Happy Birthday, Richard Dawkins!

Go on over to his place and leave a birthday greeting, and be sure to check out the multimedia collection of good wishes.

We wondered what we could do to express our appreciation, and had a hard time figuring out what would be appropriate … until a student asked to borrow one of my copies of The God Delusion because he couldn’t find one anywhere in town. Instead of giving Dawkins a present directly, the Myers family is donating a copy of his book to the local library, where we hope some receptive minds will discover it.


  1. Vreejack says

    I am somewhat surprised. Why would a book as popular as that not already be at the library? Unless, of course, it was already checked out and on a waiting list.

  2. says

    Buying a book for the library is very thoughtful.

    I just noticed the little octopus and pharyngula-stage-embryo icons – way cool, especially the octopus. It made me laugh!

  3. says

    Should we start a pool to bet how long it’ll take before a fundamentalist either steals or defaces that book?

    (I only mention this because that was the fate of the Carl Sagan books at our local library, and Sagan wasn’t nearly as inflammatory as Dawkins.)

  4. Matthew Hardy says

    It is therefore an auspicious day to discover that a pledge I signed up to earlier this year, to send a copy of Dawkins’ book the God Delusion to my constituency’s Member of Parliament, has reached its target. We should now see all 645 Members of the House of Commons receiving a copy of Dawkins’ argument against preferential treatment for faith. This is in response to a request by the Catholic Church to continue its adoption agency’s practice of discrimination against homosexual couples in violation of new legislation.

    There is still some doubt over some of the pledges as they have not all contacted the administrator with details of which MP they wish to send to. If you have signed up for this pledge then please ensure that you are registered at the administrators site


    If you have not then there is still the opportunity to add you name to the pledge. There is discussion about where to send any possible extra copies – probably members of the House of Lords.

  5. says

    Re: #1
    Why would a book as popular as that not already be at the library?

    I live in a town of 30,000+, and our local library doesn’t have The God Delusion either.

    … did I mention that we do have 449 churches?

  6. says

    Since Vic Stenger was kind enough to send me a personalized copy of God: The Failed Hypothesis, I also took my purchased copy to the public library …. around here I wonder how long it will be until entire chapters are ripped out.

  7. talapus says

    PZ, Here’s a small experiment in entropy: Check the catalog every so often to see how long it takes before your donation gets “lost”.

  8. TAW says

    Check the catalog every so often to see how long it takes before your donation gets “lost”.

    And when it does, nicely fake look of surprise and donnate TWO books.

  9. llewelly says

    This is YOUR CHANCE, pharyngulites. About 2 years from, now, start watching the Morris Public Library book sales.
    You, yes you, could become the proud owner of the copy of The God Delusion once owned by PZ Myers.

  10. PeteK says

    Are Dawkins’ previous books similarly lacking in American public libraries? e.g., “Unweaving the Rainbow”?

    Surely ANY Dawkins book is good in its own way, to have around, for promoting the wonder of science the silliness of religious fundamentlaism. Although I suppose “The God Delusion” does have its unique sense of specificity and urgency and focus etc…

  11. Margaret says

    I checked my local library system’s web site for “The God Delusion.” I’m proud to say that there are 31 copies, all checked out, and another 45 people on the waiting list. That may not sound like all that much for a city approaching the half-million mark in population, but it’s not bad for a city in a predominantly rural, Hispanic, Catholic state that is better known for New Age nuts in the North (Santa Fe) and UFO nuts in the South (Roswell).

  12. xebecs says

    Is there any guarantee that the library will actually put the book on the shelf? At our library, they only keep some of the books — presumably ones they judge will be popular — and sell the rest.

  13. says

    Rick @ shrimp and grits:

    Should we start a pool to bet how long it’ll take before a fundamentalist either steals or defaces that book?

    (I only mention this because that was the fate of the Carl Sagan books at our local library, and Sagan wasn’t nearly as inflammatory as Dawkins.)

    What! The Sagan books? They stole and/or defaced the books of the man who was so tolerant and even-handed that Orac even said he might be labeled a “Neville Chamberlain appeaser” were he alive today?

    One more melancholy datum to support the unhappy hypothesis that should a truly authoritarian state rise to power, the deists, agnostics and “spiritual” pantheists will find themselves against the same wall with us atheists. Though perhaps if I make a Blasphemy Challenge video, my blood can get spilled first. Moo hoo ha ha.

    Speaking marginally more seriously, I think it’s important to note that, as Ben Kingsley said in Sneakers, what often matters isn’t reality, but perception of reality. It doesn’t matter that Sagan was less incendiary than Dawkins, say; I’m not even sure that if you stick to the words on the page, that statement is even true. Unfortunately, the people likely to get riled up by this whole kerfluffle include a strong contingent of folks who score highly on Altemeyer’s RWA scale: they’ve got a hefty dose of that psychological ingredient which makes us follow authority. (Quite some baggage we’ve got, really, from the days when we were hairy reptiles.) It doesn’t matter what the books really say, when trusted leaders tell us what they say. . . .

  14. MarcusA says

    My local library system has 10 copies of “The God Delusion”, and every single one is checked out. It’s more popular than Jesus.

  15. CCP says

    If you check out the list of well-wishers over on the Dawkins site you may be as surprised as I was to see one “William Dembski” listed. Agog (could he really have that much class? or is it a snide & nasty?), I clicked to read it.

    Suffice it to say that I’m pretty sure it was not left by the real Dembski.

  16. CCP says

    I sit corrected. Dembski DID post it…and over at Uncommon Disinfectant he’s complaining that it wasn’t posted (I guess because he didn’t see it on the main page with the “other” bigshots)(including PZM).
    He did it sarcastically, it seems…but it’s easily the most correct and cogent thing he ever wrote plagiarized!

  17. WillG says

    Dawkins is quite the egomaniac to post birthday wishes like this. What is this supposed to be-DAWKMAS? Is the design of his sight today an elaborate joke on Christmas? Are we celebrating the birth of an atheist like the (alleged) birth of Jesus? It seems like all the good atheists/brights/etc. are coming to pay homage to their great leader. Does this signify a yearning that believers and atheists share?
    This guy creeps me out more and more when I see the personality behind the writings. SouthPark captured him perfectly.

  18. Hypatia says

    I’m a librarian in southern Florida. Our county library system currently has sixty copies of the God Delusion. It should be noted though that our acquisitions librarian initially ordered only 6 copies of the book believing that no-one would be interested in “a book like that”.
    Since then we’ve had to order more copies three times to follow policies on high circulation books.
    There’s currently a waiting list for copies.
    All the more notable is that this is in a staunchly republican and wealthy community. The book seems to have hit the mark, it’s circulating heavily and people are reading it.

  19. says

    Hmmm. That’s Richard Dawkins’ personal site, and his webmaster put up an article noting a personal landmark. His friends and fans said happy birthday to him. I don’t think that means he has a Jesus complex.

    So I take it you shush your friends on your birthday, lest hearing a birthday greeting lead people to think you are the next Messiah?

  20. Colugo says

    Dawkins has become today’s Stephen Jay Gould, as the most prominent public explainer of evolution, and even today’s Carl Sagan, as the most famous public advocate of science and rationalism. His celebrity has risen to heights I never would have predicted, here on South Park, there interviewing Ted Haggard on YouTube, his name the very symbol of godlessness.

    I recall well how reviled he was by many academic leftists and their students back in the 1990s, who maligned and caricatured him. They did the same to other behavioral ecologists; if you were in the school of EO Wilson or Dawkins rather than Gould and Lewontin you were one of the bad guys, the reactionaries.

    I was one of Dawkins’ admirers and defenders. The Extended Phenotype, which I discovered as an undergraduate, was a huge influence on my thinking. (On the other side, I knew an adaptationist so hardline that he was displeased by Climbing Mount Improbable’s deviations from neo-Darwinian orthodoxy.)

    At a 90s book signing Dawkins remarked to an attendee that the anti-science postmodernists were worse than the creationists. It was a very different era.

    While there were signs of his future trajectory in 1992, when at a CSICOP conference he called faith a “mind virus,” Dawkins as the outspoken public critic of faith begins with this opinion piece published days after 9/11:

    It was refreshingly different take on the atrocity. At that time, The Guardian was publishing reactions like Charlotte Raven’s ‘A Bully With A Bloody Nose Is Still A Bully.’

    Dawkins has recently made some socially tone-deaf statements (no, I’m not referring to the ‘faith is bad’ stuff) and taken ill-advised positions. Part of that comes with having a provocative public persona. At any rate, Dawkins has emerged as a consequential figure for our times.

  21. KiwiInOz says

    Is it heretical of me to say that I don’t believe that The God Delusion is Dawkins’ best work. Yes I agree with his conclusions, but his arguements lack the clarity, flow, and engagement of some of his earlier works. I suspect that some people, teetering on the edge of belief, will be turned off after reading it (if they make it all of the way through). IMO of course.

    The demand for copies of it though, indicate a population desperate for some relief from superstition. Got to be a positive thing.

  22. says

    Congratulations Mr Dawkins.

    May there be many more happy, healthy and unapologetic years to come. I weyken that your beautiful rebuttal of the diseased concept that belief is in any way, shape, or form healthy, has done more to cheer the last massively discriminated group in the USA, atheists and don’t-care-ians, than any other recent effort. So thank-you.


  23. says

    If the book is not at your library, please ask them to order it. Most libraries have a budget for that sort of thing. And librarians love to hear about books that people actually WANT.