2 Apr 2013
Richard Dawkins And The Brave New Science Of Evilogy
The professor recently caused a massive controversy by saying that Islam is the ‘greatest force for evil today’ while admitting that he hasn’t read the Koran. Curious to get to the bottom of this affair, we dispatched our science editor to interview the famous atheist. Professor Dawkins kindly agreed to do the interview because he’s keen to spread his message in the Middle East. Which is ironically how a few religions got started, but we refrained from pointing that out to him.
We met the professor at his house which doubles up as his laboratory, and turned out to be a buzzing hive of scientific experiments. Dawkins, it transpired, is a firm believer in the empirical method, and he backs up all his public statements with rigorous testing and experiments. The place was filled with cages and glass boxes filled with various types of laboratory animals, but there were no signs of cruelty. The animals looked quite content if slightly bored.
When we entered, his assistant Igor, a slightly hunchbacked balding man, was feeding kebabs to a clowder of cats. We inquired whether this was their usual diet, but the professor explained that it’s part of an experiment to understand the link between diet and religious beliefs. Dawkins is going to leave no stone unturned in his effort to understand what causes religious beliefs. This experiment was designed to find out if there’s a link between Middle Eastern food and religion. The results were inconclusive, although the cats had shown a tendency to become aggressive and rowdy on Saturday nights.
We began the interview by asking the professor about his statements about Islam and evil. Wasn’t that quite an assertion to make without any evidence? And how do you quantify evil?
“I am glad you asked me that question. Unlike George Bush, the Christian wingnut, I am taking a scientific approach to evil. It so happens that we came up with same conclusion, that Islam is evil, but this is merely a coincidence. I have created a new branch of science called Evilogy, which will transform how we understand this phenomenon. It’s based on scientific principles, and we are now carrying out extensive experiments to understand it fully.”
This was quite a revelation. Evilogy sounded like a serious scientific field, with numbers and charts. We wanted to find out more and we asked the professor to show us some of the Evilogy experiments. He took us to a corner where there were three separate boxes with rabbits inside. The professor explained that each group of rabbits was exposed to only one of the three monotheistic religions and their behaviour was monitored to find which group would become more aggressive in behaviour and show ill-will towards the other rabbits.
The experiment was quite detailed, the ‘Christian’ rabbits were given a day off on Sundays for example and they were given a large family dinner for Christmas. The rabbits normally became quite agitated after a few hours, especially after they had a few thimbles of carrot juice. They were also disappointed with the ‘presents’ they received, which Dawkins and his assistant bought from a nearby petrol a station. To Dawkins this was clear evidence of a link between Christianity and aggression.
“We are now in the process of quantifying those levels of aggression to see which rabbits are more evil. This is a major scientific step.”
There were some other interesting results. The ‘Jewish’ rabbits displayed typical symptoms of hypochondriac behaviour and both they and ‘Muslim’ rabbits were particularly fussy about how their was food was prepared. To anyone on the outside, those experiments might look deranged and detached from reality, but in fact they were entirely consistent with Dawkins’ way of reasoning and argument.
The professor has been recently riling against what he calls ‘sexual apartheid’, the religious practice of separating genders in public. He devised an experiment to challenge this practice and was able to prove that non-gender separated rabbits were able to procreate at a much higher rate than male and female rabbits that were separated. In fact, the gender-separated rabbits didn’t procreate at all which he sees as a proof of how unnatural gender segregation is. It’s this kind of science that has been missing from the debates about religion, but Dawkins is on a mission to rectify that.
Some of the critique of Dawkins has focused on how bland and entirely uncharismatic he is, but that’s like complaining that your German-made sewing machine isn’t sexy enough. Underneath that carefully-cultivated bland façade, his mind is working like a machine to challenge religious beliefs. The professor is aware of those critiques, and has countered that by tweeting incessantly about how much fun he is. Watching him cracking jokes with the rabbits and rats in the lab really shows that fun side the public doesn’t get to see.
We move to a more serious topic and ask the professor if it’s right for him to make generalisations about Islam having not read the Koran. But Dawkins proves to be too intelligent for us and replies with the line he’s been repeating frequently: ‘You don't have to read Mein Kampf to have an opinion about Nazism.’ This smart variation on the old university rule ‘if you can’t defeat your opponent’s argument, call him a Fascist’, proves what a genius Dawkins is. Few people would dare wield an old cliché against criticism, but this is what distinguishes the professor from the rest of us.
As we are about to leave, we see Dawkins and Igor busy trying to put tiny yarmulkes and veils on the rabbits, but the rabbits seem unhappy and continue to evade them. We watch in silent admiration. It is a mark of the genius and dedication of Richard Dawkins that he would apply himself so whole-heartedly to this task, despite the protests of the ungrateful rabbits. Evilogy is cutting edge science at its best.
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