Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Richard Dawkins

Watched the second of Dawkins' two programmes about religion last night. I missed the first but had heard it wasn't as good as we might have expected from a professor charged with the advancement of science. He did continue his attack on paper tigers - most intelligent Christians I know would have felt the three particular enemies he picked on - separatist Jewish communities, extreme Christian faith schools teaching intelligent design and US hellfire preaching were worth having a go at.

He was also constrained by the fact that he would have been in danger if he'd said, 'The Prophet was barking mad' but was quite happy to state that Jesus was. Christians are genuinely, by and large, slow to take offence.

More interesting, and I wished it had gone on for longer, was the interview with Richard Harries.

I think there was a good TV programme and an intelligent debate trying to get out of the screen last night but it stayed stuck in. Is it really only a faith position that makes people oppose abortion? For someone who insists that truths are only truths if verifiable scientifically I wanted to see better research into this statement. Likewise, '...only religion can make good people bad.' Dawkins seems to have decided what is bad in a very unscientific way.

Anyway, as Nick Pollard says in this brilliant Damaris article, where is the scientific backing for a statement such as , 'You should only believe what is verifiable by science?' It is as daft a statement as 'I don't know a word of English' or 'I am absolutely convinced there are no absolute truths.'

I long for Christians to engage their brains in this debate but the way Dawkins does his work he is too easy to ignore. If we and he are shooting at the same targets where's the battle?

Those who want their thinking about science and creation stretched a bit might read this from last Saturday's Guardian.


James Horn said...

Yes - I found the problem with the programme was its whitewash statements, presented as facts without scrutiny. Dawkins happily looks in depth at statements of faith and religion, picking them apart with a critical eye, yet can't face the fundamental problems brought about by the science he 'preaches'. At least it opens up debate I suppose...

Jonathan Potts said...

The funny thing with the statement "truths are only truths if verifiable scientifically" is that it is not a statement that is verifiable scientifically. Hence, by its own criteria, not true. Philosophers have known this for years, and have pointed it out to Dawkins on countless occasions. I have yet to hear him reply well to the objection...

Unfortunately, due to small group leaders' meeting, I missed this programme. But if his only examples to back the claim that "God is a virus" are extremist religious groups then he is certainly not following an impartial, scientific enquiry into his statement. It is a schoolboy statistical error to not back your argument with a wide range of examples (including, for example, churches like St Paul's Leamington or moderate faith schools like Cardinal Newman in Cov). Dawkins, being a FRS scientist, surely knows this. But he also knows that a lot people are gullible and unscientific so will fall for his dubious argumentation and gross generalisation. Such a cynical act gives both faith and science a bad name.

As for his claim "...only religion can make good people bad" .... Has the man heard of the militant atheists Hitler and Stalin? Were all the people who followed Nazi protocol evil? Or good people who had been brainwashed by evil, atheistic leaders?

As for a good defence of christianity in the light of science, I recommend Roger Trigg's "Rationality and Religion" and John Polkinghorne's "Science and Christian Belief".

Caroline said...

He did highlight the problem of the place where I work by interviewing an ex-member. There is an argument, not yet explored, for child protection when kids are being told that if they do the wrong thing (and given a list of 'wrong things') they will 'burn in hell'. I've seen this happen first hand within my establishment. Interestingly, the younger kids are the ones who seem to believe more vehemently what they are being told and are the ones who tell me the 'truth' time and time again.

Martin said...

It seems that people are able to read the Bible and totally miss the point, miss all the grace and love that is offered. I suppose that makes it important for us to pray for revelation to any people who are reading it.