The most clueless attack on Dawkins I’ve seen yet

This may not be the dumbest attack on Dawkins I’ve ever seen, but I think it wins the award for least-informed about the views Dawkins has been promoting for years now:

‘I can’t be sure God DOES NOT exist’: World’s most notorious atheist Richard Dawkins admits he is in fact agnostic

Professor Richard Dawkins today dismissed his hard-earned reputation as a militant atheist – admitting that he is actually agnostic as he can’t prove God doesn’t exist.

The country’s foremost champion of the Darwinist evolution, who wrote The God Delusion, stunned audience members when he made the confession during a lively debate on the origins of the universe with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Professor Dawkins, the former Oxford Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, is a dedicated admirer of Charles Darwin, regarding the Victorian pioneer of evolution as the man who explained ‘everything we know about life’.

But when Archbishop Dr Rowan Williams suggested that Professor Darwin is often described as the world’s most famous atheist, the geneticist responded: ‘Not by me’.

He said: ‘On a scale of seven, where one means I know he exists, and seven I know he doesn’t, I call myself a six.’

Professor Dawkins went on to say he believed was a ’6.9′, stating: ‘That doesn’t mean I’m absolutely confident, that I absolutely know, because I don’t.’

The funny thing about this that this is actually a stronger position than Dawkins took in The God Delusion–there, Dawkins contented himself with calling himself a 6. He also came down pretty hard on “agnosticism,” essentially saying it’s ridiculous to call yourself agnostic if you’re 99% certain God exists (see his comments on Russell’s Teapot, the Tooth Fairy, etc.)

I think journalism schools need to hammer this in to journalists, that if they’re writing about a public intellectual whose books are written at a level accessible to anyone with a college degree, you need to read their damn books before writing about them. Or else you make a fool of yourself by getting all excited about an “admission” they’ve made which is actually something they’ve been saying for years, just because it goes against your preconceptions about the writer in question.

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  • Pierce R. Butler

    Journalists don’t bother to do any background research on candidates for the most powerful offices in the world: at most, they’ll scan a quick rundown on a couple of headline issues or review some trite pundit’s take.

    Nor will they trouble their well-coiffed heads about the history of a nation about to be invaded/allied with/both.

    So why should they put themselves in the embarrassing position of trying to explain to their editors why they wasted a whole day or so in reading a book just to file 300 words about some “Richard Who?” egghead?

  • Lyra

    They don’t care if he’s saying something that he’s been saying for years. They don’t care about what he really means or is really saying. They care about soundbites that they think can sell their product.

  • peicurmudgeon

    Journalists and editors tend to report things as being black or white. Nuances are rarely found in mainstream journalism, and not nearly often enough in science reporting. How many times have we read about scientists being totally baffled or evolution or physics being turned upside down? As Lyra says above, it’s all about salesmanship.

  • Berior

    Nevermind the fact that atheist and agnostic are not mutualy exclusive categories. One having to do with belief, the other with knowledge.

  • Steven Carr

    I take it that these people who have been viciously attacking Dawkins haven’t read the book, or else they would have used this before.

  • davidct

    Dawkins was clear in his book that a scientist cannot claim absolute certainty. There is also the common misunderstanding that atheism is about belief while agnosticism is about knowing. This is perpetuated by people who want to avoid the atheist label. Dawkins like myself is an agnostic atheist. This is someone who does not believe in god but cannot know for sure that there is not some force in the universe that could not be called a god. When it comes to the christian god or Thor, it is possible to almost become a Gnostic atheist. This whole concept is lost on Ms. Hills who did not bother to read even half the book. I hope her editor can explain it to her, but that would be asking too much.

  • sminhinnick

    This sword cuts both ways.

    To apply the same standard to the religious, if a christian is only 99% certain that there is a god, then by their own definition they are agnostic. And if they are 100% certain that god exists then they are required to produce irrefutable evidence.

    It’s only fair, because that is exactly the yard-stick they are applying to atheists.

  • Buffy

    Stupid crap like that is typically said by people who don’t understand the meaning of words like atheist and agnostic.

    Of course if you follow their train of logic, all of the self-professed theists are actually agnostics since none of them can prove there is a god.

  • nemothederv

    So they “caught” him on something that he’s been saying publicly for at least 10 years if not longer.

    I think we can call this proof positive that they haven’t cared to listen. Don’t you? Talk about cherry picking.
    It’s depressing that they would argue not only from a place of ignorance but deliberately do so for so long.

  • Hamsa

    Umm….this was a retarded article…(sorry actual retarded people). First of all, Dawkins has always been an agnostic. You do not seem to know what the term means. Oh, and I should say I am a believer, not an atheist. But stupid is simply stupid. But it makes sense that if you think Dawkins books are college level (they are about 8th grade level, by both US and English standards.), it would then dumbly follow that you have no clue what atheist and agnostic mean. Retarded people should not represent God, or the Bible. But….you’re probably a Fundie/Kool-Aid nutjob…Which makes God cry.

    • Chris Hallquist

      There’s a semantic issue about how to define “agnostic,” but suffice to say Dawkins doesn’t consider himself one. And I didn’t say Dawkins’ books are college level, only that they’re understandable to anyone with a college degree. If they’re written at an 8th grade level, that suggests that a forteriori my claim is true (unless there are people out there who somehow manage to graduate college without reading at an 8th grade level) and it only makes journalists look even dumber.