07 Jul What is your opinion of Dawkins’ Views?
What is your opinion of Dawkins’ Views?
Assalamualaikum. What is your opinion about Dawkin’s views? Not his personality, but his (and his kinds’) views. Thank you.
Wa alykum as-salaam,
I think Dawkins makes great points to certain audiences, but when it comes to Islam his lack of knowledge on the subject of religion becomes glaringly obvious.
From some friends of mine, who study science, they have mentioned that he is a very good scientist, but when he goes into the field of religion he is painfully unprepared, no matter what he writes. When Christian theologians underlined that his points ignore their entire tradition and that he knows very little of the tradition to begin with, he responded with something along the lines (and I am paraphrasing here) “why would I need to learn about mythology? In order to disprove Unicorns existing, would I need to learn about their mythology?”
That sounds nice, it places religion in the same convenient box as mythology, and so his arguments seem rather strong. They are inexorably aided by the degradation of the place faith has in the lives of people, let alone the constant vacillation between the Old and New Testaments to suit his (and others like him) arguments which seem to present “science” as some impartial arbiter that can transcend human “opinion.”
The problem with this stance is that he misunderstands what religion achieves that nothing else can, which is twofold:
First, the goal of religion is to regulate the interactions between people and while this is explicit in Islam, in most religions it is implicit, and Dawkins utilizes this disparity to center his arguments.
Second, Dawkins constantly uses problematic arguments because he relies on flimsy correlations which do not establish causation, in that, he says “hey, look, people who are religious do bad things, ergo, religion is bad.” The problem is that this argument forgets that humanity has never needed the excuse of religion to do horrid things, as Hitler, Stalin, and Mao illustrate, but even more painfully obvious is the example of Enver Hoxha, the Albanian communist dictator who enforced State Atheism (and I believe made Albania the only officially Atheist State) which yielded some rather horrible “side effects” to put it nicely.
You see, Dawkins’ weakness is that he knows nothing about religion. He uses the same tactics that those who hate Islam use, which is to collect a patchwork of social issues that exist in various Muslim societies and establish that the variable is Islam. Dawkins uses this method by simply establishing that “religion” does this, and when he says “religion” he means Christianity + Judaism, and he has begun to wade into attacking Islam.
In arguments against Christianity, Dawkins arguments shine. Why? Because Christianity is a religion a faith, and thus faith is a central tenant of belief, and thus if one can poke holes in what defines your faith, belief becomes rather easy to destroy. Dawkins, like Hitchens and others, come up against Islam and cannot string together coherent arguments, because in Islam reason is central towards faith. Thus, they have to resort to attacking Islam with rather typical Islamophobic tropes.
This is what is distinctly, and sadly, a unique characteristic trait of Islamophobia: it is a prejudice that transcends the spectrum of political “right” and “left,” it is not constrained towards the typical “right” and “left” delineations we have. Stephen Sheehi’s book on Islamophobia explains this in greater detail.
Thus, I am unconcerned with Dawkins nor am I even impressed with him as a public intellectual. You see, I look at public figures like boxers, I’m rather indifferent to their views, I’m more concerned with the quality of their arguments, and when it comes to this, Dawkins is a particularly poor intellectual.
I have no doubt that in scientific fields he is quite talented, but, his ignorance of history, politics, sociology, not to mention the study of religion, the issue he dedicates most of his time to, becomes obvious once you compare his stances to religions that fall outside of his particular historical experience as a Westerner.
He has a tough time dealing with Buddhism, not just because Buddhism gets a “free pass” from Westerners or that they (Westerners) ignore the various problems that exist in Buddhist societies (and do not tie that to religion), or that the Dalai Lama does not approve of homosexual activity; but this is just an example. The only leg he has to stand on are the same hackneyed arguments that other people in his confederation of group-thinkers have, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Salman Rushdie.
They form a crude and odd bond, but, worryingly is that they have been able to shift the focus from what is causing strife, to provide circular arguments that “culture” and “religion” are the causes for this suffering. This is one of the most devastating ideas, because when we apply it in practice, it actually is very harmful.
Let me give you an example, and let us note that I am not saying this is a position of Dawkins specifically, rather, a consequence of using a correlation as causation:
“Jews and Muslims are just fighting because ‘God says so,’ and they’ve been doing it for thousands of years, so nothing we say or do is going to change anything.”
The idea that “oh, it’s religion” ensures that outside populations (and indigenous elites) disconnect themselves from injustice, it allows them excuse it. I don’t see how this is functionally different to the tired accusations against “religious people” used by Dawkins, to be quite honest. It also is wholly inaccurate, as the main reasons that spurred on Israel’s creation was not religious, but an extension of imperialism that was utilized by European Jewish populations after World War II, among a whole host of non-religious factors.
In sum, I find his arguments are not any more sophisticated than the sophistry of the dog Brian from Family Guy, and that he affirms his ignorance of theological positions underlines this. Again, I’m sure in science he is brilliant, but, when it comes to the topic which he is dedicating his efforts, his work is found wanting.
I pray this reaches you and your families in the best of health and Iman, insha Allah.