In his book The God Delusion, leading atheist Richard Dawkins famously argued that belief in a supernatural creator is irrational and that believing in God qualifies as a delusion, or "a persistent false belief held in the face of strong, contradictory evidence." But the 70-year-old British biologist was singing a different tune Tuesday during an appearance on BBC radio 4, when he invoked God to help him remember the full title of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, of which Dawkins is a great champion.
It happened this way. Reverend Giles Fraser – former canon chancellor of St. Paul’s Cathedral – was arguing with Dawkins over the true definition of a Christian. People who identify as Christians don't really know what they're talking about, implied the biologist (True).
"A majority of them don't seem to be truly Christian in the sense that they don't believe what Christianity teaches," Dawkins said. "Many of them don't go to church, they don't read the Bible – an astonishing number couldn't identify the first book of the New Testament … they just tick the Christian box."
All of which made him sound like a strict Mother Superior telling off her novices. But it was then that Fraser pulled a fast one. "If I said to you what is the full title of the Origin of Species," he said, "I'm sure you could tell me that." Dawkins really did try – you could almost hear the wobbling jowl – but he simply couldn't. "On the Origin of Species… er… with, oh God … [laughter] … On the Origin of Species… um… there is, there is a subtitle… with respect to the preservation of favored races in the f-f-fight … in the struggle for life."
Dawkins was pretty close. The book's full title is On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. But his failure to summon the name on command has led a number of British media outlets to label the appearance as "deeply embarrassing" for Dawkins and claim "the High Priest of Darwinism doesn't know the title of his own secular bible."
Dawkins appeared on BBC Radio 4 Tuesday to discuss a poll on Christianity in Britain that was commissioned last year by his organization, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. The results of the poll reveal, among other data, that nearly two out of three people who consider themselves Christians cannot name the first book of the New Testament. (It is the Gospel According to St. Matthew)
Most of those who describe themselves as Christian (in Britain) – suggests the research – have only a low level of belief and practice of the religion. Half of those who say they are Christian rarely go to church while nearly 60% do not read the Bible. Dawkins told the Today program's Justin Webb that most people who call themselves Christian merely "tick the Christian box."
When asked whether the figures told us anything of use, Professor Dawkins insisted it "told us an awful lot" because it puts into doubt the place of Christian practices in society such as bishops in House of Lords and the presence of faith schools. However Reverend Fraser called the findings "extraordinary" and maintained that it was not fair to trump people's "self identification" as Christians. He said that "there are all sorts of ways to express Christianity" and that we should not be "purging religion from the public square."
Linda Woodhead, a professor of philosophy and religion at Lancaster University, wrote in the Guardian that Dawkin's poll shows Christianity in Britain is a difficult thing to define. She wrote:
“There's nothing new in Richard Dawkins's findings about the British way of being religious. But it's always good to be reminded of the findings of a poll commissioned by his Foundation for Reason and Science: that most of us are not "true believers" in either religion or in secularism and that Britain is neither a religious country nor a secular one, but an interesting mix of both. That doesn't make us muddled, or woolly, or confused – it just makes us British.”
The Complete Dialogue
Giles Fraser: Richard, if I said to you what is the full title of 'The Origin Of Species', I'm sure you could tell me that.
Richard Dawkins: Yes I could.
Giles Fraser: Go on then.
Richard Dawkins: 'On The Origin Of Species' ... Uh. With, Oh God. 'On The Origin Of Species.' There is a subtitle with respect to the preservation of favored races in the struggle for life.
Giles Fraser: You're the high pope of Darwinism … If you asked people who believed in evolution that question and you came back and said two percent got it right, it would be terribly easy for me to go 'they don't believe it after all.' It's just not fair to ask people these questions. They self-identify as Christians and I think you should respect that.
They use what they know to name what they don't.
At the most basic level, when a current European (including myself) says, “I am Christian,” we are defining ourselves by our roots. But while we are not declaring ourselves disciples of Augustine and Aquinas and the descendent of Jewish patriarchs, the core values of Christianity is the foundation of our identity, the base upon which all other aspects of our self are balanced.
Even palestinians are defining themselves by their roots Anis Shorrosh "he's palestinian"
I remember him saying; I greet you in the name of Jesus, the man from my hometown, my Lord and Savior.... haha! :)
By that broad definition, I am a Christian too. Unfortunately, you would be out in America, where we have a supposed return to 'fundamentials'. In this country, a presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, recently described 45 million American Evangelicals as being 'unchristian'. As long as you are willing to admit that you pick and choose your 'core' values from the many, many conflicting values presented in the bible, then I think you are moving toward rational, evidence based thought and action. There is much that I can agree with in the bible. There is also much more that is quite obviously a collection of fairytales written by illiterate goat herders back in the Bronze Age. But let me just clarify, that I don't think these Semitic goat herders were intentionally writing fairytales. That would be giving them far too much intellectual credit. They were writing about their reality with the linguistic and intellectual tools available at their time in place in human evolutionary history. The reason these books appear as fairytales to us today, is that the knowledge of the world these bronze Age storytellers had was about that of the average 4 yr old today.
Please explain what core values. Evolutionary morals are my core values, and I would pit them against any biblical morality.
I only called myself a christian while I was going to primary school and early high school there after anything but christian.
Claudia, you were born and raised in Argentina, yet you define yourself as European because your ethnicity is, at least from your paternal last name, Italian. You choose to define yourself by that specific part of yourself, but it is basically a choice like any other. If you and I were to look at our DNA, I bet you we have pretty much the same genetic profile in terms of ancestry as defined by the allelic frequencies of polymorphisms which are informative of ancestry. Yet it would never occur to me to define myself as European, even though this is my genetic background. I was born and raised in a European ex-colony, like you, and my mother tongue, like yours, is Spanish. I have lived in Europe (Italy to be precise) for several years and I can assure you that it is very different than Argentina or Uruguay. To begin with, European countries are not ex-colonies (not recently anyway), and that changes the political and social landscape quite a bit. I'm a very lucky person because having lived in both places, I have both perspectives. In addition, I have lived in the United States for >20 years, and I'm the epitome of a New Yorker. I'm a New World product, through and through.
Interestingly, since I choose to define myself by who I am and not what my ancestry is, I'm much more a citizen of the world much like Davy described himself. And because of Davy's experiences and what he holds dear, in other words, what he has come to understand of the world, make me much more akin to Davy than to you, even though Davy is an Australian aborigine and the last time and he and I had a common ancestor must have been roughly 50-60,000 years ago.
The core values of my morality are dictated by my condition as a human being, a product of an extremely social species where biological evolution intertwined with cultural evolution produce a natural tendency to band with friends and relatives, to help one another and a natural aversion to causing unnecessary harm and suffering.
Hell, I'll be deciphering this for days. =)
Teasing, almost always.
All the countries of the world did not yet come together to set the basis of a global culture. A citizen with any sense of identity is someone who belongs to a culture. To call yourself a "citizen of the world" in the sense that it refers to a non-existent culture - is therefore a delusion.
And I doubt whether I will be able to know what a colony is. Why, well, my six Italian great-grandparents emigrated to Argentina when the country has already declared its independence from Spain.
No! The countries do not set out what culture what is!
It is PEOPLE who make a culture!
The World is growing ever smaller and more people are visiting other countries around the World. In doing so they start to begin to realise that people are basically the same, with the same desires, the same needs, the same hopes, When people immigrate they bring little packets of their own cultures with them and which the locals pick up. But the funny thing is that a little of the culture they settle into also finds it way back to the land of their birth through their relatives and families there.
Plus these days I can watch TV shows via satellite links from around the world or on the net. DW TV is just one station that I know is both on satellite and the net. So culture that has modern technology at its beck and call is not really the culture of my grandfathers days it has changed.
Wars also tend to have a disruptive effect on culture.
Culture changes because people change through time.