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Wednesday 18 February 2015

Richard Dawkins interviewed by Evan Davis

Evan Davis is the sort of man that Islamists believe should be thrown to his death from the top of a tall building. This is not some lurid exaggeration, but a sad statement of fact, but for Davis, as for so many others at the BBC, the concept of the existence of clear, incontrovertible facts is viewed as something unsettling, rather than being something that should be acknowledged. Not so for Richard Dawkins, of course. Dawkins knows not only that Islamists would delight in throwing Davis to his death from a great height, but that this would be fundamentally wrong and barbarous. For Davis though, one almost suspects that he'd view his terminal aerial descent as nothing but another illustration of the vibrant variety of beliefs blossoming in contemporary multicultural Britain; an unanticipated opportunity to celebrate diversity, whilst thrilling to the whoosh of the passing air as he involuntarily attempts base-jumping without a parachute.

The appearance of Dawkins on last night's Newsnight was welcome, but Davis's smug, condescending interview technique was not. Davis evidently does not view Dawkins as his intellectual equal, but as his inferior. This is staggering.

The interview commenced with Davis making reference to the Charlie Hebdo attack, and attempting to equate Dawkins's "militant atheism" with religious dogmatism and fanaticism. A fallacious comparison, of course, but something taken as a matter of 'faith' by Davis and his relativising, multicultural ilk. Evans thus asked if Dawkins was any different to the religious dogmatists whom he criticises, seeking to impose his beliefs on others, to which Dawkins responded that "you should be allowed to believe anything you like, but you shouldn't impose your beliefs on other people." Given this, he said that he was not in favour of a burka ban, although he feels personally offended when he sees someone peering through a slit. Nonetheless, personal offence is no reason to ban something. People should be free to offend.

Dawkins rebutted Davis's suggestion that he did not wish children to receive a religious education, stating that he thought that children should be taught about religion in an appropriate context, rather than being indoctrinated into it. For Dawkins, it is important that schools should teach history, literature and religion as part of a rounded curriculum, but they should not be taught creationism, as "Evolution is not a matter of opinion, it's a matter of fact, as much as the Earth orbits the Sun." At this point, Davis made an expression indicating that he may hold sympathies for the Flat Earth Society.

Davis seemed to be particularly annoyed by the fact that Dawkins had tweeted that more Nobel Prizes had been won by graduates of Trinity College, Cambridge, than by the whole of the Muslim world. Davis adjudged this to be particularly provocative, and wanted to know why Dawkins had said this. Dawkins replied that he had in fact toned down his comment for the sake of Muslim sensibilities, as he had originally wished to ask how it was that Jews accounted for 20% to 25% of all Nobel Prize winners, whereas the Muslim world had produced scarcely any. The Muslim world may have been at the cutting edge of science in the mediaeval period, but had stagnated scientifically ever since. Fact. Nonetheless, Davis described this as an "invidious comparison" more than once. Davis is not as bright as he thinks, and is playing with fire by trying to legitimise Islamic literalism. The likes of Davis, if they are permitted to get their way, will function as the handmaidens of a new dark age. Davis, to borrow an old term from a different context, is not so much an intellectual, as a useful idiot.

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