Monday, January 23, 2006

Dude, nice memes

I would consider myself an initiated novice as to the work of Richard Dawkins. I've read The Extended Phenotype once, The Blind Watchmaker a couple times, and The Selfish Gene no less than 4 times cover to cover. I have a tremendous admiration for his work as a scientist. I will never forget the first time I read The Selfish Gene; I still feel like I see the world with a new pair of glasses now, it was that life-changing. Still, it is a constant source of wonder to me that a man, so steeped in genius, can be so absolutely and unabashedly narrow-minded concerning the subject of religion, or even the existence of God.

Not only is Dawkins a dogmatic Evolutionist, but, as a natural extension, he is also a full-blown, in your face atheist. Now, as Chesterton pointed out, the problem when people don't believe in God is not that they believe nothing, it is that they believe anything. Dawkins, unfortunately, believes that religion, and Christianity in particular, is "The Root of All Evil." Such is the name of a two-part series he recently co-wrote and hosted on UK Channel 4, and is coincidentally the theme of his next book, The God Delusion.

Those of you familiar with his writings or ideas have probably come across the term "meme," one that he himself coined to mean "a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation." Think of it as the mental equivalent of a gene. Like a gene it is subject to mutation, crossover, and adaptation. Dawkins considers religion a meme, and a bad one at that. The message he wants to get across in the show? That "all religion represents a danger to our society and future."

Poor, poor man.

Although no response is ever adequate for changing a mind so firmly entrenched in its own ignorance, Roger Scruton, one of the great living conservative intellectuals, has formulated a pretty good one, nonetheless, which reaches a glorious climax:

Religions survive and flourish because they are a call to membership — they provide customs, beliefs and rituals that unite the generations in a shared way of life, and implant the seeds of mutual respect. Like every form of social life, they are inflamed at the edges, where they compete for territory with other faiths. To blame religion for the wars conducted in its name, however, is like blaming love for the Trojan war. All human motives, even the most noble, will feed the flames of conflict when subsumed by the ‘territorial imperative’ — this too Darwin teaches us, and Dawkins surely must have noticed it. Take religion away, as the Nazis and the communists did, and you do nothing to suppress the pursuit of Lebensraum. You simply remove the principal source of mercy in the ordinary human heart and so make war pitiless; atheism found its proof at Stalingrad.
The real irony of the situation is that the false dichotomy drawn between faith and reason is a meme in itself - a purely modern one, at that. I guess in the end, when religion and humble science trump/outlive intolerant secularism, Dawkins will still be justified after all, in that the structure of his theory (though not his interpretation of its implications) will still be holding a lot of water. Are you a fan of irony?


At 10:42 AM, January 23, 2006, Blogger angel, jr. said...

Irony is only good in short stories.
One of my favorite professors in udergrad began our biology class by saying that she is a Christian, that she believes in God. She then went on to say that she was going to teach evolution, only because it might be required to understanding some physiological theories. She ended the speech by saying no "bang" created anything. Everything was in fact designed by God and happened according to Him.As a firm believer in God, I have great respect for a scientist that can admit something like that.

At 12:26 PM, January 23, 2006, Blogger mrshife said...

Interesting post as usual Vince. Off the topic, I saw a story on 60 Minutes last night about an Independent candidate trying to be the next governor of Texas. Kinky Friedman, a very unique fellow.

At 1:51 PM, January 23, 2006, Blogger Vince said...

Angel - that is a very correct statement, that no "bang" created anything. Still, it's always possible (and, as the evidence shows, highly probable) that something created a "bang," and here we are 15 billion years later. That's my bet...

Shife - Kinky is unique, indeed. I think I may go so far as to call him "the shit." You can't help but love the bastard. That's rad that he made 60 Minutes.

At 10:35 PM, January 23, 2006, Blogger mrbennettx said...

Interesting post for sure..Here is an example of evolution at it's finest.

"The Impaler" –Gubernatorial Candidate

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Jan. 13, 2006 - "The Impaler" thinks Friday the 13th is the perfect day to launch his run for governor of Minnesota.

Jonathon Sharkey calls himself "The Impaler" and says he's the leader of the "Vampyres, Witches and Pagans Party."

In an e-mail, The Impaler tells the Star Tribune of Minneapolis that he drinks blood, is a satanic priest and worships Lucifer.

Sharkey has his own way of being tough on crime. He says terrorists, rapists and drug dealers should be impaled at the state capitol building.

And The Impaler says unlike other candidates, he's not going to hide his evil side. In Minnesota anyone who pays the 300-dollar filing fee can get on the ballot.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

At 11:52 PM, January 23, 2006, Blogger mrbennettx said...


At 10:05 AM, January 24, 2006, Anonymous bass said...

speaking of governors, guess who visited the desert? Me and Rick, down since day one.

At 10:57 AM, January 24, 2006, Blogger Vince said...

Niiiiiice. It is an election year, Bass.

At 3:34 PM, January 25, 2006, Anonymous Uncle Cody said...

Vince, I'm amazed that you can get so beligerently intoxicated and still produce such highly insightful arguments for/against some of the best questions man has ever produced. You're like a modern day Hemmingway... except that you work for the Man in Houston


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