Dawkins Carries Forward The Lamp Of Science In His Latest, And It Burns Just As Bright

Aravindan Neelakandan in Swarajya:

ScreenHunter_2813 Sep. 05 19.51The book is a collection of 42 essays, written on various occasions and issues, spanning over three decades, with one connecting thread running through them all – taking a scientific approach that’s central to the question in hand.

Consider for example the case of eugenics. It is reprehensible by human value system if a commercial venture or a state (like that of the Nazis) tries to breed people for a particular mental trait or physical ability. Such a eugenic policy would be politically and morally wrong, proclaims Dawkins, but cautions us not to get our moral compass decide the truth and thus declare it to be impossible. Because Dawkins says, “Nature, fortunately or unfortunately, is indifferent to anything so parochial as human values.” The caution Dawkins exercises is very important given the critical history of the brief but intense romance the British science establishment, particularly the biologists like JBS Haldane, had with Marxism (until they were rudely awakened by the Lysenko-pseudoscience affair). The ideological attack on science was carried forward well after the Lysenko affair too – there continued a vibrant lineage of British scientists wedded to the theory, or rather ‘The Theory’.

Dawkins criticises the eminent geneticist Richard Lewontin. A biologist of Marxist persuasion, Lewontin proudly declared himself ‘the dialectical biologist’. Lewontin, and a group of scientists led by him, accused Dawkins of Cartesian reductionism and worse.

Things did get worse when white supremacists tried to use the works of Dawkins and another evolutionary biologist E O Wilson. Both the scientists categorically distanced themselves from the perverted misuse of science by white supremacists. Yet, the campus left started a demonising campaign against both. It was sort of a Marxist revenge for Lysenko. When Wilson spoke about the biological basis for human nature, students picketed his lectures and dowsed him with water. The battle which ensued was bitter, and in a way, loaded against sociobiology of Dawkins and Wilson in public perception.

More here.