Monday 23 September 2019

Oh Lordy! Grumpy academic Richard Dawkins strikes a bum note with his sexist comments

Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

For a man who prides himself on being the font of all reason, Richard Dawkins has started to resemble a real-life version of Sideshow Bob, constantly standing on rakes and smacking himself in the face with his own opinions.

It's been a busy few months for the Pope of non-belief, with his recent comments about "mild paedophilia" and how, a few weeks ago, he pulled off the rare double whammy of infuriating both sides of the abortion debate by suggesting that aborting a foetus with Down's syndrome was the "ethical" thing to do.

Both of those mini-scandals had one thing in common - he was wearing his scientist's cap, where logic trumps emotion. But reason counts for little when you have the bedside manner of Harold Shipman. Having been the bete noire of the faithful ever since the release of 'The God Delusion', he now finds himself the target of those who used to revere him with, well, an almost-religious devotion.

When people talk about the perils of making a fool of yourself on Twitter, they are usually warning kids, alcoholics or the chronically-befuddled not to say dumb things. But perhaps there should be a special advisory issued for grumpy academics who try to condense their world view into 140 characters. Dawkins has now outraged acolytes everywhere with his suggestion that a rape complaint made by a woman who was drunk carries less weight than a complaint by someone who was sober. It's not an unusual argument.

English judge Mary Jane Mowat caused similar outrage last month when she made the same point. Few of who those who disagreed with the judge said she had shattered their faith in the British legal system. Yet Dawkins has now been condemned as a sexist heretic by his atheistic brethren. 'The Guardian' shrieked that he "had let down the whole 'atheist movement'", while others were quick to say that he "does not speak for the atheist community".

Where is this atheist community? Is it a gated community snugly nestling alongside the gay community we hear so much about?

According to one outraged former acolyte, the atheist movement is: "A loosely-knit community of conference-goers, advocacy organizations, writers and activists."

Frankly, any 'movement' which consists of conference-goers, advocacy organisations, writers and activists sounds like precisely a group of people who should be offended at every available turn. Just on general principle, you understand.

But the huffing and puffing and downright fury with which fellow non-believers greeted his remarks shows the paucity of thought in what passes for much of atheist rhetoric these days. If two people have one thing in common (a lack of belief), why should they have similar views on anything else? I imagine many readers are united in their lack of belief in Zeus or Apollo, but that's hardly grounds for them to have the same opinions on date rape, abortion or sexism.

The usual lazy slur against atheists is that they have formed their own religion. That's nonsense, but plenty of them are desperate to codify and set down rules for what everyone who doesn't believe in God should think. The inconvenient truth that many of these doctrinal zealots fail to accept is that non-belief cannot be a movement, or a community, or any other collective. It is, by nature, a solitary and rational acceptance that there is no Creator, either good, bad or indifferent and there is no celestial carrot or stick. The only basic fact that all non-believers can agree on is that there is nothing out there, which is hardly a basis for any sort of coherent, cohesive movement. Nor should it be.

In the meantime, I shall endeavour to discover the location of the Shangri-La that is the "atheist community".

But only to make sure I know where to avoid.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss