This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

A brutal price still paid for daring to challenge faith

Proof, if proof were needed, that "militant secularism" isn't having such a great time of it in modern Britain has been in plentiful supply over the past week, during which there has been a sustained and vicious assault in our media on one of our most distinguished academics. Professor Richard Dawkins (FRS, FRSL) presumably personifies militant secularism, and has been made to suffer for it.

In the Daily Mail last week, A N Wilson launched a nasty attack on him, comparing him, among other things, to a "spotty adolescent". The lead interview in The Sunday Times was one long personal attack on his character, rather than an examination of his ideas. My distinguished colleague Mary Ann Sieghart, who at least has met him, described Dawkins yesterday as "puffed-up, self-regarding, vain, prickly and militant". Rod Liddle wrote a blog for The Spectator with the ludicrous title "Dawkins exposed".

But the pièce de résistance was in The Sunday Telegraph, with an unimprovable exhibition of specious logic. Professor Dawkins, it gushed, "is descended from slave owners and his family estate was bought with a fortune partly created by forced labour. One of his direct ancestors, Henry Dawkins, amassed such wealth that his family owned 1,013 slaves in Jamaica by the time of his death in 1744".

Ah yes, of course. Professor Dawkins must be wrong about God because of what his forefathers got up to 260 years ago.

Most of his critics have never met him, of course, or read any of his books (bestsellers or otherwise). I have never met him either, but, regardless, here are some things I know about him. As the first Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford between 1995 and 2008, he did an extraordinary amount to advance the knowledge and position of science in our country, in fields far beyond his specialism of evolutionary biology.

Read on

See also: Amol Rajan: The Baroness, the comment and the unholy trinity

TAGGED: COMMENTARY, MEDIA, RICHARD DAWKINS, SECULARISM


RELATED CONTENT

Science journalism through the looking...

Chris Chambers and Petroc Sumner -... Comments

Science has an uneasy relationship with journalism, so what can be done by both sides to improve coverage

In defence of obscure words

Will Self - BBC News Magazine 100 Comments

We chase "fast culture" at our peril - unusual words and difficult art are good for us, says Will Self.

Your Brain on Fiction

Annie Murphy Paul - New York Times 26 Comments

New support for the value of fiction is arriving from an unexpected quarter: neuroscience.

The spectre of militant secularism

Nick Cohen - The Spectator 40 Comments

If you turn on the news tonight and hear of a bomber slaughtering civilians anywhere from Nigeria to the London Underground, I can reassure you of one point: the bombers will not be readers of Richard Dawkins.

The Sins of the Fathers [Also in Polish]

Richard Dawkins - RichardDawkins.net 341 Comments

I can’t help wondering at the quality of journalism which sees a scoop in attacking a man for what his five-greats grandfather did.

The Devil, the internet, Richard...

Stephen Bayley - Telegraph blogs 138 Comments

Which, talking of dissimulation, brings me to Richard Dawkins, a fanatic disguised as a scientist.

MORE

MORE BY AMOL RAJAN

MORE

Comments

Comment RSS Feed

Please sign in or register to comment