Andrew Brown really hates Richard Dawkins

August 19, 2014 • 9:48 am

Andrew Brown may get the award for Biggest Faitheist of the Decade, for, despite being an admitted atheist, he spends virtually all of his time excoriating atheism and atheists (especially Richard Dawkins) and keeping his mitts off religion.

For years he’s done that at the Guardian, but now he seems to have expanded his venue to the Spectator, which, perhaps, is seeking the kind of rage-fuelled clickbait that Brown always provides. And, three days ago, the Spectator has published a particularly noxious attack on Dawkins by Brown: “The bizarre—and costly—cult of Richard Dawkins.” The main point seems to be that the Dawkins Foundation is raising money by giving people paid opportunities to interact with Dawkins. Brown sees that as equivalent to setting up a cult with St. Richard as its head.

Brown’s piece begins with this stupid and childish cartoon:

DAWKINS16august-490x413

 

Really, it’s something that a 15-year-old could have drawn, and makes fun of Dawkins in an immature and unfair way. Read the text and the cartoon balloons. But we’re used to this kind of stuff with Brown.

Brown’s other points include his attack on Dawkins’s claims that babies are born atheists, for Brown implies in the included audio clip that since there are babies of nationality, like German babies, or babies of ethnicity, like Asian babies, there must surely be “religious babies”—Muslim babies, Catholic babies, and so on. An atheist baby would then be the child of atheists, so those certainly exist under Brown’s conception.  But the comparison is bogus, for atheism is not a biological trait or place of birth, but a belief (or rather, nonbelief), something that you simply can’t attach to a child.  Really, does it make sense to say that a newborn is a “Muslim baby”? “Offspring of Muslim parents,” perhaps, but not “Muslim baby,” and I don’t use such terms.

Brown goes on about Richard as the equivalent of a cult leader or religious figure, but it’s clear, as it always has been, that Brown is simply jealous of Dawkins’s success (listen to the audio as well):

Last year he tweeted a recommendation of comments collected by one of his followers at a book signing in the US. Among them were: ‘You’ve changed the very way I understand reality. Thank you Professor’; ‘You’ve changed my life and my entire world. I cannot thank you enough’; ‘I owe you life. I am so grateful. Your books have helped me so much. Thank you’; ‘I am unbelievably grateful for all you’ve done for me. You helped me out of delusion’; ‘Thank you thank you thank you thank you Professor Dawkins. You saved my life’; and, bathetically, ‘I came all the way from Canada to see you tonight.’ With this kind of incense blown at him, it’s no wonder he is bewildered by criticism.

I wonder whose lives Brown has changed?

He then he raises the Religious Trope:

Like all scriptures, the Books of Dawkins contain numerous contradictions: inThe God Delusion itself he moves within 15 pages from condemning a pope who had baptised children taken away from Jewish parents to commending Nick Humphrey’s suggestion that the children of creationists be taken away because teaching your children religion is comparable to child abuse. So believers can always find a scripture where he agrees with them, which naturally cancels out the one where he doesn’t.

Whether he means that religious believers are despicable ‘stumbling, droning inarticulate .. yammering fumblewits’ who are ‘likely to be swayed by a display of naked contempt’ (that’s from a 2009 blogpost) or ‘I don’t despise religious people. I despise what they stand for’ (from a 2012 speech) can lead to arguments as interminable as those over the peaceful or otherwise character of the Prophet Mohammed.

And, in the depths of his rancor, Brown gets confused:

Similarly, does he mean that genes are selfish, or that they are co-operative? Both, it seems, and with equal vehemence.

Well, Mr. Brown, Richard means both, and that’s clear. Natural selection can sometimes favor genes for cooperation, and sometimes genes for being selfish. Humans are, in fact, both. We’ll take care of ourselves if it is best for our genes, and be cooperative when that behavior is best for our genes. Brown, it seems, hasn’t absorbed the lesson of evolution.

What’s ironic about all this is that Brown criticizes atheism and atheists in proportion to how “religious” they are, but he neither criticizes religion nor the followers of religion who not only say things that rouse ire, but actually kill people, or urge others to do so. If atheism is as bad as religion, why don’t we see Brown going after faith? Brown’s neglect of religion, more than anything else, tells me that one of his biggest motivations is jealousy—a jealousy that he tries to overcome by going after atheism’s most prominent figure. But, as someone said, tearing down Richard Dawkins doesn’t magically turn you into Richard Dawkins.

The ten-minute audio clip is a discussion between Brown and Andrew Trilling, editor of New Humanist Magazine. Trilling does a great job at countering Brown’s blather, and, as usual, Brown is supercilious and arrogant.

And, of course, the Spectator got what it wanted: views. There are 449 comments as of this posting. No matter that most of them make fun of Brown or denigrate his views, for clicks are money.

h/t: Nick

88 thoughts on “Andrew Brown really hates Richard Dawkins

  1. When atheists argue how does it differ from religionists arguing about theology?
    I don’t call myself an atheist but a non-believer so the only people I argue with are religionists.

    1. “When atheists argue how does it differ from religionists arguing about theology?”

      Because it’s not a religious argument. What a peculiar question! Atheism isn’t a religion, so what’s the point of that question beyond an implied *tu quoque*?

  2. “That’s a Christian baby there. And that one, she’s a Muslim baby. That one over there, he’s a racist baby. Just there, next to the misogynistic baby.”

  3. “he moves within 15 pages from condemning a pope who had baptised children taken away from Jewish parents to commending Nick Humphrey’s suggestion that the children of creationists be taken away because teaching your children religion is comparable to child abuse.”
    How is this contradictory? In both instances RD is saying that people should not be indoctrinated into a religion until they are old enough to make their own decisions.

    1. Brown also seems to conflate these examples with the idea that there is no situation where it could be moral to remove a child from a household. Dawkins never implied any such thing.

    1. PZ Myers doesn’t hate RD but disagrees vehemently with his recent tw**ts. PZ’s had very pleasant and interesting interactions with RD in the past (e.g., the “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” incident) and written very complimentary posts about him.

      1. I haven’t read Pharyngula regularly in a long time, so I am not claiming to know one way or the other, but your examples are not all that convincing. The one specific example you’ve given is from years ago. Back then Pharyngula was quite different than it is now. Things change.

        I can say that I have read comments by PZ more recently where he has talked about Dawkins in ways that are not typically considered to be indicative of having a general respect for the person talked about.

            1. I would like to see the evidence too.
              I read PZ’s blog fairly often and PZ has been criticized by his horde for not being critical enough of Dawkins. PZ says he likes him, has respect for him and can’t bring himself to be personally critical because of this. He has said that he dislikes some of things that Dawkins has tweeted and has criticized that.
              I have seen no evidence of this lack of general respect that you speak of.

              1. @trou is bang on.

                Yes PZ can be an incendiary and polarising figure. More often than not I happen to agree with on social issues, if not always political issues (for instance, having recently read some books on the history of the conflict I feel his take on Israel-Palestine is a bit too simplistic – even if his heart is in the right place: with the bystanders who are the victims of the conflict).

                However, any ‘charges’ against him should at least be accurate, and the picture of him as some sort of Dawkins-baiting maniac is a crude caricature. He has been critical of some of Dawkins’ tw**ts, but I feel he was right to be since, much as I’m sure we all like his work, Dawkins has said some simplistic/unguarded/silly things recently. Jerry has also been critical of Richard’s tw**ting (albeit in a rather gentler way). PZ has never gone after Richard personally and has often been at pains to stress his regard for him. I have seen PZ and Richard sharing the stage and being very friendly towards each other.

        1. PZ Myers highlighted Maryam Namazie thanking Dawkins for his contributions to the atheist community on the 11th.

          On the 10th he criticised an article about whether Dawkins was an asset or liability to atheism, saying:

          “Richard Dawkins has demonstrated a lack of empathy for women’s issues; give him hell. But he’s also a brilliant storyteller who has been a driving force for atheism; send him roses. Brian Dunning is a convicted con artist, but he’s also…well, I’m sure his family loves him. PZ Myers was a petty little shit last Tuesday, but on Wednesday he was a sweetheart.

          “This is the way humans are. It tempts our minds to find cognitive shortcuts and place a simple label on everything — good guy, bad guy, idiot, genius, villain, hero — and try to reduce everyone to a number in a ledger, but people aren’t reducible.”

          Myers disagrees with Dawkins on some issues – that isn’t the same as saying he dislikes the man.

          1. I’ll venture one more comment on this off topic conversation, to address Bruce, trou and Alex.

            1) I clearly said that I would not presume to know whether or not PZ dislikes, let alone hates, Richard Dawkins. Someone else made that claim, not me. My first para there was a comment on someone elses argument, not a comment on PZ.

            2) I also said that PZ has talked about Richard Dawkins in a way that people who respect one another typically don’t. That para was about PZ. I don’t see how anyone could seriously refute that, or why it would be important to them to do so.

            As for examples of that, okay, here is one. In this post PZ several times attributes positions to Richard Dawkins that
            are not evident from the quotes he offers as evidence. In other words, whether it is due to misinterpretation, overzealousness or something else, he misrepresents Richard Dawkins. That is not something that people typically do to people they respect. This is fairly typical of PZ. That is not a plus in my book. That the topic is a bona fide awful thing does not excuse that, and does not somehow change the context in a way that makes it seem as if PZ is being respectful of Richard. And, let me be clear on this, I am not saying that PZ should have any particular respect for Richard in general, or have shown any for him in this particular article.

            And no you don’t have to try and explain how PZ is just so passionate about that awful issue. I understand, and I am too. In short, I don’t see how you can refute the rather trivial claim that I made unless you are biased.

    2. Ok, I don’t agree with everything the guy says, and there surely are some valid criticisms to be made, as the owner of this website has, but why is the internet full of people with strong opinions on what effing PZ Myers supposedly thinks, without any connection to reality? No, he doesn’t hate the man, he just gets really worked up on some issues.

      1. * and feeling the need to bring him up in completely unrelated threads…

        But more on topic – the Baby comparison really outs Brown as someone incapable of clear thinking. Or does he completely miss the point on purpose?

      2. Regardless of what his thoughts on Dawkins may be, what makes your claims about PZ’s thoughts any more likely to be accurate than any others?

        While I agree that some people, here even, seem to misinterpret PZ for the worse to fit a caricature of the man they don’t like, you seem to do the same in the opposite direction.

        1. You are absolutely right. We know nothing and all we can do is speculate, and all opinions are equally valid. If only this Myers person had left written record of his views in some kind of publicly accessible form.

          1. That sounds good, but again, off target. You accused someone of claiming to know the mind of PZ Myers, and then made the same kind of claims yourself. I merely pointed that out.

            You can provide quotes of Myers being nice to Dawkins and others can provide quotes of him being not nice to Dawkins. Where does that leave this rather trivial argument?

  4. Brown quote: “…[Dawkins] commending Nick Humphrey’s suggestion that the children of creationists be taken away…”

    This doesn’t appear in my copy of TGD. Is there an “extended version” that I’m not aware of?

  5. Wow. Brown is in such a rush to accuse Dawkins of hypocrisy that he barely stops to think what little sense it makes.

    If a contradiction arises in Dawkins’ writings, it’s because Dawkins is a human being who can be foolish, inarticulate, mistaken, stupid, or just flat-out confused. Same as anyone else’s writing.

    (Also, here’s the 2009 source for that “yammering fumblewit” crack: http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/3767-truckling-to-the-faithful-a-spoonful-of-jesus-helps-darwin-go-down/comments?page=1#comment_351636. I think your believers are safe from his destructive cult, Brown).

    If a contradiction arises in Scripture, it’s because there’s an uplifting “metaphor” in there, or you need faith and theology to “properly” understand it, or you’re a soulless person for even looking at someone’s sacred text with a critical eye.

    Also, how sick, mean-spirited, and desperate can you get, taking the praise of Dawkins fans at a book-signing convention and talking as though they were the adulatory ravings of a cult? Is this sort of journalism really the best service you can do for your readership?

  6. Last year he tweeted a recommendation of comments collected by one of his followers at a book signing in the US. Among them were: ‘You’ve changed the very way I understand reality. Thank you Professor’; ‘You’ve changed my life and my entire world. I cannot thank you enough’; ‘I owe you life. I am so grateful. Your books have helped me so much. Thank you’; ‘I am unbelievably grateful for all you’ve done for me. You helped me out of delusion’; ‘Thank you thank you thank you thank you Professor Dawkins. You saved my life’; and, bathetically, ‘I came all the way from Canada to see you tonight.’ With this kind of incense blown at him, it’s no wonder he is bewildered by criticism.

    The last bit is a nonsequitor. Never seen RD bewildered by criticism.

    And for the rest, shouldn’t RD find these statements from his readers a source of joy and pride? His goal in writing his books is to change minds. He has done so and good on him for it!

    The God Delusion finally crystallized my thoughts on religion for me; and I am grateful to RD for writing it. Does that make me a groupie or religious about RD? *Snort!* you’ve got to be kidding!

    Like you said, he’s butt-hurt because he doesn’t have the influence of RD.

    For the umpteen-zillionth time: Atheism is not a religion. Prominent atheists are not revered or worshipped. The tiniest bit of looking into it will reveal this to Mr. Brown.

  7. Brown’s motivations are puzzling. It is exactly like reading a rock music critic. They tell you everything bad about the one group or song without providing a solution, not that a solution makes sense to a rock band.

    Critics rarely, if ever, do anything for society. Notice that science has critics: they are called reviewers, and they not only tell you what you did wrong, but they are obliged to justify their point. Brown does neither.

  8. Brown is lying through his teeth:

    Like all scriptures, the Books of Dawkins contain numerous contradictions: inThe God Delusion itself he moves within 15 pages from condemning a pope who had baptised children taken away from Jewish parents to commending Nick Humphrey’s suggestion that the children of creationists be taken away because teaching your children religion is comparable to child abuse.

    “In 1858 Edgardo Mortara, a six-year-old child of Jewish parents living in Bologna, was legally seized by the papal police acting under orders from the Inquisition. Edgardo was forcibly dragged away from his weeping mother and distraught father to the Catechumens (house for the conversion of Jews and Muslims) in Rome, and thereafter brought up as a Roman Catholic. Aside from occasional brief visits under close priestly supervision, his parents never saw him again.”

    [TGD paperback, p 349]

    ” … particularly revealing of the religious mind, and the evils that arise specifically because it is religious. First is [“the remarkable perception” in the idea that magic can change a child’s mind] … Second is the extraordinary fact that priests, cardinals and Pope seem genuinely not to have understood what a terrible thing they were doing to poor Edgardo Mortara. … Third is [“the presumptiousness whereby” religious people ‘know’ that “the faith of their birth is the one true faith”]. Fourth is [the assumption that a child is religious].”

    [TGD paperback, p 351-352]

    “[Humphrey:] “So we should no more allow parents to teach children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible or that the planets rule their life, than we should allow parents to knock their children’s teeth out or lock them in a dungeon.”

    TL;DR:

    – Dawkins condemn religious people, not a specific pope, for specific evils.
    – Humphrey do not make suggestions on creationists specifically, but magic believers in general.
    – Humphrey do not suggest that children should be taken away, but rather that parents would stand trial for child abuse, and that in some cases the parents will “be taken away” for a while or possibly loose guardian rights.

    Andrew Brown, what serious person can stand reading him?

      1. I can’t imagine that any serious person could stand reading him. The atheist bashing atheist is practically a sub-genre of columnists at this point. It’s bad enough that we have to deal with the Ken Lay’s and William Lane Craig’s of the world, we shouldn’t have to put up with atheist-bashing atheists like Brown, S.E. Cupp or PZ Myers.

        1. bobsguitarshop wrote:
          “we shouldn’t have to put up with atheist-bashing atheists like Brown, S.E. Cupp or PZ Myers.”

          Really, you group Myers with Brown and Cupp? Unbelievable. And who is forcing you to “put up with them?” What does that even mean?

          1. No, it’s not unbelievable, it’s honestly rather obvious. They are all odious. It wasn’t a literary criticism, it was a, please stop being such a ninny in print and on television criticism. I find PZ Myers to be given to political orthodoxy just as much as those other two. That is a different flavor of orthodoxy is totally irrelevant to me when Myers is being an ass. And what I meant by “putting up with” is that atheists are going to get so many fatuous criticisms from the faithful , we surely don’t need them from disingenuous atheist media hacks.

            1. I don’t know who this “we” is that you keep referring to, as though non-belief makes you part of some sort of homogeneous group. Tossing in a phrase like “political orthodoxy” to describe an opinion you disagree with, doesn’t actually make it obvious that Myers is equivalent to the other two. You seem to be saying that atheists shouldn’t be criticizing other atheists – except, of course, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

              1. You have missed the point of my comment entirely. I’m calling them out for their fatuous criticisms of atheism and just because Myers is a liberal doesn’t automatically make him better than Cupp or Brown. Myers and the rest of the axis of malice at FtB have done little other than confirm people’s negative stereo-types. Have I sufficiently satisfied you? Do I get to have my opinion now?

            2. Is someone trying to stop you from having an opinion? If they are, it doesn’t seem to be working. “Axis of malice,” that sounds serious. Hyperbolize much?

  9. I’ve enjoyed RD’s books immensely but I’m not a member of any RD cult. In fact, I saw first hand he can be a bit of a prickly pear in real life. I went to see him speak at the University of Chicago in a double bill with Stephen Pinker. Before RD spoke he made sure everyone in the first few rows was informed that he did not want them to chew gum as it “freaks me out”. Also, he would not sign my name in his book because “We’re not signing names”. He was, however, gracious enough to sign my book and take a picture with me. Relatively tame stuff, I know, but it demonstrated he is human with all the requisite quirks and not a cult leader to be adored.

    1. Also, he would not sign my name in his book because “We’re not signing names”. He was, however, gracious enough to sign my book and take a picture with me.

      Normally it’s the other way round: authors prefer to use your name to ensure you aren’t just getting it signed to sell on eBay.

      Dawkins has actually increased your resale value.

        1. A lot. I mean, he almost certainly knows how to spell his own name, and even if he gets it wrong he’s not going to get annoyed.

      1. I bought two of Pinker’s books “The Stuff of Thought”that: one for me and one for my buddy. I asked Pinker to sign my buddy’s copy “Merry Fucking Christmas”, after all his talk was about the use of language, and he gladly agreed. I wonder what the resale value of that puppy is?

    2. Public people get harassed all the time, even if most of it is unintentional from people who enjoy his writings, so it is understandable that they might become prickly as a defense mechanism. We have to be careful not to read too much into this or take it too personally. People have limited time and energy, especially as they age.

  10. I think you’re spot-on correct in your jealousy diagnosis. I think Brown is experimenting w/ new ways to capitalize on his bottled-up jealousy and frustration.

    Like the Deepakster, he builds straw men using clever word salads and then hunts ’em down w/ a pitchfork.

    I’m not certain at this point which factor weighs heaver than the other, jealousy or hatred.

  11. Reminiscent of the personal irrational animus and obsession (for what reason??) Maureen Dowd has harbored towards Hillary Clinton for umpteen years.

    1. Or that of the late Hitch towards the other Clinton. I mean, what got up his nose can’t have been that Willy was a lying sleazebag – else, why single out that president?

  12. The creation lab does look unused, and anyway what kind of experiments would a creation scientist do? – pray for a sterile tube of growth medium to be inoculated by god? Maybe one would just leave sterile tubes of medium alone to demonstrate that life doesn’t just start up in them by evolution. I’m sure it’s fascinating work.

  13. Brown’s ability to fool himself into believing that he is critically thinking is unrelenting. His intellectual dishonesty may be derived from jealousy, but it could just be incompetence.

    I never have cared for Dawkins’ science writing or his brittle person or his more disastrous than not net presence, but I still feel gratitude for his writing The God Delusion which is unstinting in its reality grounding.

    Thanks to Brown, I now accept that I actually worship RD. 🙂

  14. Given that there has been a modest backlash in the Freethought community lately over ElevatorGate, his statements on child molestation (atheist blogger Adam Lee at “Daylight Atheism” has been especially critical though much kindlier in tone than PZ Myers) and so forth I would say Mr. Brown has simply been not paying attention to what’s going on in Freethought circles.

  15. I saw a comedian once and the audience was laughing. It’s like they saw him as a god or something. I feared for my life.

    Once, while I was at a gig, someone in the audience even clapped; it was just like Nuremberg.

  16. ISIS or Dawkins?

    Which is the greater threat?

    I’ve read Andrew Brown and the answer is clear.

    Dawkins.

    All praise Brown for his ability to find the real enemies of humanity.

  17. Everywhere I turn, I find closet believers, who proclaim atheism and then proceed to diss their own assertions. A new fatheist tactic?

    We need a name for these guys. I modestly propose:

    “CryptoChristian”, the camel caps identifying the term as a neologism.

    Other ideas?

    1. I can’t help but think that the atheist-bashing “atheists” (who disagree with basically everything Dawkins says) are as much atheists as Reza Aslan was once a “Christian”.

  18. Brown is looking to carve out a niche for himself – the I’m an atheist that doesn’t like those other atheists niche. The perfect way to dominate said niche is to go after Dawkins because he’s such an easy target.

    Brown should team up with SE Cupp, who also calls herself an atheist but spends most of her time attacking atheists.

  19. If Andrew were an impostor, a theist pretending to be an atheist on the assumption that his attacks against atheists would carry more weight, he would not have to change a word of the articles Dr. Coyne has posted to this website.

  20. For what it is worth (probably not a lot), Brown is on record as saying (CiF Aug 2009)

    “I am an atheist about some gods, and an agnostic about others”

    As far as I can work out, what this means in practice is he is atheist about any god described by Dawkins, but agnostic about the god of the Church of England.

    It’s atheism Jim, but not as we know it.

  21. “And, in the depths of his rancor, Brown gets confused”

    He has probably been taking genetics lessons from Mary Midgley.

  22. And nearly always entities (genes, beings, corporations) are altruistic or cooperative for entirely selfish reasons. This duality is easier for me to suss than that of an atheist-bashing atheist – but I would assert the latter does what s/he does for entirely selfish ($, €, £) reasons.

    1. Oh, nicely put!

      I think, with reference to genes, ‘self-centred’ or ‘self-interested’ might have been a better word. But it wouldn’t have made such a good book title.

  23. Brown is (deliberately?) misinterpreting RD on the subject of ‘atheist’ babies. I’d say RD is being a little bit figurative when he says babies are born atheist (in the same way as when he calls genes ‘selfish’).

    The usual meaning of ‘atheist’ (I would say) is as applied to us, people who have mostly considered religion and arguments for God and rejected them. This obviously doesn’t apply to babies, who have no belief or concept of God – a slightly different meaning of ‘atheism’.

    Now I’m sure RD doesn’t intend to confuse the two, he gives readers credit for understanding the difference as well as the similarities. Brown evidently chooses not to get the point.

  24. In Richard Dawkins’ shoes I would feel perfectly justified in turning up my nose at the Brown stuff! I’d check my shoes as well!

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