Never one to let a simple fact go unspun, Dinesh D’Souza gleefully pounces on an article by David Sloan Wilson attacking Dawkins’ The God Delusion as being “deeply misinformed” and a “diatribe against religion.”
Wilson examines Dawkins’ central claim that religion is an obvious “delusion.” On the contrary, Wilson writes, religion is in general more adaptive for human communities than atheism. “On average, religious believers are more prosocial than non-believers, feel better about themselves, use their time more constructively, and engage in long-term planning, rather than gratifying their impulsive desires…They report being more happy, active, sociable, involved and excited.”
While it’s nice to know that D’Souza reads Skeptic magazine, where this article first appeared, his conclusions seem to indicate that he’s not benefiting from it as much as he could be. For example, Dawkins and Wilson are both atheists. Such a public disagreement between the two just goes to show that (a) atheists are not one monolithic religion, worshiping at “Darwin’s Cathedral,” (b) atheists think about their conclusions and discuss them, and (c) atheists aren’t afraid to pursue the truth even when it might benefit the theists. Not many theists of D’Souza’s variety could demonstrate this kind of unbiased openness towards the truth (in fact, I can’t think of any right off hand).
Secondly, while Wilson may have a point with reference to religion being a helpful adaptation, Dawkins’ book was not called The Religion Delusion, but rather The God Delusion. “Delusion” means believing in the existence of things that aren’t really there, whereas religion does exist. It is God, and not religion, that is the delusion in Dawkins’ book. Even Wilson’s counter-examples serve to back up the evidence cited by Dawkins, because if a specific God did exist, then at most one religion would be right and all the rest would be wrong. Why, then, would religion in general be a positive adaptation for all the religious people in the world? If one religion were true and the rest were false, shouldn’t we see a real-world difference in the benefits experienced by true believers versus false ones?
Dawkins, of course, points out that his book wasn’t even about the things Wilson is addressing, and D’Souza mentions this in his article. Notice the special “D’Souza Spin™” he puts on it, though:
Dawkins concedes that “religious belief may have a positive survival value.” He sheepishly notes that his book is not about religion and evolution, and that the Darwinian perspective is tangential to his theme.
Dawkins “concedes” and is “sheepish”. D’Souza’s specialty is painting his opponents as cowed losers acknowledging his superiority, even when there’s nothing in the stuff he’s quoting to justify such triumphalist gloating. Wilson is attacking The God Delusion for not being about the evolutionary role of religion, and Dawkins essentially points out that his book wasn’t about religious function but rather about religious accuracy. Now, what’s “sheepish” about that? It’s as though I said that slavery was a violation of human rights, and D’Souza pointed out that I wasn’t mentioning how slaves benefited the Southern economy. There’s nothing “sheepish” about me saying that I was talking about human rights and not economics. But that’s not how D’Souza would spin it.
Essentially this evolutionary biologist is confessing that in his recent work he has ventured to write about subjects in which he has no expert knowledge. When Dawkins tackles history, philosophy and theology, he usually makes a fool of himself. Not that his atheist admirers recognize this: many of them are even bigger fools. But it is Dawkins who is their leader, and that’s why writers like Wilson and I take the trouble to point out his blunders. As I put it during the Cal Tech debate, “This is what happens when you let a biologist leave the lab.”
Ah, the good old Courtier’s Reply. Biologists should not be allowed to leave their labs because they have been trained in science and critical thinking instead of being thoroughly indoctrinated in all the rationalizations, speculations, misdirections, and other excuses men have devised in order to circumvent the realization that God does not show up in real life in any objectively measurable way. They might notice that the Emperor is, in fact, quite naked, and might not be socially discreet enough to refrain from commenting on it.
Isn’t it strange that believers like D’Souza can tell us that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and all-wise, and wants to participate in a direct, personal relationship with each one of us–yes, even with atheists like Dawkins and Wilson!–and then in perfect sincerity and with a straight face, insist that it requires “expert knowledge” to determine whether this God even exists? If such a loving and capable being really wanted to relate to us personally, wouldn’t that be rather obvious by His actions in showing up to take part in this relationship, instead of making us all take a triple major in theology, history, and philosophy in order to try and convince ourselves, in His absence, that He really does exist?
And how many people have this “expert knowledge,” Mr. D’Souza? Are the vast majority of believers also disqualified from commenting due to the fact that they are physicians and plumbers and soldiers and bus drivers, rather than specialists trained in theology and philosophy?
You don’t need to be able to solve the equations of quantum physics to know that the equation “2+2=17” does not add up. Dawkins isn’t reaching for some esoteric and ineffable quantity of abstract philosophical speculation. He’s addressing the very fundamental and obvious fact of God’s absence from real life. Indeed, in pretending that “expert knowledge” is necessary in order to know about God, D’Souza is denying the Gospel itself, which is supposed to be available to all, regardless of education, experience, or intellect.