Correspondence: Dawkins review – must try harder
9 November 2007
I read with some interest and a great deal of enjoyment John McAnulty’s review of Richard Dawkins book ’The God delusion’.
Generally I think that John is right on the money when he attacks the reactionary Dawkins for reductionism and vulgar materialism.
However with some regret I have to say that a good review has failed to be a great one. I think John misses the central characteristic of Dawkins reductionism – that is, natural selection as a theory of everything. In Dawkins eyes natural selection has to explain not just the evolution of species, but the evolution of space-time and of human society. The idea the different laws and different contradictions exist at different levels of reality remains beyond him.
From this dogmatism arises the assertion that we live in a multiverse. For Dawkins the evolution of our universe cannot simply mean an unfolding over time. It has to mean competition among universes.
This dogmatism was even more acute in relation to society. In ‘The God delusion’ he makes it clear that he would not accept any political or social explanation of religion. Even if convinced by the argument, he would continue to look for an evolutionary explanation based on genetics. It’s this sort of nonsense the leads to American studies of a ‘gay’ gene or a ‘criminal’ gene.
In addition I think that two items of John’s review are underdeveloped. He appears to think that the Marxist explanation of religion speaks for itself. It could have done with a good deal of expansion.
Much more could have been said about the cultural, social and linguistic origins of human intelligence. What was said seemed interesting and the whole field would be completely new to most people.
I hope this letter doesn’t sound carping. It good to see someone on the Irish left doing a bit of serious thinking. Long may it continue!