Dawkins book The Greatest Show on Earth has now been published in German, and as such is being interviewed by a German publication. The conversation centers mostly on why Dawkins thinks that believing the world and universe to be designed is unhelpful:
It is an attempt to disabuse people, especially in America, but also in other parts of the world, who have become influenced by fundamentalist religion into thinking that life can be and should be explained as all designed. I regard that as a lazy and unhelpful explanation as well as an untrue one.
As if people who think it’s designed just stop there with regards to describing the world and the universe with the philosophy called science. Ignore that fact that the history of the world has had folks investigating nature that believed and still believe it’s designed. This is one of Dawkins’ favorite arguments, and no one ever says it’s akin to saying that since we know that songs are composed by intelligence no one else will ever try to figure them out and learn to play them. Or since books are written no one will employ textual criticism and determine something along the lines of why it was written the way it was. As if anything thought to be designed is immediately uninteresting. I suppose that rules out an effort at understanding his book by the same logic. A designed book, that says that don’t look at things as designed if they are to have any merit, is an odd thing.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: You never experienced a religious phase in your life?
Dawkins: Of course. I was a child, wasn’t I?
I was an atheist as a child, and only became a Christian as an adult. Quite frankly, Dawkins arguments occurred to me as a child, and I can’t help but see them as childish, that is, underdeveloped. I don’t mean any disrespect to children.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Has religion not been very successful in an evolutionary sense?
Dawkins: The thought that human societies gained strength from religious memes in their competition with others is true to a certain extent.
What is a meme? Why does religion, a meme fooling folks according to Dawkins, get to be considered wrong, and not every single thing that Dawkins has ever thought? They are, after all, all thoughts and beliefs. If “memes” provide wrong thinking, why does Dawkins get the golden pass? Why isn’t he subject to an atheist meme just as wrong, or a meme that tells him that his memes are superior to all other memes, all the while, of course, speaking on its own behalf.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: But following a religion that does not promote the chances for survival seems to contradict evolutionary logic…
Dawkins: Oh yes, clearly there is a conflict between meme and gene survival. We are familiar with such conflicts. They sometimes work out one way, sometimes the other.
What is a meme again?
SPIEGEL ONLINE: You call your opponents “Holocaust-deniers,” “ignorant,” “ridiculous” and “deluded to the point of perversity.”
Dawkins: My suspicion is that more people will find it amusing. If I read an author who is ridiculing some idiot, I myself am rather amused. There may be some who will be turned off and I will have lost them in those passages. But I suspect they’ll be outnumbered by those who are amused.
I call Dawkins a common-courtesy-and- normal-mutual-respect-propriety-denier. This is humanism?
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Dawkins, how would you like to be remembered 60 years from now? As the scientist who left his impact with books like “The selfish Gene?” Or as an outspoken, zealous critic of religion?
Dawkins: Both really. I don’t see them as that separate from each other. But I would be sorry if the attack on religion eclipsed what I hope I contributed to science. I think that would be a genuine pity. But I don’t see any contradiction between the two aspects. I think they belong together.
Science is a tool to describe nature, not explain it as an idea; it’s only power is in describing, as a particular phenomena, material entities that we’ve discovered, which is perfectly fine as far as it goes, but Dawkins doesn’t know how far it goes, clearly, if he thinks that descriptions are arguments against explanations. As if a description were ever or could ever be an argument against a proscription. This is the is/ought fallacy, and it underlies Dawkins entire philosophy of scientism and atheism. I feel sorry for the guy, because he doesn’t, for whatever reason, reason all the way.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What are we going to see from you next?
Dawkins: I am halfway through writing a children’s book which is called “The Magic of Reality.” Each chapter is a question like: What is an earthquake? What is a rainbow? What is the sun? Each chapter begins with a series of myths seemingly answering those questions, and then I counter that with explanations about the true nature of things. There is something very cheap about magic in the supernatural sense, like turning a frog into a prince with a magic wand. Reality has a grander, poetic magic of its own, which I hope I can get across.
Evolution is the only “science,” and I use that word loosely when using it with the word evolution, that honestly claims that the frog turned into the prince. Because it happened slowly doesn’t make it more scientific and less of a fairy tale. I don’t like to call evolution a fairy tale, because I believe there is a lot of truth in fairy tales, and I wouldn’t like to insult the respectable art.