December 21, 2011
Dawkins’ Methods Criticized
It’s interesting to see the occasional critique of Richard Dawkins by a fellow skeptic. Here’s a recent one from Daniel Craine at the Guardian:
As a sceptic, I tend to agree with Dawkins’s conclusion regarding the falsehood of theism, but the tactics deployed by him and the other New Atheists, it seems to me, are fundamentally ignoble and potentially harmful to public intellectual life. For there is something cynical, ominously patronising, and anti-intellectualist in their modus operandi, with its implicit assumption that hurling insults is an effective way to influence people’s beliefs about religion. The presumption is that their largely non-academic readership doesn’t care about, or is incapable of, thinking things through; that passion prevails over reason. On the contrary, people’s attitudes towards religious belief can and should be shaped by reason, not bile and invective. By ignoring this, the New Atheists seek to replace one form of irrationality with another.
Reading this as someone who is used to thinking in the Christian context, it is hard not to make some uncomfortable connections. Christian discourse which is aimed at bolstering the Bible, Christian practice or belief in God is at times guilty of similar offenses: patronizing, superficial, more emotive than rational. Perhaps a distinguishing feature of the “new atheists” is that they tend to confuse their own hubris with intellectual rigor. We Christians on the other hand can be guilty of confusing our opinions with God’s.