Richard Dawkins has published the first of his two part memoir, An Appetite for Wonder, and John Gray, emeritus professor of European thought at the London School of Economics, has taken the work apart with surgical deftness. He depicts Dawkins as a man who is facile in his thinking, but is an ideologue without much originality and a bit old fashioned. (“The Dogmatist,” by John Gray, The New Republic, October 13, 2014, pgs. 36-14)
The main charge raised against Dawkins is that he elevates Darwinism to the status of a religion and forgets that, like Einstein’s work, Darwin advanced a theory, not a verifiable truth. Too much faith in Darwinism has left Dawkins wearing blinders, according to Gray. Science is a tool which, if embraced too fully, excludes other ways of understanding the universe. What’s more, science provides no moral compass for human behavior. Josef Mengela and his band of Nazi doctors are a prime example of the evil science can do when it is left without a conscience.
According to Gray, Dawkins fails to understand that no evitable animosity exists between science and religion because no connection between them requires that one falsify the other. (Ibid, pg. 41) When Dawkins uses Darwinism as his default button, Gray insists the author banishes free will, a benefit religion provides but not possible with scientific determinism. (Ibid, pg. 41.) What’s more, we know spirituality exists in the human brain but as yet, science can give no explanation for it. (Brain)
Gray believes spirituality is necessary for the survival of the species. Consciousness seeks to know itself and to have a higher purpose and so God was invented.
I have already admitted that I am no fan of Dawkins. (Blog 11/12/12) But Gray’s dissection of the man delights me neither. Gray has his own point of view which he defends deftly. But were I to put my faith in any scientific theory, I would chose the principle of uncertainty. If all the purveyors of dogma would bend their knee to it, then tolerance might have a chance to clear the air of a good deal of smug righteousness.