Friday, February 17, 2012
Touchy, Touchy ...
Goose. Gander. Sauce.
Jerry Coyne thinks it's fine and dandy to attack theists on (to say the least) dubious grounds. But when theists catch Richard Dawkins on a (to say the least) amusing point, Coyne has to take his high horse out for a gallop 'round the intertubz.
It all began with Dawkins ballyhooing a poll as showing that "religion is largely irrelevant in Britain." Somehow or other Dawkins apparently thought that the finding that two-thirds of those who said they were Christians were unable to identify the Gospel of Matthew as the first book of the New Testament was telling on his stated proposition. I rather thought that the fact that only a third (32 per cent) of self-identified Christians believe Jesus was physically resurrected was much more important (as far as the relevance of Christianity in Britain, at least), but maybe that's just me. Nonetheless, Dawkins was so enamored of the Matthew bit that, in an appearance with the Rev. Giles Fraser, former canon chancellor of St. Paul's in London, on BBC Radio 4's Today program, Dawkins referred to it twice.
The good Reverend then asked Dawkins to give the full title of the Origin of Species. While Dawkins had an inkling, he couldn't do it:
On the Origin of Species , er, with . . . oh God . . . On the Origin of Species , um . . . here is a subtitle . . . er, um, With Respect to the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.It's actually (and, yes, I copied and pasted it to make sure) On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.
The fact that Dawkins evoked God to help him remember was just a minor addition to the merriment.
Coyne's reaction, "People will use any excuse to attack Dawkins" typically misses the point. Jerry whines: "Really, how many of us know that long title by heart?" Of course it means nothing ... but, then, why would it mean anything that many professing Christians don't know, off the top of their heads when asked by a pollster, that Matthew is, under the arrangement of the New Testament, the first book?
Then Coyne complains that the "worst part" is an article at the Huffington Post with the title "Richard Dawkins, Famous Atheist, Appeals To God On Radio Program."
Really? Argumentum ad Title? Going to the article itself demonstrates that it was tongue-in-cheek and fairly reported the exchange, even if it linked to criticisms of Dawkins.
When somebody gets caught on a shallow argument, the best reaction is to grin, bear it, and, with the best grace possible, own up to it ... not double down on the shallow arguments.
For the first one thousand five hundred or so years that religion has existed, the overwhelming majority of professing Christians would never have even seen a bible.
-- pew sitter
P.S.: I for one did read "On the Origin of Species" as an undergraduate, but I remember that the literati were a tiny minority among all biology students.
Yeah, I've just addressed that. And it's more than just silly, it's downright ugly.