It’s all Richard Dawkins’ fault

At least according to Neil Olmerod, Professor of Theology and Director of the Institute of Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Australian Catholic University. Olmerod wonders what the world is coming to, what with all those uppity atheists blogging and writing letters to newspapers these days. But what got Olmerod really mad (and the ABC’s Religion&Ethics website excited enough to post it, must have been a slow newsday), was that the letter he wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald in response to someone claiming in the paper that Catholics were creationists (a false claim, the RCC accepts evolution) was first not published at all, and then only published with alterations by the editor.
Well, I actually even agree with Olmerod here, that shouldn’t happen, even though most newspapers will have some kind of provision in their letters to the editor section stating that the paper has the right to alter or shorten letters sent to them. The problem I have is with Olmerod’s ridiculous conclusions :

What this exercise demonstrates, I think, is both a general level of ignorance and prejudice on the part of journalists in the secular media. It is one thing for someone to hold such beliefs as per the original letter in private. It is another thing for an editor to decide to publish the offending letter and think that it is a reasonable statement of fact.

It would seem an editor who decided to publish the letter saw no problem in portraying Catholics as creationists who reject the findings of science. And similarly an editor (probably not the same one) saw no problem in changing my letter prior to publication, in a way which matched the same sort of ignorance and prejudice.

The secular media ? Is he talking about the same media that positively gushed about Mary McKillop and World Youth Day ? Olmerod may accuse the SMH editor of being clueless, but there is no big atheist or secular conspiracy going on here. And in Olmerod’s head, who is to blame for the secular takeover of the media ? Why, of course Richard Dawkins !

Much of this is the result of the Richard Dawkins propaganda machine and his followers. Dawkins has legitimated the widespread notion that religion is inherently anti-scientific; that one simply cannot hold to commonly held scientific theories and still be a believer.

In its wake we have witnesses a regular outpouring of scorn and vitriol in blogs in response to any public discussion of religious notions. For example, I have seen blogs that call the current pope stupid because the pope believes the world was made in seven days. Such ignorance is impervious to evidence.

But to see such attitudes move out of blogs and into the letter pages of a supposedly quality press is a depressing sign of decline.

Of course Dawkins has done no such thing, and he (and most other people) would be well aware that believers can compartmentalise their superstitions away, while trusting science enough to use a computer, drive a car or study biology or physics. What the new atheists are doing is making religion, and supernatural beings, part of scientific enquiry, what we say is, if you propose that your deity interferes with physical processes on this earth, then this crosses the realm from supernatural to natural, and we should be able to measure these effects, and find evidence for your claims that these interfering supernatural beings do in fact exist.
Religion is anti-scientific in that it relies on faith, not evidence. Science tests its claims, and dismisses hypotheses that are not supported by the evidence. Religion does no such thing, and we are told that the truth of religion is to be found internally, or through reading and interpreting translations of desert nomad fiction (Mr Olmerod’s day time job), not by experiment. These are very different concepts indeed. Science and religion may have a common ancestor in ignorance, but the usefulness of religion to explain natural phenomena, if it ever existed, expired some 3000 years ago.

(Now back to pouring out scorn and vitriol…By the way, the comments to that ABC article linked above are a hoot.)

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