Thursday, September 21, 2006

Dawkins and Religion

Richard Dawkins, the renowned evolutionatry biologist and atheist was on the CBC last night for a big discussion about his anti-faith documentary: "The Root of All Evil." The guest audience of Muslims, atheists, Christians, Jews, secularists, and philosophers were prodded and queried about Dawkins film by host Avi Lewis. They also got to put questions to Dawkins directly as he was connected to the show by satellite link.

To be honest, Dawkins came accross as erudite, knowledgeable, rational, and well-prepared. Unfortunately for the people of faith, they were roundly beaten by Dawkins and his ally in the crowd, a U of T philosophy professor. Even at weak points where, for example, one of the recurrent atheist slurs against religion was presented; that the catholic church is responsible for AIDS deaths in Africa, the response of the faithful was sadly inadequate.

One of the scenes in Dawkins film is of an interview between him and a Muslim man. I'm sure this brother was chosen to portray Muslims as "fundamentalist" and irrational as he was shown in an angry diatribe against the Western world's "slutty" women.

Alia Hogben, notable anti-Sharia campaigner as the president of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women agreed with many of Dawkins points vis-a-vis "fundamentalism." The anti-fundamentalist brigade was bolstered by a contingent of new-age, gay-marriage advocating body of "moderate faith," individuals, whose leader kept repeating the silly "God is Love" mantra whenever she got close to the mic.

Also in the audience, Ali Hindi, the notorious Canadian imam. He responded to Dawkins very good point about the need for evidence and proof in determining the existence of anything, such as the theory evolution or the existence of God. Hindi responded as well as he could, considering his halting English, that the reason people believed in Jesus, and hence God, was the Jesus character, his life, and the miracles that he performed. Hindi's delivery was lacking, but he was getting to the crux of the matter. What proof is there that God exists?

Let me play the atheists advocate for a moment and engage in a little gedanken experiment. Let's assume that God does not exist. We will limit our system to life on earth, to make things a little easier. In terms of life, evolution takes God's place. It is responsible for creating our forms, our appearance, our behaviour and shaping society. Humans, therefore, have developed religion as a natural evolutionary response to our environment. It appears that we need it to survive just as we need to apply violence in the pursuit of food, protection, and the propagation of the species.

So in a way, "fundamentalist" Islam is very useful in a evolutionary perspective. There are 1.2 billion Muslims on this planet. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. Muslims have the highest population growth rate of just about any people around. Muslims have the lowest rate of AIDS and other STD's. These are facts. Its obvious evolution is doing its job and Muslim DNA is the beneficiary. Maybe evolution is the root of all evil!

Back to faith: Dawkins uses quite a funny analogy to describe belief in God. He invents a myth of a teapot in space. Everyone is told that there is a teacup in space, and that it must be worshipped. Eventually, as the generations pass, everyone believes that this teapot is real, and people that doubt this are ridiculed. What he is saying is that God is a myth, much like the teapot, and like a number of other gods which we no longer believe in or worship. Fair argument.

What proof is there that God does in fact exist? For me, the proof abounds, though it is not scientific in nature. In Islam, these proofs are termed Ayat. They include Prophecy (i.e. correctly predicting the future), Revelation (The Holy Scriptures, the Qur'an, etc.), human history, and current events.

The Prophet Muhammad (SAWS), predicted many things about the future 1400 years ago, including the current conflicts between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The Qur'an, a miracle in itself, lyrically and numerically coded, asks its reader to observe scientific phenomenon that could not have been observed at the time of its revelation (i.e. underwater waves and multidimensional space).

It is also interesting to note that most of the major geopolitical events of the current decade are a direct and indirect consqequences of the 9/11 attacks. I doubt Dawkins program would ever have been made if it weren't for Bin Laden. The simplistic view and ensuing conclusions of that event was that religion is bad and Muslims are bad. However, it did manage to get everyone talking about religion, and it did get us talking about God. On one of the Bin Laden tapes, he remarked to his buddy the stories of people who came to him of dreams of the attack, months and years before it took place (eg. Prophecy).

Maybe God is not as loving as people say. Perhaps He is capable of love as well as hate, unity as well as divisiveness, creativity as well as destruction. Maybe He is the God of the Old Testament, Allah in the Qur'an. He can reward as well as punish. If God is real, why should we try and define him and limit him? Why do we pick and choose what we want to believe in and follow, like the Christian leader on the CBC program. Life is full of shades of gray, but God, and the concept of God, is absolute. You either believe in Him, His revelations and commandments, fully, thoroughly, and without prejudice, or you don't believe at all. God is a black and white concept. Most people characterize this type of thinking as "fundamentalist," but in reality, it is just logic.

In the end, Dawkins is somewhat right, the proof is in the pudding. The ultimate proof will come when we die. The penultimate proof is what happens in this life. Will the prophecies come true or will science trump religion? Will Jesus return? Will the temple be rebuilt? Will Armageddon take place? Will Muslims conquer Rome? It seems to me, that the answers to these questions are close at hand. God Willing, we shall see...

3 comments:

matt said...

you wrote :
"So in a way, "fundamentalist" Islam is very useful in a evolutionary perspective"

So are diseases they've been around for a really long time and they play a vital role in making our immune system stronger but we don't try and claim that diseases are divine.
You wrote:

"There are 1.2 billion Muslims on this planet. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. Muslims have the highest population growth rate of just about any people around. Muslims have the lowest rate of AIDS and other STD's. These are facts"

Just because islam is growing in numbers doesn't make it good a virus grows more quickly and exponentially than islam that doesn't make it divine any more than islam.

Your facts can also be interpreted to mean that because islam is spreading (a claim I seriously doubt)and as it spreads societies are reduced to backwardness and barbarism and we know that barbaric societies do not last for very long,in fact we wouldn't have made it as a species if we thought rape,murder and perjurty were ok.And since natural selection has built into us these capacities for empathy,truth,love etc... would make ideologies that run counter to it anti-evolutionry.. And this explaination is more elegant and logical.

Back to your point about natural selection ,its true the process that gave rise to us is a rather cruel and indifferent one but that doesn't mean we should act like it ,in fact our society is exactly anti-Darwinian in that sense because we protect the weak and the helpless , and that is the kind of world I want to live in, but that doesn't mean we should ignore the facts and deny evolution .
We accept the facts for what they are but try and make a better society.

You wrote:
What proof is there that God does in fact exist?

Well, actually the world proof is absolute we cannot find such things outside of mathematics, however we can judge something to be true beyond reasonable doubt.

What Professor Dawkins is trying to say here is that we dont think about any thing else in life the way we do about God say pink unicorns , we can never disprove the existance of pink unicorns but we dont stay up at night worry about weather this creature exists or not and most people are sure this creature does not exist if you are thinking this way then you should also consider the existance of many mythical creatures,gods etc... the same way .Or be content with the fact that none of these things including god is likely.

you wrote :
The Qur'an, a miracle in itself, lyrically and numerically coded, asks its reader to observe scientific phenomenon that could not have been observed at the time of its revelation (i.e. underwater waves and multidimensional space).

Well, the Hindus say the same thing about their scriptures and so do scientologists but that doesnt make it true .Ask yourself is there any claim in the quran that could not have been made by someone to whom a wheelbarrow would have been an emerging technology.If Quran talks about dna and space ships our jaws drop assutably and we can have a candid discussion otherwise its just hockus pockus ..
In fact in the quran allah gets basic math wrong, basic sciences wrong, basic physiology wrong .How can the creator of the universe be so ignorant

Anonymous said...

Dear Matt,

You are an idiot :)

Thanks...

Anonymous said...

"In fact in the quran allah gets basic math wrong, basic sciences wrong, basic physiology wrong."

Where? Cite your sources.