Saturday, December 31, 2011

Professor Richard Dawkins and questionable standards of scholarship

It has long been my impression that Professor Dawkins' emotions override his commitment to the highest standards of scholarly argument and research, and this is stated as a clear accusation by a victim of one of his attacks, the distinguished academic philosopher and former atheist Anthony Flew:

Dawkins is not interested in the truth as such but is primarily concerned to discredit an ideological opponent by any available means. That would itself constitute sufficient reason for suspecting that the whole enterprise of The God Delusion was not, as it at least pretended to be, an attempt to discover and spread knowledge of the existence or non-existence of God but rather an attempt – an extremely successful one – to spread the author’s own convictions in this area.

For the rest of Professor Flew's article, please see here.

I am not concerned to argue the case either for or against atheism here. There are honourable people on both sides of the argument.

But I am concerned that an eminent scientist long associated with my university should lose his professional compass so grossly on a matter that deeply interests and affects millions of people.

It is also worth noting, as perhaps many do not realise, that Professor Dawkins was, in effect, sponsored by an American billionaire to ride his hobby horse. The University's website openly admits:

Simonyi Professorship was set up with the express intention that its first holder should be Richard Dawkins.

I should like to know who is (and was then) on the appointments board for the Simonyi Professorship, and the interconnexions among them and others including the successful candidate and Mr Simonyi himself. I fear that the more I come to know about this, the more I may possibly feel that the Chair and its surrounding issues might serve to lessen respect for the University and its work.

If there is any reader of this post who teaches or is attending, or has taught or attended at Oxford University and would care to join me in a letter to the University inquiring into the Simonyi Professorship, I should be obliged if he/she would get in touch with me.


James Higham said...

My my my!

And happy New Year, Sackers.

Paddington said...

I have a longer reply, but will try and make a post of it.

Sackerson said...

While doing so, please remember that I am talking here about unscholarly argument, not the debate about the existence or non-existence of a deity. In my view, Flew nailed Dawkins.

And I also resent a rich man using his chequebook to turn OU into a propaganda station. Someone must stand up for the humble attempt at the truth that is philosophical liberalism.

A K Haart said...

I'm an atheist, but have never been keen on Dawkins' approach.

We should searching for philosophical and moral common ground in the face of more important and difficult challenges than Dawkins seems prepared to deal with.