Atheism can make even bright people sound dim. For someone like Richards Dawkins, it’s deadly.
Dawkins isn’t really a new phenomenon; he merely represents one. People like him have always been with us, those trying to support a silly idea with a load of illiterate gibberish.
What’s new these days is that there now exist millions ready to listen. That’s testimony to the abysmal level of public education, with people no longer taught to discern puny arguments and crepuscular logic.
Dawkins’s readers don’t even realise that he uses words he doesn’t understand. Just follow his latest rant about “religion’s pathetic bid to trump science”. He then proceeds to accuse “religious people” of “a pathetic lack of logic”.
Now, Dawkins levelling that accusation is akin to Hitler decrying anti-Semitism. His glass house has been shattered, reduced to glistening shards on the ground.
Dawkins’s lack of intellectual rigour shines through his use of the word ‘science’, which he clearly thinks means natural science only. I could recommend a few books on that subject, specifically those by Jacques Maritain, but I’d hate to take Dawkins out of his depth – the poor lad clearly hasn’t opened a book of philosophy in his life.
In fact, theology and philosophy are both sciences, each with its own object of study and methodology, though these largely overlap. The two sciences occupy a higher rung on the intellectual ladder than natural science because they deal with higher things.
To paraphrase Wittgenstein, natural scientists may get only as far as wondering how the world is – but not that it is, and especially not why it is. Only philosophy, mostly, and theology, exclusively, deal with such questions.
The answers to them are called first principles, and everything, including natural sciences, can be traced back to them. In fact, natural scientific inquiry has become more or less the exclusive domain of the West specifically because only our civilisation has come up with a coherent, intelligible narrative of first principles.
A natural scientist, at his best, tries to discover some universal laws of nature, taking as read the axiomatic assumption that such laws exist. Yet the greatest scientists realise that the existence of rational laws presupposes the existence of the natural law-giver.
That’s why more than half of today’s scientists believe in God, according to a mournful admission by Lewis Wolpert, as strident an atheist as Dawkins, but, unlike him, a real scientist.
All this goes to show that religion can’t by definition try to “trump science”. The two fields of endeavour are simply too different to step on each other’s toes, although they can complement each other.
In fact, the more natural mysteries scientists uncover, the more they realise that their findings support the theological view of the world.
For example, the Big Bang theory, put forth not by curates but by astrophysicists, proposes a cosmological model that vindicates Genesis. And in Dawkins’s own field, when Watson and Crick, both incidentally atheists, discovered the DNA helix, they realised it put paid to Darwin’s slapdash theory.
Actually DNA has something to do with Dawkins’s latest diatribe. Apparently, “religion” (another word he doesn’t understand) takes issue with his pet theory of RNA having originated as the simpler form of DNA.
That’s where “religion” displays what Dawkins calls ‘a pathetic lack of logic’: “Science of course has gaps in it… But to say… religion can fill that gap is utter nonsense – religion hasn’t the faintest idea how to fill that gap.”
That much is true: religion isn’t in the business of solving the conundrum of DNA and RNA. No serious religious thinker would suggest otherwise, which is why one suspects this particular conflict is a figment of Dawkins’s fecund imagination.
This is an old technique perfected by Stalin, Richard’s fellow atheist. He too would come up with an imaginary stupid opponent, only then to demolish his made-up arguments.
Meanwhile, Dawkins forged ahead: “You cannot say ‘we have here two possible ideas, A and B: A has an enormous amount of success under its belt but there are little gaps still remaining to be filled; B has absolutely nothing going for it, but because there’s a gap in A’s understanding, therefore B must fill it’ – utterly illogical.”
One can’t argue against such crazed rants. All one can do is put a hand on Richard’s forehead, solicitously enquire after his health and tell him in a quiet voice to take things easy for a while.
I especially like the part about B (that is, our civilisation resting on the two Testaments and the great body of resulting thought), having ‘absolutely nothing going for it’. Dawkins ought to ponder the fact that Trinity College, Cambridge, – just one college in one Western university – has produced 34 Nobel Prize winners in natural sciences, whereas the entire Islamic world has merely managed six.
I’m not suggesting Dawkins consider great Western music, art, architecture, philosophy, political institutions or legal tradition, all inspired by what he calls ‘religion’ – such things are clearly beyond him. But perhaps he would be capable of pondering his own field properly, if he weren’t too busy frothing at the mouth whenever he hears the word God.
Dawkins does have political views though, ignorance being no hindrance there either. They can be broadly summed up as “There is no God, therefore Britain should remain in the EU”. That’s what one expects from the master logician.