Scientists slam religion in new documentary

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss are stars of a new feature-length documentary that slams religion and touts science, as if never the twain shall meet. “Science is wonderful. Science is beautiful,” Dawkins says. “Religion is not wonderful. Religion is not beautiful.”

I am frustrated by such a one-or-the-other world view. I believe science is wonderful, and so, at its best, is religion. But hey, like Krauss himself says, “There’s no one whose views are not subject to question.” (Frankly, that sounds downright Episcopalian to me.) The film, titled “The Unbelievers,” had its premiere in Toronto on Monday. A Q&A with Dawkins and Krauss appears in today’s Globe and Mail.

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  1. Dawkins is a hyper-rationalist, Enlightenment thinker. Neuroscience and philosophical epistemology independently point us toward acknowledging that “pure reason” is a rationalizing fantasy. Researchers are coming to understand that thought is always grounded in feelings, affect, aesthetic response, and relationship. Cognitively “reason” and “rationalization” use the same parts of the brain. Sometimes intuition, feeling, affect, and connection are what deliver us from reason’s folly. The sophistication of our ability to rationalize to deceive ourselves or others has continued to evolve with our so-called “higher function” thinking.

    Coming at Dawkins’ work as a biologist in quite different ways, evolutionary biologist Joan Roughgarden (now retired Stanford University professor (who was a parishioner in my congregation when I was a parish rector) and Jim Coan, Director of the Virginia Affective Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Virginia, (an open-minded atheist – genuinely interested in practice-based dialogue with religious practitioners) both point to current research from the broadest look at evolution and cognitive science’s emerging understandings of how the brain evolved to tell us that Dawkins’ “selfish gene” theory has been substantially discredited and that caring, compassion and relationship are inevitably present in our best thinking.

    Dawkins has become a showman. In our work in adult Christian education, reading groups, and ongoing conversation, we’ve got to equip progressive, evolution-accepting Christians with emerging discoveries and the evolution-based conversation about networked, related survival, how we (and other creatures) communicate with one another in our own species and across species, and how love and beauty are inescapably part of how we discover living truth.

  2. IT

    Richard Dawkins is showboating, again. He does not speak for all scientists, so the headline here is rather misleading– because it’s not scientists, it’s Dawkins. In fact, Dawkins doesn’t speak for all atheists. I’m a scientist, and an atheist, and I find Dawkins quite annoying. Really, as I’ve commented before, the majority of non believing scientists don’t pay much attention to his fundamentalism. But I’ll bet he’s making a mint.

    It’s really not helpful to buy into the “Religion vs. Science” meme, which is equally beloved of the conservative Christian right and of Dawkins and his tedious new atheists. Real life is far less binary.

    For a different view, I point you to the considerations of science and religion over at Friends of Jake.

    Susan Forsburg

  3. Rod Gillis

    Watched the clip on the T.O. Globe and Mail site. Its hilarious to watch two science guys advocate that the cosmological reality as described by science can be uplifting and comforting. So let me get this straight, the fact that we are here by random chance, likely to suffer extinction well before the end of the universe, and that the universe as we know it is headed for eventual oblivion is comforting and uplifting? Well I suppose sticking with that empirical data may be comforting, but asserting such is not a scientific statement, but merely a statement of value.

    If I want an opinion on a biological issue I’d be happy to ask Dawkins; but if I ask for his opinion on religion, the only thing he is qualified to offer is his personal experience of the same, no more or less valuable than that of the next guy. He certainly seems to underestimate religious and philosophical insight.

  4. tgflux

    “Its hilarious to watch two science guys advocate that the cosmological reality as described by science can be uplifting and comforting.”

    Hey, whatever, to each their own.

    But that’s just the thing: they’re free to make their FAITH-CLAIM about their cosmological reality (“It’s comforting and uplifting: believe it!”).

    …as I’m free to make mine: the Universe is (per Einstein) “not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we CAN suppose”, AND that the redeeming LOVE of God-in-Christ is the best glimpse that *I* have ever gotten of that (wonder-full!) queerer-than-we-can-suppose Reality. Not Dawkinsian (pseudo!) rational, instrumental materialism.

    JC Fisher

  5. Gary Paul Gilbert

    I like the video even though Dawkins oversimplifies. There are still many Christians who believe the things he denounces.

    Gary Paul Gilbert

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