Richard Dawkins is a British evolutionary biologist from Oxford and popular science writer, who because of his advocacy of natural selection and Darwin, has necessarily become a critic of organized religion and the reality of God, as earlier indicated. We must be around the same age, for he obtained his first college degree in zoology in 1962 when I gained mine for chemical engineering. He went on to a PhD and a DSci. He was referred to by Charles Simonyi (who endowed the chair Dawkins holds at Oxford) as Darwin’s rottweiler, and is more popularly now known as the nearest thing to a professional atheist since Bertrand Russell. Dawkins is vitriolic in his comments on creationism and intelligent design, and hates religious dogma. Well, we have very similar views.
In the midst of writing this chapter I chanced to ask him how he could be so brave as to risk an Islamic fatwa or bullet from a crazed assassin, for he has an in your face style and tells it like he sees it, in a nice sort of way. His immediate response was that these potential threats just were not that important, and he doesn’t let it bother him. Unfortunately, as I kept gently pressing him on this point, and wondered if he knew if Sam Harris (The End of Faith, a truly scathing treatment of Islam) had any problems, he seemed to begin to become concerned, and somewhat muttered so. If he did, I should feel sorry for this. He did indicate that he knew of no fatwa on Harris, and that he has never had a life-threatening incident, or anything even remotely close. He had no bodyguard on our campus.
What this discussion did, however, was strengthen my resolve to not be so wishy washy and Pollyannaish about the future of religion. I strongly considered changing the Golden Evolution to the Golden Termination, but did not, for while the ultimate conclusion of the Golden Evolution could well be a termination, one simple solution could well blend the positives into an almost utopian answer for humanity.
Dawkins began to doubt at about the age of nine, same as me. He, though, was reconverted, but, at sixteen, learned of evolution, which began to lead him astray of religion, again. I have a sense that Darwin being British had at least a small amount of influence on his beliefs, for, in his lecture at the University of Hawaii in 2007, Dawkins showed a PowerPoint slide of the English 10 pound note with the face of guess who, when he commented that the American bills featured “In God We Trust.”
My Bible of Atheism is, no doubt, The God Delusion. In sequence, I provide a sampling of his thoughts:
o While 95% of Americans would vote for a woman as President, and 92% for a black person, only 49% would consider an atheist (pg. 4).
o Albert Einstein is quoted to have said, “I do not believe in God” (pg. 15).
o The Templeton prize usually goes to a scientist who is prepared to say something nice about religion (pg. 19). Winners have included Charles Townes, John Polkinghorne (2002), Freeman Dyson (2000), Paul Davies (1995), Charles Colson (1993, who served for President Nixon, and also served time in a federal prison for Watergate-related crimes), Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1983), Billy Graham (1982) and Mother Theresa (1973, the year the award was first bestowed).
o “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynist, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” (pg. 31).
o Why is the U.S., a secular government, the most religious Christian country, while the U.K., with an established church, among the least (pg. 40)?
o Thomas Jefferson said, “Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man,” and Benjamin Franklin remarked, “lighthouses are more useful than churches” (pg. 43). Abraham Lincoln also said, “The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession…
o The four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) made the current Bible more or less arbitrarily, from at least a dozen, including James, Thomas, Peter, Nicodemus, Philip, Bartholomew and Mary Magdalene (pg. 95).
o Regarding the 72 virgins to Muslim martyrs, the term “virgins” is a mistranslation of a type of white raisin (pg. 96). This simple mistake has probably been the cause of countless tragedies, including 9/11.
o Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, is a theist, but a rarity among top scientists (pg. 98).
o Only 3.3% of Royal Society members agree with the statement that a personal god exists (pg. 102, relative to the 5% of biological National Academy of Sciences members).
o The higher one’s intelligence or education level, the less one is likely to be religious (pg. 103, and that intelligence parameter might well explain the low belief rate of National Academy members).
o We do not need God in order to be good – or evil (pg. 226).
I had written most of this chapter before reading his books or meeting him, and had already included some of the above examples, so I deleted my statements and gave him the honor of citation. If there is any book I can recommend on religion, that would be The God Delusion.
The Dow Jones Industrials sunk 225 to 10,927, while world markets mostly dropped, with the Japan Nikkei now at 11,057. Gold decreased $12/toz to $1172 and crude oil lost more than 4.5% to $82/barrel.