THE world’s most famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, has riled many of his followers for remarks he made on Twitter and elsewhere on subjects ranging from sexual harassment (“stop whining”) to Down syndrome fetuses (“abort and try again”),
When Religion News Service reported on his controversial July tweets on pedophilia — Dawkins opined that some attacks on children are “worse” than others — the 73-year-old British evolutionary biologist and best-selling New York Times author declined to be interviewed.
But on a speaking tour through the San Francisco Bay Area in support of his new memoir, “An Appetite for Wonder,” he invited a reporter to sit down with him and explore the thinking behind his remarks.
Bottom line: He stands by everything he has said — including comments that one form of rape or pedophilia is “worse” than another, and that a drunken woman who is raped might be responsible for her fate.
Recent criticism of Dawkins has come from women, many of them within the atheist movement, which has long drawn more men to its ranks..
Writing for Salon last month, atheist activist Amanda Marcotte said: “People like Dawkins … are the public face of atheism. And that public face is one that is defensively and irrationally sexist. It’s not only turning women away from atheism, it’s discrediting the idea that atheists are actually people who argue from a position of rationality. How can they be, when they cling to the ancient, irrational tradition of treating women like they aren’t quite as human as men?”
Some atheist men, too, are unhappy with Dawkins’ most recent remarks.
“There’s no denying that Dawkins played a formative role in the atheist movement, but it’s grown beyond just him,” Adam Lee, a New York-based atheist, wrote in September in The Guardian. “Remarks like these make him a liability at best, a punchline at worst. He may have convinced himself that he’s the Most Rational Man Alive, but if his goal is to persuade everyone else that atheism is a welcoming and attractive option, Richard Dawkins is doing a terrible job.”
Dawkins, however, disagrees.
“I concentrate my attention on that menace and I confess I occasionally get a little impatient with American women who complain of being inappropriately touched by the water cooler or invited for coffee or something which I think is, by comparison, relatively trivial,” he said.