(found from Nullfidian’s excellent blog)
I was reading the write up on the various Times Online sites of the “Intelligence Squared” event which tool place recently. Basically this was a debate on the motion “We’d be better off without religion.” On the side For the motion were Richard Dawkins, AC Grayling and Christopher Hitchens. On the side Against the motion were Julia Neuberger, Roger Scruton and Nigel Spivey.
Ruth Gledhill, the Times’ Religion reporter, has written an interesting summary of the proceedings titled “Articles of Faith.” Gledhill describes herself as someone who is sure God exists, yet there is not much in the way of a pro-theist bias in the reporting. All in all, it struck me as a reasonable post (not least because she says the “For” argument was better than the “Against” one 🙂 ).
Towards the end of the piece it gets a bit strange though. When talking about the dangers of creationism, she writes:
Well I’d be upset if my son became a creationist but there is no chance of that, not in the Church of England at least.
Which, while reasonable, is a risky proposition to take. Creationism / ID is a fundamental part of the monotheistic doctrines, so while [insert religion] may not overtly push it, it is there below the surface. I would love to see a Christian doctrine which does not assert the universe was created by God, and that man was not made in his image. Although I may be biased, I find it hard to see how some can reconcile this belief with anything else.
Next she comes to something I find very strange, yet it seems used all the time by “reasonable” people when they want to defend their faith:
[Dawkins] problem is that he takes religion too literally, and as many have pointed out, is too fundamentalist about his own atheistic creed.
Wow. All over the net, on TV, the radio and in papers people try to defend religion, and deflect criticism, by saying the critic is taking religion “too literally.” Personally I am at a loss for any other way to do it. Either God exists or he doesn’t. I assume Christians (and Jews/Muslims) believe God exists – is that taking religion too literally?
Religion is built around doctrine and “rules” which are claimed to be the word of God. If the faithful get to pick and choose which ones they follow, doesn’t that make a mockery of that which is already comical? If the best defence for “religion” is that it is something which gives people the chance to get together with each other and has some vague good ideas (don’t want to take the doctrine literally, do we?) then it strikes me it really is an idea which has passed its sell by date.
If religion is not meant to be taken seriously, what is it?
On a different note, as always, the comments in response to a post like this produce much more entertainment. Gledhill is too good, too reasonable, a writer to really froth properly – unlike those who comment … 🙂
Some examples include:
I agree with Richard Dawkins, we WOULD be better off without religion.
But Jesus… without Him, we are all – literally – lost! (David Smith)
Not sure if that was supposed to be a joke or what.
This kind of format suits both Dawkins and Grayling if they speak in the same way that they write. They like to write controversial bluster which they don’t need to provide references for or explain further. (Phil Craig)
I assume that was a joke. Both write books which are filled with references, unlike the religious apologists or more relevantly the holy books themselves. When the Bible claims that “In the beginning…” where is the reference to back this up? Interesting when Phil Craig is challenged about his comments, David Smith responds:
‘To suggest that [Dawkins] offers ‘controversial bluster’ with no explanation is to ignore the fact that the whole of his writing offer rational arguments and link to scientific study and theory.’
1.’It is absolutely safe to say that, if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane, or wicked… ‘
2. ‘I believe, but I cannot prove, that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all ‘design’ anywherein the universe is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection (i.e. evolution).’
Still, at least Dawkins is consistent with Darwin himself.
Having made an exhaustive study of Darwin’s ‘Origin of the Species’, which set the evolution ball running, American engineer Henry Morris wrote: ‘One can search the whole book in vain for any real scientific evidences for evolution – evidences that have been empirically verified and have stood the test of time. No proof is given anywhere – no examples are cited of new species known to have been produced by natural selection, no transitional forms are shown, no evolutionary mechanisms are documented… One can only marvel that such a book could have had so profound an influence on the subsequent history of human life and thought.’
Which broadly shows a lack of understanding (two references out of context – sounds like Uncommon Descent to me..) about both Dawkins’ work and the actual mechanics of the theory of evolution (and how science works). For some reason, UD may be to blame, anti-evolutionists seem to think that the whole current theory was written by Darwin in Origin. Madness. I suppose this is what comes of being tied to a book which is not supposed to ever change…
There are more, but I could end up spending all month writing about them so I will stop now. Have a look, see what you think and if there are any more howlers please let me know.