Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Richard Dawkins' post box

TO: Richard Dawkins
CC: Michael Shermer
SUBJECT: Compassion and ought

Dear Dr. Dawkins,

I just recently - within the last few months - became a fully committed atheist, and I want to offer to you my sincere thanks for helping me make that decision. For the longest time you could say I was an agnostic, because those "design" arguments put forth by those Christian, pseudo-science creationists, raised enough doubt in my mind to keep me enslaved to irrational superstitions.

But you, Dr. Dawkins, were instrumental in helping me shed the remaining shrouds of this savage religiosity that has darkened our western culture. When I picked up your book, The Blind Watchmaker, your clear, logical presentation of how Darwinian evolution so easily explains away those so-called design arguments switched on a light in my mind and all my agnosticism fled away. Since then, I have tried to read everything you have written, as well as the books of your good friends Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and P.Z. Myers.

At any rate, I am writing to you today, Dr. Dawkins, because I am conflicted and I need your help to think through a perceived inconsistency with my atheism. As you know, a massive cyclone struck Myanmar and Burma a week or so ago and caused great devastation for hundreds of thousands of people there. Some estimates place the death toll at a quarter million to half a million lives. The circumstances just look to be wretched, but here in lies my dilemma.

I have been asked by charitable organizations, many of them religious by the way, to give monetarily in order to help the victims of this storm. Though humanly speaking, such actions of aid are to be commended, but in reality, are we not attempting to circumvent the process of evolution? Who are we to oppose the natural forces that drive the evolution of life on this planet? I mean, if these people lack the ability to protect themselves from disaster or even rebuild their society after a major storm, should we not see this as natural selection taking its course to strengthen the over all human species by removing the weaker members?

I realize that may sound "cruel," but that is a religious judgment, is it not? Michael Shermer, who has a lot of good stuff debunking such nonsense as UFOs, aliens, and Noah's ark, says that morality is an important part of natural evolution because having moral laws helps to secure the livelihood of the species, but I really don't understand why I ought to think that way toward those people in Myanmar because I fail to understand how they add any benefit to our human species. You yourself once wrote, "The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind, pitiless indifference." Why doesn't this apply in this instance?

To put a bit of a spin on something else you wrote regarding the God of Christianity, in this instance, I believe I could say, "Mother Nature is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of history: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

I really would appreciate any thoughts you could give me on how to work through my conflict of emotions. My heart wants to help, but my logical brain tells me "it's not nice to fool Mother Nature."

Truly Confused,

Aimee Miller

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