I didn't get to finish my reading of Alister McGrath's treatise on Richard Dawkins. Here we go. McGrath characterizes Dawkins' reaction to the widespread belief in God thus:
Since faith in God, for Dawkins, is utterly irrational, it remains to be explained why so many people share such a faith. The answer lies in the `meme', which Dawkins defines as an intellectual replicator. People do not believe in God because the intellectual case for such belief is compelling. They do so because their minds have been infested with a highly contagious and highly adapted `God-meme'
As McGrath correctly points out, there is no concrete thing such as a 'meme.' Unlike a gene, one cannot identify a meme. It is like quantifying a thought—"I like ice cream." Aside from the declarative statement, there is no way to prove that what I said is true. McGrath continues:
Not only is there a total absence of any observational evidence that ideas are like viruses, or spread like viruses - a decisive consideration that Dawkins glosses over with alarming ease. It is meaningless to talk about one kind of virus being `good' and another `evil'. In the case of the host-parasite relationship, this is simply an example of Darwinian evolution at work. It's neither good nor bad. It's just the way things are.
This is a remarkably frank, evolutionary way to look at it and yet cuts to the heart of the weakness of Dawkins' position. His idea that religion is bad and evil, like a virus is simply not logical and, worse, is non-Darwinian in explication. McGrath closes by pointing out another irregularity in the writings of Dr. Dawkins:
But there is another issue here which we need to note. Dawkins is quite clear that science cannot determine what is right and what is wrong. What about evidence that religion is bad for you? And what criteria might one use to determine what was `bad'? Dawkins himself is quite clear: `science has no methods for deciding what is ethical.
Quite simply, if religion is bad, then that decision is not based on science but rather on an emotional response to one's experiences, which in the case of Dawkins, have been bad. I have often thought that if polled, most scientists would say that whether or not they believe in God has very little to do with the practice of science but rather much more to do with their sociocultural upbringing and experiences. It seems that Richard Dawkins is just one such person. Read the whole piece.