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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Why Richard Dawkins is Unatractive in the USA

When Americans, especially believing Americans, hear Richard Dawkins speak, they perceive it through the filter of the American experience.  Our experience is a collection of political myths, small historic facts and unarticulated insecurities over economic structures.  When we hear "evolution" we think "survival of the fittest" and we think:  "I know that all too well".  It's a jungle out there.

We've been placed in competition with other workers since before the spinsters strike in Lowell, MA.  Social Darwinism was debunked in academic circles long ago but no one has informed the economic systems of this.  So when we hear "evolution" we think of brutish, harsh resource restrictions, not the intricate emergence of stellar systems, geography, life and culture.  We think "competition" not "cooperation" nor "interdependency".

Science fascinates and frightens us.  It has dubious ties with political funding of arms races, industrial health care, and elite power.  It's something we are taught to believe in, not something we are taught to practice.  Because we are fed the mythic history, because we are discouraged from criticizing the economic system, we often place blame on Science.  It seems cold, mechanical, calculating.  The human element is left out.  We deal with the complexities of religious organizations because they seem to humanize the markets and help us believe that something better is possible.  It might be an illusion, it might be short-term rewards with long-term costs, but we are humans who don't always see the long-term picture.

We embrace normative conformity and admire or privately dismiss those who accept religious ideology more than we do.  But we also are cautious of anyone who openly bucks the system.  We worry about falling into a lower circle of hell in this existence.

So we trust our own experience over religion and science.  We are skeptical of any new person claiming authority.  We want to learn but we don't want someone to point out how little we know as we grovel for crumbs of knowledge.

If science wants to make headway in the USA, it will have to learn from the mistakes of Religion.  And Science must accept the good lessons from the Religious Era too.  Be an ally of the poor, the weak, the disenfranchised, not just in word but in deed.  Reach out and improve this existence, person to person, make the human connection and empower others.

Most importantly, be truthful about the advance of Science:

Darwin is not a saint:  He sat on the shoulders of scientists who came before him and he had his bias.  His studies in a tropical environment shaped his focus on competition.  Russian evolutionary theorists who succeeded Darwin studied the Siberian tundra and saw cooperation and interdependency as the main drive of evolution, not competition.  Let's value that contribution & insight. 

Science and the Theory of Evolution are not cold and calculating.  They aren't the ally of the strong against the weak.  They show how our desires to work together, to be considerate and to improve our collective circumstances are a natural drive, not some gift to brutes from the beyond. 

But when Dawkins speaks, we do not hear this.  We hear ridicule.  We hear shame and devaluation of the internal experience of transcendence.  We hear a British preacher saying "this is the new and only way" and we are a rebellious people.

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