Look out, he’s got a whip

And last item on your exciting breakfast menu, all items with complimentary orange slice and sprig of mint, the Daily Mail on Dawkins as sekrit descendant of slaveowners.

Never mind, don’t get excited, it’s just the Telegraph article, reported. It does add one stupidity of its own though –

Equality groups are now calling on him to apologise for his family’s past.

Are they? Really? Groups, plural? Independently of reporters phoning them and asking for a quote? Can you name as many as one?

Plus they added an illustration.

 Ancestors of Richard Dawkins are believed to have been linked to slavery


Ancestors of Richard Dawkins are believed to have been linked to slavery

Filthy. They’re a filthy crew. We knew that, but it’s worth saying anyway.

Argumentum ad haircut

There’s a separate, unrelated hit piece on Dawkins in the Sunday Times, which I haven’t yet read because of the paywall, but a comment at RDF quotes from it, and that’s quite informative by itself.

I’ve just been reading an article in today’s (19/02/12) Sunday Times By Camilla Long. It’s the front page of the News Review section and has a photo of Richard on the front page of the section. It really is the most appalling article. The very first sentence gives a flavour of how it will go, “Richard Dawkins has an extremely unfortunate face in that he always looks angry, even when he is quite calm.” I don’t know who she met, or if she has even bothered looking at the photo that accompanies the article, but that is not a description I would recognise of Richard.

The whole article then has a series of slurs designed to belittle Richard, he has a “nibbly little voice”, he has a “thin smile”, he has a “slightly prissy manner”, he has a “crushing misanthropy”, he never just says any thing, he “retorts”, “fulminates”, “whinnies”, “shouts”, “scoffs”, “snapping”, “hoots”, “sneers”. An insinuation is made that he is “hideously pompous”, when he picks up a copy of the survey he “stalks over to the desk and snatches up a copy”. She even has a go at his haircut and the way he is dressed and his looks, saying he was “gnashing his tiny teeth”  and describing him as “complete with anorak, creased tie and grey hair cut into indignant little flaps”. [Read more…]

The disgraceful Telegraph article on Dawkins

The Telegraph hit piece on Dawkins is out (as many of you already know; it’s nearly 5 in the afternoon in the UK, while it’s only a fresh-faced nearly 9 in the morning here on the west coast of the US). It’s even worse than I expected it to be, and that’s saying something. It’s vicious slavering bullshit. It’s a disgrace to journalism.

He has railed against the evils of religion, and lectured the world on the virtues of atheism.

Now Richard Dawkins, the secularist campaigner against “intolerance and suffering”, must face an awkward revelation: he is descended from slave owners and his family estate was bought with a fortune partly created by forced labour. [Read more…]

And another one, and more, and more

This one also from the Telegraph, by someone called Stephen Bayley (by which I mean, as you may remember, that I haven’t heard of him before, not that he’s obscure or beneath my lofty notice). It has no content, it’s just a brief volley of abuse.

…Richard Dawkins, a fanatic disguised as a scientist. And surely, in the powerful counterproductive sway of his noisy arguments, proof of the existence of God? Terrible to awake in that groggy matutinal state when things lodge in your addled brain and hear shrill, ugly, cruel arguments on the radio. Atheists seem to be very good at dogma. Dawkins seems not to understand that his own zealotry is itself a sort of religious quest. And he applies the “logic” of science, itself a fallible human construct, to a beautiful mystery. Sure, organised religion has caused appalling conflicts. But it has also caused Michelangelo, Milton and Bach. Organised atheism has produced North Korea. There is really not much more that needs to be said.

It’s dispiriting, seeing how willing and eager people are to say really filthy things about someone who doesn’t admire their religion. It’s dispiriting to see how eager the major media are to publish this kind of shit-throwing, and to commission more and more and more and more of it. It’s dispiriting to see that Andrew Brown has yet another entry, as inaccurate and intemperate and illiberal as the others. It’s dispiriting to see all this lying rage pouring out of people who should know better and published by media outlets that should do better. It’s stupid, it’s nasty, it’s coercive, it’s dishonest. It’s dispiriting.

Telegraph does research, discovers that Dawkins has ancestors

Well now that’s a new wrinkle – a Telegraph reporter phoning Dawkins to say, “Oi! Do you realize your ancestors owned slaves in Jamaica in the 18th century? What have you got to say to that? One was named Henry. They owned many slaves. Do you feel any guilt about it?” Then when Dawkins cuts the call short because it’s so stupid plus he has a lecture to prepare, the reporter phones back (despite having been dismissed, which seems quite ill-mannered) to say, “Natural selection has a lot to do with genes yeh? Well, some people might suggest that you could have inherited a gene for supporting slavery from Henry Dawkins.”

Did you ever? And that’s not even all of it. He dared Dawkins to deny Wilberforce was a Christian (and forgot to mention all the slave-owners who were Christians, he said Dawkins should make financial reparations, and he said the profit from the slaves probably paid for an “estate” belonging to Dawkins’s family, which in fact is a small struggling farm.

The reporter and reporters for all the UK media owe Dawkins quite a lot of money for all the pay they’ve been given for “researching” and writing this kind of dreck.

Beware the frumious bandersnatch

Polly Toynbee thinks secularism is not such a terrible idea. She’s not completely persuaded by claims that secularism is ruining all the things.

…the faiths are glad to circle their wagons round [the queen] against the unbelievers. Each has their own divinely revealed unique truth, often provoking mortal conflict, Muslim v Copt, Catholic v Protestant, Hindu v Muslim or Sunni v Shia. But suddenly the believers are united in defence against the secular, willing to suspend the supremacy of their own prophets to agree that any religion, however alien, from elephant god to son of God, is better than none. [Read more…]

NPR throws mud at Dawkins

Oh noes, says Barbara J King at NPR, that mean Dawkins guy is the keynote speaker at the Reason Rally. That will wreck the whole thing, right?

No, but Barbara J King does her best to make it so by predicting it, as pseudo-concerned atheist-bashers so often do.

In a 2006 interview with Steve Paulson at Salon (during his tenure as professor of public understanding of science), Dawkins suggested that greater intelligence is correlated with atheism. He also said that when it encourages belief in the absence of evidence, “there’s something very evil about faith.”

Yes; and?

Here is what he said in the full version – note first of all that it’s the interviewer who introduces the word “evil”:

My sense is that you don’t just think religion is dishonest. There’s something evil about it as well.

Well, yes. I think there’s something very evil about faith, where faith means believing in something in the absence of evidence, and actually taking pride in believing in something in the absence of evidence. And the reason that’s dangerous is that it justifies essentially anything. If you’re taught in your holy book or by your priest that blasphemers should die or apostates should die — anybody who once believed in the religion and no longer does needs to be killed — that clearly is evil. And people don’t have to justify it because it’s their faith. They don’t have to say, “Well, here’s a very good reason for this.” All they need to say is, “That’s what my faith says.” And we’re all expected to back off and respect that. Whether or not we’re actually faithful ourselves, we’ve been brought up to respect faith and to regard it as something that should not be challenged. And that can have extremely evil consequences.

And? Is that such an obviously wrong, or evil, thing to think? We see examples of the consequences here every day.

But King thinks it is obviously wrong.

Slam. That noise you hear is the sound of thousands of minds closing down and turning away from anything that Dawkins might go on to say about science.

By choosing words hurtful and harsh, Dawkins closes off a potential channel of communication about science with people who hold faith dear in their lives.

Maybe, some, but maybe some others – assuming they read the interview itself and not just King’s six word gotcha – will see his point. King, however, does her best to prevent that.

Will Dawkins rally The Reason Rally’s secular pilgrims with the same scorn towards the faithful that he’s shown to date? We’ll have to wait and see. If he does, he’ll drive a stake in the heart of the Rally’s stated goal. He will confirm that some of the negative stereotypes associated with the nonreligious — intolerance of the faithful, first and foremost — are at times aligned with reality.

In the meantime, the rest of us, scientists, science writers, and followers-of-science alike, can opt to rally around a different principle.  Whatever our position on the continuum from deep faith to ardent atheism, we can lose the sneers. We can explain and, when necessary, defend science with rigor and passion and genuine civility.

But it wasn’t a sneer. It was a very serious point, and it’s not obviously wrong. Arguably it’s the people who insist on protecting the feelings of people who “hold faith dear in their lives” who do the most harm.

Thou shalt not bear false witness

From a few days ago, the same old dreck – the priest George Pitcher calls Richard Dawkins “shrill.”

First there’s the usual boring empty non-argument –

The narrow and rather meaningless argument to which Dawkins confines himself is the incessant charge that there is no “evidence” for God. And evidence, of course, is defined only within the strictures of his own empirical scientism. The problem is that faith isn’t primarily evidential, as he demands it to be, but revelatory – and we would claim no less true for all that in explaining the human condition. [Read more…]

“Evil in one of its purest forms”

Are we seeing a new trend? A new variety of passive-aggressive accommodationist mendacious gnu-bashing?

Ray Moscow alerted me to a new* entry in the genre at something called The Slacktiverse by someone called “Froborr.” It starts with: I’m an atheist. That’s my identity. It would be traumatic to change that. It’s just as traumatic to change the other way around. It ends with: Therefore, Greta Christina and other overt atheists are evil.

There’s a lot in between, of course, but that’s where it ends up. [Read more…]

The real privilege

Someone commenting on Scofield’s Tikkun post endorses the claim that “new atheists” are totes privileged.

The literature, social spaces, and most widely recognized voices of atheism are predominantly populated by Western, white, male, heterosexual, cis, middle class (and above) people…[T]he lopsided demography of our communities tends to draw upon otherwise privileged life experiences, and as you have illustrated, this privilege inadvertently shines through in our literature and our actions.

True up to a point, but there’s another way to view that, which Scofield seems to be not just overlooking, but perhaps self-disabled from even recognizing. [Read more…]