Richard Dawkins has no sense of irony. He rails endlessly against
fundamentalists yet he defends old-fashioned, Thomas Gradgrind-style materialism as zealously as the Mid-West Creationists defend the literal truth of Genesis.
Really? Does he, really?
Colin Tudge says he does, but I don’t believe it. That’s because I don’t believe Dawkins is as crude as Gradgrind or as ignorant as fundamentalists. I think Tudge is exaggerating.
He accuses others of misrepresentation yet he seriously misrepresents religion.
Also, which is irony writ large, he misrepresents science, in whose name he is
assumed to speak. He condemns the Catholics for filling the heads of children
with a particular view of life before they have had a chance to think for
themselves – and now, in The Magic of Reality, written for readers as young as
nine, he has done precisely that. As somebody said of Miss Jean Brodie, it’s
time he was put a stop to.
Does he? Is it “a particular view of life” he objects to? Is it not the dogmatic aspect of the view of life that is the problem?
Thus he tells us that “reality is everything that exists” – and “exists”, he makes clear, means whatever we can see or stub our toes on, albeit with the aid of telescopes and seismographs. Everything else – including things we might think exist, like jealousy and love – derive from that material base and are to a large extent illusory. This, he implies, is what emerges from science, and science is true.
Really? He tells us that jealousy and love are to a large extent illusory, meaning, they don’t “exist”? I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know, but I’m skeptical.
Many philosophers have, like Baruch Spinoza, argued that consciousness is not
just the noise that brains make but part of the fabric of the universe. We do
not generate consciousness in our heads: we partake of what is all around us,
just as our eyes partake of light.
Yes, and the hills are alive with the sound of music.
The other clichés turn up too – Dawkins is an unreformed logical positivist, materialist philosophers like Dan Dennett and AC Grayling, zeal for eugenics, religions do not depend upon their myths, any theologian could have put him right on this, Newton and Descartes were devout, to explore the wonders of the world through science was to glorify God, Dawkins’s ultra-materialist view of life is crude by comparison.