Three Polemicals: Binkers

One of the most interesting insights made by Dawkins is the notion of what he terms as the Binker phenomenon. The Binker comes from a poem by A.A. Milne of the same name. To explain a Binker, I’d point you to the poem by Milne. To give any other explanation depends on the kind of position one would have.

I think that the Binker phenomenon is the most interesting point that Dawkins makes because:

1. It isn’t rehashed in his various TV releases (like the comparison between homeopathy and imbibing Oliver Cromwell)
2. It isn’t (so far as I am aware) repeated by any of the New Atheists
3. It is the most, by his own admission, poorly researched topic in his whole book. The Binker phenomenon could be seen as a foray into psychoanalysis, more speculative and fringe psychology; a foil for religious prosthelytism; or in Dawkins’ case, an sympathy towards a more child-like psyche.

The Binker is perhaps likeable to the imaginary friend; but there is so much richness to the Binker concept. Consider for instance, that the Binker is a manifestation of one’s intentions to a person as if it were real, but is really you. Well, that’s one interpretation of the Binker phenomenon. Dawkins is not sure whether the Binker is a sui generis psychological notion, or if it can explain religious belief.

The Binker is the friend who is always there for you, the consolation of imagination that is sufficiently comfortable in very difficult times. The Binker can be made to personify the relevant cultural figure of religious veneration, perhaps, and in this way, it can be a genuine comfort to the religious believer. The comment on the Binker is short, very speculative and off-the-cuff. Although beyond the overall focus of the God Delusion; it is an interesting psychological notion.

There is an extent where which the Binker phenomenon throws a ball to the psychoanalytic or continental philosophy camp. There is an analogy of the Binker with Feuerbach’s notion of God as the externalised moral guarantor that we create in our heads. There’s a whole possible avenue for a phenomenological appraisal of the Binker phenomenon that could shed light on the role of fantasy in childhood and adults. I suspect that there is a Binker of a sort in all of us.

There raised an initial worry that, by Dawkins’ own scientist standards, the Binker phenomenon resists either an explanation that appeals to unfriendly theories; whether the Binker phenomenon can succumb to experimental research, or if it can yield experimental results. I’d be interested in what kinds of studies may be able to be made in an examination of the Binker; what ethical issues may come, or epistemic and wider methodological concerns that may undermine the enterprise of this kind of research.

Dawkins writes this chapter as if it were a speculative notion. It would be too easy to point this out as a hypocrisy insofar as it is the kind of non-scientifically based claptrap that he himself critiques; I’m sure he would admit that this is a matter of there being no literature on the Binker. Although I suppose I can be corrected on this issue. I suspect that I will be corrected on this issue.