Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dawkins blasted in Skeptical magazine

Dinesh D'Souza draws our attention to the fact that some of atheist crusader Richard Dawkins's fellow atheists (and agnostics?) may be getting fed up with him. How else to explain David Sloan Wilson, whose work on a hypothetical evolutionary basis for religion Mario and I discuss in The Spiritual Brain, having this to say in Skeptic, a magazine the majority of whose readers are probably atheists or agnostics? As quoted/summarized by D'Souza:
"Richard Dawkins and I share much in common. We are both biologists by training who have written widely about evolutionary theory." Moreover, "We are both atheists in our personal convictions." Then Wilson gets to his point. "When Dawkins' The God Delusion was published, I naturally assumed he was basing his critique of religion on the scientific study of religion from an evolutionary perspective. I regret to report otherwise. He has not done any original work on the subject and he has not fairly represented the work of his colleagues." Rather, Dawkins has subjected his atheist readers to "sleights of hand." He has produced a "diatribe against religion" that is "deeply misinformed." Indeed he is "just another angry atheist trading on his reputation as an evolutionst and spokesperson for science to vent his personal opinions about religion."

To this strong stuff from Wilson, D'Souza adds,
Wilson examines Dawkins' central claim that religion is an obvious "delusion." On the contrary, Wilson writes, religion is in general more adaptive for human communities than atheism. "On average, religious believers are more prosocial than non-believers, feel better about themselves, use their time more constructively, and engage in long-term planning, rather than gratifying their impulsive desires...They report being more happy, active, sociable, involved and excited."

Here's Wilson's blast in Skeptic in full.

Sure, Wilson (and D'Souza) but the thing is, everybody KNOWS this stuff. Or should. The data's been out there for a long time. (See Chapter 8 of The Spiritual Brain for a handy little discussion of key findings about the role of spirituality in promoting health - and of reasons why such data tend to get shelved.)

Anyway, it's nice to see people being Skeptical in more than one direction. If the skeptics think that what Wilson is saying is not true, they are only fooling themselves, and rants about Islamic extremists are only distractions.

(Muslim friends tell me that the extremists are not particularly spiritually minded at all; they want power over other people and religion is their ploy of getting it. And the extremists have chosen an orientation to their religion that means they'll likely kill themselves trying ... is that divine justice or what?)

Anyway, D'Souza's always fun and so is Wilson here.

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