Monday, October 30, 2006
The Demonic Richard Dawkins
A few years ago I read this very interesting book called 'Demonic Males', by Richard Wrangham and Dale Peterson. The basic argument is that much of our (male) aggression is 'hard-wired' and shared between ourselves and the chimpanzee. Thus, observing chimpanzee aggression gives insight into the aggression that human beings are capable of. It's a good book.
One of the central planks of Richard Dawkins' objections to religion is the argument that religious belief causes violent conflict. Hence: "…faith seems to me to qualify as a kind of mental illness… Faith is powerful enough to immunize people against all appeals to pity, to forgiveness, to decent human feelings… What a weapon! Religious faith deserves a chapter to itself in the annals of war technology, on an even footing with the longbow, the warhorse, the tank, and the hydrogen bomb."
One would imagine that even Richard Dawkins would accept that chimpanzee violence is not driven by religious 'delusions'.
However, I wonder about the disconnect manifest in Dawkins' outlook; that is, the way in which this prominent zoological understanding - of which he is surely aware - is bracketed out of his perception of religion. If most of our genetic inheritance is held in common with the chimpanzees; and if chimpanzees, without religion, manifest violence - why should religion be held to be the 'source of wars and violence'? Why the appeal to 'decent human feelings'? And where do they come from?
I just begin to wonder about the level of personal integrity that Richard Dawkins enjoys. What is wrong with him? Why is he so caught up with this issue - what is it that is gnawing away at him, driving him mad like this?
My suspicion is that he is fighting something in himself.
He is struggling with demons.