Richard Dawkins' new television series will go to air next week in the UK - following on from his attack on religion, "The Root of All Evil" (and in book form, The God Delusion), the new series is titled "The Enemies of Reason", and in it he sets his sights "at the whole new age caravanserai, including astrologers, spirit mediums, faith healers and homeopathic medicine.":
Leaning back on a sofa in the faded gothic splendour of Oxford’s 14th century New College he sighs with something approaching despair: "It belittles our universe. To have astrologers demeaning astronomy by tapping into the spine-tingling wonder of the universe is..." he struggles briefly for a word, then finds one and pronounces it with a keen awareness of the irony: "Sacrilegious!"
I actually don't think he has a "keen awareness of the irony", otherwise he would probably take more pause to question his own approach. Yes, there are cheats out there. Yes, there are morons out there. I think most of us know that. But it "belittles our universe", to paraphrase Dawkins himself, to think that sitting down with an individual medium who gets things wrong (most do, actually...even the good ones) shows that mediumship is a crock. Sit down with the SPR records, sit down with modern day researchers, take the time to find the top five you can through the scientific process. Is it worthwhile me going out and asking high school students about microbial evolution, and then laughing at their ignorance? No.
The further thing worth contemplating - and entirely separate to the notion of scientific proof as justification for anything - is whether life should consist of absolute, objective truths only, or whether life is made of more than this. I've always been in search of these objective truths, but the more I search, the less inclined I am to believe that they are really that important. What's important is getting through life to the best of your abilities, being good to others, and enjoying yourself (IMO). Here's a question that I'm not sure has an answer. Who does more damage to a person's life? A fraudulent spirit medium (note I'm not saying they all are) who charges $50 to tell a grieving mother that her murdered son has 'carried on' into an afterlife, giving her respite from her pain, or Richard Dawkins saying that the truth simply is that her son died an agonising, terrifying death, wasting what little life he had, and that she will never have a connection to her child again? Spare me the "the truth is all that matters, no matter how much it hurts" - I've been over that a million times already, and I'm not sure it's the answer. There's a reason for the body producing pain too, but you still take painkillers.
The trouble with Richard Dawkins - who, in most respects, I'm a fan of - is that he thinks he knows far better than everyone else, despite not having walked a step in their shoes. I'm not sure how he expects to educate and 'convert' the masses, when he so regularly sneers down his nose at their stupidity and ignorance. Which is a shame, because he has some wonderful things to say.