Dawkins Book-Signing Clanger

[part three of The Road to Economic Triage and Mercenary Sexuality]

‘A few years ago he (Richard Dawkins) was in Washington DC promoting his most recent book. A young man was in the audience who worked for a Washington think tank—and who has read Total Truth. He put a question to Dawkins.

“If humans are machines, and it is inappropriate to praise or blame for their actions, then should we be giving you credit for the book you are promoting?”

Dawkins quickly backtracked.

“I can’t bring myself to do that,” he responded. “I actually do respond in an emotional way and I blame people. I give people credit.”

We might say that in real life, Dawkins keeps walking off his own map. He acts in ways that his worldview does not account for.

The young man pressed the point further. “But don’t you see that this is an inconsistency in your view?”

Dawkins replied, “I sort of do, yes. But it is an inconsistency that we sort of have to live with— otherwise life would be intolerable.”1a

It was an astonishing admission that in practice no one can live by the naturalistic worldview he himself promotes—that its consequences would be intolerable.'(1b)

‘Tom Woolfe makes a similar observation: “At a recent conference on the implications of genetic theory for the legal system—five distinguished genetic theorists are up on stage—I stood up in the audience and asked, “If there’s no free will why should we believe anything you’ve said so far? You only say it because you’re programmed to say it.” You’ve never heard such stuttering and blathering in response to anything in your life.'(1c) ‘

It may be alright for Dawkins to play word-games like that but there are serious consequences for such thinking in the real world. The pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty has seriously suggested the rich nations may end up engaging in “economic triage” against poor nations. After all, throughout history, various nations have come up with ways to exclude certain groups from the human family by labelling them subhuman … The idea that human rights are universal, Rorty notes, was a completely novel concept ushered in by Christianity. It rests on the biblical teaching that “all human beings are created in the image of God.”

Because of Darwin, Rorty states, we no longer accept creation. Therefore we no longer need to maintain that everyone who is biologically human has equal dignity. We are free to revert to the pre- Christian attitude that only certain groups qualify for human rights.

What criterion should we use in selecting which groups qualify? The most logical would be an economic criterion, Rorty argues. Any concept of obligation “has to be one which takes money into account.” It has to ask, “Do we have the economic resources to help these people? When this is raised, then the idea that everyone would have the same rights “is obviously unfeasible”… Thus Rorty concludes, there is no meaningful way to state that the “poor five billion citizens of the member states of the United nations” have the same rights as the rich nations.8 In response to this, Smith warns, “History shows that once we create categories of different worth, those humans denigrated by the political power-structure as having less value are exploited, oppressed and killed.”(9)

  1. 1a  The young man’s name was Joe Manzari. See Logan Gage, “Who wrote Richard Dawkin’s new book?” Evolution News and Views, 28 October 2006, http://www.evolutionnews.org/2006/10/who_wrote_richard_dawkinss_new,html. MY account is slightly different because it is taken from an audio tape.
  2. 1b  Pearcey N. Saving Leonardo pp: 153 B&H Publishing 2010
  3. 1c  Cited in Carol Iannone, “A Critic in Full: A Conversation With Tom Woolfe,” Academic Questions, 11 August 2008.

8 Richard Rorty, “Moral Universalism and Economic Triage,” paper presented at the second UNESCO Philosophy Forum, Paris, 1996. Reprinted in Diogenes, vil.44, issue 173 (1996) – quoted by Pearcy N. Saving Leonardo p.60

9 National Public Radio in San francisco … Smith, ‘Welcome To Our Brave New World’