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Tue Dec 20, 2011, 03:54 PM

 

Why is Dr. Dawkins and some others such controversial figures? [View all]

This is something I simply fail to understand. I wanted to talk about Dawkins in particular since he's the most visible "face" of atheism in mainstream media, but this also applies to others. Now, frankly I've seen and read Dawkins quite extensively for years, even as far back as when was a theist because as a Catholic I was taught that evolution was a fact, and I was fascinated by it and wanted too learn more.

The thing is, that even when Dawkins became more outspoken as an atheist, I didn't see so much a change in tone as a change in outspokenness. Even in his earliest works he was dismissive of religion in general. But the fascinating bit is more recent, and it doesn't have to do with him, in particular, but in his detractors. I'm not saying he's above criticism, however, it seems to be so over the top its almost comical if it weren't for the fact that too many people would put words into action if they could.

The first thing that needs to be cleared up is this, Dawkins is, first and foremost, a scientist, and one who is an educator of science to the general public at large, that was his job for years at university. In this sense he is no different than, for example, Neil Degrass Tyson in the United States, and in this regard, they are probably equally as popular to the general public in their respective countries, Dr. Tyson probably less so in the United States due to the abhorrent state of our science education.

Dr. Tyson is also less controversial, at least in the United States, even though both him and Dr. Dawkins are both nonreligious and dismissive of religious claims in general. Tyson, however, is notably less critical of religion, I don't think because he views it as less ridiculous but rather that his field of study, astrophysics is not considered such a direct confrontation to religious beliefs, and is also so much more esoteric that many don't understand it, and when he does explain it, its in rather simplified terms.

Dr. Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist, and hence, to many religious people, his field of study is a direct threat to their dogma. His field is, as a consequence, under direct attack by many people who use misinformation, lies, and ignorance as their weapons. In a sense, Dawkins is put in an unenviable position of being on the defensive so much more often. In addition I think a cultural difference also comes into play, the fact that being critical of religion is more acceptable in Great Britain than in the United States. Tyson, wanting to popularize science to a country where the overwhelming majority is Christian, wouldn't want to directly antagonize the religious, but rather chip away at the edges of non-rational belief, for example, in his staunch criticism of astrology.

Yet Dawkins is, at least in his home country, decidedly less controversial than he is in the United States, again, reflecting differences in cultural attitudes. This is reflected in the visceral and vicious reactions he gets whenever a statement of his is reflected in media that is open for all to comment on. The fringe religious in Britain and a large segment of the American commentators compare him to being a Grand Wizard of the KKK, condemn him to hell, post death threats, etc. Gross overreactions to his opinions on religion and it seems that you would think that he would never be a guy who gets invited on children shows in Great Britain to explain the evolution of the eye, but he is. Of course, he courts controversy as well, because it increases the visibility of his arguments and of the facts about evolution and science he wishes to popularize.

Of course, he's also a victim of quote mining, and misstatements attributed to him, in fact, I would say that his most staunchest detractors never even bothered to watch a single show or talk by him or any that he participated in. The worse you can say about Dawkins is that he doesn't suffer fools gladly, especially when it comes to creationists, he shuts them down eloquently and passionately. The most memorable was when he shut down Ted Haggard(before his, um, fall, for lack of a better word) when he said he believed that we didn't come about through random chance, and the look on Dawkins face was memorable, its like Ted Haggard grew two heads, or said the world was flat, that's how idiotic the argument was, and Dawkins told him this very simply.

Of course, Ted, being a "man of faith" simply decided to continue believing his lie. But to put it simply, is Dawkins really the hatemonger so many claim he is? I don't think so, above criticism? Of course not, indeed I don't agree with him on all points, but in balance I really don't understand the hatred so many espouse against him.

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Reply Why is Dr. Dawkins and some others such controversial figures? [View all]
Humanist_Activist Dec 2011 OP
RZM Dec 2011 #1
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Goblinmonger Dec 2011 #7
mr blur Dec 2011 #2
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