Peter Higgs, the physicist, has spoken out against Richard Dawkins’ views.
“What Dawkins does too often is to concentrate his attack on fundamentalists. But there are many believers who are just not fundamentalists,” Higgs said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. “Fundamentalism is another problem. I mean, Dawkins in a way is almost a fundamentalist himself, of another kind.”
You know, whenever I see people babbling ignorantly like this, I have this urge to strap them down Clockwork Orange style and force them to watch an hour of James Dobson or Tony Perkins or Ken Ham or Bryan Fischer, and then ask them, “Do you still think Dawkins is a fundamentalist?” The only way you can make this ridiculous comparison is by cultivating a near-total ignorance of what fundamentalists are actually like. But then I have to confess that forcing someone to correct their folly and putting them to the question is exactly what a fundamentalist would do, so I can’t. (I notice in the article that Dawkins simply refused to respond to Higgs.)
He agreed with some of Dawkins’ thoughts on the unfortunate consequences that have resulted from religious belief, but he was unhappy with the evolutionary biologist’s approach to dealing with believers and said he agreed with those who found Dawkins’ approach “embarrassing”.
Higgs is an atheist. He agrees with Dawkins that religion has lead to some ugly outcomes. But speaking out about them? Actually saying out loud in public that religion is wrong, faith is a delusion, and that there is no god? Oh dearie me, how embarrassing. Not the thing a proper gentleman would do at all.
And that’s really the problem. Society has so thoroughly beaten the default assumption of respect for religious lies into our heads that even many atheists are made deeply uncomfortable at the prospect of openly rejecting faith-based nonsense. But criticizing fellow atheists? That’s easy. That’s thoroughly sanctioned by culture. You can freely make stupid accusations against atheists without suffering the pushback you’d get if you made honest statements of fact about priests.
What I learned from this interview is mainly that Peter Higgs is an intellectual coward who retreats from his convictions in the face of potential social disapproval, and will cheerfully join in the mob in kicking a fellow atheist. He should be…embarrassed.