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Richard Dawkins Receives Rabid Response From His Faithful Followers

Richard Dawkins, so he says, wants to improve the forums on his website by implementing some new changes. He wants to keep it “scientific” and “rational”. The forums had, apparently, become a safe haven for Darwinians and atheists to post whatever uninteresting and vile subject matter their atheistic and Darwinian philosophy saw fit. So Dawkins posted a letter announcing the changes to the forums:

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…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.

The reaction he received from some of his own Darwinian and atheistic followers was heinous, so he responded:

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 RD.net needs to change, and rid itself of this particular aspect of Internet culture, they are dispelled by this episode.

But, Dr. Dawkins, you knew they were snakes when you picked them up, why are you surprised when you get bitten?  You invited them, gave them a home, encouragement, free reign, why the surprise?

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29 Responses to Richard Dawkins Receives Rabid Response From His Faithful Followers

  1. A clear-thinking Oasis

    Lovin’ it.

    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.

    You mean like:
    “A suppurating rat’s rectum inside a dead skunk that’s been shoved up a week-old dead rhino’s twat.”

    That surely is original …

    A clear-thinking Oasis

    SCNR

  2. All Science so far…

  3. Hey maybe DS can get a job over at RD.net now.

    SCNRA

    I hope I am not getting banned over this.

    What about freedom of speech Richard? Let them have their say, they are not evil!

    Or have you finally found the root of all evil after all … on you own website!!

    This is so funny.

  4. 4

    Clive,

    An allusion to the age old fable of the scorpion and the frog is fitting here. “But why did you sting me?” protested the frog. “Because it’s in my nature,” exclaimed the scorpion.

    [While this fable was subject matter in recent popular media, The movie 'The Crying Game' as one example, it has earlier roots.]

  5. 5

    Apparently the bottom-up, natural evolution of the forums didn’t achieve the functional elegance and beauty that Dawkins was hoping for, so he had to apply some top-down, controls and modifications to achieve a functioning, efficient goal.

    I guess the board hadn’t evolved a solution to the chirality problem and most of the product was turned into unacceptable sludge by the ever-present internet “muck”.

    How ironic.

    It also points towards Dawkins’ utter lack of human understanding if he cannot fathom why people who have invested so heavily socially and emotionally in an intellectual (so to speak) home (even if a rat-invested pool of mire) might resent being tossed out and regulated like unwanted criminals.

  6. William thanks for the great analogy. :-)

  7. Surely there has to be something wrong with people…

    What’s the basis for this judgment? One could argue that venomous bile provides more of a competitive advantage than “reason and science” does. Who is RD to say that one is “wrong,” when both were selected/persisted by the same blind, unthinking watchmaker that cares nothing for us?

  8. This corresponds fascinatingly with a radio debate I hosted featuring a former RDnet user who became disillusioned after seeing the way the users acted and later became a Christian.

    You can listen here:
    http://www.premierradio.org.uk.....x?mediaid={6D3B45C5-D7DC-4B57-B8AA-D3588FC03C16}

    Also see the (somewhat ironic) response on RDnet that the show generated here:

    http://richarddawkins.net/articles/4312

  9. You’ll need to manually insert the second part of the link to my radio show above, it doesn’t seem to want to include the whole address in the hyperlink.

  10. When you put a large group of people who think life is meaningless together in one place, I’m not sure how reactions that spew bitterness in all directions can be surprising. Dawkins is right about one thing though – there is something wrong with those people. But he and his evangelical message of meaninglessness is part of the problem.

    @ Steve #7 – exactly. Without a ruler, it’s a bit hard to be too concerned about the measurement of someone else.

    @ Justin #8 – Yeah I remember listening to that show – btw, love the show Justin, thanks for doing it! I always look forward to listening to it on my iPod.

  11. “A suppurating rat’s rectum inside a dead skunk that’s been shoved up a week-old dead rhino’s twat.”

    I learned a new word today at least. I got one question though:

    Is the dead rhino a week old or has it been dead a week? I think we might have a misplaced modifier.

  12. CannuckianYankee,

    Thanks for the scorpion and frog comparison, I was making reference to a similar fable with the boy who carried the snake up the mountain and was surprised when he was bitten. The moral in both fables is the same. I’m glad you saw the relevance of the fable you mentioned, it’s what I was hoping would be seen with my reference to snakes.

  13. What about a snake carrying a snake up a hill?
    They only take their cue from Dawkins himself.

  14. Heh, sounds like the “Devil’s Chaplain” has found something “wrong” with his congregation. But can he articulate a rationale basis for his belief that something is “wrong”? I doubt it. Even if he can, does it matter? Since Dawkins does not believe in free will, I don’t see how it could.

    It is nihilism all the way down. Enjoy the free fall.

  15. Schadenfreude is petty and unbecoming.

  16. Retroman,

    Give it a rest. There is no serious misfortune or suffering on Dawkin’s part here. Furthermore, it is not schadenfreude to point out the contradictions between the world view that Richard Dawkins makes millions of dollars promoting and the real world.

    In the real world there is such a thing as good and evil. In the world Dawkins espouses, there is no good and evil and no right and wrong. Yet Dawkins finds “something wrong” with his followers as they descend into the uncivilized squaller that is the inherit result of their amoral materialist world view.

  17. I’m confused. Isn’t it those religious fanatics, those creationist IDers, that represent an assault on reason? Surely the enlightened members of our race who wisely subscribe to Darwinian evolution represent the highest achievements of human reason, and cannot possibly be acting in such an irrational, passion driven way, right?

  18. It is Dawkins’s site. He pays the piper, he gets to choose the tune. If it had drifted away from the vision he has for it then he is fully entitled to have it dragged back on course.

    What is strange is that, as a professional ethologist, he, or those working for him, badly underestimated the importance of community to the forum members.

    Human beings are social creatures. We form communities and they are very important to us. We feel personally threatened if our communities are threatened. I suspect a lot of the hostility towards Dawkins from religious groups is at least as much about the threat they fear his aggressive brand of atheism poses for their religious communities as it is about theological or philosophical issues.

    Whether or not the revamped site is more to his liking or works any better, the way the changeover has been handled has needlessly squandered a great deal of support and good will and that was foolish.

  19. I have no particular expertise in the history of science, as to how scientific theories tend to go defunct. But I have a little bit in how blog and web forums do so.

    Blogs that require all posts by members be administratively cleared before posting don’t work. Similarly, a forum that begins to require administrative clearance for members to start threads is headed the way of the do-do bird.

    Being an evolutionist, I bet a dollar to a donut that Dawkins backs down. Decency is one thing, you see. Survival quite another.

  20. 20

    re:19

    jstanley01

    You sound like a true Darwinian. Tell me, must we sacrifice decency in order to survive? I think it’s the indecency that has led to the demise of the current format on RDnet – apparently even Dawkins admits to that.

  21. Sev,

    Uh, any spookie threats to posting priviliges on the website in question, are coming from those who share the same worldview.

    That may be categorized slightly different than, say, lending his support to a petition that would legally prohibit parents from raising their children in their own religious tradition, and “free children from being indoctrinated with the religion of their parents.”

  22. Stunning news to be sure. Will PZ clean up his website also? Naaaaaaaaa……

  23. Seversky at #18

    “Whether or not the revamped site is more to his liking *****or works any better*****, the way the changeover has been handled has needlessly squandered a great deal of support and good will and that was foolish.”

    You mean “works any better” as in promoting a more rational and civil discussion? Maybe it’s just how I was raised, but is this an actual question in someone’s mind?

  24. Clive writes:

    “But, Dr. Dawkins, you knew they were snakes when you picked them up, why are you surprised when you get bitten? You invited them, gave them a home, encouragement, free reign, why the surprise?”

    I am merely speculating of course, but I wonder if RD wasn’t under a bit of peer pressure to “tone it down”. Other than atheism, it is difficult to believe that RD and the overwhelming majority of the “remarkable bile” that post on his site have anything in common at all.

  25. I’m confused. Isn’t it those religious fanatics, those creationist IDers, that represent an assault on reason? Surely the enlightened members of our race who wisely subscribe to Darwinian evolution represent the highest achievements of human reason, and cannot possibly be acting in such an irrational, passion driven way, right?

    Not really. I mean the militant atheists keep saying that one must be a complete idiot to disagree with them, which means they don’t actually claim a higher status for themselves than just-above-idiot. I’m willing to concede the point to them.

  26. Richard Dawkins on his own forum on April 22, 2009 at 9:32 am

    “I suspect that most of our regular readers here would agree that ridicule, of a humorous nature, is likely to be more effective than the sort of snuggling-up and head-patting that Jerry is attacking. I lately started to think that we need to go further: go beyond humorous ridicule, sharpen our barbs to a point where they really hurt.
    Michael Shermer, Michael Ruse, Eugenie Scott and others are probably right that contemptuous ridicule is not an expedient way to change the minds of those who are deeply religious. But I think we should probably abandon the irremediably religious precisely because that is what they are – irremediable. I am more interested in the fence-sitters who haven’t really considered the question very long or very carefully. And I think that they are likely to be swayed by a display of naked contempt. Nobody likes to be laughed at. Nobody wants to be the butt of contempt.

    http://richarddawkins.net/articles/3767

    Oh, well…

  27. gleaner, the question you seem to pose in #24 has been answered in #26 (and elsewhere).

    While it may be true that Richard Dawkins has more skin in the game than the average anonymous blogger, for their ambition to perpetuate willfull ignorance, they have everything necessary in common.

  28. Anyone cast out by the recent collapse of Richard Dawkins Forum may be reunited with old friends at; http://www.rationalskepticism.org/index.php
    Get the full story on what happened as told by RDF volunteers and members at: http://www.rationalskepticism......#038;t=454

  29. gleaner63 @ 24
    I am merely speculating of course, but I wonder if RD wasn’t under a bit of peer pressure to “tone it down”. Other than atheism, it is difficult to believe that RD and the overwhelming majority of the “remarkable bile” that post on his site have anything in common at all.
    Maybe we’ll never be told – but many of the postings reveal the antithesis of the oasis of reason that Dawkins aspired to when he set up the forum. If his peers did not tell him that the forum was a disgrace, they were failing him as colleagues.

    jstanley01 @ 19
    Blogs that require all posts by members be administratively cleared before posting don’t work. Similarly, a forum that begins to require administrative clearance for members to start threads is headed the way of the do-do bird.
    Spot on. You need liberty to nurture free debate. Vetting threads is inhibiting. Moderation is the conventional way of keeping a focus on the issues. The problem with the RDF forum is that they had liberty without any ground rules. So many forum members appeared to be total anarchists – they could say anything and they did just that. Vetting threads is a blow against anarchists and it is not surprising they are outraged. For them, atheism and evolution means they are accountable to nobody but themselves and they react violently to the thought that someone else is going to sit in judgment on what they want to say. Dawkins wants to nurture free thought, but he seems to have no idea that freedom and law must coexist if liberty is to thrive.

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