On Monday, September 19, the New York Times profiled the evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, in the lengthy Profiles in Science: A Knack for Bashing Orthodoxy. (The Times’ online edition also features a filmed interview.) Though it is beyond this author’s expertise to assess the claim, many regard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene (1976) as groundbreaking in its field.
Recently, however, Dawkins has become notorious for the strident atheism he articulated in The God Delusion (2006), an international best seller. The God Delusion argues that religious faith is not only irrational but socially dangerous. The NYT profile, though published in the Science Section, devotes substantial page-space to Dawkins’ perspectives on religion.
This Commentary will proceed in two posts. Post One will characterize Dawkins’ atheistic perspectives—as he relates them in his NYT profile—and contend that (1) atheism’s stance is not without justification and (2) neither is atheists’ sense of defensiveness, which is probably the basis for Dawkins’ popularity. Yet, despite my sympathy for nonreligious persons and respect for their beliefs, Dawkins’ vitriol and its underlying critical method are fundamentally defective. Forthcoming, Post Two will critique Dawkins’ unabashed prejudice toward religious devotion from two perspectives: (1) Terry Eagleton’s criticism that Dawkins lacks basic understanding of the variety and fullness of religious belief and (2) Alasdair MacIntyre’s theory that contemporary moral discourse in the socio-political sphere is broken to the point of interminability, a failing Dawkins exemplifies.