Friday, September 07, 2007

Yet more Dawkinalia

The excellent Ship of Fools web site has a Dawkinometer that measures the amount of self promotion of Dawkins himself on the web site of his foundation. There is no doubt that the man can pop up in the strangest places. He is mentioned in the June issue of Accountancy magazine, of all places. This week’s TLS asks him to review Christopher Hitchin’s rant God is not Great. The review starts “There is much fluttering in the dovecots of the deluded,” and continues in a similar vein.

Last weekend, we were treated to an excerpt in the Sunday Times from John Humphreys’ new book, In God we Doubt. Humphreys is a grumpy newsreader on Radio 4, who, like many people who have been in the media for a very long time, has been transformed into a sage without anyone really knowing why. The Sunday Times excerpt from his book is interesting because of what it tells us about the trajectory of Humphreys’ spiritual development. He started off as an agnostic looking for answers, so talked to lots of religious people. As he was drawn towards the kind of media-friendly wishy-washy religious types who have little of substance to say, he ended up as an atheist. Then he read Dawkins and a few other ranters. This steered him promptly back to agnosticism, largely because he couldn’t bear to be associated with the intolerance of the neo-atheists.

In the wishy-washy media-friendly religious corner, there have been signs of doubt as well. John Cornwell has taken time off bashing John Paul II (The Pope in Winter) and weaving fantasies about Pius XII (Hitler’s Pope) to have a go at Dawkins. His new book, Darwin's Angel, is doing the PR rounds as a I write. Cornwell is a liberal Catholic who seems to have finally realised that the threat to his beliefs comes not from his more conservative co-religionists, but people who find the whole idea of religion absurd. His article in the Guardian last week is nothing new, but it is nice to see even liberals finally realising on which side their bread is buttered. Placing his criticisms of neo-atheism in the mouth of an angel is a neat conceit but it can't support an entire book. It made a better article when he did it in the Sunday Times when he pretended to be God).

When the dust has finally settled in a couple of years time, I wonder how the landscape will have changed. Contrary to many people's opinion, who think it has all been a storm in a teacup, I think that the Dawkins Wars will leave some changes in their wake. Those who thought that they were ‘tolerant’ atheists have found it better to describe themselves as agnostics so as to avoid association with the nastiness of the neo-atheists. Dawkinistas have received a shot in the arm and probably found they are more numerous than they thought they were. Liberal religious people have found that they have more in common with conservative religious people than they had hoped. But, the great British public appear to be largely unmoved and rapidly getting bored. As for Richard and Lalla, they can look forward to an even more comfortable retirement than they had originally planned.

Click here to read the first chapter of God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science absolutely free.

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