One of my favorite clichés to refer to when talking about atheism has been that human cliché Richard Dawkins. Nobody just reads his books, we have seen him on television and YouTube. Atheists especially just love him, along with that other fancy talker known fondly as “Hitch” (Hitchens is gone now, and I sincerely give my condolences to those who knew him). Richard Dawkins is quoted after Hitchens death as saying, “I think he was one of the greatest orators of all time.” That is an expected overstatement by an outspoken promoter of atheism.
Even though Dawkins was born in Kenya, I hope he hasn’t forgotten his British History in that it was Winston Churchill that is remembered for the phrase, “Iron Curtain”. Churchill led an entire nation through war with his oratory. I was in London when Churchill died and was one of those that clogged the streets at his state funeral. I was at Tower Pier as his coffin was loaded aboard a boat for the trip up the Thames river and one thing I remember that surprised me, besides the immensity of the crowd, was how many German accents I heard in the crowd.
Others have not remembered “Hitch” quite the same. His writer brother Peter Hitchens is quoted as calling him simply “courageous”. So in memory of “Hitch” and as a suggestion as to who may best carry on this cute nickname tradition for the atheists’ of the world, I nominate Richard Dawkins to be known as “Dawk” or “The Dawk”.
It’s That Blasted Accent.
Look, we Americans get to know a person by their actions and what they tell us rather than be impressed by an American accent. For example, who in the world would ever take anything that Larry the Cable Guy said about foreign policy seriously without some kind of position of power backing him up. Sort of like Donald Trump without the money, you would be focused only on his hair and whether it was real or not instead of only occasionally as now. Or, William Jefferson Clinton who sounds sort of like Larry but is quieter. Knowing as we do that he was the President, we listened to him because of his position. Then if you were like me, was completely disgusted when you found out about by the Do you know how to work a zipper? game.
With Dawk, it’s mostly about the accent to the non-British. Although the Brits have many variations of English, Hitchens for example spoke a version that came from the Aristocracy of London. If his voice was higher he would have sounded like Margaret Thatcher. I know that the Brits are wise to this trick that we fall for, because the ones in my family have told me. If it sounds good, it must be good.
But He is a Scientist?
I would never think about correcting Dawk if he told me that a three-toed sloth actually had four toes, because he is known for having immersed himself in the study of biology. Someone studied sloths closely, wrote about them and then Dawk read about them. He then repeated in lectures what he had learned. I trust his memory.
He later emerged as a popular proselytizer of evolutionary biology. He may even be the leader and greatest living contributing writer of this ideology; or as they like to call it – science. But science has many aspects as does the word evolution. Evolutionary biology is not the science of exactitude derived from experimentation or evidence, but is more inclined to practice abduction or inference.
His evolution from zygote to the world’s consciousness began as a student of Nikolaas Tinbergen. He then did graduate work in materialism and secularism during the socially tumultuous years at the University of California at Berkeley in the late 1960’s. If you are too young to have been immersed in that world, I can tell you first hand (having unknowingly lived across the bay from him during most of his Berkeley years) that it was basic training for what we civilized persons are now having to clean up. He then ended as up a lecturer at Oxford University. So it turns out that he spent his life learning from the sterile environment of science, the riotous environment of youthful rebellion, then graduated to telling others what to think – the ideal leader of an atheist movement that has no soul either recognized or wanted.
So Here We Are.
I was trapped by a feeling of duty to read the writing of this very articulate man (articulation supplements the accent) who wrote the The God Delusion. I could not read more than a few pages at a time before I had to put this drivel down and recompose myself. This is a scientist presenting logical reasoning? I bent over the corners of the pages that contained major arguments and highlighted with a yellow marker the sentences that seemed to stand out. I spent $10.85 on this book full of personal ideas that atheists seem to repeat but do not credit until an authority is needed. I got lots of use out of it in combox conversations with atheists. I bought it along with a books by Hilaire Belloc and others, in order the get free shipping on Amazon. Now, I am going to squeeze the last pennies out of it with this essay.
As far as I actually read was about page 222 out of 420 before I said, “enough is enough”. I found one advertising quote on the flyleaf interesting. Penn and Teller (known for their scientific thought) said, “If this book doesn’t change the world, we’re all screwed.” I love this quote. It recognizes the fallen nature of man and the coming judgment; it’s very biblical in a modern Vegas showroom sort of way. But, as men have done throughout the centuries and the inside pages show, they are repeating the same mistake by seeing clearly that the cause of our trouble is man, then looking to man for a solution. That has been tried countless times with particular disastrous results in the 20th century.
I was lead to understand this man Dawk better, by a comment box discussion with a rather self confident atheist who claimed Dawk was a good guy who never would tell anyone to mock others. What? Who uses that word anyway? This atheist claimed to be a follower of discussions on Dawk’s foundation website. Aha!
Lets Look Closer At This Man.
After divorce, remarriage and a child named Juliet Emma Dawkins, a divorce again, then remarriage, Dawk today is serving as a model for young minds and is cheered by young mouths and clapping hands telling them propagandist style, “Mock them, ridicule them — in public”. He is referring to religious persons. That is me for sure, maybe you and maybe your children.
Now here is his complication. He has a daughter! Yes, she about 29 or 30 by now, but consider this conversation as having been very possible when she was about 8 years old.
Daddy: “Yes Dear?”
“Some very mean boys made fun of me at school today daddy.”
“What did they say Dear?”
“Well Daddy, our teacher told us some history today. She said that there was a man named Jesus Christ who lived a long time ago and that lots of people believe that he was the son of God. I said that he sounded like a very nice man and I would like to know more about him. And after class those mean boys told me I was stupid and ignorant and not to be so dumb as to think that God was real. They mocked me daddy!”
“Yes Daddy, they also said that you were the one that told them to say those things to me!”
“That is not true is it Daddy? You love me don’t you? You would never say that would you?”
A Strange Worldview Emerges.
I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild pedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today…
In order to save his public image he released this almost 900 word backtracking (with Polish translation?) starts out saying how everyone misunderstood his words then ended by saying, “I apologize,” presumably because some people understood his words correctly.
His explanation seems to be that having been mildly molested was not pleasant, but the way in which a child molester should be viewed is by the common social understanding of molestation in that era; not as I would say, by a psychological understanding of the effects of molestation on the molester and the victim in any era. One may then conclude from his statement that the standards of social behavior is really all he cares about and that in his era (I am the same age) “mild pedophilia” was Okay with everyone. It appears to me that he is applying his love of the word “evolution” to another field of study.
The outward response to the act by a victim may be socially conditioned or controlled, but the interior effect on the victim has a real result due to the action itself. He should have also gotten a clue from his own experience when he said, “We discussed it among ourselves on many occasions, especially after his suicide…” A young mind may not understand the importance of these discussions and the death, but those minds knew that something important happened with both. I do not say these things without similar experience. I was sexually assaulted at about 16 by a doctor giving a physical exam. He got only as far as mouth kissing then I did also “wriggle off his lap” as Dawk explains. I was affected in a negative way by the experience, but even stronger was the sight of a very pathetic man over come by strong destructive passions.
These passions destroyed his marriage and practice (this was more than 50 years ago). He practiced bi-sexuality and was actually a family friend. We had an amiable relationship with a clear understanding of boundaries into my adult years until he died. When we speak of these things we must understand them with what is available as to cause and effect and with human compassion for all involved. But, if one’s thinking becomes narrowed by the inevitable reduction necessary to derive reasons for social behavior from material causes (and a quick response as to how one is received in the press), I can see that a larger view of humanity and it’s origins can be overlooked, as it has by Dawk.
Daddy: “Yes Dear?”
Daughter: “I have something to tell you that happened at school Daddy.”
update: 12/30/13 thanks to a reader for spelling corrections.
Photography: See our Photographers page.