Richard Dawkins, anti-Christian language and the rise of science


Published: 17 November 2015 (GMT+10)
wikipedia.org snyder-hall
The scene of the recent fatal shooting of a teacher and nine students (plus many other injured) at Umpqua Community College, Oregon, USA.

World leading antitheist Richard Dawkins has once more blasted creationists in an interview in the Wall Street Journal. He took special offence at the Christian creationist involvement in science and society, once again showing no respect or understanding of our common humanity.1 A day or so later we witnessed another mass killing in American classrooms where a social misfit took his aggression out on his peers, apparently singling out Christians in particular, at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. His social media files suggest an unhealthy interest in guns, violence, the Nazis and the Occult. The targeting of Christians may have happened in other incidents as well, for instance at the Columbine tragedy in 1999.

While we cannot directly link Dawkins’ comments to the school shooting, he and other ‘New atheists’ have twisted the perception of Christians, and especially creationists, creating a climate of hatred, ignorance and disrespect in society. Sam Harris wishes to heap such embarrassment upon faith in God that it becomes impossible for people to express their belief.2 Even Christian evolutionists can’t escape this hatred; evolutionist Michael Reiss was forced out of his position at the Royal Society (UK) simply for calling for respectful dialogue with evolution dissenters in the science classroom (see here). And Dawkins is perhaps the most vocal voice of this aggressive new atheism.3 If Dawkins spoke of the Jewish community in the way he speaks of Christians he would be labelled anti-Semitic—and rightly so. But what of anti-Christian rhetoric where one’s words may incite hatred of Christians? Do the likes of Dawkins have a responsibility to be more careful in what they say?

The ‘new atheism’ has also led to a situation where many young people today have lost contact with a traditional Christian foundation for life. As such they are uncertain about the meaning of life, about values and ethics—with some tragic and frightening consequences, such as mass murders in schools and further afield.

Christian creationists an ‘incubus’ around the neck of American science?

In that Wall Street Journal article, Dawkins commented that although America “is the leading scientific nation” this is “despite having this incubus around its neck of an uncultured ignorant almost majority.” What is an incubus, exactly? A predatory sexual demon! Perhaps he thinks he can get away with literally demonizing Christians by using a word few understand. He also intimated that science might have made greater strides forward if it hadn’t been hindered by this “fundamentalist-not-quite-majority”, and, “You have to wonder what it could be like if it didn’t have that burden,” he stated.4 It sounds like Dawkins wants to rid the world of Christians! But Dawkins either does not realize, or doesn’t want to acknowledge, the foundational contribution that Christian doctrines have made to the good of science and society.

Dawkins gets it wrong on science

Ample evidence shows that Christian creationism enabled science to flourish in the West. Not only were most of the pioneers of science Christian theists and creationists, many took the creation account of Genesis literally. For instance, historian of science Peter Harrison has shown that a literal reading of Scripture, which followed from the Protestant Reformation, led to a more literal reading of nature.5 Moreover, early members of the Royal Society helped to develop the scientific process, and saw it as a means of recovering the greater knowledge they believed Adam had prior to the Fall.6 I wonder why Dawkins does not acknowledge the evidential works of Harrison, or others who have written along similar lines?

wikipedia.org richard-dawkins
Misotheist Richard Dawkins complained in September 2015 (Wall Street Journal) that the USA (and its science) suffers from an “incubus around its neck of an uncultured ignorant almost majority.”

Other cultures failed to develop science. Science could not take-off in ancient Greece despite their intellectual ability in other areas. Greek pagan beliefs stymied their society from engaging in science in any sustained, collegiate, and meaningful way. Their gods didn’t care about the world; they were often silly and capricious; an unruly, lustful, and vengeful mob that made few demands upon their human subjects. Plato was too busy thinking about ideal ideas to bother with the physical world. The greatest hope was to escape from the world into the next life. And that is what Plato’s writing encouraged in later generations among Gnostics and even some Christian writers. For such thinkers the mind was so focussed upon the spiritual and future life that the present physical world was not considered that important.

The Epicurean perspective favoured by Darwin and Dawkins fares no better. It involves the constant mixing of atoms, but it does not explain why the world is ordered or bound by scientific laws. So-called Darwinian science often sounds like a third branch of dead-end Greek thinking, such as is found within Hesiod’s Theogony; creation was said to have evolved through the gods of chaos and eros (sexual lust). Darwinism likewise is just-so story-telling where natural selection keeps the gods of chaos and eros alive. So, when Dawkins holds that laws govern the world he simply borrows ideas given to him from Christian creationists, not from survival-of-the-fittest Darwinism. No wonder such a large percentage of the population are skeptical of Darwinism.

Biblical Christianity and true science

On the other hand Christian theism, and a belief in a literal creation, has birthed and facilitated science and we can make the following statements:

  • The God of order (1 Corinthians 14:33) explains why the world is ordered. Atheism does not predict that the world is ordered.
  • The doctrine that mankind is made in the image of a Creator God (Genesis 1:26–27) predicts that the world is understandable, or intelligible to human beings. Indeed some of the Fathers of science, such as Johannes Kepler and Isaac Newton, thought they could gain a better understanding of the mind of God by studying creation.
  • The doctrine that mankind is made in the image of a loving God (1 John 4:9) predicts that the world and other human beings are objectively valuable (Genesis 9:3–6). Atheism leads to subjective values.
  • The doctrine that Christians have a stewardship mandate (Genesis 1:28) teaches us that we should care objectively for creation and do good science. Atheism leads to subjective morality and does not explain why we should care for others or the natural order, or do good science. Indeed it is often secular humanism linked to the love of money that leads people to pursue unethical science and practices. The shocking revelations at Planned Parenthood (July 2015) are a case in point.
  • And from the above, the study of the material world, what we call science, allows us to make wise choices about the world, as opposed to unwise ones that lead to potentially disastrous consequences. Christian creationists should be guardians of creation and advocates of good science.

Concluding thoughts

Good science has developed in the West because of commitments that arose from Christian theism—a literal reading of the Bible, an acceptance of the creation account and the Reformation—not in spite of it. The ‘new atheists’ wilfully ignore this historical evidence, but instead use language that is designed to incite others to despise Christian creationists. The ‘new atheism’ also leads many young people to a life where objective meaning and value are lost. Dawkins’ atheism has nothing of value to offer the world.

References and notes

  1. See Dawkins, R., Dawkins: Religion Holds Back Science in America, Wall Street Journal, 29 September 2015; wsj.com. Also, Taylor, F., Richard Dawkins: ‘Ignorant Christians’ are holding back science, Christian Today, 30 September 2015; christiantoday.com. Return to text
  2. Harris, S.; “At some point, there is going to be enough pressure that it is just going to be too embarrassing to believe in God”, in Wolf, G., The Church of the Non-Believers, Wired Magazine 14(11), November 2006; archive.wired.com. Return to text
  3. The new atheism is an aggressive form of atheism popularised by such men as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett. Return to text
  4. Ref 1, second article cited. Return to text
  5. Harrison, P., The Bible, Protestantism and the Rise of Natural Science, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001, p. 106. Harrison, P., The Bible and the Emergence of Modern Science, Christians in Science, Public Lecture, Cambridge University, 24 May 2005. Return to text
  6. Harrison, P., The Fall of Man and the Foundations of Science, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2007. Return to text

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Readers’ comments

Denny P.
You are right when you say that atheism has nothing of value to offer the world in fact the only thing that atheism can really offer anyone is death. Someone should ask Richard Dawkins if his atheism can give anything to society or individual that death will not take away. If death takes away everything that life has to offer including memory and legacy then what is left for Christianity to rob humanity of? What Richard Dawkins and the new atheists don't understand is that their real enemy is death not Christianity. Now death is a powerful foe and they will need someone even more powerful to defeat it, those of us who are Christians know someone like that, they should get to know him.
N. W.
I used to live in Roseburg. I've been to that college.
Oh, what is this world coming to?
Philip Bell
Your question is an understandable one, both in the wake of the attack referred to in this article and light of the very recent terrorist acts in Paris. We recommend this recent comprehensive article, Why would a loving God allow death and suffering?
Terry W.
Excellent points being made, but I don't see any reason to single out Richard Dawkins. Bill Nye, the Science Guy(tm) without a science degree (i.e. he has only a Bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering) was interviewed by Steve Palkin of The Agenda in this period regarding his new book "Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation", yet another tome of error and deception to keep poor Dr. Sarfati writing yet another "Refuting" book. ([link deleted per feedback rules]MqdZTorg) He makes statements to the effect that this website could be the basis of a curriculum starting with "Creation Myths That Turned Out Not To Be True 101". But when he had his big chance to prove the need for such a course early last year across from Ken Ham in the Creation Museum, he failed utterly. Between insisting that the US needs to oust this crazy creationism from its education system to stay ahead in science (which it largely has - incidentally, Texas, one of the few states that still allows creation to be taught in schools, is home of Texas Instruments, the world's first microchip manufacturer, and Johnson Space Center, the world's biggest astronaut training facility!), Bill Nye got so many basic geographical, geological, biological, mathematical, and historical facts dead wrong that Youtubers (including CMI) spent weeks setting the record straight.

However, Richard Dawkins has a much better (and obviously more dangerous) command of the English language, so I guess the article tearing a strip off his accomplice in North America can be relegated to the comment section ;)

...for an atheist, he seems to know a lot about demons.
Tony F.
Thank you for this article as a reminder of Dawkins' perversity. It is a great sadness that he will not even see this or other CMI literature. He recommends the Bible as literature, I pray that reading God's word does not leave him forever empty.
When there is nasty criticism of Christianity and Creation Science I always remember Semmelweiss and more recently two Australian researchers Warren and Marshall into Gastric Ulcers. There is then [the sobering thought that] he and his ilk will come to grief. God is not mocked. Amen
Philip Bell
Ignac Semmelweiss' contributions to surgery are discussed at length here.

F. G.
Atheists claim to be about science, reason and rationality. Yet their only weapons against what they oppose seem to be mockery, name-calling, heaping embarrassment, and so on.

If they're really about rationality, why don't they respond to their opponents with hard evidence and reasoned arguments? Answer: They can't, because rationality is NOT what they're really about.
Jack L.
I'm not sure we (yes we) even allow atheists to call their untestable fabrications like dark matter, dark energy, the MultiVerse and Evolution "Science". All of these things are Anti-Science, they block funds and people from real Science like Project Encode.

My point being, we start off these debates as if the atheists are talking about Science, but they are not. They are talking about their beliefs and using false claims about Science to justify their beliefs and attack Christians.
Philip R.
Dawkins appeared to acknowledge the place Christianity played in the development of science on a program on Australia's ABC in April 2012. On the Q&A program, an audience member asked him about all the good that "God-centred religion" has done, giving a few examples, including "countless developments in science", but she didn't mention science itself.

In response, Dawkins agreed that it had done good, but added science itself to the list: "When you say that Christianity has been responsible for a lot of good, including science by the way, which is somewhat ironic,...".

So perhaps he is aware of it, but doesn't like acknowledging it.
Ref: [link deleted per feedback rules]
Alex W.
Well said Andrew!
I hope Dawkins reads this.
Keep up the good work.
Charbel T.
I don't understand what's the point ... Richard Dawkins [is making], I really don't understand what's the point of ignoring the fact that almost 97% of the scientists who contributed to humanity, technology, science and knowledge were Religious. I mean he actually thinks he's better than the brilliant scientists who actually did something to help humanity such as Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal, Max Planck, Nikola Tesla, Nicholas Copernicus, Francis Bacon, Gregor Mendel and many many more, including the scientists of today. Did he ever question himself? What did I do? Yes he did earn several degrees and was honored by several universities, however did he actually work on important scientific subjects outside evolution? Did he invent anything? ... Keep spreading the truth brothers and sisters :)

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