On Religion, Dawkins Doesn't Get the Science Right

In an essay at the Web site of Skeptic magazine, David Sloan Wilson, author of Darwin's Cathedral, concludes that when it comes to a scientific understanding of religion, Dawkins is "just another angry atheist, trading on his reputation as an evolutionist and spokesperson for science to vent his personal opinions about religion."

Wilson's critique of the science in Dawkins' God Delusion pulls no punches. It deserves a careful read. From the introduction:

In Darwin's Cathedral I attempted to contribute to the relatively new field of evolutionary religious studies. When Dawkins' The God Delusion was published I naturally assumed that he was basing his critique of religion on the scientific study of religion from an evolutionary perspective. I regret to report otherwise. He has not done any original work on the subject and he has not fairly represented the work of his colleagues. Hence this critique of The God Delusion and the larger issues at stake.


From later in the essay:

Finally, I agree with Dawkins that religions are fair game for criticism in a pluralistic society and that the stigma associated with atheism needs to be removed. The problem with Dawkins' analysis, however, is that if he doesn't get the facts about religion right, his diagnosis of the problems and proffered solutions won't be right either. If the bump on the shark's nose is an organ, you won't get very far by thinking of it as a wart. That is why Dawkins' diatribe against religion, however well-intentioned, is so deeply misinformed.


PS: Stranger Fruit already has a discussion going on the essay.

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