Monday, 11 August 2008

Missing the point



...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.

5 comments:

Sister Wolf said...

He's an idiot. Happy belated birthday!! xo

enc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
enc said...

Too bad he's so narrow-minded. I really wanted to like him, because I was enjoying learning about his theories. There aren't enough people out there challenging g-o-d and religion and creationism, especially in our country, and our schools, and he was sort of the only one really challenging anything, wasn't he? At least in the mainstream press and publishing channels.

In my opinion, there's just not enough separation of church and state in this country, and I had high hopes for Dawkins being the voice of reason, and now I guess we've found he isn't.

Charponnaise said...

Indeed. I consider myself somewhere between agnostic and atheist, but I cannot concede to his way of arguing his cause. I'd like to see him challenge creationism on a more grounded and constructive level, rather than aiming dogmatic, rhetorical questions against people who really are not the enemy here. The man is clearly no fool, but his tactics do him no justice. I find him tedious.

Shini said...

hah good one "he's a reasonably clever idiot." I must agree to the fullest extent.
Although I'm a Christian, I do hear his 'reasons' and think to myself if I was atheist or agnostic that wouldn't have made sense. Being that I'm Christian, it adds a bit more pity.
You are such a fun nerd, if I may say so - in all good faith, I must say I really enjoy reading your blog :D