Friday, January 13, 2006


Scruton-izing Dawkins

I couldn't resist the pun, but British philosopher Roger Scruton has an interesting piece in the latest edition of The Spectator in which he responds to Richard Dawkins' latest TV series 'The Root of All Evil?', in which the Darwinist data picks to portray religion as an irrational mental virus or 'meme':

'...And what happens to societies that have been vaccinated against the infection — Soviet society, for instance, or Nazi Germany — do they experience a gain in reproductive potential? Clearly, a lot more research is needed if we are to come down firmly on the side of mass vaccination rather than (my preferred option) lending support to the religion that seems most suited to temper our belligerent instincts, and which, in doing so, asks us to forgive those who trespass against us and humbly atone for our faults... To blame religion for the wars conducted in its name... is like blaming love for the Trojan war. All human motives, even the most noble, will feed the flames of conflict when subsumed by the ‘territorial imperative’ — this too Darwin teaches us, and Dawkins surely must have noticed it. Take religion away, as the Nazis and the communists did, and you do nothing to suppress the pursuit of Lebensraum. You simply remove the principal source of mercy in the ordinary human heart and so make war pitiless; atheism found its proof at Stalingrad... Religion, like patriotism, gets a bad press among those for whom war is the one human reality, the one occasion when the Other in all of us is noticeable. But the real test of a human institution is in peacetime. Peace is boring... and also rotten television. But you can learn about it from books. Those nurtured in the Christian faith know that Christianity’s ability to maintain peace in the world around us reflects its gift of peace to the world within. In a Christian society there is no need for Asbos, and in the world after religion those Asbos will do no good — they are a last desperate attempt to save us from the effects of godlessness, and the attempt is doomed... Rational argument can get us just so far, in raising the monotheistic faiths above the muddled world of superstition. It can help us to understand the real difference between a faith that commands us to forgive our enemies, and one that commands us to slaughter them. But the leap of faith itself — this placing of your life at God’s service — is a leap over reason’s edge. This does not make it irrational, any more than falling in love is irrational. On the contrary, it is the heart’s submission to an ideal, and a bid for the love, peace and forgiveness that Dawkins too is seeking, since he, like the rest of us, was made in just that way.'

- Roger Scruton, 'Dawkins is Wrong About God', The Spectator, 14th January 2006.

You can read the whole article by subscribing (free) to The Spectator on-line @

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