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Dawkins’ dangerous tweet

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News writer Denyse O’Leary at Cornell/ Laszlo Bencze

News desk here, weighing in on the hot weather uproar around Darwinian atheist Richard Dawkins’s recent tweet:

All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.

Dawkins, who likely received mostly praise for claiming that “sex abuse does ‘arguably less long-term psychological damage’ than being brought up a Catholic” may be in even bigger faux trouble for this tweet than he was when he weighed in on the atheist “elevator” melodrama. We took his side on that latter one (= big fuss about nothing), so perhaps we ought to say something again.

Nesrine Malik ripostes,

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.

Fair enough. We could also point out that vanishingly few Middle Eastern Muslims make it into the National (ice) Hockey League, but that over half the League is Canadian born. Lesson?: Next time, bring your own ice, fellas.

Malik’s point is well taken. But a comparison of the achievements of universities as such would bear out Dawkins’s point. The ones noted for ground-breaking research are not in the middle East (except for Israel, a widely recognized exception with 10 Nobels).

The main lesson is that human achievement is widely variable by time, place, and circumstance, and within those limits, it depends a great deal on how people want to spend their time, what they want to do with their lives. The role religion plays is highly variable because it depends so much on the content of the religion as it plays out in people’s lives. Not necessarily as proclaimed by prophets, apologists, or spokespeople.

American atheists were raising cain about the supposed bad influence of religion on public life in the United States at the same time as the astronauts read from Genesis while floating in space. Go figure.

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6 Responses to Dawkins’ dangerous tweet

  1. What a numbskull, that Dawkins. The engine of such discoveries was the Judaeo-Christian scientific heritage of the western Nobel laureates – most notably, the great paradigm-changers, some long predating Mr Nobel’s munificence, of course.

    The Judaeo-Christian patrimony was wall-to-wall, anyway, until the totalitarian lock-down by the atheist Consensus eventually, if inevitably, degraded scientific standards.

  2. 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 doesn’t want to point out only 2 women received Nobel Prizes in physics (Marie Curie in 1903 and Maria Mayer in 1963).

    For sure the feminists will get after him if he said the something like:

    Trinity college has more science Nobel prizes than all the women combined (19)

    But I guess he doesn’t want another elevator gate. :-)

  3. Actually 43 women have won Nobels between 1901 and 2012. (44 awards because Marie Curie won twice.)

    http://www.nobelprize.org/nobe.....women.html

    So if we choose the category “women” we can outdo both Trinity and Israel.

    No surprise there, lots of women have been allowed to get a science education in the last century. So we might expect to hear at least some signal and we do.

  4. Sorry about #2. Scarcely relevant to this thread.

  5. In all seriousness, his effective proclamation of scientism as the only knowledge, immediately after making such ‘promising noises’, (which he had evidently heard and thought sounded wonderfully intellectually sophisticated), makes one wonder if he’s ‘losing it’.

    Quite what such loss might be is all together another question, and might best be answered by science’s dilettante metaphysicists, studying the multifarious secrets concealed within nothing. Richard…!

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