'Oh God': Dawkins forgets name of evolution's bible
St Valentine's massacre in religion wars as Dawkins forgets full name of seminal Darwin book
RICHARD DAWKINS (above) suffered a rare skewering at the hands of the clergy after taking to the airwaves to argue that people who call themselves Christians are often lying. And at one point the high priest of atheism even appeared to call for divine intervention as he struggled to remember the title of Charles Darwin's bible of evolution.
Dawkins went on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning to talk about a survey he had published showing that half of the people who described themselves as Christian on the 2011 census do not consider themselves religious.
The object of the poll, carried out by Ipsos Mori for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, appears to have been to discredit the use of census data to justify Christian practices such as government funding for faith schools and bishops having seats in the House of Lords.
Debating the survey's findings with the Rev Giles Fraser, the former canon of St Paul's Cathedral who quit last year, Dawkins made much of the fact that 64 per cent of people who said they were Christians in the census were not able to identify Matthew as the first book of the New Testament.
The second time Dawkins mentioned the finding, Fraser asked him if he could tell him the full title of On the Origin of Species, the book by Charles Darwin considered to be the 'Bible' of evolutionary biology.
Dawkins stated emphatically: "Yes I could."
"Go on then," said Fraser.
Dawkins's halting reply, complete with an improbable appeal to a higher authority, went thus: "On the Origin of Species, er, with... oh God... On the Origin of Species, um... There is a subtitle... er, um, with respect to the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life."
The correct answer is, of course, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.
A triumphant Fraser said: "You are the High Pope of Darwinism. If you asked people who believe in evolution that question and only two per cent got it right it would be terribly easy for me to say they don't really believe it after all.
"It's just not fair to ask people these questions."
But the religiously inclined did not have everything their way today. Earlier, Baroness Warsi caused uproar after suggesting in The Daily Telegraph that there had been "a militant secularisation" in European society. She said it had led to the banning of religious signs in government buildings, a decline in funding for faith schools and the "marginalisation" of religion in the public sphere.
Warsi wrote the article to mark a visit by herself and other ministers to the Vatican to meet the Pope.
She compared "militant secularisation" to totalitarian regimes which "denied people the right to a religious identity because they were frightened of the concept of multiple identities".
Warsi's article was roundly condemned. Times journalist Patrick Strudwick wrote on Twitter: "If it wasn't for the influence of secularism Baroness Warsi wouldn't even have the vote let alone be a baroness."
Others facetiously compared the threat from militant secularists with that from militant Islamists.
The Secular Society, which published Dawkins's survey, also got in on the action, tweeting: "Warsi heads to the last theocracy in Europe to lecture secularists on totalitarianism and intolerance. You couldn't make it up."
Of course, Warsi's and Dawkins's detractors were being somewhat unfair. Warsi specifically writes in her article, "I am not calling for some kind of 21st century theocracy", and Dawkins's point that census data isn't necessarily a sound justification for spending public money on Christian policies still stands. But then, one only has to look at the US to see how cultural wars over religion are rarely reasonable.