Richard Dawkins, a zoologist, is the Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. He is an eminent scientist and a skilled communicator. He does not believe in God. That is sad, in my view, but he is not the only one to take that position. Since God is ineffable, I can understand those who believe that he is also incredible. What is more than sad is his utter certainty that there is no God. He is not a theologian. He knows enough theology to take potshots at it, but his aim is terrible.
The celebrity who comes to mind as a parallel is Dr. James Dobson, whose eminence in psychology and fame as an evangelical leader leads him to dogmatize about politics and economics.
Both Dawkins and Dobson are enthusiastic in their respective causes, but are too limited in their perspectives to be of much use to anyone who doesn't already agree with them. If they were ever to see this column, which is unlikely, they might both be offended that I see them as so much alike. .
Dawkins is an atheistic scientist and Dobson is a doctrinaire Christian, so how are they alike? In this: they trade on their expertise in one field in order to be recognized in another. "I know more than any other living scholar about zoology, so let me tell you about God." "I am a nationally recognized authority on child psychology and family life; so let me set you straight on politics."
I answer Dawkins: Let me tell you about God, because I know him and you don't. I also know a lot more about him than you do, and there are a great many others who know more about him than I do.
I answer Dobson, "I agree with you on most things; we are both earnest in our commitment to Christ and the Scriptures. But I have preached and taught the Bible for fifty years, and I don't see in it (or in American history either) the justification of any party or economic philosophy in the modern world, including yours.
Both men are polemicists, laying aside the careful disciplines of their professions to destroy their adversaries--Dawkins pushing atheism, with which a huge number of his fellow scientists do not concur, and Dobson a political and economic theory with which a great many biblical Christians, including me, do not concur. Both perspectives are too narrow to furnish either a credible "public understanding of science," for Dawkins, or a Christian political base for Dobson.
Note: This is the second column in which Dawkins is featured. In the first one I paired him with the late Christopher Hitchens.