Oh for fuck’s sake Dawkins!
“If, as one self-consciously intellectual critic wished, I had expounded the epistemological differences between Aquinas and Duns Scotus, Eriugena on subjectivity, Rahner on grace or Moltmann on hope (as he vainly hoped I would), my book would have been more than a surprise bestseller, it would have been a miracle. I would happily have forgone bestsellerdom had there been the slightest hope of Duns Scotus illuminating my central question: does God exist?”
Let’s just transpose this defence of ignorance and bad faith into another key. Phillip Johnson writes a book denouncing Darwinism,. It is objected that none of his examples actually reflect what real scientists believe about the workings of natural selection and evolution. He replies
“If, as one self-consciously intellectual critic wished, I had expounded the epistemological differences between Stephen Jay Gould and and Simon Conway Morris, Ernst Mayr on biodiversity or W.D. Hamilton on parasites (as he vainly hoped I would), my book would have been more than a surprise bestseller, it would have been a miracle. I would happily have forgone bestsellerdom had there been the slightest hope of Simon Conway Morris illuminating my central question: is Darwinism true?”
Such a reply would quite rightly be shredded by anyone who cared about truth or science. Of course most people who think they know about DNA or evolution will be wrong. You need only glance at the newspapers to understand that. Indeed there’s a nice example, already, in the comments to Dawkins’ piece, where some fundie is claiming “it is a basic law of biology that ‘life comes from life’.” But that sort of ignorance doesn’t alter the truth of evolution for a moment. It’s just that if you want to find out what evolution might really be and how it happens, you have to ask biologists.
Similarly, the overwhelming majority of claims about god’s possible nature are going to be ludicrous, wrong, and all the rest of it. But if you want to find out what might be true, you’re going to have to talk to the people smart enough to understand the questions involved. They may still be wrong. But they will be wrong in different, more interesting way, which is harder to dismiss. And if — god save the mark! — you actually believed in the power of reason to change the world, that is the discussion that might stand a chance of changing it, a little.
(today’s Dawkins number is 34)