The Dawkins Delusion

The evidence for evolution is overwhelming. BUT, the mechanics are not solely, and probably not mainly Darwinian. (And certainly not NeoDarwinian). The field has been siezed by populists, whos belief systems masquerade as science. Richard Dawkins is the current example.

The problem is that the study of evolution is only partially open to the scientific method. It has much in common with history, spiced with population genetics. There are few facts and much interpretation. I specialised in Vertebrate Evolution at Cambride in the mid 1970’s. I can remember the sense of release (from the physcial sciences), because almost any theory could be justified by one’s interpretation of the evidence.

I remember the excitement of the publication of the Selfish Gene. I was an acolyte and saw this as advancing the truths of sociobiology.

But since then the accumulation of evidence has washed away the foundations of these ideas, but the establishment look the other way. This is shameful, and it isn’t science.

A couple of examples …

  • Neodarwinism predicts gradual progressive change which does not lead to increasing complexity. Since the 1970’s there has been an enormous increase in fossil discovery, all of which evidences sudden emergence of new forms followed by millions of years of equilibrium. Further, that the direction of evolution has always been toward increased complexity.
  • The whole premise of Darwinism is the “survival of the fittest”. That is that it is driven by competition. The gene pool alters (gradually, generation by generation) driven by the success in breeding or otherwise of the bodies for which they code. Darwin, that first populist, ridiculed Lamarck’s theory that the body affected the genes  (giraffe stretches neck, genes altered to express this in next generation). Darwin also drove out the theories of Kropotkin and Meretchkovsky who believed that cooperation and mutual aid were important drivers of evolution. Now there are hectares  of evidence both for Lamarckian  and Kropotkian evolutionary mechanisms:  indeed in all probability our human bodies comprise an agglomeration of different creatures  -even our mitochondria and ghe maternally transmitted genes probably originated as bacteria.

Why do Dawkins et al still defend the outdated neodarwinian fallacy? Largely of course its to maintain their careers and material power and wealth. They founded a theory on conviction and  have ignored these inconvenient truths.

Copernicus, Humanism and Narcissism

In 1543 Copernicus published his work – De Revolutionibus – which showed that the planets, including this Earth, revolve around the sun. This shook the foundations of the established Church, which had taught that everything revolved around the Earth.

How does this relate to humanism? Well only this – as I understand it their religion has everything revolving around mankind. Really? What is the basis for that belief system. The only rational underpinning that I can perceive would be a belief that man is the only point of consciousness in the universe, which would indeed set this particular species apart. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s insight is that humanity is the current apex of the evolution of consciousness (Phenomenon of Man), but not that humanity is all-in-all – its own context. Is humanism not then simply a kind of collective narcissism?

Humanity reduced to pixels

As many images have been captured in the past 6 months, as have been taken in the history of humanity to-date (paintings, drawings, films, photos etc).

Donald Winnicott proposed that the mother establishes the sense of reality, of existence, in her infant by adapting herself to his internal world of sensation, and by acting as a mirror; reflecting back through her face – the baby’s internal sensations. (‘The Mirror-Role of Mother and Family in Child Development 1967).

On the other hand – Jacques Lacan  observed (Le stade du Miroir 1949) that “when a child looks in the mirror he sees a unified image of his own disarray”. An actual mirror – presenting back to us, as it does, a unified visual image of ourselves – is a challenge. We don’t feel ourselves to be one single unified being as represented by the image.

The point is that our sense of Self has throughout millions of years of evolution been established by social reflection – first of our interior sensation in the face of our mother and then others. The actual visible reflection of our image is an entirely new challenge to the richness of who we really are or can be.

What then is the impact of so many images, captured  by all of our mobile phones and then “tagged” and replayed to us constantly?

The self that is created in a social mirror -our sense of who we are as a sum of how we are perceived by those around – must surely be entirely different from a simple visual image. The image of our face has no bearing on the image of our person – in all its multiple facets. Is this not Lacan’s point from his 1949 paper? Now, however, we are deluged with this visual imagery – and increasingly also confronted with our ageing – because we have the record of our image from the past. Does this mean that we now construct our sense of self from the outside in – from multiple images back to who we are inside? Is this not a recipe for a plague of narcissim; and does the impact of the photograph not only steal from our other senses – but also usurp our very being?

Lacan and Winnicott were writing in the age before Facebook, YouTube,  Pinterest and the mobile phone. Is anyone investigating the change to our species of this aspect of our technological – “progress”?

As Adam Phillips puts it, the maternal mirroring process that creates the Self that is each of us…

“He (an infant) can only discover what he feels by seeing it reflected back. If the infant is seen in a way that makes him feel he exists, in a way that confirms him”

What impoverishment to have this reduced to the pixels on an iPhone..

The Psychological make up of an Atheist

There is mounting evidence of the growth in western societies of three mind-sets:

narcissism, materialism and atheism

It seems to me that materialism and atheism are twin sides of the same coin, essentially an “I-It” rather than “I-Thou” existentialism according to Martin Buber.  I have wondered for some time what causes someone to become a militant-proselytising materialist atheist. After all the implication of their dogma, if true, of is nihilism, depression. No reason, no free-will. Why exist at all. As one atheist puts it – we would simply be the scum on the side of the universe. If that is what they truly believe – then why-oh-why do they want (I ask myself) to convert all others to their cause. It seems to me that Dennet, Dawkins et al have a NEED to convert. What is the psychological well-spring of their neediness?

I had wondered, looking at Dawkins life, whether it was a kind of Oedipus complex. Kill your father. Even Freud speculated as to that as the need behind atheism. However having read about the epidemic of narcissism I think that this instead  is the link or cause for materialist-atheism. I am told that narcissistic behaviour stems from a lack of love, or sense of love during childhood. This leads to an in-turning – deriving love from one-self – and denying the need for or existence of love elsewhere. Is it not possible, even probable then, that this mind-state would need to make itself the centre of all and deny that love elsewhere exists? Aggressively. In order to preserve it’s centred universe.

If then the rise of narcissism and materialism/atheism are linked – which is the cause and which the effect? Perhaps neither – and both are a product of some other factor.

Worth considering.

As a post-script – in reading around for this blog I found this from the militant atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett.

“I adopt the apparently dogmatic rule that dualism is to be avoided at all costs. It is not that I think I can give a knock-down proof that dualism, in all its forms, is false or incoherent, but that, given the way that dualism wallows in mystery, accepting dualism is giving up“.

Giving up? On what? The possibility of God, a reason for existence. Why would that a problem to be avoided or considered? Is the language not that of a narcissist – if you don’t agree with me you must be “wallowing in mystery”.

How depressing that a “philosopher” starts with a dogma of denial and then seeks to justify that with logic. Dogma isn’t philosophy. It’s dogma.

Sigmund Freud and Narcissism

Freud’s psychological edifice was constructed from a study of pathology, rather than the working out of the development of healthy psyches. This led him to a place of despair in assuming that psyche is fundamentally pathological.

He resisted any challenge to his father-figure authority, preferring to “break” with “children” rather than be forced by them to modify and develop his views. This included great thinkers such as Adler, Jung and Klein. The consequence was that the field fractured, which has hindered integrated development

His thinking appears to be exceptionally ego-centrric. The suspicion is that, for example, his early focus on pathologies of sexual drive  was in fact a working-out of his own issues and problems. That would be acceptable if he admitted a personal journey. As it is this has in fact coloured much of the development of the entire field – to the detriment of countless clients treated by his disciples. (Yes, disciples). He resisted the call for psychoanalysts to be analysed by others.

His rejection of religion was irrational. God as father-figure, Freud as Oedipus ? To be rejected like other challenges to the authority of his ego? The only logical place that a solely rational approach to religion can lead to is – agnosticism. All sequences of logic trace back to original assumptions. There is no provable base assumption. The only sustainable and honest approach is therefore a simple statement of belief. When rationalists claim that their pretty logic progressions prove anything else they are caught up in the beauty of their own ego’s creation. This is intellectual narcissism. The passion with which Freud attempts to tear down any belief in an alternative to his own ego is as suspicious psychologically as that of an unthinking evangelist prosyletisng any other religion. However, as a man of intellect he should know better. He shares this narcissism  with many other evangelical atheists caught up with admiration of their intellectual reflection – Dawkins and the like.

“It was a great mistake on Freud’s part to turn his back on philosophy. Not once does he criticise his premises or even the assumptions that underlie his personal outlook” Karl Jung.