Ophelia deals with a review of Dawkins’ new book, The Magic of Reality. The reviewer makes a common accusation that atheists everywhere have heard a thousand times before: if we believe that the universe is nothing but matter and energy, then what about love? Usually about this time they acquire a triumphant tone of voice — they have backed us into a corner in which we have to confess to be soulless automatons, or we must recognize that there must be something more, something…spiritual. It’s these wacky woo-peddlers, though, who are shoehorning the universe into a tidy black and white box where either love is unreal and doesn’t actually exist, or love is real and therefore, God exists! Presto!
So this reviewer paints a stark picture of Dawkins denying love.
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.
Ophelia is rightly skeptical, and doubts that Dawkins actually denies the existence of love, but she doesn’t have a copy of the book yet — it’s not going to be released in America for a couple of weeks yet.
But, aha, I get to have a McLuhan moment. I have a copy! Richard Dawkins’ publisher sent it to me, and it arrived just this afternoon, so I can pull it out right here on the spot.
Unfortunately, I haven’t read it all myself. Like I said, it just arrived today, and I’ve been bogged down in grant writing all day. And then, when I took some time over lunch to savor it, I got distracted — man, this is a gorgeous book. I just leafed through it, savoring the illustrations and dipping now and then into the text. It’s really lovely and going through it is an esthetic experience (oh, are atheists allowed to have those? I think so.)
But fortunately, the reviewer didn’t dig very deeply either. The source of his accusation is in the very first chapter, on page 19, and it’s all so well laid out it was rather easy to almost intuitively flip to the right page and find where Dawkins called love and jealousy “illusory”. Oh, wait…he didn’t.
Does this mean reality only contains things that can be detected, directly or indirectly, by our senses and by the methods of science? What about things like jealousy and joy? Are these not also real?
→ Yes, they are real ←. But they depend for their existence on brains: human brains, certainly, and probably the brains of other advanced animal species, such as chimpanzees, dogs, and whales, too.
OK, I put the emphasis in there myself, because obviously religious apologists need all the help they can get. A simple four word declarative sentence isn’t plain enough for them, I guess. I also added the bright red arrows. I’m afraid they’d miss it otherwise. Propriety forbade me from using the blink tag. Should I have put in a 72pt font?
It’s amazing, though. The reviewer practically quotes Dawkins on love and jealousy, and then suggests an interpretation that is directly contradicted by a short plain English sentence in the next paragraph.