Monday, August 12, 2013

An Open Letter To Richard Dawkins

Hey, Dick!

I regret having stood up for you for some time in your capacity as a leader of New Atheism before having properly informed myself about your statements on various religions. Doubly so since I'm always chiding others for weighing in on topics about which they haven't first informed themselves. Which is pretty much what this post is about.

Let's concede for the sake of argument that you're correct in stating that science in the "Muslim world" is in a sorry state -- you've got a huge microphone and a towering podium, you've got some power: what are you going to DO about it? Beside repeating your mantra, "Religion is bad!"? Yes, Richard, religion is bad, but "Religion is bad!" is extremely oversimplistic, and extreme oversimplification is bad, if you will pardon my oversimplifying the case.

I'll tell you some things you can do:

Read the Koran,and until you're finished with that, enjoy a nice steaming hot mug of STFU about Islam.

But I see I'm far from the first to propose this to you. Oh well. Onward:

Visit some majority-Muslim countries, if you haven't already. If you have, pardon me, but it's hard to imagine that you have. In the course of researching whether or not you've ever been to a majority-Muslim country I came across someone posting on the Internet behind the anonymous safety of a handle, claiming to have been in the Middle East and to know that it amounted to suicide to be there and admit to being an atheist. I was immediately reminded of some other Internet pussies who claimed to live secretly as atheists in the US South, because coming out of the atheist closet there, they were certain, would be career suicide.

I lived in the middle of the Bible Belt for 10 years, during which time it never occurred to me to try to hide the fact that I was an atheist, and I knew people who were bolder than I, and we all were employed.

Admittedly, simply being an atheist, and being Richard Dawkins His Dangself, are two different propositions. But assuming that your personal security could somehow be arranged, would you consider going to Damascus University, say, or the University of Jordan, and meeting face to face with scientists working there, so you'd have a better idea of whom you're dissing? Visiting their labs, discussing their research?

If for no other reason, then to give yourself a shred of credibility on certain topics, as reading the Koran would?

I think your problem here is prejudice, Richard, and prejudice consists of assuming things about people rather than getting to know them as individuals. If "Muslim science" were represented in your mind by some people you'd met, whose labs you'd seen, maybe you'd be less inclined to say such stupid hurtful things about them. If those scientists in Jordan or Syria were not faceless to you, perhaps you'd be inclined to actually say, or even to do, things which could help them perform scientific work better. Of course, if you saw them for yourself, there's also the possibility that you'd see that you had been wrong about "Muslim science" being in such a sorry state, and instead begin wondering -- aloud, and in front of hot mikes, could one hope? -- about things such as why those scientists haven't received more attention from Western institutions such as those folks from Nobel.

Realistically, I don't see any reason to think that you'll do any of these this: read the Koran, go to the Middle East, meet "Muslim scientists" or tour "Muslim universities," or anything else which might open your mind a crack on the subject. (I'd be so glad if you'd prove me wrong.) And so instead, we atheists who are not as completely stupid about religion and culture and history as you -- have you met Salman Rushdie? If so it doesn't seem to have done you any good -- are just going to have to do a much better job of distancing ourselves from you. For so many reasons, including this one: it's true that not every atheist who is critical of Islam needs to have read the Koran, but the leader of a movement of millions of them should know it forward and backward, in Arabic. (Or at least for crying out loud be able to refer us to someone who does.) That's not very much to ask at all. There are plenty of atheists who fulfill that job requirement, including some you've probably never heard of because, you know, they live in the "Muslim world."

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Dawkins has already stated that he does not wish to read the Koran or debate people of faith.

    His reasoning.

    He is right and he knows he is right so what is the point ?

    I would question that attitude from a scientist let alone an atheist evangelist.