A University of Arizona student gave me one of Richard Dawkins’ books to read, “The Selfish Gene,” back in 2010. I wrote the following article after reading one of the chapters:
“First, I must confess to a certain amount of uneasiness at various times when I begin to read anything written by Richard Dawkins. There is little doubt the man possesses a high intellect and a great amount of advanced education. Coupled with a readable and not overly technical writing style, Dawkins would appear to be a formidable proponent for the theory of evolution and, at the same time, a recognized champion against creationism.
But my uneasiness stems from what I find to be a palpable arrogance in his style that, at least to my mind, comes across clearly in much of what I have read of his works and observed from watching him on various video clips. This is disturbing because Dawkins, as a scientist, should not have this arrogance but must always be open to the realization that science and knowledge are both constantly changing. This puts scientists in the position of needing, at least, a minimum amount of humility in order to face the reality that their area of expertise is forever undergoing modification brought upon by myriads of new discoveries.
For example, in his book entitled “The Selfish Gene,” he comes charging out of the proverbial bullpen in this rabid style in the very first sentence of the initial paragraph of Chapter One:
“Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out the reason for its own existence. If superior creatures from space ever visit earth, the first question they will ask, in order to asses the level of our civilization is: ‘Have they discovered evolution yet?’” (Chapter One, “Why are people?”)
The first sentence is brimming with Dawkins’ peculiar belief system which he here asserts with astonishing dogmatism. First, his bold assertion that intelligent life comes of age “when it first works out the reason for its own existence.” Some would counter that this same intelligent life comes to its own existence when they come into a relationship with their Creator and find meaning of existence through an awareness of their need for redemption. Such an alternate view is held by billions of people of faith throughout our known world, both now and in centuries past.
His second sentence compounds his arrogance when he asserts that there are superior creatures from space. On what evidence does he offer to support this? None, of course. No such evidence exists. But he continues these bald assertions and arrogant statements by actually predicting what these creatures will ask if they visit earth, a question conveniently directed towards his pet belief in evolution. Lacking in these alleged superior creatures first initial questionings is any concern about what these earthlings may believe about God, a subject considered by Dawkins to be a mere fairy tale.
Is there intelligent life somewhere in our vast, unexplored and wholly unknown universe? One must be careful in answering this question because not one person has explored our universe in any scientific fashion that would qualify any type of intelligent response. To respond yes or no is impossible; we simply do not know, and the evidence so far gathered from the Hubble telescope, Mars Rovers and other technologically advanced equipment only whets our appetites for more–yet without providing definitive answers.
“Living organisms had existed on earth, without ever knowing why, for over three thousand million years before the truth finally dawned on one of them. His name was Charles Darwin.”
Curiously absent from this short list of enlightened men was Jesus, but the astonishing part about this statement is the fact that Charles Darwin, in the eyes of Dawkins, is the only man in human history that ever figured out the vexing and complicated questions of life, meaning and existence. This means, of course, that Jesus, Moses, all of our founding fathers, Aristotle, Socrates, and all of the other men and women down throughout the ages from every part of the globe who were philosophers or contributed in any fashion to metaphysical thought are not worth mentioning. Those of you who are particularly close to your mothers may find his singular veneration for Darwin bordering on blasphemy.
For Dawkins, the dividing line that separates enlightened thinkers from bumblers is a clear one. The real estate on one side of this line is vast; it must be to hold all of the brilliant scientists and philosophers, theologians and mathematicians, brain surgeons, biologists, astrophysicists, etc., along with each and every individual looking upon the wonders of nature and the universe and whose hearts and minds were moved to worship the Creator. The real estate on the other side of this line is comparatively miniscule, for it only holds one man—Charles Darwin.
Again, the arrogance of Dawkins is astonishing in writing such narrow-minded nonsense. To take all of the collected brilliance of countless men and women of faith and treat them as if they were all ignorant (compared to the revelation given to Darwin that men and chimps are cousins) is bold at best and reveals a petty and proud spirit on the part of Dawkins.
What of the other disciplines outside of Dawkins’ narrow field of expertise? Here on the UA, Prof. Stuart Hameroff of the Center for Consciousness Studies, though not an adherent to any organized religion, has advanced an alternate theory on the brain and how it relates to the mind. Hameroff recognizes his theory is controversial due to its spiritual overtones. He appears on par intellectually with Dawkins, and Hameroff is not alone in his ideas; there are many others who share portions of his theories.
Yet because Hameroff does not plant himself in lock-step with the radicalism of Dawkins, Hameroff must be considered an ignoramus and not worthy of a teaching position at the UA–except perhaps to clean beakers and test tubes.
You will note that I have not yet even finished commenting on the first paragraph of this book; time does not suffice to allow me to write much more, but I believe you get my point. Herein lays a portion of the problem that I have seen among certain university students, and that is that many of you are adopting this arrogant mindset of Richard Dawkins.
I first noticed this, I believe, in the spring semester of 2010 in a conversation with Ryan, one of the regulars on the Hill. During one of our many debates concerning evolution, Ryan uttered the astounding statement that “evolution is a fact.” Ryan stated this with such assurance that he could have been on the top of one of the many tall buildings at the UA with a tennis ball in his hand and, upon dropping it on the sidewalk below, stated, “See, Roy, in the same way that all of us know that the law of gravity is why this tennis ball is going to hit the ground and not fly up to the moon when it leaves my hand, so evolution has been proven to be an absolute, total and irrefutable fact.”
We know—or at least we should know—that this is not true, but somehow the argument for evolution has changed in such a dramatic fashion that it is now being presented to society as a done deal, regardless of the overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary of the theory that is presented by other scientists of equal intelligence, training, and expertise in their fields as Dawkins allegedly is in his.
Brainwashing is a fascinating field of study; advertisers use brainwashing techniques frequently in their ad campaigns in order to convince the public that their products are superior to their competitors. For example, we can see brainwashing going on in the presentation that Coke is better than Pepsi, and that both are superior to any other cola drink…even RC. Personally, I find RC to taste better than either of the other brands, but if a scientific poll proved that most people prefer RC over Coke and Pepsi, RC would still lag behind the cola pack simply because people have been brainwashed by incessant advertising that “Coke is king.”
I bring up brainwashing because I find it applies to the ongoing battle between the theory of evolution and the creationist debate. On the UA campus, no one will offer any dissent against my statement that evolution has trumped creationism. Students look at me like an insane, rusting relic from the distant past when I stand against the theory of Darwinian evolution.
I believe students are being brainwashed, and men like Dawkins are leading the pack of those who, through arrogance and intellectual intimidation, are seeking to silence any voice that runs contrary to this humanist belief system. Simply asserting something to be true, and endlessly repeating it to be an established fact, does not make it so.
Again, I admit to being unable to read much of Dawkins because of my uneasiness when doing so. It is the same phenomena I occasionally encounter when I first hear a particular speaker. I have attempted to listen to some speakers, predominantly Christian, but have found myself unable to continue giving them my attention because of an unexplainable visceral reaction I get upon hearing their voice, usually associated with my impression that I am listening to someone steeped in arrogance and pride. I cannot offer compelling evidence why I react this way, but it is something I heed as an early warning system.
The second chapter of The Selfish Gene provides additional examples. Again, the first sentence of the initial paragraph of “The replicators” is a zinger: “In the beginning was simplicity.” Dawkins’ obvious reference to the Book of Genesis, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” appears to be a direct snipe on the text. Notice how eerily Dawkins seems to write with the same divine authority as Moses. Does Dawkins consider his beliefs to be divinely inspired like Moses?
He does not write in the main body of his text (though he does reference alternate views in the footnotes at the end of the book), “There are several opinions on how the universe came into existence, but the one that I believe best answers this perplexing question is….” No, on the contrary he states, “In the beginning was simplicity.” I wonder if a long drum roll, ending with a resounding clash from brass cymbals, was playing in Dawkins’ subconscious when he wrote this.
“It is difficult enough explaining how even a simple universe began. I take it as agreed that it would be even harder to explain the sudden spring up, fully armed, of complex order—life, or a being capable of creating life…”
I have often told students who believe in evolution that they have more faith in natural selection than what Christians have in the resurrection of Jesus and our belief in a Creator. I find it more rational and reasonable to believe that a superior intelligence was responsible for this complex universe and life on earth than the mental gymnastics I have to go through in believing it all came about by chance.
Dawkins writes that “Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is satisfying because it shows us a way in which simplicity could change into complexity, how unordered atoms could group themselves into ever more complex patterns until they ended up manufacturing people. Darwin provides a solution, the only feasible one so far suggested, to the deep problem of our existence.” (Emphasis added.)
Again, Dawkins is making an incredible statement, boldly asserting that this hotly debated theory provides mankind a better—no, the only—feasible solution for the deepest questions put forth by the most brilliant philosophers, theologians and scientists since human history began. His arrogance is astounding, and the amazing thing is that he gets away with it with no discernable dissent coming from the hallowed halls of academia.
Is his statement satisfying to the billions of people of faith around the globe today in answering life’s deepest questions? No, but again, Dawkins asserts it to be so and expects his readers will unquestioning take his view as gospel.
Do his statements even make sense? Again, for countless myriads of people, the belief that simplicity can somehow magically transform into complexity by pure chance without any guidance whatsoever is absurd. Unordered atoms somehow ordering themselves by pure chance into humans is similarly nonsensical, but Dawkins and his fellow evolutionists have come to the conclusion that humanity is ready to cease any arguments to the contrary; the strategy is to pronounce natural selection as beyond debate.
Perhaps my favorite sentence by Dawkins is found on page 18:
“…Evolution is something that happens, willy-nilly, in spite of all the efforts of the replicators…to prevent it from happening.”
This word willy-nilly is an interesting choice for a scientist to use in a book which seeks to convince skeptics of the supposed fact of evolution. Willy-nilly conjures up unscientific imagery, like what one expects to find in Aesop’s Fables or any other children’s stories that rely on the imagination of the author. Children’s stories are meant to be light and humorous, geared toward the silliness so common in childhood.
Beyond this, though, is the utter lack of methodology such a word signifies, particularly when it comes to describing the deep, reverent and magnificent origins of life. Willy-nilly has two main definitions:
1. without wanting to: whether or not somebody wants it to happen;
2. haphazardly: in a disorganized or unplanned way.
The first definition would appear to be particularly problematic for the theory of evolution because for something to happen without anyone wanting it to happen signifies a force so powerful that nothing can stand in its way of accomplishing what this force wishes to have happen. Certainly this cannot apply to evolution simply for the fact that only God can fit this description.
The second definition is perhaps worse for the theory, and trying to mesh the two definitions of willy-nilly together may result in the following hybrid:
“An occurrence which happens in a haphazard, disorganized or unplanned fashion without that occurrence wanting to actually come about, whether or not somebody or something wants that occurrence to happen or not.”
How might Bill Gates respond to a reviewer of Microsoft’s latest operating system if this reviewer described it as a willy-nilly attempt at trying to compete with Apple’s Leopard? Or an obstetrician describing the unborn baby’s journey out of the mother’s womb as a willy-nilly attempt to leave the confined space of his present environment?
Perhaps the obstetrician can make a plausible argument that the baby’s departure from his mother’s womb is willy-nilly in the sense of definition number one, that the birth of the child will happen whether or not he or she feels to the contrary. But just because the child’s exit out of his mother’s womb will happen regardless of his opinion to the contrary, certainly one cannot claim that the processes involved in the particulars of this profound exit is willy-nilly. Nothing could be further from the truth.
None of this makes any rational or logical sense if all of these things occur by the definition found in willy-nilly; it is absurd and insults the intelligence of sophisticated thinkers to reduce complex and complicated events to willy-nilly answers.
It might be that such bold assertions are a sign of desperation. Perhaps Dawkins is realizing that the evidence against natural selection is mounting to such a crescendo that nonscientific tactics are needed. Humans are the same in many areas, and it is self-evident to anyone walking under the endless canopy of a cloudless, starry night sky that pure chance had no part in this grandeur. To believe otherwise is to suppress that which is innately obvious.
As I read the various interpretations of evolution from both creationists and those against creationism, I have come to some conclusions. First, there are brilliant scientists on either side of this hotly contested debate, who, after evaluating the evidence before them, come to opposite conclusions. The evidence used to justify one’s belief or unbelief in evolution seems open for debate, with each side drawing their own conclusions from the same facts.
Second, certain facts must be accepted. Biology, the study of organisms both living and dead, cannot be put in the same league as mathematics. In this latter discipline, problem solving, according to my understanding of the subject, is cut and dry. One plus one always equals two, two plus two always equals four, etc. No room for fudging the data or looking at the evidence in any other way but the manner in which the math shows it to be: cut and dry with no shades of gray.
Since there is an ever increasing divide between scientists who believe in Darwinian evolution and those who reject it, the facts before lay people boils down to one thing: faith. One must choose between which interpretation of the evidence is presented, for both sides present their theories in a plausible manner.
Dawkins errs in this important point: acting in the same fashion he criticizes creationists for, i.e., stating their beliefs without solid proof. When he writes, “In the beginning was simplicity,” he is presupposing the truth of this statement, offering no evidence to support this claim.
Dawkins was not among a team of scientists with modern, scientific instruments at the moment of the Big Bang. No one was taking measurements, calculations, and digitally recording each moment in high definition video so that the entire event could be preserved and studied for posterity.
Neither creationists or evolutionists were present at the beginning of time. Sometimes I believe people forget this. We do not have one eyewitness account or the benefit of a black and white film to study. Because of this, the evidence to aid in reconstructing that period is shaped wholly by one’s particular world view. If you believe in God, you will view the evidence and your conclusions will fit your religious world view. The same if you believe in Darwin’s theory, and no amount of arguing or debating is going to change anybody’s mind.
My problem with Dawkins is that he is taking an almost militant, cultish-like position in the debate; one might even say he is speaking ex cathedra for….God, but a god in the likeness and form of the one which Dawkins has made himself. Dawkins’ god is Charles Darwin, he is his apostle, and the gospel Dawkins’ is preaching is the doctrine of evolution.
There is danger in Dawkins’ increasingly militant attitude in the way he is pushing his particular scientific agenda upon society. I am not a psychiatrist, but it appears that there is some form of mental instability on his part, brought upon, no doubt, by his own cognizant dissonance between the indisputable complexity of the universe and his belief that all came about by pure chance euphemistically defined as “natural selection.”
When someone switches from believing and teaching that “this is how it might be” to “this is how it is,” that person has crossed a line and is living in territory that is dangerous to both teacher and pupil. University and college students are impressionable, and legions are the stories of such being led down dangerous paths from charismatic, respected leaders.
The study of law can bring added clarity to this debate. One aspect of law that has helped to focus my thinking is the concept of reasonableness. Courts put great emphasis on people conducting themselves in a reasonable manner; a safe and properly functioning society demands such behavior. Problems occur, and the courts exist to address such problems, when individuals conduct themselves in unreasonable ways.
Thinking precedes conduct and unreasonable thinking results in unreasonable conduct. This is why reasonable thinking is critical to a healthy and functional society as opposed to an unhealthy and dysfunctional one.
In applying definitions of reason to the debate between evolution and special creation—two diametrically opposed theories—what is the most reasonable conclusion of the two: that all of creation, including the vast expanse of the universe down to the sub-atomic particles that make up an atom, came about willy-nilly as put forth by Richard Dawkins, or that this incredibly complex wonder has behind it the imprint of incomprehensible intelligence, wisdom and design? The only rational choice of the two is self-evident and cannot be seriously debated.”