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← [Update 5 Nov -Q&A added to “The Video”]The video! (Jerry Coyne & John Haught)

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by Richard Dawkins

I am about to start listening to Jerry Coyne but, having listened attentively and patiently to the whole of John Haught's speech, I pause to say this. If this is theology, it reveals itself as not just meaningless mind-rot but DISHONEST meaningless mind-rot. It may not be deliberately dishonest, for the theologian is systematically trained to deceive himself before graduating to deceive others. As the Nobel-laureate Sir Peter Medawar said of Haught's hero Teilhard de Chardin, he "can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself." Drunk on metaphor and symbolism, the theologian is quite incapable of distinguishing a good metaphor, which serves to explain something (like the admirable metaphor of the multi-volume book, which Haught uses to explain cosmic time) from a bad metaphor, which serves to do nothing but obscure and confuse (like almost everything else in Haught's speech).

Haught has done nothing to dispel my prior impression that, probably uniquely among named academic disciplines, theology is quite simply not a subject at all. Thomas Jefferson, when planning his beloved University of Virginia, said this: "A professorship of theology should have no place in our institution." His words should be applied to every university in the world. Theology, in the sense of historical or literary studies of the bible, is a respectable academic subject, which a professor might decently pursue. "Theology" (the quotation marks are deliberate) in the sense of the subject pursued by the likes of John Haught, is not a subject at all, and has no place in any real university.


Thu, 03 Nov 2011 10:37:38 UTC | #886772