In a story on Times Online (UK) Roland White (in speaking of the various shows using the British countryside as a backdrop) talks about Richard Dawkins:
In one section, Dawkins said we should abandon astrology and take up astronomy instead. Clutching my O-level certificate in astronomy, I’m right behind him. But even gazing in wonder at the night sky has its drawbacks. The stars and the vastness of the universe always remind us how small, brief and insignificant are our lives. As far as I’m concerned, Dawkins is absolutely right; the evidence is with him all the way. The trouble is, nobody likes a smartarse.
I’d extend that a bit, nobody likes a smartass, especially when they’re absolutely right. Not that I’m going to start singing the high praises of Dawkins anytime soon (I find him somewhat annoying), but the thing is, he’s a smart guy, and he’s absolutely correct in his criticisms of religion, pseudoscience and mysticism.
I confess a certain level of discomfort when I listen to Dawkins or P.Z. Myers skewer religion. I’m not a very religious person, but I’m not an atheist either (I sometimes describe myself as an “areligious theist”). However, the *fact* is that the critics of religion and other forms of mysticism are essentially correct. There is no evidence for the claims of the supporters of religion and other forms of mysticism (including astrology, dowsing, ESP, my own beliefs, etc, etc, etc.) I tend to read and agree with them, and then use their statements as an opportunity for self-examination and reflection.
Vis a Vis Roland White’s comments above: Yes, astronomy can remind us how small, brief and insignificant our lives are, but it can also inspire and create a sense of profound awe and wonder that exceeds anything I ever felt when attending church services.