Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Keeping the Pot Boiling for Dawkins

No, not to boil him alive, just to find a way into his infuriatingly annoying web of misinformation and twisted reasoning.

Rachel Kohn authored a rather thoughtful review of the Dawkins documentary in the Sydney Morning Herald (inter alia) last week. Thoughtful in that it got me thinking.

She doesn't quite spell out the full argument, but it goes something like this:

1) Dawkins claims that religion is the "root of all evil", the source of all (or at least much of) human violence against other human beings.

2) His authority for this claim is that he is a "scientist" and "scientific" rationalism will free us from the scourge of religion.

3) Although most of Dawkins' debunkers see the argument as one between atheism and religion, Kohn recognises that Dawkins' real objective is the triumph of scientism over faith.

4) She points to the demonstrable fact that SCIENCE is at least as (if not more) complicit in human suffering than religion. She uses as her main argument the example of the scientists who supported and put into action the philosophies of the Third Reich, but she could indeed have pointed to all manner of technologies that have been provided by scientists which have allowed increasingly large numbers of people to be killed and injured in violent acts of man against man over the last eight centuries. She could have pointed to the fact that while religion has been around since the birth of humanity and (if anything) has actually declined in recent centuries, scientism has risen to new and unimagined heights of supremacy in the last 100 years or so--precisely in line with the immense increase in the number of fatalities resulting from human violence.

4) By this method, she undermines Dawkins' entire argument precisely on the basis of his claimed authority: scientific rationalism, over against the (perceived) irrationalism of faith. There is no need to go into each of his maddening non-sequiturs and false claims--he has had the rug pulled out from under his feet.

The fact which Dawkins does not appreciate, and which Kohn perhaps recognises, is that violence lies deep in human nature, and it will use any justification (even religion) and any means (even science) to achieve its aim of harming the other. It is not religion, or science, or any other external factor which is to blame. It is the heart of man.

And it is my thought that at least there is something at the heart of each religion which speaks to the human heart. The problem with the scientific method--and indeed with scientists such Dawkins himself--is that there is no heart. This is what Terry Eagleton was getting at in his (now classic) review of "The God Delusion" and it is also what Rachel Kohn meant when she ended her review with:
It is this poetic dimension of the spiritual life that Dawkins, Onfray and friends have no ear to hear or eye to see.

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