Anglican Samizdat

May 1, 2010

Richard Dawkins doesn’t understand morality

Filed under: Richard Dawkins — David Jenkins @ 1:19 pm
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In this clip Richard Dawkins dodges the question of how atheists can lay claim to morality while undermining the basis for its objectivity:

Dawkins regales the audience with examples of what he views as stupid religiously inspired morality.

He then goes on to list what he believes are “good”, “acceptable” or “reasonable” examples of morality, implying a he has reference by which he is judging them. If his reference is little more than a personal preference seasoned with a pinch of contemporary middle-class pseudo-reasoned tendentiousness, why would he think he has the right to impose his version morality on the rest of us; if it is an absolute reference, he has denied his own premise.


April 26, 2010

Richard Dawkins explains how the gay gene was preserved

Filed under: homosexuality,Richard Dawkins — David Jenkins @ 7:00 pm
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Richard Dawkins, in keeping with the contemporary liberal credendum, assumes that there must be a gay gene. In this brief video he struggles valiantly to explain why the gay gene was not selected out of his Darwinian universe; it should have been, since homosexuals would not have reproduced.

His suggested answers are below and appear to have been extracted from the Beano Comic Book of Weird Science:

  1. The gay uncle theory: a prehistoric gay equivalent of the eunuch who looks after the females and their offspring while the butch males are out hunting. They passed on gay genes to the children by protecting their relatives’ children who would have carried the gay gene, demonstrating – albeit tenuously -the Darwinian advantage of the protective gay uncle for cavemen; it doesn’t explain the last 6000 years.
  2. The gay gene was passed on by homosexuals who had sex with the dominant males’ females on the side; homosexuality was used merely as a cunning ploy to steal other men’s’ women.
  3. The gay gene only produces homosexual behaviour given the right social stimulation – such as today. Dawkins almost slips into blasphemy on this one by saying there is no gay gene; he quickly recovers by sputtering that there is a gay gene now even if it once used to be an animal tracking gene which wasn’t allowed to express itself properly. Of course, this leaves the original problem: once the gay gene expresses itself in gay behaviour, homosexuals would be selected out – they don’t seem to have been.

So there you have it: the great high priest of Darwinian Dogma has spoken; all nonsense perhaps, but atheists, please genuflect.

April 16, 2010

Richard Dawkins’ morality

Filed under: Richard Dawkins — David Jenkins @ 5:58 pm
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Is Richard Dawkins trying to protect children in his current efforts to arrest the Pope? Probably not; in this talk with Peter Singer, Dawkins declares that, in the right circumstances, he favours infanticide:

In another section he nods happily as Peter Singer expresses his approval of eating human roadkill – as long as the unfortunate’s relatives agree:

For those who might complain that I have extracted these comments and placed them out of context, go here to subject yourself to the whole bizarre exchange.

Dawkins’ rather primitive concept of morality seems to hinge on a few assumptions: suffering is bad; humans are mere animals. Consequently, depending on the degree of sentience of the animal, killing animals can be as bad as killing humans; animal suffering can be as bad as human suffering; killing someone – including a child – to end their suffering is good; cannibalism is equivalent to eating animals.

This is the man who is attempting to assert himself as a moral authority over the Catholic Church.

April 13, 2010

Another anti-Pope diatribe from Dawkins

Filed under: Richard Dawkins — David Jenkins @ 11:38 am
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Richard Dawkins is still at it:

The pope should stand trial.

Why is anyone surprised, much less shocked, when Christopher Hitchens and I call for the prosecution of the pope, if he goes ahead with his proposed visit to Britain? The only strange thing about our proposal is that it had to come from us: where have the world’s governments been all this time? Where is their moral fibre? Where is their commitment to treating everyone equally under the law? The UK government, far from standing up for justice for the innocent victims of the Roman Catholic church, is preparing to welcome this grotesquely tainted man on an official visit to the UK so that he can “dispense moral guidance”. Read that again: dispense moral guidance!

A few obvious questions:

  • What law is the Pope supposed to have broken?
  • Assuming he has broken an international law, where is the presumption of innocence for the accused?
  • Much of what Dawkins writes in this article is based on the Kiesle letter which appeared to imply that the Pope favoured the Church’s reputation over exposing an abusive priest. This contention has been refuted convincingly enough to introduce at least a reasonable doubt here. Where is Dawkins’ scientific detachment in all this?
  • If, as some claim, the predominant problem turns out to have been one of homosexual priests in the Catholic Church, would Dawkins approve of a ban on homosexual priests before or after admitting that the sun revolves around the earth?

Dawkins and Hitchens, for all their moralistic posturing, have no basis for their self-appointed positions as ethical arbiters of how the Roman Catholic Church should cope with the child abuse scandal. As atheists, not only can they not appeal to moral absolutes, but the principles that fire their affected indignation are not even their own: they were derived from the very institution they are out to destroy, the Christian Church.

March 28, 2010

Richard Dawkins spouts empty rhetoric at the Catholic Church

Filed under: Richard Dawkins — David Jenkins @ 4:20 pm
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In the Washington Post

No, Pope Ratzinger should not resign. He should remain in charge of the whole rotten edifice – the whole profiteering, woman-fearing, guilt-gorging, truth-hating, child-raping institution – while it tumbles, amid a stench of incense and a rain of tourist-kitsch sacred hearts and preposterously crowned virgins, about his ears.

This is just a snippet from the article, whose author is obviously the antithesis of the sober, detached scientist that Dawkins has erected as a front to conceal a cantankerous, illogical old theophobe.

The article uses the word “should” eleven times which is eleven times too many, since to claim something should happen, presupposes a moral standard by which it can be measured. When Dawkins rejected God, he renounced belief in objective moral standards and abrogated the right to pontificate on them.

Damian Thompson’s opinion of the article is here.

February 28, 2010

Richard Dawkins apologises

Filed under: Richard Dawkins — David Jenkins @ 8:42 pm

For his prior emotional outburst. The apology is here:

The controversy caused by our decision to close the forums on has greatly upset me. It has been raging for several days now and I have spent that time – frustratingly hampered by long haul flights, jet lag and the need to consult people in several different time zones – talking to colleagues and trustees, and reading a multitude of emails as well as open letters, blogs, internet comments and even newspaper articles, and I am now finally in a position to respond publicly. Please forgive me for replying collectively rather than individually. I am engaged in a strenuous book promotion tour of Australia and it would take too long to write separately to everybody who has written to me.

I would like to start by apologising for our handling of this situation. We have not communicated well with our forum volunteers and users (for example in my insensitive ‘Outrage’ post, which was written in the heat of the moment). In the process we have caused unintended hurt and offence, and I am very sorry about that. In a classic case of a vicious circle, some of the responses to our announcement also caused considerable hurt and distress to us, and in the atmosphere of heightened emotion that followed, some of our subsequent actions went too far. I hope you will understand the human impulses that led to this, and accept my apology for them. I take full personal responsibility.

Someone in the comments to this post in Dawkins’ forum pointed out that Dawkins Deniers have been making hay with the Dawkins Debacle; and I confess to having experienced a satisfying sense of schadenfreude. The rest of the comments are devoted to expressing a strange sycophantic gratitude – reminiscent of the Stockholm syndrome – to the One who has revealed to his disciples that life is entirely pointless.

There are but few dissenters. Here is one:

What a hypocrite. At first he called the whole thing a ‘storm in a teapot’, now he’s changed his tune? And everyone here wants to drink the kool-aid that he did this for noble reasons?

Of course he didn’t. It’s because he stood to lose money, pure and simple, because the most offended where his hardcore fans that contribute to his living. He didn’t want to damage his marketable brand name.

He’s the equivalent of politician who gets caught with his pants down. Like Harold Ford, all of a sudden changing his tune about gay marriage, for the sake of winning votes in a place where the gay vote matters.

It’s all a pathetic show.

Yes, I’m well aware that this comment is going to be deleted, but I have no shame in speaking the truth.

It couldn’t really be all about the cash, could it?

February 24, 2010

Richard Dawkins keeps attracting the wrong sorts of people

Filed under: Atheism,Richard Dawkins — David Jenkins @ 9:28 pm
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Richard Dawkins is re-vamping his forum – which he modestly calls “a clear thinking oasis” – and, because of that, people have been calling him names.

Dawkins puts this down to there being something rotten in the Internet culture. He might have a point to a degree, but, comically, the rather obvious thing he has overlooked is that a forum devoted to atheism attracts a lot of people who are more interested in irrationally venting their spleen than in calm reasoned argument.

From the exchanges with atheists on this blog, I have noticed that most atheists – all who have commented here – are emotional atheists: their belief system is based mainly on feeling. When a visiting atheists is asked to explain himself, one is confronted by a torrent of chaotic, emotive, unexamined aphorisms and clichés.

Just as he overlooks the obvious reason for Creation, Dawkins overlooks the obvious reason for the name-calling. Here is some of Dawkins’ response:

A Message from Richard Dawkins about the website updates

Imagine that you, as a greatly liked and respected person, found yourself overnight subjected to personal vilification on an unprecedented scale, from anonymous commenters on a website. Suppose you found yourself described as an “utter twat” a “suppurating rectum. A suppurating rat’s rectum. A suppurating rat’s rectum inside a dead skunk that’s been shoved up a week-old dead rhino’s twat.” Or suppose that somebody on the same website expressed a “sudden urge to ram a fistful of nails” down your throat. Also to “trip you up and kick you in the guts.” And imagine seeing your face described, again by an anonymous poster, as “a slack jawed turd in the mouth mug if ever I saw one.”

What do you have to do to earn vitriol like that? Eat a baby? Gas a trainload of harmless and defenceless people? Rape an altar boy? Tip an old lady out of her wheel chair and kick her in the teeth before running off with her handbag?

None of the above. What you have to do is write a letter like this:

Dear forum members,

We wanted you all to know at the earliest opportunity about our new website currently in development. will have a new look and feel, improved security, and much more. Visits to the site have really grown over the past 3 1/2 years, and this update gives us an opportunity to address several issues. Over the years we’ve become one of the world’s leading resources for breaking rational and scientific news from all over the net and creating original content. We are focusing on quality content distribution, and will be bringing more original articles, video and other content as we grow.

The new will have a fully-integrated discussion section. This will be a new feature for the site, similar to the current forum, but not identical. We feel the new system will be much cleaner and easier to use, and hopefully this will encourage participation from a wider variety of users.

We will leave the current forum up for 30 days, giving regular users an opportunity to locally archive any content they value. When the new website goes live, you are welcome to submit these posts as new discussions. The forum will then be taken down from the web. You will not loose your username on the new system.

The new discussion area will not be a new forum. It will be different. We will be using a system of tags to categorize items, instead of sub-forums. Discussions can have multiple tags, such as “Education”, “Children”, and “Critical Thinking”. Starting a new discussion will require approval, so we ask that you only submit new discussions that are truly relevant to reason and science. Subsequent responses on the thread will not need approval—however anything off topic or violating the new terms of service will be removed. The approval process will be there to ensure the quality of posts on the site. This is purely an editorial exercise to help new visitors find quality content quickly. We hope this discussion area will reflect the foundation’s goals and values.

We know that this is a big decision. We know some of you will be against this change. We ask that you respect our decision and help make this transition as smooth as possible.

We’re confident that these changes will improve the site experience and we look forward to seeing what you do with the new system.

Many thanks again.


Surely there has to be something wrong with people who can resort to such over-the-top language, over-reacting so spectacularly to something so trivial. Even some of those with more temperate language are responding to the proposed changes in a way that is little short of hysterical. Was there ever such conservatism, such reactionary aversion to change, such vicious language in defence of a comfortable status quo? What is the underlying agenda of these people? How can anybody feel that strongly about something so small? Have we stumbled on some dark, territorial atavism? Have private fiefdoms been unwittingly trampled?

Be that as it may, what this remarkable bile suggests to me is that there is something rotten in the Internet culture that can vent it. If I ever had any doubts that needs to change, and rid itself of this particular aspect of Internet culture, they are dispelled by this episode.

If you are one of those who have dealt out such ludicrously hyperbolic animosity, you know who should receive your private apology. And if you are one of those who are as disgusted by it as I am, you know where to send your warm letter of support.


Update: Ruth Gledhill has more on this here and here.

February 23, 2010

Richard Dawkins likes the King James Bible

Filed under: Atheism,Richard Dawkins — David Jenkins @ 1:23 pm
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In speaking of the King James Bible, Richard Dawkins makes the extraordinary claim that “religion must not be allowed to hijack this cultural resource”.

Evidently it hasn’t occurred to him that he is the one doing the hijacking.

To rob the Bible of “religion” is to expunge its meaning and make it merely aesthetic. Someone should tell Richard that he is too late: this has already been tried by the Anglican Church.

October 27, 2009

Dawkins Delirium

Filed under: Richard Dawkins — David Jenkins @ 5:56 pm
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h/t Damian Thompson

Richard Dawkins, has made buckets of money saying things like “The universe we observe has … no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference”. Yet, when it suits him,  this champion of reason has no qualms in using the concepts – good and evil – that he claims don’t exist:

What major institution most deserves the title of greatest force for evil in the world? In a field of stiff competition, the Roman Catholic Church is surely up there among the leaders. The Anglican church has at least a few shreds of decency, traces of kindness and humanity with which Jesus himself might have connected, however tenuously: a generosity of spirit, of respect for women, and of Christ-like compassion for the less fortunate. The Anglican church does not cleave to the dotty idea that a priest, by blessing bread and wine, can transform it literally into a cannibal feast; nor to the nastier idea that possession of testicles is an essential qualification to perform the rite. It does not send its missionaries out to tell deliberate lies to AIDS-weakened Africans, about the alleged ineffectiveness of condoms in protecting against HIV. Whether one agrees with him or not, there is a saintly quality in the Archbishop of Canterbury, a benignity of countenance, a well-meaning sincerity. How does Pope Ratzinger measure up? The comparison is almost embarrassing.

In a bleak Dawkins universe of “blind pitiless indifference” the above ravings don’t have to make sense: they are merely the random firing of neurons in Dawkins’ fevered – I was going to say imagination, but in a materialist universe, that doesn’t exist – brain. In the real universe where good and evil do exist, a brief search of Catholic charities is all that is needed to see what a fool Dawkins makes of himself when he pontificates outside of his field.

The most disturbing part of this incoherence is the fact that Dawkins thinks Rowan is saintly. It’s hard to know what Dawkins means by that since a saint is a Christian – a person whom Dawkins enjoys hurling inane schoolboy insults at; whatever he means, Rowan Williams doesn’t need a friend like Richard Dawkins.

October 23, 2009

A circular argument from Richard Dawkins

Filed under: Richard Dawkins — David Jenkins @ 12:08 am

Richard Dawkins frequently posits that the mechanism of evolution has made a world that presents the “illusion of design” and is “dripping with apparent design”. He does it here.

But there is no scientific evidence from which one can deduce that the appearance of design is an illusion created by natural selection – as if it were imbued with the purpose to deceive. It follows from the assumption that there is no God. The (unstated) reasoning is:

God does not exist;
the universe and especially life, presents the appearance of design by an intelligence – God;
since God does not exist the appearance of design is an illusion.

Yet Dawkins stoutly asserts that evolution removes all likelihood of the existence of God (the idea of God “goes out the window”): circular reasoning, since, in declaring the appearance of design a trick of natural selection, he as already made the assumption that God does not exist.

It is no more or less scientific to make the obverse case: God did indeed design life, but he used evolution to create the illusion – for the gullibly obstinate atheist – that life spontaneously developed without any assistance outside of the mechanism of natural selection. And people like Dawkins have fallen for it. Would God do such a seemingly absurd thing? Perhaps, since for those that wish to see, the evidence for his existence permeates the universe; he does allow those who wish to do without him to have their way, though and – Dawkins and his acolytes are having theirs.

October 17, 2009

Richard Dawkins and his merry band of bigots

Filed under: Richard Dawkins — David Jenkins @ 12:16 pm
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English eccentricity is a time-honoured and necessary part of what used to make Britain such a likeable culture. Patrick Moore, whose TV programme The Sky at Night I enjoyed many years ago, is a typical eccentric: he is an astronomer who was a member of the Flat Earth Society.

This impulse for self-mocking comes from a gentler time when people who held strong opinions (Patrick Moore doesn’t believe the earth is flat) still had a sense of humour. Oh that Dawkins and his ilk were as civilised. Here is a typical Dawkinism:

It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).

Now the assertions of young-earth Creationism may have the appearance of being scientifically untenable – and I don’t subscribe to them – but Dawkins consistently lumps anyone who questions evolution’s dogma into one category, that of mindless folly.

Dawkins enthusiasts take their cue from their master:

By the way, the reason biologists ridicule and insult creationists is because they are too lazy to learn anything, and too bloody stupid to understand anything.

That’s funny that a believer in magical creation would call the basic facts of evolution “pseudo-scientific nonsense”. You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about.

Humourless, arrogant, unreasonable, tedious and bigoted.

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