The Dawkins Delusion
Robert Anton Wilson

I Feel Foolish

When I take the time to respond to an outpouring of tendentious vitriol such as Dawkins’ recent book, I feel foolish. Since it is my view that to fight about metaphysics is a waste of our time and effort, how can I justify spending the time to respond to Dawkins’ entrenched metaphysical prejudices? But then, when is it worthwhile to oppose a viewpoint? Are the possible consequences of letting fanatical dogmas grow unchallenged sufficient justification to speak out against them? 

Although it is an extreme comparison, would it have been worth the while of German intellectuals in the early twentieth century to argue against the racist dogmas of Hitler’s Mein Kampf? Could they have stopped the horrors of the holocaust through words alone? Perhaps the individuals who write these hateful polemics are merely the focal points of the zeitgeist, and the forces behind them would carry on regardless. I choose to believe that there is at least the possibility that extremism can be resisted through debate.

I cherish freedom of belief as the basis of any society worth protecting, and perhaps I am doomed to expend considerable effort attempting to defend this basic human right in words. If it is the case, as Edmund Burke suggested, that the triumph of evil occurs as a consequence of the inaction of the good, then perhaps it should not matter that I feel foolish responding to ignorant rants that threaten to undermine our liberties, because it is assuredly better for people to speak out against intolerance than to say nothing.


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Here's one answer to your dilemma, from the American essayist Wendell Berry. He says that sometimes we have to protest not because we have a hope of winning but because otherwise something precious inside us would die. So speak on!

Thanks for your kind words, Theo! I still feel that if I am advancing a case that metaphysics are not worth fighting about, I should be able to respond to Dawkins with gentle good humour and not a frothy rant. But my wife thinks I do not let myself get angry often enough, so perhaps this is merely the healthy process of blowing off steam.

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