The tireless Richard Dawkins continues to lay the foundations for his immanent atheist caliphate. In bookstores this October shall arrive his latest offering, a graphic science textbook called The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True, with illustrations by Dave McKean.
This is ostensibly a book for “curious readers of all ages.” But with endearingly earnest chapter titles like “What is the sun?”, “Why are there so many different kinds of animals?”, “What are things made of?” and “Why do bad things happen?”, Dawkins is clearly getting down with the kids. Like a kindly but authoritative father figure to the “curious reader,” he explains not only natural phenomena, but makes sideways forays into the problem of evil, among other propositions of moral philosophy that may or may not be “really true.”
To impressionable young minds, so easily led astray by religion and Harry Potter novels, Dawkins makes the case for the scientific method as “the most precise and powerful tool for makings sense of the world.” So he says in his opening chapter, warning against the corruptions of religious doctrine:
To claim a supernatural explanation of something is not to explain it at all and, even worse, to rule out any possibility of its ever being explained. Why do I say that? Because anything ‘supernatural’ must by definition beyond the reach of a natural explanation. It must be beyond the reach of science and the well-established, tried and tested scientific method.
That mythology and theology concern themselves only indirectly with “the world” as a physical entity, and preoccupies itself rather with how life is to be made meaningful and lived morally (for which Dawkins presumably conceives a “natural explanation”), is blithely ignored: religion is simply a dumb explanation of “what things are made of,” to paraphrase one of his elegant chapter titles.
Scientific truth, he says, furthermore exceeds traditional mythological explanations of the world in “beauty” – something that, as the old adage goes, is always in the eye of Richard Dawkins. Beauty, apparently, is a product of complexity rather than simplicity – “the slow magic of evolution” – and understanding rather than mystery:
I want to show you that the real world, as understood scientifically, has magic of its own – the kind I call poetic magic: an inspiring beauty which is all the more magical because it is real and because we can understand how it works.
So, instead of pondering the beauty of newborn life from a moral standpoint – as a “miracle” in the transcendent sense – we must draw spiritual sustenance from the elegant complexities of fetal development. Likewise, in death, bodily decomposition should be a subject for awed contemplation, rather than ideas of an eternal soul. Who needs a god when you can read about tectonic plates? Who indeed.