Dawkins’ Demon: The True Faith of Liberal Atheists

Tobias Langdon


Men and Miracles

Here are four highly important Western thinkers. Please pick the odd one out:

1. St Thomas Aquinas (theologian).
2. Charles Darwin (biologist).
3. Stephen Jay Gould (biologist).
4. Richard Dawkins (biologist).

The odd one out is of course No. 2, Charles Darwin, because he didn’t believe in miracles. By contrast, supernatural intervention in mindless nature is central to the thinking of the other three. For example, Aquinas believed that a single conception in Palestine about two thousand years ago involved a miraculous suspension of natural law. The militant atheist Richard Dawkins scornfully rejects the miracle of the Virgin Birth. So, less scornfully, did the bio-Marxist Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002). Instead, their version of atheism mandates belief in a much bigger supernatural intervention involving billions of conceptions for thousands of years over most of the earth’s surface. By the standards of Dawkins and Gould, Christians like Aquinas are woefully lacking in metaphysical ambition.

This is because Dawkins, Gould and other liberal atheists believe in the Miracle of Human Equality: namely, that all human groups, despite their superficial physical differences, are equal in average cognitive ability – equal, in fact, on all psychological variables. In short, there is only one brain: the Human Brain. And all groups have an equal share in it. Okay, the actual physical brain of different groups varies in size and structure, but that doesn’t make any difference to brain function. Metaphysics trumps mere matter, for heaven’s sake. Or rather: not for heaven’s sake. Liberal atheists don’t believe in heaven, but they do believe that Black women are capable of the same high intellectual achievement as Chinese men. It’s true that no Black woman has ever won a Nobel Prize for Physics or made fundamental contributions to mathematics, but that’s because racism and sexism have held the soul-sisters back. How do we know that? Because the undoubted genetic differences between those two groups have no effect on the brain. That is the central dogma of Neuro-Miraculism, the super-scientific creed of liberal atheists like Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould.

Tiny means Titanic

I call it “Miraculism” because there is no way to account for human equality within standard evolutionary biology. First, consider the fact that human beings and chimpanzees have a common ancestor. Once, the two species were the same; then, slowly, we began to diverge. The cognitive and psychological differences between us widened gradually to a chasm, but those differences are based on very small genetic changes. Human and chimp DNA is almost identical, but that doesn’t mean chimps are almost as intelligent as humans or use language almost as well. They don’t use language at all and they are much less capable of understanding and controlling their environment than even the most primitive human beings. Tiny changes in genes have had titanic effects on brains.

However, brain evolution in Homo sapiens took a very unusual course after it had created those huge differences between humans and chimps. Uniquely in the animal kingdom, the two sexes of humans have evolved to become psychologically equal, despite experiencing quite different evolutionary pressures even in the same environment. This equality cannot be explained within standard biology: it has to be described as supernatural. Next, human brain evolution as a whole either stopped in Africa many millennia ago or carried on in an identical way when humans migrated from Africa to quite different environments in Europe, Asia, America and Australasia.

One Race, One Brain, One Humanity

Again, this equality can only be described as supernatural: there is no way to account for it within standard evolutionary biology. Thousands of genes influence the brain in one way or another and these genes exist at different frequencies and in different forms in different populations. But the average effect of these constantly varying genes has remained the same for millennia – according to Neuro-Miraculism. For example, there are clear and easily distinguishable genetic differences between, say, pygmies in the jungles of Africa, aborigines in the deserts of Australia and Inuit in the ice and snow of Greenland. Neuro-miraculists like Dawkins and Gould accept that these genetic differences result partly from natural selection: these three groups have adapted physically to their quite different physical environments. And of course, there may be other reasons for genetic differences between groups, such as genetic drift, founder effects and so on.

But none of these genetic changes has influenced the brain. Pygmies, aborigines and Inuit are all part of one race, the human race, and have equal shares in one brain, the human brain. This is true of all other human groups, no matter how widely separated in space and environment. Cognitively, We Are One Under The Skin. For thousands of years over most of the earth’s surface, countless human genes have mutated, split and re-combined in just such a way as to leave their average effect on the brain unaltered. Either the average effect has remained the same since Homo sapiens evolved in Africa or it has changed in precisely the same way in Greenland and Gabon as in Tonga and Thailand.

Deities and Demons

This is a miracle, I say – quite possibly the Biggest Miracle of All. But it can’t be explained by divine intervention, despite operating over such vast stretches of space and time. Why not? Because neuro-miraculists like Richard Dawkins don’t believe in God, so God can’t be invoked to explain the miraculous fact of human equality. So what does explain it? Well, I’d like to adapt a famous thought-experiment from physics: Maxwell’s Demon. This imaginary creature, with supernatural powers of perception and reaction, controls a door between two bodies of identical gas. He opens and closes it in just such a way as to allow only fast gas-particles to pass one way and only slow gas-particles to pass the other. Eventually the two bodies of gas are at entirely different temperatures.

To explain the Miracle of Human Equality, I postulate the existence of Gould’s Demon, who is, of course, named in honour of Stephen Jay Gould. Although no-one has ever detected his presence, Gould’s Demon must have been sitting in the necks of all human beings for millennia, swatting away new genetic effects on brain function – or allowing only the same effects through everywhere on earth. Thanks to Gould’s Demon and his unsleeping vigilance, we know that black women are capable of exactly the same high intellectual achievement as Chinese men. Despite this, however, black women haven’t yet matched Chinese men in any field of science, technology or mathematics. They haven’t even come close. Gould’s Demon has been there to keep these two groups cognitively equal, but so, alas, has the sinfulness of racism and sexism, which have prevented black women from realizing their huge potential. If white men could just stop being so sinful, neuro-miraculists are sure that black women would soon be winning Nobel Prizes for Physics and proving the Riemann Hypothesis.

Waters and Wafers

But Gould’s Demon doesn’t exhaust the supernatural repertoire of atheists like Richard Dawkins. Let’s look at one of Dawkins’ most important and hard-working allies, the British journalist Nick The Neocon Cohen. Like Dick, Nick campaigns tirelessly against the pernicious effects of religion on British politics and culture. After all, we Brits have the disturbing example of our own history, particularly in Ireland, where relatively small religious differences have caused misery and suffering for many centuries. Nick pointed to Ireland as he condemned the mainland’s “drift into educational apartheid” in 2007:

In Northern Ireland the walls that went up to separate Catholics from Protestants in the 1970s have not been torn down. There are more of them now than ever. … Such attitudes are not a relic of the 20th century that will die as memories of the civil war fade, but a dynamic force. Ignorance and suspicion are at their most intense in 16- to 24-year-olds who are barely old enough to remember Blair’s first prime ministerial visit to Northern Ireland. Mutual loathing ought to have been combated by breaking up Northern Ireland’s segregated schools. … Readers in the rest of Britain may not care because mainstream opinion long ago gave up on all sides in Northern Ireland. Yet it is a mistake to ignore them. Phenomena that begin there have an alarming habit of going mainstream. Mass surveillance, armed police officers and the random slaughter of civilians by psychotic fanatics [have] crossed the Irish Sea and segregated schools are on their way. (Stop this drift into educational apartheid, The Observer, 13th May 2007)

He’s talking about Islam and the migration of Muslims from Ireland onto the British mainland. That’s how “random slaughter”, “mass surveillance” and so on “have crossed the Irish Sea”. Yes, yes, I know that a standard account of British history boringly states that Muslim terrorism came to the UK in the opposite direction, from countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Somalia. But the atheist Nick Cohen no more accepts standard history than he accepts standard biology. Just as he believes in the Miracle of Human Equality, so he believes in the Transubstantiation of Migration. Transubstantiation is a term from Catholic theology and refers to the way in which the sacred host, or wafer of unleavened bread, transforms into the flesh of Christ during holy mass. No scientific test can distinguish between a wafer’s substance before and after this transformation, but that’s because it’s supernatural – beyond the understanding of mere mortals.

Similarly, Muslim terrorism apparently originating in the east has actually, in the truest and deepest sense, “crossed the Irish Sea” from the west. I can’t explain that, you can’t explain it, Nick Cohen himself can’t explain it – it’s a mystery beyond the understanding of mere mortals, just like the transformation of wafers and wine into the flesh and blood of Christ. Of course, some cynics might suggest that Nick Cohen is being dishonest and trying to pretend that he himself has not contributed to the growing presence and power of Islam on British soil. After all, he and other liberal atheists have tirelessly supported mass immigration and condemned opposition to it as racist. But those cynics obviously haven’t heard of Gould’s Demon and his mind-boggling powers. The Demon has kept trillions of human genes under control over many centuries to ensure that all human groups are cognitively equal and have the same proclivity to individualism that is so enshrined in Western institutions. So he should have no problem ensuring that millions of Muslims don’t harm the UK’s hard-won secular freedoms, which are so highly prized by Richard Dawkins, Nick Cohen and other neuro-miraculists.

Highway to Heaven

At least, Dick and Nick must believe that Gould’s Demon will come to the rescue. Otherwise, being clear-eyed and fearless rationalists, they would surely have been pointing out the possible harmful effects of Muslim immigration. If relatively small religious differences in Ireland have caused such big problems for so long, what effect might much bigger religious differences have on the mainland? Dick and Nick must have faced that question and deduced, on the basis of pure logic, that Gould’s Demon would extend his supernatural interventions from genetics to culture, economics and politics. Immigration from the Third World into the West will have no harmful effects on secular freedom, economic activity or scientific endeavour. We need have no fear, because Gould’s Demon will ensure it all goes well. Sub-prime disasters in America, suicide-bombings in Britain, riots in France, rape-epidemics in Sweden – they’re minor bumps on the Highway to Heaven along which we’re being guided by neuro-miraculists like Richard Dawkins and Nick Cohen. Their message for doubters and skeptics is simple: Don’t believe in God, believe in Gould. Erase the Deity, embrace the Demon. In a word:

Have Faith!

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