This book review may seem slightly removed from a futurist perspective but in reality it is not. Richard Dawkins’ book on why we tend to believe in God and the flaws in the argument for believing in God is laced with lots of information on how humans think, how we evolved to think, and how evolution may have created a “need” to believe in God. In the book Dawkins uses many examples to expose the flaws in a number of philosophical, theological and rational arguments on the existence of God. These examples are extremely good training in critical thinking skills that we can use to good effect in our day to day living and in futures work. Much of the work that we do as foresight consultants is about helping people to understand how their brains work, how they think and how this impacts on their forward strategy. Reading this book helps that process.
I have two criticisms of the book. First of all Richard Dawkins has trouble refraining from attacking people that think differently from him and sometimes crosses the line into personal attacks. This is both against the principle of the book and detracts from its arguments. Secondly, Dawkins seems to dismiss the possibility that our need to believe in God or some sort of spiritual faith may indeed be an emergent property of the way that our brains have developed. A strict evolutionary argument would be that a need to believe in God would have to be a useful trait that aided our ability to survive and reproduce or be a side effect of such a useful trait. A perfectly plausible alternative is that our brains have developed down an evolutionary path but that the resulting complexity has created emergent properties that are unrelated to our evolutionary path. Overall I would recommend reading The God Delusion as my criticisms are minor ones compared to the quality and impact of the book as a whole.