Richard Dawkins has made the Galle Literary Festival look even more of a farce!
Posted on February 19th, 2012

Ajit Randeniya

 The Galle Literary Festival (GLF) seems peculiar in terms of literary festivals elsewhere in that the organisers do not seem to have pretensions that it offers little more than a relaxing holiday to the boho-chic set. What is on offer is interestingly named cocktails in resort hotels in and outside the colonial Fort in the pleasant coastal town of Galle, and probably some hanky-panky after enebriation!

 Serious literary pursuit at the GLF appears to have been relegated to a distant second to events aimed at challenging the traditional belief systems of the host country: the focus seems to be very much on propagating the American devised global value system founded on gay rights, human rights and other concepts useful for fomenting trouble in a country such as Sri Lanka.

 This view is confirmed by a casual glance at the people and organisations behind the event as well as the list of guest luminaries: it has been founded by an expatriate British hotelier named Geoffrey Dobbs, the owner of a string of boutique hotels in Galle and elsewhere, and its sponsors include some shady foreign agencies such as the American Centre, the British Council and the Norwegian and Dutch governments.

 The chief guest at this years event was Professor Richard Dawkins, the leading ‘fatheist’ (someone who exhibits blind faith on the theory of non-existence of God) and the Norwegian funded millionaire human rights merchant Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu. The main invitee of last year’s affair has been Candace Bushnel the writer of that unadulterated TV garbage, ‘Sex And The City’; obviously, there are people on this planet who seem to seriously think that ‘Sex and the City’ is a literary masterpiece!

 This year’s invitee Dawkins has been so impressed by the event and the invitation that he has asked to be invited back, probably to continue his work on converting the attendees to his faith of ‘no-faith’.

 This invites our comment on who this man Richard Dawkins is and what he stands for.

 Richard Dawkins is a man who has become famous by claiming that he has found the ultimate truth relating to the origin of life: Dawkins goes around the world, ordering (in his trademark arrogant tones) that they should not believe in Christian and other Gods whom he says are imaginary, but believe in ‘his’ God, a British native named Charles Darwin who traversed the earth about 150 years ago.

By way of introduction to the debate on the mystery of origin of life Dawkins is trying to educate us, it must be pointed out that the quest has preoccupied the human mind from time immemorial: the Hindus, probably the Muslims, and certainly the Christians have come to believe in an omnipotent Creator God.

 Buddha on the other hand had a unique view in that he included the question of how life began among a list of ‘14 unanswerable questions’, further professing that speculation on such issues is counterproductive and does not help in achieving enlightenment. At another level, he preached that life being a natural consequence in the ceaseless cycle of cause and effect that is subject to the law of dependant origination (paticca-samuppada), it cannot be assigned a first cause.

 Dawkins’ God, Mr Charles Darwin appeared in the scene in the early 19th century and claimed that it was a ‘process’ called Natural Selection that put us here on earth! If the reader wonders as to how or why this ‘process’ itself began, you are not alone! Notwithstanding such inconvenient little questions, people like Richard Dawkins, (‘wannabe’ monopolists of the ideas market), have chosen to push Darwin’s view forcefully and aggressively.

 What Dawkins does not reveal to the world is that Darwin did not put forward a precise ‘theory’ as to how life began, or even how new species arose, but merely suggested that ‘natural selection’ may explain how evolution (a concept that predated Darwin by a few hundred years) would have happened.

 Darwin’s ideas do not constitute a formal ‘theory’ based on empirical, measurable evidence gathered through the application of the scientific method of observation, experimentation and sound reasoning as known in science; Darwin’s views are best described as opinions, speculation or conjecture. Darwin’s opinions also fail the ‘theory’ test because they are not predictive as a true scientific theory ought to be, and are not verifiable through experimentation (due to being based on slow, natural processes said to have occurred over a period of up to billions of years).

 Judging by the content of a series of books Dawkins has written, such as: The Selfish Gene (1976); The Extended Phenotype (1982); The Blind Watchmaker (1986); and The God Delusion (2006), he seems to have cast aside such concerns and has taken a literary licence to Darwin’s speculative discourse; through these books, Dawkins takes Darwin’s views way beyond the point Darwin himself intended. Dawkins for example, contends in his ‘God Delusion’ that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that religious faith is a delusion: a claim Darwin resiled from!

 However, in order to better understand the fraud Dawkins represents, one needs to critically examine Darwin’s original opinions based predominantly on morphological observations on randomly collected fossil samples, later supplemented with some extremely crude ‘experimental’ evidence.

 Darwin’s theory is riddled with fundamental weaknesses: to begin with, a theory based primarily on fossils was being presented with gaps in the fossil evidence to support crucial, major transformations of species; genetic mutations (which he claimed was the vehicle of transmuting survival traits) were later found to be generally damaging to life. Nor has Darwin explained such key aspects of human life as consciousness and intelligence, or describe how they could have ‘evolved’; he did not provide an explanation of the anatomy of the human eye which clearly has not ‘evolved’, and his explanations on the anatomy and physiology of sexual reproduction are putrid.

 Darwin’s crude experimental testing of the beliefs he had formed reflect child-like curiosity rather than methodical scientific inquiry: in one famous ‘study’ he reported that “Worms do not possess any sense of hearing…when placed on a table close to the keys of a piano, which was played as loudly as possible, they remained perfectly quiet.”

 In an astonishing example of circular reasoning, Darwin explained gaps in fossil evidence in terms of ‘extremely imperfect geological record’ (rather than any possible weaknesses of his theory). Darwin stated: “and this fact will to a large extent explain why we do not find interminable varieties, connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps.” To his credit however, Darwin noted the significance of this missing evidence to the story by acknowledging: “He who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record will rightly reject my whole theory.”  

 Recent advances in molecular biology and biochemistry have resulted in knowledge that deals a death blow to Darwin’s views on the evolutionary history of species determined on the basis of comparative anatomy. Books by scientists such as Michael Behe and Michael Denton synthesise such evidence that seriously challenge Darwin’s speculative ‘nonsense’. Dawkins is the current leader of a campaign started by J.B.S. Haldane to reformulate Darwin in the light of such emerging science.

 A look at Charles Darwin the man helps in explaining the deficiencies in his theory: he simply did not possess the necessary training or qualifications in any area of science or the scientific method required for the task.

 Charles Robert Darwin was born in 1809 in Shrewsbury, central England. His family in all probability, was Jewish,  but has been variously described as Unitarian (those who do not believe in the sacredness of the Holy Trinity), Anglican and Freethinking.

 Darwin was not a bright student and his father is reported to have been greatly disappointed by his failure to complete a medical degree at the University of Edinburgh, reprimanding him: “you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family.” In 1827, he enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts (Theology) course at Christ’s College, Cambridge and  graduated in 1831 performing well in theology, and scraping through in classics, mathematics and physics.

 In 1858, Darwin announced his speculative theory in a book titled The Origin of Species. Darwin’s theory certainly did not receive universal aplomb or acceptance at the time. It was criticised heavily by Richard Owen, the leading figure on comparative anatomy of apes and man at the time, and by geneticists including Gregory Mendel.

 Darwin himself was less than ‘fully confident’ about the theory, and he kept away from the public debates that followed the publication. It is well documented that he suffered debilitating stomach pains, vomiting, boils, palpitations, trembling and other symptoms, attributed to his nervousness over the ‘theory’ and its non-acceptance by leading scientists of the day.  Darwin’s theory however, with all its weaknesses, was enthusiastically embraced by the British imperialist establishment due, in their view, to the moral basis and justification it provided for the global colonisation project.

 As revealed in his autobiography, Darwin was most inspired by Thomas Malthus’ who provided theories that underpinned colonialism, including the 1798 paper An Essay on the Principle of Population in which he advocated limiting the family size of the lower classes by law as a solution to the problem of overpopulation); Darwin’s theory as stated in the introduction to The Origin of Species reads almost Malthus paraphrased.

 Karl Marx condemned Darwin for borrowing Malthus’ ideas he fiercely opposed. Fredrick Engels also rejected Darwin’s theory on the grounds of “lumping together ‘natural selection’ and the ‘survival of the fittest’, two absolutely separate concepts. This particularly keen observation is still valid today, and is more destructive to Darwin than any criticism levelled by the scientific community.

 Imperialists on the other hand transformed Darwin’s imprecise ‘scientific’ concepts to suggest that nature would ensure the victory of best competitors in a contest for survival, earning them the nickname ‘Social Darwinists’. Their particular interpretation of Darwin justified the racist, imperialistic claim that the European ‘white man’ had the ‘right’ to seize the land and wealth of the ‘lesser breeds without the law’ in Africa and Asia.

 Across the Channel, Hitler saw the ‘struggle for existence’ as a battle between races and sought to evolve a ‘master race’. As German philosopher Erich Fromm observed: “If Hitler believed in anything at all, it was the laws of evolution”.

 Darwin’s own views were not radically different to those of his colonialist disciples: during the Beagle voyage, referring to a bloody slaughter of the Indigenous people of the Argentine pampas by General Juan Manuel de Roses in 1833, Darwin made a revealing diary note:  “…This war of extermination, although carried on with the most shocking barbarity, will certainly produce great benefits; it will at once throw open four or five hundred miles in length of fine country for the produce of cattle.”

 Dawkins’ strident defence of, and attempts to propagate, Darwin’s speculation can also be attributed to his upbringing in the distant points of the British empire: he was born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1941 and spent childhood in Nyasaland (presently Malawi) before returning to England. His mother is supposed to have grown up at Matara, in colonial Ceylon. 

 Those who appear to be easily impressed by people like Richard Dawkins need to critically examine the foundations of Darwin’s theories before rushing to the book shop to buy Dawkins’ books, or pay homage to him.

 Such evaluation is not made easy due to the almost automatic association of any criticism of Darwin or his views with the creationist position. Attacks on creationism is an easy diversion for Darwinists from the fundamentally unsound (and unscientific) aspects of Darwin’s work that led to the ‘theory’. The generally ‘defensive’ position adopted by the creationists also has played in to Darwinists’ hands.

 Any contention from within the scientific community is dealt with even more harshly, generally with ridicule and vitriol, and funding cuts. Dawkins is the greatest leading exponent of this hostile technique; his response to anyone who doubts Darwin is only just short of physical assault!

 Such ‘group thinking’ that currently pervades the field of science in western society is transferred to the scientific community in the developing world through sponsored training, peer pressure and subtle media campaigns. People like Professor Carlo Fonseka seem to have fallen in to this trap, appearing almost like Dawkins has replaced the God he used to worship!

 The reason why Dawkins is keen to get back to Galle next year is not just the raspberry bellinis: he is part of the movement that is working on altering perceptions in developing countries!

 Sri Lanka needs to resist such people and ideas.


15 Responses to “Richard Dawkins has made the Galle Literary Festival look even more of a farce!”

  1. Sirih Says:

    Organise religions that sell “God” is nothing but fraud and it is good for flat earth society .

  2. gdesilva Says:

    The beauty of Science is that it allows people to question Science and Scientific methods employed at arriving at certain conclusions. The inability to face questions about their so-called scientific conclusions is the Achilles’ heal of people like Dawkins and other atheists. While it is good to condemn the organised religious establishments and their actions, the same rule should equally apply to those who try to sell ‘Science’. Let’s face it there have been many people who appear to have understood and dealt with life and the universe far better than Dawkins and his sidekicks ever could.

  3. Mohan Says:

    article only shows the ignorance of the author proving that “modaya katha nokara innakan nuwanakkarayaya”

  4. Ben_silva Says:

    Dawkings is attempting to get people to think. Belief systems, including Buddhism , depend on unproven myths.There is not a shred of verifiable evidence for Nirvana, Sansara, and rebirth. Science on the other hand rely on observation and experimental verification of scientific theories. Scientific theories constantly get updated or rejected in order to keep up with observation, whilst religion appear to remain the same. Buddhism originated in India and is no longer a major religionb in India. Buddhist followers have been wiped out and killed in millions in the silk route. Buddhist countries such as Tibet and Bhutan are backward and primitive. Some say Japan is a Buddhist country. If this is te case, they believe in a different form of Buddhism. In fact the Japanese are very materialistic and fine tune desires and satisfaction. Japanese have invaded foreign countries and have killed millions, to grab foreign Land. As such, Japan could hardly be called a Buddhist country. In Maldives, when Maldives turned Muslim, even the Buddhist monks were not spared and they were beheaded.
    In short, Buddhism has given its followers a kiss of death. If we continue to blindly follow Buddhism, it won’t be long before we follow the other Buddhists in the world and get wiped out. Buddhists in the Silk route, India, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Indonesia have all been wiped out. It is the sea and native wisdom that protected us and not Buddhism.We are not too far away from that stage, as we have lost the North, East, Hill country and even the Capital. There is a reason, why Buddhism is dangerous. Buddhism is too passive and does not take into account that we live in a dangerous world, full of greedy nasty people, after resources. In short, we live in a war zone, wilh all after resources. If we give up desires as Buddhism promote we will end up as the poorest of the poor. What we need is to have desires to survive and win and also develop means of winning in a highly competitive world, rather than running away as Buddhism is suggesting.
    Religion is also a dangerous mind virus that cloud thinking. Many of the worlds best thinkers have said, religion is a thinng of the past.
    Buddhism, if used intelligently is very useful. but if followed blindly, as Nalanda Buddhists did, is very dangerous, just as fire is.
    Buddhism has been even rejected by the source country India, as they realised the dangers of Buddhism, after the Nalanda debacle.
    Both India and China have developed tremoundolusly since dumping religion.
    We can still safeguard and respect Buddhism as a part of our culture and heritage, rather than following it blindly.
    Religion is a thing of the past and should be dumped as Dawkings is suggesting.

  5. Rohan8 Says:

    Hey Ajith Randeniya, why have digs at British and American literary figures? I know their ideas might not agree with yours but their are many people who enjoy the writings of an American such as Candice Bushnel or a Britisher like Richard Dawkins. Also unless your the taliban they have a right to say what they want to say its called freedom of speech and democracy. Haven’t you got better things to write about like the governance of Sri lanka or the 13th Amendment in the Sl constitution. Also I won’t have you criticising the American centre or the British Council. During the late 1980s, when I was in Sri Lanka and everybody was killing each other JVP, Govt and LTTE and their supporters. Back then in the late 1980s Sri Lanka was going to pot. The only thing that kept me sane during those dark times was the British Council established in 1981. It had a lot of activities regarding British Culture, works by Shakespeare and other people British cultural icons were only promoted at the British Council. Also its newly established library got a lot of funding from London at the time. As a result nearly every week brand new published books on every subject was being stocked at its growing library. In those days the library membership wasn’t very big but the British Council library was huge it had a far better collection than the colombo public library at the time. The British council gave me an appreciation for reading which I hadn’t had before. Sadly the BC library today isn’t as good as it used to be as London cut funding significantly to the Sri Lanka Brit council years ago.
    When I went in 1994 to Sri Lanka for a couple of months, the American centre library with American published books and British council with British published books were a great source of joy during that time.
    Ajith Randeniya maybe would like the English language banned from Sri Lanka. We all know the Standard of English among youth in Sri Lanka isn’t as good as it used to be. Maybe it would be better for Ajith Randeniya to write an article on a possible education program to improve the standard of English among youth in Sri lanka which is quite poor compared to decades past. Since so many Sri Lankans go abroad especially to English speaking nations like Canada, United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand on business and pleasure. I think it would benefit Sri lankan youth immensely if Sri Lankan government had a plan to improve the quality of English education in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan youth of today deserve that much!

  6. Rohan8 Says:

    Oh by the way I don’t fully agree with Darwin or Richard Dawkins. Even though their ideas make a lot of logical sense on one level. I will however defend Dawkins right to say what he wants to say because he makes people think. Personally the matter about humanities origins are not settled. It is quite possible that in the distant past the Human race was engineered by a highly technologically advanced super intelligent alien civilisation. That we are the property of this Alien race, if that is true then the human race is a slave race created by Aliens. Apparently this what the Christian Bible is really saying in code. Yes you may laugh at this but, but Ajith Randeniya is laughing at Richard Dawkins so this leaves human race origins open to all other possibilities!

  7. Christie Says:

    Be up to date commentators.

    We do not teach English anymore, we learn Inglish.

  8. Ben_silva Says:

    Interesting comments by Rohana8. I remember the American Centre Library, near Gall face. It was air conditioned and I remember liking te place. The centre was manned by a Tamil man at te time.

  9. Naram Says:

    Prof Dawkins himself would accept that he is a only writer, presenter and a self pulicist and certainly not one expecting reverential accptance.

    Nor was Darwin, who had a comfortable upbringing as a son of a rich doctor, land owner and a money lender in addition. Thus Darwin had all the connections and privileges to getthe positions he wanted and championed the cause of Science, observation and deduction without commitments to prove a religious view.

    One can marvel at his dexterity, careful observations and conclusions, bu his thinking remained those of his age – self centred superiority of the white race, but that was increasingly tempered by his observations. He saw how quickly the two men, who had been brought from Patagonian tribes, had become assimilated almost perfectly mannered Englishmen in three years and were going back in his to Patagonia to convert their fellow tribesmen to Christianity . He also shared the aims of the English society with the conviction and the drive to expand the empire to new corners for growth. He knew of the massacres of the Australians going on at the time butmoral qualms did not prevent him from thinking of settling in Australia to avoid the uncertainties of the day in England, with revolutions and tumoil in Europe and falling profitability from his farm and other investments. Where he excelled was in putting together facts like the actions of earthworms, breeding animals to enhance the desired characteristics which ultimately proved the nonsense of adivine plan.

  10. Marco Says:

    GLF was a success, having attended it 2 years in a row. Long it may continue.
    One needs to get your head out of the sand.

  11. Dilrook Says:

    GLF was mired in controversy but it serves vital national and political causes.

    It was promoted by the government to showcase to the world that this country has the freedom of expression in the backdrop of a worldwide wrong impression.

    Some criminal journalists tried to hijack it but for no avail. GLF has transformed Sri Lanka’s image on freedom of expression and media freedom.

    It has its share of evils but there should be a balance between the good and the bad.

  12. Sirih Says:

    Quite surprised about Ben’s comment and don’t think he has done enough historical studies. West and Christians are not a success in moral context since they are good at organise violence that backed by the church plunders most of the Asia and rest of the world. Is this what Ben preach?
    His comments re. Japan and China is not valid and Korea is the only place that Buddhism is under threat and I work with temples in these countries and can give fact and figures to any one.
    Human greed backed by the church that sell non existence insurance policies to next life is fraud. Church try to create this mythical god so that they can keep human race under their bondage and it is Billion dollar business today.

    Glorifying a church that has done so much crimes against human race and then backed by wrong facts is dishonest and down right foolish.

    Human race to survive we need to share our resources and also need to look after the needy. Bringing fake creator called god will not help any one except few illiterate that like to keep status quo and keep earning good dollars out of their misery.

    Science is still very early stage and it will evolve and as far as human race is concern science is still on nappies and that does not mean humans will not rise to great occasions.

  13. kavdayako Says:

    Buddhists have absolutely no problem with Darwin or Evolution, or even Dawkins.
    The 14 questions that the Buddha advised people to not to waste time on, DID NOT include the origin of life. It was the origin of the COSMOS that he said is a metaphysical question.
    The Patichcha samuthpada deals with the coming in to being of CONSCIOUSNESS due to grasping (greed, desire, thanha). As one state of consciouness dies, another one comes into being, and the cause-effect cycle for that is given by the Patchcha-samuthpada

    All the higher animals (mamels, birds, monkeys, humans) have consciousness. But bacteria and creatures without a well developed nervous system (that inclues a foetus in its early stages of a few weeks) do not have full feelings, and act more by “instinct” than by consciouness. They only have involuntary actions, and are not subject to the effect of moral choice (karma).

    Today Darwin’s theory has been corraborated by genetics, molecular biology, DNA studies etc. If Ajit Randeniya does not agrre with evolution, that is his problem. he can go and read the Bible.

    Dawkins is a great popularizser of science and people like Randeniya can learn a lot by reading Dawkin’s books. Instead he is trying to tell us that God created the world – Instead, come on to the 21st century.

  14. Rohan8 Says:

    Hi Naram, yes you are right. Sri Lankans are well aware of the Evils of Imperialism that emanated out of England of Which Sri Lanka and so many other countries were victims of. I guess you could say the modern world is a creation of England. We could even argue the English language as a tool of British Imperialism. Because they could shape how people think. .Darwin et al wether knowingly or unknowingly was a effective instrument in the promotion of this type of Imperialism which saw it worst manifestation with Adolph Hitler and the Nazis.So on one level I can see Ajith Randeniya’s point about the British council etc. Though as I stated above I really did like going to the British Council library in the late 1980s.

  15. Pouteria Says:

    All of you need to read Dawkin’s The Blind Watchmaker. This explains wonderfully how it is possible for an animal to evolve from four legs to two legs and wings through time with each stage being an evolutionary advantage.

    I believe in intelligent design as a property of the universe and evolution but not as residing in some separate deity. I got over that concept when i was 8 1/2.

    I am a deist who believes in death after life not life after death.

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