Richard Dawkins Replies to David Sloan Wilson

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IN HIS SKEPTIC ARTICLE ENTITLED "WHY Richard Dawkins is Wrong About Religion" (initially published online in eSkeptic and www.skeptic.com), David Sloan Wilson writes: "When Dawkins' The God Delusion was published I naturally assumed that he was basing his critique of religion on the scientific study of religion from an evolutionary perspective. I regret to report otherwise."

Why would Wilson 'naturally assume' aw such thing? Reasonable, perhaps, to assume that I would pay some attention to the evolution of religion, but why base a critique on an evolutionary perspective, any more than on Assyrian woodwind instruments or the burrowing behaviour of aardvarks? The God Delusion does, as it happens, have a chapter on the evolutionary origins of religion. But to say that this chapter is peripheral to my main critique would be an understatement. When I was asked to prepare an abridgement for the British audio recording, I had to decide which bits of the book were essential, and which bits could, however regrettably, be left out. My first cut, and the only chapter I deleted completely, was the chapter on evolutionary origins. Sad as I was to lose it (I was consoled by the fact that we also recorded an unabridged version for the American market) it seemed to me the least essential chapter to the central theme of the book.

The central theme of the book is the question of whether God exists. …