Tuesday, November 20, 2007

BBC Profile: Richard Dawkins - The Devil's Chaplain?

Richard Dawkins is the author of a number of internationally best-selling books about evolutionary biology including The Selfish Gene (1976; second edition, 1989), The Extended Phenotype (1982), The Blind Watchmaker (1986), River Out of Eden (1995), Climbing Mount Improbable (1996), and Unweaving the Rainbow (1998). And, of course, he represents a school of Darwinian orthodoxy that dominates all biological sciences.

Dawkins is best known for ‘the selfish gene.” Unfortunately, like other catch phrases, its very wording could have a negative connotation, does not itself impart any transparent meaning that is not easily subject to misinterpretation, or deliberate mischief by opponents. In this way, it shares equal billing with ‘survival of the fittest.’

Traditional Darwinism tended to look at entire organisms and to accept that a "survival of the fittest" organism (as a gatherer of food) took place. If the gene was now considered to be the focus of many most decisive struggles where the only "fittest" would survive then genes stood to replace organisms as the real unit in any evolutionary struggle.

Commentators in the documentary suggest that altruism seen in many species (including humans) may be a contradiction of the selfish gene theory and that contraception seems directly opposed to it.

Are they that opaque or just creating straw men that they hope the audience sees through?

Altruism ensures that offspring along with the social and culture ideas of individuals survive and are memed, another pet concept of Dawkins. Any sleepy student in Sociology 101 can see that contraception often means the children of birth control practicing parents have increased quality of life by the focusing of family resources, and thereby survive very well thank you.

There is some emphasis of Dawkins’ saint like devotion to his ideas and science that raises to a level of ‘spirituality’ as opposed to superstitious religion. Well, so be it but it does make this primer in evolution a little on the idolatrous side.

File Size: 108 MB



Anonymous said...

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The Cambridge Companion to Atheism
Publisher: Cambridge University Press | 2006-10-30 | ISBN 0521603676 | Pages: 352 | PDF | 5 MB

In this volume, eighteen of the worlds leading scholars present original essays on various aspects of atheism: its history, both ancient and modern, defense and implications. The topic is examined in terms of its implications for a wide range of disciplines including philosophy, religion, feminism, postmodernism, sociology and psychology. In its defense, both classical and contemporary theistic arguments are criticized, and, the argument from evil, and impossibility arguments, along with a non religious basis for morality are defended. These essays give a broad understanding of atheism and a lucid introduction to this controversial topic.



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