Sunday, May 27, 2012

Science Saturday: The Dawkins Delusion?

An intense book-shopping trip has left me with a whole new pile of non-fiction to read! Yay!

The first off the list is The Dawkins Delusion? by Alister and Joanna Collicutt McGrath.

I've made my distaste for Richard Dawkins clear already, not even on religious grounds, but on his tendency towards mansplaining and obnoxious white male privilege demonstrated during Elevatorgate. I had vaguely disliked him for years at that point (anti-religious polemic hits very close to home for me), but that settled it.

When I saw this at the used bookstore in Seoul, I was torn. Dawkins is a jackass, to be sure, but phrases like "atheist fundamentalism" and "denial of the divine" stick in my craw as well. When I saw the authors intelligently reference Stephen Jay Gould's concept of NOMA to bolster their case, though, I was sold.

The good: It's a short read—less than 100 pages—and an easy one as well. McGrath treats Dawkins fairly and with a sense of respect, taking care to avoid vacuous ad hominem attacks. The book keeps its focus sharply fixed on repudiating The God Delusion. The McGraths go through the book systematically and lay out their objections, all of which are kept in the realm of the scientific and the rhetorical. Despite their strong faith, there's never a point where it becomes preachy. Nor is this some Intelligent Design/Young Earth apologetics, either. McGrath is a scientist by training and knows better than to hold in with that garbage. Never does he cite Scripture as a scientific authority or attempt to make a case against evolution.

The bad: I wish it had been longer, but Alister McGrath does have a heady pile of literature to peruse so that's not so bad. I think it's marketed as a little more Jesus cheerleading than it actually is: the book is more about the holes in Dawkins' arguments against religion rather than championing the rightness or necessity of a faith in God.

One interesting fact: Honestly, there's not much in the way of facts here. It's largely a work of rhetoric and argumentation. They do provide a "further reading" list in the back, which is nice and which I will definitely reference later.

Would recommend? Yes. For everyone: Christian apologetics and IDers/Young Earthers (not everyone is like Dawkins!), Dawkins enthusiasts (this is where he gets it wrong!), atheist Dawkins detractors (thank you for articulating what I could not!), and anyone who has read The God Delusion.

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