Why Dawkins is Wrong About Religion

Perhaps you've never heard me rant about Richard Dawkins. At one time Professor Dawkins was one of my favorite scientific authors. I've read "The Blind Watchmaker" and "Climbing Mount Improbable" and still think that no one can explain the intricacies of evolutionary theory and address some of the major misunderstandings better than he can. He is an excellent writer.

So I was really excited when while surfing the net one day I came across an academic talk that he had given on religion. Then I was sorely disappointed to read a condescending diatribe suggesting that people who are religious are so because they don't think for themselves. Since then his vitriol against religion has only gotten more pronounced and more caustic. And instead of writing about what evolutionary theory does say, he spends his time putting out things like "The God Delusion" and "Viruses of the Mind" - his personal views on religion cloaked in the guise of scientific respectability. He has passed from scientist to what I call "fundamentalist atheist."

Why Dawkins is Wrong About Religion is the secondary-title of a relatively recent essay written by David Sloane Wilson, critiquing Dawkins' evolutionary analysis of religion. The gist of Wilson's argument is that Dawkins fails to take into account (or prematurely dismisses) group selection. As a result, his analysis centers on the effects of religious memes on the individual, without looking at their effects on the group. By not viewing the full picture, he comes to the wrong conclusion.

Some of you may know that I take issue with the extreme emphasis on individualism that permeates society today. I think it warps our perspectives. Reality from my perspective is continuous, not discrete. Interdependent, not independent. Systemic and organismal, not particulate and autonomous. So Wilson's article is even more interesting to me. And it is of little surprise that his analysis is much more in keeping with my views.

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Acknowledgments

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