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LINK The closed mind of Richard Dawkins

“Quite apart from the substance of the idea, there is no reason to suppose that the Genesis myth to which Dawkins refers was meant literally. Coarse and tendentious atheists of the Dawkins variety prefer to overlook the vast traditions of figurative and allegorical interpretations with which believers have read Scripture. Both Augustine and before him the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria explicitly cautioned against literalism in interpreting the biblical creation story. Later, in the twelfth century, Maimonides took a similar view. It was only around the time of the Reformation that the idea that the story was a factual account of events became widely held. When he maintains that Darwin's account of evolution displaced the biblical story, Dawkins is assuming that both are explanatory theories—one primitive and erroneous, the other more advanced and literally true. In treating religion as a set of factual propositions, Dawkins is mimicking Christianity at its most fundamentalist.”

skado 8 Apr 11

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How does Dawkins mimic Christianity? By making the "assumption" that the Genesis myth is taken literally by today's Christians? To accuse Dawkins of overlooking "traditions of figurative and allegorical interpretations" of scripture, John Gray assumes that today's Christians interpret scripture the same way. In fact, I would bet that most Christians don't read the Bible at all. Many of them wouldn't know the definition of allegorical interpretation. In fact, plenty of them would have trouble understanding this academic temper tantrum. Dawkins has done more good for atheism, free thought and critical thinking than Gray has. Name calling, even in academic language, is still name calling. Gray might want to reread logical fallacies.


The Bible as allegory? Tell that to the investors in the Noah’s Ark theme park, which “proves” that the ark was real.

Agreed. Not to mention the predecessor of the Noah’s Ark theme park, the Creation Museum. Tens of millions of dollars. At one point it featured a diorama of a huge dinosaur with a saddle on its back. That's right. Since they believe the earth is LITERALLY about six thousand years old, of course dinosaurs co-existed with humans.


The great majority of Christians do not take the Bible allegorically. Many more take the Bible literally than not. This is much more important than traditions which do not significantly affect the lives of millions of believers and non-believers alike.


Just because some highly educated Jewish and Christian thinkers didn't take the myths seriously doesn't mean that the ordinary priests didn't inculcate such superstitious myths into the common people.


This is the same old "atheism is another religion" argument. I am narrow minded, apparently, because of my inability to take the ridiculous with the undue seriousness with which they embrace it.


There are is a wide spectrum of believers and most are closer to the literal description in the Bible. One cannot blame Dawkins for taking them at their word.

What relevance to the debate between fundamentalism and science do the others have anyway ?


I'm sticking with Dawkins on this one. I know way too many people who take the bible literally.


What's the criteria for determining what is literal and what is allegorical in the Bible? Don't fault Dawkins for responding to a healthy chunk of Christians who take the Bible literally.

What relevance to the debate between fundamentalism and science do the others have anyway ?

@Fernapple and because it's allegorical it's beyond examination?

@Count_Viceroy Very true. Actually using fictional evidence as a basis for your world model is no better however you use it.


People like dawkins can back up their lectures with proof....based on actual me one shred of evidence to back up any evidence relating to that fairy story book nutters call the bible


More attacks from the same old areas. Why don't these publications, sometimes right wing, sometimes regressive left, pick on the truly bigoted close minds that run the world.

Attacking prominent atheists will not undermine this growing movement. Give it up.


From what we have been seeing many of the evangelical Christians today talk about the literal statements from😇 bible - there are several versions. I am sure not all atheist agree on some of the finer points but we all agree all religious teachings are crap and only pollute ones mind. Dawkins is human and so can be prone to mistakes but my question would be how much conflict of interests are involved. Religion has a massive conflict of interest but there is usually little gain in helping people let go of myths. Looking at some of the links I suspect Gray is a stealth religionist. Denigrating science and glorifying religion shows that.


Yes, it's obviously Richard Dawkins who is closed minded. Ha ha ha.

Because there have been a small number of xtians over the years who purported that the bible was allegorical, it was obviously never meant to be taken literally.

And what about other bible stories? Believing in the literal resurrection and virgin birth is what defines a christian. A great many xtians also believe that the bible is the unerring word of god regardless Philo, Augustine, and Maimonides many have said.

JimG Level 8 Apr 11, 2019

The author makes Darwin's case, and then attacks his person, ascribing motives that are of no consequence of Dawkin's writings.

Jacar Level 8 Apr 12, 2019

started reading but then found myself examining my navel & noticed a tiny amount of lint...


Pot calling the kettle black? I've spent the last 2+ hours reading up on John Gray. He doesn't sound much different than the apocalyptic evangelicals.

"There is no point whatsoever in our attempting to make the world a less cruel or more livable place."

"Gray’s Anatomy" -- []

"Philosopher John Gray denigrates reason and promotes religion on the BBC" --- []

You spent 2 hours just to find those two sentences?
John Gray is an atheist, just not one of the activist type.
He does not "denigrate reason" more than David Hume did ("Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them." ), who btw was one of the leading figures of the "Enlightenment". John Gray does not subscribe to the illusion that Homo sapiens is best defined as a rational animal.

@Matias "You spent 2 hours just to find those two sentences?"

Sigh --- of course not. I don't always agree with everything Dawkins says, and neither do I agree with everything Gray says. I read several of Gray's articles, but to be honest, I felt like I was back in a fundamentalist church hearing how evil humans are. While Dawkins may have a rebellion against religion, Gray appears to have a rebellion against humanity.

@VictoriaNotes That is not far from the truth. Gray is not a humanist, he treats human beings like animals ("Straw dogs" ). I am not a humanist either, therefore I am with him on this point. We reject the modern (liberal) idea that humans are something special, with special dignity and special "rights". If we rebel against something, it is the modern narcissistic cult about "humanity", which clearly is a kind of ersatz religion for those who longer believe in the traditional God.

@Matias From the link I posted previously:

"Gray has had it not only with humans but with their self-aggrandizing self-image, with the pernicious intellectual scheme that he sees as the animating force behind their ecocidal rampages: humanism. Humanism, for Gray, commits two unforgivable intellectual sins: It claims that humans possess the capacity to shape their own destinies and that humans are above other animals.

This second claim rests on a peculiar distortion of humanism, one Gray compounds by idiosyncratically positing an antagonism between humanism and science. While Darwin “showed that humans are like other animals,” humanists, he asserts, “claim they are not.” An odd reading of modern intellectual history, to be sure. The Darwinian revolution was, on the contrary, hailed by humanists from the beginning as one of the high-water marks in humanism’s struggle against religious irrationalism and superstition. Yet, in an odd reversal, Gray has turned humanists into enemies of science and evolution. Provided are no explanation, no argument, no reference to any specific humanists–just blanket assertion. This, I’m afraid, is all too characteristic of the method employed in Straw Dogs.

I've read the humanist philosophy and do not see evidence of yours or Gray's assertions. []

Hypothetically speaking, if Gray's child and dog were in imminent danger and he could only save one, which of the two would he attempt to save?

From the American Humanist Association:

  1. Human knowledge isn’t perfect. We recognize that the tools for testing knowledge—the human senses and human reason—are fallible, thus rendering tentative all our knowledge and scientific conclusions about the nature of the world. What’s true for our scientific conclusions is even more so for our moral choices and social policies; these latter are subject to continual revision in the light of both the fallible and tentative nature of our knowledge and constant shifts in social conditions.

@VictoriaNotes The central problem with "humanism" is that the concept is largely void of meaning because everybody can define it as it suits him or her. The basic concepts of humanism (dignity and human rights) cannot be deduced from science, they are not part of the empirical realm. From the scientific point of view, Homosapiens is just another animal. BUt to humanists, H. sapiems is more than just another animal, otherwise they would not call themselves "humanists" but naturists, or something like that.

The term humanism is much older than the scientific revolution (17th century), and (most of) the old humanists were deeply religious and regarded man as a special semi-divine being, situated between God on the one side (above) and the animals on the other side (below).
It is completely nonsensical, historically as well as philosophical, as some activists do today, to treat science and humanism as natural siblings or allies.
John Gray is absolutely right to remind us of this fact.

@Matias Who would you save? Your dog or your child?

@VictoriaNotes I would save the child, but what does this prove?
It is an instinct, nothing more, but humanism is more than a gut feeling or knee jerk reaction, it it a philosophy.
Humanists put human beings centre stage, one way or another. Why? For the same reason that white people put Caucasians on a pedestal? That is called racism.

As a humanist you have to give a GOOD reason why the life of a child has more value than the life of a dog. To instinctally prefer the own species is not a good reason.
So what is your reason for saving the (human) child except homophily (we like and prefer beings that are like us) ?

"As a humanist you have to give a GOOD reason why the life of a child has more value than the life of a dog. To instinctally prefer the own species is not a good reason."


Matias wrote: "Humanists put human beings centre stage, one way or another. Why? For the same reason that white people put Caucasians on a pedestal? That is called racism."

@Admin @sitesupport, since you also run a humanist site, and support humanist philosophy, would you please bring some clarification to this discussion about humanism.


Nonsense. without the original sin of Adam and Eve in the garden, Jesus would be redundant. Of course the story is taken literally.

You're absolutely right. He was never beleived to have come on earth to be a propitiatory sacrifice for an allegory.

@TheAstroChuck It's from scripture.


I think of him as the 'David v Goliath' figure who took on an organisation single-handedly and won. I read two of his books, The Selfish Gene and the The Extended Phenotype, and they are truly wonderful books. No doubt, he will come to be seen as a stepping stone among others who took us forward in our understanding of ourselves. That move forward usually involves modifying what has been done earlier so I trust Dawkins' work will undergo the same process.

You should also read "Unweaving the Rainbow" for his thoughts on religion and human culture if you can, and "The Blind Watchmaker", is pure fun.


It’s a weird argument from John gray given that Dawkins (and he’s dropped off my Christmas card list with his lack of empathy) explicitly addresses the issues of biblical literalism. It isn’t as if he isn’t aware of the spectrum there and he talks about it

So I think is just more John Gray straw man-ing isn’t it? One thing we know for sure is that John Gray has no idea what an atheist is...


What a waste of intelligence.

This is the same shit thrown at Sam Harris. His response is, "The majority of believers do believe the stories are literal. I am only responding to those believers who say they believe."

Jacar Level 8 Apr 12, 2019

When fundie's don't believe catholics are even christian there's some serious translation problems in religion. Batshit crazy is what they all are.

Well, Catholics, at least, don't take the bible 100% literally. Like they don't think there was a literal garden if eden, for instance. At least I don't THINK so. It's been a while. Like 55 years or so. But that's SOMETHING, anyway. They DO buy into the gist if it, though. Most of it.

@Storm1752 Correct. I attended a catholic college and came out an atheist 🙂 When they don't have an answer they aren't afraid to say so. At least not in college classes. Seems to be different in the church.


There is perhaps no doubt that Dawkins is arrogant. But having said that there is perhaps a failing of logic in criticizing him for only attacking the easy target of fundamentalist religion, and failing to engage with the the, “ vast traditions of figurative and allegorical ”, when by definition such traditions are irrelevant to the debate between the literal interpretation of religious texts and science.
Especially as by some definitions such traditions could be said not to be religion at all.


Dawkins does not ‘assume,’ lost me there. The Science was not replaced, religious teachings were overridden is how I take that.


I always figured Dawkins was critiquing Religion as currently (for the past 500 years or so) practiced, not as Augustine or Philo may have considered it. When he, or anyone else for that matter, denigrates Religion as an institution, it’s irrelevant whether Genesis is considered to be literal or figurative. It’s the basic function and purpose of religion that cause the problems, not the details of the dogma of its adherents. Saying that Dawkins has a closed mind entirely misses the point.


There is clear evidence for evolution.


well, it is interesting to know that the bible's original readers (or hearers) were not encouraged to take genesis literally, but as for dawkins, i had been an atheist for nine years when his first book came out, so he had no influence on me one way or the other, and still doesn't.



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