Domain, Nothing

Okay good Bunglawala thinks Muslims should avoid going the “intelligent design” route lest they end up throwing off “their burqas as soon as they set foot on a plane to go overseas” and wrongly blaming Islam rather than the ill-informed interpretation of the Qur’an by some Muslims. Whatever. Of course interpretation of the Qur’an whether informed or ill-informed is beside the point, since the Qur’an isn’t a book about biology or even evolution – but whatever. But I do take issue with this (all too predictable, all too familiar) bit:

Dawkins’ work was forcefully argued and took no prisoners from the creationist camp; however, I did find his militant atheism quite off-putting…Gould on the other hand…gently chided those scientists who made similarly unsupported atheistic claims about what evolution had to say regarding questions of meaning and purpose – questions that have traditionally been the domain of religion.

Yeah, he did, and boy do I wish he hadn’t. Because he was wrong.

It’s not true that questions of meaning and purpose have traditionally been the domain of religion; religion has had much bigger fish to fry for most of its history. But more to the point, questions of meaning and purpose are not and have never been “the domain of religion” in the sense of being a monopoly of religion’s, which is what that claim looks like. Religion does not (whatever it might like to think) get to put up “Keep Out” signs on questions of meaning and purpose. Anybody can address those questions, anybody at all, and that emphatically includes atheists. In fact, of course, atheists are better people to turn to for such discussions, since their versions of purpose and meaning don’t rely on belief in a fictitious being who watches the sparrow and makes babies and animals suffer torments of pain because it’s good for them. I am getting very tired of these grandiose claims by religionists to expertise on questions of meaning and purpose when in fact what they have to say is not merely useless, it’s often monstrous.

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