Thursday, November 16, 2006

More on Dawkins' God

Terry Eagleton's trashing of Richard Dawkins in the London Review of Books is not in the same league as Marilynne Robinson's in Harper's. Eagleton is an oddity, a wild man of the left with some intensely conservative views and a sporadically brilliant thinker who seldom succeeds in being persuasive or convincing. But, crucially, he knows his theology, which is why it is worth reading this review alongside Robinson's. Robinson, a believer, goes out of her way to attack Dawkins in a straightforward, rational way, picking up on his inaccuracies and taking apart his logic. Eagleton, a Catholic turned Marxist, has no hesitation in attacking Dawkins theologically. This inversion of expectations is strange, though rhetorically effective. Eagleton and Robinson share a distaste for any shallow attempt to pretend that religion is not a serious matter. And this, I suspect, means they share something else - a loathing of the depraved humanist orthodoxy that passes for deep thought these days.


  1. "Man has constantly violated nature. The result is a civilisation built on force, fear, dependence. All our technical progress has only provided us with a comfort, a sort of standard. And instruments of violence to keep power. We use the microscope like a cudgel. As soon as we make a scientific breakthrough we put it to use in the service if evil. And as for our standard, a wise man said that sin is that which is unnecessary. If that is so, then our entire civilisation is built on sin from beginning to end. We have acquired a dreadful disharmony, an imbalance between our material and our spiritual development."
    Andrei Tarkovsky- The Sacrifice

  2. I have just read M. Robinson's essay and it is brilliant. I know her fiction, which contains some of the most beautiful writing I've ever seen -- astonishing metaphors involving water and light -- and insights about human nature, but I had no idea she could also mount such a formidable argument. She is cogent, lucid, and has her statements backed up with clear and compelling evidence. Those who say ("Tow" somebody) that her essay was drivel have got to be speaking from a pre-conceived belief (or lack of belief) because it does not reflect what she has on the page.

    Also, I wonder if anyone else stopped, as I did, when she mentioned Thomas Wentworth Higginson? She noted that he was the 19th-century minister who said when religions are compared, compare the best elements to the best elements and the worst to the worst. I would certainly listen to the Reverend because I know for a fact he has good taste: He was the guy who discovered and mentored poet Emily Dickinson -- one of the few who could see just how brilliant she was in her own day.

  3. Every sin is the result of collaboration

    Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.
    ...Aldous Huxley.

  4. ...a loathing of the depraved humanist orthodoxy that passes for deep thought these days...

    Wonderfully put. Precisely my point.

  5. Nice piece of irony there Bryan: recommending a review of a Dawkins book you haven't read, which immediately castigates Dawkins for passing judgement without having read the relevant literature! Proves once again that irony is more than just getting the creases out your trousers.

  6. As ever, Gordon, you have me and I would apologise to the Dawk but I have just been introduced to his new web site -,ourMission
    This man is more dangerous that even I realised.

  7. Yeah, the 'Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science' made me laugh as well. Matched only by Nick Bostrom's 'Future of Humanity Institute' in Oxford(that's Nick Bostrom of the 'World Transhumanist Association').

    I really must set-up some sort of cult of my own sometime.

  8. Re: Dawkins and Bostrom. Is there a smoking gun here? By which I mean: has Dawkins ever come close to saying a kind word for Transhumanism?

    The only linkage I know of is tenuous at best. (Dawkins' pal Dennett has a pal named Hofstadter who spoke along with Bostrom at the Singularity get-together at Stanford last summer. Like hmmmm.)