Wednesday 24 May 2017

Kevin Myers: Myth of Dawkins as an intolerant, atheist crusader is just that -- myth

Richard Dawkins - portrayed as an austere, proselytising dogmatist despite being nothing of the sort
Richard Dawkins - portrayed as an austere, proselytising dogmatist despite being nothing of the sort

Kevin Myers

RICHARD Dawkins is thricefold famous: once for his espousal of the gene as being the primary unit of life, rather than the plant or animal that is carrying it.

This was enunciated in his landmark work 'The Selfish Gene'. The same book unveiled his second great claim upon fame, his creation of the "meme", the cultural equivalent of the gene: namely, an idea which passes through a community and establishes an existence of its own, even mutating to stay alive. His third achievement is to have become a meme himself, a myth in which he is a cold, disliked, intolerant and distrusted crusader of ideological atheism.

I had the recent pleasure of conducting a public interview with Richard at Listowel. In person, he is diffident and slightly boffinish: in public, he is a vigorous but usually polite proponent of his views. Both versions are confirmation of the real and non-memetic version of Richard Dawkins, the amiable owner of a brilliant and enquiring mind, who is neither intolerant nor bigoted.

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