update: stupid typos, making me look like i didn’t like what i was doing, or that my arguement had been diminshed. fixed now.
See what I did there? With the headline? Aren’t i clever!
I have a tendancy to to hang out on IRC. Call it an aspect of my social self. Call it a blight upon my being. Call it what you will. For me, one of the best things about IRC, apart for the social aspect and it’s blighting effect upon your soul, are the arguements and debates that can flair up. I love a good arguement, I does. Maybe it’s an element of the male archetype, or perhaps simply part of my personality, but I can get terribly gleeful when one breaks out. Hell, I can walk in on one and throw myself into it with joyous abandon, safe in the knowledge that even if I don’t have all the facts needed, or even some of them, my razor sharp tongue will see me through. Especially if the target in question is being a dick, a racist, a mysogenist, or a racist mysogenistic dick. The most cruel and witty things just pop into my head begging for release through my fingers. I don’t know where they come from, I really don’t, but dagnabbit if I do like them!
Of course, it’s not all fun and games and flamewars. Sometimes there are serious discussions. This is good too; an opportunity to learn something, to be sent off on a google-fueled research mission. The aquisition of knowledge; Oh baby, does it gets me all hot and bothered!
It is one of these serious discussions that I would like to open with. In this case it was on Richard Dawkins. The individual in question was stating emphatically that Dawkins cannot put a foot wrong. He is a scientist without reproach. His books are amazing and really should be read.
Now, I haven’t read dawkins. It’s not something i’m proud of. I want to read The Selfish Gene and all the rest but I just haven’t gotten around to it. This fact though did not diminish my retort but one iota.
My retort was this; Dawkins may be a great scientist and his books may indeed belong on some universal list of required reading. I simply do not know enough either way. What i do know is the way Dawkins is representing himself in the media these days. As some kind of Atheist Superstar, a spokesperson for atheists everywhere. A preacher, if you will.
Well, it ain’t science, is it? It’s rhetoric.
Dawkins has set up his public image as an Atheist analogue of the Christian fire-and-brimstone preacher. He is moving away from science, into the media-sphere. Ever since his book ‘The God Delusion’ it is almost as if he has become a caricature. Why has he done this? Is he bored of being a scientist? Is it because there is more money in being a media-spokesperson for atheism than there is in doing research and writing books? I don’t know. But the crux of my arguement was this: I respect dawkins, and i want to respect him. I want to read his books, i want to grok his perspective. Sometimes though, the way he goes on tv flapping his arms stating emphatically that religion is bullshit and only idiots believe in it, it’s hard to take him seriously.
It’s not that his message is not valid. I was an atheist for a long time, organised religions are mainly control mechanisms and crutches for the weak of will. When he first came out as Richard Dawkins: Valiant Naysayer of Religion I appluaded his efforts. I thought it was great, I thought it was funny, I thought it was about fucking time. Now though. Now I’m starting to think he needs to reign it in a little. Still keep at it but, you know, maybe it’s time to be a scientist again instead of a representation of a scientist or worse, just a caricature of an Atheist.
Anyway, just an opinion. All written to be a leadin for this post from Heresy corner wherein a media circus involving Dawkins, Howard Jacobson, American Preachers, atheism, christianity, islam and Haiti plays out to the tune of the The Heresiarch’s thoughtful analysis. A piece which is damn hard to excerpt with any kind of clarity. Just follow the link at the bottom and read the whole damn thing. Interesting comments too. Probably. I haven’t read them. I should be working on my novel as we speak. Damn internet. Stupid blog.
Last Sunday, Howard Jacobson fronted a Channel 4 documentary about the Biblical account of Creation. The basic thrust of his argument, scarcely original, was that while it isn’t in any sense literally true the story that opens Genesis is rich with poetic and metaphorical significance, that it grounds us in a sense of overarching narrative, teaching us our place in the universe – not as it really is, but as we as human beings experience it. It isn’t true, but it contains truth.
This was reasonable as far as it went: Jacobson is a creative writer, after all, not a scientist. But it was marred, for me at least, by an intemperate attack on Richard Dawkins for his supposed atheist fundamentalism and lack of imagination. In an accompanying article for the Mail on Sunday, Jacobson wrote, apropos Dawkins, that “a man who is closed-minded in the name of science no more has right on his side than the man who is closed-minded in the name of God.” He criticised the evolutionist’s “extraordinary ignorance” of religious history and thought, adding, “Not only does he comprehend nothing of what it is to have a religious imagination, he actually revels in his own incomprehension, as though not to believe whatever isn’t scientifically provable, or not to understand any person who doesn’t feel as you feel, is a virtue.”
I found this assault on a caricature of Dawkins not just gratuitous and irritating, but ironic, given that Jacobson was accusing Dawkins of attacking a caricature of religion. He told a story about an atheist and a rabbi: the rabbi tells the atheist, “That God you don’t believe in, I don’t belive in Him either.” Likewise, I don’t believe in Jacobson’s Dawkins, any more than I believe in Karen Armstrong’s or Terry Eagleton’s Aunt Sally versions of the prof. The author of the Selfish Gene, the author of Unweaving the Rainbow, even the author of The God Delusion, is more subtle than that. It was a lazy pop at an easy target, I thought, cheap and unnecessary, undermining the more interesting things that Jacobson had to say.
And then I read a remarkably stupid article in The Times, purportedly written by Richard Dawkins. Except that it appeared to have been written by Jacobson’s Dawkins, not by mine.
via Heresy Corner