I had the pleasure of hearing Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss engage in a fireside chat at Stanford this past weekend. For the most part, they agreed with one-another on nearly everything. If I could summarize their conversation in 2 words, it would be “fear” and “evangelism.” First, it’s clear that they fear intelligent design. They equated intelligent design proponents with “con-men” who are “slimy,” “well-funded,” and promote “ignorance.” (Incidentally, each of these claims is incorrect.) They also appeared to greatly fear religion, as both Dawkins and Krauss held that teaching young children about religion in Sunday School is equivalent to “child abuse.” Dawkins even said that his goal is “to kill religion.” (Dawkins later tried to qualify this argument, but it was quite weak.) This was the one place where Krauss, who is also an atheist, sharply disagreed with Dawkins’ strategy. In fact, I agreed with what Lawrence Krauss said at this point: we should teach science but not with a religious or an anti-religious agenda.
I use the word “evangelize” because there were numerous mentions of “evangelizing for science” during the event. Now promoting science to the public is great and I am all for that. But they defined “science” as necessarily including pure and unfiltered neo-Darwinism, and they hoped to use television, film, kids’ camps, and other means to “evangelize” for evolution to the masses, especially children. They aren’t interested in promoting a scientific dialogue over evolution, they want to “evangelize” for evolution as a “fact.” Thus, they repeatedly asserted that neo-Darwinism is a “fact,” at one point asserting that evolution was as much as a “fact” as the existence of the table on the stage on which they were speaking. With such evangelism, fear, and self-assured dogmatism, it was quite apparent that they resembled the very thing they feared: religion.
But it seems that religion has a bigger appeal at Stanford. The theistic evolutionist Francis Collins recently spoke in the same auditorium at Stanford on science and religion, and an undergraduate friend at Stanford who attended both lectures told me that Collins’ lecture was better attended.