An arch atheist reveals his poetic soul

0

In his new book, the arch-rationalist Richard Dawkins recalls himself as a young man, turned by poetry into ''byways of romantic fantasy'', in love with the idea of being in love. He quotes at length some of the verses that moved him: ''They were an important part of making me what I am,'' he writes, ''and they were all (in some cases still are) word perfect in my memory.''


He is sitting opposite me, the first volume of his autobiography lying closed between us on the table. Could he recite those verses now?

''I probably could,'' he says. What about the Yeats one with the phrase ''cloud-pale eyelids''? He nods – ''Oh yes, lovely'' – and takes a breath: ''And I dreamed my lost love came stealthily out of the wood/With her cloud-pale eyelids falling on dream-dimmed eyes …''

I feel quite privileged to be here listening to the author of The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion reciting poetry to me. Especially as interviews with the world's most controversial scientist carry a health warning. I've been told he is aloof and prickly about questions that threaten to stray into private realms. As we are here to talk about his life story – as opposed to the evolutionary and cultural arguments for which he is famous – such sensitivity was bound to be tricky.

Written By: Jane Wheatley
continue to source article at smh.com.au

NO COMMENTS

  1. When I hear Professor Dawkins described by such titles as “arch atheist” or “arch rationalist”, because journalists insist on injecting their opinions into the very terminology of everything they write about him, I think of phrases like “Catbert, the Evil Director of Human Resources”, which festoons the character’s office door. It’s not that Jane Wheatley has a negative view of him; in fact, nothing could be less consistent with the evidence. But after a while, these epithets become the unquestioned routine part of the name. It’s very strange.

    • In reply to #1 by Jos Gibbons:

      When I hear Professor Dawkins described by such titles as “arch atheist” or “arch rationalist”, because journalists insist on injecting their opinions into the very terminology of everything they write about him, I think of phrases like “Catbert, the Evil Director of Human Resources”…

      It’s quite possible that the title of the article may have been the result of “editorial adjustment” and not the original author’s choice. Let’s not forget that newspapers and magazines are marketed as consumer products by their management. Sometimes, the way the information is packaged IS the news. Catchy titles and controversial subjects sell papers and I suspect they make up these kind of titles on purpose.

  2. Not the article I hoped for, but I suppose what I want is in the book (yet to read). When I think of masters of English prose, I think of authors like Poe, Nabokov, Vonnegut, and Dawkins is among them. There are few books I’ve read repeatedly, and the Selfish Gene is one of them. Artistry and elegance are powerful agents for teaching science. After all, the subject is the Universe itself.

    • In reply to #3 by This Is Not A Meme:

      Not the article I hoped for, but I suppose what I want is in the book (yet to read). When I think of masters of English prose, I think of authors like Poe, Nabokov, Vonnegut, and Dawkins is among them. There are few books I’ve read repeatedly, and the Selfish Gene is one of them. Artistry and elegan…

      My thoughts exactly. I think much his writings exhibit poetic prose. His mastery of the English language is a joy to read.

  3. I’ve been told he is aloof and prickly about questions that threaten to stray into private realms.

    Ah! The stories put about in the Chinese whispers of those who parrot what their mind-masters have preached to them!

    .. . .. only to be expected from faith-thinkers, who do not look for objective observations or material evidence of how things actually are!

  4. People do seem to love celebrity ….yawn ! and forget its the knowledge / message that’s important – how its delivered and by whom is of course the media-worthy bit……Hitch was #1 for me, so brutally honest, sarcastic humour, rightly unapologetic and no push over….RD comes a close 2nd…I know they’re both masters of different trades but they both sung from the same sheet … – My poem -

    Dawkins is a gentle man, articulate and polite…Hitch was raw and raging cause he was bloody right….

  5. I’m quite surprised by how many reviewers want to see details of an Auto-biographer’s personal life.

    Up to a point I see the reasoning: We are shaped by the people around us – and those closest to us most of all. We can be judged by the friends we keep. Knowing who your fellow travellers were helps us to understand you.

    On the other hand successful people tend to be so because they’re not afraid to be themselves, so how helpful is that information really? It could end up being misleading.

    Also, looking back over our personal history is only useful if it explains how we came to be the person we are today. But do we do things, including in our personal lives, that do not shape us. That seems to me the very definition of a rhetorical question.

    On the other hand, I totally agree that a right to a personal life is a human right – said the man using a pseudonym. Not forgetting that our fellow travellers have that right too.

    Perhaps Richard Dawkins could get round this by asking his three wives to write their own chapters for part two? Perhaps he already has for part one, and they refused? Just kidding.

    Personally I find such proclivities distasteful and when it comes to personal relationships it always smacks, at least a little, of prurience.

    What do other people think?

Leave a Reply