All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.
– Richard Dawkins on Twitter
Generally speaking, I’m a big fan of Richard Dawkins. I’ve read several of his books and listened to many of his lectures. He’s a brilliant thinker and advocate for science, and has made huge contributions to the field of evolutionary biology. Having said that, he’s also turned into a mind numbingly boring atheist who insists on harassing with religious people at every given opportunity. And it’s getting very, very tiring.
Dawkins declared war on religion several years ago, making it his life’s work to debunk fundamentalism. Which is all fine and well, but rather an odd thing to do given his intellectual capabilities. In my opinion, religious fundamentalists are either not particularly bright, are psychologically damaged, or probably a bit of both. Believing whatever religious scripture they follow to be the true and final word of God is clearly a bit bonkers, particularly if it means discounting things like evolution for it all to make sense. Psychologically fragile people are vulnerable to this sort of stuff, leading some psychologists to argue that fundamentalism should be treated as a mental illness. But I’m not one to judge, and people are welcome to their belief systems, as long as they don’t enforce their morality and history on everyone else. When they do, it’s appropriate to push back. When they don’t, why not leave them alone? It is pretty ridiculous to argue with people who don’t use logic to arrive at their conclusions. It begs the question: why bother?
Dawkins has clearly done good as an advocate of science and a fierce opposer to any form of fundamentalism in education, but his relentless bickering with religious people and religion in general is doing a lot more harm than good. Firstly, Dawkins’ broad attacks on religion alienate moderates and non-fundamentalists. Secondly, I don’t really understand why Dawkins insists on making such broad generalizations about religion and religious people. There are many factions within Islam, huge disagreements and lots of different interpretations of the religion – as there are with every other religion on the planet. You can be a Muslim/Christian/Jew without subscribing to everything written in the Koran/Bible/Torah.
Saying that, “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge,” is not only mean spirited, but utterly stupid. As Nesrine Malik points out in the Guardian:
To wearily engage with his logic briefly: yes, it is technically true that fewer Muslims (10) than Trinity College Cambridge members (32) have won Nobel prizes. But insert pretty much any other group of people instead of “Muslims”, and the statement would be true. You are comparing a specialised academic institution to an arbitrarily chosen group of people. Go on. Try it. All the world’s Chinese, all the world’s Indians, all the world’s lefthanded people, all the world’s cyclists.
Dawkins is engaging in a pointless exercise that serves only to anger lots of people and get him attention on the internet. In blogging circles, we call that trolling.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.