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Monday, January 08, 2007

Richard Dawkins gets Dissected

Saddam Hussein is dead, and Richard Dawkins is not pleased. The distinguished evolutionary biologist, atheist, and grinch thinks that the world has lost a tyrant, and psychology has lost a specimen. How much better it would have been, he thinks, for psychology to study this monster, and gleen more knowledge of the workings of evil. But what's evil? History has shown that it is something matter of fact, having to do with practical matters like survival and such. Attila the Hun, Caesar, and Napoleon performed their peculiar evils because people at the time did such things to get by, survival of the fittest you know. Indeed, it was this metaphor, banally simplified but rising to the level of scientific cant, that was responsible for the very real evils of social darwinism, national socialism, and communism, all pivoting on the false premise that evolution surely proves that man can be perfected beast, but only if the tree of man is pruned by cutting a few million every now and then. An evil meme you might say.

Hannah Arendt thought evil was banality. Its easy to be evil. It doesn't require much smarts or independence, and thus one can follow the crowd, obey orders, and as a bonus, survive. The more pressing question is what causes true poets of science and religion to get into all that trouble. Whether it is Galileo or Christ, these are the true specimens that need to be studied. I would surmise, in contrast to the syndrome that infects the grinches among us, that they have hearts three times too big.

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