God Strikes Back
Dawkins outlines that for him the scientific explanation of life, for example evolution, made him reject supernatural explanations. This led to him being an atheist and never looking back. Further that a life without religion does not lack a positive outlook on life. The end of the programme has Richard talking to Dan Dennett who describes humans as the nervous system that developed for the earth. Through the decoding of DNA we have proof of how we are interlinked on the tree of life on earth. We get to find out how things are in the world around us, new discoveries and to make a contribution to our society.
While that does not get me waking up singing “Oh what a beautiful morning” it is a response to the supposed vacuum in your life. However, how do you answer people who keep saying that there is no fossils that suggest a link of intermediaries between species (there is) or that there are gaps in evolutionary theory (and other misconceptions) and will say this over and over when you point out the evidence. Enough to perhaps make you stay in bed.
Dawkins shows his way to deal with this is with a sense of humour. He reads out some of the hate mail he gets sent by those professing faith. The writers make use of profane, insulting and threatening language. Dawkins smiles while reading them out, at one point drawing much needed breath reading out a sentence that avoids punctuation.
He talks to a group of science teachers. Earlier he has mentioned about presenting evidence to school children but allowing them to draw their own conclusions. Here though he wonders why the teachers are so unprepared to challenge religious views that contradict science. The teachers suggest that their pupils have their own interpretation of truth via culture and religion. Dawkins rightly mentions there is no alternative truth to how old the world is. The teachers agree but suggest that such views need to be respected, and it is not up to them as science teachers to tackle that. Here is where Dawkins is against the multiculturalism that allows such false views about the world we live in to go unchallenged.
Richard is not wrong about how he is treated at atheist conferences almost like a rock star- not just with high esteem but with genuine affection. There is an appreciation for his books (The God Delusion is not the only book to judge him on as a writer) as well as tackling how people use religion in classrooms and society generally. Also he is not afraid to challenge them in terms of how they campaign and what they decide to make issues.
The Archbishop of Canterbury almost provides an example of verbal hyperbole when answering Dawkin’s question on his belief in the Virgin birth. It seems to rely on not providing a yes or no answer, but suggesting a poetic context to it that makes it true. He has though said that science does not contradict God – he set things in motion and then stayed away from further creation. Such moderate views are not a problem although for Dawkins letting in science and scientific reasoning should lead to challenging the supernatural elements of religious faith.
The “lets teach the controversy” argument for equal time is really a red herring. The controversy exists because people see Darwinism as a threat to their religious belief and that the natural world gives praise to god. Though as Dawkins highlights with nature red in tooth and claw, and the redundancies that species are left with as they develop having to use what they have to build on, natural selection is a theory that explains what is going on – the fact of evolution.
Some more video clips of Dawkins talking about Darwin can be found on this link from the Cheltenham Science Festival.
Episode 2 (with link to Epsiode 1) review here.