'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring -- except for Richard Dawkins. Fortunately, that guy is a bloody idiot.
In an amusing article appearing in the New York Times, Olivia Johnson recounts a story about Richard Dawkins telling her that Sir Isaac Newton was born on Christmas Day. Thus the 25th of December could be treated as an alternative atheist holiday -- celebrating the coming on the man who invented modern physics and mathematics.
Unfortunately, there turn out to be more than a few problems with Dawkins' suggestion.
First off, as Johnson notes, Newton wasn't really born on Christmas Day. When Newton was born England was still using the Julian Calendar. According to the Gregorian calendar, Newton wasn't actually born until January 4, 1643.
But this isn't the greatest difficulty with Dawkins' proposal.
After all, Newton was known to be a committed Christian. One popular story recounts Isaac's dealings with an atheist:
"The story is told of an atheist scientist, a friend of Sir Isaac Newton, who knocked on the door and came in after he had just finished making his solar system machine.The story concludes that the encounter with Newton converted the man from atheism to Christianity -- although whether this is true or not is a detail that has been lost to the pages of unwritten history.
The man saw the machine and said 'how wonderful' and went over to it and started cranking the handle and the planets went round. As he was doing this he asked, 'Who made this?'
Sir Isaac stopped writing and said 'nobody did'. Then he carried on writing.
The man said, 'you didn't hear me. Who made the machine?' Newton replied, 'I told you. Nobody did.' He stopped cranking and turned to Isaac 'Now listen Isaac, this marvelous machine must have been made by somebody - don't keep saying that nobody made it.'
At which point Isaac Newton stopped writing and got up. He looked at him and said 'Now isn't it amazing. I tell you that nobody made a simple toy like that and you don't believe me. Yet you gaze out into the solar System - the intricate marvelous machine that is around you - and you dare say to me that no one made that. I don't believe it'."
It's rather ironic that Dawkins -- as committed atheist as Newton was a Christian -- would seek to supplant a holiday celebrating the arrival of the Christian messiah with a holiday celebrating an individual who many consider to be the atheist messiah.
An atheist messiah who himself was a Christian, interred in Westminster Abbey upon his death.
Only an individual whose thought tends to be as empty as Richard Dawkins' -- after all, this is an individual who can't seem to tell astrology and racism apart -- could dream up something quite like that.