Raw Story reports on a conversation event Dawkins did last month, in which he expressed surprise that there’s such a thing as the Men’s Rights Movement.
During the event on November 21, Kennesaw’s Michael L. Sanseviro asked the outspoken atheist about the contributions of feminism to science. He also asked Dawkin’s opinion of the men’s rights movement.
“Of course feminism has an enormously important role,” he replied. “Feminism, as I understand it, is the political drive towards the equality of women — so that women should not be discriminated against, nobody should be discriminated against on grounds that don’t merit discrimination. So, yes, feminism is enormously important and is a political movement which deserves to be thoroughly well-supported.”
Much to the amusement of the audience, Dawkins expressed confusion about the existence of a “men’s rights movement.”
“I didn’t, I hardly knew — is there a men’s right movement?” he remarked.
This is one reason he should just stop pontificating about feminism. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He doesn’t know, and he doesn’t know he doesn’t know, so he says bad harmful things, and because he is still madly popular among the atheists and Fans of Science, he does a lot of damage.
On the other hand, after that, he said good things.
Sanseviro then asked Dawkins about same-sex marriage, and whether it violated “the evolution principle.”
“I don’t care what’s against the evolution principle. I’m all for going against the evolution principle,” Dawkins replied.
He warned against turning the survival of the fittest into public policy.
“Evolution by natural selection is the explanation for why we exist. It is not something to guide our lives in our own society. If we were to be guided by the evolution principle, then we would be living in a kind of ultra-Thatcherite, Reaganite society.”
“Study your Darwinism for two reasons,” he implored, “because it explains why you’re here, and the second reason is, study your Darwinism in order to learn what to avoid in setting up society. What we need is a truly anti-Darwinian society. Anti-Darwinian in the sense that we don’t wish to live in a society where the weakest go to the wall, where the strongest suppress the weak, and even kill the weak. We — I, at least — do not wish to live in that kind of society. I want to live in the sort of society where we take care of the sick, where we take care of the weak, take care of the oppressed, which is a very anti-Darwinian society.”
He said the same thing in the eponymous first essay in A Devil’s Chaplain. He starts with Darwin on the cruelty of natural selection:
Darwin was less than half joking when he coined the phrase Devil’s Chaplain in a letter to his friend Hooker in 1856.
What a book a Devil’s Chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel works of nature,
A process of trial and error, completely unplanned and on the massive scale of natural selection, can be expected to be clumsy, wasteful and blundering. Of waste there is no doubt. As I have put it before, the racing elegance of cheetahs and gazelles is bought at huge cost in blood and the suffering of countless antecedents on both sides. Clumsy and blundering though the process undoubtedly is, its results are opposite. There is nothing clumsy about a swallow; nothing blundering about a shark. What is clumsy and blundering, by the standards of human drawing boards, is the Darwinian algorithm that led to their evolution. As for cruelty, here is Darwin again, in a letter to Asa Gray of 1860:
I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.
He runs through some examples on each side – hooray for natural selection v natural selection is a bastard – and then says he’s with T H Huxley:
Here is T. H., in his Romanes Lecture in Oxford in 1893, on ‘Evolution and Ethics’:
Let us understand, once for all, that the ethical progress of society depends, not on Imitating the cosmic process, still less in running away from It, but in combating it.
That is G. C. Williams’s recommendation today, and it is mine. I hear the bleak sermon of the Devil’s Chaplain as a call to arms. As an academic scientist I am a passionate Darwinian, believing that natural selection is, if not the only driving force in evolution, certainly the only known force capable of producing the illusion of purpose which so strikes all who contemplate nature. But at the same time as I support Darwinism as a scientist, I am a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to politics and how we should conduct our human affairs. My previous books, such as The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker, extol the inescapable factual correctness of the Devil’s Chaplain (had Darwin decided to extend the list of melancholy adjectives in the Chaplain’s indictment, he would very probably have chosen both ‘selfish’ and ‘blind’). At the same time I have always held true to the closing words of my first book, ‘We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.’