Mellow Dawkins challenges New Age

The Enemies of Reason (UK Channel 4) is Dawkins’ measured attack on post-enlightenment relativism, in its New Age “spirituality” variants. He sees it as a failure of education that we are increasingly coming to treat personal feelings as superior to reason. Views that would have been dismissed as ignorant tales for the credulous a hundred years ago are socially widespread now.

Dawkins’ arguments are pretty unassailable. He presents them in a gentle way, the more remarkable because a few of his targets are engaged in the most dangerous forms of woo – spiritualists offering false comfort to the grief-stricken; alternative medical practitioners who can just provide gestures to the sick.

All the same, most of the people Dawkins talks to are polite and happy to engage in discussion and even experiment, which makes a pleasant change from the polarised debates that normally characterise this sort of debate.

Dawkins points out the ironies that triumphs of science and reason, such as the Internet, are being put to the service of irrationality – with bizarre conspiracy theories and fundamentalism being spread through the Net much more easily than they would have before it came into existence.

Answering those people who claim that logic is cold and empties the universe of meaning, Dawkins makes the point that the real universe is infinitely fascinating. His enthusiasm for the real world makes most of the ersatz magic workers

This is the strange thing about woo. It starts from a position that the real world is dull. This perspective is very hard to grasp and certainly must be a failure of our education system. The real universe is miraculous. It is always stranger than we can ever grasp. Surely, the effort of using our feeble human consciousness to understand ourselves and the nature of the universe provides enough meaning for our whole species.

8 thoughts on “Mellow Dawkins challenges New Age

  1. As someone who’s lost his wife (through divorce, after her affair with a homeopath) and his Mother-in-Law (through death, after the same homeopath “treated” her) I’d say all these ideas – very few new agers believe just one – are dangerous. Please consider these stories for further proof:

    Thank you for your time,

    Louis Dixon
    San Francisco

  2. John P. – doubt we’ll get it, but keep your eye on Google Video. The good thing about Google is that it has video longer than 10 minutes so you don’t have to view it in several parts. That’s how I watched “The Root of All Evil”.

    The universe is orders more interesting when viewed through natural lens
    Than by seeing it through kaleidoscopes of fable and religion devised by men.

    Thank you. That will mark the beginning and end of my poetic career. Stand down Lord Tennyson.

  3. It seems to me pointless arguing logically against the irrational people who believe in superstitions. religions and such nonsense. After all, when has an irrational person ever been susceptible to rational argument?

  4. mike, my feeling is that rationality (like nearly everything) is on a continuum. There is not a RATIONAL position and an IRRATIONAL position. Not too much is black and white in the world, and being rational makes us more aware of this fact.

    That being the case, can we move irrationality toward rationality? The answer is clear. Just ask 100 rationalist thinkers if they were swayed away from a more supernatural view at some point in their lives. Most will say yes. Logic is one weapon. It’s not the only.

  5. Just to add – what is true and frustrating is that you will almost never see the actual results of your efforts. Unless your effort is on someone you are close to, who you are in contact with over many years. For all the others, you are just adding (hopefully) another piece to their puzzle.

  6. Louis
    Sorry, I didn’t spot your comment in the moderation pile until today. Thanks for the comment and the links.
    I looked at the shamblog site. I would agree that peoplewho are already going through an irrational phase & trying to fill an inner void in their lives with any meaning whatsoever are the precise targets of the people who spread this sort of thing. I think that many will return to their senses though.

    Mike and John B. I agree with what you have both said. Yes, it’s madness to try and talk reason to people who are locked against it, but not telling the truth isn’t really a better option. And as John says, some of it gets through. Plus, there are people who haven’t really thought about things but might just be spurred to start.

Comments are closed.