Monday, 17 September 2007

The charity you've all been waiting for...

It will delight you all to know that Richard Dawkins has now launched his own charity, named, with an admirably cavalier disregard for accusations of opportunistic self-promotion, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (henceforth referred to as the RDF). I've been relatively quiet on the subject of Richard Dawkins lately, having become, frankly, utterly bored of him, but it would have been no less than remiss of me not to mark this particular occasion.

For those who are new to this blog, and the universe in general, and haven't heard of this man, he has recently written a book called 'The God Delusion'. I suppose not everyone thinks it's nonsense, and to be fair, if you actively enjoy being told what to think and how to use dodgy logic to "disprove" God's existence while patronising anyone who has ever had the remotest contact with the world around them, then your ship may just have come in; for everyone else, it's a fairly amusing set of randomly selected factoids which take one's mind on a pleasant ramble through the very shallow end of philospohy until you get to the point where you realise he's actually serious and you throw the book out the window.

But again, I digress.

The mission statement of the charity is available on the RDF website and contains a stark warning for us all:

"The enlightenment is under threat. So is reason. So is truth. So is science, especially in the schools of America."

Now, I don't wish to downplay the number of "Christian" idiots who seem to have wormed their way into schools in the US and here. It is indeed ridiculous to be teaching children that "the entire universe... began after the domestication of the dog". On this point I agree with big Rich, and I suspect that were Jesus still walking on earth and were choosing to involve himself in matters educational, he'd have something negative to say about this too (can you imagine that Board of Governors meeting?). I am fully behind Professor D when he aspires to "[p]romot[e] science as poetry". It can, indeed, be a beautiful thing.

So far, so good.

It all takes a turn for the more sombre, though, when we discover that the Prof has been scuppered in his attempts to give what he could to "various secular and rationalist organizations" by the "major difficulties" in doing this in a tax-efficient way (am I missing something here? - don't you just sign a form?). But fear not! for there is light; why, surely and forsooth, Dawkins himself is well-promoted well-known on both sides of the Atlantic, and does he not have followers in both places?! Many of his readers are "enthusiastic and passionate about science and reason", and indeed, "some have been kind enough to attribute their enthusiasm and passion to reading [his] books". We surely cannot help but agree when he concludes, "Did I not have a duty to set up my own charitable foundation?" (I paraphrase not).

We pause briefly here, to give you time to wipe the tear from your eye and swallow the lump in your throat.

And now we turn to the key question: what will the Richard Dawkins Foundation actually do?

The aims are eleven-fold and can be read in full on the RDF website. I summarise them here for your convenience.

1. Research. Dawkins is ever-troubled by one pesky question... why on earth does anyone disagree with him? Why do so many of us take the broad road of religion and superstition, when we could instead be on the narrow way of education and intelligence? (I kid you not, he does actually say that, although I admit I have paraphrased.) I'm quite tempted to apply for one of the grants he's offering, and then survey all the intelligent Christians I know, just to screw up his statistics.

2. Education. Christians are giving money to promote Creationism, so Dawkins is going to give money to promote Evolution. I'd pity the kids who are left sitting in science class with this particular peeing contest being played out around them, but then I think back to my own schooldays and console myself with the fact that they'll all be passing notes and giggling and ignoring the teacher anyway.

3. Website. The RDF will have a website where you can buy lots of Richard's books and DVDs and follow a link to his other website where you can buy lots of Richard's books and DVDs and also see photos of him.

4. Database of lecturers. Sadly the good prof is unable to speak at everything he's invited to, but if you're organising a talk he'll give you the name of an atheist near you.

5. Merchandise. You can buy Richard's books and DVDs.

6. Publication. Dammit, he's writing more books.

7. Charitable giving by secularists to humanitarian good causes. If there's a disaster and you want to help, but you're worried about your money falling into the hands of those nasty religionists, worry no more... the RDF will provide you a list of non-religious charities. Particularly useful for those who've never heard of, for example, Google.

8. The OUT Campaign. Scared to tell everyone you're an atheist? Not sure how to "come out" in the open? The RDF has the answer - for $20, wear a T-shirt with a big scarlet "A" on it, and tell the world! As an added bonus, and I swear I'm not making this up, it also has Richard Dawkins' name underneath - worth it at twice the price!

9. Consciousness-raising about labelling children. You shouldn't call children 'Christian children' as this is well-known to scar them for life.

10. Think for Yourself. The RDF equivalent of the Sunday morning Children's Sermon. In other words, it's the bit most of the adults really listen to. Children will be encouraged to 'think for themselves'. This sounds good, but I've a feeling it won't be.

11. Conferences. The one you've all been waiting for. Actually hear the Great Bright One speak. Maybe have lunch with him. And get the books and DVDs autographed.

So there you have it. A truly worthy cause. We can only stand and stare in amazement that the world has had to wait so long. And of course we are humbled by Richard Dawkins' near-refusal to even mention his name in relation to this, so little does he want to look like the altruist that he is.

And I thought he was just a self-promoting twit.


Anonymous said...

is this not the guy who wrote, The Selfish Gene? ... Regarded as THE book on evolutionary biology and is he not a professor or something at oxford or somewhere? and have his books not sold squillions? and almost single handedly created or at least boosted its own genre?

He’s not THE scientist in the world (that’s EO Wilson), but Dawkins is up there, whether you like it or not. And though he may be wrong about the god-stuff (as might we all) … the ‘he’s a clown’ approach is a mistake… I humbly promote.

>>>>> it's a fairly amusing set of randomly selected factoids which take one's mind on a pleasant ramble through the very shallow end of philospohy until you get to the point where you realise he's actually serious and you throw the book out the window.

That’s disingenuous of you. I don’t believe that you honestly found any of it amusing. I also don’t think for a moment that you ‘realised’ half way through that he’s serious. I’m thinking that this paragraph could just as easily have been written about the bible. (I’m thinking if you had never heard of either book, and picked them both up on the proverbial desert island... well who knows I guess)

I myself think that Grayling and Harris are more articulate on the subject, but Dawkins has a role to play in the debate… every debate needs the militant.. to shake the cobwebs! There are plenty on the other side.
(must confess, I’ve only ever read extracts from any of these books… so I might have to defer on those grounds)

whynotsmile said...

anonymous, welcome! Yes, this is the guy who wrote The Selfish Gene and lots of other books on evolutionary biology. He's a professor at Oxford.

I promise you I did find the book very funny in places; I humbly admit that I may have exaggerated if I said I was half way through before I realised he was serious.

whynotsmile said...

PS Does anyone have any idea why my comments things are all in German? Have I changed a setting somewhere?

QMonkey said...

I would recommend John Humphries' latest book, In God we doubt, for a more sober reflection on the validity of faith in the UK

Anonymous said...

i can think of a lot less worthly charities, mostly religious. I've never heard RD try to prove theres no god, i'd be surprised. I'd like to think you read TGD with an open mind and not just looking to find fault, i somehow doubt it. P.

whynotsmile said...

qmonkey, thanks for the recommendation, I read the post on your blog about Humphries' book and it looks good - must have a shufty next time I'm in Waterstones.

anonymous, be assured that I know of much less worthy charities too, and I hope that Dawkins does lots of good stuff with this one. It's just that, seriously, his mission statement contains the phrase "Did I not have a duty to set up my own charitable foundation?" - I mean, GWAK!!!!! By the way, how did you find my blog? I thought the only people who read it were people I had forced to do so.

Anonymous said...

...someone posted a link on facebook.

i take, and concede your point about RD's grandiose i'm gonna change the world attitude.

i think its just that i kinda like polemics... and pussyfooters. there's alot to be said for 'this is what i think , and this is why im right' attitude. (maybe, in fact a big maybe). P

whynotsmile said...

A link on Facebook? Man, I could take over the world next...