By Hilary White
VANCOUVER, April 28, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Canada’s Fraser institute sees nothing controversial about its choice of Dr. Richard Dawkins, currently one the West’s most notorious opponents of religious belief, as the keynote speaker at tonight’s Illuminismo lecture. The Institute’s slogan of “Competitive market solutions for public policy problems” has left some puzzled as to how Dawkins fits into that mandate.
Considered by many to be the country’s premier conservative think tank, the Institute told LifeSiteNews.com there is nothing “controversial” about Dr. Dawkins’ appearance, since the lecture is sold out.
Dawkins is to speak tonight on evolution and politics. Tickets are $500 per person, $750 per couple.
Dean Pelkey, the Fraser Institute’s Director of Communications, told LifeSiteNews.com, “The Illuminismo series is based on the concept of bringing people together to discuss and debate challenging new ideas and concepts.”
“The aim is to shake complacency and encourage people to consider long-held beliefs from a different perspective,” he said.
Dawkins is a British evolutionary biologist and popular science writer who holds the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford. But his greatest fame has come as the world’s most energetic opponent of any kind of religious belief, particularly Christianity, and as the most vocal mouthpiece of the absolutist school of materialist Darwinism that precludes any possibility of a transcendent divine being.
Pelkey added, “Given that the event is sold out, I suggest it is not controversial.”
Pelkey said that the only objections to Dr. Dawkins’ appearance had come from local ‘bloggers and that any such objections are tantamount to censorship.
He defended the choice, saying that “‘conservative’ is a relative term that can be defined many ways, depending on an individual’s outlook”. He described the Fraser Institute as “independent and nonpolitical” whose supporters are made up of people “who generally believe in competition, free markets, and economic freedom” and are not limited to those who would describe themselves as ‘conservative’.”
Whether all of the Institute’s generous donors share Pelkey’s views is uncertain although the sellout appears to indicate considerable support for the invitation to the anti-religious ideologue.
In his 2006 book The God Delusion, Dawkins contended that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that religious faith qualifies as a delusion. He considers religious belief one of the world’s great evils and coined the term “faith-sufferer” to describe religious believers of any creed in a 1991 essay titled, “Viruses of the Mind”. He admitted that The God Delusion is “probably the culmination” of his campaign against religion. It has sold over 1.5 million copies and been translated into 31 languages.
The Fraser Institute, Pelkey said, and by extension the choice of Dr. Dawkins, is about “challenging orthodoxy and promoting personal choice and responsibility”. Pelkey said that there was no religious interest in inviting Dr. Dawkins, noting that the “religious and political beliefs” of Fraser Institute staff, trustees, and supporters “play no role” in planning events.
But the Fraser Institute’s self-described mandate is to advocate for free market economic policies and Fraser Institute members are among Canada’s best known proponents of the “new conservatism” that concerns itself only with economic, not social conservative issues. This trend of a soulless, tradition rejecting “fiscal” conservatism and social libertarianism has led to a widening split in the Canadian conservative movement.
Social conservatives are being increasingly squelched and alienated by the power ascendant fiscal conservatives who see them as an albatross to strategic power alliances with elements of Canada’s socially liberal establishment. Despite this, as Dennis Gruending wrote in a November 2007 article, the Fraser Institute apparently receives most of its funding from social conservatives.
The Fraser Institute’s senior research fellows includes prominent Reform Party founder Preston Manning, former Ontario premier Mike Harris, former Alberta Conservative premier Ralph Klein and Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s policy guru Tom Flanagan.
The speaker for next month’s Illuminismo talk will be Mark Steyn who will discuss the war on terror.
List of Fraser Institute’s Board of Directors:
Full list of Senior Research Fellows:
See related LifeSiteNews story
Canada’s National Broadcaster Promotes Anti-Religion Extremist
Condemns all adherents of God-centered religion as “would-be murderers”