The Propagandist delusion
With seven years delay, Kali Tribune publishes the review of Richard Dawkins’ “God Delusion”, Croatian edition. Editor is therefore obliged to apologize. The reason being he never could read through Dawkins’ “devastating attack on religion” further from the first half of the book. It was not however due to being devastated, but rather of being bored. Well, now we rectify the historical injustice by publishing the review done by Nenad Perković who had courageously put historical duty of Dawkin’s reviewer before incentive to take a nap. Note to atheists: stick to Nietzsche. As Lucifer always used to say: “If you don’t jump, you won’t do the Fall”. Abyss is always at hand, give it a jump. You don’t need Dawkins banana skin to aid your slip. Or you prefer when you can say: “oops!”
What would I give for those magic shades from Carpenter’s They Live. When guy in the movie puts them on, all the billboards display true messages of the commercials, hidden beneath the saccharine crust of marketing. I’m not asking for much. My fantasy doesn’t reach so Žižek-like far as to depict all the wide world looking for truth. Thankfully, in my case it is confined to the task of a reviewer. How wonderful it would be, I thought to myself, to put those shades on my nose and read what exactly is written on the covers of famous bestsellers. So instead of the usual spins like “sensational book that will change the world” I would see what is really there: “Don’t buy me! No sane person would read this crap”, or: “the esteemed author is as dumb as a doornail, and his masterpiece resting on your table is – let’s get real – dimwitted.” Unfortunately, maya-busting shades don’t exist, gods don’t have it in the job description to simplify things with such blunt interventions, and we can be sure that science will never invent one of those, because it would mean it’s imminent suicide. Well, all things considered, I was left with no alternative than to do some of that old fashioned reading.
Much ado ‘bout nothing In advance it should be noted that God Delusion is a book too immersed in social context to be taken on it’s own merit. That’s never a good thing for a book, because with change of social context, it’s significance changes too. We can with clear conscience foresee that this will be the destiny of Dawkins’ bestseller. Context in question is great – supposedly academic, but in fact political – polemics shaking the anglo-saxon world, i.e. the clash of “evolutionists” and “creationists”. Two fundamentalist strains, one of Christian zealots and other of Atheist zealots with “scientific” pedigree fight it out over the claim on truth about the origin of the world and human being, foundation of morality, who is more right when it comes to possess some human right, and, finally, what will the kids be thought in school. One of the more illustrious chiefs of Atheist tribe is Englishman Richard Dawkins, esteemed member of Royal Society, and his book is an attempt to provide answers to aforementioned and some other questions. As the book washed up on our shores, where it’s original bizarre and noisy context is non-existent, poor thing simply came under scrutiny as it is in itself, so Carpenter’s shades effect came of itself too: what’s so sensational about it? Nothing. Has the author wacked the God with one stroke? No. Marx tried the same thing with much more systematic effort, Nietzsche applied some profoundness and elegance, but Old Man is still unshaken there where He always was, on the other side of the other side, glimpsed through mists of metaphor. Dawkins is only one in a long line of overambitious authors who bit more than he could chew. While chewing, however, he tries to present himself as casual and soberly objective, but nonetheless he is visibly nervous, dangerously near to hysteria.
If there was no nervousness, if he bit off a humbler piece, if he was – let’s be honest – up to the task, he would perhaps have taken a part in discussion going on this side of Atlantic, where European intellectuals (Habermas, Bruckner, etc.), and even few of their American colleges are conversing about secularism, post-secularism and concrete practical and theoretical problems related to religion, multicultural facts, integration of European Muslims, Vatican’s objections to Lisbon treaty, etc. Discussion is rough and lively, productive, with clear focus and serious, if for nothing else, than for an attempt to find some answers to “new societal challenges”, as they like to put it.
By plunging in the discussion from across the pond, noisy, shallow and not so intelligent quarrel culminating in question, what will American kids learn about dinosaurs, Dawkins the biologist, already famous for his bombastic bestseller Selfish Gene, wrote another bestseller. This time he decided to do in the God Himself. It is interesting to note that he is very serious about it, and considers it a scientific problem which he approached armed with, more or less, clumsy methods and childish thesis:”for all the evil in the world, the blame lies on religions; all believers are stupid, and all Atheists are beings perfected by natural selection”. And, with fanatical furor similar to those we find in his Creationist opponents, he attacked something which for honest atheist should not exist at all, namely God. It is precisely this strange contradiction, against which all atheists struggle, that God’s Delusion is intended to resolve.
Pseudo discussion and counterfeiting the science Taken in itself the book would be bearable, although boring, read to everybody even superficially cognoscente with the history of “God problem”, and it probably can satisfy appetites of professionals in natural sciences, Dawkins’ colleges too lazy to wrestle with complex philosophical and theological works and seeking instant-course written in their own argot. As discussion remains on Oprah Winfrey Show level, it can satisfy the wide range of average consumers too, whose bellies the author, true to his liberal world-view, aptly rubs – we can assume to the effect to squeeze some naturally selected extra dough. Book, as I said, would not present a problem if Dawkins wasn’t so eager to insist on “scientism” as a dialectical opposite of religious superstition, on his own scientific pedigree and on two hundred years old dogmatism long discarded by natural sciences themselves, so that in the end it is impossible to overlook his entirely unscientific approach and method by which he endeavors to prove completely unscientific point, presenting the whole mess as scientifically relevant.
In other words, he did disservice to science with this sloppy pamphlet, especially by stubbornly insisting on infallibility of it’s methods. And so, against his will, Dawkins joined religious hard liners in an attempt to oppose them with brand new irrational dogma. In the process, he displays notable level of Pharisee style moralizing, superficially painted over with scientific rationalism. Greater part of the book deals with objections of various creationists to Dawkins arguments, and his “skillful” refutations. That way we unwillingly learn that he was a regular guest on TV shows dealing with his favorite subject, and his literature of reference are mostly polemical periodicals. Self aggrandizement he displays throughout the book reaches the climax with his own polemical invention of “sharpening the consciousness with Darwinian selection”, sharpened in it’s turn, as he proudly declares, by his own ingenuity. Well, the crown jewel of Dawkin’s “ingenuity” is this book, intended to prove how “correct understanding of magnificence of the real world, although it never becomes a religion, can fulfill the inspirational role the religion played in history.” Of course, “correct understanding” already calls to mind the dogmatism, and curious reader will be promptly provided with an addendum: “Darwinism is a story about liberation of humanity from illusion that it’s destiny is ruled by some higher force than himself”. The key term is, of course, the “story”, but author doesn’t seemed to mind, he deeply believes that in the wave of humanism the humanity will discard the illusion by installing the “correct” understanding, and that there is no way that he merely swapped the stories, rendering his Darwinist outlook into new religion.
Blissful anachronism – retardation into nineteen century science The author doesn’t consider forces of nature like gravity, magnetism, hurricanes, ice ages to be higher than man because he considers them “explained”, so I guess that implies that their impact on destiny of humanity is neutralized. “Atheist in the sense of naturalist believes that there is nothing beyond visible, physical, world, no supernatural creative mind hiding behind the visible universe, no soul outliving the body and no miracles – except for those natural phenomena we still don’t understand”. That’s the way Dawkins philosophizes submerged in blissful anachronism, and his reader rightfully expects what is it he’ll have to say about psychoanalysis and collective unconscious, quantum mechanics which steps well beyond the visible, virtual reality and AI as interesting aspects of living beyond the body, and about whole plethora of scientific phenomena and theories. Well, the reader will be disappointed. To the remark that he is stuck in 19th century, the author laconically replied that good idea is fine in any century, so why not hold on to 19th. He is right in fact, but him being stuck in 19th century has very concrete reason, to which we’ll take into consideration latter on. For Dawkins it is essential to market that old positivist framework of necessary evolution and he is prepared to ditch entire 20th century for it’s sake. However, it avails him little as a preventive measure to establishing a new religion, no matter how much he decoratively tries to escape this eventuality. When someone says:”everything can be explained, it’s only a matter of when”, than he has already stepped in the domain of faith. The key delusion of such people is that their paradigm, world-view or belief is reality and not merely a belief-system. They can call it “science” and their prejudices and superstitions “facts”. But in real reality they are just theories accepted by consensus. This is something philosophy of science aptly pointed out, hence the other reason why Dawkins skips the 20th century. Under the guise of “objective scientist” he is in fact a propagandist. And he is propagandist of utilitarism which he takes as “fact” of nature, something intrinsic to nature of the nature itself. However, it is hard to believe he is so naive. When he criticizes religions – and he does it only concerning their historical appearances – he is extremely careful which one to criticize and which one to discard as irrelevant. For instance, he discards Buddhism and Daoism, defining them offhand “philosophical systems” rather than religions. Why? Any explanation would be unpractical. Reader needs to gather his nerves and patience in order to wait it out till the first articulate conclusions are given. Critique of great religions brings nothing new, except downright catastrophic simplifications typical for pop science literature, and author is amusing himself with things he said to some Anglican Bishop or pastor on TV show. The whole, or at least almost whole, chapter is spent on a discussion, I guess popular in America, over the question was Einstein religious or not, as well as some others. Book is abundant with examples of “repression” of freethinkers on behalf of religious nuts, and they aptly display Oprah-style approach to all-important subject of denouncing the God delusion. So we are told that some guy Mills in some Midwest backwater endured, as Dawkins puts it, the “event which, if it was invented, you would surely discard as an unreal caricature of police stupidity and violence”. In short, guy wanted to organize the protest against some Christian healer-cum-charlatan and asked for police protection, and cops not only denied him of it, but Sheriff redneck informed him that police won’t protect a “goddamn atheist”. In the end the stubborn Mills received death threats from healer-cum-charlatan’s adherents. This serves well as a testimony of absurdity of stupid aforementioned polemics in American society and would function in the framework of sociological analysis of the state of the Union, but to declare that it “defies our belief”, well, that measure of naivety the European reader will find suspect, especially if he is from the South-eastern parts, where “caricatures of police stupidity and violence” were legitimate way the whole system worked. It is, however, understandable that absentminded Oxford professor rethinking the world from his mahogany furnished office with a view to a lawn, can miss out on such tidbits of reality.
Hokus-pokus method After the abundance of such examples of stupidity and restricting the freedom to think freely, correctly passed to us from the age of Darwin is given, the author concentrates his energies, with the help of somewhat more modern method of “probability theory”, all in an attempt to locate the nefarious cause of chaos in the dark heart of Arkansas. Probability theory, for all intents and purposes, is a scientific theory and it functions splendidly in every casino, but when it comes to concepts endowed with such small number of variables, as is our conception of “absolute”, the result is appropriately sloppy. As we all know, with probability theory we can prove whatever we like, or the opposite thereof. In the end it is always probable that we will prove something. Or other.
The other method in Dawkins’ arsenal is far less scientific, but all the same very popular, invocation of illustrious “though experiments”. God Delusion is full of thought experiments and the only thing differentiating them from authentic myths, which lie in the foundations of authentic religions, is excessive lack of imagination and sense for reality. Thought experiments are, aside from being fun, very practical because by using them you can prove whatever you like. I am talking about those unbelievable constructions with no relation to reality whatsoever, the scientists use to add some flavor to their dry expression, so they can, endowed with their reputation, address you ex cathedra and ask you to: “imagine a certain tribe living by the lake full of crocodiles. How the religion came into being? Why, greedy medicine man told the kids that gods will punish them if they keep swimming in the lake, so when unruly child was munched by crocodile, the tribe succumbed to belief that gods punish men for swimming in the lake full of crocodiles…” Of course, it never occurred to those primitive idiots that crocodiles bite, and it is utterly unimportant as to why would anybody build a village by the lake full of crocodiles. What is important, however, is this: by employing the cunning scientific method we “explained” the origin of religion. Sad fact remains that, in reality, the entire argumentation found in this book can be reduced to such hokus-pokus. This is clearly displayed in a chapter on morals, where hypocrite religions are accused of bringing about a historical situation contrary to moral imperatives, and simple and entirely rational proscriptions like “thy shall not kill!” are understood as bigotry and underdeveloped mythologizing. In order to demonstrate that Atheist moral is not only possible, but composed of far better substance, Dawkins invokes a new chain of complicated thought experiments, this time about little trains running down their little tracks and fat boy about to be cast from the bridge before the little wheels of the little train. Number of tracks and trains is on the exponential rise, as is the number of experimental passers by to be killed by diverting the tracks. The popular method of “research on student’s opinion” is thrown in for good measure, and their creative variations on these nebulous experiments are systematized and quantified. The crown achievement is “prayer experiment”, pointed out earlier in the book, conducted by Creatonists – which is by it’s structure in fact no different from Dawkins’ experiments – with whom Richard eagerly disputes on equal terms, happy that it ultimately failed. But not at any moment does he dispute it’s scientific validity.
As for the Atheist morality, Dawkins barely touches Kant’s moral imperatives, and is bothered only by one thing. He says: “Fortunately, the morale doesn’t have to be absolute”. Absolute morality – in fact morality in any true sense of the world – smells like danger to Dawkins’ Darwinist gene because it puts confines on utilitarism. He prefers the idea that we should be good because we like it, of course, while we wait for natural selection to evolve out some other practical idea, which has all been proven by thought experiments about fat boy and the railroad tracks. Who needs Kant when you have fat boy and railroad tracks, anyway?
Propagandist of globalization and predatory capitalism As a consequence of the question of morals one sore point emerges, and that’s the “Hitler and Stalin” question Dawkins encountered in the course of his polemical adventures. It clearly displays backwardness of his opponents by the way they used to pose it. So Dawkins has enough space for maneuver the problem through precisely two of the 350 pages he wrote. He scribbles something along these lines: as a kid Hitler was Catholic and Stalin was religiously revered by his subjects. Clearly, the problem of evil lies in the religious quarter and the evils of religion, as well as the non-existence of God, are solemnly proven.
Now, why are Hitler and Stalin so important, and why this dilettante book has little or nothing to do with God or his non-existence? Unintentionally, the author himself provided us with an answer. By dethroning the God he doesn’t like, he put in his place a new one, more to his taste. “Religion is so profuse, so frivolous, while Darwinist selection usually discovers and eliminates the useless surplus. Nature is a shabby book-keeper, closely watching every penny, every second, punishing the smallest lavishness. Untiring and relentlessly, as the Darwin had shown, ‘natural selection closely inspects every variation coming to pass in this world, every day and every hour, even the smallest one; it discards the bad and fortifies and multiples the good; silently it works, whenever and wherever it can …’ The nature cannot afford frivolous jeux d’esprit. Only the merciless utilitarism wins, even when it doesn’t appear so.”
Oh, finally it comes! The esoteric knowledge we were waiting for. We heard all this from Enlightenment thinkers. Dawkins is little deficient in style when compared to them, but the zeal is up to their standards. Here is who the God really is: a book-keeper mending the accounting mistakes with his invisible hand. No fooling around with that guy. No jeux d’esprit! Only utilitarism! Why? No explanation. Those are the facts. Of course it is all followed by one of those endless uilitarian-scientific diatribes about beauties of a peacock’s tail …
We can find definitive explanation of Dawkins’ standpoint in the theories which made parallels between society and truth as it’s world-view, according to which natives of Amazon would believe that world is inseminated by spirits of nature, while ancient Greeks will talk about beauty of kosmos, Middle Ages will calculate the hierarchies of Angels, etc. Why than get stuck in the 19th century? What’s to find there? What world-view? Well, colonial world-view. It explains world and nature in terms of cruel, Darwinist, utilitarism where weak perish, and strong thrive, and it is all so natural and self-evident, and any religious jeux d’esprit only serves to screw up the harmony. This is the reason why Dawkins skips the 20th century. Atheism he advocates had it’s moment on historical scene and cannot be reduced to the case of Mills from Arkansas harassed by stupid policeman. In the book where, stereotypically, he solemnly quotes Sean O’Casey’s statement that “politics slew thousands, but religion slew tens of thousands” – something the adherents of Enlightenment parrot for two hundred years – Dawkins conveniently skips the century in which “science” by far took the lead in killing game, at least in terms of numbers. Religion with it’s silliness erodes the science, says Dawkins. But which science? Eugenics, Hitler’s darling, perhaps? Wasn’t that science par excelance, devoid of all mythological trappings? Lobotomy? Electroshock? Tens of thousands perished to the methods of those sciences. Why Dawkins skips the “scientific socialism” so well known to us over here? He dreams of atheist world as a pastoral one, free from dogmas, superstitions and exploitation. But why would religions be responsible for those things? Aren’t they intrinsic to human nature in general? Have Richard overslept the historical, not thought, experiment; the one that put the shame worst inquisitors in their sweetest nightmares? We already had, and still have, atheistic and scientifically rational materialist communist societies which, in contrast to Inquisition of old and Taliban of today, annihilated uncountable millions of people. Take note, not number uncountable in millions but uncountable millions of people, which means that nobody can really tell not only how many perished but how many of those “unfit” there ever was in the first place. Well, there must be some limit, if only a limit to bad taste. To pose as a scientific prankster is one thing, but to lose count of millions of tortured and killed is no trifle matter. Either it is utter stupidity, or conscious wickedness. And we are not talking about stupid Cardinal or the wicked Imam. And as poor Nietzsche invoked Hitler from non-existing Hell, and his first neighbor Marx invoked Stalin, so the pseudo-scientific conjurer Dawkins invokes the Beyond of future atrocities. The beast he invokes in the name of reason already has it’s voice in the form of globalism and it’s not a mere whisper, either. It speaks clearly: “world is overpopulated”, “consciousness is a genetic mutation”, “man is animal”, “gotta harvest some organs …”
Problem therefore does not lie in the fact that Dawkins took side in nebulous discussion of two idiotic conceptions. Problem lies in the fact that he is a propagandist of globalization and cruel liberal capitalism, meticulously veiled by mask of science and rationalism. Attack on religion is just a smoke screen, because, as we know, there are real discussion on place of religion in society going on. But they are too far from media spotlight Dawkins likes so much.
For those who want to know less: all tendencies speak in Dawkins’ favor, despite light tremors of globalism. The result can be predicted clearly. Namely, this world will become the planet of apes, but that won’t change the reality: it’s inhabitants will remain what they always were – poor God’s creatures.