Monday, May 27, 2024
HomeEditor's PickAdmit it, Dawkins, you totally screwed up

Admit it, Dawkins, you totally screwed up


RICHARD Dawkins is a perfect example of the ‘mad professor’. He is an evolutionary biologist, zoologist and author. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, and was Professor for Public Understanding of Science in the University of Oxford from 1995 to 2008. His 1976 book The Selfish Gene popularised the gene-centred view of evolution. He is also perhaps the world’s best-known atheist.

Dawkins was part of a group of New Atheists who after 9/11 were all the rage for a while, a bit like bell bottoms, although you don’t hear much from them now. Goodness, what an insufferably smug bunch they were: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett, as well as Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hitchens has passed on and Ayaan Hirsi Ali has converted to Christianity. Dawkins now declares himself a ‘cultural Christian’.  

For a while there the liberal world, having failed to see Islamic extremism coming (although there were plenty of warnings), couldn’t get enough of the New Atheists. Once 9/11 happened there was an appetite for those who wanted to denounce not just Islamic extremists but all religion. It was cowardly, as pointed out in this recent Spectator piece

‘One aspect of their cowardice related to Islam. Their popularity was a result of 9/11, and the widespread fear of religious extremism that ensued, but they didn’t dare focus on Islamic extremism; they wanted to say that religion in general was to blame, that mild-mannered liberal Christians were implicated in violence.’

I can perhaps understand why Dawkins and Co didn’t want to focus on Islamic extremism and instead pushed the idea that children gathering around the crib at Christmastime was just as mad and bad as flying planes into buildings. Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist, and if you want to stay alive these days, best to keep your mouth shut when talking about certain belief systems. Still, Dawkins is now in a panic. He is suffering from buyer’s remorse.

Having witnessed Oxford Street given over to celebrate Ramadan but not Easter, he said on LBC that he was a ‘cultural Christian’. He believes it wouldn’t be a great development if Christianity, Britain being a Christian country, was replaced by Islam. Dawkins, 83, said: ‘I do think we are culturally a Christian country. I call myself a cultural Christian. I’m not a believer, but there is a distinction between being a believing Christian and a cultural Christian . . .I love hymns and Christmas carols and I sort of feel at home in the Christian ethos, and I feel that we are a Christian country in that sense.’

He added: ‘If I had to choose between Christianity and Islam, I’d choose Christianity every single time. It seems to me to be a fundamentally decent religion, in a way that I think Islam is not.’ This from a man who made a programme asking if all religion was The Root of all Evil? (later retitled The God Delusion).

And what, pray, did Dawkins think would happen after he started his anti-religion crusade? He has done more damage to Christianity than perhaps any other public figure. If his personal redemption is coming, I am as happy as the next Christian, but he needs also to say: ‘Sorry. I was wrong. I’ve really messed things up.’

The mad professor is an accurate stereotype of those super-duper genius scientists who are brilliant at one very narrow thing, say splitting the atom, or evolutionary biology, but fail to see the wider implications of their actions. We had a lot of this around lockdown. Let’s shut everything down for months on end to stop a virus. But that will destroy our economy and plunge us into debt. So what? I’m a scientist! You expect me to care about things like that? I have numbers on a graph, I can’t be doing with thinking about the bigger picture.

Similarly we have had Richard Dawkins running around the place for at least two decades saying how bad all religion was, all aspects of it, but now declares he is a cultural Christian, and he would not like to see Christianity replaced by another religion. He likes the hymns and the cathedrals but he is not a believer. It is a relief that he is not an absolute barbarian in love with ugliness, and there are plenty of people out there who are, but he fought his war against religion, especially Christianity, and now look where we are.

It was easy to pick a fight with the vicar and the little old lady lighting a candle to Our Lady (what a fool!)  because Christians have been thought to turn the other cheek.

Now Dawkins looks around at the desolate wasteland that is being filled by Islam and says Oops! My bad! Can I get a do-over? Again like the mad professors hunched over their Bunsen burners or whatever mad professors do these days, he failed to foresee the long-term consequences of his actions. He thought by attacking Christianity and making a void, only science and reason would fill it.

That’s not how human nature works, my friend. Human nature is attracted to the mystical, something greater than itself. On current trends it looks like Islam will fill that void created in part by atheists like you. Congratulations, Professor Dawkins. 

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