The Unbelievers follows evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss across the globe as they speak publicly to sold-out halls, advancing a thoughtful dialogue about the importance of science and reason in the modern world.
Incidentally, since this is a movie, it’s appropriate to comment on costume, here presented in the form of advice. Larry, it’s okay to go bald. It’s natural and scientific. People take you more seriously the more rational your hair style. And, oh my, tennis shoes?
Anyway, in the beginning of the trailer, Krauss asks Dawkins, “Richard, what’s more important in some sense. If you had a choice, which is to explain science or destroy religion?” Poor Dawkins was taken aback by this conundrum, so alas, we don’t learn his answer.
But we can guess because later Dawkins says, “Religion is not wonderful, it’s not beautiful, it gets it the way.” If he meant by this that “Some religion is not wonderful…” then his proposition is true and disputed by nobody. But if he meant, “All religion is not beautiful…” then his proposition is not just false, it is ludicrous and bespeaks of a mind (using a word of which he is fond) pig-ignorant of human history.
Dawkins, the world’s most famous atheist, and Krauss, director of the esteemed Origins Project, are dedicated to furthering the (r)evolutionary idea that science, above all else, should inform man’s understanding of the universe. [link added]
The proposition that only science should (or can) inform our understanding of the universe is itself not scientific. That man should want to understand the universe is not a scientific proposition (while the extent he does could be). That man should want to explain how things work so that he can better survive contains a moral judgment (that man should survive) which is not scientific. That man should know science to decrease pain contains a moral judgment which is not scientific. That science is better than religion for ordering a society contains moral judgments (about how to measure the well ordering of culture) which are not a scientific. The language of science, i.e. mathematics, is not scientific. Et cetera.
Besides the tedious self-congratulation common among proselytizing atheists (note the daring “(r)” in front of “evolutionary”), the movie is thus based on a fallacy, and a simple one—simple in the sense that it takes little thought to reveal, and where knowledge of it was free for the asking had the two gentlemen only asked. As to that:
Refusing to engage with those who advance divisive and extreme fundamentalist positions Dawkins and Krauss show how sometimes sensitive and provocative ideas can be discussed respectfully and with intellectual rigour.
It is well to ignore raving quibblers because responding to them wastes everybody’s time. But that’s not what the pair do. They instead cock a deaf ear to their best critics. Richard Dawkins famously won’t debate William Lane Craig, saying that because Craig is a Christian and gives God two thumbs up, even Old Testament Angry God (new cell phone app?), that therefore Craig is beneath contempt. Need the fallacy be pointed out? As a service to humanity: to say you won’t debate a man over a proposition because the man believes the proposition and you do not is not a proof the proposition is false.
Neither have Krauss or Dawkins answered the rational, deep, close arguments in, inter alia, Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition or the various reviews of their books written by their scholarly enemies (see especially Hart’s gorgeous Atheist Delusions). Instead, they spend their time answering anti-evolution rubes who write to say, “My uncle is not a monkey!” Dawkins feels he’s done a good day’s work by telling these folks, “You’re anti-science!”
Krauss thinks people are “threatened” by science. They are not, of course. They are threatened by scientism, which is very different. Scientism is dangerous because the people espousing it are not aware, or cannot acknowledge, the moral beliefs they hold are not (and cannot be) scientific. To insist they are is risks grave error and the slavish (and occasionally deadly) following of theory instead of truth.
All involved in this flick brag they follow “a purely rational approach.” Maybe that’s so, but the implication that all their religious opponents do not is false. Even a simple glance through, say, Summa Theologica proves this. That Aquinas and his followers might be wrong is a trivial truth. But it is also a truth that they might be right.