Answers in the Sky

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You don’t need a prayer
And there’s no price to ask why
Sometimes you’ll find an answer in the sky
Answer in the Sky, lyrics by B. Taupin
(c) 2004 HST Management Ltd./Rouge Booze, Inc.

I am embarrassed to admit that before Saturday, I had never heard of Richard Dawkins and had no idea who he was.  No, not Richard Dawson, the actor from Hogan’s Heroes and Family Feud.  That’s a different guy, and I think he’s dead.

Richard Dawkins is still very much alive, although if the amount and ferocity of hate mail he receives is any indication of his chances for longevity, I’d recommend that he update his will sooner rather than later.

You’ve never heard of him either?  Good, I’m not the only one.  So, who is he?  According to Wikipedia (the oxymoron of accurate information), he’s an ethologist, evolutionary biologist and writer.  He’s also an outspoken atheist.

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Richard Dawkins is still alive.

When I tried to read up about him on  Wikipedia, I got very confused.  Here’s an example of what I mean:

In 1982, he introduced into evolutionary biology the influential concept that the phenotypic effects of a gene are not necessarily limited to an organism’s body, but can stretch far into the environment, including the bodies of other organisms.

I had no idea what “phenotype” meant, so I followed that link.  But the explanation of phenotype used more words I did not know, so I had to follow those links, which lead me to more links and so on and so on.  But none of the articles explained him in Plain English.

I know I’m smart, but as a graduate of W&M, I have no illusions about my intelligence. Most of the people I went to school with there were a lot smarter than me.  As a result of that humbling experience, when I enter a room, I never assume I’m the smartest person there.  I wait for other people to start talking before I make up my mind.  As Lincoln said:

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

Fools usually have no problem self-identifying. Of course, I’m probably safe in saying I’m smarter than Kim Kardashian, but considering she’s rich and famous and I’m not, she must have something going for her.  It’s probably her booty, not her brains.

The point is, I did not understand a lot of the evolutionary biology stuff.  No matter, it was his stance on religion that got my attention.  Although he is a scientist, in 2006 he published a book called The God Delusion, in which he wrote that God does not exist, and religious faith is a delusion—”a fixed false belief”.

I understand why he thinks that God does not exist.  According to Dawkins, God’s existence cannot be proven by scientific methods. If science cannot prove that God exists, then God does not exist.

At the same time, science has not disproven God’s existence either.  That’s why a belief in God relies on faith. One of the definitions of the word faith is “a belief not based on proof.” There you go. One has to have faith that God is real.

So I get the part about him saying God does not exist. What I don’t understand is why he cares so much that people believe in God. I kept reading more articles about him, but none of them answered my question. Wikipedia certainly didn’t help.

I went on Youtube and found some fascinating interviews in which he attempts to explain why he is so adamant that people stop believing in God. The best interview I found was here:

Dawkins says religion is bad because it has been used to justify wars over time. He says that dogmatic beliefs can be pernicious beliefs that drive people to do awful things. True. Can’t argue with that.

But what about people like me, who aren’t fanatics? I’m not going to join a terrorists cell and try to blow up a French newspaper I’ve never heard of or a café full of Norwegians. Why would I do that? I have nothing against Norwegians. Most of them are probably perfectly nice people. I wonder how many of them believe in God?

Why does it bother him so much that people like me, who believe in science and evolution, also believe in a divine being?

Dawkins says he’s against religion because it “teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.” That’s not true for everyone. I think a lot of scientists who believe in God would say he’s wrong about that.

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Do I believe that the world was created in seven days and is only 10,000 years old? No. The Bible was not written by God. It was written by men inspired by their beliefs in God. The Bible is rooted in the times in which it was written. Science did not exist then, so the authors provided answers as best they could. One has to cull through the historical stuff, pick out the moral code and leave the rest behind.

And consider this. According to some sources, more than half the people in the world believe in God. If religion is so off the mark, how did it get such a stronghold on the world? My dad used to say “50 million Frenchmen can’t be wrong.” Are we all  delusional? Dawkins would say yes.

Even if Dawkins is right about God, however, he seems to be conveniently ignoring a facet of human nature that science will not change. People are looking for something to believe in, something bigger than themselves. Science as a belief, well it just doesn’t cut the mustard. Science doesn’t have angels and water that turns into wine. Just like many of us would like to believe in ghosts, we’d like to think miracles are possible too.

When Jon Stewart interviewed Dawkins on the Daily Show, they discussed the question of how the universe got started. Dawkins said not to think about it as a defined starting line.  He said that some organism started it all.  So Stewart asks:  “where did that organism come from?”  Dawkins did not answer this question.

After their discussion, Stewart summed the topic up nicely:

This is so cool to think about. Do you want to get high later?

At the end of the day, what’s wrong with hedging one’s bets? The way I look at it is this. If I believe in God and it turns out there is no God, then when I die, poof! I’m gone. But what have I lost in the meantime? Nothing.

But if there is a God and I don’t believe, then I could be in trouble when I get to the pearly gates, assuming I even get that far.

Finally, if there is a God and I do believe, then I’m golden.

So it makes sense to me to believe. So sue me. If it makes me a better person, and I think it does, then again I ask, why does Richard Dawkins care so much that I believe in God?

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