It seems like everyone wants to have a go at Mr Dawkin’s new book “The God Dellusion“. On Nov 4, ABC Radio National had a go with “The Science Show versus God“. (One wonders who would win in a real show down…)
This time Mr Dawkins is up against Professors Paul Davies and John Barrow, and guess who comes out looking like the biggest dill? Davies and Barrow aren’t exactly card carrying believers, but they have an approach to science that is a little more open minded than Mr Dawkins’. Dawkins thinks that religion is “like a computer virus”.
The child nervous system is programmed to believe what its parents tell it, and that means it cannot have any method of discriminating the good instructions, like don’t go near the cliff edge, don’t eat the red berries, from bad instructions like do a rain dance in order to make the rains come or something of that sort.
Robyn Williams (our host) thinks “that’s understandable”. Yes, I agree, but in the sense that we say to someone “I understand, now just lie down and take your tablet”.
Of course, our host wants to be helpful to his interviewee, and so he throws in the old chestnut:
The thing that I find extraordinary is that so many aspects of religion are just so cruel; they create wars and mayhem, and the history that you allude to…you say, well, if you do not have God then you would not have, perhaps, the Crusades, or the Inquisition.
Yes, wonders Mr Dawkins, why do we believe in “any old rubbish” like religion?
I think you can build up a kind of Darwinian story, not just for why arbitrary rubbish survives but why particular kinds of rubbish survive, because they actually take steps (rather like genes do) to survive by killing the opposition, in some cases by being positively attractive…like the idea that you survive your own death, it’s easy to see why that might survive.
To which our host replies:
I often wonder about this question of the negative because if you think about religions, many of them have got harsh rules and people fall into line; they give up music, they give up wine, they give up sex, a number of things. And many of the religions which involve having a frolic and having a jolly nice time with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, like the Orange People and so on, don’t last.
Lets pass on the fact that Catholics haven’t given up music, wine, sex (what used to be known as “wine, women and song”). He does however have a point about the “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll” religions. Not only do the religions not last, but the people who practice them don’t last either. Which perhaps suggests that there might be something in Dawkins “Darwinian-survival-of-the-fittest” theory in religious belief after all…