Richard Dawkins has a new series coming out that takes aim at so-called new age practices and paranormal quackery. The Enemies of Reason will air on BBC Channel 4 tonight at 4 pm in Britain.
It seems as though Dawkins is taking the well-paved path that Carl Sagan took with The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark and Broca's Brain. Sagan was very open about his skepticism to religious claims and...how to say this...gently hostile to new age beliefs. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," he said.
Dawkins, having spent the last year or so grinding theism into millet, has decided to take on the more innocuous and less overtly threatening paranormal flim-flam to task. I appreciate that Dawkins and Sagan consistently state that just because people use things like:
belief in the five elements - earth, air, fire, water, and spirit- instead of the periodic table; the virgin birth; transubstantiation; 72 virgins awaiting you in heaven; etc.
doesn't make them true or real. People, like Chris Hedges might argue that they aren't real but that they are true nonetheless because they are subjectively true and therefore worth our time and belief as investments in the ineffable nature of spirit joined and never joined with the breath of the universe. I may have just unfairly caricatured Hedges except that he has said some spectacular nonsense here so I feel somewhat justified:
God is better understood as verb rather than a noun. God is not an asserted existence but a process accomplishing itself. And God is inescapable. It is the life force that sustains, transforms and defines all existence.
Anyway, we must align truth - perhaps our subjective ascertainment of the world - with that which is real or run the risk of maladaptive belief, maladaptive action, and conflict with logic and reason. Reality, natural reality, that wonderful testable thing that it is, should guide us. The pied piper cabals of the supernaturalists - the theists and the paranormalists - lead us astray. I'll have my reality and eat it too even if it doesn't always taste good.
Three cheers for skeptics and Dawkins's new series.