Should we have faith in Dawkins? 1

February 10, 2006

Although Denis Alexander makes some superficially reasonable criticisms of Richard Dawkins's programme The Root Of All Evil? ("The devil within Dawkins", February 3), he has fundamentally misunderstood the nature of the critique of religious faith offered by Dawkins, and the strategy used to illustrate this.

Alexander claims that the sample of religious views Dawkins courted was unrepresentative of religious beliefs in general, highlighting just extreme and malign views. This is mainly true, but there is a point to it. Although Dawkins takes issue with specific claims of religions, which can easily be contested on scientific and moral grounds, his criticism is that faith is a form of non-thought, with bad consequences. Faith means believing in things merely because you want or choose to, rather than because of evidence. If you say it's OK to believe in the Virgin Birth or in God on the basis of faith, then what principle do you invoke to say that you shouldn't have the faith-based belief that a teapot orbits the sun or that it is morally appropriate to kill those who insult religions (or any of the outrageous things said in the programme)?

Of course most moderate religious people are decent and reasonable. But giving the green light to faith, and the approach to knowledge it entails, opens the doors to believing in anything, no matter how abhorrent. It is for this reason that faith, and the religious views it supports, is the antithesis of science, which Dawkins explained.

Daniel Jones


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