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Monday, October 23, 2006

Someone finally said it: "Dawkins's hysterical scientism"

Marilynne Robinson, author of Gilead, which won both the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and 2005 National Book Critics Circle award, says what needs to be said, and no more, about Oxford Professor of the Public Understanding of Science Richard Dawkins' inane crusade against religion And she says it brilliantly in "Hysterical scientism: The ecstasy of Richard Dawkins". Reviewing his recent The God Delusion for November's Harper's, she notes that "There is a pervasive exclusion of historical memory in Dawkins's view of science,"observing that, while it is true that Jews were persecuted in Christian Europe, ,
... it is also true that science in the twentieth century revived and absolutized persecution by giving it a fresh rationale - Jewishness was not religious or cultural but genetic. Therefore no appeal could be made against the brute fact of a Jewish grandparent.
She notes,
Dawkins deals with all this in one sentence. Hitler did his evil "in the name of ... an insane and unscientific eugenics theory." But eugenics is science as surely as totemism is religion. That either is in error is beside the point.
concluding that
bad science is still science in more or less the same sense that bad religion is still religion.

The fact that Harper's (hardly a bastion of the Religious Right) publishes such a skewering (and it is not the only non-theocon rag to do so), is another one for the files on why the intelligent design controversy grows. Dawkins is a declared and focused enemy of ID as well as religion, but his anti-ID and anti-religious antics are worth almost as much as Michael Behe's or Philip Yancey's next book.

(Note: I can't find this November 2006 edition linked yet. I bought a paper copy in Minneapolis. The link will get you to the site, which will presumably update to November's cover stories shortly.)

Oh, and Terry Eagleton offers in London Review of Books:
Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don’t believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince.

If I were Microsoft billionaire Charles Simonyi (an atheist who funded Dawkins' chair at Oxford), I would try to get Dawkins to retire, in favor of a mild-mannered science prof who holds down a pew at the local tabernacle and is firmly convinced that we sin when we look for evidence of God's work in the universe. To be truly faithful, we must ignore evidence in favour of blind faith. Such a scientist would do far more than Dawkins to limit the growth of ID, because he makes it a positive sin among religious believers to wonder whether the heavens really do declare the glory of the Lord.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

My U of Toronto talk on why there is an intelligent design controversy.

A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism

A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove’s critique of Darwinism.

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

O’Leary’s comments on Francis Beckwith, a Dembski associate, being granted tenure at Baylor after a long struggle - even after helping in a small way to destroy the Baylor Bears' ancient glory - in the opinion of a hyper sportswriter.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
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