|Going One God Further|
|Articles to not believe in|
|We're all Homo here|
|A Gradual Science|
|Plain Monkey Business|
|—Richard Dawkins' thug life|
“”Dawkins still appears to be convinced that religion will be defeated by rationality alone. Were that the case, David Hume would have sufficed.
Clinton Richard Dawkins (1941–) is a British evolutionary biologist, ethologist and author, born in Kenya. Due to his passionate defense of the theory of evolution and his attacks on religion and superstition in general, he has become known as Darwin's Rottweiler and also as one of the "Four Horsemen" in the New Atheist movement (along with Hitchens, Dennett, and Harris). He held the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford from 1995 to 2008 (after his retirement from this post the Oxford mathematician Marcus du Sautoy succeeded him).
The general public came to know Dawkins' name after he published his first book, The Selfish Gene, in 1976. This book made a gene-centric view of evolution popular and that view later became an influential approach to evolutionary theory. The Selfish Gene also introduced the idea of memes, and the concept went on to become a meme itself. Other best-selling books Dawkins has written include The Extended Phenotype (1982), which discussed the way that phenotypic effects can extend beyond an organism's body and affect the surrounding environment, and The Blind Watchmaker (1986) which explains how natural selection works by small, incremental and cumulative steps, keeping what "works" (in terms of the usefulness for survival and reproduction of the genes comprising an organism) and discarding what does not. The title The Blind Watchmaker obviously plays on the concept of unguided evolution and on William Paley's "watch" argument from design (Paley also receives extended attention in Dawkin's later book The God Delusion). Dawkins is well respected in some circles and a genus of fish was named after him.
In 1992 Dawkins married the much younger actress Lalla Ward and he has collaborated with her on several books. She contributed artwork, and also read audiobook versions of Dawkins' work. He has one daughter from a previous marriage.
Career and qualifications - highlights
Dawkins was an Assistant Professor of Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley from 1967 to 1969. In 1970 he was appointed a Lecturer, and 10 years later he was appointed a Reader in Zoology at Oxford University. (For readers outside the UK, a "Reader" in a British university is approximately equivalent to an "Associate Professor" or "Full Professor" in the US.)
In 1995, he was appointed Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford. This position was endowed by Charles Simonyi with an express intention that Dawkins be its first holder. He has been a Fellow of New College, Oxford since 1970. (A Fellow is part of the governing body of the university.)
Education, positions and degrees
For completeness, his full academic career is shown below.
- 1954-1959 Oundle School
- 1959-1962 Balliol College, Oxford University
- 1962-1966 Research Student, Oxford University (D.Phil., 1966)
- 1965-1967 Research Assistant to Professor N.Tinbergen FRS
- 1967-1969 Assistant Professor of Zoology, University of California, Berkeley
- 1969-1970 Senior Research Officer, Department of Zoology, Oxford
- 1970-1990 University Lecturer in Zoology, and Fellow of New College, Oxford
- 1989 D.Sc. (Oxford)
- 1990-1995 Reader in Zoology, Oxford University
- 1995-2008 Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, University of Oxford, and Professorial Fellow of New College
Dawkins and religion
Dawkins' treatment of evolution is his forte, for he is, by credentials, an evolutionary biologist. He has frequently been the target of less than literate Christian fundamentalists. In his book The God Delusion, (2006) he outraged the Christian right by counterattacking in their own back yard.
Dawkins takes exception to Stephen Jay Gould's ideas of Non-Overlapping Magisteria. He points out that God either exists or he does not, and that statements about his existence or non-existence can be tested by the scientific method in the same way as any other statement. Agnostics, tremble at the mighty Dawkins!
While many have praised the book, some theological academics have criticized the book because he has not mastered their terms of art and have poked at his work as being "deeply ignorant". Dawkins, admittedly, has no formal theological or philosophical education. However, he has responded by saying: "Most of us happily disavow fairies, astrology, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster without first immersing ourselves in books of Pastafarian theology etc." This mockery and denial of theology is not wholly unlike the fundamentalist tendency to ridicule and forbid the teaching of evolution.
While never explicitly declaring God not to exist, it's rather difficult to say he is non-partisan. Given his views on theology, religion, the existence of God, and the utter superiority of science, it's not really all that difficult to see he considers the evidence to be against the existence of God. No, he won't explicitly deny God exists. But, he contends, if we don't have evidence for God, it's probably not worth believing in a God.
The God Delusion
There has been quite a bit of controversy surrounding The God Delusion. Most criticism has come from Christians - both fundamentalists and more moderate varieties. More cogent points have involved two particular issues: The form of the message, and the content of the message.
In form, Dawkins' message on atheism is quite abrasive to many - despite insistence by both him and his supporters that he's actually quite mild-mannered ("shrill" gets mentioned a lot, but no video evidence of Dawkins making odd noises has yet been uncovered). This aggression is not necessarily a bad thing. It does echo the passion of fundamentalists, but his direct and uncompromising approach has alienated many others who fight unreason, especially those who are not atheists, and those who approve of the concept of NOMA. In content, many have argued that he is not the finest philosopher of atheism, and that his work contains many inconsistencies and poor examples, as well as fundamental ignorance of the things he attacks. Specifically, he's often accused of over-simplifying the Troubles in Northern Ireland, which he reduces to a simple religious feud between Roman Catholics and Protestants. However, to his credit, the book in general is accessible to the public at large, which cannot be said of many of the great philosophical atheist works (or most philosophy in general).
Dawkins' religious critics were brilliantly parodied in an article which pretended to criticize the non-existent book The Fascism Delusion.
Root of All Evil?
Root of All Evil? is a television documentary by Dawkins, and is essentially the film version of his book The God Delusion. The title was forced upon the show by its producers at Channel 4 and the question mark at the end was a concession to Dawkins.
The first part, titled "The God Delusion", explored the beliefs of religion and their conflicts with science, while in the second part, "The Virus Of Faith", he brought in the theory of the meme to explain religions, making them akin to viruses, and explored the moral implications of religious belief. The programme also included an interview with Ted Haggard where Haggard's wingnuttery is shown off quite nicely, threatening Dawkins for "calling his children animals," i.e., mentioning evolution.
The program received predictably mixed reviews. Religious proponents accused Dawkins of everything from journalistic dishonesty to concentrating on the bad aspects of religion, whilst ignoring the potential good. On the other hand, Dawkins' fans and anyone happy to see potshots taken at the church on mainstream TV loved it.
Religion as child abuse
Dawkins also went out of his way to suggest that religious teaching could be considered as a form of child abuse.
“”I do disapprove very strongly of labelling children, especially young children, as something like 'Catholic children' or 'Protestant children' or 'Islamic children'. That does seem to me to be very wicked because what you're in effect doing is making the assumption that the beliefs, the cosmology, the beliefs about the world, about life, are automatically going to be inherited in a way that you don't assume for anything else. (...) But society simply assumes, without even asking, that there is such a thing as a Catholic 4-year-old, or a Muslim 4-year-old. And that I do think is wicked.
Dawkins has also written a great deal about how children are frightened that they themselves will go to Hell and that children are upset that people they care about will end up there, which he thinks is a form of child abuse. He cites the example of a woman brought up as a Roman Catholic: when this woman was 7, a childhood friend died tragically in a car accident. The 7-year-old girl lay awake at night thinking about her little friend being tortured in Hell because she had died a Protestant. Dawkins argues that in many cases frightening children over Hell causes more lasting damage than physical abuse or sexual abuse by religious authorities.
Richard Dawkins believes that theology is not a suitable subject for a university because he believes theology is not scientific.[note 1]
“”But as for theology itself, defined as "the organised body of knowledge dealing with the nature, attributes, and governance of God", a positive case now needs to be made that it has any real content at all, and that it has any place in today's universities.
Dawkins denies that theology is a subject to be studied at any level.
“”What has 'theology' ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody? When has 'theology' ever said anything that is demonstrably true and is not obvious? What makes you think that 'theology' is a subject at all?
Dawkins further draws attention to serious shortcomings in the theology department of Oxford University where he teaches.
The former Pope
“”He is an enemy of truth, promoting barefaced lies about condoms not protecting against AIDS, especially in Africa. He is an enemy of the poorest people on the planet, condemning them to inflated families that they cannot feed, and so keeping them in the bondage of perpetual poverty. A poverty that sits ill with the obscene riches of the Vatican.
The God helmet
In 2003, Richard Dawkins had the allegedly religiosity-inducing device known as the God helmet tested on him; appearing in the BBC science documentary series Horizon. He did not have a "sensed presence" experience, but instead felt at times "slightly dizzy", "quite strange", and had sensations in his limbs and changes in his breathing. Persinger explained Dawkins' limited results in terms of his low score on a psychological scale measuring temporal lobe sensitivity.
Dawkins has denied that atheism is a religion, or that atheism is violent; he wrote:
“”There is no atheist religion. (...) Oh yes, I was forgetting. All those atheists beheading people, setting fire to them, cutting off their hands, cutting off their clitorises. If you think atheists are violent you don't know what violence means.
Dawkins is a patron of the British Humanist Association; he helped get the Atheist bus campaign going. Dawkins is also an enthusiastic Bright, and he expounded his reasons for this in an article in The Guardian. He hopes the term 'Brights' will help reduce negative stereotyping of atheists in the United States.
Dawkins sees atheists as ordinary people, typically thoughtful people who work things out for themselves and do not accept automatically what they learnt from their parents or in primary school. Dawkins wants atheists to stand up and be counted.[note 2]
Dawkins and pseudoscience
Dawkins is seemingly no less critical of pseudoscience, especially “spiritual than he is of religion. He made his views known about faith healers, psychic mediums, angel therapists, "aura photographers", astrologers, tarot card readers and water diviners, and claimed that Britain is gripped by "an epidemic of superstitious thinking."
Dawkins and eugenics
Dawkins has come under fire for statements made in 2006, 2014 and 2020 on eugenics. In 2006 he supported the scientific validity of eugenics asking, "If you can breed cattle for milk yield, horses for running speed, and dogs for herding skill, why on Earth should it be impossible to breed humans for mathematical, musical or athletic ability?" He also asked, "I wonder whether, some 60 years after Hitler's death, we might at least venture to ask what the moral difference is between breeding for musical ability and forcing a child to take music lessons."
In 2014 he said "Intelligently designed morality would have no problem with negative eugenics", further arguing that the problem with positive eugenics comes about when it is state directed and government sponsored.
In 2020, he stepped in it yet again when he tweeted:
It’s one thing to deplore eugenics on ideological, political, moral grounds. It’s quite another to conclude that it wouldn’t work in practice. Of course it would. It works for cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses. Why on earth wouldn’t it work for humans? Facts ignore ideology.
For those determined to miss the point, I deplore the idea of a eugenic policy. I simply said deploring it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work. Just as we breed cows to yield more milk, we could breed humans to run faster or jump higher. But heaven forbid that we should do it.
A eugenic policy would be bad. I’m combating the illogical step from “X would be bad” to “So X is impossible”. It would work in the same sense as it works for cows. Let’s fight it on moral grounds. Deny obvious scientific facts & we lose – or at best derail – the argument.
Dawkins’ bigoted remarks on Down syndrome
If your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down's baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child's own welfare.
While Dawkins claimed that his beliefs were logical, they are clearly contrary to the principles of logic. 99% of people with Down syndrome are happy with their lives (which is higher than the general population). Thus, giving birth to a child with Down syndrome would be morally superior to having a child without Down syndrome. People have value regardless of disability.
Baseless attacks on Dawkins
Dawkins' outspoken views on religion have earned him many knee-jerk criticisms from religious apologists. With the high regard in which religious belief is held,[note 3] openly and directly attacking religion has seen Dawkins break one of the greatest taboos still in existence in the Western world. Most critics concentrate on his divisive approach to the subject: he is generally seen to reject all theistic views, even when they support his own on evolution or secularism, and his dismissal of all the claimed good aspects of religion, which Dawkins either believes are non-existent or completely irrelevant. In The God Delusion, Dawkins spends most of the introduction of the book addressing potential critics, predicting their arguments quite accurately and putting forward his own counter-arguments.
The criticism of Dawkins and general anti-Dawkins attitudes manifest in many ways, from homemade YouTube videos to criticism by well-known theists. In September 2008, a Turkish court banned internet users from viewing the official Richard Dawkins website after Harun Yahya, a Muslim creationist, claimed its contents were defamatory and blasphemous.
The "11 second pause"
One of the more famous incidents that Dawkins has been involved in was during an interview in 1997 where he paused for 11 seconds after being asked to answer the question "can you give one example of a mutation that increases information in the genome?" Creationists happily seized on the video as a "smoking gun" proving evolution was a hoax: one of its key proponents stumped on a simple question! Dawkins has since gone on record explaining that this pause was because he suddenly realised he had been tricked into an interview with creationists — something he doesn't do as policy as such interviews can be used to give cranks credibility.
Most creationists take the pause to be genuine proof that Dawkins doesn't know what he is talking about and evolution is false and that his reasonings for not interviewing creationists are just any old excuse to dodge their questions. CreationWiki claims that he still hasn't answered the initial question. Anyone familiar with information theory and the average creationist tactics and straw man based arguments should be able to figure out this answer; it's certainly not the simple soundbite they were looking for. Of course Dawkins has answered, and the entire response can be found on Australian Skeptics.
Legitimate criticisms of Dawkins
“”Every one of us has lots of things we don't understand. The trick is to realise it.
|—Dawkins, Twitter, 2015|
(level of perceived irony depends on the reader)
Researchers' views on Dawkins
Despite promoting the virtues of science and scientific research, Dawkins is no longer involved in conducting original scientific research but is in effect a science popularizer. Within the scientific community Dawkins is generally regarded as a very good communicator of science, but certain public hagiography of him as "the greatest scientist since Darwin" is misplaced. Most of his ideas are based on those of others (see "standing on the shoulders of giants"), in particular the likes of R. A. Fisher, W. D. Hamilton, John Maynard Smith, Robert Trivers, and George C. Williams. To be fair to Dawkins, he always cites and defers to his sources, but some Dawkins fanboys don't catch onto historical and social context in which he has written, despite his stating them in his writing! Similarities between his books also leads to the criticism that he's written "the same book" again and again.
Dawkins is not, however, immune to criticism from within the scientific community. Theoretical physicist Peter Higgs (that Higgs) criticized him in December 2012 for his anti-religious "fundamentalism", asserting that Dawkins focuses too much of his attacks on religious fundamentalism despite there being many non-fundamentalists out there and that his belief that religion and science cannot co-exist at all is wrong. Dawkins has countered assertions that he is an anti-religious extremist.
Dawkins and fellow evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson have also debated over The God Delusion and studying religion scientifically in the pages of Skeptic magazine. Dawkins also denies his own meme theory is pseudoscience, despite not being based on experimental data.
“”For years we've been calling attention to the deafening silence from moderate Muslims, their reluctance to condemn 9/11, suicide bombings and other atrocities. For years we have challenged moderate Muslims to disown the death penalty for apostasy, and officially sanctioned Islamic mistreatment of women. With a few honourabe [ ] exceptions like Yasmin Alibhai Brown, our appeals have met with lamentably little response.
|—Dawkins, demanding collective punishment for the Islamic community everywhere. Notice how he doesn't ask all Catholics to condemn the IRA, or all Jews to condemn certain Israeli actions in the Middle East (though some certainly have).|
In 2013, Dawkins came under fire for a series of statements regarding Islam that seemed to blur the line between reason-based resistance to dogma and xenophobic prejudice. He views Islam as the "greatest force for evil in the world today" and stated that "All the world's Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge," He's generally called Islam "an unmitigated evil," which is in line with his opinion on religion.
In 2016, Dawkins wrote:
Anyone who believes that what is written in a holy book is true even if the evidence is against it is dangerous. Christianity used to be the most dangerous religion. Now Islam is. Of course that doesn't mean more than a small minority of the world's Muslims. But it only takes a few if their beliefs are sufficiently strong, fanatical and unshakeable.
This appears to mitigate the charge of Islamophobia somewhat. And, if clarified that one is not referring to all Muslims but only to extremists and governments, the claim that Islam is currently the world's most dangerous religion doesn't seem unreasonable.
He also wrote of cryptofascist Geert Wilders: "if it should turn out that you are a racist or a gratuitous stirrer and provocateur I withdraw my respect, but on the strength of Fitna alone I salute you as a man of courage, who has the balls to stand up to a monstrous enemy," described the burka as being like a "full bin liner thing", and spoken of his "visceral revulsion" when he sees it being worn. He also seems to think that being a Muslim makes a person unsuitable for hiring as a journalist, saying of The Guardian and New Statesman contributor and Al Jazeera journalist, Mehdi Hasan, "Mehdi Hasan admits to believing Muhamed[ ] flew to heaven on a winged horse. And New Statesman sees fit to print him."
Dawkins has become a critic of multiculturalism which he views as "code for Islam" in Europe. He has described the coalition government as "fanatical about multiculturalism and the need to respect the different traditions from which these children come", and claims that "the compromised values of multicultural Britain mean that teachers hesitate to offend the religious beliefs of their pupils, even when these directly contradict scientific fact." Of course, respecting different cultural traditions is not mutually exclusive with pointing out when those traditions include scientifically false beliefs, so the problem would seem to be not multiculturalism but some teachers' flawed interpretation of it.
Following his 'cultural Christian' theme, he has also tweeted such things as "Listening to the lovely bells of Winchester, one of our great medieval cathedrals. So much nicer than the aggressive-sounding 'Allahu Akhbar.' Or is that just my cultural upbringing?" As some people have noticed, this argument just so happens to mirror that of alt-right figures such as Tommy Robinson, making Dawkins a useful idiot for these tools at best.
Ahmed Mohamed aka "Clock Boy"
“”Don't call him "clock boy" since he never made a clock. Hoax Boy, having hoaxed his way into the White House, now wants $15M in addition!
|—Dawkins, introducing his theory of how a child fooled millions of adult people|
Dawkins was heavily criticized after he joined Bill Maher in attacking Islam as a whole, and one Muslim kid in particular. Said kid was briefly arrested for playing with electronics that looked like a bomb to some, while also being Muslim. On Twitter Dawkins also accused Ahmed Mohammed of being comparable to an ISIS child soldier. PZ Myers has called Dawkins' and Maher's team-up as "a combination to bring out the worst in both" and described their talk as follows:
- "Oh, that’s their culture, you have to respect it," Dawkins said mockingly.
- "That’s right! That’s what they say. It’s just insane," Maher said, swooning.
- "Liberal about everything else, but then this one exception, ‘It’s their culture.’ Well, to hell with their culture," Dawkins concluded, to a storm of applause and a passionate yelp of approval from Maher.
Myers went on to describe Dawkins' hypocrisy in how he likes many things about his culture, specifically his "Anglican tradition" which, according to Dawkins, gave birth to "evensong and cricket matches", despite his culture being just as guilty of horrible acts, from colonialism to wars of mass destruction. Myers went on to denounce people who claim that "unlike Islam, Christianity has mellowed" and pointed at racist police, Planned Parenthood killings, murders of transgender people, Scott Lively, the Westboro Baptist Church, the American prison system, the drone war, unfettered capitalism, and predatory attitudes towards the environment. Myers concluded by praising Islamic gifts to literature, poetry, music, mathematics, and science, and stressed that he wants to embrace Islamic culture as a significant part of the human experience even as he rejects the barbarisms within it, just as he rejects the barbarism in Western culture.
|—Someone restrain him from anything with an Internet connection|
Dawkins has been criticized for comments he made in his books and interviews regarding "mild paedophilia" he experienced as a child. He says a prep school teacher "pulled me on his knee and put his hand inside my shorts". Dawkins downplays the effects of the crime because he said it did not have a big effect on him but may on others. Dawkins commented saying:
Should I have lied and said it was the worst thing that ever happened to me? Should I have mendaciously sought the sympathy due to a victim who had truly been damaged for the rest of his life? Should I have named the offending teacher and called down posthumous disgrace upon his head? No, no and no. To have done so would have been to belittle and insult those many people whose lives really were blighted and cursed, perhaps by year-upon-year of abuse by a father or other person who was deeply important in their life. … To excuse pedophiliac assaults in general, or to make light of the horrific experiences of others, was a thousand miles from my intention.
"Elevatorgate," or how the fallacy of relative privation went into overdrive
If you found the above abhorrent, it's not particularly new. The 2011 conference incident known as "Elevatorgate" showed that even we "enlightened" atheists (especially if male) can be easily prone to logical fallacies and appalling nastiness.
Ranting about "radical feminists" on Twitter
Between Dawkins' rushing to the aid of poor beleaguered Sam Harris and propping Christina Hoff Sommers, it became self-evidently clear that Dawkins did not understand feminism. This has led PZ Myers to write an open letter on FtB to Dawkins, where he tried to explain to him what feminism is about and his own journey to understanding it. It fell on deaf ears, as Dawkins instead went on Twitter to rant about "Feedingfrenzy Thoughtpolice Bullies" and "clickbait".
Things backfired on Dawkins after he retweeted a link to a video by noted antifeminist Sargon of Akkad. He later deleted his tweet but the damage was already done, as he was swiftly uninvited from the NECSS 2016 conference by majority vote of the leading panel. Since then, however, the NECSS panel had both publicly and privately apologized to Dawkins for acting unilaterally rather than first expressing their concerns, and he has been re-invited to NECSS to discuss both his prior planned talk, as well as being part of a panel discussion about feminism/diversity and free speech within the skeptical community. Unfortunately, this was just prior to his stroke, and cancellation of this and other talks due to his health.
In early 2016, Dawkins re-tweeted a meme juxtaposing a picture of Matt Taylor's shirt and a still frame of a fully-veiled Muslim woman about to be executed that, instead of making a point about the lack of Western media reporting on the latter or calling for more humanitarian aid/intervention, tried to suggest that Western feminists don't care enough about the fate of oppressed Muslim women, while also appearing so unseasoned on feminism as to conflate fringe radical feminists with the broader movement of feminism. This prompted PZ Myers to strongly criticize him — as he did in the "Dear Muslima" situation years ago — and Myers announced he would cancel his plans to attend the Reason Rally, featuring Dawkins (among many others). Material opposing types of feminism is a small part of what Dawkins writes but gets disproportionate attention, which isn't surprising due to how loudly Dawkins promotes them.
Transphobia and "anti-gender" politics
In April 2021 Dawkins "randomly decided to question the humanity of transgender people — under the guise of I’m-just-asking-questions," tweeting: "In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black. Some men choose to identify as women, and some women choose to identify as men. You will be vilified if you deny that they literally are what they identify as. Discuss." Trans people and allies responded with frustration and exhaustion, with mathematician Timothy Gowers tweeting that "this is by no means the first time you have tweeted about issues as though they were fresh and new when in fact they have been done to death."
Shortly afterwards it became known that Dawkins had written an endorsement for an upcoming book attacking "gender ideology" by noted TERF Helen Joyce, and it seems entirely possible that his tweet was the result of his reading of that book. In response to Dawkins' support for transphobia, the American Humanist Association withdrew the "Humanist of the Year Award" it had awarded him in 1996; the board said "Dawkins has over the past several years accumulated a history of making statements that use the guise of scientific discourse to demean marginalized groups, an approach antithetical to humanist values." Later, in November 2021, he additionally endorsed Kathleen Stock's anti-trans book. In the ultimate convergence of anti-trans personalities, Dawkins appeared on a 2023 Piers Morgan program to complain that Stock and J.K. Rowling were "bullied" for their views.
Pakman: You've said many things over the last two years related to the discussion about gender and transgender and gender identity etc, some of which you've said that I agree with and some of which you've said that maybe I would agree with a little less. One of the most interesting things that I heard over the last few months was Neil deGrasse Tyson in a conversation with a right-wing person from the United States: [Paraphrase] "Listen, there are all sorts of conversations and debates to be had about this issue and the connection to whether it's mental illness or whether it's age appropriateness of certain decisions that are made etc. Can we all agree that gender is expressed on a spectrum?" And, what I found interesting about Neil deGrasse Tyson saying this, is that it's less a conversation about biology and sex and genitalia, but it is a question about what I think is an undeniable reality about the world, which is, at minimum, the expression of gender is on a spectrum and that maybe that can serve as a starting point for some of these discussions. Would you agree with that, which seems to me like an uncontroversial statement, or is that a problematic statement?[note 4]
Dawkins: I'm a biologist, and, what I really object to is the subversion of language. Talking about "a woman's penis", for example. I mean that is just playing around fast and loose with the English language. I'm a biologist who needs to talk about sex and the difference between male and female, which is absolutely clear. It's one of the very few binaries we actually have in biology. Race is not a binary, race is a genuine continuum, obviously, because of false hybridization and so on. Almost everything else you can think of is a continuum; short vs. tall, fat vs. thin. All those things are a continuum. Sex is the one thing that actually is a binary, and I think that messing around with the English language – well, any language for that matter. It is a subversion—a perversion—of clarity of thought [and] clarity of speech for political ends.
Pakman: Yeah, and I think most of my progressive colleagues would agree that the biological circumstances undeniably are: men, women, [and] some percentage born intersex—
Visibly-frustrated Dawkins, interrupting: Tiny, tiny percentage; negligent percentage.
Pakman: Yes! No need to exaggerate what the percentage is. Is it also, in your mind, a problem to separate biological sex and gender expression? Language aside, is that a concern to you?
Dawkins: I am not particularly bothered if somebody wants to present themselves as the opposite of the sex that they are. I do object if they insist that other people recognize that. I support Jordan Peterson in this, if nothing else, in that he objects to the Canadian government making it mandatory that he should call people by a pronoun. He's prepared to do that as a matter of courtesy, but not as a matter of compulsion and I thoroughly support him on that.
Pakman: You know, I don't have the bill in front of me, but when I looked at it 18 months ago, I struggled to find anywhere where— He talks about threat of jail if you use the wrong pronoun; I did not find that, but since I don't have it in front of me, maybe we'll table those particulars. But that being said, what about, for example, things like arresting doctors who provide certain gender-affirming care, maybe you have an issue with the term, or not, but, what do you think about the arresting of doctors, for example? Does that not start to bite a little—
Dawkins, interrupting: Have Doctors been arrested for that?
Pakman: No these are bills that have been proposed in the United States. It has not happened to my knowledge, fortunately.
Dawkins: Children or adults?
Pakman: You've seen both in different states.
Dawkins: I would have a strong objection to doctors injecting minors—children—or performing surgery on them to change their sex.[note 5]
Pakman: And as far as adults, you have no issue?
Dawkins: Well, I think if they've thought about it properly, like Jan Morris for example, who I read years ago – one of the first of the trans people that I read and I greatly respected her. Her struggle that she went through in order to change sex from male to female – she really, really put herself through it. Clearly sincere [and] clearly suffered from gender dysphoria, [there's] no doubt about that, and I take my hat off to her and to the doctors who helped her. But I fear that what we're seeing now is a fashion, a craze, a memetic epidemic which is spreading like an epidemic of measles, or something like that.
Pakman: Yeah, I mean, listen: obviously we're not going to resolve this today. I share some of the concerns I've seen you share with regard to children, with regard to questions about some of these treatments, etc, and I think that these should all be questions that should be had, and asked, and answered in good faith with data and empiricism. [But], I also can't help but see, that trans people, and also trans kids, have become a very ugly scapegoat of a movement that 15 years ago was mostly targetting gay men, and so, my desire would be—and you tell me if you think it's possible—that we can ask all of these questions in good faith, while making it clear we're not looking to discriminate against individuals–subject them to whatever it was that other groups were previously subjected to–and hopefully get to a place of understanding, and unfortunately— Do you agree that this has become a scapegoated group?
Dawkins: What I see, is that there's in effect a war going on between gay people and trans people, or at least not trans people themselves but trans activists, so, I'm not sure that I follow that. I think that I have great sympathy and great respect for gay people, and I worry about the bullying that goes on, not by trans people themselves necessarily, but by some of the activists. There was somebody in Britain I think just a couple of days ago who stood up and made a speech – it was a trans person—a man-turned-woman—who said 'if you see a TERF, punch her in the fucking face'.
Pakman: Ohh. So, if I understand correctly, you have some concerns about LGBT, and whether or not trans really is part of the LGB movement, or something different?
Dawkins: I think there's been a recent court case in Britain where an LGB lobby was fighting against a T lobby.
Pakman: I'm not familiar with that case but I'm aware of that disagreement, certainly. So that is a concern to you?
Gene-centered view of evolution
Dawkins has been an ardent defender of the gene-centred view of evolution. He has debated this issue with many other scientists and thinkers, perhaps most famously Stephen Jay Gould. Gould and Dawkins battled over a number of topics including the gene-centred view as well as punctuated equilibrium and approaches to cultural evolution such as evolutionary psychology. Gould penned an attack against Dawkins and a number of other thinkers accusing them of "Darwinian Fundamentalism." Ernst Mayr has also argued in favor of the individual being the most important level of selection, calling the gene-centred view "non-Darwinian." The gene-centered view has also come under fire from various proponents of multi-level selection theories, who often focus their criticisms on Dawkins. On one side are the group selectionists such as Elliott Sober, David Sloan Wilson and Edward O. Wilson, who propose a view of evolution that is still multi-level but puts more emphasis on groups as "superorganisms." On the other side are niche constructionists and epigeneticists such as Philip Hunter, Eva Jablonka, and Kevin Laland who criticise especially Dawkins' notion of the "extended phenotype" by invoking means of inheritance that don't involve changes to the underlying genetic structure (e.g., epigenetic inheritance) or more broadly defining inheritance (e.g., ecological inheritance). Moral philosopher Mary Midgley has criticized Dawkins' use of the "selfish gene" metaphor.
Views on "Post-modernism"
Dawkins was also criticized for promoting a conference hosted by the Sovereign Nations, an explicitly evangelical organization, where purveyors of a pseudo academic hoax—Helen Pluckrose, Dawkins Foundation alum Peter Boghossian, and James Lindsay—would rant at "post-modernists," (aka "regressive leftists.") According to their bulletin the event even started with a prayer. Rebecca Watson criticized Dawkins for arguably selling out. Rather than defending his love of rationality against evangelicals as he would have before, the old man would rather hate leftists, and promotes skeptics that ally with evangelicals because their greater enemy are anti-racist millennials. Dawkins apparently later came to his senses and deleted the tweet promoting the event.
Richard Dawkins has published a vast range of material. Books he authored:
- The Selfish Gene (1976) (ISBN 978-0-19-286092-7)
- The Extended Phenotype (1982) (ISBN 978-0-19-288051-2)
- The Blind Watchmaker (1986) (ISBN 978-0-393-31570-7)
- River Out of Eden (1995) (ISBN 978-0-465-06990-3)
- Climbing Mount Improbable (1996)[note 6] (ISBN 978-0-393-31682-7)
- Unweaving the Rainbow (1997)[note 7] (ISBN 978-0-618-05673-6)
- A Devil’s Chaplain (2003) (ISBN 978-0-618-33540-4)
- The Ancestor’s Tale (2004) (ISBN 978-0-618-00583-3)
- The God Delusion (2006) (ISBN 978-0-618-68000-9)
- The Greatest Show on Earth (2009) (ISBN 978-0-593-06173-2)
- The Magic of Reality (2011) (ISBN 978-1-4391-9281-8)
- An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist (2013) (ISBN 978-0593070895)
- Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science (2015) (ISBN 978-0593072561)
- Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist (2017) (ISBN 978-0-593-07751-1)
- Outgrowing God: A Beginner's Guide (2019) (ISBN 9781787631212)
- "We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further."
- Regarding telepathy: "If you are in possession of this revolutionary secret of science, why not prove it and be hailed as the new Newton? Of course, we know the answer. You can't do it. You are a fake."
- "The universe is a strange and wondrous place. The truth is quite odd enough to need no help from pseudoscientific charlatans."
- "Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence."
- "We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators."
- "Nearly all peoples have developed their own creation myths, and the Genesis story is just the one that happened to have been adopted by one particular tribe of Middle Eastern herders. It has no more special status than the belief of a particular West African tribe that the world was created from the excrement of ants."
- "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty, ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."
- "A mind like that of a Young Earth creationist, it seems to me, is a disgrace to the human species."
- "Gravity is not a version of the truth. It is the truth. Anyone who doubts it is invited to jump out a tenth-story window."
- "'What if I'm wrong?' What if you're wrong about the great Juju at the bottom of the sea?"
- Answers in Genesis Dawkins interview controversy
- Dawkins and the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
- Dawkins weasel
- Papal visit to the UK 2010
- "Richard Dawkins - God Hater" — a critique of Dawkins' The God Delusion
- Sophisticated theology
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- Official website
- Richard Dawkins interviews Derren Brown for the documentary "Enemies of Reason". The full hour-long interview is presented in several segments.
- Richard Dawkins reads out some of the hate mail he receives.
- Little Richie Dawkins. For those offended by this satire, Dawkins thinks you are a crybaby.
- Here’s the Inspiring Speech Richard Dawkins Couldn’t Give in Person at the Reason Rally This includes a full transcript of a speach recorded by Dawkins and played at the American, 'Reason Rally 2016'.
- To which the gap-toothed fundamentalist would reply, no doubt, "Evolution isn't scientific! Keep it out of our schools!"
- Dawkins sees religion as a childish idea he overcame when he came to think in a more adult way. Discovering evolution removed the last argument for God he had.
- And I respect that.
- David sometimes speaks in ways which, when transcribed, make him very hard to understand. Bless his heart though, he's got the spirit.
- Notice that Dawkins' concern that doctors are helping children change sex seemingly contradicts Dawkins' earlier claim that it's impossible to change sex.
- Climbing Mount Improbable (ISBN 0670850187) is a response to creationist claims about probability and evolution.
- In Unweaving the Rainbow, Richard Dawkins tries to counter the viewpoint that a scientific worldview is cold, bleak and depressing. In Dawkins' view, a scientific understanding of the natural world is poetic and uplifting. However, in public appearances, when asked Dawkins rightly points out that even if the universe is bleak or depressing, then that's tough. Reality is what it is and has no obligation to make us comfortable.
- Richard Dawkins on Why We Should Believe in Science: "It Works … Bitches" (April 11th, 2017) Open Culture.
- Lawrence Krauss: another physicist with an anti-philosophy complex by Massimo Pigliucci (April 25, 2012) Rationally Speaking.
- Sri Lankans name new fish genus after atheist Dawkins (Jul 16, 2012) AFP (archived from May 21, 2013). A genus of fish was named "Dawkinsia" after Richard Dawkins.
- "New Genus of South Asian Fish Named After Richard Dawkins" by Hemant Mehta (July 16, 2012) Friendly Atheist. Retrieved on 8 October 2015.
- 2007 Curriculum Vitae (archived from February 25, 2007).
- "'I'm an atheist, BUT...' by Richard Dawkins (1 of 6)". YouTube. 1 July 2007. Retrieved on 8 October 2015.
- More on Dawkins by Adam Roberts (September 09, 2007) The Valve (archived from October 11, 2007). Review of "The Fascism Delusion".
- Religions: Richard Dawkins (Last updated 2009-10-22) BBC.
- Letters: Theology has no place in a university by Richard Dawkins (30 September 2007 at 4:00 PM) Richard Dawkins Foundation. Reply to David Heywood.
- Richard Dawkins quotations, quotes on God, Religion, Religious Beliefs 'age-of-sage.org
- God on the Brain (April 17, 2003) BBC Two.
- Richard Dawkins responds to the suggestion atheists are violent: 'If you think atheists are violent you don't know what violence means' by Samuel Osborne (30 May 2016 12:55) The Independent.
- Atheist Bus Campaign Humanists UK.
- The future looks bright: Language can help to shape the way we think about the world. Richard Dawkins welcomes an attempt to raise consciousness about atheism by co-opting a word with cheerful associations (21 Jun 2003 07.11 EDT) the Guardian.
- Let There Be Brights by Richard Dawkins (October 2003) The Brights. Originally published in Wired online, Issue 11.10.
- Richard Dawkins - We Are Atheism (Jun 12, 2013) YouTube.
- New age therapies cause 'retreat from reason' by David Harrison (12:01AM BST 05 Aug 2007) The Telegraph.
- "Nobody is better at being human, Professor Dawkins, least of all you": The one thing one ought to expect from humanists is that they’d be good at protecting the human by Giles Fraser (29 Aug 2014 14.30 EDT) the Guardian.
- It’s one thing to deplore eugenics on ideological, political, moral grounds. It’s quite another to conclude that it wouldn’t work in practice. Of course it would. It works for cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses. Why on earth wouldn’t it work for humans? Facts ignore ideology. by Richard Dawkins (11:26 PM — 15 Feb 2020) Twitter (archived from 16 Feb 2020 21:28:29 UTC).
- Richard Dawkins: 'immoral' not to abort if foetus has Down's syndrome: Scientist says a mother has a responsibility to ‘abort it and try again’ if she knows her baby would have the disorder (21 Aug 2014 00.14 EDT) The Guardian.
- Richard Dawkins apologises for causing storm with Down's syndrome tweet: Author told woman on Twitter it would be immoral not to abort pregnancy if she knew baby had Down's syndrome (21 Aug 2014 12.13 EDT) The Guardian.
- Self-perceptions from People with Down Syndrome by Brian G. Skotko et al. (2011) American journal of medical genetics. Part A 0(10): 2360–2369. doi:10.1002/ajmg.a.34235.
- Happiness and Life Satisfaction by Esteban Ortiz-Ospina & Max Roser (First published in 2013; substantive revision May 2017) Our World in Data.
- "Missing link: creationist campaigner has Richard Dawkins' official website banned in Turkey" by Riazat Butt (18 Sep 2008 19.01 EDT) the Guardian.
- Richard Dawkins' Shameful Attack: The famous atheist accused me of speaking like Hitler. Has he lost his mind? by Shmuley Boteach, Beliefnet (archived from October 15, 2008).
- Richard Dawkins Responds to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: The famous atheist explains his correspondence with Boteach, references to Hitler, and why they should 'all calm down.' by Richard Dawkins, Beliefnet (archived from October 16, 2008).
- "11 second Pause Dawkins 'stumped' hoax videos exposed again!" (12 June 2007) YouTube.
- The Information Challenge by Richard Dawkins (8 October 2015) Australian Skeptics.
- Every one of us has lots of things we don't understand. The trick is to realise it. As well as tides, I also don't understand the bicycle. by Richard Dawkins (1:24 AM — 25 Jun 2015) Twitter (archived from 25 Jun 2015 12:00:05 UTC).
- Peter Higgs criticises Richard Dawkins over anti-religious 'fundamentalism': Higgs boson theorist says he agrees with those who find Dawkins' approach to dealing with believers 'embarrassing' by Alok Jha (26 December 2012 13.58 EST) The Guardian.
- How dare you call me a fundamentalist by Richard Dawkins (13 May 2007 at 4:00 PM) originally published in The Sunday Times Online (archived from December 31, 2012).
- Beyond Demonic Memes: Why Dawkins is Wrong About Religion by David Sloan Wilson (July 4, 2007) eSkeptic
- Richard Dawkins Replies to David Sloan Wilson by Richard Dawkins (10 July 2007 at 4:00 PM) Richard Dawkins Foundation (archived from July 15, 2011).
- Muslim peace conference condemns terrorism — Comments: Comment 77 by Richard Dawkins (25 September 2011 at 5:56 AM) Richard Dawkins Foundation (archived from May 7, 2013).
- Richard Dawkins' latest anti-Muslim Twitter spat lays bare his hypocrisy: The celebrity atheist's Twitter rant against journalist Mehdi Hasan shows he's a believer too – in his own mythology by Andrew Brown (22 Apr 2013 05.33 EDT) The Guardian.
- @ToddKincannon Haven't read Koran so couldn't quote chapter & verse like I can for Bible. But often say Islam greatest force for evil today by Richard Dawkins (10:01 PM - 28 Feb 2013) Twitter (archived from November 16, 2019).
- All the world's Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though. by Richard Dawkins (:04 AM - 8 Aug 2013) Twitter (archived from June 26, 2019).
- Here are the 10 countries where homosexuality may be punished by death by Max Bearak & Darla Cameron (June 16, 2016 at 7:37 a.m. PDT) The Washington Post.
- Map of apostasy laws in 2013. Wikipedia commons.
- Not in our name: Dawkins dresses up bigotry as non-belief — he cannot be left to represent atheists by Owen Jones (9 August 2013 11:59) Independent.
- Fury over Richard Dawkins's burka jibe as atheist tells of his 'visceral revulsion' at Muslim dress by Liz Thomas (UPDATED: 07:07 EDT, 10 August 2010) Daily Mail via Richard Dawkins Foundation (archived from March 12, 2013).
- Mehdi Hasan admits to believing Muhamed flew to heaven on a winged horse. And New Statesman sees fit to print him as a serious journalist by Richard Dawkins (6:02 — 21 Apr 2013) Twitter (archived from August 2, 2018).
- Richard Dawkins, 'Islamophobia' and the atheist movement: Whether or not 'Islamophobia' is a valid term, leading atheists like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have been confused, inconsistent and blundering in their attempts to talk about Muslims by Martin Robbins (3 May 2013 06.18 EDT) The Guardian.
- Richard Dawkins: Muslim parents 'import creationism' into schools by Duncan Gardham (6:06PM BST 03 Aug 2008) The Telegraph.
- Multiculturalism against Darwinian's science of evolution by Jean-Charles Patenaude (c. 2011) Daily Motion.
- Relativism and Multiculturalism. Was I unfair to these three decent science teachers? http://bit.ly/1kGuvlI What would you say to them? by Richard Dawkins (3:06 AM - 6 May 2014) Twitter (archived from March 5, 2016). The tweet cites the Daily Motion video with the bit.ly address.
- Listening to the lovely bells of Winchester, one of our great mediaeval cathedrals. So much nicer than the aggressive-sounding “Allahu Akhbar.” Or is that just my cultural upbringing? by Richard Dawkins (12:00 PM — 16 Jul 2018) Twitter (archived from February 17, 2020).
- Don't call him "clock boy" since he never made a clock. Hoax Boy, having hoaxed his way into the White House, now wants $15M in addition! by Richard Dawkins (2:22 AM · Nov 24, 2015) Twitter (archived from March 20, 2020).
- Richard Dawkins links Isis child who beheaded man and 'clock boy' Ahmed Mohamed: The scientist and leading atheist faces a barrage of criticism after posting comments on Twitter about Muslim teenager by Elle Hunt and Michael Safi (25 Nov 2015 03.48 EST) The Guardian.
- Atheists should not condemn any culture by PZ Myers (28 November 2015) Pharyngula.
- Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse': The writer was using examples to illustrate logical syllogisms by Lizzie Dearden (29 July 2014 09:45) The Independent.
- "Richard Dawkins Isn't Defending 'Mild Pedophilia'… but That Doesn’t Make His Comments Okay" by Hemant Mehta (September 10, 2013) Friendly Atheist.
- "Richard Dawkins Defends 'Mild' Pedophilia, Again and Again" by Abby Ohlheiser (September 10, 2013) The Wire.
- He was a victim of child sexual abuse but Richard Dawkins refuses to condemn the behaviour (September 12, 20134:01pm) NewsComAu.
- "Richard Dawkins Pedophilia Remarks Provoke Outrage" (September 9, 2013) Religion News Service via The Huffington Post.
- Child Abuse: a misunderstanding. w/ Polish translation (Sep 12, 2013) Richard Dawkins Foundation.
- Dear Richard Dawkins by PZ Myers (12 September 2014) Freethought Blogs.
- Richard Dawkins: The Wrongering by PZ Myers (16 September 2014) Freethought Blogs.
- Clickbait abuse by PZ Myers (16 September 2014) Freethought Blogs.
- I can’t take no more by PZ Myers (31 January 2016) Freethought Blogs.
- Richard Dawkins has lost it: ignorant sexism gives atheists a bad name: He may have convinced himself that he’s the Most Rational Man Alive, but if wants to be the face of a welcoming movement, he’s doing a terrible job by Adam Lee (18 Sep 2014 06.45 EDT) The Guardian
- Richard Dawkins, Lindy West, and the Cartoon Video of Great Hatefulnessby David Futrelle (January 28, 2016) We Hunted the Mammoth.
- Dear Richard Dawkins by PZ Myers (12 September 2014) Freethought Blogs.
- Is Richard Dawkins Destroying His Reputation? by Sophie Elmhirst (June 9, 2015) The Guardian via AlterNet.
- Richard Dawkins stands by remarks on sexism, pedophilia, Down syndrome by Kimberly Winston (November 18, 2014) Religion News Service.
- Never tweet, Richard Dawkins: Famed atheist now signal-boosting Nazi propaganda by Brendan Gauthier (February 2, 2016 12:02AM (UTC)) Salon.
- Dawkins now retweeting literal white supremacist talking points because they massage his hurt feelings. by Lindy West (1:19 PM — 29 Jan 2016) Twitter (archived from 30 Jan 2016 02:13:13 UTC).
- Richard Dawkins is Still Denying the Basic Humanity of Trans People, Friendly Atheist
- Tweet on trans issues by Dawkins
- Biologist Richard Dawkins condemned for ‘bad faith’ take on trans lives, PinkNews
- Tweet by Timothy Gowers
- Tweet by Helen Joyce
- American Humanist Association Board Statement Withdrawing Honor from Richard Dawkins, American Humanist Association
- Tweet by Richard Dawkins
- Tweet by Piers Morgan
- Richard Dawkins: Trans Rights, Islam, and Christianity | Full Interview, YouTube (July 11, 2023)
- Darwinian Fundamentalism by Stephen Jay Gould (June 12, 1997) article in the New York Review of Books. See also replies to the original article in Darwinian Fundamentalism: An Exchange.
- See Kim Sterelny's Dawkins vs. Gould for a book-length account of their debates.
- Ernst Mayr: What Evolution Is, edge.org
- David Sloan Wilson and Elliott Sober. Reviving the Superorganism. Journal of Theoretical Biology, (1989) 136, 337-356
- David Sloan Wilson and Edward O Wilson.  The Quarterly Review of Biology, (2007) 82, 327-348
- Kevin N. Laland. Extending the Extended Phenotype. Biology and Philosophy 19: 313–325, 2004
- Richard Dawkins. Extended Phenotype – But Not Too Extended. A Reply to Laland, Turner and Jablonka. Biology and Philosophy 19: 377–396, 2004
- Philip Hunter. Extended phenotype redux. How far can the reach of genes extend in manipulating the environment of an organism? EMBO Rep. 2009 March; 10(3): 212–215.
- See the Wikipedia article on Mary Midgley § Midgley–Dawkins debate.
- Richard Dawkins promoting a right-wing event that starts with *checknotes* a Christian Service. it rules how so many former new atheists now find themselves in the same camp as reactionary religious fundamentalists who they were once opposed to https://twitter.com/RichardDawkins/status/1178170072537264129 … by @saeen90_ (2:38 AM - 29 Sep 2019) Twitter (archived from September 29, 2019).
- Richard Dawkins Loves Evangelicals if They Hate Social Justice by Rebecca Watson (September 30, 2019) Skepchick.
- Pretentious postmodern nonsense is a serious menace in universities & contemporary culture. Peter Boghossian, James Lindsay & Helen Pluckrose are heroes in the fight against it. Hear them at the London conference on "Speaking Truth to Social Justice" by Richard Dawkins (9:50 PM - 28 Sep 2019) Twitter (archived from September 29, 2019).