Warning!! The following text contains links and declarative statements that may cause chafing or philosophical infarct.

The Richard Dawkins BBC programs “The Root of All Evil, Part 1 and Part 2“, are quite worth the time to view. It will no doubt be uncomfortable for some. Dawkins is very much a promoter of reason and doesn’t restrain his blunt questions at all. 

What is interesting to witness is Dawkins’ genuine surprise when a few characters respond with an absolute and even threatening rebuff to his reasoning.  I think he truly expected to move these people to see his point of view by the force of reason.  In many ways, this program portrays a world very hostile to the analysis of belief.

The whole notion of belief as an inviolable, sacrosanct capsule of “vital essence” seems to be hardwired into our brains.  For many, the prospect of another person drilling into your personal theory of the universe (God or physics) is both profane and invasive.  Like most people, I am not keen on being “examined” like some analytical sample either. But in the end, a “theory of everything” that can’t survive scrutiny is not worth having.

Perhaps where Dawkins goes astray is at grasping the difference between being analytically correct and just being comfortable with an idea.  Few people have the overlap of both curiosity and the opportunity to cover some new ground in the scholarly examination of the Big Questions.  In fact, it seems that the methodical pursuit of novelty is not a universal trait in culture.  A great many people are perfectly happy to live and believe as the ancestors did. 

Dawkins is not shy about drilling into the bedrock of belief. I think between Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett, there is a growing realization that religion should be studied analytically as a natural phenomenon rather than exclusively as a subject of devotion.