Sunday, September 27, 2009

Richard Dawkins - Doing God's Work

It is Sunday evening and it seems appropriate that I am finishing the day reading Richard Dawkins' wonderful book on evolution - The Greatest Show on Earth. Dawkins finds it necessary to do battle from time to time with the fools who deny one of the greatest achievements of human inquiry - that of understanding how we evolved to have brains large enough to ponder this very question. To illustrate what he is up against in these anti-knowledge nuts, I will quote an anecdote from the book.

"My colleague Dr John Endler, [who] recently moved from North America to the University of Exeter, told me the following marvellous - well, also depressing - story. He was travelling on a domestic flight in the United States, and the passenger in the next seat made conversation by asking him what he did. Endler replied that he was a professor of biology, doing research on wild guppy populations in Trinidad. The man became increasingly interested in the research and asked many questions. Intrigued by the elegance of the theory that seemed to underlie the experiments, he asked Endler what that theory was, and who originated it. Only then did Dr Endler drop what he correctly guessed would be his bombshell: 'It's called Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection!' The man's whole demeanour instantly changed. His face went red; abruptly, he turned away, refused to speak further and terminated what had hitherto been an amiable conversation."

This shows the close-mindedness of those who blindly maintain their belief in the ancient myth of creation when confronted with the overwhelming modern scientific evidence for evolution. I think the most interesting thing about such blinkered thinking is the obvious fragility of the person's religious faith. Surely, if their faith was solid, they would welcome the ability to test it against the scientific evidence and not turn away from the debate?

Ironically, Dawkins is surely doing God's work - if there is a God. Ask yourself whether, if you assume that a supreme being exists, He would rather have His most intelligent biological creations sitting around blindly mouthing obsequious platitudes to Him (i.e. praying) or using that great brain He gave them to understand the true wonder of what He has accomplished. I'm pretty sure He would be handing out points to those like Dawkins, who honour Him by using their gift of intelligence, rather than those who shut down their brains when presented with the overwhelming scientific evidence. If heaven exists, then I'm sure St Peter will usher Dawkins to the very front of the queue!

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