- 14 Oct 19
Gott Ist Tot/Do The Evolution
Singing from the same hymn sheet – he wouldn’t like that – as 2006’s The God Delusion, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins argues that reality has more than enough inherent magic to negate the need for a belief in anything supernatural.
The good doctor divides his book in two, opening the first part - 'Goodbye God' - with that trusted atheist gambit of pointing out the inherent flaw in monotheism. If you're gonna believe in one God, then what about all the others? A fair point, although I still have a few bob on Dionysus. This is merely by way of a warm up though, as he reserves his true ire for the Bible, an easy target, but he takes obvious glee in poking holes in it nevertheless. You might hold the notion of the unimpeachable virginity of Mary close to your heart, but it may just be the result of an error in translation as the Hebrew word 'almah', which can mean 'virgin' but can also mean 'young woman' was translated into the Greek word 'parthenos' which really does mean 'virgin'. Matthew read the prophecies of Isaiah in Greek, et voila.
Dawkins points out that the gospels - hardly eye-witness accounts - contradict each other, and that’s before we even consider those that the powers that were decided to exclude around about the time of the First Council of Nicaea (AD 325). Don't get him started on the Book of Revelation, the preserve of the batshit crazy, which the author dismisses like this: "Some guy called John had a weird dream one night on an island called Patmos, and he wrote it down." Another thing to note, although it should be obvious to any four-year old listening to a bible story in primary school, is that Old Testament God is a bit of a bastard. Dawkins wonders if religion itself is merely the result of a search for patterns in the randomness of nature. Never forget that there are people on the island of Tanna in the South Pacific who believe Prince Philip - yes, that Prince Philip - to be divine.
Once Dawkins gets all the nonsense out of the way, he moves on in part two to 'Evolution and Beyond'. As one might expect, his explanation of evolution - tiny changes help organisms to survive while changes in the wrong direction lead to disaster, a random mutation in DNA makes an animal more or less likely to survive and the good mutations are therefore passed on - is as brilliant as it is understandable and, surely, impossible to argue with. The idea that, in the likely multiverse, our universe might be in a “goldilocks zone” where physical constants like gravity are “just right” thus allowing evolution in the first place should blow your mind, a mind that is only there thanks to countless tiny evolutionary steps over many mega-annums. Fascinating.