Friday, May 13, 2011

Dawkins on Life

I worked on a post for a while yesterday and today I got to work early to finish it - only to discover that Google Blogger had been down and nothing was posted yesterday! It was gone! Bummer! Joys of technology. In the old days I would have had my handwritten draft on my desk and commenced to rewriting with all its crossouts and dangers of wrist injury and cramped hands. I love word processing but technology does come with its own set of frustrations.

I was blogging about a book I'm reading called Darwin's Pious Idea by Conor Cunningham who is the assistant director of the Centre of Theology and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham, England. He has authored other books and wrote the BBC documentary, Did Darwin Kill God? which aired in 2009. He is a smart guy. This book is deep in science and philosophy and theology yet it is accessible to those who are not quite as deep - like me. In this book he takes on Richard Dawkins who wrote The God Delusion and is on a one man mission to make God irrelevant (which he believes He is already anyway - he believes religion is an illusion and the Church is the result of a virus in the human mind). He calls Dawkins and his cohort David Dennett ultra Darwinists who have not only got Darwin wrong but have badly muddled their forays into philosophy and theology as well.

In my lost blog I was quoting Dawkins to reference his beliefs regarding human nature that develop from his firm conviction that there is no god. I have not read The God Delusion but Dawkin's thinking process is quite amazing. Because there is no god, Dawkins substitutes the human gene as the primary cause of human growth and behavior. Actually it was the gene that came up with the idea of you. Our bodies, our lives, are merely vehicles to transport genes which have a life of their own to perpetuate. He wrote about this in his book, The Selfish Gene. So, what is at the "heart" of human behavior is not a heart or a spark of life but information technology (from The Blind Watchmaker). Though this might sound strange it has caught on in the popular imagination so that we readily speak about "how we are wired" to explain why we do the things we do. That is pure Dawkins. In fact, it explains everything, especially sex. For Dawkins men are made to sow their seed. Dawkins says: " a male can never get enough copulations with as many females as possible, the word excess has no meaning for a male." (from The Selfish Gene). So, the casual, recreational sex portrayed in so many movies is "just normal" behavior. It should be noted that Dawkins is not the only proponent of this point of view. It is standard evolutionary psychology doctrine. It is how we are wired and we are wired to perpetuate the species. First and foremost, British biologist Ben Greenstein says, "man is a fertiliser of woman." Interesting take on life and relationships. Keep these guys away from our daughters. Must be a fun group to hang with at the local pub.

And this is life for the Darwinian crowd. Here is Dawkins take on life before Darwin. Dawkins says: Intelligent life on this planet came of age when it first worked out the reason for it's own existence. If superior creatures from space ever visit Earth, their first question will be - in order to assess the level of our civilisation - Have they discovered evolution yet? Dawkins is amazed, as he says, that humans lived on earth for three billion years before the truth finally dawned on one of them. Of course, that one was Charles Darwin. Our savior. Darwin, Dawkins says, was the first human who put together a coherent and tenable account of why we exist. (from The Selfish Gene). Is this guy serious? With that one statement he disposes of Moses, Jesus, St Paul, St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Karl Barth, and so on and on. Who were they, chopped liver? I guess so. George Simpson in an issue of Science in 1966 wrote this stunning sentence when discussing the most important question that can be asked, What is Man? - Simpson said: " the point I want to make now is that all attempts to answer that question before 1859 are worthless and that we will be better off if we ignore them completely." Yikes, doesn't it scare the daylights out of you that these guys are running around out there and being mistaken for signs of intelligent human life! Sadly they are and their form of intelligence does have an impact on the rest of us. If this post gets posted - more from Cunningham's book on Darwin's children, sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. Or pick up the book yourself and make it your summer reading project!