“You’re missing something Dawkins” has been a theme of mine for some time – see my 2003″Hyper-rationalism” review of “A Devil’s Chaplain”.
Dawkins’ postures, therefore, only revive rather trivial historical debates and create unnecessary polarisations which divert us from the main issues, which are how the rational and intuitive human mind probes the vast mysteries of the cosmos.
Spot on, great minds, etc.
The historical debates may have been “trivial”, but there’s no escaping that the damage caused by religious conflict is historically massive. The problem is conflict-in-general, not religion-in-general of course.
Binary dialectical arguments (unnecessary polarisations) necessarily lead to conflict, that’s what they’re for, to destroy hypotheses. The problem is the seduction of this “scientific” style of argumentation, justification and explanation. This is the problem meme. This is the raison d’etre of Psybertron.
The problem is how to avoid being branded a liberal pinko wimp, if you don’t subscribe to that macho meme. Wisdom has the appearance of naivite and weakness. That’s another take on the problem meme.
Post Note : And of course in the competitive world of memes, unlike genes, appearance is almost everything. Assuming Lockley’s review is a fair summary of McGrath’s thoughts, there is a lot wrong with McGrath’s overall story.
Attack in order to win an argument has all the usual pissing contest pitfalls – eg he says “although religious fanaticism historically has a lot to answer for so too does atheism, which is responsible for more atrocities than religion in the last century.” Zzzzz – so what ? Fighting nasty rhetoric with nasty rhetoric – a recipe for conflict.
He also, like Mary Midgley, misses the point with memes and assumes because Dawkins is misguided in his arguments that memes are therefore “wrong”. One of his dismissals is due to their recursive nature – a very poor basis for denial in my book. Recursion itelf is a good sign. The meme-ing mean-ing contrasting wordplay is catchy but an unfounded rhetorical metaphor.
He also seems to use the “nothing is proven in science” meme himself to cast the “Darwinism is only one theory” aspersions about. I doubt Feynman ever used the word “merely” about the concept of explanation. Pot and kettle spring to mind – whilst rightly warning Dawkins off religion, McGrath would do well to keep off the scientific agenda here. Having a science qualification doesn’t make him (or Dawkins) an expert on the philosophy of science.
McGrath himself falls foul of the “creating unnecessary polarisations” meme.