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I can agree with Gray in "Straw Dogs" effectively arguing that man is part of nature and therefore so is everything that he does with his no morality, no free will and his myriad delusions. Man is subject to himself along with all other things in nature. But that includes the damage he does to himself and to his surroundings. His destructive tendency is also a part of nature. Thus he is a natural force and who said that such forces never lay waste?

Why then does Gray come over so surprised and almost disillusioned? He says Earth will recover when humans finally depart it. They will depart through disease, war and pollution apparently, by their own wicked actions and not by the innate hostility of nature. I wonder recover to what? Only some other form of decay sooner or later surely. Gray seems to ignore the law of entropy: everything becomes nothing eventually. He gives himself away as someone who thinks mankind a higher being than he really is, yet mankind not being that higher being is the nub of his argument. He wants to blame man for his bad acts and bad morality but by his own account man is only behaving according to his nature. He can do nothing other than that because he has no free will or genuine morality.

Like Nietzsche, John Gray is pissed off. At heart he is a believer in the mythologies of man and can't shake them but is forced to undermine that belief constantly in the face of experience. Rather than the gracious acceptance he advocates, his book is one long bitch against humanity for not being as he would like it to be. In this sense his argument is circular.

As with Dawkins, Gray is someone I would like to agree with but his pitch is so inauthentic I end up being repulsed. So full of holes are these men's arguments that they leave themselves exposed to easy putdowns. I find myself in opposition and am left with only the odd remark that resonates with my own impressions.

Yes, humans are basically animals and get above themselves and they should be aware of this and accommodate the fact. But with Gray and Dawkins you get the feeling despite what they argue they are really just as fundamentalist as the fundamentalism they eschew. It is almost as if they really would prefer there to be a god who could pronounce that they were the real prophets, absolutely true in their convictions.

Straw Dogs is one long bitch against humanity



commentary • 30.01.06