Thursday, October 18, 2007

The God Delusion #41: Dawkins as an Embarrassment to Other Atheists

Atheist Michael Ruse is quoted in Alister McGrath's The Dawkins Delusion? as saying that Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion "makes me embarrassed to be an atheist, and the McGraths show why."

I feel I can relate, somewhat, to what Ruse is talking about. Of course I am a theist, not an atheist. But I have dialogued some with a local atheist who writes anti-God letters to the editor in our community's newspaper. I have met with this atheist personally. I conclude that, were I an atheist, this man would be an embarrassment to me. He is incoherent and unable to reason things out. In a similar way, it seems that Dawkins's fundamentalist-religious atheism is an offense to some scholarly atheists, such as Michael Ruse.

To quote Ruse from a Q&A on American Scientist's website: 

"Dawkins is an interesting case. If being deeply interested in and committed to these various issues counts as religious—as well as having strong moral feelings (especially about the wickedness of existing religion)—then I would say he is religious. He reminds me a bit of Calvin...

One thing that does worry me is the belief by many Darwinians, especially, that their position implies atheism. If it does, then I think the creationists have a good point—Darwinism is getting close to religion, or at least to implications about religion. In which case, does it not violate the constitutional separation of church and state? My personal response has been to write a book (Can a Darwinian Be a Christian?) arguing that Darwinism does not imply atheism—it does not imply God, either, but that is another matter.

I don't want people like Richard Dawkins to be banned from arguing that Darwinism implies atheism, but I do wish that people like him would bother to learn some Christian theology before they presume to pontificate. Dawkins would be rightly pissed off if someone criticized Darwinism without knowing anything about, say, selfish gene theory."

In a Guardian essay Ruse says: 

"If Darwinism equals atheism then it can't be taught in US schools because of the constitutional separation of church and state. It gives the creationists a legal case. Dawkins and Dennett are handing these people a major tool."

Here is one more Ruse quote from his exchange with atheist Daniel Dennett: 

“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 [Dennett and Dawkins] 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.”

Dawkins is fundamentalistic in his belief that "science" = "atheism." He ridicules scientists who do not strongly disbelieve in God as representing the "Neville Chamberlain" school (referring to "the policy of appeasement that the British prime minister Neveille Chamberlain adopted toward Adof Hitler in 1938, in the hope of avoiding total war in Europe)." (DD, 47)

Dawkins especially singles out and attacks Michael Ruse. McGrath writes, 

"Why? Dawkins's argument is so muddled here that it is difficult to identify the point at issue. Was it that Ruse dared to criticize Dawkins... Or was it that he even more daringly suggested that science and religion might learn from each other - which some fanatics... would regard as an act of treason?" (DD, 47-48)

Dawkins divides the world into two camps - rationalism and superstition. "Poor Michael Ruse. Having attacked one bunch of fundamentalists, he finds himself ostracised by another - declared to be intellectually unclean by his erstwhile colleagues." (DD, 48)