Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Unbelievers: The New Proselytizers

Netflix documentary, The Unbelievers, follows two famous scientists, biologist Richard Dawkins and Physicist Lawrence Krauss, on their 2012 speaking tour preaching the gospel of reason.  Dawkins wrote the 2008 bestseller The God Delusion, a lengthy, but eloquent book arguing religion should disappear.  Since the events of 9/11, many scientists have rightly taken a stand against religious fundamentalism.  Like Bill Maher's often hilarious, but misguided Religulous, their view of religion is too skewed, meaning they characterize all believers as backward thinking and dogmatic. By ignoring the importance of spirituality in the human experience throughout history, Krauss and Dawkins undercut their own message.

Look no further than any textbook on Western Civilization and find monstrous atrocities done in the name of God.  History also displays how faith has inspired men and women to acts of understanding and compassion.

Dawkins and Krauss are eloquent speakers and do a fine job of explaining modern scientific theories. Their strident tone towards religion puts off many who are on the fence.  As a result, judging from the film, they often end up preaching to the choir.  

Carl Sagan, greatest spokesman for science in the 20th century, took a more nuanced view towards faith.  But 2014 is not a time for nuance. 

Religion can be a source of comfort for people struggling day to day in the face of obstacles Dawkins and Krauss could never comprehend.  Including "science is awesome" sound bytes from celebrities added little to the film.

Some believers do possess a dangerous confidence.  They believe everyone is wrong, except them (see Simpsons episode "Homer the Heretic").  I agree with Krauss and Dawkins, such individuals are obstacles to progress.  

Science and religion don't need to be in conflict. Unfortunately, the times say otherwise.

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