Rev. Giles Fraser Catches Out Richard Dawkins in Dispute about Christianity in Britain

On Tuesday, BBC 4 hosted an occasionally heated exchange between Richard Dawkins and Rev. Giles Fraser. In their exchange, Fraser takes exception to the design of a survey conducted by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. He suggests that the survey, which purports to establish that Christianity is rare in Britain, shows no such thing. The Dawkins survey revealed that nearly two out of three who consider themselves Christians were unable to name the first book of the New Testament. (The correct answer is supposed to be the Gospel According to St. Matthew, but that depends on what you mean by “first”!) Fraser put the Dawkins test to work on Dawkins himself and asked if he could name the full title of The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin. Though he said he could, Dawkins stumbled when trying to quote the full title of his own secular Bible. Some British journalists are having laugh at Dawkins’s expense.

For audio of the interview (less than 7 minutes) click here. The story is reported at the Huff Post, with a transcript of the embarrassing bit, here.

Many, no doubt, will remark with glee on the embarrassing incident. But this isn’t quite fair, in my opinion. True, Dawkins should know the full title of Darwin’s seminal work. Dawkins is, after all, a former Oxford University professor who has published extensively in defense of Darwinian evolution. He is also the author of a 23-page Introduction to the Everyman’s Library edition of The Origin of Species and the Voyage of the Beagle, published by Alfred A. Knopf. But it surely is a sad commentary on the state of literacy in Britain that so few who call themselves Christians can name the book that appears first in most copies of the New Testament.

There is a larger point that should not be missed. There was a time when knowing that sort of thing was widespread among believers and non-believers alike. But the fund of “common knowledge” has been compressed to the dimensions of a thimble so that now what counts as literacy is up for grabs. Christian or not, shouldn’t a literate person know enough about the world’s great literature to be able to declare with confidence the name of the first Gospel of the New Testament?

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About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

3 Responses to Rev. Giles Fraser Catches Out Richard Dawkins in Dispute about Christianity in Britain

  1. Doug Geivett says:

    Agreed, Tony. And Dawkins should keep that in mind when he criticizes others, who also are human.

    Like

  2. Tony says:

    I just listened to interview and Dawkins stumbled a bit on the sub title of Origin of the Species then and the got it right. All in about 5 seconds. Dawkins is human and not superman.

    Like

  3. rosh says:

    “Dawkins stumbled when trying to quote the full title of his own secular Bible. ”

    False analogy. Secularism doesn’t have a Bible and even if it did, OotS wouldn’t be it.

    The “Origin of the Species” is a very early work in evolutionary biology. We’ve had over a century of scientific progress since it was written. It’s only important historically. Scientifically, it’s an obsolete book.

    “True, Dawkins should know the full title of Darwin’s seminal work.”

    Why? The full title is useless trivia.

    Like

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