Grayling's letter is probably the most embarressing document to fall from the pen of a so-called philosopher since Ayn Rand hung up her quill. One of his points needs to be annihilated because it shows Grayling misunderstands science, experiment, reason and argument. In his review, Eagleton takes Dawkins to task for ignoring almost all the best theology and religious scholarship in favour of bashing fundamentalists and erecting strawmen. Grayling says that Dawkins is quite justified in neglecting any sort of academic theology because, as he writes,
if one concludes on the basis of rational investigation that one's character and fate are not determined by the arrangement of the planets, stars and galaxies that can be seen from Earth, then one does not waste time comparing classic tropical astrology with sidereal astrology, or either with the Sarjatak system, or any of the three with any other construction placed on the ancient ignorances of our forefathers about the real nature of the heavenly bodies.
Well no. Professor Grayling seems to imagine that Dawkins has carried out a rational investigation of religion by concentrating on easy targets. he hasn't. If I wanted to carry out such an investigation of astrology, I would not pick up the Daily Mail and analyse the mutterings of Jonathan Cainer, their resident sage. Rather, I would research the topic and seek out the best possible exemplars that I could find. I would ask whether sidereal or tropical astrology gave the best chance of a positive result, or whether I should prefer planetary astrology to sun signs. I would give astrology every chance to win me over, subject to not fiddling the results. To test astrology, I must allow it to present its most promising case, rather than only paying attention tobog-standard horoscopes on the grounds that most people just read their sun signs.
Dawkins only investigates the religious equivalent of a tabloid horoscope and Grayling thinks this is fine. This sort of reasoning is a disgrace from people who claim to be at the forefront of rational investigation. They wouldn't know what it was if it bit them on the nose.
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