As E.O. Wilson gives, Richard Dawkin’s takes. Everything evens out.
Richard Dawkins is biologist of international stature, too. But while Wilson is extending olive branches, Dawkins is taking no prisoners. Bent on "convincing the literate public that they must now take evolutionary theory seriously," Dawkins, a scholar of evolution (who has brought us The Selfish Gene and The Ancestor’s Tale) has taken an offensive posture in recent years against the evangelical contingent looking to replace evolution theory with intelligent design. Now, with The God Delusion, he is going directly after religion itself. In today’s political culture, a complete dismissal of religion in the name of atheism and science is a hard thing to come by (unless you’re reading Sam Harris or Daniel Dennett). But here you have it. Currently, the number #2 bestseller on Amazon.com, The God Delusion has clearly tapped into something. On one level, the strong sales can be attributed to Dawkin’s book being the latest volley in the ongoing culture war that has propelled many books – most of the them mediocre – to the top of charts. (Currently, Bill O’Reilly’s Culture Warrior is #10 on the Amazon charts. So there you go.) But on another level, it could have something to do with the fact that religion is nowadays very au courant, and, the room to take an agnostic or atheistic position has all but disappeared in the American public sphere. So, when a strong, unapologetic defense of atheism comes along, there may well be a pent up desire – at least, in some corners of the country – to embrace what Dawkins has to say.
Although some mainstream reviewers have questioned whether he makes the best case for atheism, it nonetheless remains true that Dawkins is one of our leading public intellectuals and can make his case with style and verve, something that comes across in his 11/1 NPR interview and this BBC broadcast, both well worth a listen.
On a somewhat less serious note, it also seemed worth posting Richard Dawkin’s interview with another character who has been making news this week — Ted Haggard, the evangelical minister who has been embroiled in a sex scandal and had to resign his position as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, an organization that boasts 30 million members.