I’ve long struggled with what to think of Richard Dawkins, once a hero, now a muddled old man. Here is a revealing tweet (I also think he uses Twitter as a shooting range, with his foot as the main target), in which he praises Douglas Murray, of all people.
Forget labels like “right wing” & “dark web”, read a book without preconceptions about the author & judge what it actually says. For what it’s worth, I always vote left & I think Douglas Murray’s The War on the West is utterly superb. Please read it with an open mind. Please.
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) May 15, 2022
I have not read any of Murray’s books, I’ve started a few of his shorter articles and given up at the pain, and I’ve listened to a few of his interviews on video. I have never seen the reason for his popularity among a certain sector, except that he’s very good at putting a shiny semi-scholarly sheen on some very bad and bigoted ideas, and his anti-immigrant position is popular among conservatives. Here’s a devastating follow-up tweet:
Dawkins is dangerous and clueless. The text on the Left is from Douglas Murray's book. The text on the right is from the Buffalo Shooter's manifesto! #Buffalo https://t.co/G9ZmC1bIaz pic.twitter.com/FCxY2kTr9U
— One Species (@OneSpeciesReal) May 15, 2022
Yikes. Do I ever want to read anything by Murray ever again? No I do not. He’s probably going to get more face-time with Joe Rogan and Sam Harris, though.
Jesus. The West, the West, the West. What is it? What is he trying to defend? He sure does hate and fear immigrants, or “the developing world” which is invading/assaulting “the developed world”, not recognizing that if any assault has been going on, it’s been in the other direction, for centuries. And there on the first page of his book, he has to misrepresent his critics: “they” (leftists? communists? the Jews? This is just bad writing, invoking vague boogeymen) talk about equality but don’t support equal rights, talk about anti-racism but are racist themselves, “they” equate justice with revenge. This “they” seem to be a really confusing grab bag of miscellaneous weirdos, and I come away with the sense that “they” are just a faceless, amorphous straw man on which the reader can slap any resentments they might have.
The kicker is the excerpt from the Buffalo mass murderer’s manifesto. Yeah, that guy, the white man who charged into a grocery store with an assault rifle to gun down black people.
Yikes. The West, the West, the West. The mischaracterization of Leftists: they hate the West for its crimes, but love the “socialist countries” who do the same thing. And it’s all at the bidding of George Soros, the Jew.
You know, I haven’t read any books by Soros, nor any articles, and I’ve never viewed any videos of him. I haven’t the remotest idea what he sounds like, and barely recognize his face, and only because I’ve seen caricatures of him drawn by Nazi wannabes — if I passed him on the street, I wouldn’t give him a second glance. Yet somehow, he is our master.
Apparently, though, the murderous asshole’s manifesto goes on at length about “the great replacement”, which is the same garbage Tucker Carlson rants about.
And here are the Tucker Carlson “replacement theory” talking points echoed in the Buffalo murderer’s “manifesto.” pic.twitter.com/1ofwqn85tu
— Ron Filipkowski 🇺🇦 (@RonFilipkowski) May 15, 2022
Somehow, Richard Dawkins, who always votes Left, has found himself in the same camp as Douglas Murray, Tucker Carlson, and the Buffalo murderer. If I were him, it’s at this point, if not earlier, I’d stop and ask myself, “could I be wrong?” (Wait a minute, I did question my association with a community of bad actors about a decade ago, and got out quick, but maybe not quick enough.)
Dawkins has no motivation to reconsider his positions and change his mind because he’s a well-off white man. He also probably has weakened general empathy (empathy towards strangers and tribal outgroups)…if he had much to begin with.
Pierce R. Butler says
Dear Dr. Dawkins – You might also enjoy the popular predecessor book The Decline of the West, by Spengler, O.
There’s a person I follow on Twitter who’s Lakota and has had some things to say about “replacement theory.”
Not all Bigots are bad. Bernard Bigot was the chairman of the ITER organisation and died this week, 72 years old. To the best of my knowledge be was not a racist. Somehow I doubt he and the antivaxxers & MAGA hats moved in the same circles.
PZ Myers says
You mean Der Untergang des Abendlandes? It sounds so much more serious in the original German.
Cthulhu, this isn’t even wrong.
Every sentence is a lie.
.1. There is no war against the west. If anything, the West has won a complete victory. All those immigrants who are moving here or trying to move here are moving…because they see a far better place for a far better life than the bombed out, religiously dominated Third World basket cases they live in now.
They don’t want to defeat the west, they want to be the west.
.2. There is no such thing as the Western Tradition or Western Civilization. Cultures and civilizations change rapidly in real time and split and recombine constantly.
The Northern California culture I live in now isn’t at all like the rural northern west coast culture I was raised in. The dead end no hope culture I left as soon as I could.
.3. What we are waging war against is the worst that the Western Tradition has produced. Misogyny, racism, reality denial, anti-science, anti-human rights, anti-forced birthers, etc..
Richard Dawkins, Douglas Murray, and the rest of the christofascists aren’t the solution to anything. They are the problem.
Pierce R. Butler says
Not really recognizing the name, I did a little search. Douglas Murray also espouses something called “Christian Atheism” – apparently one of those “keep the proles under control” ideologies so many Christians take offense at the mention of. [insert gagging emoticon here]
Dawkins and Murray aren’t even original or particularly bright about this issue.
The USA has seen this before. In the 19th century the feared Untermenschen coming to destroy our country were…the Germans and Irish, especially the Catholic ones.
There were vicious riots throughout the 19th century that killed dozens of people.
The big fear was that the Germans and Irish were going to…replace the native English colonists. Which actually happened. “With an estimated size of approximately 43 million in 2019, German Americans are the largest of the self-reported ancestry groups by the United States Census Bureau…”
The Germans are now the largest ethnic group in the USA followed by the Irish. The English are third.
Few people noticed and no one cares.
If there’s war on “the West” maybe we deserve to lose. My adoptive culture (global tech people) isn’t exactly “the West” anyway. I’ve long considered that I feel more at home with people from Asia or South Asia than I suspect I would among many the people who grew up in the same Philly suburbs as I did, let alone those from “red state” America.
I also accept that Western culture made contributions to human rights and governance by promoting Enlightenment ideals. Though I’d add that the practices of the same time period (slavery, genocide, and colonialism) are among the worst atrocities ever committed (in scale if not kind).
What else about the “West”? The universities and research labs of North America and Europe are also great, but in case I’m the only one who noticed, they would no longer exist without the creativity and hard work of many “non-Westerners.” I don’t see any reason to believe we will stay on top forever, nor should we.
So yeah, if there’s a war on the West, I’ll happily change my name to Benedict Arnold. The kind of “Western” tradition I see promoted by those who complain about it is the complacent view that we have the right to sit on our asses and own the world without doing anything.
I think there is a war on the “West” but the war isn’t coming from immigrants or people from other parts of the world. It isn’t coming people who have different ways of living, loving, thinking, etc. The war is coming from people like Rupert Murdoch and his shills (Carlson, Hannity). It is coming from oil billionaires like the Koch brothers. It is coming from Chump, Putin, and other political figures who graciously accept donations and advice from these people. It is coming from a small cohort of powerful, rich people who control media, politicians, and economies around the world. They delude and exploit the masses to support abridging the freedoms of the rest of us and resist establishing societies that support all its members equally. And, prevent us from working out ways to resolve social problems and differences without violence. It is these few thousand people who profit from the divisiveness and hate. It is these people that hate the West. The very idea of any sort of liberal social democracy is anathema to them. For several decades they have gone to great lengths to destroy the west and turn it into a prison for everyone but themselves.
Just what is this west these “people” are decrying is under attack from this other any way?
While I do see the powerful disturbance that change is generating all over the world. I do not see it in so provincial and narrow a view.
That view seems like the curse of nationalism expanded to try and include all of europe into one amorphous thing (white people? landed aristocracy?). It over looks that the ideas that are so threatening were developed in the west were they not?
I do not see in any of them even a hint of a belief in the democratic ideals that “the west” has given structure too.
They seem to be advocating the return to some pre-democratic maybe even pre-colonial per-enlightenment time when society was stable and predictable and comparatively static. I am sure they would say they are not but they pick and chose their arguments so much that I just can not make any sense of them.
White people doing white stuff.
Ray Ceeya says
I was into Dawkins 20 years ago, but I can’t stand anyone who is anti immigrant. Fuck you Morrisey. We are looking at a century of climate refugees and simply telling people to die at the border is NOT an option.
Ray Ceeya says
I was into Dawkins 20 years ago, but I can’t stand anyone who is anti immigrant. Fuck you Morrisey. We are looking at a century of climate refugees and simply telling people to die at the border is NOT an option.
@ 8 raven
“The Germans are now the largest ethnic group in the USA”
Well no. They don’t even speak German so there really isn’t anything of a German ethnicity left. We do define ourselves mostly by our shared language after all.
Ray Ceeya@13 You can say that again! (Oh, you did.)
My life has been greatly improved by immigrants, whether you are talking about professors and entrepreneurs who been instrumental in my career, the people doing most of the hard work in California and similar states, or small business owners running restaurants and other businesses that add to cultural variety.
There are a lot of things I don’t think are all that special about the US compared to other “Western” countries, but the one thing I appreciate has been the relative openness of our society to people from abroad, and not demanding their “assimilation” (which happens to a degree with later generations anyway). There is not one single way of being American.
What happened to the “marketplace of ideas” that conservatives used to like so much? Have these bigots discovered that a lot of their ideas fail in the global market and require protection?
They don’t even speak German
Yeah, the English only movement is dedicated to the destruction of all other cultures, but I don’t think you’re supposed to say that part aloud.
Who is this we?
It is certainly not Richard Dawkins or Douglas Murray. Or most of the GOP.
Actually we do and we don’t.
Almost all European-Americans can tell you what their ethnic roots are to one extent or another. And that is part of their/our identity. But these days, in most cases, it isn’t a huge part of their identity and we are more similar as Americans than anything else.
It’s gotten even more complicated because the vast majority of European-Americans these days are mixes of one sort or another. Most of those 43 million German-Americans will be part German and part a lot of other groups.
I can easily pass as a WASP, despite not having a single Anglo-Saxon ancestor and being a Pagan, not a Protestant.
And the claim-to-be-Irish people in the States generally don’t speak Gaeilge (neither do the Irish in Ireland, by-and-large, but that is a comparatively recent phenomena, and it is making something of a comeback).
I might be from the wrong state (I’m in Wisconsin), PZ Myers is the reason I’m still living. Thank you, PZ !
Gather round, all ye pro-“Western” folks, and listen well. You like things with impeccable European roots? Well let me tell you about this fantastic tradition of thought that’s about as European as it comes.
It was founded by a German who studied Greek and Latin at University, lived in Paris for a bit and was inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution, then moved to England where, between stints as the America correspondent for a British newspaper, he wrote most of his works.
Yeah, it’s Marxism. You were probably there before me.
@ 18 raven
We Germans define ourselves by our shared language. Unless German is natively spoken by several tens of millions of Americans I don’t believe you that Germans are the largest ethnicity of the US. Ancestry maybe, but not ethnicity.
Now you are just being dumb.
No one appointed you keeper of the Volk or the one who can choose who calls themselves German or not. You are one anonymous troll on the internet. You don’t speak for all Germans or probably even most.
If 43 million German-Americans choose to call themselves Germans by ethnicity and/or ancestry, you aren’t going to be able to stop them.
BTW, American isn’t an ethnicity either. If our Germans aren’t ethnically German what are they?
We can define ourselves anyway we want.
The term ethnic group is rather general and vague.
Here is one definition used by a US government medical website.
Common ancestry is one way to define an ethnicity.
@ 23 raven
I am not a troll, I seriously don’t understand. And ironically using German words does not make your argument any clearer.
Why for example isn’t American an ethnicity? The US has existed far longer than Germany. And while I most defininately do not speak for all Germans, we Germans do generally not consider non-German speaking American citizens with barely any cultural connections to Germany as Germans. And true, I’m not able to stop millions of Americans from cosplaying as my culture.
What I genuinely can’t understand is why you and many other Americans would claim a culture you clearly aren’t a part of and refuse to consider being of US American ethnicity.
@ 24 raven
We Germans generally try to not define ourselves by ancestry anymore. It has some bad connotations.
Instead we try to define ourselves by our shared language and culture.
A mind so open that the brains fell out.
Lasius, you are a troll.
You are also wasting my time now.
BTW, the way we Americans use and refer to our ancestry is exactly the way I did.
If you ask someone what they are or they volunteer that information, they invariably will say “German”. Or Irish, English, Scottish, Armenian, Jewish, Lithuanian, Norwegian, etc..
No one is making any exception for German here.
It means something to us even if it doesn’t mean anything to you and that is what is important.
We are from everywhere and most of the European-Americans are mixed. Everyone knows what you are talking about.
If you don’t like it, so what.
@lasius In American usage, at least so far as I am familiar with it, “ethnicity” often connotes biological rather than cultural ancestry (and is not infrequently a blatant sub-in for “race” by people who don’t want to say “race”). Thus the fact that Americans can consider someone to be ethnically a part of a group of which they maintain only the most superficial of cultural ties, and the lack of an ethnic “American” construct. I agree that this is rarely a useful and sometimes a dangerous way of defining people, but at least we get St. Patrick’s Day parades out of it.
You are confusing ancestry with ethnicity. You claimed that German is the largest ethnicity in the USA which is patently absurd, though it may be the largest ancestry group. I tried to inform you of that misconception. I was not my goal to have a discussion about this topic.
To stay on topic: Screw Dawkins! Never let yourself have a hero.
This was a reply to @28 raven.
Here’s a hint on figuring out who is waging a war: Look for the guys shooting guns.
They will of course protest that it isn’t a war until we start shooting back at them.
Have you ever noticed that it’s always the idiots who claim superiority that say they need special protection from everyone else? Odd, isn’t it, that the supermen are always the one’s crying the loudest about how they can’t make it on their own.
@32 But they don’t want you figuring it out – apparently every shooter is a left wingerr on a false flag exercise.
it can not be said too many times trying to side track the conversation or pretending it is 1880 will not prevent that coming catastrophe there is only one earth (just forget about mars) and there is only one human race and all are equally endowed with rights and deserve equal treatment in law and a voice in how things will be done.
American is a very strange nationality as it excludes Chileans and Canadians who live in…well…America. We are exceptional in the obnoxious hijacking of “American” as an identity, so obnoxious Canadians pretend to not be American out of embarrassment toward US.
Akira MacKenzie says
You can be certain that will be Alex Jones’ take: Every mass shooter is really a CIA-created psychopath, doped-up on anti-depressants and other “mind control” drugs, to kill to advance the anti-gun, anti-white agenda of the satanic Deep State.
And what of Germans and German towns in Chile? Are they American? At what point could some enculturated subset become Latino or Hispanic?
There is that odd Germanish town of Helen, Georgia in the US, which I wouldn’t know of except for an episode of Atlanta.
OK, then it’s about ancestry. A lot of Americans find this entertaining. I know I do. I have ancestors that came from Ireland. A lot of them lived in Brooklyn in the 19th century, and that’s also interesting. I am not a serious genealogy buff, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy learning this information when presented to me (mostly by siblings who did the work).
It doesn’t mean I refuse to consider myself American, and I doubt there are many people born here that actually don’t consider themselves American.
Granted, it’s not entirely harmless. The IRA was supported financially by dumb Americans who thought they had a stake in a fight they knew virtually nothing about. But I don’t think you have to forget your ancestry (the right term I agree) to a be good citizen of your own nation.
The worst part is that if you’re Black, you are seen as something other than American even when your ancestors were here long before those of many white Americans. Same goes for Chinese and Japanese descendants of 19th century immigrants. It is less of a problem that we celebrate irrelevant “ethnicities” for white people, than the fact that if you’re not white, you will never have the same status.
I had felt that this was changing, particularly among people younger than me, who mix with each other more freely than past generations. I think it still can change, though I’ve grown pessimistic in the age of Trump. But it is exactly this process, the one thing I find hopeful, that is meant by the “war against the West” or “replacement theory.”
Re: PaulBC @ #38…
I’ve got feet in several camps… Two of my grandparents were immigrants from Denmark. (Arrived separately, met and and married in the US.) One great-grandfather was a German immigrant, Prussia, specifically. So far as we can tell, he was a draft dodger who didn’t want to fight in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Another chunk of ancestry is probably English, though might be Anglo-Irish and arrived in the first half of the 18th century. There are also, apparently, some French Hugenots in mixed in.
One document note I have is that the wife of one ancestor was the aunt of one of the nieces of the guy that made a fortune supplying gunpowder to the British forces under Cornwallis when he was in India. The money was made after Cornwallis asked him to investigate quality control issues at the factory (he was an amateur chemist) and he wound up owning the factory.
Re: me at #40…
Slight correction… Aunt of the husband of the niece of the guy that got rich supplying the British army in India with gunpowder.
hemidactylus@35 I’d happily call myself something specific to the US if there were a commonly used term (Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Usonian” never caught on) in the English language. If I’m being careful, I’ll just say I’m from the United States. I agree that “American” is the wrong word but it is commonly understood in context.
Considering the term itself comes from one navigator Amerigo Vespucci who was most definitely not born on either American continent, maybe it should be dropped entirely. To indigenous people, it was simply the world. Maybe try to infer the most likely answer to “where am I?” if you had showed up over 500 years ago and use that. Or just the term for “the world” in some indigenous language. Not sure how you’d pick one. You could even have two instead of this “North” and “South” baloney.
The geologists refer to an earlier version of North America as Laurentia (separated from proto-Europe by the Iapetus ocean). So.maybe you could be Laurentians.
Germany is a bit more complex than most think ; we have the East Frisians, the Danes and the West Slav Sorbs. All are autochtonous and have their own languages.
whheydt@40 I know very little about what was going on with my ancestors in Ireland. My great great great grandmother was born to a successful flax farmer in County Antrim in the late 18th century (possibly early 19th). The fact that it was Northern Ireland threw me, because all my ancestors are Catholic, but then I realized that’s probably why she left. Most of them were in the US before the potato famine even. I don’t know what the rest of them did.
There’s a lot more information about what they were doing in Brooklyn after that. There’s no doubt that they identified as “Irish Catholic”. While they were assimilated into American society to the extent that one of my ancestors was an affluent attorney, their distinct identity was not entirely a matter of choice. I mean even JFK was suspiciously “papist” as late as the 1960 election.
Telling people just to forget where their ancestors came from makes little sense to me. Genealogy can also be tiresome if people think it makes them special. What you do in your own life determines that. I still admit I enjoy it and at least imagine some continuity over generations.
birgerjohansson@43 Laurentia makes me think of designer fashion for some reason. Maybe I am thinking of the 70s designer jean brand Sergio Valente. Or… probably Ralph Lauren. Or some combination thereof: Sergio Laurentia.
Tucker’s little diatribe about how biological children would feel unloved if their parents adopted a bunch of new kids and treated them well reminded me of the Parable of the Vineyard, where Jesus’ disciples thought it would be unfair if workers who came near the end of the workday were paid the same as those who had worked all day. It doesn’t surprise me that Tucks is unfamiliar with a basic Christian ideal.
And I had to laugh at his insistence that we have a one person/one vote system, and that immigrants dilute the voting power of native-born citizens (without explaining why naturalized citizens should have less voting power). Also, California holding for Wyoming on line 2.
It will be what happens. When the climate refugee crisis ramps up in <10-30 years, a solid majority of Americans will become anti-immigrant. The Democrats, if they exist in the future, will have to pursue harsher immigration policies than the Trump administration to not be voted out in a landslide.
I consider “American” an ethnicity. I was raised in a nominally Irish American family, and the only thing I have from that is…my name.
@28 Unless you are culturally Irish, German, Polish, whatever, only partly assimilating into American culture, you have an ethnicity of “American”
@34 Your higher ideals will be nearly powerless when faced with racism, tribalism, and selfishness in the huge refugee crisis which is to come. I hope that the divide is framed around citizenship and not merely skin color, but it might come too soon for non-Hispanic whites to be a minority in America.
John Morales says
I know what you’re trying to express, but better would have been
“Same goes for descendants of 19th century Chinese and Japanese immigrants.”
John Morales@52 Good catch, and I agree completely. Just showing my own biases.
Apparently Buffalo shooter wasn’t inspired by Douglas Murray’s book, so much as by the New Zealand shooter’s manifesto, which Buffalo guy copied and pasted, with some tweaks and additions. Now, NZ shooter might’ve been inspired by Murray, but I think he referenced Trump and Tucks and Fox, didn’t he? I haven’t read any of these maniacs’ shitposts, so I don’t know.
Re: PaulBC @ #45…
I would hold that it is perfectly okay to be interested in the countries of origin of ones ancestors and to be proud of them. What I do object to is trying to carry over the grudges from those countries. Let those of Irish descent drop their animosity towards those of other religions and of the English. Leave those things at the border and live peacefully with the descendants of immigrants from the countries that your ancestors fought with with.
(I am happy that the Danes actually settled their 1000 year border dispute with Germany in 1920 and refused to reopen the wound when offered the chance by the Allies after WW2.)
I second microraptor @3
I bet that these defenders of “the West” all hate Lakota people too despite the fact that Lakota and the other native American peoples are the original westerners.
@45 Paul BC
If your ancestors were Catholic landowners, there’s a good chance they left Ireland because of the discriminatory inheritance laws of the Popery Act.I don’t think Catholics living in Antrim at the time would have experienced any more discrimination than in the rest of Ireland. It’s worth noting that the United Irishmen (who fought for Catholic emancipation in a failed rebellion in 1798) were led and dominated by Presbyterians, mostly from the north.
Raging Bee says
I believe it’s long past time to bit a respectful but firm goodbye to Richard Dawkins. Either he’s slipping into resentment and bigotry, or he’s losing the ability to hide and cover his pre-existing bigotries. Either way, he’s in a state of obvious decline, and should no longer be taken seriously, or argued with, as a responsible adult intellectual.
kingoftown@57 That’s interesting. I don’t know the circumstances of her emigrating. Rereading her obituary (which my sister turned up some years back), I see she was born in the “last year of the last century” which would technically be 1800 and I think at the time they meant it that way or else 1799 as I’d think of it. She had quite a lengthy write-up as one of the founding members of her Catholic parish.
It’s clear from this recollection she had a lifelong ax to grind, against “England’s cruel laws” of which her father and brothers were “victims.” But she remembered her childhood, so she didn’t leave as an infant. Actually, it would really be very interesting to know more. She pinned her hopes on Parnell according to this, so it’s pretty clear she had an active interest in the situation there.
I think this obituary is the most information there is about her. Her son was an actor and prolific playwright who is now almost entirely forgotten. He lived most of his life in New York except for a time in California during the Gold Rush. Actually, that was the part of my genealogy I put the most effort into researching.
Raging Bee@58 I think he’s suffering from the same syndrome as John Cleese, getting old and letting his past fame go to his head. It doesn’t happen to everyone, and I agree it’s an expression of pre-existing bigotry, maybe that would have been more acceptable when he was younger, or maybe he had a better filter back then.
The people of East Frisia do not speak a Frisian language but a Low Saxon variety. It’s the Saterland Frisians and the North Frisians who preserved their Frisian languages.
My grandfather actually was a Sorb. Yet I would never claim to be of Sorbian ethnicity as I didn’t pick up his language (Lower Sorbian) nor did I grow up in the Sorbian language area myself, and only spent significant amount of times there on summer vacations.
@59 Paul BC
I can understand the resentment against “England’s cruel laws,” her family would have suffered through the worst period in Irish history. If the carve up of her father’s land forced her brothers into subsistence farming, they’d have been in an awful position during the famine. Flax is grown on low quality marshland.
There’s a review of “The War on the West” in this week’s British Private Eye (not online, but I suspect Dawkins may have read it). The end:
“But the book’s full ghastliness is save for the finale, where Murray makes a full-on defence of the west, beginning with the words “The good things about being white include …”. At which point it has all become clear – this is not a “defence of the west” but a defence of whiteness. He tries to suggest that he’s been forced into taking this racial stand by the cynicism of critical race theory – but he’s not fooling anyone.
The irony is that his argument mirrors the critique of the west made by Vladimir Putin, the man fighting a real war against the west. Putin reckons liberalism has gone too far, just like Murray. Putin is very keen on patriotic statues that commemorate the Second World War. Murray would surely approve of this “history through statues” policy, More than this, Putin has an immovable sense that only one national story is permissible and it must be positive. That argument is at the heart of Murray’s book.”
This reminds me of George Carlin’s joke (paraphrased):
“Everyone driving slower than you are comfortable is a slowpoke, slowing down traffic and being a menace to society and thus shouldn’t be on the road. Everyone driving faster than you are comfortable driving is a dangerous maniac, a speed demon, a menace to society and thus shouldn’t be on the road.”
Despite everything, Richard Dawkins is a product of his environment (and that’s quite bigoted but “scholarly part” of Britain). And although he is (was?) very good at fighting those “driving slower” or “driving in the wrong direction”, he feels VERY uncomfortable with people “driving faster” than he is. Thus he turns his considerable intellect into fighting THAT menace to society, the same way he fought previous menace to society. And that’s scary to me, because the end result is him joining forces with the opposite camp who are NOT NICE people and he knows how NOT NICE they are. It is as if he found more kinship with “slower drivers than him” as he aged and slowed down himself.
Indeed. And thus we are frequently treated to the spectacle of Americans of (notional) Scottish descent (at umpteen generations remove, at best) lecturing actual Scottish people on how they (the Americans) are more “authentically Scottish” than we are because we don’t conform to their ludicrous Disneyfied ideas of what Scotland and Scots are supposed to be like… And then getting absolutely furious when we tell them they’re not actually Scottish, before pulling out the argument that there are more Americans who call themselves Scottish than there are people in Scotland, so they should get to decide who’s Scottish and who isn’t, not us.
It’s not a particularly endearing habit. Our cultural identities are not your playthings.
It would actually still be possible to largely prevent the “climate refugee crisis” ramping up in 10-30 years. First, of course, by rich countries cutting their emissions of greenhouse gases as fast as possible. Second, by rich countries helping poorer countries to get richer without increasing their own emissions, and to develop the technologies and institutions to make it possible to adapt to the climate change that is already “baked in”. Phrasing the issue as you do is a way of evading the responsibility all of us in those countries have.
I found this today and thought you might like it.
Perfectly illustrates what we were talking about.
I see no indication that we will avoid the coming climate driven disaster at all. I am prepared to be surprised and do what I ca but given that the climate is changing slower then the pandemic and that response was and still is spotty and inconsistent at best to that even with heroic efforts in some quarters. It sure looks like it is going to have to get much worse I hope not I do not want to have to live through the beginning of a nightmare
lasius, @67: “Like” is perhaps not quite the right word…
Amazon has a 5 minutes free audible excerpt from the book. It’s absolutely brain dead, and implicitly racist. It is exactly as PZ describes it. Lots of scary “they”s and unspecific claims. Lots of implicit fearmongering about demographic change, about people “pouring” in to change the essence or whatever bullshit of the “west”. Even if you agree with his conclusions, it is still a shitty book because it seems to have no substance; it is an objectively stupid book and that Dawkins likes it says a lot about Dawkins. But the idiots like Dawkins like to pretend that the fact that people don’t like Murray is because of their “wokeness” and “bias” and their inability to be “objective” but in reality we hear the arguments and they are vapid in addition to being wrong.
We Germans generally try to not define ourselves by ancestry anymore. It has some bad connotations…Instead we try to define ourselves by our shared language and culture.
I will agree that defining “German” by ancestry has had some bad connotations in the past and present. However, I do not believe the last sentence and will not believe it until Germany stops deporting people who are German speaking children of German speakers just because they have a “Turkish” last name. Sind Enkelkinder der Gastarbeiter nicht Deutsch?
@ 71 dianne
Unfortunately for this problem we are talking about German nationality and not German ethnicity. There are ways to become a German citizen for the families of immigrants, in my opinion even easier than for becoming a citizen of the US. But of course much remains to be done and there is still a lot of racism involved. These deportations are less of a problem for the descendants of Gastarbeiter, but instead the descendants of refugees. An interesting and often infuriating topic.
@72 lasius: The descendants of the Gastarbeiter are just the most obvious example since they are clearly multi-generation Germans with few or no ties to Turkey. The Syrian and other refugees (including, I presume, a large bolus of Ukrainians) are also reasonable examples.That being said, if the majority or even the plurality of Germans believed that German ethnicity goes along with speaking German and knowing German culture, as you seem to be implying, then the law would change. It would be seen as inherently obvious that you shouldn’t be deporting Germans to other countries. Also, there’s the whole citizenship by descent thing. I’m sorry, the question of “who is German” is unsettled.
The problem is that ethnicity is often ambiguous while the laws of citizenship cannot afford to be ambiguous. Hence we have two very different terms. You can be a German national without being an ethnic German and vice versa.
“That being said, if the majority or even the plurality of Germans believed that German ethnicity goes along with speaking German and knowing German culture, as you seem to be implying, then the law would change”
And it may well do so in the future.
“Also, there’s the whole citizenship by descent thing.”
Is there any country in the world without a notion of citizenship by descent? I know that the USA also have ius soli, but that doesn’t mean a child bron to American parents in Germany doesn’t get US citizenship.
You can be a German national without being an ethnic German and vice versa.
I am so confused about your argument. I thought you were claiming that culture was the thing that mattered in determining ethnicity. If so, why the hesitation to declare all ethnic Germans to be German citizens if they so desire?
The situation in the US is kind of strange. A child born to a US citizen abroad is considered a US citizen unless declared otherwise. A child who is born to an ex-USian who has taken other citizenship is free of all legal relationship to the US. A grandchild of a US citizen whose children took citizenship in another country has no legal relationship to the US. I think. Given that the US has a history of deporting people who are clearly multi-generation USians, it’s a little hard to tell who is a USian and who is not.
“I am so confused about your argument. I thought you were claiming that culture was the thing that mattered in determining ethnicity.”
“If so, why the hesitation to declare all ethnic Germans to be German citizens if they so desire?”
Why though? For example there are large numbers of ethnic German-speaking Germans that are citizens of for example Belgium, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Italy and Austria (though the Austrians might bristle at that). Why should blanket citizenship be extended to these people just because of their ethnicity? (Though this has been done in the past with many ethnic German groups from Eastern Europe.)
And citizenship by descent in Germany doesn’t necessarily mean actual descent. Adoptive children of German nationals also become German nationals if they are still minors at the time of adoption. It’s more about transmitting the cutlure and not about actual biological ancestry, but laws have to be precise and defined.
Why though? For example there are large numbers of ethnic German-speaking Germans that are citizens of for example Belgium, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Italy and Austria (though the Austrians might bristle at that).
I think the Swiss would more than bristle at that comment. And the USians since it implies that USians are actually British since we speak a rough approximation of the same language. A much closer approximation than Schweitzerdeutsch is to Hochdeutsch.
It’s more about transmitting the cutlure and not about actual biological ancestry,
This is a bit of a dog whistle argument. The AfD, among others, talks a lot about the danger of losing German culture.
How about this for an immigration policy: Let people live where they want to. I have no right to speak for Germany, but I am for open borders in the US. Maybe do some investigation to make sure the people applying for citizenship aren’t war criminals or serial killers, but other than that, if they want to live in the US I’m fine with them doing so. Puzzled, because I don’t know why anyone would voluntarily move to that covid riddled gun toting deathtrap, but whatever. They want to take the risk, they’re welcome to it.
“And the USians since it implies that USians are actually British since we speak a rough approximation of the same language.”
Why? I was speaking on the criteria of German ethnicity. Not British or American. Different ethnicities can speak the same language and one ethnicity may speak multiple languages. What s true of the German ethnicity is irrelevant for other ethnicities.
“A much closer approximation than Schweitzerdeutsch is to Hochdeutsch.”
Schweizerdeutsch is Hochdeutsch by definition. Swiss Standard German is not much different from German Standard German. And there are German dialects in Germany far more divergent from Standard German than Swiss dialects generally are.
“The AfD, among others, talks a lot about the danger of losing German culture.”
And they are shitheads.
“How about this for an immigration policy: Let people live where they want to.”
In an ideal world, sure, I would agree with you. But unfortunately we aren’t there yet. But within the EU, citizens can live in whatever EU country they chose to and that’s a good start, don’t you think? The British didn’t though.
that’s a good start, don’t you think? The British didn’t though.
And they are asshats. At least, the leavers are. Unfair to say the same for the remainers. It’s probably good for the EU to not have to try to deal with the UK’s low regulatory standards anymore, though.
Schweizerdeutsch is Hochdeutsch by definition. Swiss Standard German is not much different from German Standard German.
If you say so. It sounds less like Hochdeutsch to me than Dutch does.
I was speaking on the criteria of German ethnicity. Not British or American. Different ethnicities can speak the same language and one ethnicity may speak multiple languages. What s true of the German ethnicity is irrelevant for other ethnicities.
So? If German speaking=ethnically German then English speaking must=ethnically English.
“If you say so. It sounds less like Hochdeutsch to me than Dutch does.”
Which is false, since Swiss German is Hochdeutsch while Dutch isn’t.
“So? If German speaking=ethnically German then English speaking must=ethnically English.”
No. That does not follow at all.
Interesting. I didn’t know that there were actually dialects of Hochdeutsch other than, well, Deutsch. I’ve never heard it used in any way other than to denote the standard dialect. Doesn’t change the fact that Schweizerdeutsch is very strange sounding to me.
And why does it not follow?
Right back at ya. Why should it follow?
As I said, how Germans define their ethnicity has no bearing on how other ethnicities define themselves. Language is a common but not universal criterion. The Jewish diaspora for example does not define itself by the language they are speaking.
Also the “high” in High German refers to geographical altitude, as the High German dialects are spoken in the central and southern uplands while the Low German dialcts are spoken in the northern lowlands. You can’t get a much higher elevation in the German speaking area than Switzerland.
Because if speaking language A=cultural group A then speaking language B=cultural group B. You can’t have it both ways. If some cultures don’t define themselves by their languages then you can’t exclude German ancestored USians from being culturally German because they don’t speak German. You’re basically trying to say that you have the right to decide who is and who is not German based on a criterion you made up because you thought the group that you don’t want to include doesn’t meet it.
Ethnicity, which is a polite way of saying race, is in the eye of the beholder. Language, ancestry, phenotype, cultural practices, and the context all affect whether someone might see themselves, or whether someone might see another as being of the given ethnicity.
You can argue that a certain feature is the defining characteristic but that’s just, like, your opinion — and someone else might have a quite different opinion.
Race and ethnicity are like art: Everyone agrees that they exist, but if you try to define them, they evaporate into nonsense and you’re left with nothing. And yet ignoring them causes problems as well. For example, race and ethnicity are not recorded as part of clinical trials data in Germany (and France) due to historical issues. As a result, we have no idea at all whether minority ethnic groups in either country are sufficiently represented in clinical trials. Which means that they’re probably not and probably never will be because there’s no way to even describe the problem.
Rob Grigjanis says
dianne @81: Low German and High German dialects are largely distinguished by consonant shifts that happened in High German, in the southern uplands*; initial ‘p’ changed to ‘pf’, initial ‘t’ changed to ‘ts’ (written ‘z’), and others. Since the consonant shift, the dialects within each subfamily have diverged a lot.
So, Dutch for two ‘twee’ becomes ‘zwei’ or similar in High German (including Swiss). ‘pan’ becomes ‘Pfanne’, etc.
*This may be bullshit, but I’ve read that the shift occurred because the originally Celtic-speaking people of the highlands couldn’t pronounce initial ‘p’ or ‘t’.
dianne: just on a logic level, the claim wasn’t that speaking language A = cultural group A. It was that speaking language German = cultural group German; there was no claim this could be generalized to all languages vs cultures. English can be defined however people want to define it, without creating any logical inconsistency.
I also think the claim has no truth value because there’s no such thing as one definition of cultural group German (nor even of “speaking” a language), but that’s irrelevant to the logical issues in your analysis.
It was that speaking language German = cultural group German; there was no claim this could be generalized to all languages vs cultures.
Why not? If the claim cannot be generalized then that must mean that German or German culture is in some way special and from there it’s a very slippery slope down to “superior”. Unless you can identify something unique or at least unusual about German culture that makes the correlation make sense for German and not for other languages, then the generalization should hold.
Incidentally, it’s pretty clear that speaking German does not equal culturally German. The Swiss are very certain on this point. I’m pretty sure the Austrians are too, though perhaps not quite to the same degree and I doubt that the German speaking minority in Belgium considers itself German. So the claim really doesn’t hold in any case and we’re back to the question of why the original author was so determined to disown German-Americans.
Rob Grigjanis says
Just as many Russian-speaking Ukrainians don’t consider themselves Russian!
As a postdoc long ago, I shared an office in Zürich with a Swiss German speaker (a grad student) who had a penchant for loud, animated phone conversations. I rarely knew what he was saying except (a) his name (b) cheerful “ja genau”s throughout the conversation and (c) his signature “okie dokie” to close the call. (I later found out that I was sharing this office after another grad student had themselves moved to somewhere they could concentrate on work.)
But I digress. If you asked me what I thought it sounded like, I can confirm Swiss German definitely does not sound like standard German. But based on geography, I would assume it is much more closely related to high German than low German unless I had any reason to think otherwise.
All cultures are “in some way special” (for values of “special” which mean “different from other cultures”). That’s what makes them different cultures. Claims about culture do not generalise well, in general.
Der Untergang Des Abendlandes should be playing at the next Republican national convention. With the Swedish band Ultima Thule.
Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, would probably respectfully agree to disagree about any attempt to create a definition of ‘Laurentian’ that didn’t include them.
I see there are proposals for indigenous names of the Americas such as Abya Yala.
Just to play Devil’s Advocate, to me this just seems like quote mining. You have a couple of paragraphs from one book, lacking in context and examples, and a couple of paragraphs from somewhere else that don’t have much in common other than the use of the same two words. People used Origin of Species to justify their unethical actions, but that doesn’t mean Origin of Species was wrong.
The thing with being “ahead of your time” is that you have to work to stay ahead. Otherwise you become “with the times” and then “behind the times”. That’s what happened to Dawkins, Rowling, and others.
dianne: If the claim cannot be generalized then that must mean that German or German culture is in some way special and from there it’s a very slippery slope down to “superior”.
I don’t see the logic there at all. Why must culture B have the same definition mutatis mutandis as another culture?
I’m fairly certain that bigots aren’t looking at the general form of the definition of a culture to decide whether a culture is superior or not.
jenorafeuer: I suspect Laurentian fired most anyone who would care.
Alverant@97 I often think of Kurt Vonnegut as an example of someone who remained a decent human being his whole life. But I don’t think it’s because he kept “ahead”. He just had a strong moral compass and compassion for other human beings. He also came from a background of freethinkers going back to the 19th century, and very little of his unique worldview was “new.”
Looking at someone like Dawkins, he is correct in certain views and nothing he says in his dotage invalidates his past contributions. He has rightfully worked hard to promote evolution against creationist attacks. But I doubt he was ever someone who cared much about the welfare of other people, particularly those who don’t share his background or educational level. In his own words:
I think it’s safe to say that neither his reasons for tentatively accepting and then rejecting religion have anything at all to do with how people treat each other. So it should come as no great surprise if he endorses a bigoted notion of “Western” triumphalism.
This thread has really gone into the weeds on Germans. I just follow a simple rule “Don’t mention the war.” and I’m good. Actually, I had a professor from West Germany (back when that was a thing) and I remember visiting him in his office with that Fawlty Towers episode fresh in my mind. It made me uncomfortable, though it later came out that he was Monty Python fan and might have found the whole situation amusing (though I wasn’t about to ask).
numerobis @98: Why must culture B have the same definition mutatis mutandis as another culture?
In principle, I’d say that it doesn’t. But if you’re going to use a definition of “culture” for the explicit and singular purpose of excluding some people from being considered part of that culture, it had better be a generalizable definition. My impression was that lasius was specifically tailoring their definition of German culture to exclude German-Americans. I can see reasons for saying that German-Americans are not German, though I’d actually argue that there are German-American cultures (plural) that are not the same as, but are related to, German culture*, other German-American cultures, and US culture in general. Also the definition just doesn’t work. Belgians are not Germans, even the German speaking minority. The Swiss are so non-German that they consider Germans to be Scheissauslander. As a definition, German speaking=German culture is both too inclusive and too exclusive.
*Also, trying to define a single German culture? Um…not so much. Not even as much as there is a single US-American culture and that’s not a lot.
Hmm…I think I can explain better than I did above: I asked why Germans with Turkish ancestors weren’t considered Germans and automatically given citizenship. The reply was, in part, that German ethnicity was not the same as German citizenship and that if one were to give German citizenship to every ethnic German, that would make a lot of Belgians, Swiss, Austrians, etc German citizens. Which, of course, they aren’t. But they also don’t have the same culture as Germany and having (basically) the same language doesn’t make the culture the same. So why the definition of language=culture? Because you could use it to exclude German-Americans (mostly–there is a town in Texas that speaks an odd creole of German and English, but that’s another story). In any case, I then asked why this didn’t make English speaking USians British and from there the “but that’s DIFFERENT” argument went on. Maybe it is different, but I haven’t yet seen anyone advance a reason why it should be, just statements that it was. So, why is it different? Does anyone have anything besides sputtering about how inherently obvious it is?
Let’s use reductio ad absurdum.
Jews generally define who is part of their ethno-religious group by descent from a Jewish mother. This does not hold for the German ethnicity, ergo Jews think they are special which is a slippery slope down to thinking they are superior.
Makes sense to you? No. Every ethnicity can define itself in different ways without making them necessarily special or better than others.
” So why the definition of language=culture? Because you could use it to exclude German-Americans ”
Leave it to Americans to make everything about themselves, as usual.
Lemme just check the English wikipedia article on the German ethnicity:
Today, the German language is widely seen as the primary though not exclusive criterion of German identity.
The German language remains the primary criterion of modern German identity.
“The Swiss are so non-German that they consider Germans to be Scheissauslander”
And Bavarians consider Berliners “Saupreißn”. That’s not an argument.
“But they also don’t have the same culture as Germany and having (basically) the same language doesn’t make the culture the same.”
They have a culture that is most closely related to the culture of the regions in Germany right across the border, while other regions of Germany are usually more different. Culture and ethnicity doesn’t necessarily stop at borders, though nationality does. Even large parts of the Netherlands speak a language that is more closely related to the Low German dialects across the border than to Standard Dutch.
In other words: Austrians are culturally similar to Bavarians. Swiss-Germans are culturally similar to Swabians. Alsacian Germans are culturally similar to the Germans of Baden, Luxemburgers and Belgian-Germans are culturally similar to Rhinelanders, and the Low Saxon speakers of the Netherlands are culturally similar to the Low Saxon speakers of Germany.
See @63 – a review of Murray’s book, which points out Murray ends up saying “what’s great about being white is…”. Written before the Buffalo massacre, it likens Murray’s position to Putin’s – anti-liberal, nationalistic, insistent that history about your own country only involves the indigenous ethnicity, and must be positive. And Putin is actually at war with “the west”. It also points out that Murray never once mentions the Jan 6 assault on the Capitol, which can be seen as “a war on the west”, being fundamentally anti-democratic. Instead, Murray drones on about critical race theory, claiming that’s the real “war on the west”.
Perhaps in all this discussion of what is or isn’t German, it would be wise to recall that until 1870, “Germany” didn’t exist. “The Germanies” were a collection of independent little kingdoms and principalities, not a country.
Walter Solomon says
I mentioned this to someone on Reddit some months ago. I had mentioned that India had a concept of human rights before the West thanks to Emperor Ashoka’s edicts. He said India really isn’t a country but a collection of many different cultures that occurred relatively recently. I told him the same could be said for Germany.
More recently I had another argument on Reddit about white birthrates. He was concerned they were falling. Of course he got into all the great things white people invented.
He made the mistake of mentioning the device I was using to access Reddit. I informed him somewhat snarkily that the device that both I and he was using wouldn’t be possible without the MOS transistor. It’s the most manufactured device in history and was invented by an Egyptian and a Korean.
I think the discussion about what makes someone culturally German is very interesting. I absolutely agree that the American culture system is very odd – lumping African-Americans altogether yet separating out European Americans even though they are just as much a conglomeration. The discussion about which is most common claimed European ancestry is meaningless as ‘English’ or ‘British’ would have been the default and so different ancestry would have been claimed over the default – the claim is like a surname not an ethnicity. European-Americans are not really European (just like European New Zealanders or Australians) they are Americans. This is most obvious for Italian Americans – yes you can see the links but American Pizza ia not something any self-respecting Italian wpould want to claim as representing Italian culture
one of my great grandfathers came here from Germany. I only have a name the goes back there nothing else. After he got here it is said he never spoke any German for the rest of his life. So there is nothing cultural handed down an other part came from Ireland of which I know next to nothing. So what does that make me? Does it have any significance at all?
all of the concern about ethnicity while it may be historically interesting looking at the path i life took to get here. The rest of it is most often just used to reinforce hierarchical power / status structure based on imagined differences
which always sound so juvenile and stink of the barn yard.
Perhaps in all this discussion of what is or isn’t German, it would be wise to recall that until 1870, “Germany” didn’t exist.
Relevant Badisch lullaby: https://lyricstranslate.com/en/badisches-wiegenlied-badisch-lullaby.html
lumping African-Americans altogether yet separating out European Americans even though they are just as much a conglomeration.
There is a lot of unfortunate history behind that: most African-Americans were not immigrants but victims of kidnapping, so their points of origin are often deliberately obscured. Country of origin is often identified for more recent immigrants, although there still is some rather nonsensical grouping such as calling Eritrians Ethiopians. Also, remember the book and movie “Roots”? There are a lot of African-Americans who are highly interested in learning about the cultural heritage that was denied them.
The US is, in general, about denying culture. The African kidnappings are one particularly egregious example, where people were not just randomly assorted without respect to language or tribal origin, but people of the same tribe (and family) were separated to make sure that they retained no common language or culture. The residential schools forced on many American Indian tribes were overtly and essentially only about cultural genocide, forcing the loss of language and culture. Voluntary immigrants are heavily propagandized about the need to integrate and become Americans (TM). The purpose of US culture is to destroy other cultures and replace them with crap.
Walter Solomon @107
Ashoka sent buddhist missionaries to Alexandria. Buddhism itself did not last, but Catholic practices such as monastic life and the rosary were borrowed by Catholics (likewise, details of pilgrimage practices were borrowed from buddhists by the muslims, a fact the latter are completely ignorant of).
There is also an anecdote in buddhist literature that was incorporated into zoroastrianism, and from them to islam, and from islam to Christian literature. This anecdote (I forgot what it was about) was later translated to early medieval Norwegian by a religious king.
Ideas jump from religion to religion.
Mate sincere thanks. You’ve no idea how rare it is for me to have an opportunity to look like I know something about fashion. X-D
Silentbob@113 I think you nailed it. Burbling up from somewhere in my subconscious.
Walter Solomon says
That’s very interesting. I’m sure the reverse occurred as well. That is the older religions were probably influenced by the younger ones. This isn’t strange when you consider conquerors often influence the culture of the conquered.
In this case, there are Islamic customs that were transmitted to Christian Europe when the Muslim Umayyads conquered the Christian Visigoths of the Iberian Peninsula. These customs, in turn, were transferred to the Americas, particularly Latin America.
For instance, you will notice that courtyards with fountains are popular in Latin America. These were brought by the Spanish, who inherited them from the Moors, who used them to perform the required ablutions before prayer.