I noticed that Prof. Dawkins has provoked more than the usual number of responses after writing an article in the Times. Some people are exasperated that he’s used the Haiti situation as an opportunity to again fly his flag, yet others are remarking that the scientist has, this time, gone slightly too far. His repeated rants on the non-existence of a God who does not exist are slipping into the worst kind of fundamentalism, thereby eroding his respect amongst even those who agree with him intellectually.
Maybe that’s one of the more subtle laws of mental health: that those who fervently and repeatedly argue against something, with their consciousness firmly stuck on their own educated opinions as justification, do ever so gradually slip from a position of rational balance to something ever so slightly irrational. Fixation on the foibles of others inevitably causes the very same characteristics to be reproduced within oneself.
The prolonged intensity of their self-reference and pugilistic argumentation produces a bell-curve of mental stability and, with it, public acclaim followed by irritation. First comes the upward slope: people are listening. Then comes the curve: some people are shaking their heads and others are doubting. Then comes the downward slope: people are inattentive, others are nervously fidgeting, still others are looking for a new intellectual champion.
Dawkins is good at knocking over straw men. And some of the lighter weight Christian theologians – without a really solid philosophical substance – can be blown over by a gentle breeze. But Dawkins has very little to say that’s a real challenge to heavier theologians and weightier philosophers. He is good at presenting popular science; science simplified for the general public. And because the public generally think that ‘science’ is the topmost discipline in the intellectual hierarchy, they have been given to understand by Dawkins and his fellows that science can explain everything and, as such, philosophy should be always subject to the scrutiny of science; that science presents ‘truth’ whereas philosophy presents ‘thought.’
But philosophy – and particularly theology – does not agree with that basic premise, and when Dawkins steps into the ring with thinkers every bit as intelligent as him, but who do not share his convictions, his own status and lack of objectivity becomes gradually apparent. We watch and wait.