Talk:Richard Dawkins/Archive 4

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Archive 3 Archive 4 Archive 5

Viruses of the Mind

Need a few more eyes on Viruses of the Mind. Please check it out and contribute/comment. Thanks. *Spark* 15:59, 3 December 2006 (UTC)

I didn't realise that it was directly inspired by his daughter being sent for instruction to a nun - it is how the essay begins. It would be good if some people could add positive citations on that essay - I'm more familiar with the criticisms. NBeale 23:22, 3 December 2006 (UTC)

I'm not sure what you're reading. I must have missed the part that said the child was his, or that the essay was inspired by her. *Spark* 17:50, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

South Park again

It should have place here , south park is most relevant political satyre cartoon today . South park have more world wide influence than Dawkins .

I am amazed at the idea that this basic cable cartoon has a point of view relevant to an encyclopaedia. 21:38, 22 January 2007 (UTC)Ugh

Ok, after thinking about this more I think we should have a minor mention of this. The basis for this is a) it is one of the most popular television shows in existence today and not one but two episodes focused on Dawkins. b) it helps indicate how far the perception of him as a spokesperson for both evolution and atheism has spread (and if you see the episodes you'll appreciate how the South Park writers seemed to have the general problem that much of the public has of separating the two) c) as a matter of personal anecdotes, a variety of people who had never heard of Dawkins before or only had a vague idea of who he was now have him in their minds as a result of the episodes. JoshuaZ 05:28, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Quoting Spark above, "I'd much rather have a Richard Dawkins in popular culture article. Especially since this article is now A rated, and trivia/pop culture sections tend to degrade an article's quality." Snalwibma has voiced support for this too. I would be open to the separate article, linked to from this one. It could also include the Frameshift album, and whatever else gets dredged up. But I think that anywhere you put the South Park reference is liable to turn into a list of trivia, and wherever that list of trivia is, it's going to degrade the quality of the article, so I'd rather not have it directly in this article. — coelacan talk — 05:37, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm fine with that also. JoshuaZ 05:43, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
I think Coelacan is perfectly correct - a trivia section is A Bad Thing and will increase the maintenance workload on the article substantially. If South Park is mentioned therefore (despite JoshuaZ good arguments, and despite the fact that I am a huge South Park fan, I remain unconvinced) it should either be incorporated in, say, "Recognition" or in Richard Dawkins in popular culture. Mikker (...) 05:56, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
It is begun. Science be praised! — coelacan talk — 07:21, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
Trivia cannot be outsourced. If these tidbits of information are not notable enough to include in the present article (which I am starting to doubt), they certainly are not notable enough to warrant their own article. -- Schaefer (talk) 17:14, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
While I tend to agree, I'd much rather have that particular churn confined to that article and not here. If it manages to build into a coherent article, so be it. WP:TRIV, WP:TRIVIA apply either way. --*Spark* 17:37, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
No outsourcing? Schaefer, go tell the folks at Stephen Hawking in popular culture. — coelacan talk — 20:30, 10 December 2006 (UTC)
Stephen Hawking's depiction in popular culture is notable enough for an article, which is why the article is so complete. It contains dozens of examples of Hawking's appearances, sorted into groups, and even includes a picture of his appearance on Star Trek. The page exists because there's simply so many references that they would bog down the main article if they were all included there. In the article Stephen Hawking, there's a section called "Stephen Hawking in popular culture" which really should contain a brief summary of the article it links to. (I might get around to doing that if I'm not busy later tonight.) No subheading or brief summary exists here, and frankly, including one would be silly since the article itself is so brief. Stephen Hawking in popular culture exists because its content is so notable it deserves both mention in the article Stephen Hawking and its own article. Richard Dawkins in popular culture exists because its content is so non-notable that some editors can't stomach its inclusion in the article Richard Dawkins. There's a tremendous difference. -- Schaefer (talk) 23:22,

10 December 2006 (UTC)

Actually I'd rather suspect its because they're being squeamish about his cartoon persona's relations with... ahem... Ms. Garrison ;) But Dawkins will probably have more pop culture refs in the future, so I suppose I will agree that a separate page is the best way to go BUT I will also agree with the below anon poster that the link in the Dawkins page should really be of the same size as on the Hawking page; I'll just go fix that right now. -- Limulus 09:39, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
Actually it is because this sort of content is trivial, adds nothing to our knowedge of the subject, and just clogs up the article. This is the case whether it applies to Hawking, Dawkins, or Orangutan. --Michael Johnson 10:54, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
Mikker, why did you rv my edit harmonizing the pop culture link to the way its done in the Hawking article and say it was a "bad idea"? Please elaborate or I will switch it back. -- Limulus 13:02, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
Not a reply from Mikker but an expression of support for what he did. How it appears in Stephen Hawking isn't really relevant. What matters is how it works in Richard Dawkins, and I'd say it is entirely appropriate as it now appears - (a) because the link naturally follows on from, and belongs in, the section on awards and recognition; and (b) because there is really rather little at the popular culture article. Hawking has much much more, and the full subheading seems more appropriate in his case. Snalwibma 13:25, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
You know, if "there is really rather little at the popular culture article" what's the point of having separated it out? Michael Johnson claims that it "adds nothing to our knowedge of the subject" but if that was the case it shouldn't be in Wikipedia at all. With regards to the South Park episodes, the first sentence is more than sufficient to describe them. ("Two consecutive episodes of the South Park animated series, Go God Go and Go God Go XII in 2006, centered on a storyline 540 years in the future in which Dawkins is recognized as responsible for ushering in an era of worldwide atheism.") That means that the pop culture entry is basically worth three sentences :) The more I think about it the more I think it should get merged into the main article. -- Limulus 22:09, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
Sorry for not replying earlier, I've not paid attention to this thread for quite a while. Basically, we currently have a compromise between those who insist on having pop culture information in an article about a serious subject and those (like me and several other regulars here) who believe it's unencyclopedic to do so. Michael Johnson expresses the latter opinion well, trivia "adds nothing to our knowedge of the subject, and just clogs up the article." (See WP:TRIVIA and WP:TRIV). However, to avoid a constant edit war with South Park fans and those who want trivia included (peruse the history of the article a bit -- you'll notice a lot of reverting of trivia) we decided to create the Dawkins in pop culture article for the unencyclopedic stuff. (Archive 2 & 3 contains most of the info you'll need to judge the situation.)
As for why I reverted your "harmonisation" -- Snalwibma answered for me. We have no "See also" section in Dawkins because we have a template box at the bottom. Personally, I'd prefer not even to have the link to the pop culture article under the Awards section but many people here do like it, so I'm deferring to consensus. Mikker (...) 23:37, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
Rather than in the Awards section, which seems a bit odd to me too, why not move it to the end of the Publications section? (or was that discussed too? ;) -- Limulus 06:57, 23 January 2007 (UTC)
It hasn't been discussed in detail as far as I remember, but I'd suggest if we were to have an in-article wikilink to the pop-culture article at all, it should be under "Awards and recognision". "Publications" deals with Dawkins's publications so we don't want to sully the waters there by including other stuff. Also, as has been pointed out by Snalwibma below, the pop culture wikilink flows pretty well where it is as the end of the Awards section deals with pop-culture-ish awards (Prospect mag etc). Mikker (...) 18:00, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

Although I disagree with the strong-arming of Dawkin's supporters who have refused to put up a popular culture section that references his depiction on South Park, if there is a link built in to the page that leads someone to a Richard Dawkins in Popular Culture page I suppose that would be alright similar to the one Stephen Hawking has.

  • I have just added "See also Richard Dawkins in popular culture." to the end of the Awards and recognition section. I suspect someone will tell me it's unnecessary, given the box at the bottom of the page which lists all Dawkins-related articles. But it (or something like it) might help to direct the pop-culture stuff to the right place, and it does seem to follow on quite well from a list which already sits on the boundary between serious scientific awards (Zoo Soc Lond) and popular acclaim (Prospect magazine). Snalwibma 09:36, 11 January 2007 (UTC)

[Un-indent] Can we please not degrade the article with popular culture cruft. We have here an article that's almost ready for an FA application. Let's not weaken it. Metamagician3000 22:18, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

Limulus asks (above) "Rather than in the Awards section, which seems a bit odd to me too, why not move it to the end of the Publications section?" No - I think if there is to be a link to Richard Dawkins in popular culture it belongs where it is. "Awards and recognition" deals with various sorts of official and semi-official recognition, and it's a natural short step to recognition in the popular media - but (IMHO) a step too far for this article, which deals with Dawkins's professional life. In fact I think there may be a case for shifting some of the other "awards and recognition" stuff - either deleted altogether or moved to the pop culture article. Some of it is a bit fluffy and crufty. Snalwibma 08:45, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

The reason the South Park appearance doesn't deserve much special mention is that it is not in anyway relevant to any point. The only aspect of Dawkins exaggerated in the series was his atheism. Most other character traits were made up on the spot. It didn't seem to intend to make any point or even charicature him, it was just another case of South Park depicting a celebrity for the sake of depicting a celebrity. The details of his depection are as relevant to the Dawkins article as the details of the sentient opossums or whatever those were are relevant to that article. If the whole mess had any point to begin with, it was more along the lines of "atheism doesn't prevent war and suffering over labels" (which is rather misdirected as Dawkins cleared up that misunderstanding ages ago: it's rational thinking that does that, atheism is merely a consequence) and not "Richard Dawkins enjoys sex with balding post-op transsexuals" (which would seriously be in violation of the Wikipedia guidelines anyway). 12:09, 28 March 2007 (UTC)

I also don't see why theres an objection to adding the South Park "trivia" as many criticism sections of other public figures the show lampooned (Paul Watson, Glen Beck and etc) include a short reference to the show but the adademic criticisms are more imporatant. Its a pop-culture reference from a very influencial cartoon (perhaps more influencial than Dawkins himself. At least a short reference should be made since even Dawkins responed to the show. Richard Dawkins, in a Q & A session at the Free Library of Philadelphia said: "I would have thought they could at least have got an actor that could do a proper British accent." If Dawkins took the time to respond to the episode then it should be put on wikipedia. Windrunner123 (talk) 20:54, 29 May 2011 (UTC)

Necker cube...

I suggest we delete this paragraph in the article:

Reason? Dawkins himself has repudiated the use of the analogy. In the preface to the 1989 edition of The Selfish Gene Dawkins writes:

Agreed? Mikker (...) 23:52, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Yes. If he himself no longer supports the metaphor, no need for it here. In the book article it could be mentioned that he once supported it but now does not. --*Spark* 01:02, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

Evaluation of Information Presented Under Religion, Subsection NOMA

Under the religion section, and in respect to NOMA, this is what's written: "He disagrees with Stephen Jay Gould's idea of NonOverlapping MAgisteria (NOMA) and with similar ideas proposed by Martin Rees regarding the coexistence of science and religion without conflict, calling the former "positively supine." " First of all, this doesn't make sense. Supine is not an insult. It is an adjective meaning "lying on one's back" and Dawkins was using this when discussing how Gould was bending over backwards to appease detractors. So this Wiki sentence provides no relevant information, and is in fact misleading. The fragment "calling the former 'positively supine'" should be removed. Also in this NOMA section, the point that Dawkins is trying to make is badly represented. Dawkins does say in The God Delusion (this is from the Wiki article) " Dawkins replies "What expertise can theologians bring to deep cosmological questions that scientists cannot?" ". But this is a jibe, not his main argument. His main point is that the question of whether or not God exists is NOT out of the reach of scientific inquiry (as Gould and his NOMA would have you believe). Dawkins states that the question of God can be evaluated scientifically based on available evidence and given a probability, in the same way that the existence of an invisible, mute, and intangible unicorn could be scientifically evaluated and given a probability. This is true even if the existence of God can never be 100% disproven. His argument against NOMA needs to be included instead of, or at least in addition to his jibe. My source for everything I have discussed is Dawkins's book The God Delusion. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

I disagree about the quote. It is helpful to have Dawkins' "positively supine" comment to get the tone of what he said. If you want to add something more substantial about how he argued, using The God Delusion, go ahead. Metamagician3000 23:20, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

Religion=Atheism revert

I've reverted the mention of Atheism as a religion in the infobox, atheism isn't a religion. Accidentally hit submit without adding a proper edit summary. menscht 15:00, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

I agree with you. Besides, Dawkins himself has issues with the word "atheism" (which is why he supports the brights). This much is clear: Dawkins's position is (relatively) nuanced, so it serves no one to attempt a bite-size explanation in the infobox. Mikker (...) 15:12, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
While atheism isn't per se a "religion", it is as applicable and relevant as any other scientist's religious faith -- more so in some ways for Dawkins. The way we treat "religion" in wikipedia is largely as an indicator of specifics of religious faith, so "atheist" is entirely appropriate. In fact I would argue that it would be fundamentally weird to include people's religious faiths but not include a strong, sincere, and proud atheism. If atheism can't go in the box, then I'm not sure why there should be a spot for religion. As to "nuanced" -- with all due respect, every instance of someone claiming to be a Christian, a Muslim, or any other faith is a "nuanced" claim. Dawkins clearly self-describes as an atheist; it is described in the article; and there is a spot in the bio box for "religion". --LQ 22:43, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
1) I'm not at all convinced that infoboxes should have a spot for religion. 2) A scientist's religion is doubly irrelevent, since their actual work always involves a systematic naturalism. 3) "Bald" is not a hair color, and "not collecting stamps" is not a hobby, so "atheism" is not a religion. (Apologies for old canards but they remain ever-accurate.) — coelacan talk — 23:06, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
When I created Category:Atheist scientists I had not really wanted it to be a subcategory of Category:Scientists by religion and was nervous about putting there. I added a note stating "This is placed in Category:Scientists by religion because it relates to discussions of Relationship between religion and science." I am aware atheism is not itself a religion, just as theism or deism is not itself a religion, but I did not know where else to place it. We have Gendered and now Sexual orientation related categories for scientists, but we don't have anything for "metaphysical position" or "philosophy." Still it struck me some scientists really have become notable for their writings on atheism or atheist philosophy so I created the category and put it in the only place even remotely relevant.--T. Anthony 10:17, 11 January 2007 (UTC)
Reminds me of Baldrick's claim that his father was a nun, because when asked for his religion that's what he always put.. :) .. dave souza, talk 23:09, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm not convinced the infoboxes should have a spot for religion, either, but if they do, then it's really ... off ... and even discriminatory / POV to not include atheism. As for the hair color/bald canard, it's a sophistry. The "religion" box doesn't state that one has to believe in a religion; atheism, agnosticism, theism (and all its infinite varieties) are beliefs about religion, and some of them are beliefs in religion. Moreover, given categories like Category:Atheist mathematicians which are subcatted with Category:Mathematicians by religion, we ought to be consistent w/ wikipedia categories. .... If you'd like to take up the claim to eliminate religion from the user box, I'll support you; but if you just want to eliminate "atheism" then I think it's a problem. Let's get rid of the slot for religion on the userbox page entirely, or else I need to hear something other than the sophistry that "atheism isn't a religion" in order to justify the inclusion of comparable information for some (theistic) scientists and not for (atheistic) scientists.--LQ 00:04, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
PS I point you to the discussion on the "unresolved: keep" on the infobox about religion, where bunix said: "I disagree that difficulty of categorisation is a reason to delete. Rather, it is a reason to become creative! It is clear that in the Weinberg case that the solution would be to simply put "atheist" in the infobox, as that is his position." Again, I'm not convinced that religion belongs, but if it does, then "atheist" belongs as a statement about religion; especially where, as in Dawkins' case, it has become a significant part of his publication record and public presentation. --LQ 00:10, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
Atheism simply doesn't fit the definition of a "religion", according to Wikipedia religion is "a system of social coherence based on a common group of beliefs or attitudes concerning an object, person, unseen being, or system of thought considered to be supernatural, sacred, divine or highest truth, and the moral codes, practices, values, institutions, traditions, and rituals associated with such belief or system of thought". Atheism clearly doesn't fit this description, atheist do not worship any supernatural beings or preach a divine truth. While they generally deny the existence of anything supernatural or state that it can't be proven, I still think there should be at least another "category" other than religion for atheism. menscht 00:14, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
In this user-template, there is no other category for "beliefs about religion" in which "atheism" is one branch, "agnosticism" is another, and "theism" is a third with subbranches for various specific theistic beliefs (Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, etc.). This user-template does not say that the field for "religion" is only for "beliefs in religion", and while that might seem intuitive, it is also an arbitrary choice to define the field as "belief in" (which permits inclusion of xtianity, buddhism, etc.) as opposed to "belief about" (which permits inclusion of atheism as well as xtianity, buddhism). And it leaves people with no place to find that information. Suppose religion were consistently applied in these user-boxes (as we most presume it could be since the field exists), and the specific, identity-forming, deeply-held beliefs and understandings of skeptics, atheists, agnostics, and other free-thinkers were excluded. That doesn't seem problematic to people? --LQ 00:25, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree with what Coelacan has said and it ties in nicely to what I said. Several atheists (Dawkins, Paul Kurtz, Daniel Dennett, etc.) dislike the use of the word "atheist" because it defines their views with reference to, in opposition to, theism. As Kurtz has said (see the latest Point of Inquiry podcast) atheism as a term doesn't make sense because people who don't believe in mermaids aren't amermadians, they just don't believe in mermaids. In any case, it is seriously problematic to use a term on someone if they dislike or disagree with that categorisation. (If someone claimed, for example, not to be Christian - would it be ok to put "Christian" in their infobox in you thought it described them well?) I think not and, in fact, there might be a case for removing the term "atheist" from the body text as well. Mikker (...) 00:39, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
I think I tend to agree with what Lquilter has said. Regardless of whether religion should be a category on the box, it is, and unless that is changed, that is that, and should be respected. Perhaps atheism is not ordinarily described as a religion, but given the helpful points Lquilter has made, he should be referred to as one. This is especially the case when someone has chosen to make so much of his public persona to be the promotion of atheism.
Dawkins may well have issues with the term atheist due to it's alleged negative connotations, but he recognises that it's still an informative term and he does use it himself, even if he'd prefer not to. I don't see why we shouldn't use it, therefore. Plus, it's a word you need to get across that meaning - you can't use "bright" all the time. (Though as a concession to this POV, it might be worth explaining what the brights movement is when we mention that he supports it.)
However, I think there is a third way here. Perhaps a workable solution taking into account both sides would be to refer to his religion as "none (atheist)". That way, we have the information there, but without the slight inaccuracy implied in referring to atheism as a religion. TheologyJohn 01:00, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
I like the "none (atheist)" solution. BTW I think it is absolutely incorrect to say that Dawkins has some problems being identified as an atheist. I believe he has argued that "brights" is a good PR move but he uses the term "atheism" to describe his own beliefs in interviews, etc. On his website, for instance, under welcome on the left see "Atheist Help and Resources". I have never seen anything to suggest that Dawkins has any problems with so-called negative connotations of "atheist". User:Mikker, can you show any references for this claim? --LQ 01:21, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
I think putting "Religion: none (atheist)" in is a good solution as well. It's more accurate than saying "Religion: Atheist", because that implies that it's a religion. menscht 14:07, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
Just leave it at "Religion: none". Atheism is a lack of belief and it plays into the religious lobby's court to try to categorize it as an alternative belief system. Sophia 22:25, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
There is no legal definition in the UK as to what religion is, but the closest definition which is relevant is that used by the UK Charities Commission and so far they have never accepted Secular/Humanism/Atheism as being a religion (The best read on this is the UK Commissioners report on the application by Church of Scientology here [1] in which they state that "That religion for the purposes of charity law constitutes belief in a supreme being and worship of that being ". Thus within the UK legal system it would not be possible to equally make atheism a religion (until at least UK Charity law is changed to exclude a supernatural. It is certainly peculiar that the law mandates a belief in the supernatural to obtain a tax advantage. So his religion would be none though I do like the suggestion that (atheism) be placed in brackets as he has self-described himself as this. Ttiotsw 22:44, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
There is no need to qualify the "none". Self identifying as an Atheist does not gain you a religion. Sophia 22:52, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
Atheism isn't a religion in any country's nonprofit taxcode so far as I know, but of course that's not what we're talking about -- we're talking about a wikipedia field for "religion" that could easily be interpreted to mean "beliefs about religion" and in fact has in at least two instances that I've cited. ... My only objection with "Religion: none" is that it doesn't afford any information; "none" is used often by people who simply don't belong to a church, even though they would otherwise be considered theists or even christians. So none is too vague and should be qualified. --LQ 00:39, 18 December 2006 (UTC)
I'd like to say, again, that if I could've found a Category:Scientists by philosophy to move Category:Atheist scientists to I would've went that way. I was nervous about placing it where I did and I created the category with "I know calling it a religion is offensive to atheists, but it's all I got to place it." As for a different issue, raised below, it's true that atheism is a position on god(s) and not inherently a position on religion. However in the Western world most religions believe in God or Gods so an atheist activist, I'd prefer it be limited to activists or philosophers of atheism, is making a stand on a central element of the religions s/he'll will know. In Dawkins case he's more directly making a statement on religion in general. Now in the case of scientists in non-Islamic parts of Asia the issues are a good deal different, so possibly I'll need to retool it in time, but that hasn't been an issue yet. (Note I'm aware I'm coming "late to the party", apologies)--T. Anthony 10:33, 11 January 2007 (UTC)

Okay, {{Infobox Scientist}} has:

| author_abbreviation_bot = (Insert botanical author abbreviation here, if they are the author of a botanical species name.)

Now, Dawkins does not have any botanical species names to his record. Should we say "none" here? Or should we leave the infofield out of his infobox entirely? Should someone speak up for the infofield and argue, "Regardless of whether botanical author abbreviation should be a category on the box, it is, and unless that is changed, that is that, and should be respected"?
Insistance that every infobox should include religion draws from an implicit assumption that everyone should have a religion, and if someone does not, this is so strange that we need to make special note of it. It is not strange that Dawkins does not have a botanical author abbreviation infofield, because Dawkins does not do botany. It is not strange that Dawkins does not have a religion infofield, because Dawkins does not do supernaturalism. The template also notes:

| religion = (Insert religious belief system/affiliation. The consensus is to use this field sparingly.)

I don't know where this consensus came from or whether it really is consensus, but if so, perhaps this is what should be respected. But even if not, I think this would be one of those days when we WP:Ignore all rules and admit that leaving it out is the logical choice.
And if no one else agrees with me then my second choice is obviously "Allied Atheist Alliance." That way it has three A's! — coelacan talk — 01:08, 18 December 2006 (UTC)

This is my last comment on the matter in this page - I'm not trying to be obstreperous. But I don't think the irrelevance of BS/ZS names (because he is neither a botanist nor zoologist) are comparable to the religion field. The religion was included despite disagreement as an element of scientists' biographies. In Dawkins' case, his atheism is at least as significant a part of his biography as religion is to any other scientist. If religion is ever appropriate in the user info box, then avowed, explicit, atheism--not just "no religion" as a default, but an explicit assertion and choice to be no religion -- is just as appropriate. Nobody arguing against it has actually responded to my point to explain why we should choose to describe the box as "listing particular beliefs in religion" rather than "describing relevant beliefs about religion". Also, I've listed two examples in Wikipedia that are in accord with my point, and nobody has explained why we should apply a different standard w/r/t the bio box. I think at this point I am going to post a note on the talk page for the template and get some broader feedback. (PS: Three examples. Marie Curie example on the Template talk includes "agnostic"; see also [ discussion of the template which repeatedly talks about knowing whether someone is an atheist or something else; and the discussion on the Category:Atheist mathematicians [CFD] which ended up being keep. --LQ 01:46, 18 December 2006 (UTC)
Marie Curie was used on the template talk page as an example for playing with the infobox, you'll notice that her last infobox on that page does not list a religion of any kind, and neither does her current article. Atheism is not even a "relevant belief about religion". It is not a stance toward religion either way, and it doesn't tell you a thing about what a person belives about religion. Robert M. Price is an atheist who loves religion, even describes himself as an "atheist Christian". About 28% of Unitarian Universalists are atheist or agnostic,[2] but they do have a religion, UU, complete with choirs and collection plates. Dawkins does not have a religion, his beliefs about religion are far too nuanced to include in an infobox, and the vast majority of the world recognizes that a philosophically detached opinion about religion does not belong in the same category as an actual religion. The suggestion that "religion" is such a flexible subject that we should include "beliefs about religion" is insulting to religious people, and imho pretty demeaning to atheists as well. That the infobox on scientists includes religion at all is the wrong choice, because scientists are bound to methodological naturalism in all their relevant scientific work; just because someone else made the mistake of including it does not mean that we should compound the mistake further here. The same goes for the category of atheist mathematicians. If all the other infoboxes and categories are jumping off a bridge, that doesn't mean we should too. There are mistakes being made everywhere on Wikipedia every day. That does not mean any of them stand as legitimate precedences. — coelacan talk — 02:33, 18 December 2006 (UTC)
This is interesting. The result of the earlier vote on whether to include the religion field was to keep, even if it was recommended that it not be used in most cases. However, in cases where the scientist does have strong publicly acknowledged religious beliefs that have a bearing on their career, then clearly that field should be filled in. In Dawkin's case, he's a very public atheist and just wrote a book making a case for atheism. Its pretty clear in this case he should be identified as such. The argument that "atheism isn't a religion" is ridiculous – its not a "religion" per se, but it is a distinct belief about religion and should be treated as a "religion" for purposes of the infobox. My take: either 1) Delete the religion field from the template., OR 2) Use this field in cases like Richard Dawkins. Peter G Werner 17:23, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
Were it so simple. First of all, I just argued in the paragraph above yours that "atheism is not a belief about religion" and you did not address my points at all, but merely stated that it is. "Atheism" is a philosophical stance concerning the existence of gods. "Atheism" has nothing whatsoever to say about religion, positive or negative. To further elaborate, Platonism includes beliefs about God, but it is neither a religion nor a belief about religion. A serious problem with using the template in this way is that when the "|religion=Atheist" bit is included in the infobox, it says on Dawkins's page, "Religion Atheist", and, as User:Sophia pointed out, "it plays into the religious lobby's court to try to categorize it as an alternative belief system". I am all for removing the religion field from the template, because it doesn't matter at all for scientists, because their work only involves methodological naturalism. But even if it is not removed, it is not appropriate to use it for atheists, no matter how outspoken they be, because you can't simply go around labelling people with "Religion: Atheist". It really like saying "Hair colour: Bald", regardless of LQ's claims that this is sophistry on my part. It's hardly sophistry when atheism can't even be said to be a belief about religion. Would you go to a Hindu's page and change it to say "Religion: Polytheism"? Is polytheism a belief about religion? Or is it rather something else? — coelacan talk — 17:44, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
I responded on the Infobox Scientist talk page rather than here, because there was no Dawkins content. The gist of my comment there is that the definition User:Coelacan advances for atheism is but one of several--a definition that suggests that atheism has no bearing on religion, but simply on theism. That is a linguistically pure but not common use of the term atheism, which more commonly treats atheism as theism and, relatedly, also about religion. At any rate, Dawkins is specifically the broader kind of atheist; he doesn't just assert that there is no reason to believe in a deity; but he makes assertions about religion. --lquilter 18:37, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
As to Dawkins's opinions about religion, very similar opinions are shared by countless people who do believe in gods and the supernatural, but who define themselves as "non-religious." Now, if atheism is a stance about religion, please explain to me what precisely that stance is. If such an explanation cannot follow in a simple and concise manner, then "atheism" cannot be made to stand for Dawkins's broader views about religion. Furthermore, the template when used in the manner you describe simply displays "Religion: Atheist". Not "Opinions about religion in general: Doesn't much care for them". What does "Religion: Atheist" mean? The meaning is quite clear at simple face value; it means atheism is a religion. And that is POV-pushing, and most certainly not Dawkins's POV. You might like to take it up at the atheism article if you want to present that POV alongside others, but this article has to conform to WP:LIVING and you cannot push "atheism is a religion" here. You might hope that "Religion: Atheism" could be interpreted some other way, but the plain meaning of it is quite contrary to any hope that a subtler meaning will be extracted. The full body of the article is the appropriate place for discussing the nuance of his views about religion, and if you don't think it's properly addressed there then by all means be bold in improving it. But you cannot squeeze that kind of subtlety into an infobox field. — coelacan talk — 19:30, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
My last note on what should be here said that I liked "Religion: none (atheist)". I'm certainly not trying to push a particular POV about either religion or a/theism (and I take issue with the assertion that I am). However, I do strongly feel that if religious belief is ever appropriate to list in a userbox, then atheism likewise is appropriate to list. If that's a POV, so be it; but it's not the POV that atheism is a religion. BUT that's not the same thing as saying that the bio userbox shouldn't include people's strongly expressed convictions about atheism or agnosticism, if they include information about strongly expressed convictions about theism. The userbox field "religion" seems like a pretty generic field that can and ought to encompass those different positions. You obviously differ and prefer a more specific meaning for the field, and I certainly concede you have plenty of textual support to justify that distinction--but, as I said, I think it's reasonably common-sense to include "none (atheist)" in the religion field. If we were to define the field the way you propose, but still try to address my point about the validity of including info about atheism/agnosticism, then we would have to have two fields and frankly, to me, it seems absurd to have two boxes that specify: "position on religion: theist/deist/atheist/xxx" and "religious faith believed in: Methodist/Hindu/Buddhist/Episcopal". ... As for Dawkins, yes, of course, he is "nuanced" as are all atheists and as are all theists for that matter. But he himself uses the term atheist and I don't see why one would need to be more descriptive than that. It's a userbox; shorthand is common. ... At any rate, when someone starts accusing me of pushing the POV that atheism is a religion, I have to conclude that the debate is becoming non-productive for me. --lquilter 21:35, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
Well I'm glad to hear that it's not your POV. =) I would still ask you to consider that the unintended consequences of the edits you want may support a POV that you do not hold. If the template itself spoke more generally, if the field indeed said "Beliefs concerning religion or the supernatural" then we might be in different territory. But when it is filled out as "Atheist" then it says "Religion: Atheist", and I ask you, is there any other common-sense reading of that, except for "his religion is atheism"? I can't go for any other permutation of "atheism", either. As Sophia said earlier in the thread, even "none (atheist)" "plays into the religious lobby's court to try to categorize it as an alternative belief system." The effect is still inclusion of a POV that does not belong here. There is the possibility of plain old "religion=none", but I stand by what I said before, "Insistance that every infobox should include religion draws from an implicit assumption that everyone should have a religion, and if someone does not, this is so strange that we need to make special note of it." Lack of a belief in gods is not an aberration. Indeed, from Dawkins's perspective, he is not "lacking" anything worth having. To include the field just to point out that it's empty is a distraction at best, and worse it may be WP:Undue weight. — coelacan talk — 22:18, 19 December 2006 (UTC)

[Un-indent] I don't think this is straightforward, but I think it would be a rare case in which there is justification for giving a scientist's religion in an infobox. I hear what lquilter is saying, but I think it's best not to try to handle all these nuances by trying to make some supremely adroit, unequivocally acceptable, choice about how to handle the very limited space in an infobox. The information about his attitude to religion is given prominently and in detail in the body of the article. Metamagician3000 22:53, 19 December 2006 (UTC)

I submit that asking an atheist, "What is your religion?" is logically similar to asking them, "When did you stop beating your wife?" in that there is no definitive good answer to that question. On the other hand, if you were to ask someone what their religous position was, perhaps they could give a more informative - and appropriate - answer.SheffieldSteel 05:57, 17 February 2007 (UTC)

Evolutionary biology

I've added a couple of not-very-good sentences with a citation tag. I think we should say something to emphasise his adaptationist views, as opposed to the more pluralistic views about evolutionary mechanisms that we see from Gould and others, so it is clear what the controversy is about. Also, I think we should be clearer that he is explicitly skeptical about group selection (for example) while conceding it is theoretically possible. Please improve what I have done rather than just reverting it out; I realise it is not great at the moment, but I'll improve it myself when I have time.

The one other thing that we should perhaps refer to in the stuff about altruism is his potted account, in The God Delusion, of his current thinking on the matter. However, I have not tried to find any words for now.

With these changes, and proper wording and attribution, I think this section could be declared "finished". Metamagician3000 00:10, 19 December 2006 (UTC)

Someone found a good citation for my couple of sentences before I could get around to it. Thanks for that. They weren't especially controversial, but we did need to nail down a source for them. I might still include some other sources, if I find them, because the "unit of selection" issue is so important in his thought. Metamagician3000 06:59, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

Criticism Section Needed

I definetly think that a Criticism section should be added to this article. As far as I'm aware some(non-creationist) Scientists have criticised his work regarding Evolution and "The Selfish Gene." If this is the case it should almost certainly be added to the article.

More importantly is the issue of Dawkins stance on Religion, which has drawn substantial criticism. Robert Winston heavily criticised Dawkins in 'The Story of God', in which Dawkins was interviewed and even challenged Winston as to how he can believe in God. Winston argues that Dawkins stance on Evolution and other Atheists like him(that evolution makes a designer no longer necessary) has led to believers rejecting the Scientific method and turning to Creationism. Furthermore Rod Liddle in an interview with Dawkins heavily criticised Atheism and Dawkins love of evolution seemingly to be held as a faith. Olockers

Of course a thinker as important as Dawkins has critics, and those are far from the only ones or the most important ones. I scarcely read a book that lacks some comment on Dawkins - usually with some crticism, as most thinkers are going to want to distinguish their views from his. For example, there is some criticism of Dawkins for allegedly having a "Veneer Theory" of morality in the book I happen to be reading at the moment, Primates and Philosophers, by Frans de Waal and others. But this just makes the point that a crticisms section could end up being disproportionate to the rest of the article. We could not possibly cover everyone who has wanted to criticise Dawkins on some ground or other, and we would also have to cover what has been said in his defence (e.g. Peter Singer defends Dawkins against de Waal's claim). It seems to me that we should hesitate to open up such a can of worms. We already make clear that he is a controversial thinker. As far as the criticism that his trenchant attacks on religious belief are socially and politically counterproductive go, that is mentioned in the article, and is covered in more depth in the article on The God Delusion. Metamagician3000 10:56, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree that criticsm of Dawkins is quite widespread and vague at times. That is why I believe it should be categorised into the relevant themes. I believe the criticism of Dawkins has reached a stage where it simply can't be ignored. Let's face it, there are TV shows, a book coming out entitled the Dawkins Delusion by Alastair McGrath and even some people who have been interviewed by him have made accusations that he altered the interview. [3]. Also Check this out Rod Liddle's scathing criticism in 'The Trouble with Atheism' [4] Olockers 13:37, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
Have you read the article? There are already at least 5 paragraphs covering criticism of Dawkins, under Evolutionary biology, Memetics, and Religion (3 times). There is no need for a separate criticism section. Poujeaux 14:28, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
I think the desire is to have a separate section so that the context of all the other information in the article can be skipped over, and the criticism pulled out without learning anything else. I say pffft to that. — coelacan talk — 14:47, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
Also, read the previous discussion where the majority of contributors have said "pffft" to a separate criticism section. Such sections are uncommon in biographies and criticism should be interwoven with the relevant text in the article. menscht 15:55, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
And plus, for someone who has done work in different fields, it makes no sense to have a "single" criticism section; rather, criticism really needs to be woven into the individual sections -- as it presently is. --LQ 16:24, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
...and the current method of weaving in major critical views seems to me to be working very well. It's important that any criticisms relate to serious critiques of his ideas by other thinkers of substance, not clashes with journalists or even one-off media confrontations with other scientists. If the structure ain't broke, don't fix it. Metamagician3000 21:48, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
So, Olockers, to summarise: criticism, yes; criticism section, no. Please see the multiple discussions in the talk archive for why. Mikker (...) 20:32, 22 December 2006 (UTC)
Come on man, I wasn't arguing for a single criticism section to cover everything, but rather for one that would be broken up into relevant subsections related to his work and views on Religion. At present this is spread throughout the article which I think is messy. As for it being uncommon to have a criticism section in Biographies you've got to be kidding me. Just look at the entries for Michael Moore, Pat Robertson and Daniel Pipes. Each of them contains a Criticism section(although it two of them it is attatched to the controversy section). So, Mikker I have read some of the relevant discussions in the talk archive for why this hasn't been added and I haven't really been satisfied by the arguments put against this. Simply put, there seems to be ever growing criticism of Dawkins, yet the relevant sections seem to contain very little of this. I recognise the need to restrict the amount of criticism in these sections in order to maintain Nuetral POV. That is why I think there should be one single section divided into the relevant subsections. Not only is this not unusual but it seems to be the standard practice in other articles. Criticism of Michael Moore isn't spread throughout the page in relation to his different fields. Why is this not the case in this one? I look forward to hearing your ideas and suggestions. Olockers 13:21, 23 December 2006 (UTC)
Just because they're doing it wrong over at Michael Moore doesn't mean we have to make the same mistakes here. A separate criticism section would undoubtedly be WP:Undue weight. The consensus of the other editors here has consistently been to keep the criticisms in the relevant parts of the article. It's not our job to convince you one way or the other. You haven't shifted consensus, so your proposal won't be enacted. That's it. — coelacan talk — 16:28, 23 December 2006 (UTC)
I'd echo Coelacan: Michael Moore just isn't a good article, period. (It's not a GA - unlike Dawkins - and its editors don't have FA aspirations - unlike editors here). There is a growing consensus - not just here, but Wiki-wide - that criticism sections are generally not a good idea in our better articles. See, for example, this thread on WIAFA talk. Obviously, Wikipedia isn't a democracy, but note the stature of editors who oppose seperate crit sections: Raul (on the ARBCOM, the FA director), SlimVirgin (a very widely respected admin), Sandy (who basically, if unofficially, runs FAR), etc. There is something to these people's views, trust me. Besides, why are you worrying about a crit section instead of adding relevant distributed crit? Mikker (...) 18:53, 23 December 2006 (UTC)

[Un-indent] Yes, specific criticism sections are considered by many people not to be best practice, even if some very good articles do already have them. Where an article like this is working well without one and that has been the consensus to date, I think it's best to stay like that rather than to take a deliberate and unnecessary step in the wrong direction. My own experience with criticisms sections is that they get out of hand and are not a good idea if they can be avoided. Also, I don't see any "ever-growing criticism of Dawkins" if we mean serious critique of his ideas. The serious critiques by Gould and others have been around for a long time, and for some time now his ideas have been debated in a vast range of scientific and philosophical literature. The fact that he currently gets a lot of low-quality topical flack (e.g. from journalists) over his forthright views on religion is not that important in the scheme of things. Metamagician3000 23:53, 23 December 2006 (UTC)

Take your tongue out of Dawkins's ass, and make this up to wikipedia standards. I don't know if you are part of the "foundation" or offering him the occasional "coffee" break, this is pathetic. Your stance first and foremost is very disrespectfull to others, since when do journalists are automatically equated with a "low quality flack". Half of wikipedia, if not more of it, is set up on journalistic work. The most ironic of it all is that essentially Dawkins is both chairing a public dissemination of science postion at Oxford and doing journalistic work in terms of his book writing. Because as a scientist, I don't think in a thrity year old career, and with his connections, he's managed anything more than a handfull of articles in peer reviewed journals. So, the guy who's supposed to disseminate science for the public is not on par with the journalists critisizing him. Your view of criticism sections is immaterial here, no one is above criticism in this project, and I 've not noticed wikipedia policies saying anywhere that critisism "should be best avoided". And why would "one off media clashes with other scientists" not qualify here, what do you want ten day marathons of scientists clashing with Dawkins to be included here? First you are saying journalistic critiques are automatially exluded as low quality, then that Dawkins can accept and this article post critisism only from people of his gigantic stature, but Gould's critisism is to be found elsewhere, and then you don't even want other scientists "one-off" critiques over the media.

I really cannot ascribe this very dubious protective attitude to Dawkins to anything other than very obvious personnal self interest from your part. The way the article stands as is, with no substantial critisism, and barring every possible source where critisism could come from is an insult to wikipedia standars. 07:21, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

Your post is full of personal attacks. I suggest that you avoid these in future. It might be wise to consult the encyclopedia's policy on the issue. Metamagician3000 07:26, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

I didn't think it was part of the encyclopedia's policy to push ovious personal agenda's such as yours via wikipedia. I've made every effort, given some of your preposterous claims to be as cvil as I can, you might try to make some effort to be reasonable in what you are saying here. And I was under the impression one responds to the other person's arguments in the talk pages. I think you should do that now, respond to what I 've said. 07:38, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

Erm "Take your tongue out of Dawkins's ass". You shot yourself in the head right there at the top of your post. Very clever. As for your ridiculous claim that Dawkins has only a "handfull [sic] of articles in peer reviewed journals", it's clear that you're really not doing much in the way of getting informed. Yes, Dawkins is not a science superstar publishing with every breath, but very few scientists are (and some would argue that quality and quantity are often inversely related). Regarding criticism, on science topics journalists aren't necessarily the best sources of criticism; try the scientific literature for that. Admittedly, there's much more to the public face of Dawkins than simply science, but getting criticism is context is crucial. And anyway, there's plenty of criticism in the article already and, as coelacan notes, adding a specific section for it merely strips it of context (and provides a "lucky dip" for the likes of creationists). By the way, take a look at WP:NPA before you come back here. --Plumbago 08:21, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

He's not even a b-movie star in terms of research in biology, and one hardly demands of him to publish in academia "with every breath (sic)", but it seems he takes a breath every decade or so. You also seem to forget that he's chairing "public dissemination of science", not biology. I, and a lot of others, some here in the talk pages, most expurgated as I 've looked over the history of the article are making a very vocal claim of not having enough critisism here. So it's just your pov that the criticsim suffices. It seems that even the critical external links are getting expurgated. When Dawkin's publishes a book, it's the science journalists that are going to review it, what I said is that you cant dismiss journalism criticism as beyond any merit at all. And I 've gotten no response to the preposterous posts from another user, which spurred my ascerbic comment, about journalist's "low quality flacks" completely underserving of any mention here and about other scientists in the "one-off" media debates with Dawkins (scientists who might actually have published a thing or too in biology) again unworthy of any mention here. I 've NOT requested a separate critisism section, and I know this requires some panache to work. I just despise this very pov and protectivist attitude that's clearly lurking in the article page, and very self evident over here. But as I can see both here and elsewhere where I tried to post a comment in the talk pages, I 'm dealing either way of the evolution spectrum with a bunch of zealots who have somehow internalized and projected upon the subject matter so much, that it tips off the scales one way or the other. 09:14, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

Richard Dawkins is a devout atheist and bigoted against Christians. That is applauded on Wikipedia, that is why there are no criticisms of him.
Hey, if thats best criticism you've got its a good thing there is no criticism section -save it for the other death-worshipers of your ilk. If Dawkins was against the Nazi's would that make him a bigot? Clearly one can be an atheist and be unbigoted toward Christianity, though one cannot be a Christian and be unbigoted toward atheists. Rather, if you want a good criticism of Dawkins and eat your body of christ too, it sounds like an objection to 'scientism' or 'monism' might be in order -that is, to be searching for that 'one true description' of the universe, be it physical, is still a belief in metaphysical truth. Then you could say with me, a non-scientific atheist, of these types -'once a Christian, always a Christian'. -Teetotaler —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 08:02, 24 February 2007 (UTC).
While I disagree with just about everything User: said - he did raise one interesting point about discrediting Journalists criticism of Dawkins as "low-quality topical flack." This is pretty belittling to Journalists' objections to Dawkins ideas. Doesn't the fact that Dawkins gets a lot of this criticism from Journalists indicate that his critics made be somewhat widespread? Furthermore, doesn't the current layout without a separate criticism section seriously limit the amount of criticism in the interests of keeping the article NPOV? In discussions about Criticism sections, most editors conclude that where they can be avoided they shouldn't be included. Look at Sam Harris and so many other articles. In response to the first of Coelacan's comments, no I don't want a separate criticism section "that the context of all the other information in the article can be skipped over, and the criticism pulled out without learning anything else." However I think that the current set up doesn't allow for the person to learn enough about criticism of Dawkins.Olockers
I would not mind having a separate criticism section. Since we have a large number of reliable sources critizing him, it seems unreasonable to just have parts of that distributed throughout the article. JoshuaZ 00:46, 9 March 2007 (UTC)

User talk: states that "one cannot be a Christian and be unbigoted toward atheists". This is not true. A clear example would be the Roman Catholic Focolare Movement which includes and involves atheists. Catwizzle 12:09, 31 March 2007 (UTC)

Richard Dawkins yDNA

Most recent common ancestor

The photo of Dawkins is highly leading - it's clearly been selected to make him look evil. Could a more neutral photo be selected?

I suggest you read WP:Assume good faith. Furthermore, I really don't see how that photo makes Dawkins look evil - I've seen him looking much more 'evil' on television (on a bad day, no doubt).TheologyJohn 19:56, 22 December 2006 (UTC)
Science isn't a beauty contest. As for evil before we pull out the mote that is in thy eye we should look at the beam of a smile on the face of the Pope that looks like the Emperor from Star Wars. Now that guy looks truely evil. Ttiotsw 22:14, 22 December 2006 (UTC)
I just want to clarify that I wasn't intending remotely to suggest that Dawkins does look like he is evil, in that picture or elsewhere. I was merely defending the picture and the person who placed it there.TheologyJohn 22:50, 22 December 2006 (UTC)

¡ ¿ [[ %7e%7e%7e%7e ]] Sign!!!! Why do you not?

¡ ¿ [[ %7e%7e%7e%7e ]] Sign!!!! Why do you not?

[[ hopiakuta | [[ [[%c2%a1]] [[%c2%bf]] [[ %7e%7e%7e%7e ]] -]] 19:50, 22 December 2006 (UTC)

Colbert Report etc.

I do want this revived:

On October 18, 2006, Dr. Dawkins was featured on the Comedy Central television talk-show, "The Colbert Report." There to promote his book The God Delusion, he spent the majority of his time arguing religious and political issues with the eccentric host, Stephen Colbert (character).

However, where I generally, w/ some exemptions, like Daily Show, Steve Colbert's show,... I don't have the words. Part of it would include "worst of Television Guide Channel", & "worst of cartoon channel[s]".

The Francis Collins page does link here.

I do advocate that paragraph, as above.

Thank You.

[[ hopiakuta | [[ [[%c2%a1]] [[%c2%bf]] [[ %7e%7e%7e%7e ]] -]] 19:32, 22 December 2006 (UTC)

  • Please refer to Richard Dawkins in popular culture, and edit that page as necessary to fit in all that you think needs to be mentioned. Snalwibma 19:45, 22 December 2006 (UTC)
    • I see no need for this pop culture trivia. I'm sure there are many more important things that we have to leave unsaid for reasons of space. However, if we really must have such material somewhere in Wikipedia, put it in its own article as Snalwibma suggests. Metamagician3000 22:30, 22 December 2006 (UTC)

Dawkins cites Wiki in God Delusion

I don't know if this has come to the attention of anyone, but, in the God Delusion, Chapter 8, Section 4 ("Faith and the Sanctity of Human Life"), Dawkins cites the Wikipedia article Karla Faye Tucker. See citation 126 in the Notes. -Severa (!!!) 02:30, 25 December 2006 (UTC)

Dawkins and eugenics links

See for the real letter (well I think thats it) and if you read that it doesn't say he supports eugenics but that the subject should be discussed. The creationist link versions are a most imaginative extrapolation but more wishful thinking than reality. Ttiotsw 03:52, 25 December 2006 (UTC)

This so called letter wasn't actually a letter written to the paper by RD but was an Afterward written by RD taken from a book called "what's Your Dangerous Idea" by John Brockman that as of the end of November hadn't been printed yet. More can be seen here;,353,How-Predictable-Richard-Dawkins-Supports-Eugenics,Wesley-J-Smith

scroll down to comment 19 by RD himself. Of course a number of opponents took the opportunity to claim, however obliquely in some instances, that he supported eugenics.

--JohnCymru 12:45, 6 January 2007 (UTC)

Memetics section and need for a citation

I've restructured this section in a way that seems to me to be more logical. Doing so threw up the fact that we need a citation for the John Laurent article and other claims made in the relevant para (the previous structure tended to hide this gap, at least from my eyes). Does anyone have a citation for this? Metamagician3000 01:09, 29 December 2006 (UTC)

"theology is vacuous"

Sorry for the absence, nice to see the quality of the article hasn't suffered during all the book publicity.


"Oxford theologian Alister McGrath, author of Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life, has accused Dawkins of being ignorant of Christian theology and mischaracterising religious people in general. McGrath asserted that Dawkins has become better known for his rhetoric than for his reasoning, and that there is no clear basis for Dawkins' hostility towards religion. In response, Dawkins stated his position that Christian theology is vacuous, and that the only area of theology which might command his attention would be the arguments to demonstrate God's existence. Dawkins criticised McGrath for providing no argument to support his beliefs, other than the fact that they cannot be falsified."

I'd like to add something along the lines of "... and the charge of ignorance of theology has been dubbed 'the courtier's reply'.", referencing:,463,The-Courtiers-Reply,PZ-Myers

However, the phrase is very new not especially widespread, so I'm not sure whether I should. Any objections? Joe D (t) 19:51, 6 January 2007 (UTC)

I'd be disinclined to rely on blogs as sources. I know it's more a line call with those hosted on Science Blogs, which have a big audience and pretty reputable people such as Myers, so I'm open to argument. But I'd rather wait for an unequivocally notable source to discuss the so-called Courier's Reply. E.g. wait for Myers to write his book or an article published in a notable journal or magazine. Metamagician3000 23:51, 6 January 2007 (UTC)
That said, we do have articles on both Myers and his blog. It's a very notable blog, so there may be some way of saying this concisely with specific attribution to Myers. Metamagician3000 22:57, 8 January 2007 (UTC)

Critic of Islam

How about adding RD to this list? And of Christianity, Buddhism et al? --TresRoque 23:31, 7 January 2007 (UTC)

He is not renown for being a critic of Islam; that's usually an argument that starts people on the slippery slope of...
  1. accuse them of Islamophobia
  2. Islamophobia is racism
  3. Anti-racism lawsuit
  4. ....
  5. Profit
in the style of slashdot. He is not renown for being a critic of Islam, Christianity or Bhuddism but all (?) religions (which presume a supernatural). To add many templates for each extant religion on wikipedia would be nonsense as it would add undue weight to the specific religions that are added unless templates for all religions could be added (including all historical religions) which would make the article footer and utter mess. Ttiotsw 00:20, 8 January 2007 (UTC)
  • Do you mean the Criticism of Islam article? I would agree with Ttiotsw -- Dawkins is not particularly a critic of Islam. If anything, as in The God Delusion, he focuses mostly on Christianity as the example he is most familiar with. But he is primarily a critic of theism/deism. If we were to include all atheists, individually, on those criticism articles, then it would really murk them up and make it hard to pull out the specific critics of the specific religions. Instead, there should just be a link on those pages to Atheism or Category:Atheists. --lquilter 00:28, 8 January 2007 (UTC)
    • I might feel differently if it were Sam Harris, who has a lot of specific criticism of Islam. Dawkins really doesn't focus on Islam, and isn't known as a critic of Islam in particular but of theistic religion in general. Metamagician3000 00:57, 8 January 2007 (UTC)

Could anyone cite examples of Dawkins' explicit criticism of Islam? Unless such citations are forthcoming I'd suggest that the sentence "Dawkins is well known for his contempt for religious extremism, from Islamist terrorism to Christian fundamentalism" should be altered to take account of the fact that he has relatively little to say about Islam or Islamism. Catwizzle 13:45, 30 March 2007 (UTC)

Try or,4273,4257777,00.html Hope they help Mucus 15:29, 30 March 2007 (UTC)

Thanks, but I was really looking for something specifically and explicitly about Islam. The Guardian article does not even contain the words Islam or Muslim, so cannot be described as explicit criticism. The ffrf article is a general attack on Abrahamic religion focusing mainly on Christianity. The references to Islam are softened by Dawkins giving examples of Muslims being victimised. Is there nothing - an article, a speech, a chapter of a book - explicitly and unequivocally deconstructing Islam, comparable to his work on Christianity? (As there is, for example, in the work of Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris.) Catwizzle 12:50, 31 March 2007 (UTC)

Where are his works

I am familiar with Dawkins books, but I thought he was a research scientist with an extensive publication record. I could only find about twenty publications of his. There are several other R. Dawkins (Rosie etc.). Dawkins is really a science writer philosopher. Isaac Asimov was similar. Not that I am criticizing his contribution, but I was surprised (given the magnitude of his career and success).GetAgrippa 14:08, 9 January 2007 (UTC)

Did you take account of his more technical publications here:

--Dannyno 22:13, 9 January 2007 (UTC)

Yep, most are not peer reviewed, but the peer reviewed are in excellent journals. Mostly books, essays in New Scientist, etc. He really is a science writer philosopher. He doesn't collaborate much either. GetAgrippa 00:01, 10 January 2007 (UTC)

How many are peer reviewed, on your count, and how many not? --Dannyno 10:43, 5 February 2007 (UTC)

The God who wasn't there

This film should be removed, because Dawkins has nothing to do with it. Cloud someone please tell me why it is here. Max18well 06:09, 10 January 2007 (UTC)

According to the film's article, Dawkins appears on a commentary track of the DVD. -- Schaefer (talk) 15:03, 10 January 2007 (UTC)
I have the film and he does appear in the commentary. Sophia 17:32, 11 January 2007 (UTC)

Whitby article

Can anyone tell me why we are citing a relatively obscure article by S. Jonathan Whitby for the discussion of memetics? I'm open to explanation, but at the moment it looks to me as if this is not especially salient - not more than probably many other articles about memetics. Thoughts? Metamagician3000 09:38, 11 January 2007 (UTC)

No responses? I'm strongly inclined to delete this reference, so I'm serving notice. If someone wants to defend its significance, please do so. Metamagician3000 13:22, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
For now, I've removed the material. Here it is, with the citation, for future reference ... if anyone can defend its re-inclusion. and Jonathan Whitty to apply it.Whitty, S. Jonathan (2005). A Memetic Paradigm of Project Management. International Journal of Project Management, 23 (8) 575-583. Metamagician3000 22:22, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

Critical external links

User: recently made some seriously POV edits that were (righly) reverted. I did, however, notice he wanted external links to articles critical of Dawkins and I've always thought this was a good idea. We used to have such links — mainly to creationsist websites — and I think we should reintroduce them. As most regulars here will know, I am quite a fan of Dawkins' but I still think it is important to let readers make up their own minds. See Larry's big reply for some further considerations in this direction. Mikker (...) 19:53, 12 January 2007 (UTC)

That's fine, but how about links that actually add something. The "I'm a Christian, and athiesm is bunk" type of review adds nothing. We know Christians disagree with Dawkins. It is as pointless as using Dawkins to critisize a Christian theologist. --Michael Johnson 23:45, 12 January 2007 (UTC)
Maybe Wikipedia should link to representative commentaries, no matter how useless we may think they are. That's what it means to let the reader decide. --JWSchmidt 02:53, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
Book reviews aren't published for being representative, they're published for being well written and reasoned. A representative commentary on Dawkins would be a blog or forum posting from someone not particularly knowledgeable on evolution or religion. These are not included, precisely because they are useless to the reader. Uselessness is an excellent reason for not including something. -- Schaefer (talk) 05:53, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
I'm not a big fan of external links unless they are references ... or are indispensable, such as an individual's own website. We already have books about Dawkins, including books that are critical or objective (such as Sterelny's excellent little book about Dawkins and Gould). However, if we are going to list otherwise-uncited material about Dawkins from the internet, as opposed to material in book form, I don't see why it should just be material that is critical of him. Moreover, any material that is critical of him should be something of note. E.g. if Richard Lewontin had an important essay critiqueing Dawkins on his website - or if Sterelny had an analysis, supplementing his book, somewhere on the internet - I'd consider that more encyclopedic than some stray negative book review. Metamagician3000 06:00, 13 January 2007 (UTC)

So...? Would it ok to add a "Criticism" sub-section to the ELs? Mikker (...) 19:22, 15 January 2007 (UTC)

Depends on what it is. If there is a significant critique available on the internet - whether by someone like Gould or Lewontin or by someone from a religious perspective - yeah, let's link to it. But not a whole lot of book reviews, or whatever. It should be material of some substance, and most such material should already be mentioned in the article, no? Metamagician3000 13:20, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

If you mean scientific substance, then just about every academic biologist has published more peer reviewed articles than dawkins over the past fourty years, right? So pretty much every academic biologist is more than qualified to critisize Dawkins. I can't think of any science disseminator proffesors...And I think a "whole lot of book reviews" are needed, for a guy who is supposed to be disseminating science, who is not much of a scientist, but mainly an "author" (whatever that means in academia...) I think he's main body of work should be responded to, in what else, book reviews? Of course in your view journalists, or other science writers are mere mortals and their "stray" critiques can't even be linked here. Of course if you manage a second in zoology you are beyond reproach... 07:25, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

all critical

The "Articles about Dawkins and his ideas" are all articles which criticise or attack his writings. This isn't a balanced view, at least not under its current heading. Either that section should contain a representative sample of articles both for and against, or it should be retitled "Articles critical of Dawkins and his ideas", shouldn't it? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 12:26, 10 February 2007 (UTC)

That was an edit by an ip which was soon reverted. Mikker (...) 17:29, 10 February 2007 (UTC)
Somebody seems to have put it back in again. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 12:46, 12 February 2007 (UTC).

atheist - indeed antitheist

If we accept that antitheism is a valid term (and there has been an article on it since Sept 05 [5]) it's clear that Dawkins isn't merely an atheist (like say Martin Rees) but an antitheist. Certainly in the over 4,000 google hits on (Dawkins Antitheist) both pro- and anti-Dawkins people claim this. When I put it in the lead-in it seemed non-controversial and was apparently accidentally reverted after 2 days. What do people think? NBeale 05:45, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

This should hinge on whether Dawkins self-identifies as an antitheist. -- Schaefer (talk) 06:10, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
Exactly. Unless he defines himself in that way (and I don't believe he does) it is not the sort of thing that should be put in lead. If there is a reliable source for a notable claim that his views go beyond atheism into something called "antitheism" it can be cited in the appropriate place in the article. Metamagician3000 07:03, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
Agreed. It's clearly POV without a source and, even when sourced, should not go in the lead, but in the main body. Mikker (...) 07:31, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
And another problem is that the term antitheism seems to be a definitional nightmare, judging by our article on the subject. Putting a claim like that in the lead, where we can't go defining extraneous terms, would just cause confusion. If we said in the body of the article, with proper citations, "Important thinkers Foo Snark and Jack Bloggs have claimed that Dawkins is actually an antitheist, in so far as he considers the belief in a god or gods to be socially harmful", then that would probably be fine. Metamagician3000 08:06, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

Well that's OTT - none of the other labels applied to Dawkins are sourced in that way. However Victor Stenger clearly considers Dawkins an Antitheist see here - note that tha A. in the dialogue stands for "Antitheist" and not Atheist, and although I personally consider Stenger pretty feeble, his is clearly a notable source. NBeale 06:55, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

No he doesn't say that - searching for "Dawkins" in the page I see that Stenger's only reference to Dawkins is with "See The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins for details on the evolution of the eye,". That's simply a cite for Dawkins not a label. Ttiotsw 13:40, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
But none of the other labels assigned to RD is a controversial term with an uncertain meaning. When "antitheist" was added, note that it was done in the form of a parenthetical "indeed, antitheist" - and the word "indeed" signals that the person who added it knows very well that the comment moves beyond statement of fact into personal interpretation. It means "and some might even consider him an antitheist, shock, horror!" It is therefore original research and a loaded term - indeed, a weasel word. See what I mean? Snalwibma 07:31, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
There's far more controversy/uncertainty about "atheist" because of the "weak atheist" trope that tries to re-label agnostitcs etc.. as atheists. "indeed athitheist" was certainly not intended to be read in this way, it's an intensifier c/f "it sold well - indeed it was number one on Amazon". And the idea that Dawkins is actively against belief in God and considers it socially harmful is not rocket science or OR. No-one ITRW would consider this claim controversial at all! NBeale 06:55, 23 January 2007 (UTC)
One only has to consider the self-selected terms "pro-choice" and "pro-life" (and their politically-weaponised opposites) to realise that labelling anything with the prefix "anti-" is liable to cause trouble. Unless Dawkins refers to himself with this term (and well he might for all I know) it shouldn't be considered here. On the whole (and there are exceptions) most people and organisations prefer not to label themselves with a negative prefix. Positive statements usually "sell better". Perhaps we could instead label Dawkins pro-living-in-the-real-world or pro-fantasy-denial?  ; ) --Plumbago 18:01, 23 January 2007 (UTC)
Dawkins self-identifies as an atheist, he doesn't self-identify as an "anti-theist" (AFAIK). And of course labels like "atheist" are controversial -- but people have a whole book, The God Delusion, to read to find out exactly what Dawkins's position is on the issue. The same cannot be said, however, of the term "anti-theist". Besides, what you seem to want to convey with the term anti-theist, "Dawkins is actively against belief in God and considers it socially harmful", is already covered by the term humanist. Mikker (...) 18:30, 23 January 2007 (UTC)
FYI regarding the applicability of terminology and the likelihood of causing debate: anti-theist, while obviously true, is probably even more likely to cause debate than "atheist" -- which I thought was a wholly uncontroversial identity for Dawkins, but see the arguments from others, just last month, that "atheist" was a problematic term to attach to Dawkins. (Talk:Richard Dawkins#Religion=Atheism revert) There were a lot of discussions specific to (a) categorization (can "atheism" be considered a "subset" of religion or are the "religion" categories, headings, and fields not "proper subsets") and (b) the infobox (should religion be in the box at all? should atheism be listed in the religion field?); but there were also significant arguments from coelacan and Mikker that Dawkins' position was somehow "nuanced". I've never seen much nuance in it, myself, but then I was on the losing side of the lack of consensus in that discussion. )-8 --lquilter 18:56, 23 January 2007 (UTC)
For the record, I was a little bit confused last month — I had been reading about / listening to a lot of sceptics at the time and my memories of people's various positions merged a bit. Dawkins clearly does identify as an atheist (see ch.4 of The God Delusion). The problem in the discussion linked to by lquilter was that describing atheism as a "religion" in the infobox was POV. (coelacan makes good arguments to this effect in the archived discussion). Mikker (...) 19:44, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

[Un-indent] It's very simple. If there is a notable claim that Dawkins is an antitheist, then it goes in in the appropriate section with a reference. But it would be peripheral, since he does not identify as "an antitheist" - it would merely be someone's else's label for him - and the term "antitheist" is not in common use, and its meaning is not even clear (not saying that the meaning of "atheist" is totally clear either, but the word is at least well known). Since Stenger has not turned out to be a source, on current information, we don't have a good source. Metamagician3000 01:09, 24 January 2007 (UTC)

Re the comment by lquilter, though, I agree that there can't be any doubt that Dawkins is an atheist and identifies as such. The only question is whether this should be recorded as his "religion" in an infobox. I still think that atheism is not a religion, though it is a belief about religion, in that it entails the claim that all the theistic religions are false. I think that we have handled it the right way by referring to Dawkins as an atheist in the lead and discussing his atheistic views in some detail in the body of the article. Metamagician3000 01:14, 24 January 2007 (UTC)
  • It has now been well-established that Dawkins does not refer to himself as an antitheist; though he may not object to the term, it's not one he generally uses. However, this is not, in itself, reason to reject using a term: if there is broad agreement that a certain common, useful term applies to someone, it need not have been ever used by the person himself in order to be utilized by Wikipedia. Unfortunately, this discussion has also established that there are few, if any, sources that actually describe Dawkins as an "antitheist". This eliminates two of the three justifications that could be used for including the term in the article.
  • The final justification, then, is the one NBeale is currently appealing to: that, although the term isn't commonly used by Dawkins or by people describing Dawkins, it is a sufficiently useful description of Dawkins' views to merit Wikipedia's usage. To be useful, such a term must encapsulate Dawkins' relevant views in a concise, complete, and clear manner. To dispute NBeale's argument, then, we must do more than simply point to a lack of past usage for the term in describing Dawkins (though WP:NOR is most likely sufficient for rejecting this term), but must also directly address the claim that antitheist is a valuable, useful description in this situation.
  • In fact, it is not. Dawkins is not specifically or solely opposed to belief in God; although he and others have emphasized this aspect of his belief system at various times (e.g., The God Delusion), if he is an antitheist, he is one only by virtue of his more general philosophies and attitudes. That is, he is critical not only of God, but of religion in general (see The Root of All Evil?); he is skeptical not only of God, but of the supernatural in general. Antitheism is thus not a very useful way to describe Dawkins' general views, because there are other ways of describing his views which include antitheism (e.g., describing him as antireligious and naturalistic), but provide much broader and more significant information on his views in general. This makes antitheism a poor substitute for these alternatives, having less informational content.
  • The second problem with the term, which has been addressed above, is that it is ambiguous: it can apply to a number of different views (including "opposition to God", rather than mere "opposition to belief in God"), and it's meaning may not be self-evident to people who haven't heard it before (because it's not an extremely common term). Of course, the same argument can indeed be made for atheism, but atheism, unlike anti-theism, meets the other two criteria for inclusion: it is widely used by Dawkins himself, and by anyone referring to Dawkins. Our own displeasure with a term's vagueness cannot outweigh near-ubiquitous common usage, unfortunately. -Silence 04:16, 28 January 2007 (UTC)

Keith Ward in Religion section

I am uneasy about the way a comment from Keith Ward has been tacked on to the end of the paragraph about The Root of All Evil? It says (in its current form) Keith Ward suggests that "the assertion that religion does more harm than good ignores the available evidence ... [and substitutes] rhetoric for analysis." I have no doubt he does say this, but is it a comment specifically about the television programme discussed in the paragraph? And if so, how exactly does it add to our understanding of that programme? Sounds to me like a general swipe at Dawkins, stuck on at the end of the paragraph in an attempt to ensure that the critics have the "final say". Unless its relevance to the programme is clear, and it can be built in more neatly as an integral part of the paragraph, I would like to delete again. I am not suppressing anything, just trying to ensure that the article is well structured and makes sense. Succumbing to the urge to chuck in every comment about Dawkins you can find (whether pro or anti) just degrades the readability. Snalwibma 08:31, 25 January 2007 (UTC)

I edited this into shape because it originally said "other critics", but the citation showed it was actually just one person: Keith Ward. I don't see why this particular example was important to include, but perhaps Nbeale will enlighten us. Metamagician3000 08:36, 25 January 2007 (UTC)
And I totally agree with the commemt that it is inappropriate to chuck in random comments of disagreement or support. That way lies the path of the article degenerating into a mess and the editing process degenerating into a dog-fight as I've seen happen with so many other controversial articles. Metamagician3000 08:38, 25 January 2007 (UTC)

Hi Snalwibma/Metamagician3000. Alister McGrath makes similar points, I'll add a ref. Ward's book begins "Is religion dangerous? Does it do more harm than good? Is it a force for evil, even 'the root of all evil' - the title of a short British television series presented by Richard Dawkins" Again a whole book written by an FBA in response to this TV series (and similar tropes of course) is surely worth a mention. Other less distinguished commentators get name-checks in the text!NBeale 14:16, 25 January 2007 (UTC)

I rather doubt if the whole book was written "in response to this TV series"! It sounds more like Ward spotting an opportunity to get in a cheap jibe. I still think (as said above, and also by Metamagician) that it is a bad idea to keep adding this sort of "me too" cruft, however distinguished the commentator, and regardless of whether he's a member of the Freshwater Biological Association! Comments should be included only if they throw light on the topic of the article, not by virtue of the perceived importance of whoever makes them. How exactly does adding this enhance the reader's understanding of the article's subject? Snalwibma 14:34, 25 January 2007 (UTC)
In the review of Ward's book cited on the article about it, it's commented that Ward "has turned himself into a one-man Richard Dawkins Rebuttal Agency" (not dissimilarly to Alister McGrath it would appear). Although that's only one reviewer's opinion, Ward doesn't sound like the sort of source we'd ideally use - anything better? By the way, I think the FBA might refer to the British Academy, rather than aquatic pursuits. --Plumbago 14:48, 25 January 2007 (UTC)
It's OK - I knew what FBA was. The point I was trying to get across is that Fellowship of the British Academy is no more relevant than membership of the Farnborough Breadmaking Association, if what he has to say adds nothing of substance to the article. Snalwibma 16:25, 25 January 2007 (UTC)
Hi Plumbago & Snalwibma. Holloway (not an FBA but a disgruntled ex-bishop) is just being mischievous, Ward's publication record is much wider than that! Ward's point is that there is a lot of evidence about the net effects of religion and this is ignored by Dawkins & co who "substiture rhetoric for analysis". As you'll see I have adjusted the quote to remove what might seem a jibe and make it clear what the substance of his criticisms are. I'm working on expanding the article on Is Religion Dangerous? to give the details, which are clearly beyond the scope of this article. But I think readers need the opportunity to judge for themselves whether Ward's criticisms are valid. NBeale 18:43, 25 January 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the response. NBeale. You say that "the details [of Ward's argument] are clearly beyond the scope of this article." My point is that even the oh-so-predictable knee-jerk reaction of someone like Ward is beyond the scope of an article which is supposed to be about Dawkins. I have looked again at what you have added, I have considered its contribution to the article, and my conclusion is that it's just fluff, so I have deleted. Once again - just because you have come across someone else who says "Me too - I don't agree with Dawkins either" you don't have to add a reference to him to this article. Take it to Keith Ward. Or (once again) show how it actually aids the understanding of what this article (on Dawkins, remember?) is about. Snalwibma 21:34, 25 January 2007 (UTC)

Hi Snalwibma. I don't see how a 206pp book based inter alia on reviews of over 2,200 published experiments and peer-reviewed articles can reasonably be considered a "knee-jerk reaction". You and I both know that writing a book is not straightforward! As far as I know Ward is the only FBA or FRS to have published a book-length response to Dawkins' ideas on religion. Understanding how world-class philosophers respond to these assertions surely helps readers place Dawkins' ideas in context. At the miniumum we need to make it relatively easy for readers to find Ward's response. NBeale 04:12, 26 January 2007 (UTC)

I don't actually see the harm in mentioning that "One theistic philosopher, Keith Ward, former Canon of Christ Church, Oxford, has written a book arguing against the view of Dawkins and others that religion is socially dangerous." If that is the fact of it, why not say exactly that (and no more)? What I'd object to is opening up the gates for more and more opinions of Dawkins' work, of which there are literally thousands. Metamagician3000 04:18, 26 January 2007 (UTC)
...or handle it as Nbeale has in his latest edit - I don't think that is objectionable. Metamagician3000 04:23, 26 January 2007 (UTC)

The way it is now done seems fine - though (this may surprise you) I'd prefer to see it in the text rather than in a footnote! Something along the lines of what Metamagician suggests above, perhaps (though with a link to Is Religion Dangerous?), alongside McGrath. I have had a go at doing this. What I objected to was the way it was originally tacked on to the end of the paragraph about The Root of All Evil?, where it (a) looked like a POV attempt to dismiss RD's argument at every possible point, and (b) introduced too many twists and turns into the argument and made it hard to follow. In the paragraph that begins with McGrath it looks good and aids understanding. That's what I'm concerned about. I don't care two hoots who "wins" the argument (actually I do, but that's not the point here). My mission is to do my bit to ensure that the article stays balanced and (above all) easy to understand. Snalwibma 09:17, 26 January 2007 (UTC)

Some things not adding up...

Please do not feed the trolls

How a second class BA in zoology (of all subject matters) can become an assistant professor at Berkeley four years after graduating...well maybe at such a demanding field they couldn't find any first class degrees for Berkeley...Or maybe not many were "Dawkins of Over Norton"...Lol...and he had a chair made for him (how many can boast this) at Oxford, courtesy of billionaire MS geek Simonyi (we all wish we'd have friends like that...) as Professor for the Public Understanding of Science...there are professorhips for everything nowadays...Very telling tidbits...Now where's the criticism section? Or is "Dawkins of Over Norton" above that too? 06:58, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

  • Please learn to write coherent comments with proper punctuation. Your whole post seems like a rumble without a point. What exactly do you want to change or add to the article? Svetovid 12:26, 2 February 2007 (UTC)
Judging from previous edits, simply rage. This anon is repeatedly hostile and insulting to other editors. Best not to feed the troll. --Plumbago 13:17, 2 February 2007 (UTC)
  • Well, he/she doesn't look like the average troll. He/she obviously knows something about the topics and tries to make a point, just fails miserably with no facts and that horrible composition. Svetovid 16:37, 2 February 2007 (UTC)
It is hostile, but I too share his curiosity. Dawkins is a science writer philosopher more so than a scientist. He likes to write books and essays in journals, but he has less than twenty peer reviewed articles and like 4-6 coauthored papers. I am not diminishing his achievements, but I know hundreds of associate professors with a better publication record. It is odd, but I applaud his success. Of course his career is to be envied and maybe that precipitates some of this hostility. GetAgrippa 13:46, 2 February 2007 (UTC)
Quality over quantity? That's very important, especially in science. Svetovid 16:37, 2 February 2007 (UTC)
Absolutely! Filling your c.v. with publications will get you no where without significant works, but academics look at numbers too. I think that is one of the precipitating factors in science fraud is the high degree of competition and the demand for both numbers in books and peer reviewed articles and significant work. That with a teaching load and the heat is on. GetAgrippa 16:57, 2 February 2007 (UTC)
The apparent source of the hostility is neither envy nor substantive or relevant article issues. See User talk: Rather, the user seems, oddly enough, to have a deep and abiding hatred of biologists. He states that "I don't think that more than 0.01% of them [biological scientists] have the broad understanding, as in every other field, to either question, replicate, research etc. etc. in whatever they are being taught", that "most mathematicians I 've met are ten times more intelligent than most biologists, or doctors for that matter", and that "Biologists are good in rmembering a lot of minute details, and various arcana, but by and large they are not the most mentally astute". He apparently reserves special rancor for Dawkins because he sees him as especially lacking in merit as a biologist, but this user is primarily just anti-biologist in general. He thinks they're stupid, closed-minded, poorly-educated, and dogmatic. His views are not really relevant to this article talk page, however, as they do not involve any substantive criticisms of the article or feasible suggestions for how to improve it. They should thus be further discussed at his User Talk page, if anywhere. -Silence 17:05, 2 February 2007 (UTC)
Silence, thanks for the information. I didn't intend to feed a troll, especially one who hates my profession. I am disheartened that mathematicians are generally poorly paid in the U.S. as I respect their profession. Once again your Wiki experience proves helpful. GetAgrippa 17:20, 2 February 2007 (UTC)

To address the original question (assuming for a moment that it was serious), there is nothing inherently odd about someone with a second class degree getting a major position after completing their PhD. I'm not sure what it was like at Oxford in the early 60s, but until the 90s at the University of the West Indies firsts just weren't given out except in the most exceptional of circumstances. In addition, I know a lot of people with PhDs who were mediocre undergrads. One's performance as an undergrad has little bearing on how you do later on. With regards to the number of publications, the "publish or perish" idea only developed in the 70s with a glut of PhDs. The bean-counting attitude towards pubs is relatively new in the UK. Times change, standards change. Don't judge something that happened 40 years ago by today's standards. Guettarda 17:32, 2 February 2007 (UTC)

Silence, anon's distaste of biologists is surprising in light of the fact that M. Behe - "fellow" of the Discovery Institute - has a second-class bachelor's degree in biology as well. It is interesting to note that criticism similar of M. Behe to the Dawkins criticism here is not made by ( in the Behe article. This is clearly an angry individual who is trolling for attention. As the article stands, I have found it a pretty even-handed treatment of the scientist, and I appreciate that the criticisms are woven throughout the article rather than placed in a single section. Doing so usually facilitates laziness anyway, since opponents usually skip over all other sections to "get to the good part." Appropriate to the article commentary here then I definately am in favor of leaving it the way it is. Astrobayes 14:04, 10 February 2007 (UTC) Do you even know what a "second class" BA is or what Zoology is? Your criticism is so weak. You know nothing about doctoral programs, applications for graduate work, and nothing about graduate work in general. Dawkins had a degree from OXFORD! with one of the most famous Zoologists supporting his continued studies writing letters of recommendation.
But speaking of Berkeley, if it weren't for Moon's Christian cultic funding and arm-twisting (with Johnson's help) to get Jonathan Corrigan Wells into the program Wells would have never gotten into any doctorate in science.
Also Dawkins has more books published than your average scholar not to mention his regular columns in magazines and journals (such as Free Inquiry.) When you account for his published articles in science journals, his books, his regular articles in freethought magazines, his lectures, his teaching, his TV programs, his conference papers, and his peer review work he has done an amazing amount of work. PatriotBible 07:55, 12 February 2007 (UTC)

[un-indent]... and his work is of seminal importance. These days, I hardly read a book that doesn't make some sort of reference to it, whether to rely on it or to disagree with it/argue against it in some respect. This is not your average valuable and reputable scientist plugging away at the incremental advance of science in some specialised area; this is is a person who has become a major figure in contemporary thought. Metamagician3000 08:36, 12 February 2007 (UTC)

Oddly enough Michael Behe has more basic research peer reviewed articles (36 articles) than Dawkins (less than 20). Most are in good to excellent journals and he has two Science publications. Not that I believe Behe is correct in irreducible complexity. In either case neither are prolific basic researchers. Dawkins prefers essays and books and is not much on basic research. He is not the most prolific author or scientist by any means. This is not to diminish his popularity. He reminds me of Isaac Asimov in many ways. My own bias is that he is not as great an intellectual giant as Gould or Mayr, but that is my own POV. It sounds like I'm trashing Dawkins as I read my comments. I admire him. I compare him to Asimov because he has a social conscience and speaks up. His work has had a great impact! GetAgrippa 23:59, 15 February 2007 (UTC)


Hi there everyone... (back from a wikibreak; glad to see the article has been improved in my absence). I am, however, a tad confused about one thing. Someone (I think Nbeale) changed a paragraph to make it read

The bolded part confuses me: how can Dawkins's arguments lack empirical support? I.e. what in the world does McGrath mean? Mikker (...) 09:36, 7 February 2007 (UTC)

Hmmm. Good point! In fact, that whole paragraph (IMHO) is too much about Dawkins' critics and not enough about Dawkins. I smell a POV rat, and I'd support moves to reduce the what McGrath and Ward think element and increase the what Dawkins thinks aspects of the paragraph. Snalwibma 17:04, 7 February 2007 (UTC)
There's also an implicit assumption that being criticised for an ignorance of Christian theology (whatever exactly McGrath means by this) is somehow notable. Dawkins has distilled religion (and not just Christianity) down to the proposition that supernatural powers exist that have demonstrably altered or intervened in our universe. As such, surely he need only concern himself with those aspects of religions that deal specifically with this point? He might well be ignorant of the wider cruft surrounding this proposition, but it's not at all clear why ignorance of this information is significant. Having recently seen McGrath talk on the subject of Dawkins (an entirely unedifying sight), I'm still none the wiser as to what the substance of this particular criticism is. --Plumbago 14:24, 8 February 2007 (UTC)
Well said, Plumbago. I also fail to see the significance of McGrath's criticism; for all his very public criticisms of Dawkins his arguments seem highly insubstantial. Not that I have a problem with him being mentioned in the article, but the space he has at the moment seems excessive.
The last sentence sums up what I object to in this section – why should McGrath's opinion of The God Delusion as a weak attempt be included? Perhaps if his arguments were better, but as it is that sounds like pure opinion with no "empirical evidence". If it would be useful anywhere, here's a quote from Dawkins (posted in the comments on his website):
If McGrath's opinion of Dawkins deserves a paragraph, then perhaps Dawkins' opinion that McGrath is riding on his publicity should be noted. Lh'owon 04:48, 9 February 2007 (UTC)
McGrath's opinion of Dawkins is worth quoting, not because it's correct or clever (when I've heard him speak, he wasn't - though he was speaking to a very broad audience so had to speak down, and even so lost a lot of his audience), but simply because it has been published and comes from an academic in the field. I see no reason according to Wikipedia:Reliable_sources why he shouldn't be accepted, according to WP:NPOV#Undue weight, I would argue that criticism of Dawkins should take a reasonable-ish chunk of the section on religion. TheologyJohn 11:20, 9 February 2007 (UTC)
As I said, I don't take issue with McGrath's view being included; I agree that as a published academic he needs to be noted. However the nature of his comments seem woefully superficial and opinionated. He has now written several books on Dawkins – surely somewhere in those there's a better argument (or an argument at all, instead of a statement of opinion). Anyway, it looks improved now. Lh'owon 00:47, 10 February 2007 (UTC)

I have had a go at reducing the McGrath/Ward section under "Religion". Seems to me more balanced and approriate. If the reader wants details of what McGrath and Ward think, there are links to the articles about them and their books. Here the aim is to summarise what is directly relevant to Dawkins. No doubt some will accuse me of censorship, suppression of criticism, being a Dwakins toady, etc. I await with interest... Snalwibma 08:50, 9 February 2007 (UTC)

Your changes work for me, but then I'm just a POV Dawkins toady, so what do I know? :-) Mikker (...) 10:34, 9 February 2007 (UTC)
I'm happy with it as it is now, but checking back to how it was when I last worked on the article I don't think it was so terribly excessive. I'm not going to get carried away with this issue. Doubtless McGrath is even now planning the third book of the trilogy, or the ever-fatter volumes in the never-ending series. Metamagician3000 10:39, 9 February 2007 (UTC)
Really don't understand what the problem is here, actually. The article is about Dawkins - criticisms of him are about Dawkins. Purpose of wikipedia is not to present what editors regard as truth, it's to present already published views on what the truth is, according appropriate weight to how much they've been pubished, etc. TheologyJohn 11:20, 9 February 2007 (UTC)
Snalwibma's edits removed two points from the offending section:
  1. that Dawkins' criticisms lack "empirical support"
  2. that Dawkins' The God Delusion is his worst book
Of the first, it's not at all clear what's even meant by this. It sounds like, well, a soundbite. It might just be that we've not cited the most pertinent part of McGrath's criticism, in which case can we please cite it instead? (As an aside, it's pretty rich for a theologian to have a go on grounds of "no empirical support"!) On the second point, who cares what McGrath thinks is Dawkins' worst book? The point could well be expanded over at The God Delusion (if McGrath's thoughtful analysis is discussed there), but here it just seems an out-of-context "rubbishing" that should be excised. Cheers, --Plumbago 11:38, 9 February 2007 (UTC)
Plumbago says it perfectly. Yes we should have crit. No we shouldn't bias the crit to those ones the editors here agree with. But the stuff that was removed was (1) incoherent, (2) not relevant. Please feel free to add coherent, cited, directly relevant criticisms to the article (from McGrath or others). In fact, I'd suggest that, overall, the article needs more crit, not less. Mikker (...) 12:17, 9 February 2007 (UTC)
Thanks, Plumbago, for explaining my edits so clearly! That is exactly right. (a) The "lack empirical support" comment seemed meaningless. (b) It made no sense to have McGrath's two books at opposite ends of the paragraph. (c) Comment specifically on The God Delusion belongs on its own page - or on the pages on McGrath's own books - rather than here. (d) The addition about Dawkins' worst book was ungrammatical nonsense. Snalwibma 13:03, 9 February 2007 (UTC)

Criticism section

As it stands, this was a page of atheistic hero-worship. Yet biographies of people with the opposite ideology to Dawkins are considered POV if at least half of the article is not criticism. 07:14, 10 February 2007 (UTC)

There is critisism of Dawkins in the article. These links are nothing more than spam for a small group of fringe religions. --Michael Johnson 07:44, 10 February 2007 (UTC)
There are plenty of scientist critics against Dawkins notably Gould who characterized Dawkins ideas as oversimplification, hyperDarwinism, and an untestable hypothesis. Perhaps the strongest arguments against Dawkins comes from population genetics and genome sequencing. Originally the selfish DNA hypothesis was proposed to address junk DNA (note I call it DNA as Dawkins does not discuss genes as sequence, etc but as a theoretical construct). Selfish DNA was posited as a random replicator serving no function in producing the phenoype. Genome sequencing and molecular genetics is demonstrating junk DNA does have a function and can contribute to the phenotype-transposons and silencing gene mechanims both alter the phenoype. While Dawkins ideas do have appeal especially to sociobiologist, he has modified his ideas to accomodate new information. It makes for good theoretical arguments, but if it can't be modeled or tested it will fall out of vogue.GetAgrippa 13:19, 27 February 2007 (UTC)
The lack of a Criticism section here is indeed puzzling, given that every creationist side article that I have seen has one (something I have always been for). If a seperate section for criticism is not needed here, does this mean criticism sections should be removed in all articles? As far as this one goes, I have no opinion, really, but if that's the procedure, there's a ton of other articles that will need serious work... --Bonesiii 21:05, 3 April 2007 (UTC)

Buying "The God Delusion"

Should anyone want to buy this book it is currently available on Amazon at half price. Whether that is a bargain or still overpriced depends on your POV of course <G>. Springnuts 16:20, 11 February 2007 (UTC)

There are some good reviews here [7] rossnixon 01:20, 16 February 2007 (UTC)
I particularly like how the blog's writer is able to say: "look for McGrath's forthcoming book The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist fundamentalism and the denial of the divine where he rips Dawkins' The God Delusion to shreds!". I'm sure they must just have an advance copy of this unpublished book. They wouldn't otherwise be ranting just like a crazy person … --Plumbago 17:47, 16 February 2007 (UTC)
I have both on order so will be able to do some "original research" - which of course I will not tell you about! But you only get a measly 5% off McGrath's book - perhaps this is the Market speaking? Springnuts 20:31, 16 February 2007 (UTC)
Actually, after a visit to Waterstones, it transpires that McGrath's book is already out; contrary to my comment above. I'm afraid, however, that to call it a book is somewhat misleading. It's a wafer-thin pamphlet-come-book, co-written (by the looks of things) with his wife or a female relative. Still, it's slender length (< 100 pages) might dissuade people that McGrath's gotten all obsessional about Dawkins. --Plumbago 17:17, 17 February 2007 (UTC)

Secular fundamentalism and stupid faces

These are commentators in two major newspapers of record, The Times and The Guardian - I don't see how it can be "trivia". NBeale 22:12, 17 February 2007 (UTC)

It is a tiny incident in Dawkins' career, regardless of whether it got commented on in a couple of British newspapers. The article needs to have some perspective. Metamagician3000 05:40, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
Well it got picked up by The Australian as well. But the concerns about Dawkins's manner, coming over as excessively rude and aggressive, is very widespread and probably needs to be dealt with. It is one of the reasons why he is so disliked in Oxford. NBeale 07:43, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
NBeale - Including the comment about Nadia Eweida's "stupid face" was totally out of order. That was not only trivia, it was nasty, spiteful, irrelevant trivia, and brought in a personal attack on another person. Whether Dawkins said it is beside the point - it is simply not right to include it here. You seem to have backed down on that one, and you are now trying to twist the knife in a slightly different manner by introducing a comment on Dakwkins' alleged "over-aggressive manner". Why? I can only think of one reason, and that is that you are yet again trying to score as many points as possible in a childish anti-Dawkins campaign. Instead of messing up this article, why don't you follow the example of Alister McGrath, and go and write a nasty little book? I'm sure it would be very satisfying dredging up as much dirt as you can. Meanwhile, let's consider issues of balance and readbility in this article. Comments by others on RD being a "fundamentalist" may be worth including, if well sourced - but not just tacked onto the end of the religion section in an effort to have the final say. Comments on why he is "so disliked in Oxford" are simply out of place. It's trivia. It's meaningless. It's irrelevant. Snalwibma 08:16, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
(Edit conflict) What is it with you NBeale? You're a toady for McGrath and a vengeful critic of Dawkins, adding whatever material you can to besmirch him, whether it's appropriate for an encyclopedia or not. As for the material you've added, "aggressiveness" depends on your POV here. The sources you've provided read, to me, like exactly the sort of comment one would expect from one side of an argument commenting on the other side. I don't see how they improve things here. To be honest, your attempt to add them here seems simply an attempt to tag Dawkins with the term "fundamentalist" by any means necessary. I'm removing the material again as inappropriate for the WP. --Plumbago 08:20, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
Gentlemen! NPA please! Quality of argument is often in inverse proportion to the use of invective against the other party. Whether or not Dawk is a "fundamentalist" is a matter on which we can take no position. The fact that it is suggested that he is a fundamentalist and that he is over aggressive, both by religious and secular commentators which is easily sourced to 3 major newspapers of record and a number of other notable commentators, is something we should mention. This is how I'd suggest we do so, but if you can re-word and improve, so much the better:
Dawkins has been criticised, both by religious and secular commentators[1], for his over-aggressive manner and it has been suggested, controversially, that he should be considered a "secular fundamentalist" [2][3][4] or "atheist fundamentalist"[5][6] —The preceding unsigned comment was added by NBeale (talkcontribs) 09:34, 18 February 2007 (UTC).
Fair enough, perhaps, though I think "over-aggressive" is your editorialising and interpreting rather than a solid quote from your sources, and I think it's all unnecessary fact-stuffing anyway. If it is worth including, though, exactly where would you insert it, and how would you ensure that it is integrated into the "thread" of the article? My usual concern - how does adding this improve the reader's understanding of the subject rather than degrading the readability of the article? The article must present a structured summary, not a rag-bag collection of unconnected bits and pieces. Constantly adding things, every time you come across yet another comment about Dawkins in the popular media, essentially all making the same few points, isn't helping anyone. Snalwibma 09:43, 18 February 2007 (UTC)

Good lord, even I have been known to have my say in the op.ed. section of a major newspaper (The Australian, in my case) and have ghost-written op.ed. pieces for others. It means absolutely nothing. If I managed to get another gig with the Oz tomorrow and said that Dawkins is a raving fundamentalist atheist, whatever that means, it would be meaningless within the scheme of Dawkins' career. Newspaper op.eds and the like are trivial and ephemeral. They're fish and chips a day later. Metamagician3000 11:40, 18 February 2007 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Neutral_point_of_view/FAQ#Religion has a little bit on using the term "fundamentalism". Dawkins is predominately a scientist not a religious figure but where he does cross over and is seen delving into the religious realm then is "fundamentalist" a representative label for what he says or does ?. My feeling is that the term would be inappropriate in this case. You are right that there is a desire to to conflate "Dawkins" with the word "fundamentalism" as it is a topical pejorative (courtesy of Islam). Your own use of diminutives for Dawkins perhaps reflects this desire to denigrate Dawkins; would you care to elaborate on this heartfelt groundswell ?. Matthew 15:18-19 certainly comes to mind. Ttiotsw 16:11, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
I'm not suggesting that we should take a position on whether or not the suggestions that he is an "atheist fundamentalst" or "secular fundamentalist" are correct. But it is a fact that boths secular and religious commentators have made these suggestions, although others disagree. Hence "controversially". However interestingly Googling dawkins religion gets 1,340k hits vs 1,300 on Dawkins science. NBeale 17:36, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
Google results interesting? I don't think so. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that Dawkins writes about "religion", but does not write about "science". [And, for the record, it's not 1340k vs 1300, it's 1340k vs 1300k.] But to the point - I stand by my original reason for deleting an earlier version of the sentences under discussion. It's trivia. It's fluff. In no way does it help the reader of the article to understand its subject matter. Snalwibma 19:20, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
Agreed. However, I do think that a comment on his critics labelling him as 'fundamentalist' should be included – many, many of them do – but only in terms of criticism. Not as a statement about Dawkins. Fact is, what critics say is no way indicative of the 'truth' (whatever that may be). Dawkins has left their comfort zone where religion is concerned, so it is in their interests to label him as an 'extremist' and 'fundamentalist'. For the record, many people I have talked to (who read many scathing reviews of Dawkins and TGD) were unable to see what the fuss was about when they read TGD. To them it seemed intelligent, well-thought criticism. Far from the rabid fanatic critics like to portray. Lh'owon 01:39, 19 February 2007 (UTC)
It's a safe bet that, like Dawkins, none of these friends has any academic training in philosophy. His blunders are laughable. The point is that it is not just theists who find his arguments sloppy and fanatical - so does pretty well every philosophically aware atheist commentator (except Dennett, and even he expresses embarassment at Dawkins's extremism) - Michael Ruse and Terry Eagleton being cases in point. You can't just bury this with talk about comfort zone. That is why it is a notable fact that religious and secular commentators have these concerns. NBeale 22:42, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
I repeat: As far as I'm concerned (and this is just my POV; others may disagree), by all means build in a reference to a good sound source in which RD is referred to as a "fundamentalist". But please build it in, don't just tack it on to the end of a section, and please don't take it from some here-today-gone-tomorrow popular source or blog. And remember - the aim of the article is to describe and summarise Richard Dawkins (yes, and his critics), not to score points. (Oh - and as for "laughable" blunders, what on earth is more laughable than believing in a supernatural being?!) Snalwibma 23:28, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
That's easy. Not believing is more laughable, of course! rossnixon 00:44, 19 February 2007 (UTC)
As long as we are digressing from the purpose of an article talk page to this degree, I must disagree. I find FSM believers much more amusing than some atheists - and some believers, like Phelps, I don't find amusing at all. Now can we get back on topic? KillerChihuahua?!? 00:55, 19 February 2007 (UTC)
NBeale: An author's lack of 'academic training' in philosophy has no bearing on the quality of a book on religion, or should our perception of it. By the very nature of religion, qualifactions in the fields of theology and philosophy have little bearing; religion relies heavily – even solely – on faith without question. To say the only worthwhile criticisms of religion come from students of philosophy is ludicrous. As for your first comment, I said people I have talked to, not my friends. But I delight that you imply one must have qualification in philosophy to even have a worthwhile opinion. It is all very well to say that Dawkins "blunders laughably", but I'd like to see some evidence of it. The criticisms of him I have read recently have been (in my opinion) petty, even intellectually dishonest. If you can link me to better I'd appreciate it. Lh'owon 01:59, 19 February 2007 (UTC)
Well of course you can right a book or discuss any topic one has no knowledge of, however it could be a load of crap (look at some Wikipedia articles). Stephen Wolfram dismisses natural selection and replaces it with cellular automata. He is a mathematician and not a biologist. Of course one of his criticisms from biologist is he is not a biologist and not familiar with biology. I think a heavy background in history, theology, and philosophy make for a better background to write a book concerning religions than a degree in zoology and ethology. Of course historically there is not any religion (including Buddhism) that doesn't have some violent moments, so it is easy to find fault with any religion. However it would be difficult or naive to dismiss the influence of faith on history as positive and also negative, serving a human purpose in coping,and inspiration in music, art, science,etc. Many faiths go back thousands of years and ninety percent of the population of earth is inhabited by peoples of faith, so I think believer's laughter would deafen the non-believers. Anyways personal POV about faith is well off topic. Dawkins qualifications as an author in the realm of religion is a valid criticism, however that doesn't mean he cannot write an excellent book on the topic or his observations are not correct. GetAgrippa 18:58, 27 February 2007 (UTC)

[Un-indent] I dont think there's much point in conducting a debate about the merits of religious belief, atheism, the academic field of philosophy of religion, and so on. The point is that this is an article about an important scientist and author. We just need to ensure that the article keeps a proper perspective, rather than settling whether his views on religion, or anything else, are correct. Metamagician3000 03:35, 19 February 2007 (UTC)

Antagonistic atheism

Since I'm sure it will end up being referenced here if not deleted I invite other editors to comment on the AfD page [8]. Sophia 08:19, 19 February 2007 (UTC)

Sentence needing explanation

I've never understood how one sentence relates to the sentence immediately before it. It may be obvious to a biologist, but if it's not obvious to me (someone reasonably literate in the field) I suspect that it won't be to lots of others: In The Selfish Gene, however, Dawkins explains that he is using George C. Williams' definition of gene as "that which segregates and recombines with appreciable frequency". Could someone reword this and maybe expand it into a couple of sentences so it is clearer how it answers what is said in the sentence before? Metamagician3000 04:53, 25 February 2007 (UTC)

Good point. I believe this was brought up in the peer review of ages ago but it still hasn't been fixed. I also have never been able to figure out how the quote fits in with the fist part of the sentence. That said, it was written by... erm... can't remember who but it was someone I respected, I can remember that. Mikker (...) 15:59, 25 February 2007 (UTC)

Widely Cited contribution

To say "a major contriubtion to evolutionary theory" expresses a POV (which a cutting-edge bio-scientist I asked recently completely disagrees with) that it is a major contribution. Only 374 of the 621,000 G-hits on "major contribution" only about 0.5% remain when you add "extended phenotype" and many of these are simply reproductions of our article or are not about the subject. I see Plumbago's point that "his major contribution" might be read as saying it was "his greatest achievement" overall. The citation figures BTW are: Selfish Gene 3485, Watchmaker 1338, Extended Phenotype 909, Improbable 226, River 88, Rainbow 88, Devil's Chaplain 16. To be really NPOV we should say "a contribution" - the fact that the book is widely cited speaks for itself. NBeale 18:31, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

PS: Got it, we should say "a widely cited" This is NPOV and shorter and avoids the potential misunderstanding. NBeale 18:34, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

Hmmm. It's better for sure. I'm probably being paranoid, but "widely cited" sounds a little bit damning-with-faint-praise. Both Web of Science and Scopus report cites for Extended Phenotype of > 500, which would be extraordinary for a normal scientific paper. That said, compared to popular textbooks like Alberts' Molecular Biology of the Cell, it's a bit tiddling (> 4000; though Selfish Gene comes much closer). Anyway, my edit earlier was more to do with it looking like "We" (= Wikipedia) were judging EP to be his most significant work. Cheers, --Plumbago 11:30, 1 March 2007 (UTC)


This article looks good enough for featuring it on the front page. Madhava 1947 (talk) 05:01, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

I generally agree, and have been saying so for awhile, but there are two small problems I'd like to see fixed - both raised by me on this talk page, but beyond my ability to fix. (1) I tried to find an article that is referred to without a citation, and was unable to find it quickly. (2) There is also the cryptic sentence I referred to not far above. These are small matters, but I'd like to see someone fix them (preferably the people who introduced the material in the first place, if they are around) before an FA application. Metamagician3000 03:10, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
One of these has been solved. The other is just a stray sentence that I find difficult. I think that the article could go through the process any time, really. Actually no. I think this whole para is still too obscure:
Critics of Dawkins' approach suggest that taking the gene as the unit of selection is misleading, but that the gene could be described as a unit of evolution. The reasoning here is that in a selection event, an individual either succeeds or fails to survive and reproduce, but over time it is proportions of alleles in a population which change.[18] In The Selfish Gene, however, Dawkins explains that he is using George C. Williams' definition of gene as "that which segregates and recombines with appreciable frequency".[19] Similarly, it is commonly argued that genes cannot survive alone, but must cooperate to build an individual,[20] but in The Extended Phenotype, Dawkins argues that because of genetic recombination and sexual reproduction, from an individual gene's viewpoint, all other genes are part of the environment to which it is adapted. Recombination is a process that occurs during meiosis in which pairs of chromosomes cross over to swap segments of DNA. These sections are the "genes" to which Dawkins and Williams refer.
I've been trying to work on it, but it's defeating me. I'm not totally ignorant in this area, but I can't figure out the logical relationships between some of the ideas. Metamagician3000 12:59, 20 March 2007 (UTC)
I've made some small changes to the wording. Is this any more lucid?
I notice the religion section needs cleaning up -- incorrect citation, etc -- but I shouldn't be on WP, I have far more important stuff to do. Joe D (t) 16:29, 20 March 2007 (UTC)
Thanks. But, um, I still don't understand this:
Critics of Dawkins' approach suggest that taking the gene as the unit of selection — a single event in which an individual either survives or fails to reproduce — is misleading, but that the gene could be described as a unit of evolution — the long term changes in allele frequences in a population. In The Selfish Gene, however, Dawkins explains that he is using George C. Williams' definition of gene as "that which segregates and recombines with appreciable frequency".
I understand the criticism in the first sentence, and I think I see its force. However, how is the second sentence responsive to it? I.e. how does it count (by itself) as an answer to the criticism? All it does is clarify what a gene is: it doesn't gainsay that it is actually individual living specimens that either survive and reproduce or fail to. Perhaps there is something being assumed that I am not "getting". *scratch head* Wouldn't a better reply from Dawkins be something along the following lines: the differential survival and reproduction of individuals is, in turn, sensitive to their varying genetic potentials in similar environments, so what really get "chosen" or "discarded" by natural selection, over a sufficiently large class of cases, are the different DNA codes for these different potentials. Or something like that. I'm not saying that Dawkins says this anywhere, just that this seems more like the sort of thing that he'd need to say to attempt to rebut the argument that selection is "really" happening at the level of individuals, or specimens. Metamagician3000 06:51, 21 March 2007 (UTC)
So any clarification of how he does actually respond to this criticism would be appreciated. Metamagician3000 00:42, 22 March 2007 (UTC)
Oh, I see. There are assumptions about previous knowledge involved. Dawkins is using what is, today, a non-standard definition of gene (though it wasn't really non-standard when he wrote the book). Today most people think of a gene as a stretch of DNA which codes for protein(s), plus the non-coding regulatory sequences that go with it (obviously, that's a simplified version). This is roughly the definition used by molecular geneticists, but terms like "gene" mean different things to different people. The objection to the selfish gene makes some sense if you're using this definition of "gene", because these genes are not independent but linked to other genes nearby. In this case one would be able to attribute the outcome of a selection event to the quality of the complete phenotype, but rarely understand the event at the "gene" level.
Dawkins' isn't a molecular geneticist though, and it doesn't really matter to the selfish gene theory where coding sequences start or stop. Dawkins' is using a definition of "gene" more appropriate for evolutionary biology: a section of DNA likely to survive recombination. These "genes" are by definition independent units during selection events.
I hope that helps, though I recognise that it's probably not a great explanation. I have lots of work to do today, but can try and explain this properly tommorow. Joe D (t) 11:02, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

Thanks, I think I'm starting to get it. Yes, I'm locked in the mentality of (roughly) gene-as-stretch-of-code-for-proteins. I'll be pleased to hear from you more, both for the sake of the article and for my own education. I'm not sure I trust myself to make any change, and in fact I just have a tiny worry that Dawkins is using a definition that would make his claim trivially true - which probably just demonstrates that I still don't understand it properly. Anyway, now you're starting to see why I'm confused (and others with the same crude understanding of genetics as I have might be) you might be able to tweak it a bit more when you have some time. Metamagician3000 12:16, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

Degree classification

"He gained a second class BA degree in zoology in 1962". A 2:1 or a 2:2? Big difference. Lfh 13:42, 8 March 2007 (UTC)

I'm not sure, but I suspect that the upper/lower second class distinction may not have existed at that point - it is a relatively recent phenomenon I believe. TJ 14:50, 8 March 2007 (UTC)
Should anyone care? Mikker (...) 15:39, 8 March 2007 (UTC)
That the degree class is mentioned at all is a bit odd. It's been there for ages though. Leaving it at "... a BA degree in zoology ..." would be fine. After a PhD is attained, a scientist's ordinary degree class is really rather irrelevant (and it's not mentioned on the pages of other scientists I've looked at). It's almost like listing someone's O grade scores or swimming certificates. --Plumbago 16:05, 8 March 2007 (UTC)
"second-class" now deleted. Utterly irrelevant. Now gone. Snalwibma 17:37, 8 March 2007 (UTC)
No objection at all to deleting it. I'm just not used to hearing the phrase "second class degree" rather than upper or lower second - but clearly things were different in the 60s. Lfh 18:36, 8 March 2007 (UTC)

I don't care either way, but we don't need to be over-protective. Back in the sixties, second class honours from a top university would have been a significant achievement. I guess it still is from the very best universities, but I'd also guess that there's been grading creep almost everywhere. Lots of universities hand out first class honours degrees much more readily these days, though I don't know whether that's the case at Oxford. Metamagician3000 22:34, 8 March 2007 (UTC)

  1. ^ Michael Ruse has commented, about Dawkins and Dennett that "it is just plain silly and grotesquely immorral to claim that Christianity is simply a force for evil" Email to Dennett 19 Feb 06, quoted in The Dawkins Delusion? p26
  2. ^ Jane Lipman reporting in the Christian Science Monitor Atheists Challenge the Religious Right
  3. ^ Giles Hattersley in The Times December 24, 2006 How the Great Atheist got polite society standing
  4. ^ Tobias Jones in The Guardian The New Militants January 12 2007
  5. ^ Terence McNalty interview with Dawkins Atheist Richard Dawkins on 'The God Delusion'
  6. ^ Alister McGrath lecture at the 2007 Darwin Festival