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Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The Diplomacy of Disbelief

Noël, Noël—Hell, No

We hope all our readers survived the rigours of the Yuletide festivities and wish them all – indeed everyone – a happy New Year.
        We don’t do Christianity, but for decades it’s seemed to us necessary to bear witness at divine service (midnight mass at Brompton Oratory was a favourite spectacle) at this time of year. So in due course we drove over to Myndtown, where the scattered rustics properly insist on having their carol service after the Event, so to speak – celebrating what’s happened, not anticipating it. Besides the excellent mulled wine served after the service helps dispel any lingering headaches.
        We now have to discard our habitual Olympian pronoun…
        Showing the flag in this fashion had a particular edge this year for me as I’d just published a fairly wide-ranging assault on Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion.[1] When this came out I had a quick heads-up at the reviews, grimaced, and turned to doing something useful—frightening small children who don’t look where they’re going in the supermarket, or whatever it was. But Dawkins’s tome became a phenomenon; he kept cropping up on TV, ostensibly to praise Darwin but actually to bury God; then I read a passing reference to Dawkins that mocked him as an ignorant, unimaginative buffoon. I thought the writer had a point.
        Then the Lord shone his countenance upon me one day in a charity shop, and I was able to acquire a copy of The God Delusion, free of the displeasure that its author would see any of my money. I read the book, found it wanting, and tapped out my review. The reactions were interesting. One post on a message board usually dedicated to putting the boot into allegedly paranormal phenomena referred to me as “a UFO enthusiast”, which suggests these chaps don’t know their enemy (or their friends) as well as they ought: I’ve been putting the boot into UFO claims for donkeys’ years. But the logic went, apparently: UFO enthusiasts must be wrong about Dawkins (who doesn’t do the paranormal either). Logical, er, no. And, of course, no one actually addressed any of the points in the article; the “discussion” soon began to demonstrate robust signs of confident and erudite intellectual muscle as people fell to calling one another “twats” and so on.
        Dawkins has a fan club posting messages on his own website. An entity calling itself “Extant” said: “It's an odd, ranging, sort-of piece, with bucketloads of denial, ignorance or forgetfulness on fundamental issues such as the anthropic principle. It appears to place a lot of capital upon the supposed significance of human creativity in the creative arts, proving the undeniable existence of a Creator god....”
        Oh, really? Now, as it happens, the anthropic principle seems to me (pace Dawkins) to be neither here nor there in demonstrating a case for or against either God or atheism. And I’ve no interest in defending the factitious claptrap of creationism or intelligent design. So my conscience remains unstricken at having failed to address the question. I have on the other hand occasionally been accused of flaunting my erudition, so to be condemned as ignorant is at least new, if not refreshing.
        What I absolutely didn’t say is that human creativity ‘proves’ the “undeniable existence of a creator God”. How could it? Human creativity proves that people are creative. Good for them. I didn’t even mention a “creator” God at all in this context. Which is not surprising: as the article observes, even should God exist, there’s no way of knowing if He is a product of ‘creation’ or the instigator of it. Atually the article took no position at all on the existence or otherwise of God. So I am left with the wan suspicion that the writer can’t read, or has a tropical case of false memory syndrome.
        'Extant' promises a “more-detailed” critique of my article (not apparent at the time of writing). If it turns out to be as barkingly inaccurate as his first attempt, it should provide more occasion for merriment, as well as sport for pig stickers. At the moment one’s left with the impression that *any* criticism of Dawkins induces such panic in some of his flank-rubbing fans that they are driven to see things that are not there, and can’t or won’t address those that are. I do not think the Professor needs friends like that.

Footnote
[1] See Fortean Times, issue 244 (December 2008)

More soon on the remarkable and original fiction soon forthcoming from FireCrest...



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