Extremism: Is It Ever Okay?


I have recently been enjoying the musings of Richard Dawkins, especially his Enemies of Reason series (the first episode of which you can view at the bottom of the page). I adore his deadpan expression as he scathingly mocks the bizarre practices of mystics, strict religious groups and experts in alternative medicines, and find his dad-like bewilderment when out of his comfort zone tremendously entertaining. Similarly to the style of Louis Theroux, Dawkins acts as the educated everyman, a sensical counterpoint to the deeply illogical extremists he interviews.

I agree with the majority of his arguments as I also believe in the power of the individual, the harmfulness of excessive faith and require tangible evidence to forge opinions on most topics, but the man’s standpoint is marred by his desperate need to be right.

He is greatly irritated by those that ‘indulge in unscientific delusion’ and thinks of this as a highly dangerous flaw in humanity, but is it not just as dangerous to concentrate on nothing but what is learned and what is certain? There is an infinite amount of undiscovered and unexplained things in the world and it is only through toying with unreality that we can grow as a species, i.e. the importance of theory before proof. I may be going out on a limb here, but it seems as though he is just as close-minded as those he exposes.

Dawkins successfully outs a lot of fakes and phonies but, like the seemingly crazy people he interviews, he only highlights the negative aspects of these subjects and surrounds himself with the sorts of people that could convincingly back his corner. How can he claim the destructiveness of these groups when he himself is not a neutral party? He is an extremist in his own right, and is being an extremist not in itself illogical and destructive?

Honesty is integral to the success and progression of humanity and I applaud Dawkins for fighting to reveal the more harmful enemies of reason, but he himself is a contradiction. A worshiper of ‘reason’ is just as blinkered as a worshiper of a god, and I think if it came down to it I would no less vouch for him than I would any other man with a messiah complex.

Emily created Dystopic in July 2012 after requiring an outlet for her love of dystopian and apocalyptic fiction. Her debut novel 'These Unnatural Men' was published in 2018.


3 thoughts on “Extremism: Is It Ever Okay?”

  1. I couldn’t disagree with you more, Emily.

    Yes, Dawkins is arrogant and condescending. But he has done numerous interviews with individuals so closed-minded that he, quite rightfully, has had to fight dirty to have just his say, let alone to make his point.

    He’s certainly not an extremist, as he is willing to look at serious science-based testing related to religious beliefs or quack medicine. Though funnily enough, few pedlars of fairy tales, myths and ludicrous spirituality seem interested in applying tried and tested scientific approaches to their wares, despite the increased exposure (and profit) they would receive were their beliefs based on anything substantial.

    That willingness alone makes him less of a zealot than the woman in this video, whose ignorance would be comical were she not so despicably passive aggressive:

  2. Your example of the Creationist fool of a woman kind of proves my point, she is an easy target to take as any atheist discussing religion with her would look like the winner of the argument no matter what they said – even most Christians would probably dispute her viewpoint. He is putting himself in a position in his documentaries and interviews that make him seem unquestionably correct and he doesn’t truly investigate religion etc with an open, inquisitive mind. I must reiterate that I do agree with his point of view for the most part, but my problem remains that he leaves little room for doubt. Like a Christian feels safe in the idea of creationism, Dawkins feels safe in scientific fact. I think a debate is only worthwhile when both sides appreciate the opposing argument, and in his documentaries this is never the case. He never interviews intelligent individuals who think critically and who aren’t insane!

  3. I agree with your point. And, as Dawkins points out in the aforementioned video, there are plenty of high up members of the church who are able to combine their faith with a level of rational thinking… but I guess an interview with two people who only slightly disagree wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining or provocative.

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