I never thought I would write that sentence. Well, I imagine that he is right about many things in his field of expertise, evolutionary biology. It is when he abandons his field to become a spokesman for atheism that I think he is often very wrong. Still, I have to give him credit for courage for his infamous tweet about Muslim scientific accomplishments, and of course, I think he is right. It is easy enough to bash Christians. Bashing Muslims could get you killed. Here is the story as told by the Guardian.
The outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins was involved in an online Twitter row on Thursday after tweeting: “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.”
As users piled in to criticise him, the scientist continued: “Why mention Muslim Nobels rather than any other group? Because we so often hear boasts about (a) their total numbers and (b) their science.”
His other posts included: “You can attack someone for his opinion. But for simply stating an intriguing fact? Who would guess that a single Cambridge College” and “Muslims aren’t a race. What they have in common is a religion. Rather than Trinity, would you prefer the comparison with Jews? Google it.”
With the debate escalating, Dawkins, who has more than 777,000 followers, said: “Many are asking how many Nobels have been won by atheists. Needs research. I’d love to know. I suspect the proportion is v high, and growing.”
Owen Jones, the left-leaning commentator and author of Chavs, told Dawkins: “How dare you dress your bigotry up as atheism. You are now beyond an embarrassment.” Legal blogger Jack of Kent added: “Following @RichardDawkins tweet, Trinity Cambridge has presumably also produced more Soviet-supporting traitors to the UK than Islam.”
The row also drew in historian Tom Holland and Channel 4’s economics editor Faisal Islam who commented: “I thought scientists were meant to upbraid journalists for use of spurious data points to ‘prove’ existing prejudgements”.
@jptoc chipped in: “A similar (and infuriating for Dawkins) ‘fact’ is that Islam has more recipients of Nobel Prizes than Dawkins. It’s bad scientific method.”
But some users appeared more forgiving. @Chriss_m, said: “Dawkins spent the best part of 10 years attacking Christianity and not raising an eyebrow. He now turns that same eye on Islam and uproar.”
Trinity College, Cambridge, has 32 Nobel laureates, as against 10 Muslims listed in Wikipedia. When the Guardian contacted Dawkins by email to ask whether he was surprised by the uproar, he replied: “Prompted by exasperation at hearing boasts of (a) how numerous Muslims are in the world and (b) how great is their science.
“This prompted the thought that if they are all THAT numerous, shouldn’t they have more to show for it in terms of achievement? The comparison with Trinity Cambridge I judged less offensive to Muslims than the even more dramatic comparison with Jews (who have garnered an ASTOUNDINGLY large number of Nobel Prizes).”
He continued: “Am I surprised? Only at the number of people who seem to think Islam is a race, rather than a religion. I regard that view as racist. Anything you can convert to, or convert from, is NOT a race.
Dawkins has previously been involved in acrimonious Twitter exchanges over Muslim journalist Mehdi Hasan, prompting Owen Jones to comment “If atheism means being bigoted about Muslims or wanting to drive people of faith from public life, then I am not an atheist.”
Dawkins is obviously thinking more clearly than his detractors. Of course Muslims do not constitute a race. These people are panicking and throwing whatever they can at Dawkins and hoping it sticks.
Actually, I am not sure whether I would give the Muslims, as such, much credit for any scientific accomplishments during the middle ages. When the armies of Islam burst forth from the Arabian peninsula, their first waves of conquest included most of what we now call the Middle East. This region includes Egypt and Mesopotamia, the sites of two of the oldest civilizations in the world and both prosperous and advanced regions. It should be no surprise that the momentum continued for several centuries. Also, many of the scholars and scientists of the Arab Empire were Christians, Jews, or heterodox Muslims, including the sect of the Mutazilites. As the people ruled by the Arabs converted more and more to Islam and the societies became more Islamized, scientific progress slowed and then stopped. These days, the Middle East is one of the poorest and most backward regions in the world. This is a testimony of the influence of 1300 years of Islamic rule.
The thing that bothers me about people like Dawkins, though, is that they are determined to erase the influence of Christianity in the West. You can’t fight something with nothing and thoroughly secularized societies, like Western Europe seem to be increasingly unable to defend themselves against their enemies. They don’t even seem to want to reproduce. If Dawkins is concerned about the growing influence of Islam in Britain and the West, perhaps he ought to encourage belief in Christianity, or something. As it is, I fear he is unwittingly helping the enemies of civilization.
- guardian tecnologia: Richard Dawkins criticised for Twitter comment about Muslims (theguardian.com)
- Please be quiet, Richard Dawkins, I’m begging, as a fan (blogs.telegraph.co.uk) Keep speaking up Richard Dawkins and you’ll end up making me a fan.
- Richard Dawkins in Twitter row over modern-day achievements of Muslims (mirror.co.uk)
- Richard Dawkins: What have Muslims achieved since the dark ages? (express.co.uk)
- An Obnoxious Atheist Insulted Islam, and This is What Happened (blogs.tnr.com)
- Richard Dawkins, ‘the last time Muslims contributed something worthwhile was during the Middle Ages’ (themuslimissue.wordpress.com) If then.
- Richard Dawkins Insults Muslims (drudge.com) Like that’s so hard to do.