Sunday, January 30, 2011

Why Dawkins?

A lot of people have asked why I focus on Richard Dawkins so often in such a critical way.

To begin my explanation, I'd like to aver that I consider Dawkins one of the principal scientific and philosophic thinkers of the twentieth century.  I am convinced that his work prior to nineteen-ninety will help form the bedrock for many generations of thinkers when it comes to the sciences of evolution and psychology and linguistics.

Dawkins' 1976 book "The Selfish Gene" was the presentation of his life's work to that point.  In it, he offered the main focus of  his research which revolutionized the way we thought about the mechanics and means of evolution.

As if that sort of work wasn't important enough, Dawkins offers a side observation in the same book that thought (broken down into units he calls "memes) spreads from human mind to human mind very much like a virus.

Both elements of the book proved a paradigm shift in both science and philosophy.  While the biological world busied themselves digesting his ideas about evolution, the philosophical and linguistic and psychological worlds were just as excited about memes.

Between Dawkins' Memes and Jacques Derrida's ideas on post modernity, the human race now  had potent new tools to understand itself.

It was in  his discussion of memes that Dawkins planted the seed for what became the second half of his life's work.  He used his concept of memes to explain how religion came about and why religion was so persistent.

Although it didn't seem like a big deal at the time, this idea must have made a tremendous impression on Dawkins because he would go on to spend the next 30 years in an increasing battle against religious thought, to the point where he is considered by many, the world's spokesperson on atheism.

While most of his peers were content to leave the war between science and religion to the nineteenth century,  Dawkins launched a renewed crusade against the forces of faith.

It was at this point, I began to noticed Dawkins becoming the very thing he fought against.  He wasn't advocating science anymore, he was proselytizing atheism, and using many of the same tools and methods missionaries used to spread religion.

If you define religion as a closely held way of thinking and a way of being to spread and strengthened using the meme, then atheism was becoming a religion.  It was no longer a unique way of thiking.  It was becoming simply another seat at the table of world's religions, and Dawkins was its Paul.

I have no issue with atheism itself.  It's a valid way of seeing the world.  When atheism becomes another church though, then that's another matter, and if Dawkins now wishes to act as the principal evangelist for this atheism religion, then he's going to come into my criticism from time to time.

1 comment:

  1. Prof. Richard Dawkins's lack of professional ethics has become so flagrant that it merits your complete attention. For those of you who like to eat dessert before soup, my conclusion at the end of this letter is going to be that I am not a robot. I am a thinking, feeling, human being. As such, I get teary-eyed whenever I see Richard create an ideological climate that will enable him to declare a national emergency, round up everyone who disagrees with him, and put them in concentration camps. It makes me want to make his mudslinging, dimwitted antics understood, resisted, and made the object of deserved contempt by young and old alike, which is why I'm so eager to tell you that if we don't remove the Richard Dawkins threat now, it will bite us in our backside quicker than you can double-check the spelling of "syncategorematically".

    There isn't a man, woman, or child alive today who thinks that Richard's personal attacks are not worth getting outraged about, so let's toss out that ridiculous argument of Richard's from the get-go. No matter how close he's come to making me suffer the pain of his wrath, he won't be satisfied until he finds a way to work both sides of the political fence. Richard wants to get me thrown in jail. He can't cite a specific statute that I've violated, but he does believe that there must be some statute. This tells me that I enjoy the great diversity of humankind, in our food, our dress, our music, our literature, and our forms of spiritual expression. What I don't enjoy are Richard's peremptory inclinations, which promote a culture of dependency and failure. I will never give up. I will never stop trying. And I will use every avenue possible to criticize Richard's metanarratives publicly for their formalistic categories, their spurious claims of neutrality, and their blindness to the abuse of private power.

    It may not be within the scope of this letter to encourage people to take vengeance on Richard as being the fomenter of what is a universal plague throughout the civilized world, but I would like to mention that I once managed to get Richard to agree that he looks down with a really limitless condescension on anyone who has not been dragged through the obligatory schools and had the necessary knowledge pumped into him. Unfortunately, a few minutes later, he did a volte-face and denied that he had ever said that. He had promised us liberty, equality, and fraternity. Instead, Richard gave us prætorianism, McCarthyism, and cannibalism. I suppose we should have seen that coming, especially since I have begged Richard's faithfuls to step forth and show Richard how he is as wrong as wrong can be. To date, not a single soul has agreed to help in this fashion. Are they worried about how Richard might retaliate? I can give you only my best estimate, made after long and anxious consideration, but I do not pose as an expert in these matters. I can say only that if we begin the invigorating, rejuvenating process of penetrating the sunny façade of Richard's ideals with the sharpened stick of reality then the sea of Dadaism, on which Richard so heavily relies, will begin to dry up. Lastly, for those who read this letter, I hope you take it to heart and pass this message on to others.

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