Richard Dawkins and the Cancer of Creationism

A Christian’s critic’s critic writes:
For the most part, Richard Dawkin’s “The Greatest Show on Earth” is a beautifully written and well argued piece of work. In it he puts forward many convincing data and explanations which demonstrate categorically that the world is about 4.6 billion years old and that all species on earth can trace their origins back to the dawn of life itself. That is, the creationist view of the earth having existed for less than 10,000 years is dogma of the worst kind; deliberate ignorance and denial of fact to satisfy one’s own, in this case, religious agenda.
Admittedly, Dawkin’s well-documented arrogance surfaces regularly; here, for example, in the form of intellectual snobbery:
“…….reminds me of Peter Medawar’s wickedly astute observation that ‘the spread of secondary and latterly of tertiary educated has created a large population of people, often with well-developed literary and scholarly tastes, who have been educated far beyond their capacity to undertake analytical thought’. Isn’t that priceless? It’s the kind of writing that makes me want to rush out into the street to share with somebody – anybody – because it’s too good to keep to oneself”.
Presumably any sharing would not be with one of those at which the viciously snobbish (and false for that matter) gibe is directed, since a punch on the nose might take the gloss off his delight at the writing. Atheists should note that Dawkin’s literary hero makes no distinction between religious and non-religious “dullards” – the atheist acolytes of the good professor who love to snigger knowingly at his barbs and witticisms, get precisely the same treatment as the non-atheists; a sort of intellectual wrinkling of the nose, as if something smells not quite so. Dawkins and his ilk bemoaning the paucity of human intellect among the masses, somewhat bizarrely, brings Tolkien to mind:
“But they were shut out, listening at a door to words not meant for them: ill-mannered children or stupid servants overhearing the elusive discourse of their elders…… “
In another, equally risible passage, Dawkins denies that a fundamental difference exists between the animate and the inanimate:
“Life, the animate, was supposed to have some sort of vibrant, throbbing quality, some vital essence – made to sound yet more mysterious when dropped into French: elan vital……. I’ve always treasured Julian Huxley’s sarcastic deduction that railway trains must be propelled by elan locomotif”.
Why precisely? To take his example, trains are inanimate and only operate under an animate, driver’s control, without whose direction they will never move. So call it what you will, but clearly life, the animate, does possess something that the non-living, inanimate does not.
An even more brazen example of Dawkins’ hubris occurred when questioned by Stephen Hawking (the greatest scientist of the 20th century, barring possibly Einstein himself) in a recent Channel 4 documentary. Hawking poses the eminently reasonable question “One can’t help asking, why are you so obsessed with God?” And Dawkins initial response? “Well, I notice you brought up the question of God and I didn’t”. Rich indeed, from a man who has been banging on negatively about God and religion ad nauseam for so long.
From his writing and pronouncements it is clear that there exists a simple concept apparently beyond Dawkins’ comprehension; that is, for many people their faith (or their “great cop out”, as Dawkins would maintain – one of his more eye-popping claims, according to Francis Collins in “The Language of God”) doesn’t lead them to think any less of the brilliance of Richard Feynman or Albert Einstein or Charles Darwin – why would it? And why would Dawkins assume it did? He is guilty of the very charge he brings against religious adherents (that their religion doesn’t give them the right or freedom to think for themselves) when he assumes that their faith will affect adversely their ability to think logically and analytically.
For all Dawkins’ undesirable personal traits, however, “The Greatest Show on Earth” is a fascinating work and a superb rejection of the creationist movement; a movement so prevalent in the United States and worryingly gaining credence as an alternative to evolution by natural selection here in the UK.
It is not clear where the creationist problem emanates from and why its credibility is rising in this country. Doubtless, a number of factors are involved which all contribute: religious fashion probably plays a part (where the US leads, so the UK follows); the teaching of Scripture as a literal document rather than allegory (Christ speaks in parables throughout the whole of his Ministry, so why insist the Old Testament is a precise historical account?); and sheer, bloody-minded dogma (I have had the misfortune to hear a creationist’s sermon in my church – the preacher spoke of the “lie of evolution” as the source of most of society’s problems).
Of course ignorance is also culpable – because if one is prepared to read and inquire and think and discuss, then the only conclusion a sane individual can reach is that the earth is indeed billions of years old and evolution by natural selection has generated the plethora of life that exists today. It makes complete sense of the diversity of living organisms, the geologic record, embryo development and many other areas of applied science with unrivalled explanatory power. Any other conclusions are just so much hogwash. But in these dog days of lawyers and invertebrate politicians, how can the cancer of creationism be excised, especially from schools where the potential exists for most damage to be done by false teaching?
When religion should be concentrating on social justice, charitable works and all the good it can do, creationism is another juicy own goal, arming the high priests of atheism with further ammunition to mock and deride and turn people off – and once again the victim is religion itself.

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