Blue genes Archives

April 3, 2010

Happy Easter: God v. Dawkins, Hitchens & Trivers, LLC

(I wrote this piece some time ago and shelved it. Owen's recent post about the odious witch doctor Robert Trivers brought the topic back to mind, so here it is. Warning: It's as long as the Epistle to the Romans, and not nearly as well written.)

I knew a girl, back in my college days – let's call her Diotima. She was a very attractive girl, though I never got anywhere with her, not for lack of trying. In later life, she became what you might call the International Standard Liberal. That is to say, after a feckless and louche baby-boomer youth, she went "back" to law school -- as she oddly put it; had she gone to law school in a previous life? -- and ended up making a nice upper-middle-class living as a bureaucrat in an agency devoted to “Victim Services.”

Some years after our college days, I ran into Diotima again, at a wedding. I was a red-hot Marxist-Leninist in those days, or so I sincerely believed. We argued about politics for quite some time over the downscale champagne, and she finally dismissed me, with a self-assurance you had to admire, by saying that I had found a "substitute for religion."

I chewed on this for a while and finally decided she was right.

Diotima was a hell of an attractive girl – was that already made clear? But even for the sake of her lush poitrine I couldn't live in the whiggish, commonsensical, Benthamite world which is, for her, the only desirable or imaginable world. Diotima correctly saw that my wild dreams of social transformation had no firmer evidentiary basis than the pious Christian's hope of Heaven, and that I was committed to them in the teeth of all the obvious facts.

This memory bubbled back up during a recent weekend spent in an enlightened household with three generations of intelligent and successful Ivy League graduates.

The youngest son – let's call him Strephon – was reading, with great glee, Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion, and declaiming aloud passages that he found particularly entertaining. After half an hour of this I was ready to run out and join the Trappists, and sign off gladly on every article of the Catholic faith, the more baroque and improbable the better.

Dawkins is a shallow, monocausal answer-for-everything smart-aleck with a disreputable weakness for sociobiology – a guy so full of sophomoric self-assurance, he thinks that a topic already handled rather well by Gibbon and Voltaire could benefit from his attention. But the fury I was starting to feel, subjected to Dawkins' jejune witticisms at God's expense, was going well beyond irritation or even contempt. I wanted to take up the cudgels on God's behalf. Or, putting it a different way: given a choice between God, with His problematic record, on the one hand, and Dawkins on the other – I'd take God any day.

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