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Richard Dawkins and the Mythology of Science Part Two

Updated on December 28, 2009

This is a continuation of the first part of this article, which can be found here, by clicking the handily noted 'Part One' link.

Its my theory that people with strong biological predispositions to supernatural thinking will always strongly believe in whatever system that first resonates with them. For some, that will be traditional religious thinking, for others, that will be dowsing, chakra healing, tea leaf reading, or perhaps communing with the dead. People like Dawkins, on the other hand, are cut from a slightly different biological cloth.

The difference between the two groups of people can be described loosely with the analogy of height. Some people are tall, some people are short. Most people are somewhere in between. When it comes to rational vs irrational thinking, most people are somewhere in the middle of the scale. They'll happily use a microwave without believing that there are little imps powering it, they'll take their kids to the doctor when they are sick, but they'll also often hold some kind of spiritual belief. Not to the point where they are motivated to really do anything about it, but to the point where they'll say that they have some kind of belief when asked.

On one far end of the spectrum, we have people who see angels and deamons everywhere, and on the other far end we find people like Dawkins, people for whom only fact, proof and evidence have any beauty or worth.

Dawkins' ideas have merit and great value, however they can only ever reach half the population. The other half will always be mired in superstition and myth and indeed, find great happiness and meaning in it. I doubt that Dawkins is trying to convert the world to science per se, but his frustration at the threads of superstition that run through society and culture is clear most of the time.

It would be almost better, in terms of usefulness, to create a science based mythology. (I suppose that was what Scientology set out to do before it went utterly bonkers with the aliens and the thetans and whatnot.) A mythology based on hard reality, now there's a challenge for the story tellers and the religious leaders of tomorrow. A mythology that tells you to take your kid to the doctor if they are sick and then pray for their health, a mythology that tells you to look for evidence before you decide not to have your children vaccinated against common childhood killers.

You can watch 'Enemies of Reason' for free here.


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    • Hope Alexander profile imageAUTHOR

      Hope Alexander 

      9 years ago

      Interesting points of view, Mike. Did you watch the linked video? In it is a double blind study done with dowsing veterans, people who are experienced dowsers. In trials, they failed miserably at finding water and the results were that dowsing is no better than guessing. If you'd like to link any studies that prove there is 'solid science' behind dowsing, I'd really like to see them.

      There's also no solid evidence for the vaccine-autism theory. There is solid evidence that children are now dying of preventable diseases like measles in the form of obituaries and little dead bodies. I think it is terrible that people are pushing anti-vaccine propaganda and kids are dying as a result of it. Again, link me a serious study on the vaccine-autism link, I would love to see one. The original article written on the link had no scientific basis.

      I think Dawkins is genuinely quite frustrated because he isn't interested, as you think, in pushing a viewpoint, he seeks the truth and he asks for evidence. Why waste your time loathing him? If there is really evidence out there, show it and we'll all be able to get along.

      I suspect, however, that you won't link any studies, because they don't exist. Instead you'll retreat into pseudo-science, which uses scientific terms in such a fashion as to render them meaningless and wastes time hating people who are only looking for the truth.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I tend very much to agree with your sentiments, Hope, which puts me in the camp of Dawkins though I detest the man.

      But I would point out that the vaccine-autism link is not 'mired in superstition.' Thimerosol, a mercury-based preservative, has been used in vaccines for a long time, and is still used, contrary to the latest protestations from the manufacturers. Mercury IS harmful to humans, period. That's plain science. They tell pregnant and nursing women to avoid certain kinds of fish because of mercury and its ability to brain-damage children -- then turn around and tell them to give it to their kids in vaccines. Which is it? I suggest you do a little more research before you drink all of Dawkins's Kool-aid.

      Solid science also backs dowsing. I have watched utility locators find underground pipes and cables with nothing more than dowsing rods -- and these are professionals whose business depends on protecting city infrastructure from excavators. I learned to do it myself, and I can assure you, there is nothing supernatural about it. Simple electro-magnetic fields at play there.

      Just like anyone else with an agenda -- and books to sell -- Dawkins ignores evidence contrary to his claims.

    • profile image

      Got Metta? 

      9 years ago

      Excellent and thoughtful hub, Hope, as usual.

      As an engineer who did mainly failure analysis, I’m conditioned to look at things from Dawkins perspective: form a hypothesis, test it, modify as required. Evidence is paramount. Very left-brained. But always open to the possibility that new information may change the conclusion, and wary of those who are “certain” of the “truth”.

      There is wisdom and knowledge in humanity’s long and varied experience, and we would be fools to ignore it. Mythologies developed as humans tried to make some sense of things they did not fully understand (see Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth). The question is: What are we to keep of ancient wisdom, and what do we discard as ignorance and superstition?

      Science can help validate/invalidate some myths, but science and spirituality have different roles: science tells us the how and why of the universe; spirituality gives meaning to it’s existence. I believe we need both, and can “know” things at an emotional level as well as a rational level. Left-brain and right-brain; a balance of rationality and spirituality.

      I’ve consciously attempted to develop my right-brain functions. Hence my own “cafeteria” spirituality (I’ve eschewed organized religion after 60 years; too many hidden agendas, too much dogma) – I take what seems compassionate and wise and ignore what seems irrational, self-serving or ignorant, and have modified my beliefs and attitudes as new evidence has warranted. I find this makes me happier, more appreciative of life, and grateful for my blessings.

      There are no easy or certain answers, but I keep looking.


      Got Metta?

    • Hope Alexander profile imageAUTHOR

      Hope Alexander 

      9 years ago

      I don't know if everybody needs mythology, but it is pretty clear that a significant proportion of the population would not willingly live without it. Knowing that, why fight human nature instead of simply working with it?

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      9 years ago from South Africa

      Excellent two Hubs - thanks for the research and writing. Reason is indeed great and I agree that we also need the richness of myth and story to feed our emotional lives. I don't think it should be either/or but rather both/and. Balance is what it's about.

      Certainly we should make decisions based on evidence and so should look for the best evidence we can find to ensure that we make the best decisions possible. And that evidence might not always seem to be "rational"!

      Love and peace



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