Wow. This thread has taken some turns I hadn't expected it to (but probably should have). The evolution stuff is interesting. We make use of some of Dawkins' ideas regarding genetics and memes in some of my linguistics courses (as there are close parallels to these ideas in linguistics, and the fields of biology and linguistics have influenced each other quite a lot, historically). I've never really seen that as intruding on or shaping my religious outlook. For those who see such a strong link, why do you feel that some people who are exposed to those ideas or related ideas can take them on and actually grow in their faith (e.g., me...when I started my getting my degree, I was a Roman Catholic; now I am Orthodox and at the graduate level and working to the Ph.D.), while others are exposed to the same and completely "convert", becoming atheists/agnostics/whatevers? I would not be so arrogant as to assume my own faith is stronger than theirs or anyone's, particularly since I didn't even begin attending an Orthodox church until about 14 months ago, but it is interesting that there is this difference. There is perhaps a comparison to be made between "soft" and "hard" atheism or agnosticism in other parts of the sciences, in that for all the strident posturing of the Dawkins-inspired anti-religion crowd, there are also people, no less well-known on a popular level, like Niel Degrasse-Tyson who has said that he is much more interested in finding out the reasoning of the 15% of scientists who profess some religious belief than sitting comfortably stroking the egos of the 85% that don't (warning: may not be an exact quote, but that is the idea). As someone who is at least tangentially participating in the sciences, I find Degrasse-Tyson's view to be much more...well...scientific
, in that his curiosity has prompted him to wonder about exceptions, rather than throwing out a full 15% of the 'sample' because it doesn't fit his preconceived notion of what a "good scientist" will believe. I know, for instance, that if I'm looking at a crosslinguistic sample of 100 languages and 15 of them display some typological peculiarity in common, that's something I'm going to have to address in the process of analyzing the sample, not treat as somehow 'less real' languages or, even worse, exclude because they don't fit my hypothesis or application of a given typological universal. It's okay to have exceptions and "less than perfect fit" (many computational models have been designed specifically to deal with such things), but not
okay to have them and not address them.
It seems to me that for as brilliant as Dawkins is in his own field or subfield, in reaching outside of it to apply his ideas to the conversation on the social usefulness
of religion (which, as an Orthodox Christian, is not the way I look at religion in the first place, but I digress...) he has an entirely different standard by which he operates when criticizing religion that basically boils down to "I have a lot of credentials, and I believe this and not that, therefore you are stupid." This would never fly in the scientific realm, because it's essentially saying "Nevermind that a significant percentage of people with similar backgrounds do not agree with my particular outlook on this entirely non-scientific (in the sense of "non-falsifiable") question...they're clearly ignorant, or else they'd agree."