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The Postmodern Delusion

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While Time magazine declared “you” as their “Person of the Year,” BBC broadcaster William Crawley decided that Richard Dawkins was more worthy than you and proclaimed him their 2006 “Person of the Year.”[1] Although Crawley listed many reasons for making Dawkins his choice, two stand out more than the rest. “For raising questions that need to be answered by any intelligent religious believer wishing to develop a coherent worldview” and “For making people talk about the dangers of religious fundamentalism.” These two reasons are typical of the rhetoric that surrounds the “new atheism” and are really nothing more than tautological soundbites. Crawley’s own bias is more evident in these two reasons than any significant contribution that they make to the debate between theism and atheism.

Dawkins’ own hatred of theism of any sort is well-documented. Along with Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett, he completes the public face of the trinity of unbelief. Crawley may laud Dawkins “for defending the delusion that science and religious faith are incompatible,” but this completely misses the point. Dawkins only finds science and religion compatible when religion takes the backseat and worships science as the true sovereign. Religion is fine by Dawkins as long as it remains a harmless emotional experience that has no bearing on the material world—the “real world” of Dawkins’ empirical-only atheism. The problem with this is that even Dawkins can’t live his life this way. In his review of the book Intellectual Impostures, he states:

But don’t the postmodernists claim only to be ‘playing games’? Isn’t it the whole point of their philosophy that anything goes, there is no absolute truth, anything written has the same status as anything else, no point of view is privileged? Given their own standards of relative truth, isn’t it rather unfair to take them to task for fooling around with word-games, and playing little jokes on readers? Perhaps, but one is then left wondering why their writings are so stupefyingly boring. Shouldn’t games at least be entertaining, not po-faced, solemn and pretentious?... Apparently, when you’ve become the establishment, it ceases to be funny when somebody punctures the established bag of wind.[2]

The shoe doesn’t fit so well on the other foot. He wants to hold postmodernists to a higher standard of truthfulness and integrity, yet his own materialism can’t produce one single reason why. The “scholars” of postmodernism have begun to tire of doing real research and find it easier to write pages of sophisticated-sounding nonsense instead. They are calling the bluff of the deconstructionists in the literature departments. Who better to call them out than the modernists in the science departments. But with what? How can Dawkins and the rest of his materialistic rationalists call anything that the postmoderns write “nonsense?” Where is his materialistic standard of “sense?” What empirical unit of measure can he point to when he accuses the postmoderns of deception? What in the scientific material world of test tubes and microscopes can be used to determine amounts of honesty? Dawkins’ critique of postmodernism unravels a little farther than he realizes. While he “disrobes” postmodernism, Dawkins hopes that no one notices his own nakedness.

All of this plays back into the two reasons that Crawley put forward in the beginning of this article. Crawley claims that Dawkins is “raising questions that need to be answered by religious believers wishing to develop a coherent worldview.” This is par for the Dawkins’ course and has the cart before the horse. Dawkins (and Crawley) believes that a “coherent worldview” can be drawn out from the “facts” of the world. They think that their materialism is “neutral” and truly believe that they are drawing their own worldview out of the “facts,” when in reality they are doing the very same thing of which they accuse religious fundamentalists. They bring their own materialistic worldview to the facts in order to prove their materialistic worldview.

Crawley’s second reason of “making people talk about the dangers of religious fundamentalism” actually cuts both ways. There is danger in both religious and irreligious fundamentalism. Dawkins’ premium blend of atheistic fundamentalism and science worship is no less prone to intellectual corruption than a religious fundamentalism that refuses to acknowledge inconvenient truths. Both of Crawley’s reasons assume that science is primary. Dawkins’ own worldview is assumed with both of these reasons. Like Sam Harris, Dawkins only wants to allow intellectual diversity on his own terms. Not content to unmask and disrobe postmodernism, Dawkins won’t quit until you share his modernistic worldview of scientific supremacy. Hoping to sound current and controversial, Dawkins is really nothing more than re-heated 19th century leftovers.

Footnotes:
[1]
. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/2006/12/person_of_the_year_2006_1.html. See also the first part of this article for more information on Time magazine’s “Person of the Year.”
[2]. http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/WorldOfDawkins-archive/Dawkins/Work/Reviews/1998-07-09postmodernism_disrobed.shtml

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