I don’t like Dawkins, but I am not Catholic, nor even specifically Christian, and didn’t feel that the Cardinal Pell was a very effective advocate on the night. He blustered a lot, in my view. But Dawkins is, I think, philosophically inept in the extreme. Here is a brief excerpt.
He was asked the following question:
Without religion, where is the basis of our values and in time, will we perhaps revert back to Darwin's idea of survival of the fittest?
(My emphasis. Rest of transcript is here.)I very much hope that we don't revert to the idea of survival of the fittest in planning our politics and our values and our way of life. I have often said that I am a passionate Darwinian when it comes to explaining why we exist. It’s undoubtedly the reason why we're here and why all living things are here. But to live our lives in a Darwinian way, to make a society a Darwinian society, that would be a very unpleasant sort of society in which to live. It would be a sort of Thatcherite society and we want to - I mean, in a way, I feel that one of the reasons for learning about Darwinian evolution is as an object lesson in how not to set up our values and social lives….
...Science is working on the problem of the antecedent factors that lead to our existence. Now, “why” in any further sense than that, why in the sense of purpose is, in my opinion, not a meaningful question. You cannot ask a question like “Why do mountains exist?” as though mountains have some kind of purpose. What you can say is what are the causal factors that lead to the existence of mountains and the same with life and the same with the universe.
Now, my analysis of this exchange is that Dawkins really doesn’t comprehend that there is a question as to ‘why humans exist’, which is a completely different kind of question to ‘why do mountains exist’.
After all, humans are intelligent, self-aware beings who can ask such questions as ‘why are we here?’ This question is especially poignant because human life often seems fragile and painful in the extreme; we often have to struggle to make sense out of it, and the question 'Why'? often forces itself on us with great urgency.
It is fairly plain from Dawkins answer that he thinks this is a meaningless question (he says this in plenty of other places also). He is entitled to his view, but I think it disqualifies him from discussing anything the least philosophical. I don't think the man has any philosophical depth whatever. And like most shallow people, he really has no comprehension of what it is that he doesn't get. As someone once said about Ronald Reagen, 'if you waded through his deepest thoughts, you wouldn't get your feet wet'.
This is both annoying and saddening, seeing as how he is one of the top-selling authors on the topic of 'God' in the Western world.