly to Richard.

Many a time I’ve questioned his intelligence, sanity, erudition, scientific attainment, integrity, ability to use words in their true meaning.

My comments on his statement that “Darwin told us why we exist and that’s not an easy question to answer. It’s not just us, it’s all living things” were nothing short of bilious.

It isn’t indeed an easy question to answer this side of Genesis, I hissed vituperatively. That’s why Darwin never attempted to do so. He merely tried to explain how all living things that already were got to be as they are.

Even that, I ranted, he didn’t do all that convincingly. I went so far as referring to Darwinism as a half-baked theory kept alive by politicised hard-boiled adherents, of whom Richard is the most strident.

I even dared to remind Richard – as if he didn’t know! – of the difference between microevolution (species adapting to their environment) and macroevolution (one species turning into another).

The former, I suggested, is demonstrable and irrefutable. The latter, however, has been debunked by just about every modern science: cosmology, physics, palaeontology, genetics, biochemistry, geology, microbiology.

To my eternal shame, I poked fun at Richard’s revelation: “that life evolved out of nearly nothing, some 10 billion years after the universe evolved out of literally nothing, is a fact so staggering that I would be mad to attempt words to do it justice.”

Such words, I jested, were already attempted 2,500 years ago by Parmenides: ex nihilo nihil fit or whatever it was in Greek. Nothing comes out of nothing, an idea Newton later expressed in his First Law of Thermodynamics. But then Richard, I added venomously, is woefully ignorant of philosophy, history, rhetoric and most other things in His creation.

“Dawkins,” I went on, “is the village atheist lampooned by Chesterton. That’s why he can only appeal to the village idiot.” Harsh words, and those I now regret bitterly.

For my new friend Richard finally uttered God’s own truth. “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge,” he said – much to the dismay of every loyal Dawkinsian.

Some even went so far as to accuse my new friend Richard of bigotry, which I to my regret used to do myself in a different context.

Belying his reputation for rhetorical inadequacy Richard responded to the criticism with quite some élan: “A statement of simple fact is not bigotry. And science by Muslims was great in the distant past.”

Well put. Richard didn’t stoop to citing the exact numbers, which are 32 Nobels won by the Trinity scientists versus 10 by the Muslims. But had he done so, he’d have had to add that only two of those 10 overachievers were scientists, two others writers, while six were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which has little to do with science, or indeed peace.

Among those worthy laureates one finds such unwavering champions of peace as Yasser Arafat. You know, the chap immortalised in the PLO anthem “Yasser, that’s my baby, Nasser, don’t mean maybe…”

I understand why my new friend Richard then had to say that “science by Muslims was great in the distant past.” He knows it wasn’t, but hey – Islam isn’t Christianity. One can’t be too bolshie in attacking it. By way of intellectual discourse one can get one’s throat slit if one isn’t careful.

In fact, while back in the Middle Ages the Muslims did create some superb architecture, decorative art and poetry, their original contribution to science was well-nigh nonexistent.

For example, crediting the Muslims with the invention of algebra is simply wrong. Algebra predates Islam by at least four centuries and probably longer. The Greeks and Indians invented; the Arabs merely transmitted.

They invented algebra in exactly the same sense in which the generally admirable Averroes and Avicenna invented Aristotle and scholasticism.

Even my late friend Bertie Russell, who otherwise had more time for Islam than for Christianity, had to admit that “the views of the more scientific philosophers come from Aristotle and the Neoplatonists in logic and metaphysics, from Galen in medicine, from Greek and Indian sources in mathematics and astronomy…”

His minor glitch about the Muslim science of yesteryear notwithstanding, I wish I could now take back everything I said about Richard in the past. Alas, I can’t – my sheer bloody-mindedness won’t let me.

As it is, I can only say that even a strident, militant ignoramus who pronounces on thousands of things is statistically bound to get one of them right sooner or later.

I’m truly sorry that Richard is being pilloried for the one thing he has ever got right rather than being drawn and quartered (metaphorically, I hasten to add) for everything he has got wrong. He must complain to God about this.  







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