THE DAWKINS DELUSION
There is a problem that I personally perceive with the academic arrogance of the highly erudite Prof. Richard Dawkins. There can be no doubting the intellectual achievements of this Professor for The Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. What I do doubt is his ability to accept that there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in Dawkins’ philosophy. You see Prof. Dawkins is a scientist, a learned gentleman tutored in verifiable facts. If he can not measure it, can not weigh it, can not accurately ascertain its circumference, its dimensions, its anatomical structure etc. then, for Dawkins it exists only as a figment of imagination.
Let me elucidate: In his international best selling book ‘The God Delusion’ Dawkins comments on the veracity of psychic phenomena. ‘Many people believe that they have seen a vision of an angel with their own eyes, or have spoken to them in their heads. This argument from personal experience is the one that is most convincing to those who claim to have had one. But it is the least convincing to anyone else, and anyone knowledgeable about psychology. You say you have experienced God directly? Well some people have experienced a pink elephant.’ He continues ‘Individuals in asylums think they are Napoleon or Charlie Chaplin, or that the entire world is conspiring against them, or that they can broadcast their thoughts into other people’s heads’. The basic premise being, from Dawkins’ point of view is that we can not rely upon our own senses to correctly discern reality. ‘Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?’ Groucho Marx said that.
Dawkins’ is not alone in the delusion that everything in the universe can be quantified and explained by science. I recently watched a most interesting lecture by Prof. Brian Cox in which he explained that the Hubble telescope has captured images of tens of thousands of galaxies over thirteen billion light years from this planet that we call Earth. Cox is brilliant at presenting astronomy to the general public, I really like the way he states the blindingly obvious that to see the stars we need to go outside and look up at the sky during the night. The bit that escapes me is how he, or any scientist for that matter, can possibly postulate that life on this planet can be completely explained by The Theory of Relativity, Quantum Mechanics or any other combination of science that does not include the spiritual dimension.
There are many others in the public eye that are currently using their positions in the entertainment industry to promote disbelief in the veracity of psychic or paranormal phenomena. The ‘Mentalist/Illusionist’ Derren Brown recently took it upon himself to conduct a demolition job on mediumship. In a TV feature that can be viewed on the internet site ‘YouTube’ titled ‘The Man Who Contacts The Dead’ Brown set about dismantling the Liverpool based medium Joe Power. Quite why Brown feels that it is his responsibility to disprove the truth of communication with discarnate spirits escapes me. However Derren Brown seems to take umbrage with the practice of mediumship as he insulted the work of Joe Power labelling it as exploitation of the recently bereaved and vulnerable. However, dear reader, let us consider the source, in this case Derren Brown, here we have a man that practises hypnotism on members of his audience and for the sole purpose of entertainment psychologically manipulates them. Some of Brown’s stunts, that involve mesmerised audience volunteers, include seriously disturbing scenarios. In a particularly disturbing televised show involving one such hypnotised individual Brown persuaded them to stage a robbery. In yet another despicable scenario Brown mesmerises and psychologically manipulates a volunteer persuading them to commit murder. So what do you think it is about psychic-mediumship that this seriously flawed protector of public morality fears?
Back to the scientifically deluded Dawkins: In his aforementioned book the learned Professor considers the phenomenon of childhood invisible friends. Dawkins has the audacity to compare and contrast this to the adult belief in God, stating that possibly the divine entity is an invisible friend for life. I have to admit that I really admire and enjoy the sense of gentle good humour that permeates his book. However Dawkins’ tongue in cheek approach to his subject obscures his motive which is, I believe, to postulate that any belief in non quantifiable phenomena is delusional. Let me briefly explain why I feel he is wrong.
There exists in the practice of Law certain factors that are used to test the veracity of evidence presented to a court. 1.Expertise (background and knowledge relevant to the topic) 2. Objectivity (source is fair and undistorted) 3. Consistency (does source agree with other experts) 4. Access (does the source have access to report the facts) So in the event of say two people standing in court under oath stating that they saw Mr. X with claw hammer in the library hitting Mr. Y killing him and the evidence stands the tests as outlined then, in the eyes of the court, Mr. X is guilty. It could transpire that Mr. X is sentenced to life imprisonment, or at another time, or in another place, sentenced to death. So there we have the accepted test for evidence sufficient in the eyes of the law for someone to be found guilty and to receive a serious judicial sentence. However Professor Dawkins declines to accept such an argument, indeed in his book ‘The God Delusion’ he offers as an example the mass visions at Fatima, Portugal in 1917. This was when over 70,000 people observed inexplicable phenomena surrounding the sun which by countless thousands of people was reported to have danced in the sky. Dawkins argues that this was most likely a mirage caused by staring at the sun or mass hysteria.
I believe that Dawkins’ hypothesis that God is a delusion and that psychic phenomena is little more than our brains misinterpreting external stimuli is palpably incorrect. I do however concur with his brief examination of the known facts pertaining to the proof of the actual existence of Jesus. The Romans kept written records, had there been a seriously troublesome prophet parading around their patch then his trial and subsequent execution would have been noted. No such notation is to be found anywhere in the written records of The Roman Empire. The truth most likely is that the myth of Jesus was adapted by the Roman Emperor Constantine at The Council of Nicea 325 AD at which (among other things such as The Holy Trinity) it was decided that Christianity was to be the religion of The Roman Empire. The reason for this being that maintaining the cost of policing the empire was too great for the Emperor so it was decided by Constantine to control the people by enforcing religious beliefs. Hence we had what came to be known as The Holy Roman Empire and The Church of Rome. This religious nonsense created fertile ground for the process of divide and rule, once Rome had the Christians killing the Christians the problem of control dissolved. This all led on to such atrocities as those perpetrated by The Spanish Inquisition and no one expects them, as Monty Python pointed out. Then came the persecution of witches and so on to sectarian murders, Hitler’s holocaust and all that religious intolerance breeds.
In conclusion let me state that it is my contention that Dawkins is delusional in his arguments against paranormal and psychic phenomena. Whilst I accept without qualification that the learned Professor argues his case succinctly, with exceptional erudition and with an amusing versatility of language, I do not support his ultimate hypothesis that all who believe in psychic phenomena are at best deluded and possibly certifiably insane (The God Delusion Ch. 3 the Argument From Personal ‘Experience’ para 3).