Monday, September 23, 2013

what drives dawkins is the truth and wonder of darwinism...,

guardian | One senses that for all the recognition he's garnered – the world's leading intellectual, the bestselling books, the rapt audiences etc – Dawkins would like to be a little more loved. I ask him if he thinks he's misunderstood by the media and the general public.

"Yes," he says without hesitation. "I seem to be perceived as aggressive and strident and I don't actually think I am strident and aggressive. What I think is that we have all become so accustomed to seeing religion ring-fenced by a wall of special protection that when someone delivers even a mild criticism of religion, it's heard as aggressive when it isn't. I like to think I'm more thoughtful and reflective."

Although he has only written one book specifically about religion – The God Delusion – it's the subject that has increasingly come to define Dawkins. He may have spread the message of evolution to millions, and he may have helped revolutionise our understanding of genetic biology, but it's his pronouncements on the irrationality and absurdity of religion that stick most prominently in the public's imagination. He's that bloke.

Dawkins has long maintained that there is no real difference between his work on evolution and his anti-religion position as an atheist. To some extent, he has a point. As he puts it: "I suppose my particular branch of biology is kind of in the front-line trench where religion is fighting evolution. So in a way even my science books are forced to take a stance, not against posh theologians who accept evolution but surely the absolute majority of religious people in the world who literally believe that every species was separately created and even, in the case of the Abrahamic religions, believe that Adam and Eve were created 6,000 years ago. Chemists and other scientists don't have to battle with that."

While this may be true, no other evolutionary biologist has been quite as outspoken as Dawkins in his denunciation of religion and, indeed, the religious. As a consequence, he's the go-to guy for a scathing quote on dissembling theologies and their gullible believers. He was led into attacking Peter Kay (although he later said he was unaware of who Kay was) when the comedian said that he found religion comforting; savaged the historian Paul Johnson for the "ignominious, contemptible, retarded" basis on which he held his religious beliefs; and described the British Airways employee who was suspended for wearing a gold cross at work as having "one of the most stupid faces I have ever seen".