Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Richard Dawkins: What A Jerk

Even if one is inclined to agree with Richard Dawkins – and I suppose I am - his latest book “The God Delusion,” basically an attack on organized religion disguised slightly as a defense of atheism, is a big mess. Definitely one of the most poorly organized, and worst argued, polemical books I’ve come across in a long time, especially from someone so otherwise smart.

And maybe that’s the problem. Dawkins’ writing is rife with such hubris, such ego, that his little bits of humor get lost. Worse, he’s so impatient to make his related but ultimately inchoate points that he frequently detours to ad hominem distraction and easy jabs. For example, in discussing the documented atheism of Hitler and Stalin and its dubious relationship to their evil acts, Dawkins really has to do better than write that Hitler was relatively benign compared to the likes of Caligula or Genghis Khan. Only a person that would have likely escaped Hitler’s purges or Stalin’s pogroms would note such a thing, let alone assert its relevancy. Dawkins has an easy argument to make. Why go out of your way to screw it up?

Similarly, Dawkins’ thorough documentation of the contradictions and outright inanities of the Bible are pretty meaningless given his utter antipathy for those who take it at its word. Yeah, they’re stupid. But there are lots of stupid people in the world. Assailing them for being stupid is like dynamiting fish in a lake: sure, you’ll take out a bunch of them at once, but who wants to eat the charred remains that float to the surface?

In the end the book is lazy and disappointing from a guy who knows better. Or maybe he doesn’t know better. I’ve noticed before a correlation between Dawkins’ own fundamental beliefs and those of the religious people he disdains. And no, Dawkins, just because you don’t threaten anyone with violence doesn’t somehow put you above the people who do. On a rhetorical level you’re just as bad, an intellectual bully so convinced of your beliefs you think those with whom you disagree insult the world simply by existing. That’s a dangerous road to walk. No wonder you complain all the time that as an atheist you often walk it alone. Jeepers. What a jerk.


Blogger Mike said...

Read Sam Harris' "The End of Faith" -- it is better then Dawkins while making basically the exact same points. And, if you want good Dawkins, check out "Ancestors Tale" -- it is like night and day compared with "God Delusion" probably because it is focused on science with the religion as a small sidebar.

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Josh- did you even read the book?

11:44 AM  
Anonymous ME said...

I agree! What a jerk...

7:03 PM  

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