Yesterday afternoon I unexpectedly found myself in a debate with a close associate of Richard Dawkins.

It wasn’t the best of circumstances. We were trying to talk to each other around the corner at the end of a bar (a square aspect and Neptunian context). We were both under some emotional stress (her father, my cat). She is the sister of one of my closest friends, but we haven’t seen each other since Reagan’s first term.

She asked what I had been doing for the last 35 years, since she had last seen me. “Well,” I began, “that day I went home and had dinner, I think it was pizza, and then the next day...”

Eventually, she told me that she had just been traveling around the country with Dawkins, and what a wonderful experience it was.

“I think you and I have very different worldviews,” I offered. Part of me didn’t want to get into it, certainly not there. But when pressed, I went on, “Dawkins has that very scientific-materialist reductionism thing going on” (remember, this was no formal debate).

“Oh,” she said, “then your religious?”

“That’s a false dichotomy,” I retorted, a little more willing to engage now that I could feel the blood rising, “it’s not as though there is only a choice between hard materialism and blind religious faith...”

To be fair, she sees it as a battle of science against the kind of fundamentalist religious fantasy that makes up a large minority of America (and a slim majority of its electorate). The country that four decades ago was sending people to the moon now has 46% percent of its population believing that God created the earth, as is, 5,000 years ago. In darkness that deep, the flashlight of science is to be appreciated, no matter how narrow the beam. But that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to reduce the world to modern, scientific materialists and simplistic religious fanatics.

At one point, I used my favorite line (you can find it in my book, Integral Astrology): “The problem is that most religious people have a high school knowledge of science, and most scientists have a kindergarten knowledge of spirituality.”

We went on for a while. I talked about consciousness, and morphic fields. She talked about DNA and RNA. As is to be expected, no one convinced anyone of anything. I wasn’t even looking to prove a point, really, so much as to find a judo move that would land her on her philosophical backside.

I found no such move. Looking back, I might have chosen a different angle here and there, and my choice of evidence could have been better (because of course the question of evidence was key for her). But the problem was that I couldn’t really put forth much in the way of ideas, because I had to continually fight my way out of the religious fundamentalist box she kept trying to construct around me. She was so sure she already knew what I had to say that I couldn’t say much without refuting her assumptions. When someone is so sure that the argument is this-or-that, black-or-white, it’s very hard to be heard above that noise.

Oh, and that black-and-white, with-us-or-against-us thing? That’s fundamentalist thinking.

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