Science and Religion
If you want to hear some thoroughly silly reactions to Dawkins on God, listen to the latest Saturday Review.
First you get a bit of soundtrack, of the cheery perky dense evangelical telling Dawkins what’s what.
Ted Haggart: ‘We fully embrace the scientific method, as American evangelicals – and we think, as time goes along, as we discover more and more facts, that we’ll learn more and more about how God created the heavens and the earth – ‘
Dawkins points out that the evidence shows the earth to be 4.5 billion years old, Haggart says (perkily, cheerily), ‘You know what you’re doing?’ and explains that he’s paying attention to just part of the scientific community, and that maybe in a hundred years ‘your grandchildren will laugh at you.’
‘You want to bet?’ Dawkins asks, sharpish.
‘Sometimes it’s hard for a human being to study the ear or study the eye and think that happened by accident.’
‘I beg your pardon, did you say “by accident”?’
‘What do you mean “by accident”?
‘That the eye just formed itself somehow.’
‘Who says it did?’
‘Well, some evolutionists say it.’
‘Not a single one that I’ve ever met.’
[Sarcastically wondering]: ‘Really?!’
[More wondering]: ‘Ohh.’
‘You obviously know nothing about evolution.’
‘Or maybe you haven’t met the people I have.’ [laughs] ‘But you see – you do understand – you do understand that this issue right here, of intellectual arrogance, is the reason why, people like you, have a difficult problem with people of faith – ‘
See what I mean? He has a considerable nerve, this Haggart guy, telling Dawkins that he, Dawkins, is arrogant, when he’s just been lecturing him on a subject of which he does obviously know nothing. ‘That the eye just formed itself somehow.’ He has no clue what he’s talking about, but that doesn’t stop him from insisting on his ridiculous point. Isn’t that a tad arrogant?!
Then after the listen, all three guests rant and fume and gibber. George Walden talks about ‘jackboots stamping on the few Christians who are left’ and ‘stamping on the faces of Jews and Catholics’. Then Fay Weldon gets worked up: ‘He had an emotion, which is that science and religion are fundamentally opposed, and he cannot come to terms with the fact that they may not be.’ Walden complains, ‘He doesn’t deal with faith, he deals with religion – and faith is a big serious thing.’ Tom Sutcliffe – he was the only sensible one there – pointed out, ‘His specific point in the first programme is that faith is the problem – the belief in things without as it were physical or substantial evidence is the central problem.’ Then Weldon, outraged, says, ‘Well it’s outrageous, what is he going to put in its place, science?’ ‘Yes!’ says Sutcliffe, slightly exasperated. Weldon is flummoxed. ‘He’s going to look at the stars and say – ‘ [stupid baffled laugh] ‘I mean how is he going to explain them away?’ Then Paul Farley quotes William Burroughs, ‘No job too dirty for a scientist.’ In short it was quite a display of hostility to science and reason on the part of right-on intellectuals. But it does seem (to me anyway!) to bear out the claim that criticism of religion inspires a special intensity of outrage, even among non-believers. And even in the UK.