Richard Dawkins, paranormal critic

Sunday Mail, Australia/May 2, 2008

You could just about make a case for the ABC, government funded national broadcaster, not having a series like Compass on - religious affairs/separation of church and state, blah de blah blah. So it's nice to see a hardcore atheist on the show for a change. Richard Dawkins. He's done a documentary called Enemies of Reason, and it's a cracker. It's a two parter, starts Sunday, ends next week.

Better ask before I get too far into it - do we all know who Richard Dawkins is? He's an evolutionary biologist and ethologist - stay with me - and scoffer of many things, including and especially religion.

He wrote that million-seller The God Delusion, you might've read it. In Enemies of Reason he's basically saying that there are two ways to look at life, either by applying the rigours of logic and science, ie reason, or by superstition.

He reckons half the British population now say they believe in paranormal phenomena - sounds a bit alarming. He's a very smart dude and a major intellectual, but you don't mind watching him because he's also a prize ham.

There's a great bit when he's at a faith healer's, she's got her spiel going - and slightly disturbing, her voice sounds just like Margaret Thatcher's: "You come here to move through time and through space. . . the deep knowing of the wise being that you are and the golden glow that comes from the heart comes from the golden flower and use the gold light from the centre of the flower like a sunbeam and beam it into those petals and wake them up . . . there is a second part that's very personal and this is to step inside the pearl itself because if you step inside the pearl you could find out you are." And you should see the look on Dawkins's face when she starts blithering on about stepping into the pearl, it's gold.

That's in next week's episode, when he starts in on alternative medicine (homeopathy is a bit of an eye-opener).

This week's is subtitled Slaves to Superstition and he takes the knife to astrology - which he says just belittles our universe - and aura readers, spiritualists, all that. It opens with a visit to a new-age festival, where Dawkins visits a psychic medium.

It's hilarious, the guy's just groping blindly for anything and he finally says he sees someone dead whose name starts with an E sound. Dawkins says his grandmother's name started with E. Psychic medium: She had a lot of cats. Dawkins: She never had a cat. She hated cats.

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