Why doesn’t Richard Dawkins ever debunk US militarism, trickle-down economics, or corporate media propaganda?
By E.F Nicholson
In 2007, evolutionary biologist and celebrity atheist, Richard Dawkins, produced and wrote a two-part television documentary, The Enemies of Reason, in which he claims to expose “those areas of belief that exist without scientific proof, yet manage to hold the nation under their spell”, including mediums, acupuncture, and psychokinesis.
The show represented Dawkins’ debunking polemic, where he stridently takes on the role of slayer of the unreasoned. To the guests’ credit, Deepak Chopra and psychic medium, Craig Hamilton, particularly held up reasonably well when questioned with such hostility and contempt. One assumes they weren’t told the show was called “Enemies of Reason” for obvious reasons. Maybe Dawkins would have preferred to have called it “Me, a very smart person, talking with very stupid people,” which would have better captured the spirit of the show’s intent.
Since the religion of new atheism was born, Dawkins and his cohort of celebrity atheists such as Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Ricky Gervais, Bill Mahler, etc. all seemed to be united in exactly what were the biggest and dangerous threats to reason and therefore the biggest threats to humanity’s survival and happiness, namely religion, psychics, and practitioners of alternative medicine—possibly in that order.
Yet, there also appears to be uniformity within the new atheist movement: those super-powers of reason and the scientific method for uncovering lies and fraud don’t ever fall under their scrutiny, namely the areas of society’s woes where the biggest lies, swindles, and deceptions have the most negative and destructive impact, such is propaganda, politics, and economic and social injustice.
Maybe I have missed it but I have yet to see Dawkins or his ilk debate, write a book, or produce a TV series debunking the lie of “trickle-down economics”, where rich people and corporations are given huge tax breaks that will result in more jobs and prosperity for society as whole. Even though the reality is these mistruths are laid bare in the massive growth of income and wealth inequality through the US and the UK, where it’s been most practiced, it’s still a lie that gets peddled continually. Unlike homeopathy, this lie devastates many people’s lives.
Also absent from their microscope of truth is how western corporate media operates as an instrument of established power and is not “objective” or “neutral”; rather, it constantly shapes, crafts and molds public opinion for the service of state and corporate power. Using Chomsky and Herman’s seminal work, “Manufacturing Consent”, that outlines how the propaganda model works, they could debunk that myth of objective news that has such a distortive and destructive impact on society and explains how and why we end up consenting to so much that is wrong and why people actively vote against their best interests.
What about the “long con”, that when it comes to foreign invasions and wars, we are there because we are the “good guys” and we want to help spread democracy? This myth and mistruth has caused so much instability, death, and destruction on such a massive scale. Surely, this is more important than exposing a Reiki practitioner for being deluded or a born-again Christian who thinks Noah’s ark was real.
I could list even more lies we are sold surrounding capitalism, materialism, global warming, neo-liberalism, the nature of debt, globalisation, racial inequality, sexism and objectification, and so on. These are all issues involving enormous amounts of money and energy that go into upholding their mistruths to detriment of millions of people. As scientists, surely they should grade the lies to debunk against a scale denoting which lies cause the most damage.
Yet, what we see in those who claim to be the most reasoned and cool headed about promoting the truth are their own beliefs and prejudices of what truths are worthy of promotion and what lies are deemed necessary for debunking. There is no doubt Richard Dawkins is an intelligent man with a sharp mind. It’s just shame it goes to waste on problems that should be way down the list of what is most pressing when it comes to the issues humanity is facing. That is the problem of promoting oneself when one feels one is the king of rationality or the enemy of the irrational; your actions and words should live up that image but in reality they don’t. As its evident, the new atheists have very particular irrational targets for their scorn and derision—targets I would considered irrational given their non-importance and irrelevance in most people’s lives.
An obvious example is the energy Dawkins directs to exposing Islam as a supposed religion of violence. Yet, when we look at the US political religion of capitalism and neo-liberalism, its veneration for militarism, combined with the fervent worship of profit at any cost, we see the evidence of decimation and destruction far outweigh the negative impact of radical Islam. Nations and their citizens must bow at the American altar or be invaded and bombed or banished with economic sanctions. The wars, coups, propping up of tyrants, the force of debt peonage, invasions, drone assassinations, bombing, all in the name of the US god of economic interest, has left in its wake over 20 million dead civilians and millions more trapped in lives of desperation and despair. It also conveniently and irrationally ignores how US foreign policy helped facilitate and grow the very radical Islam the new atheists so zealously detest.
Yet, like most of us, what we see in others we fail to see in ourselves. Richard Dawkins sadly just further contributes to the milieu of lies we live with, by taking people’s attention away from what matters to what does doesn’t, making him, in fact, his own enemy of reason.
Worth a watch: Rupert Sheldrake explains how he avoided getting duped into appearing on Dawkins “The Enemies of Reason”