Now it’s Dawkins’s turn to be called a bully for no real reason.
This time it’s an Australian theologian. His argument reminds me of the claim of “Froborr” last winter that Greta Christina’s aspiration for a world where religion no longer exists is “evil in one of its purest forms,” although Neil Ormerod is much less clumsy about it. It’s to do with purpose and free will and whether it’s possible to consider reason normative for humans while also considering humans “just atoms in motion.” (But does Dawkins consider humans just atoms in motion? It depends what you mean by “just,” but I think it’s fair to say he doesn’t in the sense that seems to imply. If he did he wouldn’t bother, would he.)
He might view what we think of as our free choices as nothing more than the statistical outcome of more basic physical processes, so that some move one way and others another. In which case, people are not moved by reason to change their position, but by complex forces they cannot grasp. The appeal to reason, then, is simply a mask for other forces which shift the probability of people moving in the direction Dawkins wishes them to move in. It really is then nothing more than an alpha male beating his chest in a display of force seeking to intimidate the weaker members of the group into accepting his leadership. Among human beings, this is called bullying.
No I don’t think so. Substitute the word “ultimately” for “just” and then perhaps you can see why. I, for instance, do think that I am “ultimately” atoms in motion, but I keep busy during this period that the atoms make up a sentient animal. That’s because I don’t think I’m “just” atoms in motion.
So which Richard Dawkins should we accept? Is it the one who implicitly believes that human beings have a purpose to their living, and that this purpose is to be guided by reason, who appeals to the innate reasonableness of every human being and the exigency to be led by that reasonableness? Or it is the one who explicitly eschews meaning and purpose in the universe and whose writings the[n] amount to a form of social bullying, because the decisions we make are nothing but reactions to the ebb and flow of physical forces around us?
See what he did there? Adding the words in the universe makes a difference. I don’t think there is any meaning and purpose in the universe, but down here in the layer of life on this planet, I think humans make meaning and purpose. One way to make meaning and purpose is to encourage and train people to use their faculties – gymnastics, music, reason, whatever. Dawkins does that. Calling it bullying is a stretch.