April 18, 2013

I Can Solve This Whole Richard Dawkins Problem

Richard Dawkins was a big player in reigniting the atheist movement and possibly the skeptic and humanist movements too, with the release of The God Delusion. This made him a sort of focal point for a lot of 'New Atheists' and people of that ilk and caused religious groups to equate with a Pope-like figure.

Now, really we should all know that we have, in the (borrowed) words of Margaret Sanger, 'No Gods, No Masters.' We should hold no one up to the standards of near-infallibility. The whole point of skepticism and its subsidiaries are to reserve doubt, to question and not to follow blindly. So the first and most obvious point to make is that, obviously Richard Dawkins is not the final word on everything and people who just sponge up everything he says need to stop it.

See, Richard Dawkins, now that he's strapped himself into the social media machine, has continued to brain-fart across the twittersphere for all and sundry. This has revealed his ignorance and his privilege when it comes to social justice issues that many in the skeptic arena are moving to embrace. He is often as arrogant and dismissive as you might expect a septuagenariat white, male emeritas professor and best-selling author to be; his plasticity is somewhat rigid at this point.

This doesn't excuse the crap he says (with annoyingly increasing frequency), but I think we need to remember this: Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist. That's his expertise. Those are his credentials. That's not to say people can't speak knowledgeably and legitimately outside of their fields but Dawkins is no social scientist, feminist or theologian and often hasn't done the legwork required to give his brain-farts the acknowledgement being given. When he dismisses modern feminism, I like to think as if he's dismissing House music or Danny Boyle films. Why should we care what he says about these things? He has nothing to do with them and knows little about them.

Of course, the problem is that people do care about what he says, whatever he talks about. He's a lauded figure. But we need to uncouple these experts from the things they know next to nothing about. Just because you're a respected and listened-to figure in certain areas, doesn't mean that every word leaving your lips turns to gold. If we can keep reminding ourselves that the further speakers are from their expertise, the more evidence we should demand from them to back up their assertions.

Or, stop listening to Dawkins unless he's talking about the Gene Theory of Natural Selection.

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