Friday, 25 June 2010

Bragged off

I see my erstwhile sparring partner Billy Bragg has been lambasting poor old Dawko in the august pages of that learned philosophical journal Q - the organ of the British music industry. He says that, "as a scientist Richard Dawkins refuses to believe in anything he cannot observe and measure", "and yet to Dawkins people who believe that an intangible reality really exists alongside spiritual reality are 'stupid'".

Melvin's younger brother

It's all bollocks you know Billy. Scientists are quite capable of believing there are things that they do not know, and even that there are things that are unknowable. The only thing they have trouble believing is in things that contradict the balance of the evidence.

I've seen footage of some of Dawko's early gigs and he started off being all sensitive and turning the other cheek, pleading with people just to look at the facts, but the poor bugger got nowhere with it. So he's started calling a spade a fucking spade, just like the God-botherers, and suddenly the liberal-minded are up in arms against him.

I've just searched through my pirated e-book copy of "The God Delusion" and nowhere does he describe people who believe in god as "stupid". He describe one argument against abortion - the "Beethoven fallacy" - as stupid, but that's because it self-evidently is. Like using the birth of Hitler as an argument FOR abortion.

No - the God Delusion doesn't call god-believers stupid. The main idea that Dawkins was dimly groping towards is that religion is hard-wired into the human brain. That we have a predisposition to believe in god/s, just as we have a predisposition to see optical illusions. Our unconscious filters and processes what we experience, and feeds the classified results to our consciousness in a simplified form - a form that we can act on quickly without having to deal with a lot of irrelevant data. There are certain experiences that are best shunted into the "god box" and left up to the shamans to deal with.

as CJ Michiels gaily (or should that be grayly?) points out, squares A and B are exactly the same shade.

It takes a conscious effort to break out of those hardwired coping mechanisms. It doesn't mean you are stupid if you haven't realised that they are there. I would however submit, your honour, even if Dawko won't, that it would be stupid not to believe that these unconscious religiosity algorithms couldn't possibly exist.

So, the main thing getting up the capacious Braggian neb is not that Dawkins logic is flawed, nor that he has become a hard-assed son of an illusion-destroying bitch, but his assumption that Dawko is calling his favourite prison chaplains stupid, which these guys don't deserve because they're doing some great pastoral work in rehabilitating the poor buggers who may have strayed from the path of social righteousness (there but for the grace of ineffable sensory input go I).

Aye, well, grow up Billy. You don't have to be religious to be good. Why should anyone have to take on a load of religious baggage just to get a bit of succour? Sure these chaplains aren't thrusting their succour down your throat, but don't think the pressure isn't there.

Mind you, if I was a prison chaplain (I'm not saying I'm not, mind) I'd point out that they're going about it the wrong way, succouring prisoners left right and centre. If you're going to herd the buggers into line (which is pretty much what they mean by "rehabilitation") then you'd get better results by putting the FEAR of god into them.