Dawkins takes his fight into the classroom

by Richard on November 27, 2006

i was interested to read in my newspaper this morning that Richard Dawkins is to establish The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason, a charitable trust that will promote his militant atheism in British schools. Whilst i am always suspicious of any ‘ministry’ that takes its name from its founder, in principle I have no objection to this. Broadly speaking I trust our teachers to take the materials offered and use them in a balanced and sensible way.

What struck me especially about this story was the sense of victimhood it conveyed.

“The enlightenment is under threat,” he said. “So is reason. So is truth. So is science, especially in the schools of America. I am one of those scientists who feels that it is no longer enough just to get on and do science. We have to devote a significant proportion of our time and resources to defending it from deliberate attack from organised ignorance. We even have to go out on the attack ourselves, for the sake of reason and sanity. But it must be a positive attack, for science and reason have so much to give.”

Strangely, there is much here with which I feel most Christians could make common cause. Who hasn’t gone into a bookshop and been dismayed at the mass of what passes for ’spirituality’ these days? Somehow, though, I doubt that Prof Dawkins would be all that keen to have our support.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Kim 11.27.06 at 8:22 pm

And Christians should remember what gives Dawkins’ polemics a prima facia plausibility. Listen to St. Augustine, that great liberal and modernist: :)

“It is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these [scientific] topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. . . If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books on matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?”

One form of fundamentalism washes the hands of another.

2

Ivan the Crank 11.27.06 at 9:18 pm

Are there any well-respected scientists with whom Dawkins relates that are also practicing Christians? I know there are very few people in this world that can connect with him on an intellectual level, but there are some and I suggest that some of them might also be followers of the Creator of the Universe they are all exploring.

3

Richard 11.27.06 at 11:03 pm

Ivan - you’re right. There are some very highly respected scientists who are Christians who could engage Dawkins in dialogue. Polkinghorne springs to mind. But Dawkins is not interested in dialogue because, as Kim says, he is essentially a fundamentalist.

4

Larry B 11.28.06 at 1:59 am

Spot on Richard.

Many scientists I know are uncomfortable with Dawkins campaign for atheism and they aren’t particularly appreciative of Dawkins presuming to speak for all of science. He is playing the role of a fundamentalist that will eventually divide those who wish to practice science by their religious world view discrediting those with whom he disagrees by simply pointing to their religion. It’s sad, but it’s not uncommon in the history of science for someone to polarize the establishment and suppress valid ideas because of their persona. Newton’s (incorrect) ideas in some areas reigned for a long time even in the face of contrary evidence because of his dominant personality and stature.

Dawkins should at least be weary of his own conclusions if he believes the false ideas are “psychological” in nature unless he can “scientifically” prove his brain to be of superior construction to others somehow, lest he cast a doubt on the ability of a brain to produce any rational belief which by definition would have to include his own brain and his own beliefs.

He also should be aware that modern science hasn’t been held up to the level of scrutiny of religion simply because it’s relatively new compared to religion. There is much science cannot explain that religion quite readily explains. I hope he’s prepared to defend his faith……..

5

Chris E 11.28.06 at 5:45 pm

I have sympathy for both sides of this particular coin. What is needed is for everyone, scienctists and Christians alike, to be not so entrenched in their views as to not see the points of each others arguments. Whilst Dawkins has no time for Christians, many Christians have no time for the beliefs of other religions and presume their faith to be Truth. Ultimate Truth is, ultimately, beyond us and all we can do is try and work towards what is “behind all we see,” helping each other, arguing points of view and deliberating Together. Entrenched views, blindly followed, is not the answer and this is where science has gained popularity over Christianity and many other religions of today. By wanting science to be less agressive towards Christianity, perhaps Christians should be less aggressive towards other people religions - all of which are as valid as any other.

6

Larry B 11.29.06 at 3:37 am

Chris E.

“Christianity, perhaps Christians should be less aggressive towards other people religions - all of which are as valid as any other.”

Ask a Buddhist monk if he would agree with your statement, or a Hindu priest or an Imam. Christianity isn’t the only religion that claims exclusive truth. Somehow that seems to get lost. All major religions lay claim to a specific truth that is not fungible when confronted with truth from other religions.

7

Chris 11.29.06 at 5:26 pm

Yes, and that is one of the reason why more and more people are turning away from religion. Science is constantly reviewing itself. It does not stick to ideas that have been proved wrong and is not content to stick with words and ideas which are thousands of years old. I visited a blog of the Wtchcraft Museum in Cornwall a few months ago and was astounded to read that the place was persecuted by Christians who were harrassing visitors. Behaviour like this is unnacceptable.

8

Larry B 11.30.06 at 3:08 am

Chris,

Science’s spats just aren’t on public display as much as religions and for the most part modern science doesn’t argue about things that matter much to most people.

When it begins to impede on peoples belief systems about things like origins and morality and the meaning of life as Dawkins is now proposing then it will begin to create friction and people will turn away from it eventually too when they don’t find answers there.

Most people don’t realize that Newton’s theory of gravity is completely contradictory to Einsteins conception of gravity and one or the other is just plain wrong. Yet what do you learn in school? Newton’s even though it’s most likely wrong. Does that upset people, no, but most people don’t care how they understand gravity. They do care about morality and purpose.

Check out “Faster Than the Speed of Light: The Story of a Scientific Speculation” to see just how much dogmatism there is in the sciences as well.

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