Category: Atheism

Richard Dawkins Part 1: The Worth of a Human Life

It is nearly 48 hours since the latest furore surrounding Richard Dawkins. There are two things I have noticed over the last couple of days [I started to write this as one posts but it’s got a bit long, I’ll do a second post*]:

The world has divided into three camps:
1) Those who are ardently opposed to Richard Dawkins
and looking for any excuse to blindly oppose him.
2) Those who are ardent supporters of Richard Dawkins and will blindly follow him wherever he goes.
3) Those who were largely ambivalent to Richard Dawkins but find this particular excursion into the philosophy of human morality repugnant.

In the third group there are many who are parents of children with Down’s Syndrome who are keen to stress that their daughter or son’s worth can’t be measured by their contribution to society. There are people with Down’s Syndrome who read his comments and find that they themselves are being viewed as worth-less to society.


We have as a society moved in the name of progress to view people as commodity. A person’s worth is increasingly seen by those who govern as the “contribution that they make to the economy”. By someone such as Professor Dawkins a person’s worth is measured by how much can be contributed to the things he personally values, i.e. Evolutionary Biology. This is why he values those with Aspergers as being worthy of life.

This whole ‘scandal’ has been an opportunity for personal reflection. I come from a family in which Down’s Syndrome and Asperger’s are quite prevalent along with other kinds of “special needs”. I have been looking around my family and imagining this “lens of worth” with which to view the world. Which of my relatives are worthy of life and which ones are not? My uncle recently passed away as a happy and fulfilled pensioner [and the sentence shouldn’t need to continue with the words ‘with Down’s Syndrome.’ That should be enough!] The grief in our family was and is tangible. The life, the shared experiences, the jokes that were shared together in thick Scots accents left a huge impact upon us all.

As a foetus, I was screened. I was weighed and found not wanting. This is actually untrue. My mum says that she went along with the screening because she was told that she had to because of the risk but that there is no way she would have terminated the pregnancy. The decision was already made. My life would have worth whether an academic, a prince or a pauper, whether Asperger’s, Down’s or – whatever it is that I am despite my lack of labels.

[*edit – I started writing about the press and the way they report some individuals as individuals and some as representative of their group but it was too depressing. Not sure I’ll bother with part 2.]

The Tone of Conversation


This video seems to be doing to rounds again. A polite and humerus debate between human beings. A rare and beautiful think.

When I was an RE teacher in giant letters across the whole front of the classroom it said “Key Skill: To be able to disagree with each other respectfully”.

Punk Rock Jesus: Graphic Novel Review

I’m not going to spend a lot of time reviewing Sean Murphy’s Punk Rock Jesus but here are a couple of thoughts.


Good imagery but difficult to follow because of the lack of colour. To depict the dark and gritty future we are left with vast swathes of black in which we have to try and pick out the detail.  In comparison, I just grabbed a copy of BPRD off my bedside cabinet and the many and varied shades of blue make for an easier read whilst keeping the gritty feel.


Simon Cowell gives up on X-factor and makes a reality show out of the Turing Shroud by cloning Jesus.  After fifteen years of staring in a morally bankrupt reality show Chris (the clone) breaks out to tell the world that “God is Dead”. Everyone dies.

My Thoughts:

My main criticism is that this is a very one dimensional story.  We see an ongoing battle between a caricature of US Christianity and a caricature of new atheism. At the end of the book, the author explains in his own words of how he was a Catholic who became an atheist and PRJ comes across as an out working of an internal angst. There isn’t so much a story on which arguments are hung but angry teenage angst with an absence of storyline.

Anyone who knows me is aware that the most important thing I look for in any story is the development of the characters and their relationship with each other.  Everything is a vehicle for the interplay of characters.  Sadly, there was little in PRJ to appeal in this department.  The villain is a pantomime villain. The ‘hero’ is a pantomime stroppy teenager. The martyr is quickly dismissed as a drunk. The most interesting character is the ex IRA bodyguard, Thomas.  We get a good glimpse into his past life, his background in the IRA and haw that influenced him to this point. Sadly this is a small glimmer of character development. In some respects, I wish this story had been fleshed out over three or four times as many issues to give a storyline that had potential some room to grow.

One aside about the theological worldview of this narrative:  For a world with no overarching deity or “guiding power”, there is a surprisingly strong sense of an “inescapable fate”. It is as though the characters are being dragged to the end kicking and screaming by an external force.


Thomas McKeal telling Chris that he was just the same as his opponents operating through “blind idealism”.


No belly wheels. No stogie. Little storyline.