The Christmas spirit, God and global warming
Watching last Monday’s (21 December) ABC “Elders” programme was like experiencing a mongoose and a cobra shape up. The celebrity-atheist Richard Dawkins was quietly circled by celebrity-atheist Andrew Denton — and the footwork and the slithering was an extraordinary thing to behold.
Wouldn’t you just know that in the week of Christmas, Aunty TV would air a program in which the guest, Dawkins, would open from his Book of Revelations with the most authoritative statement; “There is no well demonstrated reason to believe in God and I think the idea of a divine creator belittles the elegant reality of the universe.”
It was a sort of … “I am, therefore He’s not!” sort of moment.
Denton then went on to say that “Richard Dawkins is the essence of scientific reason.” But to this humble viewer, Dawkins seemed to lack both science and reason and appeared to be decidedly uncomfortable discussing, God, atheism, and the whole blessed thing. He also seemed to lack that essence; joy!
Why was this so? Put simply, Richard Dawkins has never actually made a case for his own “article of faith” that a Supreme Being doesn’t exist, other than repeating the same old argument of all atheists — a view Dawkins is entitled to hold— that he doesn’t enjoy a “faith” and that there is no evidence-positive of the existence of a Supreme Being.
But the slip Dawkins made, and upon which Denton was to keen to strike, was his use of the word “believe”, which Dawkins expressed in his opening statement. The bout went like this:
ANDREW DENTON: When do you think a belief is important?
RICHARD DAWKINS: Belief in what?
ANDREW DENTON: Belief in whatever it is an individual believes in, belief as a driving force.
RICHARD DAWKINS: Well, belief I suppose is a strong conviction that something is the case based upon evidence. It better be based on evidence or it doesn’t deserve the title of belief, I think.
ANDREW DENTON: Is evidence always necessary? Do we need to understand why a piece of music, for example, moves us to accept that it does?
RICHARD DAWKINS: You don’t need to understand why it does but it clearly does. I mean you actually do feel moved by it, you actually feel moved to tears by music and that to me is evidence for belief that I’m moved by music. I don’t have to understand what’s actually going on in the nervous system in order for that to happen.
Of course the same argument could be used to defend religious faith. Or say, a faith in global warming, an almost-religious-faith, that the atheist Richard Dawkins strongly believes in. Strangely, global warming science seems to be an “article of faith” not needing, nor tolerating, the sort of scientific rigour he demands of the world’s religions to justify their beliefs.
During the interview Dawkins went on to say:
It is a puzzle to me why children virtually all accept that they’ve been mislead, actually lied to, by their parents about Father Christmas and about the Tooth Fairy. And yet it doesn’t tumble to them that maybe the same applies to God. I do wonder sometimes whether magical fiction — where you have spells and princes turning into frogs and things like that — whether that actually might have a pernicious effect upon the child mind.
The wonderment of the above statement is how a person that Andrew Denton claims to be “the essence of scientific reason” imagines a world based on his constricted “beliefs”.
A world devoid of the magical moments of childhood. He would banish the world of fable and legend, the world of magical wizards and knights and ghosts and demons. Biblical stories that set the moral and ethical stands of western civilisation — and its nasty moments in between. If Richard Dawkins sees a problem in Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy, how on earth does he cope with Harry Potter, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, The Wind in the Willows or Pinocchio.
In the place of a frogs turning into a princes, Dawkins told Denton; “I mean we’ve got dinosaurs, we’ve got the Universe, we’ve got the whole world of nature.” So watch out kids — the world of Richard Dawkins is about to get you. Charles Darwin failed to kill off religion and there is every reason to believe that Richard Dawkins will suffer the same fate.
The killer strike during the Denton/Dawkins interview was landed by Andrew Denton when he asked: “I do have a final question, having read some of your work, having looked an a lot of your work, I’m curious, what star sign are you." As Dawkins stormed off in a huff, a Shakespearian quote came to mind.
There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.