A Critique of Richard Dawkins
Note! a new version of this article is coming up shortly.
This is updates and commentaries to the main article A Critique of Richard Dawkins and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI). A full analysis of the problems sketched out here you can find in my booklet Atheist Fundamentalism.
The reductionism called biologism is a part of The Matrix Conspiracy. Therefore I also see Richard Dawkins as a Matrix agent. His words about that “religious people are hijacked by an infectious malignant god-virus, because god is delusion a ‘psychotic delinquent’ invented by mad deluded people,” or his description of “religion as both an evolutionary by-product and as a Memetic virus” is pure Agent Smith. This is not far-fetched. Dawkins for example acknowledges the Simulation Hypothesis, the newest version of the Matrix thesis. We may be living in a world computed by superhumanity to emulate its evolutionary history. Obvious not knowing that this is an idealist idea, the direct opposite philosophical theory than his own materialism (the simulation theory presupposes that philosophical idealism is a true metaphysical theory). This curiosity actually directly demonstrates my claim that atheist fundamentalism and New Age are the two opposite coins in the same Matrix Conspiracy.
On the possibility of living in a simulation created by alien civilizations Dawkins says:
"Whether we ever get to know them or not, there are very probably alien civilizations that are superhuman, to the point of being god-like in ways that exceed anything a theologian could possibly imagine. Their technical achievements would seem as supernatural to us as ours would seem to a Dark Age peasant transported to the twenty-first century. Imagine his response to a laptop computer, a mobile telephone, a hydrogen bomb or a jumbo jet. As Arthur C Clarke put it, in his Third Law: 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.' The miracles wrought by our technology would have seemed to the ancients no less remarkable than the tales of Moses parting the waters, or Jesus walking upon them. The aliens of our SETI signal would be to us like gods ...
"In what sense, then, would the most advanced SETI aliens not be gods? In what sense would they be superhuman but not supernatural? In a very important sense, which goes to the heart of this book. The crucial difference between gods and god-like extraterrestrials lies not in their properties but in their provenance. Entities that are complex enough to be intelligent are products of an evolutionary process. No matter how god-like they may seem when we encounter them, they didn't start that way. Science-fiction authors ... have even suggested (and I cannot think how to disprove it) that we live in a computer simulation, set up by some vastly superior civilization. But the simulators themselves would have to come from somewhere. The laws of probability forbid all notions of their spontaneously appearing without simpler antecedents. They probably owe their existence to a (perhaps unfamiliar) version of Darwinian evolution ..."
Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. 72-73. Print.
If such aliens exist, why should they use computer simulation? The very concept of simulation is taken from our own language and refers to something we have knowledge about here on Earth. It is a projection of ourselves. And for the same reason: why should they be subject to evolution? Evolutionism is also something limited to our own knowledge. Dawkins is an historicist who are trying to see everything in the light of his theory of the Meme. Since the late 20th century there has been a renewed interest in bringing history and natural science closer to each other. Although some have tried to formulate laws about human history, these attempts have stayed short of complete determinism.
One example is Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, presenting a gene-centered view of evolution, leading some historians to adopt a gene-centered view of history. More relevant is Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, which explores the different ways human societies developed, and especially why some became powerful and ended up ruling the world while others didn't, based on differences in natural geography. Again, notably, neither Dawkins (a biologist) nor Diamond (a geographer) is a historian.
Historical determinism and historicism were decisively rebutted by Karl Popper, who argued that it is impossible to predict the future course of history. His argument goes like this:
1) The biggest historical changes in recent history have for the most part been caused by technological changes. If you could get somebody who lived a hundred years ago to time travel to the present the most striking differences would probably be technological ones, and even if that is not the case many of the social, cultural and political changes can at least in part be ascribed to changes in technology.
2) Technological progress depends heavily on scientific progress.
3) Therefore, in order to predict the future, one should be able to predict future scientific knowledge.
4) It is, however, not possible to predict future scientific knowledge. You can't predict a scientific fact that has not been discovered yet. If you could, it would not be a future discovery but a current one. In other words, if you know a fact that is not yet known, you know it now, so it's not a prediction any more. Knowing things you don't know yet is an impossible logical contradiction.
5) Therefore, it is not possible to predict the future course of history.
In fact, evolutionism is an ideology which started in Europe, and it is marked by its linear view of history (which mostly only work with the history of Europe), in contrast with all other known cultures which has a circular viewpoint. So, it is very unlikely that aliens should be following precisely this European ideology.
Dawkins is obviously trying to attribute these aliens his own limited concepts. There isn´t any reason why we could not attribute them all kinds of other limited concepts coming from ourselves, for example religion. If these aliens are so advanced it would be a mistake to use our own concepts on them at all. In my view, if they are superior to us they would live in a world more reminding about a pre-modern world, and not the science-fiction world, which so many futurists and transhumanists find so desirable. They would in my view live in a world which more is reminding about the fantasy genre. And they would probably not even recognize the concept of superman at all. Note that this isn´t an argument, it´s just an illustration.
Sam Harris makes the same mistake:
"Many people have noticed that there seem to be no new arguments for the truth of any of the world's religions. I recently stumbled upon one, however, and it has given me a moment's pause. ...
"Given these premises - that human consciousness is purely the product of computation; that our computing power will continue to grow; and that our descendants will build simulated worlds - it seems tempting to conclude that simulated people will eventually outnumber all the real people who have ever lived. Statistically, therefore, it is more likely that we are simulated ancestors, living in a simulated world, rather than real ancestors of the real, supercomputing people of the future.
"This is, of course, a very strange idea. And here is my own contribution: add to this strangeness the possibility that the supercomputing people of the future will build into their virtual worlds the truth of Mormonism, or some other faith that seems like it could not possibly be true at present. In which case, we may, in fact, be living in a world in which Jesus will return on clouds of glory to judge the living and the dead. Perversely, this could be a self-fulfilling prophecy: given how beguiled people have been by religious mythology throughout our history, our descendants might engineer specific religious doctrines into their virtual worlds just for the hell of it."
Harris, Sam. "Should We Be Mormons in the Matrix?" Sam Harris. 20 Apr. 2011. Web. 08 Aug. 2014.
It is interesting that Sam Harris all the time are using the concepts of mind and consciousness, in order to explain why mind and consciousness not at all are mind and consciousness, but results of computation. He explains away. A reductionism in other word. Why is that he with necessity must use the concept of consciousness, and must discriminate between subject and object, in order to talk meaningful? Because that´s what reality dictates him (it is not a simulation), and therefore we must conclude that consciousness is an ontological fact.
Richard Dawkins suffers from The Illusion of Transferable Expertise. He has an unfortunate tendency to think that being brilliant at biology means every other specialty can be treated as a special case of evolutionary biology. This illusion puts Dawkins in line with a number of other popular figures such as Stephen Hawking, Robert Lanza, Rupert Sheldrake, Gregg Braden, Ray Kurzweil, etc., etc. A tendency leading towards scientism and transhumanism. A number of political criticisms of transhumanism have been made. Transhumanist organizations have been accused of being in the pocket of corporate and military interests. The movement has been identified with Silicon Valley due to the fact that some of its biggest backers, such as Peter Thiel (of PayPal and Bitcoin fame), reside in the region, as well as Ray Kurzweil´s Singularity University. Some writers see transhumanism as a hive of cranky and obnoxious techno-libertarianism. The fact that Julian Huxley coined the term "transhumanism" and many transhumanists' obsession with constructing a Nietzschean ubermensch known as the "posthuman" has led to comparisons with eugenics. Like eugenics, it has been characterized as a utopian political ideology. Jaron Lanier slammed it as "cybernetic totalism".
The Illusion of Transferable Expertise seems especially wide spread in America, when considering the enormity of junk thought coming out from this area, where both amateurs and scientists are ensured success with publishing scientistic books, which only can be characterized as junk philosophy (people like Dawkins, Hawking and Sheldrake seem to be British role models, which have gathered their fame in America).
Susan Jacoby's book The Age of American Unreason – The Age of American Unreason in a Culture of Lies comes into mind. In this prescient and now-classic analysis of the forces of anti-intellectualism in contemporary American life - updated for the era of Trump, Twitter, Breitbart and fake news controversies – Jacoby focuses on the convergence of social forces--usually treated as separate entities--that has created a perfect storm of anti-rationalism. These include the upsurge of religious fundamentalism, with more political power today than ever before; the failure of public education to create an informed citizenry; the triumph of internet over print culture; and America's toxic addition to infotainment. Combining historical analysis with contemporary observation and sparing neither the right nor the left, Susan Jacoby asserts that Americans today have embraced "junk thought" that makes almost no effort to separate fact from opinion.
At today's critical political juncture, nothing could be more important than recognizing the crisis described in this impassioned, tough-minded book, which challenges Americans to face the painful truth about what the flights from reason has cost us as individuals and as a nation.
Dawkins´s claim of “religion as both an evolutionary by-product and as a Memetic virus” emplicates that true evolution, in Dawkins´s mind, will lead to atheism, and that atheists therefore are better and wiser human beings than religious human beings. And therefore this will have to be imprinted in all areas of society. The tendency is towards fascism. Again: is it far-stretched? No. It seems like it is almost impossible for biologists who want to be philosophers instead of the philosophers, not be caught up in fascism. Dawkins has come under fire for statements made in 2006 and 2014 on eugenics. In 2006 he supported the scientific validity of eugenics asking, "If you can breed cattle for milk yield, horses for running speed, and dogs for herding skill, why on Earth should it be impossible to breed humans for mathematical, musical or athletic ability?" He also asked, "I wonder whether, some 60 years after Hitler's death, we might at least venture to ask what the moral difference is between breeding for musical ability and forcing a child to take music lessons."
In 2014 he said "Intelligently designed morality would have no problem with negative eugenics", further arguing that the problem with positive eugenics comes about when it is state directed and government sponsored.
RatinalWiki gives some good examples of Dawkins´s Islamaphobia. He for example wrote of proto-fascist Geert Wilders: "if it should turn out that you are a racist or a gratuitous stirrer and provocateur I withdraw my respect, but on the strength of Fitna alone I salute you as a man of courage, who has the balls to stand up to a monstrous enemy," described the burka as being like a "full bin-liner thing", and spoken of his "visceral revulsion" when he sees it being worn. He also seems to think that being a Muslim makes a person unsuitable for hiring as a journalist, saying of The Guardian and New Statesman contributor and Al Jazeera journalist, Mehdi Hasan, "Mehdi Hasan admits to believing Muhamed [sic] flew to heaven on a winged horse. And New Statesman sees fit to print him." (So what about those millions of Christian newswriters, then?) - Read more on RationalWiki.
Dawkins´s explanation of Memetics, or "cultural evolution", and how our sense of morality evolved, is utterly nonsense, and fully in line with the Darwinistic fascistic nonsense of New Age and transhumanism.
Memetics is the study of information based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution. Proponents describe Memetics as an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer.
Memetics is pure pseudoscience. Memetics is notable for sidestepping the traditional concern with the truth of ideas and beliefs. Instead, it is interested in their success.
The term Meme was coined in Richard Dawkins' 1976 book The Selfish Gene.
Analogous to a gene, the Meme was conceived as a "unit of culture" (an idea, belief, pattern of behaviour, etc.) which is "hosted" in the minds of one or more individuals, and which can reproduce itself, thereby jumping from mind to mind. Thus what would otherwise be regarded as one individual influencing another to adopt a belief is seen as an idea-replicator reproducing itself in a new host. As with genetics, particularly under a Dawkinsian interpretation, a Meme's success may be due to its contribution to the effectiveness of its host.
This evolutionary model of cultural information transfer is based on the concept that units of information, or "Memes", have an independent existence, are self-replicating, and are subject to selective evolution through environmental forces. You could replace the term Meme with any crazy New Age theory. All are equally unable to be tested. All are equally “good” explanations. There is no foundation for that the one is better than the other, because the Meme and/or the New Age theory is the unexplained, untested, and untestable, starting point.
Starting from a proposition put forward in the writings of Richard Dawkins, it has since turned into a new area of study, one that looks at the self-replicating units of culture. It has been proposed that just as Memes are analogous to genes, Memetics is analogous to genetics.
Mary Midgley criticises Memetics for at least two reasons: "One, culture is not best understood by examining its smallest parts, as culture is pattern-like, comparable to an ocean current. Many more factors, historical and others, should be taken into account than only whatever particle culture is built from. Two, if Memes are not thoughts (and thus not cognitive phenomena), as Daniel C. Dennett insists in "Darwin's Dangerous Idea", then their ontological status is open to question, and Memeticists (who are also reductionists – see the main article) may be challenged whether Memes even exist.”
Questions can extend to whether the idea of "Meme" is itself a Meme, or is a true concept. Fundamentally, Memetics is an attempt to produce knowledge through organic metaphors, which as such is a questionable research approach, as the application of metaphors has the effect of hiding that which does not fit within the realm of the metaphor. Rather than study actual reality, without preconceptions, Memetics, as so many of the socio-biological explanations of society, believe that saying that the apple is like an orange is a valid analysis of the apple.
Richard Dawkins is the atheistic answer to Ken Wilber. Both are biologists who want to be philosophers instead of the philosophers. Both are in love with Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution. Both want their own discipline to be the answer to all the riddles of the universe. And both therefore ends in two versions of biologism (two versions of Social Darwinism). They are two sides of the same coin. See my main articles A Critique of Richard Dawkins and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and A Critique of Ken Wilber and his Integral Method.
But not only Richard Dawkins and Ken Wilber are fascinated with biologism. It´s a central part of the New Age movement as such. And it comes from Theosophy (see my article The Fascism of Theosophy). Some New Age directions even claim to be examples of “Atheistic spirituality” [sic]. An example is the Canadian Raelian movement. Read more in my updates and commentaries to the Matrix Conspiracy.
As an example of the similarities of Dawkins´s theory of the Meme and New Age theories I will first quote Dawkins, hereafter the New Age guru´s Joe Dispenza, Lee Carroll and Gregg Braden.
In Skeptical Inquirer Vol. 41, No. 2 Dawkins says:
“[…] Might the gene´s eye view penetrate the remote past in yet other ways? Several of my books have developed an idea which I called ‘The Genetic Book of the Dead.’ The gene pool of a species is a mutually supportive cartel of genes that have survived in particular environments of the past, both distant and recent. This makes it a kind of negative imprint of those environments. A sufficiently knowledgeable geneticist should be able to read out, from the genome of an animal, the environments in which its ancestors survived. In principle, the DNA in a mole Talpa europacea should be eloquent of an underground world of damp, subterranean darkness, smelling of worms, leaf decay, and beetle larvae. The DNA of a dromedary, Camelus dromedaries, if we but knew how to read it, would spell out a coded description of ancient ancestral deserts, dust storms, dunes, and thirst. The DNA of Tursiops truncates, the common bottlenose dolphin, spells, in a language that we may one day decipher, ‘open sea, pursue fish fast, avoid killer whales.’ But the same dolphin DNA also contains paragraphs about earlier worlds in which the genes survived: on land when the ancestors escaped the attentions of tyrannosaurs and allosaurs long enough to breed. Then, before that, parts of the DNA surely spell out descriptions of even older feats of survival, back in the sea, when the ancestors were fish, pursued by sharks and even eurypterids (giant sea scorpions). Active research on ‘The Genetic Book of the Dead’ lies in the future. Will it colour the epilogue of the fiftieth edition of The Selfish Gene?”
From this, which certainly have some facts in it, and very well written and poetic, comes his theory of the Meme. The Meme sounds like the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges´s short story the Aleph. In Borges' story, the Aleph is a point in space that contains all other points. Anyone who gazes into it can see everything in the universe from every angle simultaneously, without distortion, overlapping, or confusion. The story traces the theme of infinity found in several of Borges' other works, such as "The Book of Sand".
As in many of Borges' short stories, the protagonist is a fictionalized version of the author. At the beginning of the story, he is mourning the recent death of a woman whom he loved, named Beatriz Viterbo, and resolves to stop by the house of her family to pay his respects. Over time, he comes to know her first cousin, Carlos Argentino Daneri, a mediocre poet with a vastly exaggerated view of his own talent who has made it his lifelong quest to write an epic poem that describes every single location on the planet in excruciatingly fine detail.
Later in the story, a business on the same street attempts to tear down Daneri's house in the course of its expansion. Daneri becomes enraged, explaining to the narrator that he must keep the house in order to finish his poem, because the cellar contains an Aleph which he is using to write the poem. Though by now he believes Daneri to be quite insane, the narrator proposes without waiting for an answer to come to the house and see the Aleph for himself.
Left alone in the darkness of the cellar, the narrator begins to fear that Daneri is conspiring to kill him, and then he sees the Aleph for himself:
“On the back part of the step, toward the right, I saw a small iridescent sphere of almost unbearable brilliance. At first I thought it was revolving; then I realised that this movement was an illusion created by the dizzying world it bounded. The Aleph's diameter was probably little more than an inch, but all space was there, actual and undiminished. Each thing (a mirror's face, let us say) was infinite things, since I distinctly saw it from every angle of the universe. I saw the teeming sea; I saw daybreak and nightfall; I saw the multitudes of America; I saw a silvery cobweb in the center of a black pyramid; I saw a splintered labyrinth (it was London); I saw, close up, unending eyes watching themselves in me as in a mirror; I saw all the mirrors on earth and none of them reflected me; I saw in a backyard of Soler Street the same tiles that thirty years before I'd seen in the entrance of a house in Fray Bentos; I saw bunches of grapes, snow, tobacco, lodes of metal, steam; I saw convex equatorial deserts and each one of their grains of sand...”
Though staggered by the experience of seeing the Aleph, the narrator pretends to have seen nothing in order to get revenge on Daneri, whom he dislikes, by giving Daneri a reason to doubt his own sanity. The narrator tells Daneri that he has lived too long amongst the noise and bustle of the city and spent too much time in the dark and enclosed space of his cellar, and assures him that what he truly needs are the wide open spaces and fresh air of the countryside, and these will provide him the true peace of mind that he needs to complete his poem. He then takes his leave of Daneri and exits the house.
Borges is fascinated by what I have called thought distortions, especially my thought distortion Endless Split of the Thought. The Meme, like Borges´s Aleph, ends in solipsism. You confuse your thoughts with reality, or the wholeness (the Universe), and that splits the thought in infinity (see my book A Dictionary of Thought Distortions).
You just have to replace Dawkins´s theory of the Meme with some spiritual nonsense, and you have New Age. Here is a quote from Joe Dispenza:
“The environment writes the story of our genes and our DNA is the rich history book of generations untold. Science is just beginning to catch up in its understanding of nature’s wisdom.”
And Lee Carroll (a channeler of an entity called “Kryon”):
“Could it be that all the mysterious secrets of your past, your science, your health, and the ability to regenerate youth… is already known? The answer is yes, and this lives inside you in a very sacred place. This place is starting to be revealed within the New Human. You are in the right place at the right time Old Soul, and worthy to receive all of it!”
Carroll's Kryon series elaborated a number of popular New Age concepts. Amongst them are co-creating, spiritual contracts, karmic imprints, karmic implants, magnetic layers (strands) of human DNA, karmic groups, synchronicity, ascension, helpers from other star systems etc.
Or take Gregg Braden. The crux of his book The God Code is that our DNA sequence, when read by assigning Hebrew characters to the base sequence, spells out the words of our Creator. So this is the big secret that he has discovered (at least I presume it is his discovery): within each cell of our body is God's signature in Hebrew (read more about Gregg Braden in my The Matrix Conspiracy Updates). For a complete scientistic and fascistic New Age system, see my blog post on The WingMakers Project.
The evidence for the Meme, or Braden´s God Code is the same: Zero. And in my view none of the theories are better explanations.
My inquiry in the main article is: why is it then that Richard Dawkins is so praised in the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry - (Center for Inquiry (CFI) and Richard Dawkins Foundation are now formally merged) - where the main virtues (a defense of science, rationality and reasoning) only can be described as the precise opposite of, what I in this article show, is Dawkins´? I show that it is because the underlying goal is ideology and neither science nor philosophy. Religious pseudoscience and atheistic pseudoscience are two sides of the same Matrix coin in The Matrix Conspiracy valuta. My conclusion is that CSI in short is a right-wing conservative, so-called “skeptic” atheist movement. In the main article I illustrate this by investigating both sides of the coin, since New Age is part of the widely spread popular culture, which actually adopts a lot of atheistic pseudoscience.
There is a lot of good rational thinking among skeptics generally, and I think the skeptics community largely is doing a good job (and I certainly have been inspired by it), but if you for example have a look at the Skeptical Inquirer magazine, it can be tiresome to hear the same analyses of the same topics again and again, as for example Creationism. Creationism is after all a belief held only by a very limited group of people – especially in America. And if those analyses again are being limited to a very few people within creationism, the whole thing is getting a bit foolish. Take for example the 8 pages long article Fire-breathing Dinosaurs in the July/August issue 2017 (read more here).
It is a well-researched and all through scientific article, that shows why dinosaurs can´t breathe fire, and that the creationist idea of fire-breathing dinosaurs therefore is an example of pseudoscience. But what´s the point in using so much energy on such a limited topic? (it seems like the magazine is desperately in need of material in order to have enough content for the next issue).
If the skeptic community should be taken seriously they should also deal with the pseudoscience within reductionism, and all the problems of man, society and nature.
Despite promoting the virtues of science and scientific research, Dawkins is no longer involved in conducting original scientific research but is in effect a science popularizer. Within the scientific community Dawkins is generally regarded as a very good communicator of science, but certain public hagiography of him as "the greatest scientist since Darwin" is misplaced (this reminds about Ken Wilber devotees calling Wilber the Einstein of consciousness). According to RationalWiki, most of his ideas are based on those of others (see "standing on the shoulders of giants"), in particular the likes of R.A. Fisher, W. D. Hamilton, John Maynard Smith, Robert Trivers, and George C. Williams.
Dawkins is not, however, immune to criticism from within the scientific community. Theoretical physicist Peter Higgs (that Higgs) criticized him in December 2012 for his anti-religious "fundamentalism", asserting that Dawkins focuses too much of his attacks on religious fundamentalism despite there being many non-fundamentalists out there and that his belief that religion and science cannot co-exist at all is wrong. Dawkins has countered assertions that he is an anti-religious extremist.
Dawkins and fellow evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson have also debated over The God Delusion and studying religion scientifically in the pages of Skeptic magazine. Dawkins also denies his own meme theory is pseudoscience, despite not being based on experimental data.
If there is something Dawkins has taught his followers, then it is his way of communicating. I have never experienced such arrogant, condescending and agressive internet trolls as those defending him. Completely contradictory in their defence of rational argument.
The Matrix Dictionary
Related Ebook: Evolutionism - The Red Thread in The Matrix Conspiracy