Two cents on Richard Dawkins' recent tweets.
- Mr. Dawkins speaks of belief upon evidence, yet, when the onus of providing on evidence fell on him, he failed to do so.
- Dawkins’ justification of his failure to give proof for his sweeping statement is intrinsically flawed; as it could be applied to science, just as well. One can have an opinion on science without having been a student of mathematics, physics, chemistry or biology. Yet, can Dawkins deny that an informed opinion is more likely to be without holes than an uninformed one?
In a recent interview with Mehdi Hasan on Al-Jazeera, Richard Dawkins makes his stance clear: “I care about what’s true, I’m an educator, I’m a scientist and I want people to understand the truth about the universe in which they live. That’s what I care about.” As a scientist, the word “truth” is an ambiguous one, as truth is relative. As a scientist, isn’t it Dawkins’ responsibility to be primarily concerned with facts and measurable evidence? Even in the case of facts, it is Dawkins’ responsibility to inform the world of all the good that has come of religion, as well as the bad. Mr. Dawkins evidently however, has only one side of the deal covered.
Dawkins repeatedly emphasizes the need to provide evidence, and claims that religion cannot prove the existence of a God. Yet, in the Al-Jazeera interview, he implies that the way your wife looks at [her husband] can be interpreted as evidence of her love for him. That leaves the proof of existence of love between the two to be a matter of interpretation, and it can be argued that it is this kind of interpretation that allows religious or believing persons to have faith in their ideologies or religion. Dawkins even argued that religion is so awful, that it is worse to tell a child about hell than for him or her to be abused by a priest.
A pothole that Dawkins, even as an educated, celebrated scientist, could not avoid was one of logic: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. No one may be able to prove the existence of a God but science cannot disprove the existence of one, either.
Dawkins’ mistake, in my humble opinion, is his reluctance to accept there may be more than one answer to any given question. To assume anybody to be a lesser being for holding views different than yours, religious or not, esteemed scientist or not, is beneath any person with even a shred of basic human dignity and integrity.
“Until 9/11, Islam didn’t figure in the New Atheists’ attacks in a prominent way. As a phenomenon with its roots in Europe, atheism has traditionally been the archenemy of Christianity, though Jews and Judaism have also slipped into the mix. But emboldened by their newfound fervor in the wake of the terrorist attacks, the New Atheists joined a growing chorus of Muslim-haters, mixing their abhorrence of religion in general with a specific distaste for Islam (In 2009, Hitchens published a book called “God Is Not Great,” a direct smack at Muslims who commonly recite the Arabic refrain Allah Akbar, meaning “God is great”). Conversations about the practical impossibility of God’s existence and the science-based irrationality of an afterlife slid seamlessly into xenophobia over Muslim immigration or the practice of veiling. The New Atheists became the new Islamophobes, their invectives against Muslims resembling the rowdy, uneducated ramblings of backwoods racists rather than appraisals based on intellect, rationality and reason. “Islam, more than any other religion human beings have devised, has all the makings of a thoroughgoing cult of death,” writes Harris, whose nonprofit foundation Project Reason ironically aims to “erode the influence of bigotry in our world.”—
Flirtation is an understatement.
Dawkins, in a recent rant on Twitter, admitted that he had not ever read the Quran, but was sufficiently expert in the topic to denounce Islam as the main culprit of all the world’s evil: “Haven’t read Koran so couldn’t quote chapter and verse like I can for Bible. But [I] often say Islam [is the] greatest force for evil today.” How’s that for a scientific dose of proof that God does not exist?
A few days later, on March 25, there was this: “Of course you can have an opinion about Islam without having read the Qur’an. You don’t have to read “Mein Kampf” to have an opinion about Nazism.”
It’s an extraordinary feat for an Oxford scholar to admit that he hasn’t done the research to substantiate his belief, but what’s more extraordinary is that he continues to believe the unsupported claim. That backwards equation — insisting on a conclusion before even launching an initial investigation — defines the New Atheists’ approach to Islam. It’s a pompousness that only someone who believes they have proven, scientifically, the nonexistence of God can possess.
“People sometimes say that you must believe in feelings deep inside, otherwise you’d never be confident of things like ‘My wife loves me’. But this is a bad argument. There can be plenty of evidence that somebody loves you. All through the day when you are with somebody who loves you, you see and hear lots of little tidbits of evidence, and they all add up. It isn’t purely inside feeling, like the feeling that priests call revelation. There are outside things to back up the inside feeling: looks in the eye, tender notes in the voice, little favors and kindnesses; this is all real evidence.”—Richard Dawkins on evidence in science, life and love – a wonderful letter to his daughter upon her 10th birthday.
“Inside feelings are valuable in science too, but only for giving you ideas that you later test by looking for evidence. A scientist can have a ‘hunch’ about an idea that just ‘feels’ right. In itself, this is not a good reason for believing something. But it can be a good reason for spending some time doing a particular experiment, or looking in a particular way for evidence. Scientists use inside feelings all the time to get ideas. But they are not worth anything until they are supported by evidence.”—
Richard Dawkins on evidence in science, life and love: A must-read letter to his 10-year-old daughter
(via Brain Pickings)