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Showing posts with label Professor Richard Dawkins. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Professor Richard Dawkins. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Could Britain's Most Famous Atheist Be on the Way to Belief?

Belief in the theory of evolution is no reason for atheism as Dawkins supposes: Darwin himself insisted that he had never been an atheist

Richard Dawkins: 'I would describe myself as a secular Christian' (AP)
Richard Dawkins: 'I would describe myself as a secular Christian' (AP)

On Easter Monday, the Telegraph published a Letter to the Editor from around 50 leading atheists, predictably including such names as Philip Pullman, Peter Tatchell, Polly Toynbee, Anthony Grayling, Evan Harris, and on and on: from my own point of view, a list of many of my least favourite bien pensant Lefties.

It began as follows: “Sir – We respect the Prime Minister’s right to his religious beliefs and the fact that they necessarily affect his own life as a politician. However, we object to his characterisation of Britain as a ‘Christian country’ and the negative consequences for politics and society that this engenders…. Britain is not a ‘Christian country’. Repeated surveys, polls and studies show that most of us as individuals are not Christian in our beliefs or our religious identities.”

One name, however, among those listed beneath this absurd farrago was conspicuous by its absence: that of the most famous atheist of them all: Richard Dawkins. How come?

Read more at the Catholic Herald  >>

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Christian Formation Is The Very Opposite Of Indoctrination

Richard Dawkins’s latest outburst reveal a lack of understanding about religion

From the Catholic Herald (UK)
By Francis Phillips
Dawkins: not keen on religion

Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist and the enfant terrible of religion, is at it again. According to a report in the Daily Telegraph for Monday 22 April, in a speech at the Chipping Norton Literary festival last weekend he told his listeners that he was “passionately against” the teaching of religion as fact. “I’m not against the teaching of religion” he stated; apparently what he dislikes intensely is “the indoctrination of religion”. The good professor thinks that “What a child should be taught is that religion exists; that some people believe this and some people believe that. What a child should never be taught is that you are a Catholic or Muslim child, therefore this is what you believe. That’s child abuse.”

He went on to say that “there is a distinction between fact and fiction”, agreeing that “there is value in teaching children about religion. You cannot really appreciate a lot of literature without knowing about religion. But we must not indoctrinate our children.”

I understand that Dawkins is a very good scientist. Scientists deal in facts as he likes to put it; they might start with a hypothesis which they then test, making experiments that lead to certain conclusions; these can be charted, measured, examined and the results laid out. Religious truths aren’t like that; you don’t “measure” the activity of prayer or its results – though you can witness how religious belief can change a person’s life for the better. It provides an inner light, or conscience (not to be demonstrated in a test tube) that informs moral decisions and behaviour. In other words, the inward life of faith and the actions that flow from it are simply of a different order from the intellectual processes involved in the study of science. They are not “fictions” merely because they don’t pass the laws of scientific scrutiny.

It has been said that Margaret Thatcher’s early training in chemistry gave her a love of facts. This might be true; but as Damian Thompson’s blog post on her Christian faith argues, her actions were also influenced by the Methodism of her childhood: for her, faith meant you should act in a certain way; Christian charity had to be seen in action, in acts of kindness towards others. Thatcher had to attend the Grantham Methodist chapel three times on a Sunday; she also accompanied her father during his lay-preaching activities. Certainly, in the Roberts household you could not have been a freethinker.

Dawkins would see all this as “indoctrination.” I would rather see it, not unlike in some ways the Catholic childhood I experienced, with its regular Mass-going, Benediction and the celebration of liturgical feasts, as parents wanting to impart to their child’s imagination and understanding the consciousness of a wise and loving creator personified in the Gospels by the life of Jesus. As you grow older, you either incorporate these realities and the doctrines that flow from them into your adult intelligence and understanding – or you are free to reject them.

“Indoctrination”, as Dawkins should know (if he were not so exercised by his antagonism towards religion and the publicity he receives whenever he pronounces on the subject) is not the same as forming a child’s mind and heart towards spiritual truths that will, one hopes, help to make him a better, more loving and self-sacrificial person; it is to brainwash him with a particular political ideology such as is evident in North Korea today or which was practised in Russia under the Soviet system. Indeed, indoctrination is the antithesis of Christian formation; it leads the mind, not to wonder, mystery, beauty or love, but to rigidity, mindless control, propaganda and slogans of hatred towards one’s enemies.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Melanie Phillips to Richard Dawkins: "Oh Do Put a Sock In It, You Atheist Scrooge"

By Melanie Phillips

You really would need to have a heart harder than the five-pence piece in the Christmas pud not to feel sorry at present for Professor Richard Dawkins. 

Christmas must be such a terrible trial for the planet’s most celebrated — and angriest — atheist. All that cheerfulness and pleasure associated with Christianity’s main celebration seems to drive him simply nuts.

Indeed, just a few days ago he lunged into yet another wild denunciation of religious faith. This time, the Chief Inquisitor of Unbelief declared that raising a child as a Catholic was worse than subjecting it to sexual abuse.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cardinal George Pell and Celebrity Atheist Richard Dawkins Debate on Australian Television


Dawkins and Pell battle it out in one hell of a debate

From The Sydney Morning Herald
By Leesha McKenny

It was a match-up made in Q&A heaven: two pugilists of opposing convictions going head-to-head in a debate about the existence of God.

Australia's highest-ranking Catholic and Sydney's archbishop, Cardinal George Pell, spent an hour with evolutionary biologist and celebrity atheist, Professor Richard Dawkins taking questions covering everything from evolution, resurrection and eternal damnation.

Frustration and something bordering on barely concealed mutual disdain boiled over more than once during the ABC television show.

Q&A show featuring Cardinal George Pell and Richard Dawkins.
Clashing ideologies … Tony Jones, centre, plays the referee to Richard Dawkins, left, and Cardinal George Pell on Q&A last night. Photo: ABC TV

Charles Darwin was claimed as a theist by the cardinal, because Darwin ''couldn't believe that the immense cosmos and all the beautiful things in the world came about either by chance or out of necessity'' - a claim disputed by Professor Dawkins as ''just not true''.

Cardinal Pell won applause when he shot back: ''It's on page 92 of his autobiography. Go and have a look.''

The clergyman remained unmoved on gay marriage and climate change, but he said evolution was ''probably'' right, and that atheists could ''certainly'' get into heaven. Professor Dawkins declared he was ''trying to be charitable'' by suggesting there was no way Cardinal Pell meant the body would literally be resurrected.

The clergyman's view that people would return after death in some kind of physical form earlier had been dismissed by Professor Dawkins. ''The brain is going to rot, that's all there is to it,'' he said.

Cardinal Pell said: ''Mr Dawkins, I don't say things I don't mean.

''I believe it because I believe the man who told us that was also the son of God. He said, 'This is my body, this is my blood'. And I'd much prefer to listen to Him and take his word than yours.''

On the Q&A vote, 76 per cent of the audience decided religion did not make the world a better place.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dawkins Calls for Mockery of Catholics at 'Reason Rally'

From CNA
Richard Dawkins speaks during the National Atheist Organization's 'Reason Rally' March 24, 2012 on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Credit: Allison Shelley/Getty Images News/Getty Images
At the March 24 “Reason Rally” in Washington, D.C., an estimated 20,000 atheists and agnostics heard author and activist Richard Dawkins encourage mockery of Catholic beliefs and those of other religions.

“Don't fall for the convention that we're all 'too polite' to talk about religion,” Dawkins said, before urging rally attendees to ridicule Catholics' faith in the Eucharist.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Richard Dawkins believes that Christianity is an intellectual vacancy. That's probably because he has never visited the astonishing Thomas Aquinas College, says Marc Sidwell.
"I look up now, past a rounded tree which quivers with bird-life, and I see a few of the students. Once again, it's a kind of shock to gaze upon them."
It is unfashionable to acknowledge that good ideas come from America. Thirty years ago Christopher Derrick discovered Thomas Aquinas College in Southern California, and could not conceal his wonder. Here was a community of learning unlike anything left in Europe. He shared his delight in Escape from Scepticism: Liberal Education as if Truth Mattered. Stumbling on his account last year while researching a new history of liberal education, I, too, was exhilarated. The decades have changed nothing; this college is as important as ever.

Thomas Aquinas College is a Great Books school. Its students engage directly with the profound thinkers that define Western civilisation: St. Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Euclid, Plato and Shakespeare, to name only a few. Classes employ the Socratic method of dialogue. The curriculum is stretching, yet not impossibly demanding. Most important of all, the college is centered on the faculty's profession of Catholic faith. Beginning in wonder, the course aims at wisdom.

"What struck me first was the extreme happiness of the students," wrote Derrick. That still appears to hold true. The discovery of intellectual power in the context of an intellectually rigorous faith looks far more enjoyable than the usual campus free-for-all. For what Thomas Aquinas College rejects is the easy relativism that Pope Benedict XVI has so roundly denounced. Assured of the existence of truth, the mind is freed to engage with the great conversation of the Western mind.

Thomas Aquinas College is a modern exemplar of a great tradition. Liberal education stretches back to the birth of our civlisation-a golden thread of intellectual freedom. It begins in 5th century Athens, as the education due to a free man. Faith and reason intertwined in the Catholic Church, carrying our civilisation forward after the fall of Rome. Now men spoke of universal freedom and therefore a universal education. Preserved in the Benedictine orders, transmitted by schoolmaster-priests, it was the Christian liberal educators who kept the life of the mind alive through centuries of uncertainty and civil strife.

It is extraordinary that the vital educational role of the Church is now so underappreciated. Only last year, suspicion of Catholic schools was common in the Press even as a survey demonstrated their above-average standards and their excellent work towards producing well-rounded future citizens.

Such excellence should come as no surprise. St. Thomas Aquinas, the doctor angelicus, is proof of the high value Catholicism has always placed upon reasoned enquiry into creation. Yet the sceptics like Richard Dawkins continue to sneer at Christianity as an intellectual vacancy. They misquote Tertullian as "I believe because it is absurd" and do not know St. Anselm of Canterbury's Credo ut intelligam. ("I believe in order to understand").

Recently, this teaching has been reaffirmed. Pope John Paul II published Fides et Ratio in 1998, which opens with a ringing endorsement: "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth."

Only last year His Holiness Benedict XVI used his Regensburg address to say that "the encounter between the biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance."

Even while Rome speaks, the ideal of a liberal education is almost lost from British discourse. Thirty years after Christopher Derrick's epiphany in Santa Paula, it seems little has changed at home. Instead, the exchange runs the other way. Two British students and one Irish citizen are currently enjoying the Californian sun, not the first to accept the 6000-mile journey as the price of an education no longer available at home.

Today, Thomas Aquinas College is more confident than ever. For 30 years, its graduates have gone out into the world and proven their ability to excel in all fields. One American alumnus runs a network of pre-schools in London. When Christopher Derrick visited, only six years after its founding, there were 33 students. Today, there are ten times as many, and a growing waiting list. For the last three years, the college has been in the top 10 conservative colleges in America.

"The human mind is ordered to truth," says college president, Dr. Thomas E. Dillon, who was a member of the teaching faculty at the time of Derrick's original visit. He notes the Vatican's recent emphasis on this teaching and adds: "If anything, the mission and character of Thomas Aquinas College is more relevant now than it was in 1977."

A liberal education is not exclusively a Catholic prerogative. Protestant and secular schools all do fine work in this great tradition-again, now largely in America. Yet it remains true that the Catholic Church has played the greatest role, and is most likely to be in the vanguard of any revival. To me, an Anglican, it seems tragic that Britain, once the last bulwark of liberal education, should choose to neglect its heritage.

Perhaps foolishly, I find myself inspired by the great unbuilt British college, the College of Light. In 1641 Jan Comenius was invited to London by the Long Parliament to establish the Collegium Lucis: the last moment when scientific thought and Christian faith might have united in a modern British institution. Civil war intervened, and the Royal Society was established instead, without Comenius's (admittedly heterodox) faith.

America, they say, is always a few decades ahead. That makes it high time for Britain to catch up with the principles of Thomas Aquinas College. Meanwhile, the Californians join Pope Benedict in his prayer on the recent feast of St. Thomas Aquinas: "Let us pray that Christians, especially those who work in an academic and cultural context, are able to express the reasonableness of their faith and witness to it in a dialogue inspired by love."

Marc Sidwell is a Research Fellow of the New Culture Forum and a freelance author. He writes articles on liberal education for the Social Affairs Unit and is currently editing a liberal education reader from Plato to the present day.

(This article first appeared in the May 2007 issue of The Catholic Herald of London.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Arrogance, Dogma and Why Science - Not Faith - Is the New Enemy of Reason

By Melanie Phillips, In the Daily Mail

Our most celebrated atheist, the biologist Professor Richard Dawkins, has briefly turned his attention away from bashing people who believe in God. Instead, he is about to bash people who subscribe to ‘new age’ therapies which he says are based on ‘irrational superstition’.

In a TV programme to be shown later this month, Dawkins looks at a range of ludicrous therapies and gurus, including faith healers, psychic mediums, ‘angel therapists’, ‘aura photographers’, astrologers and others. Not surprisingly, he is horrified by such widespread irrationality, not to mention an exploitative industry that fleeces people while encouraging them to run away from reality.

He is right to be alarmed. What previously belonged to the province of the quack and the charlatan has become mainstream. The NHS provides funding for shamans, while the NHS Directory for Alternative and Complementary Medicine promotes ‘dowsers’, ‘flower therapists’ and ‘crystal healers’.

Indeed, such therapies aren’t the half of it. Millions of us are now eager to believe that the world is controlled by conspiracies of covert forces, for which there is not one shred of evidence because such theories are simply bonkers.

Thus press articles and TV documentaries seriously advance the belief that the 9/11 attacks on America were orchestrated by the U.S. government itself. Similarly, thousands believe that Princess Diana was murdered at the hands of a conspiracy composed of the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and MI5.

Bestselling books by the former TV sports presenter David Icke, who has announced he is ‘the son of God’, argue that Britain will be devastated by tidal waves and earthquakes, and that the world is ruled by a secret group called the ‘Global Elite’ or ‘Illuminati’ which was responsible for the Holocaust, the Oklahoma city bombing and 9/11.

These trends are not just nutty but sinister. Thousands of cults now combine similar crazy beliefs with programmes to control people’s minds and behaviour. Their techniques include food and sleep deprivation; trance induction through hypnosis or prolonged rhythmical chanting; and ‘love bombing’, where cult members are bombarded with conditional love which is removed whenever there is a deviation from the dictates of the leader.

Disturbing indeed. But where Dawkins goes wrong is to assume this is all as irrational as believing in God. The truth is that it is the collapse of religious faith that has prompted the rise of such irrationality.

We are living in a scientific, largely postreligious age in which faith is presented as unscientific superstition. Yet paradoxically, we have replaced such faith by belief in demonstrable nonsense. It was GK Chesterton who famously quipped that ‘when people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything.’ So it has proved. But how did it happen?

The big mistake is to see religion and reason as polar opposites. They are not. In fact, reason is intrinsic to the Judeo-Christian tradition.

The Bible provides a picture of a rational Creator and an orderly universe — which, accordingly, provided the template for the exercise of reason and the development of science.

Dawkins pours particular scorn on the Biblical miracles which don’t correspond to scientific reality. But religious believers have different ways of regarding those events, with many seeing them as either metaphors or as natural occurrences which were invested with a greater significance.

The heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition is the belief in the concept of truth, which gives rise to reason. But our postreligious age has proclaimed that there is no such thing as objective truth, only what is ‘true for me’.

That is because our society won’t put up with anything which gets in the way of ‘what I want’. How we feel about things has become all-important. So reason has been knocked off its perch by emotion, and thinking has been replaced by feelings.

This has meant our society can no longer distinguish between truth and lies by using evidence and logic. And this collapse of objective truth has, in turn, come to undermine science itself which is playing a role for which it is not fitted.

When science first developed in the West, it thought of itself merely as a tool to explore the natural world. It did not pour scorn upon religion; indeed, scientists were overwhelmingly religious believers (as many still are).

In modern times, however, science has given rise to ’scientism’, the belief that science can answer all the questions of human existence. This is not so. Science cannot explain the origin of the universe. Yet it now presumes to do so and as a result it has descended into irrationality.
The most conspicuous example of this is provided by Dawkins himself, who breaks the rules of scientific evidence by seeking to claim that Darwin’s theory of evolution — which sought to explain how complex organisms evolved through random natural selection — also accounts for the origin of life itself.

There is no evidence for this whatever and no logic to it. After all, if people say God could not have created the universe because this gives rise to the question ‘Who created God?’, it follows that if scientists say the universe started with a big bang, this prompts the further question ‘What created the bang?’ Indeed, if the origin of life were truly spontaneous, this would constitute what religious people would call a miracle. Accordingly, this claim in itself resembles not so much science as the superstition that Dawkins derides.

Moreover, since science essentially takes us wherever the evidence leads, the findings of more than 50 years of DNA research — which have revealed the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce life — have thrown into doubt the theory that life emerged spontaneously in a random universe.

These findings have given rise to a school of scientists promoting the theory of Intelligent Design, which suggests that some force embodying purpose and foresight lay behind the origin of the universe.

While this theory is, of course, open to vigorous counter-argument, people such as Prof Dawkins and others have gone to great lengths to stop it being advanced at all, on the grounds that it denies scientific evidence such as the fossil record and is therefore worthless.

Yet distinguished scientists have been hounded and their careers jeopardised for arguing that the fossil record has got a giant hole in it. Some 570 million years ago, in a period known as the Cambrian Explosion, most forms of complex animal life emerged seemingly without any evolutionary trail. These scientists argue that only ‘rational agents’ could have possessed the ability to design and organise such complex systems.

Whether or not they are right (and I don’t know), their scientific argument about the absence of evidence to support the claim that life spontaneously created itself is being stifled — on the totally perverse grounds that this argument does not conform to the rules of science which require evidence to support a theory.

As a result of such arrogance, the West — the crucible of reason — is turning the clock back to a pre-modern age of obscurantism, dogma and secular witch-hunts. Far from upholding reason, science itself has become unreasonable. So when Prof Dawkins fulminates against ‘new age’ irrationality, it is the image of pots and kettles that comes irresistibly to mind.