...in which your correspondent veers off course, incensed by inadequate arguments in Richard Dawkins' futile documentary.
Brit readers might have just finished watching episode two of Dawkins' The Genius Of Charles Darwin. Such a promising programme, much as my agnostic mind detests Dawkins and his misfiring attacks on religion as a whole. Such a disappointment, in the end - he doesn't tackle any of the things you hope he might [or even, in the end, talk a great deal about Darwin]. He just uses Darwin's theory to state the obvious - not even covering the whole of it - and it's so unsatisfying.
Tempting as it is in this context, I won't launch into my own opinion on evolution, religion's place in society etc - suffice to say as someone pitched between agnosticism and atheism, I think its existence - as a construct in the human mind and society - is wholly logical and simply badly used. I'll save the full lecture for the day I get to sit down in a room with Dawkins and tell him I think he's a reasonably clever idiot.
But I find it so frustrating the way he totally misses the point. He preaches the basics of evolution to a viewing audience who, if they've settled down to watch the show, likely already agree with him and know the theory of evolution. The show might have been better if it involved a panel discussion between intelligent people of varying - moderate & otherwise - opinions. We might then have learned something.
He begins conversations with people of opposing beliefs with deliberately inflammatory, rhetorical questions [asking a creationist bishop in Africa "Are you an ape?" - of course the guy's not going to say "Yes, Richard, yes I am - how kind of you to notice", is he??] designed to start an argument before expanding into a lecture. [The fella, to his credit, clarifies his argument peaceably, and then has to listen as Dawkins lectures him on the basic mechanics of evolution.] It's not a dialogue - he picks out people he believes less factually or intellectually equipped to argue with him [e.g. the bishop, who appears to have been unaware of the finer points of man's relation to other primates], and bashes them about the head with his version of the world.
He launches into his ideas about altruism, and terminates his argument at the conclusion that it is exists solely to make creatures sexually attractive and to enable friendly relations among familial groups, and remains in humans as a throwback to this, much like the sexual instinct existing alongside contraception. I wish he had considered the idea that maybe as our brains developed and we think about the future of our species, the altruistic instinct remains as a sensible mechanism [the better part of human nature vs the fear/mistrust/destruction instinct?] to promote harmony [and therefore longevity] to our species and the world we live in.
I'd like to take him by the shoulders and shake him.
Monday, 11 August 2008
Posted by Charponnaise at 21:02