Dawkins's survival of fittest theory unfit to serve as moral code for human race
RITE AND REASON:THE SECOND, twin platform that supports Richard Dawkin’s atheism provides a much more successful critique of Christianity and of some other religions; as he discerns quite accurately in our Bible the features of a divinity who looks like a savage warlord.
This divinity fights alongside his very own people and religion; ordering ethnic cleansing and the massacre of whole tribes; not to mention eventually robbing a particular people of their native land so his favourites could occupy it.
A divinity who imposes our moral and religious duties upon us by threats of horrible punishment, both in this life and the next; and who, according to Christians at least, requires the sacrifice of the life of an innocent, stainless human being, as in the most primitive times, to satisfy divine anger. Such religious beliefs and practices are the very nemesis of true morality.
For our race has too often been enticed by the content of such beliefs to imitate these savage divinities. Confirmed in that intent we obey our moral rules under the impression the divinity enforces these under pain of punishment for refusal, and promised reward for compliance.
Any act is morally good only in so far as we choose to do it simply because we can ourselves know it to be good for both self and others; or morally evil when we choose to do it despite the fact that we ourselves know it to be bad for self and others.
There is no doubt Dawkins secures a victory here over some religions, in the area of their formulated moralities; but two sets of qualifying comment need to be added.
First, his argument should deter people from proposing and worshipping a certain kind of divinity, but it does not thereby prove a quite different kind of creator of cosmos, a morality-friendly divinity exists.
But then equally, as a leading Irish humanist at the Dublin convention told Róisín Ingle, there was no need to profess atheism to hold to his central belief humanity can live by a true morality without invoking some divinity, and atheists frequently sound as dogmatic as believers.
Second, the creator of the cosmos according to Dawkins is “evolution” and, according to Dawkins’s darling, Darwin, “evolution” creates our world by mutations, some of which mindlessly confer an advantage in the struggle for existence and life.
The favoured ones propagate and survive, while the unfavoured and weaker go to the wall; giving the natural rule for limitless success in life as that of the survival of the fittest.
That is then the rule that human beings should adopt as their moral principle; with a codicil to the effect that helping the weak ones is wrong, since such senseless bonhomie serves only to dilute the fitness of the race by helping the unfit.
Darwin himself recognised, and welcomed the affinity of his theory with that of the apostle of laissez-faire capitalism, Malthus.
For the god of Malthus’s capitalist credo is money, Mammon, the one Jesus recognised as the rival of the true God. As we Irish know only too well at this time when the priests of Mammon, the professional moneymakers, require a penitential fast from us, the debilitating effects of which, it is decreed, must be felt most by the weakest. This is so the fittest will survive unencumbered by costly begging losers, and enjoy ever after the best of all worlds.
Dawkins’s Darwinism has a god alright; and a morality that fits its nature. The blind god is “evolution” and its ruling moral principle is: whether by enterprise or chance mutation you gain monetary advantage in the struggle of all against all for life ever more abundant, use this superior fitness entirely for yourself, for helping the weak will only hold you back.
James P Mackey is visiting professor in the school of religions and theology at TCD, and Thomas Chalmers Professor Emeritus of Theology at the University of Edinburgh. He wrote J esus of Nazarethand Christianity and Creation. Series concluded