Richard Dawkins, evolutionary theorist and author of The God Delusion, stepped to the podium at Pop!Tech this afternoon and asked a dangerous question in a world riven by religious conflict: Why is it, he says, that our society has brought into the idea that faith should be immune to criticism, and be treated with undue respect?
Pointing out the difference between the humility of science, and the arrogance of faith, he makes a radical suggestion. It’s time we started criticizing faith. Without convention of good manners, he says, it couldn’t withstand criticism.
“We’re glad to criticize people’s views on politics, football teams, fashion,” he says, “why not religion?”
Well, he might be reminded, look what happened to the Pope.
Dawkins wasn’t just talking Muslims here, though. Fundamentalisms of all stripes, he thinks, are dangerous.
As an evolutionary theorist, he was understandably bitter about the attacks in this country on the idea that evolution is only a theory. “It’s one of the crosses we have to bear,” he says, with puckish irony.
It was pure Dawkinism. But perhaps the most stunning moment in his talk came in response to a question from the audience from a man who asked Dawkins to explain why, in a moment of personal crisis, he had found strength from his belief in a higher power.
“Your mind is a powerful thing,” Dawkins told the guy. “So I’m guessing your mind created the sense that an external force was doing the guiding.”
Don’t tell that to the ayatollah…or the Pope.