February 18, 2007, 5:00 am News


You may think such a title has nothing to do with the Climate Change Delusion or the Environmental Delusion, but I wish to show that all three, plus a number of other delusions, are the result of the instinct to believe in irrational concepts we all have inherited from our early origins, where the necessity for belief in authority and the ideology of authority was a necessity for survival. I argue that encouragement of this instinct is now a threat to our survival.

"The God Delusion" is the title of the latest volume by Richard Dawkins, Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. Oxford has come a long way since 1811 when Percy Bysshe Shelley was expelled for writing a pamphlet entitled "The Necessity of Atheism", and was subsequently deprived of the custody of his own children for the same reason.

I published a book review on "The God Delusion" in the Christchurch "Press" on December 23rd last. The editor had difficulty in relating it to my previous published review, which was on "Tim Flannery's "The Weathermakers.

Richard Dawkins does an excellent job in describing the absurdities of religious belief which reach extreme values in the US. He also shows that no sensible person could possibly believe everything that is in the Bible. He demolishes easily the "logic" behind the "proofs" of God's existence.

But none of these are quite as absurd as the belief itself, belief in a mythical being without substance or location, capable of answering prayers, supplying a life after death, and even "designing" the universe.

Dawkins fails completely to explain why anybody should believe in such absurdities. The reason is that he is hooked on his own religion, which is described in his first, and most successful book :The Selfish Gene"

According to Dawkins, and his many followers, heredity is individual and is controlled by the genes of individuals alone. He has no room for "instinct", which is genetically controlled all right, but which is socially determined. Darwin devoted most of his work "The Descent of Man" to a description of the variety of the instincts of sexual behaviour. He took the phrase "survival of the fittest" from his friend Herbert Spencer, who had used it to describe the evolution of societies and civilisations. If a society does not survive, neither do individual genes

Dawkins cannot deny the abundant evidence that language is an instinct, derived socially and propagated socially, and he does worry about the problem.  He wrote a whole book "The Extended Phenotype" to try and argue that genetic influence could "extend' beyond the individual, but he will not admit that it can be determined by the evolution of society. Another of his attempts to avoid "instincts" is his invention of an entity called a "meme" which is just like an instinct but is somehow propagated in mysterious ways.

The God Delusion, the Climate Change Delusion, the Environmental Delusion, the Selfish Gene Delusion and a whole variety of irrational beliefs, are a throwback to our past, when the struggle for survival depended on the absolute authority of a strong leader, backed up by an irrational religious ideology. None of us are free from this instinct and the struggle with scientific thought is constantly with us.  Our ultimate survival depends on the outcome.

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