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Richard Dawkins at Bookpeople, Austin

March 19, 2008

Richard Dawkins was visiting Austin today and stopped by Book People for a signing and presentation/Q&A. A friend contacted me and asked my opinion on it and I thought I would share it here as well.

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I am reasonably familiar with Dawkins and his stance, so it was not necessarily new. I was there with another church planter from south Austin and we discussed it over tacos at Torchy’s. I am sorry that you had to leave early, because you missed much of his Q&A which was actually insulting in a polite British grandfatherly kind of way.

Overall we felt sad for Richard Dawkins and those who were applauding his statements, for several reasons.

1. Dawkins doesn’t seem to readily confess that his position is a faith position as well. He hints at it when discussing the probability of natural causes and supernatural causes. When he says that evolution is ‘more probable’ than intelligent design he seems to open the door to the fact that he makes a leap toward evolution (or atheism in his case), but I have not heard him openly say it in the manner of faith/belief. He just simply states, I feel ‘this’ is more probable than ‘that’ and then he makes the arrogant claim that anyone who disagrees is stupid/ignorant/not educated. During the Q&A he used those terms interchangeably for those who didn’t see it his way.

2. As for his fans, the interesting observation is that Dawkins is a critic of those who are not educated and who do not think for themselves, while he gladly receives the praise of those who sit at his feet and listen to what the leader (Dawkins in this case) says. At the end of the day, his argument is that people who believe in God are stupid, don’t think for themselves and are misled. His followers are no more critical of what he is saying than many Christians and their pastors. They just drink the Kool-Aid.

I think a primary cause for this is peoples presuppositions and their willingness to fall in line with anyone who validates their presuppositions. Certainly there are those who are willing to do the hard critical thinking work, but they are rarer than I would like.

What also bothered us was the smugness of his viewpoint, and the willingness of others to not only fall in line with it, but to applaud it. As an example of his arrogance, one lady offered “I am an evolutionary biologist working on the bacterium flagellum and I get in regular discussions with creationists who make good arguments and I feel unprepared at times”. Dawkins response was basically, ‘thanks for your question, don’t feel inferior, they are stupid for opposing you’. This questioner seemed like she was genuinely seeking to engage her questioners on a respectful and humble level and she got ‘they are stupid, you are right’. I couldn’t help but feel that she may have left unsatisfied with that response.

While I have confidence in the hope of the gospel and the God we claim, I attempt to do so with humility. I also respect the intellect of others who disagree, while continuing to engage them. Dawkins essentially shuts down debate with his claims that anyone who disagrees is stupid.

Far too many people are unwilling to do the hard work of examining truth claims and too willing to just agree with those who can state their position with clarity and confidence. Whether they are actually right or not. This goes for people on all sides of the debate (myself included at times).

In the end, his arrogance was unappealing and unconvincing. You can’t just say, “I am right and you are stupid” because you land on one side of what are debatable probability factors.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. melyssalaree permalink
    March 25, 2008 12:53 pm

    thanks for the promised hospitality. i heard from andy that it was one of the most restful times he has has lately.
    one day i will take up that offer, probably not until my job is over. i don’t leave town much. it was still nice to see you guys for a short while.

  2. March 25, 2008 2:13 pm

    Thanks for the post, Jacob. Good points made here.

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  1. Reflections from Dawkins in Austin « Creation Project

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