Dawkins Wants It Both Ways

Jonah Goldberg’s post at The Corner alerted me to an article by Richard Dawkins in which he argues that the idea of sexual fidelity in marriage is a relic of primitive thinking.

It seems to me that while he adopts a pose of brave truth-telling, Dawkins is afraid to confront the implications of his own stated beliefs. Put bluntly, he believes that evolution demonstrates that humans are machines, our minds are flesh-based computers and our sense of self is the epiphenomenon of firing neurons. (I’ve written in NR that I think he makes outrageous assertions about what the Modern Synthesis of evolutionary biology does and does not prove about this question, but I haven’t seen a retraction from him).

In his article on cheating he says that:

Sexual jealousy may in some Darwinian sense accord with nature, but “Nature, Mr. Allnutt, is what we are put in this world to rise above.” Just as we rise above nature when we spend time writing a book or a symphony rather than devoting our time to sowing our selfish genes and fighting our rivals, so mightn’t we rise above nature when tempted by the vice of sexual jealousy?

I, for one, feel drawn to the idea that there is something noble and virtuous in rising above nature in this way.

We’re “put in this world”? We’re supposed to “rise above nature”? Says who? What does it mean to say that something is “noble” or virtuous” when done by a machine? Does a large boulder “sin” if it rolls down a hill and crushes a pebble?

With his metaphysics, it is no more noble to overcome jealousy than it is wrong to push a three year old child in front of a car for the fun of watching her head explode. To ask whether something is right or wrong is like asking whether it’s Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny that brings us toys at Christmas.