‘Richard Dawkins, what on earth happened to you?’ asks Eleanor Robertson in the Guardian today. Ms Robertson is a ‘feminist and writer living in Sydney’. She follows to the letter the Guardian’s revised style guide for writing about Prof Dawkins: wring your hands until your fingers are raw, while muttering ‘Oh, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown’.
For some time now Dawkins has been saying rude things about Muslims and feminists. This makes him a bigot in the eyes of the Left — and especially the Guardian, which is extraordinarily and mysteriously protective of Islam. As Robertson puts it:
‘Sure, he wrote some pop science books back in the day, but why do we keep having him on TV and in the newspapers? If it’s a biologist you’re after, or a science communicator, why not pick from the hundreds out there who don’t tweet five or six Islamophobic sentiments before getting off the toilet in the morning?’
Note how The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker — masterpieces of lucid thinking that advanced humanity’s understanding of evolution — have become mere ‘pop science’ now that their author is upsetting the wrong people.
As it happens, I can well believe that the former Oxford Professor for the Public Understanding of Science tweets while sitting on the loo: his outbursts have an incontinent feel to them. ‘Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think,’ he tweeted yesterday. He used the same logic to compare ‘mild’ and ‘violent’ paedophilia.
As for Islam, Dawkins marked the end of Ramadan last year with the observation: ‘All the world's Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.’ This tweet was ‘as rational as the rants of an extremist Muslim cleric,’ protested the Guardian.
It’s hard to deny that Dawkins’s ‘secular fundamentalism’ — as liberal commentators now describe it — makes for an embarrassing spectacle. When enraged pensioners pick fights with total strangers, one’s natural reaction is to go and sit somewhere else on the bus.
But Dawkins was just as offensive when his target was Christianity; it’s just that the Left didn’t have a problem with his description of Pope Benedict XVI as a ‘leering old villain in the frock’ who ran ‘a profiteering, woman-fearing, guilt-gorging, truth-hating, child-raping institution … amid a stench of incense and a rain of tourist-kitsch sacred hearts and preposterously crowned virgins, about his ears.’
As I said at the time, that article — in the Washington Post, no less — ‘conjures up the image of a nasty old man who's losing his marbles. It's not very nice about the Pope, either.’ But Dawkins has not become any crazier in the intervening four years; he’s simply widened his attack on blind faith, as he sees it, to include Muslims and feminists.
In the process, he’s exposed a rich vein of hypocrisy in the Left — and, more significantly, an intellectual rift between hard-line and multiculturalist atheists. That rift is growing fast: non-believers, having exhausted their anti-Christian rhetoric, are turning on each other with the ferocity of religious zealots. Enjoy.