Anglican Samizdat

August 19, 2009

Dawkins calls for an apology for Alan Turing’s suicide

Filed under: Atheism — David Jenkins @ 12:12 am

Richard Dawkins is indulging in the fashionable compulsion to apologise. In this case for Alan Turing’s suicide:

Richard Dawkins last night joined the campaign to win an official apology for Alan Turing, the code-breaking genius and father of the modern computer who committed suicide in 1954 after being prosecuted for being homosexual.

Professor Dawkins said that an apology would “send a signal to the world which needs to be sent”, and that Turing would still be alive today if it were not for the repressive, religion-influenced laws which drove him to despair.

Apologising for something one is not responsible for is all the rage now, possibly because it diverts attention away from the things one is responsible for. Anglicans do it, so do politicians. Now Dawkins is eager to jump on the bandwagon. Is this an example of False Apology Syndrome – I’m sorry for your sins?

I don’t think so. It appears to be yet another Dawkins anti-religion salvo, under the guise of saving us all from “repressive, religion-influenced laws”.

In actual fact, no-one really knows exactly why Turing committed suicide – or, indeed if it was suicide. Turing died from cyanide poisoning, apparently from a cyanide-laced apple. Some believed it could have been an assassination since Turing’s homosexuality was seen as a security risk. His mother was convinced that it was an accident caused by Turing’s sheer carelessness at storing laboratory chemicals.

One thing is known: we have no evidence that Alan Turing killed himself because of “repressive, religion-influenced laws”. This is not enough to hold back the ostensibly evidence obsessed Dawkins, though, to whom, when it suits him, a lack of real evidence does not stand in the way of yet another mindless jab against religion.



  1. The only reason why Richard Dawkins gets in the line of fire of religious people is that he — like an ever growing number of other individuals, scholars and simple citizen — is voicing out loud the blatant flaws, and irrational sap of belief systems.

    If religions were that confident in their claims there would not even have ANY debate. Simply because they could disprove anything thrown against them, right away, and, in a very grandiose way. But they just can’t. You can believe as strong as you want that God will kiss you on the forehead when you’re dead, that doesn’t mean it’s true. No one has ever shown up after dying. Apart Jesus, that is. But Jesus is just a name in a book.

    It is only because belief systems are a failure and unable to back up their claims, other than using quotes from a fairy tale book, that they are melting, panicking and threatening everyone with hell in a last attempt to be heard. Fear has always been one of the best weapons to keep an iron grip on the masses. Fortunately, with time, people are growing up. After shedding from Santa, they’re also shedding for its “for adult” version.

    Belief systems are collapsing. It has just begun.

    Comment by D.M.D. — August 19, 2009 @ 3:28 am

  2. Dawkins can’t prove that Turing killed himself, either….

    Comment by Kate — August 19, 2009 @ 8:52 am

  3. Do you deny that Turing was treated abominably by the British government?

    Comment by Bobby funn — August 19, 2009 @ 8:53 am

  4. The point is that Dawkins is proclaiming that Turing killed himself because of the way he was treated by the British government, when it may not even have been a suicide. If he was really interested in Turing, (rather than religion bashing and his own fame) he would be calling for a reopening of the investigation into the man’s death, not calling for a goverment to issue an essentially meaningless apology.

    Comment by Kate — August 19, 2009 @ 9:00 am

  5. I’m afraid your comment is so flawed, Kate. It just shows how personally you take this subject, nothing else. Do you really think Professor Dawkins NEEDS fame? Are your cornflakes collected? He already is famous for quite a number of years! As for “religion bashing”, now that one is to piss one’s pants! Coming from someone whose core belief is precisely BASHING and totalitarian mental slavery for eons, that’s hilarious. The wheel might be turning up there, but the hamster is dead.

    Comment by D.M.D. — August 19, 2009 @ 12:58 pm

  6. D.M.D.

    Please use rational arguments to make your point; your main contribution in that last comment was to insult someone with whom you disagree. And they weren’t even imaginative insults.

    Comment by David — August 19, 2009 @ 1:08 pm

  7. And Kate, what the hell does it matter whether Turing killed himself or not? (His death was in fact ruled a suicide.) It is the heinous treatment he received by a homophobic state that is at issue here! Let’s keep our eye on the ball.

    Comment by Shamelessly Atheist — August 19, 2009 @ 3:18 pm

  8. How did Dawkins get famous and what keeps his name in the news? Stories such as these.

    #7 It matters because of the context of the story. Dawkins is saying that the man killed himself because of blue laws, and blames those laws on Christianity, when we don’t really know what happened to him.

    Comment by Kate — August 19, 2009 @ 4:42 pm

  9. #6 Reminds me of the scene in Cyrano when someone insults his ugly nose, remember? I am not as witty as he in my comebacks, so I tend to just ignore them. Folk who resort to insult usually can’t make an actual point very well.

    Comment by Kate — August 19, 2009 @ 4:43 pm

  10. @8 Assume, for the sake of argument, that despite the findings of the Coroner’s Inquest to the contrary, Turing’s death was accidental, as his mother imagined.

    Would that, in any way, make what was done to Turing any less awful? Would his criminal sentencing to chemical castration be any less a miscarriage of justice?

    Comment by John the Skeptic — August 19, 2009 @ 9:30 pm

  11. Of course not, but firstly, I don’t believe that is Dawkins’ motivation; Secondly, an apology is meaningless. The current Bristish government had nothing to do with it, and all an apology would serve to do is further Dawkins’ anti religion adjenda. The real work in this case has long since been done – those laws are no longer on the books.

    Comment by Kate — August 20, 2009 @ 8:57 am

  12. I think we all can agree why Dawkins supports this apology, at least in part: he sees it as a way of highlighting what he sees the pernicous effects of religion on law.

    You say that these particular laws are no longer on the books. True enough, but gays are still subject to legal discrimination in other ways. By reminding people of what was done to a hero likeTuring, it may help end the continuing discrimination that gays face. That seems to be a worthwhile goal.

    Comment by Bobby funn — August 20, 2009 @ 1:26 pm

  13. I think it is nothing more than a publicity stunt, and a misuse of Turing’s name. I wonder what his family think about it.

    Comment by Kate — August 20, 2009 @ 3:13 pm

  14. So, what was done to Turing is okay if he didn’t kill himself? Don’t be so daft!

    Comment by Shamelessly Atheist — August 20, 2009 @ 6:06 pm

  15. I can’t imagine Turing’s family objecting to an apology. Can you?

    Comment by Bobby funn — August 20, 2009 @ 7:30 pm

  16. #14 Um, No, of course not. Whatever gave you that idea? It is certainly not what I meant.

    #15 If they thought he was just being used, they might.

    Comment by Kate — August 20, 2009 @ 10:03 pm

  17. Well, so far i haven’t heard a word of complaint from Turing’s family. Have you?

    Comment by Bobby funn — August 21, 2009 @ 12:28 am

  18. Millions of would-be people have been destroyed by the materialist/Culture of Death values of abortionsts, and a good few hundred thousand by nations/leaders committed to atheism – they (unlike most “apologisers”) are really guilty – will we get any apologies from them? I doubt it.

    Comment by John Thomas — August 21, 2009 @ 8:39 am

  19. I’ve read that one of the reasons there will be no apology is that Turing has no surviving family.

    It isn’t clear that he committed suicide–it’s possible that he died by accident or, as I believe
    Dawkins himself has suggested, was murdered by the British government as a security risk. If Turing did commit suicide (as he probably did) it isn’t plain that it was because of his arrest and its consequences. Turing remained very active intellectually, working in biology and physics, and, as far as I can
    tell, remained actively homosexual–he saw nothing wrong with it. This was a complicated fellow,
    we don’t know why he killed himself, in fact,
    and it does Turing a kind of violence to reduce him to a martyr for gay rights.

    No question that the laws were horrible, but then I suppose there is no reason to apologize
    to Turing in particular. Why not to everybody prosecuted?

    Turing needs no apologies, he has been honored repeatedly, especially in the UK.
    He is going to be remembered as one of the greats. The father of the digital
    computer! A bit like making a poster-boy
    of Isaac Newton for some current cause.

    Comment by anicca — September 1, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

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