Sunday, 11 October 2009
Dawkins on Darwin
I have been catching this programme, in so far as I catch any programme, for I hardly ever know what is on, but I have read Dawkins and Dennett too. And that is fine. Darwin's the man.
Just the following points:
1.) It might be worth looking more sympathetically at human emotion;
2.) It might be worth considering the nature of language a little more closely and particularly in its poetic aspect, a substantial poem being, by definition, neither a fudge nor a prettiness cast over language to divert people from the truth. When, say, Christina Rossetti exclaims: My heart is like a singing bird, we don't necessarily ask in how many precise respects it is so. Does it have feathers? Does it have a beak? How does it survive inside your physical body? Does it in fact sing? No? In other words it is not very like a singing bird at all. Case dismissed. Is only that which is demonstrably logical of value? Isn't this Gradgrindism? Is there no value in exclaiming, as the writer of Job does: Canst thou pluck out Leviathan with an hook? Is there no value in the feeling George Herbert addresses in 'I struck the board and cried no more?" In other words can we take some questions on the literalism of the questions as well as on the literalism of the answer? Our hearts are sometimes very like singing birds for no literal reason. (This is as much point 1 as point 2, of course.)
3.) It might also be worth considering why Dawkins, in railing at fundamentalism and multi-culturalism, only addresses Christians. He accuses some science teachers of running scared. But is he not running scared of other religions, which are never to be mentioned?
I do not doubt the science. It is the language and the humanity I quibble about. And the tin ear.