Friday, November 11, 2005

Dawkins on the Moral Majority

As some of you know, I am currently reading The Ancestor's Tale, by Richard Dawkins. Well, I got to the part where we meet up with our common ancestor with gibbons. Apparently, gibbons mate for life, unlike chimps and gorillas with whom we share a more recent common ancestor. Dawkins takes this opportunity to expound on America's "Moral Majority." I found the passage entertaining, and hopefully so will you.

Perhaps the good old-fashioned family values of the gibbons, and the pious hope that our evolutionary ancestors once shared them, should be drawn to the attention of the right-wing "moral majority," whose ignorant and single-minded opposition to the teaching of evolution endangers the educational standards in several backward North American States. Of course, to draw any moral would be to commit the "naturalistic fallacy," but fallacies are what these people do best. (The Ancestor's Tale, p.121)

Ouch, that cat's got claws.


Blogger scarlet panda said...

So, as a scientist and liberal commie-type person, this amuses me.

But, as a person who actually (a) considers herself moral and religious, (b) understands that some well-meaning and intelligent people can have different views from mine, and (c) wants to convince them that evolution and science are not actually contrary to morality, it troubles me.

This kind of condescension and mockery is part of the reason that it's so easy for the "moral majority" to reject science and evolution. If you didn't agree with this guy in the first place, would you listen to a thing he had to say? The more time people on the evolution side of the debate spend cleverly congratulating themselves for being so much smarter than everyone else, the more they hurt their cause.

(End of rant. For now.)

6:00 PM  
Blogger warm fuzzy said...

sing it sista!

6:09 PM  
Blogger Fishfrog said...

While I understand your point, I don't believe in coddling people who are hurting our society and endangering our future. The fact is that people who object to evolution on the basis that society would break down if we all realized we had ancestors in common with apes don't respond to rational, respectful dialogue. That's not to say that Dawkins is more likely to convert people with his condescention, but certain people will not accept reason if it hits them in the forehead with a two-by-four. Under those circumstances, I see nothing wrong with rallying the base with a cheap shot against the enemy. Moreover, I would characterize Dawkins comment less as condescending and more as calling it like it is.

6:48 PM  
Blogger scarlet panda said...

I hadn't thought about it in terms of rallying the base; that's an interesting point that I'll have to think about more.

On convincing others: I agree with you to a point--I think there are people at the extremes of the movement who are beyond reason. However, to gain power in a school district, city, or state, those people have to convince a lot of other people, most of whom are probably just misinformed rather than evil,stupid, or crazy. Those people can be convinced. But if they see it as a debate between (a) what they have believed their whole lives, and (b) some guy smugly making fun of them for their religion, it's easy to pick (a).

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Leo said...

I think the past 10 years of American politics have gone a long way towards demonstrating that condecension and mockery are much more likely to convince people you are on the right side than intelligent discourse.

Fear of derision is a stronger motivator for many (most?) people than fear of being irrational.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Xeno said...

You must remember that this country was founded in part by puritans and the core of irrationality has evlolved but survived. Whenever I come into a discusion I always think of this quote...
"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God that has endowed us with sence, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." Galileo

3:57 PM  

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