You only get one Alan Bond in your lifetime, and I’ve had mine.
Kerry Packer (proof that politics and business is show biz for ugly people)
The late Australian media mogul Kerry Packer famously made that quip after his rival tycoon Alan Bond purchased Packer’s Nine Network TV station for more than $1 billion in 1987, only to buy it back from Bond for a quarter of that price. Alan Bond, after a series of splurges, tended to be somewhat more circumspect after that.
Last night I attended a sold out event at Riverview Church here in Perth at which Oxford Professor of Mathematics, and Christian Apologist, John Lennox explained why he was a Christian. And I must say, that what Packer said about Bond, Lennox could say about Dawkins.
Whilst he referenced him on several occasions, notably querying why Dawkins insists on speaking of morality in a meaningless universe, the most convincing aspect of Lennox was not his winning argument but his winsome attitude. What came across was that he loved humans, he respected people, he identified with their suffering. Interested non-Christians in attendance could surely only have been offended by the gospel, because Lennox himself was not offensive. He did, however, sound the warning bugle about the atheist position that, if we are convinced that we are mere animals, then surely we should not be surprised when we begin to behave according to our convictions.
Enter Alan Bond, or at least Richard Dawkins’ “Alan Bond moment”, printed in glorious technicolour in the UK’s The Independent newspaper on line here. Dawkins set off a storm of protest in all of the papers with this tweet when a woman tweeted a moral dilemma about the possibility of her in utero child with Down Syndrome:
Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.
In response to the protest Dawkins responded in what is actually a brave manner, and befitting his worldview. He merely pointed out that he was saying what people were actually already doing. His response tweet read thus:
Apparently I’m a horrid monster for recommending WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS to the great majority of Down Syndrome fetuses. They are aborted.
In publishing this latest furore the opinion makers in the mainstream press are alerting us to four things:
1. Dawkins is a terrible PR man. He is awful for his cause in a way that Lennox is great for his. Those who used to champion him are either having loud second thoughts, or quietly pretending they never were into him (a bit like people with the second Bon Iver album – Ed). He’s coming across more and more like Mr Burns every day, and is genuinely astonished that the proles he is leading are not more grateful for his wisdom.
2. Dawkins is an honest and courageous man. His astonishment at the reaction is real. He is only speaking the truth about the current situation and living in accordance with the courage of his convictions. He has been attacking a theistic world view for a long time and this is simply the logical outcome of his atheist world view
3. Dawkins is a misunderstood man. Seriously. He is misunderstood. Dawkins is not the Frankenstein’s monster people are claiming him to be. He is simply telescoping what the future will look like: a world in which it is not considered “immoral” to abort, but “immoral” not to. The brave new moral world will be just as zealous and well meaning as the old one, with all the intention of ushering in its framework via legislation. Faced with such a future people who are more or less inclined to agree with Dawkins on other matters, and many others who in principle can justify the widening of abortion to cover all unwanted births regardless of why, are baulking. It’s a long way from Bill Clinton’s “safe, rare and legal”, which, whatever your view on abortion, paid homage to humanity. Dawkins has no such misgivings.
4. Dawkins has a gift. That’s true on two fronts. First he is a gifted scientist, and worthy of the accolades he has received (gifts for which he refused to thank the Giver – the worst of all possible crimes). But scientists make poor philosophers which makes him a gift to those like Lennox who simply allow him to hang himself with his own rope with both his blustering and his scary honesty. And he keeps doing it. In the world of Twitter and Facebook the professor is a dinosaur, clumsy and completely lacking in opposable thumbs. And that, unlike Alan Bond to Kerry Packer, makes him the gift that keeps on giving.