An Unangelic Review

Statue of an angel at the Vatican.As promised, here's a response to one example of why reviewers should read all the books that they are reviewing. Like memes in a 'telephone' game, the depiction of what an author actually said is altered with each misrepresentation in a parasitic backlash book, or in the review of such a book.

In a less than heavenly article in TimesOnline, Sally Vickers reviews John Cornwell's backlash opus, DARWIN’S ANGEL An Angelic Riposte to the God Delusion.

The article is entitled Darwins Angel An Angelic Response to the God Delusion. Vickers claims:


“Dawkins hasn’t; or doesn’t show us that he has tried. He overlooks the big theologians altogether in favour of some pretty low-key, unknown figures.”


Faked image of an angel in a shaft of light at the Vatican. This image was passed off as an aparition by the eternally dubious Daily Mail.This reviewer must have a different printing of The God Delusion than I. Or perhaps she does not consider St. Thomas Aquinas a “big theologian”. She is probably overlooking, or ignorantly unaware, that the apologetic arguments trouped out by modern theologians are mere reworkings of ancient apologetic arguments. Full refutation is available elsewhere, as Dawkins points out, so his reiterating the critiques made by professional philosophers would have been redundant to his purpose and boring for the lay reader.

Recent and contemporary theologians have attempted to fill apologetic cracks with spackle, but they have not succeeded in concocting any acceptable ‘proof’ for God’s existence. Surely an omnipresent, omnipotent God should have left some unmistakable evidence of His existence, particularly given that we are supposed to take time out to worship Him.

One does not have to search far on the internet to find a religionist proclaiming, often in caps, that there is “PROOF of God’s existence”. Those who have believed in SkyDaddy since childhood, are prone to take anything and everything as evidence of God’s working in mysterious ways—sunsets, beauty, natural disasters, our very (evolution-denied) existence. You name it, they’ll erroneously attach a goddidit pseudoexplanation in a too prevalent example of circular reasoning. The God of the Gaps, after all, are merely a special family of Ad Crock Pseudoexplanations.


“For a start, only religious nutcases take the Creation story literally; it is not a new or radical supposition that even the first readers of Genesis would have been aware of its symbolic nature – or rather, would have distinguished between the fact of fact and the fact of fiction, a distinction that escapes Dawkins, who appears to have no concept of the “reality” of a thought, and only a very immature concept of the “reality” of a play, novel or poem. (As I used to ask students, is Hamlet real?)”
How’s that for a run-on sentence?!

In the midst of that verbiage, I found a kernel of truth: “only religious nutcases take the Creation story literally.”

Alas, there are plenty of religious nutcases in America who do exactly that—take an allegorical pseudohistorical fairy tale literally. The moderate religionious were taking pains to distance themselves from these nutters long before the so-called New Atheists took aim at the delusion that underlies even nuttier delusions.

Sally Vickers seems to have missed the metaphysics lecture in which the distinction between physical existence and conceptual existence (aka ‘meme’) was explained.


“Cornwell clearly believes, as I do, that angels are not wispy, winged beings in ethereal nightgowns, but something far more subtle and profound: archetypal images that dramatise the invisible realities. As such, they can act as symbols for the formless elements of physics; but also for the creative imagination.”


"Archetypal images that dramatise the invisible realities"? To which invisible realities, I wonder, does she refer? By "the formless elements of physics" is she referring to virtual particles or superstring theory, or merely that vast array of apprehended phenomena comprehended by science but not by Vickers?

If Vickers had read The God Delusion instead of merely reading Cornwell’s response to Dawkins, she’d probably have known that Dawkins had indeed distinguished between moderates and fundamentalists. She would also have known that Dawkins is not against morality, beauty, or the creative imagination. However, it remains the case that even had she been honest enough to read The God Delusion, she appears too be too committed to her version of “reality” to understand what Professor Dawkins was really saying.

Vickers is actually describing, in the “but also for the creative imagination” comment, one of the chief impediments to rationality—the commitment to Romanticism. Contemporary romantics mistakenly assume that Science is AntiRomantic, perhaps because they cannot comprehend science, they assume that scientists cannot comprehend the emotional side of experience. Such a supposition is unfounded rot. Some scientists may be 'unromantic' and 'unimaginative', but the design of scientific experiments requires creativity in addition to a propensity for analysis. Many or most scientists are driven to investigate by their sense of wonder at physical reality.

Although creative imagination has given us much that enhances the experience of being human, the creative imagination also gave us hate-filled superstitions that stand in the way of genuine understanding of reality. This is what Dawkins is saying. Dump the religious nonsense, and humans could open their minds up to beneficial enlightenment. Cornwell and Vickers demonstrate that this will continue to be an uphill battle.

Cornwell's response to Dawkins.Book reviewed: DARWIN’S ANGEL An Angelic Riposte to the God Delusion by John Cornwell

Articles: Darwins Angel An Angelic Response to the God Delusion : The importance of doubt : The Fourth Flea! by John Cornwell : Was there ever dog that praised his fleas? by Backlash Authors : The truth in religion by REVEREND John Polkinghorne, Times Online : The smallest signs of retreat : Picture: The ghostly Angel of the Vatican full-view, close-up. (Pull the other one–I just demonstrated that images can be faked. England's Daily Mail is a pulp paper only marginally elevated above the National Enquirer.)

Blogs: Read the goddamn book!!! : Younger offspring offers a new visual representation. : Darwin's Angel :


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