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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Key Darwinists are fading stars?

Well, as the Buggles sang, video killed the radio star, generally, so it might not be too surprising if two of the world’s most prominent aging archdarwinists, Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, share a fate in that they both laid an egg recently, while expounding their personal views. They mixed Darwinism and anti-religious sentiment so seriously that fellow Darwinist Michael Ruse felt compelled to say to both of them:

I think that you and Richard [Dawkins] are absolute disasters in the fight against intelligent design – we are losing this battle, not the least of which is the two new supreme court justices who are certainly going to vote to let it into classrooms – what we need is not knee-jerk atheism but serious grappling with the issues – neither of you are willing to study Christianity seriously and to engage with the ideas – it is just plain silly and grotesquely immoral to claim that Christianity is simply a force for evil, as Richard claims – more than this, we are in a fight, and we need to make allies in the fight, not simply alienate everyone of good will.

Too bad for Ruse that he is not the prophet of a greater grace and a better cause. Well, we will see.

Here is a great cartoon Dennett has put up on his site, on the essential difference between humans and animals. Now, if only he would build on that insight. (In an earlier version of this post I had misidentified the cartoon as put up by Ruse. Sorry, and thanks to Stephen Cheeseman for letting me know.)

At any rate, I recently mentioned that Dawkins was attacked on the left as well as the right while expounding foolishly on the dangers of religion on Britain’s TV 4. Oh, and here is an ex-Muslim's anti-Dawkins's comment. Believing Muslim Mustafa Akyol doesn't have much good to say about Dawkins's views either, and I find him more persuasive.

Both Dawkins and Dennett (but not Ruse) have missed the boat. Yes, it is true that people have killed for religion, as they have for love, money, power, or prestige. But so? What does that prove? Only that religion is important to a lot of people, as are love, money, power, and prestige. Who ever killed for tiddly winks? Or beige shower curtains? Or a chance to listen to the vicar address the parish's annual meeting?

That’s what makes village atheism so flaming stupid. It's nobody’s fault if the village atheist never wonders if there is anything beyond life and death, working for a living, and getting drunk on weekends, just as it's nobody's fault if he never wonders what some guys see in sex.

Look, it’s OKAY! Peace, please. One of the chief reasons I am a strong advocate of freedom of religion is to prevent discrimination against the village atheist because he doesn't understand. It's another matter, however, if the fellow thinks that his approach should be the norm for everyone. Then we, um, need to talk. It's one thing to accept and accommodate a disability; another to celebrate or enthrone it. I cannot help it if he doesn't know why most humans think that there is something beyond this life, and I refuse to be ruled by his limitations/prejudices as if he had some kind of right to impose them.

Literary editor of The New Republic Leon Wieseltier found little time for Dennett’s recent excursion into village atheism:

In his own opinion, Dennett is a hero. He is in the business of emancipation, and he reveres himself for it. "By asking for an accounting of the pros and cons of religion, I risk getting poked in the nose or worse," he declares, "and yet I persist." Giordano Bruno, with tenure at Tufts! He wonders whether religious people "will have the intellectual honesty and courage to read this book through." If you disagree with what Dennett says, it is because you fear what he says. Any opposition to his scientistic deflation of religion he triumphantly dismisses as "protectionism." But people who share Dennett's view of the world he calls "brights." Brights are not only intellectually better, they are also ethically better. Did you know that "brights have the lowest divorce rate in the United States, and born-again Christians the highest"? Dennett's own "sacred values" are "democracy, justice, life, love and truth." This rigs things nicely. If you refuse his "impeccably hardheaded and rational ontology," then your sacred values must be tyranny, injustice, death, hatred and falsehood. Dennett is the sort of rationalist who gives reason a bad name; and in a new era of American obscurantism, this is not helpful.

But then neither has Adam Kirsch in the New York Sun:

One of the blurbs on the back cover of "Breaking the Spell" proclaims that Daniel Dennett approaches the subject of religion in the same way a Martian would. Whether you find this grounds for praise is a good test of whether you will enjoy Mr. Dennett's earnest, impassioned, but finally confused book.*

Well, I'm from Canada, not Mars, so it figures I don't have much time for that stuff either. I wonder how Dennett's book is doing on Amazon.mars? Maybe the Martians have the time for rants against religion.

* You have to subscribe to read most of this one.
If you like this blog, check out my award-winning book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Crick, Francis, The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul (New York: Simon and Schuster Touchstone, 1995).
Are you looking for one of the following stories?

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

The Pope using the term "intelligent design" to describe the Catholic view of origins, go here.

Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams attacked by Darwinist, hits back. Will he now cartoon on the subject?

"Academic Freedom Watch : Here's the real, ugly story behind the claim that 'intelligent design isn't science'?".

Roseville, California, lawyer Larry Caldwell is suing over the use of tax money by Darwin lobby groups to promote religious views that accept Darwinian evolution (as opposed to ones that don’t). I’m pegging this one as the next big story. See also the ruling on tax funds. Note the line that the “free speech” people take.
How to freak out your bio prof? What happened when a student bypassed the usual route of getting frogs drunk and dropping them down the chancellor’s robes, and tried questioning Darwinism instead.

Christoph, Cardinal Schonbon is not backing down from his contention that Darwinism is incompatible with Catholic faith, and Pope Benedict XVI probably thinks that’s just fine. Major US media have been trying to reach rewrite for months, with no success.

Museum tour guides to be trained to "respond" to those who question Darwinism. Read this item for an example of what at least one museum hopes to have them say.

World class chemist dissed at Catholic university because he sympathizes with intelligent design.
Blog policy note:Comments are permitted on this blog, but they are moderated. Fully anonymous posts and URLs posted without comment are rarely accepted. To Mr. Anonymous: I'm not psychic, so if you won't tell me who you are, I can't guess and don't care. To Mr. Nude World (URL): If you can't be bothered telling site visitors why they should go on to your fave site next, why should I post your comment? They're all busy people, like you. To Mr. Rudesby International and Mr. Pottymouth: I also have a tendency to delete comments that are merely offensive. Go be offensive to someone who can smack you a good one upside the head. That may provide you with a needed incentive to stop and think about what you are trying to accomplish. To Mr. Righteous but Wrong: I don't publish comments that contain known or probable factual errors. There's already enough widely repeated misinformation out there, and if you don't have the time to do your homework, I don't either. To those who write to announce that at death I will either 1) disintegrate into nothingness or 2) go to Hell by a fast post, please pester someone else. I am a Catholic in communion with the Church and haven't the time for either village atheism or aimless Jesus-hollering.

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