working in the fail trade

Oh dear. There is so much that is wrong with this article that it’s hard to know where to begin. Let me make a little list.

  1. The Daily Mail
  2. “Daily Mail Reporter”
  3. “…it has been revealed.” (No no NO NO.)
  4. I am put in the position of actually having to defend Richard Dawkins, who I think is somewhat of a big jerk sometimes.

By the way, that’s “wrong” as in “wrong-bad,” not “wrong” as in factually inaccurate, and it fills me with dismay that so-called “conservatives” keep falling for tactics like this. After all, isn’t it one of the major complaints conservatives have about liberals and progressives the way that those two groups use “UR ancestors were bad!” tactics to gain political power? I have no doubts (and also don’t care) that some ancestor of Dawkins’ owned slaves in Jamaica. What is wrong-bad about this whole thing is the way his opponents are snickering and giggling about this as if they’d revealed some big, damaging secret. Sadly, in this bizarre world where people (white “liberal” ones, mostly) are trying to one-up each other in the “I’m more anti-racist no I’m more anti-racist” holier-than-thou game, it could probably cause damage to whatever he is trying to do, even good things.

Because I’m sure that he does good things in between setting fire to the kittens of cute Catholic children and trying to cancel Christmas. Let’s look for some. Oh here. Here is the Richard Dawkins Foundation, whose mission says it is to

…support scientific education, critical thinking and evidence-based understanding of the natural world in the quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and suffering.

See, who can argue with that? Aren’t scientific education, critical thinking, and evidence-based understanding of the natural world good things, that people on the right and left side of the political spectrum both claim to want to be used in society? On the other hand, there is that bit about “religious superstition,” but I can remember when I was a kid being told that “superstition” was different from proper religious belief. “Superstition” was both stupid (astrology, palm-reading, thinking that if you broke a mirror you’d have seven years of bad luck) and dangerous (belief in witches led to the death of scores of innocent old women whose only crime was being disliked by their neighbors), and proper Christians, for example, were not supposed to act that way. There was even a song, popular in the Seventies, that spelled that out: “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder. Anyway, to make a long diatribe short, in Sunday school we kids were taught that “proper” religious belief did not involve the use of nonsensical activities like spells, horoscopes, and charms to get things we wanted and to tell the future. We were taught that proper religious belief was supposed to focus on making you behave better. Yes, it was a very Protestant, whitebread sort of religious upbringing I had, but that was before religion on television became popular.

Leaving the religious bit aside, I think that the mission of the Dawkins Foundation is a good one. We have a real serious need for proper scientific education in the Western World. The lack of understanding goes all the way to the top, leading to such things as the banning of the harmless incandescent light bulb as a frankly superstitious gesture towards the problem of overuse of energy. Banning the light bulb does fuckall to save large amounts of energy — it’s like watering a petunia in your front yard while your house is burning. But the scientific ignoramuses we keep voting into the government were fooled into doing this and now if I want to buy 100-watt incandescent bulbs I have to order them over the internet from Germany. What sort of fuckery is that?

Anyway, getting back to the point, how is Dawkins at fault for this? Where is his hypocrisy? The only way this attack could mean anything would be if he had tried to hide or deny his family history, or if he had attacked someone else for having slave-owning ancestors. As far as I know he has not done either of those things. What good does sneering at Richard Dawkins’ slave-owning ancestor do anyone? It gives his enemies a right old laugh. And… that’s about it. All I can say is you must be very depressed if that’s what it takes to cheer you up. Also? I never want to hear one word against “reparations” or anything descendants of African slaves in Europe and the Americas say or do any more if you think this sort of thing is okay. No more complaints about their supposed “lower IQs” being the only thing holding them back from being as intelligent and successful as white people, no more whining when your “funny” racist joke isn’t well-received, no more complaining that “those people stick together,” no bitching that white people aren’t getting 100% of the appreciation any more, no moaning about how some minority critic trampled on your toys when he pointed out some beloved book or movie has racist elements in it. I don’t want to hear any of it any more if you think that it’s just fine to join in when some white person who is on the other side of your white people status games gets slammed.

(Via Kathy Shaidle, who sadly joins in on the mockery — even though, I don’t know, she’s apparently not too pleased with the Catholic church these days, so whatever.)

9 thoughts on “working in the fail trade

  1. aelfheld

    I don’t think much of Dawkins or his obsessions – he exhibits d—-d little ‘critical thinking’ or ‘evidence-based understanding’ in his attacks on religion – but how his ancestor’s actions have any bearing on his bizarreries is unfathomable.

    Don’t be too quick to puff up the value of ‘scientific education’ – ‘global cooling’ ‘global warming’ ‘global climate change’ is the current favourite of the scientific educationists and there’s less supporting evidence for that than the religion Dawkins decries.

    1. Andrea Harris Post author

      Actually, we don’t have scientific education right now, at least not in the lower grades where it counts. If people had proper scientific education, as opposed to “memorize this for the test so you can pass the course so you can graduate so you can go to college where you can party 24/7,” we wouldn’t have a populace that fell for every end-of-the-world scenario that came out, and we could actually figure out whether global warming/cooling/etc. was a serious “thing” that something should be “done” about. But we don’t — we have this warehousing move-’em-along school system and a culture that favors entertainment over serious thought. Dawkins is as bad as anyone at pandering to the latter, but the aims of his foundation are honest and needed.

    2. aelfheld

      Considering Dawkins’ views on faith, I’m not certain it’s wise to put much in purported goals of his foundation.

      It’s not so much a lack of scientific education but a lack of education in general. The public school system has been turned into a government-funded jobs program for incompetents, lackwits, and slackers. The ignorance of children is breathtaking – they can’t read, can’t write, can’t add two and two with any reliability, and are unencumbered with anything resembling knowledge.

    3. Andrea Harris Post author

      You’re probably right, but I still think the aim of the foundation is good.

      Re schools: at least here in the US, they’ve become nothing more than warehouses to keep kids in so the parents can work. Everything is aimed towards turning out a docile, easily-led set of future worker bees who won’t question authority as long as they can watch their favorite sports team on tv. By the way, it wasn’t until I did substitute teaching a couple of times (in desperation, because I could not find another job), that I realized how much I, who had been a good and docile student, had hated school. I never even realized it then — I just accepted having to go to prison for seven to eight hours per day five days a week nine months of the year was my lot in life. I’m so glad I didn’t have kids, because I’d want to home school them and I just don’t have the patience. I’d end up sending them to school and hating myself.

      Okay, I’ve gotten off the subject. What can I say, school sucks.

  2. nightfly

    Good essay/rant. As one of them Papist sorts, I think Dawkins is a bit of a kook, but that has zero to do with which of his ancestors may have owned a slave.

    PS – really nice redesign. I’m gonna screen cap this one so I can remember it when it’s gone next month.

    1. Andrea Harris Post author

      It’s just someone’s website design ported over from WordPress.org’s theme repository. I didn’t do a thing to it. I’m already thinking of changing it, though. You should probably screencap my blog daily.

  3. Starless

    Lemme see if I understand the logic here:

    Step 1. Dawkins ancestors own slaves
    Step 2. ?
    Step 3. Dawkins is a big jerk

    Actually, we don’t have scientific education right now, at least not in the lower grades where it counts.

    Absolutely. You can’t teach kids science without teaching them the scientific method and it seems as though both sides of the partisan divide are bound-and-determined to make sure their kids don’t learn it.

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