Clive Staples Lewis was a celebrated Anglo-Irish novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, lay theologian and Christian apologist whose impact and influence lives on.

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“Fish”-ing for Darwin: Talking Back to Dawkins and Others

July 10th, 2007 | Skip to comments

Those who are following the great atheist “revival” led by Richard Dawkins will want to traverse some interesting ground fertilized by two unlikely rhetorical allies in combating the essentialism and fundamentalism of radical evolutionism as espoused by Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and company. The first contrarian is Stanley Fish, a literary critic and scholar whose earlier works focused on Milton (wherein he regarded C S Lewis as an informal mentor in shaping his response to the text) and whose latter works focused famously on interpretation in literature and law. (In academic circles, Fish is to literary orthodoxy somewhat what Bishop Spong is to Christian orthodoxy.) In a series of blogs for the NY TIMES, Fish has questioned the coherence, fair play, and grasp of basic theological knowledge, within the atheistic discourse produced by the unholy trio of Harris, Dawkins, and Hitchens. Fish sees through their sleight-of-hand, and argues that evolution–or at least its credos–bears some uncanny relationship to a religion itself, including the faith it takes to believe in it.

In short, it is the unfathomable and unbridgeable distance between deity and creature that assures the failure of the latter to comprehend or prove (in the sense of validating) the former.

– S. Fish

Fish is not a Christian and, to my knowledge, professes no belief in any kind of supernature, but he is a skillful arguer, and knows how to get the goat of would-be antagonists by pointing out their guilt in the very things of which they accuse others. His Three Atheists starts the critique, pointing inconsistencies in the way atheists argue, followed by Atheism and Evidence, in which Fish suggests some disingenuousness about the way “evidence” is used by Dawkinsesque commentators to adduce the atheist creed, and closes with Is Religion Man-Made? in which Fish suggests the fact that human are involved in writing down the word of God and interpreting it does not, ipso facto, disprove anything about whether there is a God who would do such things in the first place. In his own way, with subtlety and wit, he is effective in pointing out, like Narnia’s Professor Kirke, “nothing is more probable,” than that God could be just who He says He is, despite Dawkins’ objections.

[Some Dawkins passages] ha[ve] all the earmarks of fundamentalist rhetoric, including appropriating the deity (Darwin) for one’s own cause.

– D. S. Wilson

A second, unlikely ally, far less sanguine with and enamored of religion, is biologist David Sloan Wilson who, as an admitted Darwinian, takes Dawkins to tasks in Why Dawkins is Wrong About Religion for failing to see religion’s “adaptive role” in human culture and how “scientific dogmatism” can cloud the vision of evolutionists wishing to study religion in a responsible way. After you read this, you won’t necessarily be inviting Wilson to speak at chapel, but you will see that there are within the scientific camp rational thinkers who understand the vitality of religious faith, perhaps even its “group benefits” and “necessity,” and that when religion “goes bad,”our focus should be on the erratic behavior of the practitioners not on the validity of the faith’s content per se.


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