Losing His Red Herring
Poor Richard Dawkins. The world-renowned atheist and champion of "science" * used to be the toast of the town. The man in demand. When he spoke, people listened. Then... something happened.
* The word "science" is in scare quotes because a great deal of what Dawkins champions isn't properly called science. It's speculative metaphysics.
I and many others have noticed Dawkins's many ugly personality traits for years. Perhaps our perceptions were aided by the fact that, not being inclined to agree with his brand of Neo-Darwinism, we were mysteriously freed up to see the man behind the razzle-dazzle. I mean, it is amazing that anybody who has read any Richard Dawkins could be surprised at his personal bellicosity. You don't get more vicious or personal than proclaiming that people of religious faith have a mental illness, a dangerous genetic mutation that evolution must correct for the survival of the species. Nevertheless, to people inclined to agree with him, Dawkins somehow managed to sound reasonable and "science-y."
But Eleanor Robertson at the UK Guardian is now asking: "Richard Dawkins, What on earth happened to you?" (My answer, of course: nothing. Same guy.)
At the UK Spectator, Andrew Brown looks into "The bizarre - and costly - cult of Richard Dawkins."
Dawkins is becoming a laughingstock. The man who seethes with rage at snake-oil salesmen and religious manipulators will tell you just why over a private dinner. If you pay him $100,000.00. A year.
Last year in an interview he expressed sympathy for forms of "mild paedophilia" like the sort he encountered in school, where a lecherous teacher groped him. Sympathetic on the grounds that, hey, "it didn't do us any lasting harm." (One might reply that Richard Dawkins today excusing this behavior constitutes "lasting harm.")
At the end of July this year he caused a stir by Tweeting a sympathetic take on date rape on the grounds that, hey, it's better than rape with a knife to the throat.
And this week he tells us:
If you're interested in some good reaction to this astonishing tweet, you can read Peter Wehner's take or Wesley J. Smith's. Notice that Dawkins's view here is not that it is ethical to abort a Down Syndrome child, but that it is immoral to not. He was forced to walk this back, but mostly blamed everybody for misunderstanding him. We're just not as nuanced and complex a thinker as he is. (But we could always join his fan club to learn how his dazzling brain works; it starts at only $85 a month!)
Atheists of the "Neo" variety have often encountered the problem of ethics inherent to their worldview. For instance, Doug Wilson posed the problem to Christopher Hitchens something like 35,102 times: If the universe is red in tooth and claw, and all is simply matter in motion, chemicals bouncing around in the brain, and human beings are genetically determined, on what basis does one declare something "wrong" or "evil"? We do not ordinarily say to the spilled milk: "Bad milk!" Accidents are not morally culpable. If groups like ISIS, say, are victims of some bad genetic mutation (say... that's exactly Dawkins's thesis, come to think of it), then you cannot call them "evil" or "bad." They just...are. You don't argue with evolution.
Hitchens, Dawkins, et. al., had one ready-made answer to this dilemma. A red-herring pseudo-answer, yes, but ready-made nevertheless:
"How dare you say that atheists cannot be MORAL people!?"
Well, they can, of course, and that isn't even remotely the question.
But I cannot help noticing: with his sympathies for "mild" rape, "mild" paedophilia, and advocacy for morally mandated abortions for Down Syndrome kids, Richard Dawkins seems hell-bent on making even this dodge implausible, at least for him.
Because A) He's an atheist, and, B) he's a profoundly immoral person.