Dawkins, the Bible, and titles

Richard Dawkins was recently on a BBC radio affiliate where he cited a poll which showed that only 35% of British Christians could identify Matthew as the first book of the New Testament. From this (in part), he was making the point that people in his home country aren’t as religious as most people think. That’s a fine argument, but I will leave it for now. I want to focus on the response he got from another guest on the show, Giles Fraser, former canon chancellor of St. Paul’s in London. Fraser asked Dawkins to recite the full name of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Dawkins responded:

“‘On The Origin Of Species’ … Uh. With, Oh God. ‘On The Origin Of Species.’ There is a subtitle with respect to the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.”

That’s pretty close. The actual title is “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”, which is more than a mouthful. But it wouldn’t matter if Dawkins couldn’t get past the first part of the title everyone knows. The poll he was citing in regards to Christians asked them a simple factoid, a mere piece of trivia. One would expect a high number to know it; to call oneself Christian is to profess a belief in a book. And not just any belief(s). We’re talking about the most profound beliefs a person can hold. It is not unreasonable to expect people to be familiar with a book on which they have placed their eternal salvation.

And there’s the difference. Dawkins’ has not placed some holy importance on Darwin’s work. He obviously views the man as tremendously important to scientific and human history – and rightly so – but that has nothing to do eternity. It has nothing to do with salvation. The Bible does. That makes it logically invalid to compare a biologist’s specific knowledge of a long-string of words to a Christian’s general knowledge of what Christians profess to believe as a matter of determining what happens to their soul.