Dawkins' new book: for children (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Saturday, December 28, 2019, 15:57 (274 days ago) @ David Turell

A new review points out that he writes better for small undeveloped minds, but his ideas are no better:


"With Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide, all of that has changed. The warm, languid sunlight of those idyllic revels positively spills across its pages. At last, Dawkins has found an authorial voice entirely adequate to his theme. And it is charming. Yes, of course, the confused and chaotic quality of his arguments remains a constant, and the basic conceptual mistakes have not altered appreciably since the earliest days of his polemics; but here it all comes across as the delightful babble of a toddler. “Do you believe in God?” he asks on the first page, tugging at your sleeve, eager to inform you of all the interesting things he has learned about religion this week. “Which god? Thousands of gods have been worshipped throughout the world, throughout history.” Do tell. And, in fact, tell he does, breathlessly emptying out his whole little hoard of knowledge about the local deities of ancient peoples. The sheer earnest impishness of his manner is almost enough to make you ignore his continued inability—despite decades of attempts by more refined logicians to explain his error to him—to distinguish between the mythic and devotional stories that peoples tell about their gods and the ontological and modal claims that the great monotheistic traditions of the “axial age” and after have made about God, or to grasp the qualitative conceptual gulf that separates them.


"Well, really, perhaps none of this matters very much. Readers with serious minds took leave of Dawkins years ago. The chief lesson of this book may be that it is foolish to resent a childish mind for thinking childishly, especially when—however belatedly—it has learned to express itself in the sort of enchantingly childish voice that suits it best.

"One cannot, alas, remain an infant forever; we must all sooner or later put away childish things; toy-land, toy-land, once you pass its portals . . . (and so on). In the end, if we want to think deeply about ultimate questions, Dawkins is not the man for us. We all have to outgrow him and his kind and all that they represent. Happily, the buoyant callowness of his most recent book invites us to do just that. In a sense, it gives expression to a degree of self-awareness on Dawkins’s part that has never been conspicuous in his work in the past, and of which he had seemed until now incapable. It suggests that, at some level, he has learned to recognize his ideas as essentially idle diversions for unformed minds—something on the order of a birthday-party clowns or miniature ponies or balloon-animals—and in this way it gives us license to ignore him with more geniality than we might otherwise have been able to manage. He means well, after all; he simply is not—and never will be—a thinker for adults. So, though outgrow him we must, we need not do so with rancor or disdain. We can even, if we wish, pause one last time before departing the nursery to appreciate his awkward but earnest ingenuousness, smile at his artless games and rambling stories, and perhaps fondly pat him on the head. In that sense, this book is a gift."

Comment: Water always seeks its own level. One wonders why he engaged so many minds years ago with nutty metaphors like 'selfish genes'? Reviewers laughed loudly then.

Complete thread:

 RSS Feed of thread

powered by my little forum