Friday, 9 August 2013

Dawkins Go Home

Can we please retire Richard Dawkins, already?

Look, I get that he has his uses.  There are plenty of people in the world who are under more social pressure - or even threat, explicit or otherwise - than myself, and certainly many people with a more valid beef with religion than my own - I regret my parents having taken me to church for fifteen years, but the worst it ever led to was severe boredom.  For these people, having a strident voice calling out various religious figures for their inconstancy and refusal to aid society's ills (or even to add to them) makes sense to me.

But just as I get tired of the constant broadsides against religion itself - which, unlike specific religious figures, cannot possibly be dismissed as a clear negative; whether it's actually a net negative is a question way above my pay grade - one can't simply point to the fact that Dawkins has a role to play and leave it at that. The next two questions are these: does it have to be him performing the role, and how well is he performing it anyway?

Because the decline in Dawkin's critical thinking (as presented  to the world) has been utterly amazing and distinctly unpleasant to watch.  I will defend to my dying breath The Blind Watchmaker, which contains the best arguments for the theory of evolution I've come across, not just in form, but in  presentation.  How does the man who wrote that come to tweet crap like this:
All the world's Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.
As Nesrine Malik says,where does one start? How about the fact that though the Nobels have been running for 112 years, fully half the Muslim Nobel Prizes were awarded in the last 13 years?  Have Muslims suddenly become far more intelligent, industrious and  peaceful than they were in the 20th Century?  Or is there, just maybe, something else going on?

I mean, what could possibly lead a western institution filled with westerners chosen by other westerners to focus more on contributions from the west than elsewhere?  What could possibly explain why western places of learning might have natural and obvious advantages over their counterparts elsewhere?  Why, when Jewish recipients receive ten times as many prizes as they should based on global population alone, has Dawkins not hailed them as some kind of super race?

The answer, I'm afraid, is neither particularly difficult or particularly pleasant.  Dawkins has tipped his hand on this before, remember, back in 2011, when he lambasted a woman who'd complained about an incident at a conference she had been speaking at.  She wanted to make a point about it not being cool to follow women into elevators and proposition them.  Because, hey, that's a shitty thing to do, and if you do it, you're making it clear that you don't care how something might look  to a woman you're interested in, your  manly man-view  of the situation should carry all.

In response, Dawkins decided he wanted to make his own point: Watson's experience pales massively into comparison to some of  the shit  Muslim women have to go through.  What does this have to do with the original incident?  Nothing.  Dawkins apparently didn't believe it even needed to be addressed at all.  But it sure as hell gave him the chance to have a pop at those crazy Muslims!

The same process seems to be in evidence here, except it's far, far worse (in logical terms, I mean; his response to Watson strikes me as much more unpleasant).  Look at what he's doing here.  He's using a college created following a religious power grab that cost the lives of thousands, which was a recruiting ground for the "Cambridge Apostles", which has benefited handsomely over the years from associations with the Church of England, which saw its Master awarded the Templeton Prize - for "affirming life's spiritual dimension" - just two years ago, which is named after the fucking Trinity, as a club to beat Muslims with.

And he wants us to believe this is a point about how religion is bad?

Nope.  Ain't gonna wash.  I'm not trying to have a pop at Trinity itself, here.  That place is amazing.  But it didn't get to be amazing because no-one working there had to stop to pray five times a day.  Pretending otherwise is the absolute worst kind of half-considered prejudice.  Which coming from a man who insists religions exist only due to a lack of critical thinking skills, is pretty reprehensible.


Jamie said...

Excellent post, I genuinely can't stand the man these days. Just because he's right about evolution doesn't mean that he's necessarily right on a host of sociological issues, many of which he appears to be entirely clueless about.

SpaceSquid said...

Unbearable, isn't he? I didn't mention this in the main text, but almost every time I get into a discussion with a Christian about my atheism, I have to patiently explain that just because Richard Dawkins said it, it doesn't mean I believe it.

As I say, The Blind Watchmaker is a triumphant melding of pop science and genuine insight from an expert in the field. Ever since, though - based on his public pronouncements, I haven't read his later books - he's morphed into one of those people convinced they can think about something for five minutes and come up with an ironclad case for why millions of people - some of them exceptionally smart - are self-evidently idiotic.