OK, the title here is deliberately overwrought, and, very possibly, quite completely unfair.
But let me explain.
Richard Dawkins has fashioned a career as a public intellectual of the highest fame by projecting the persona of a thinker who bravely expresses hard truths which the powers-that-be simply would prefer to ignore or suppress. Among those truths is the cold reality that God does not exist, and that human beings came about through the process of evolution.
So far so good, of course. Who in their right rational mind doesn’t dislike God or Creationists?
Yet what is Dawkins’ attitude toward the possibility that evolution might have brought about important differences between geographically separated groups of human beings, perhaps including features having to do with intelligence?
For the man Dawkins personally, I’m not sure that he’s ever addressed that issue in a direct way that would pin him down. I gather he has mostly dismissed or ignored the idea of genetic differences between groups on such matters, though not for reasons that withstand any real scrutiny.
Yet what goes down in Richard Dawkins’ name on “The Official Richard Dawkins Website”, RichardDawkins.net?
The purest form of censorship of an unwelcome truth of evolution.
A day or two ago, I registered on the site so that I might comment. I mean, it’s talking about what evolution and biology imply for society, right? What more natural venue in which to talk about biorealism?
Well, I got exactly three posts in before I was banned for, and I quote, “racist bigotry”. Now I suggest that the reader go to the thread in question, read my three posts, and decide for himself or herself whether I in any way make any assertion that goes beyond the bare claim that genes likely play a major role in the differing performance of different races on tests of cognitive ability. Do I in any way try to justify discrimination against people of certain races? No. Do I even claim that, say, Affirmative Action is a bad policy? No. I make no value or policy statements at all. In fact, of course, as my previous posts on this blog make clear, I emphatically do not believe that discrimination of any kind against disadvantaged races or ethnicities is in any way warranted, and indeed believe that Affirmative Action has strong justification not only in the face of facts of racial differences, but in no small part because of them.
Note that the title to the thread is, “Race and Intelligence: Science’s Last Taboo” (from a BBC program of the same name). What kind of discourse is it in which a scientific question can be raised, and only one side to the question is allowed an opportunity to state their case without being banned? How absurd is it to do so in a context in which the discussion is also, supposedly, trying to confront and transcend a “taboo” on the subject?
Now were it my misfortune alone to have been banned for presenting the case for one side of the issue, perhaps one might explain away the censorship as some quirky mistake made by an individual moderator. Yet there is apparently a considerable history of such bans, and by a number of moderators, and reflects a deliberate policy. I can’t say for sure whether those others who were banned might have stepped at some point over some bound reasonable people might see as fair, because I haven’t read every single one of their posts. But certainly the proximate posts before the ban, and presumably motivating it, struck me as mostly strictly fact and science oriented, and not as in any way advocating discrimination. The happy thing about my own banning is how neatly it compresses the absurdity and hypocrisy of the banning into three, not terribly long, posts of mine. Anyone can easily see for themselves how fair the ban might be.
Now how much knowledge Dawkins himself may have of this censorship can of course hardly be determined by an outsider. Yet this is Dawkins’ official site. This quite despicably irrational activity is going on in his name — and it’s been going on, I gather, for some time. In the end, he owns clear responsibility for this. He certainly has a responsibility to instruct those who moderate effectively in his name to do so without imposing the crudest kind of censorship.
Perhaps we’ll find out that Dawkins had no such knowledge, and this simply slipped under his notice, and he will effect the necessary changes and apologies on his site. In that case, of course, the headline of this post is unfair, and I hereby pre-emptively retract it and apologize for it.
But if he doesn’t — and I’m enough of a pessimist about such things to think this more likely — then it is only too just.
Let the inflammatory title be my mordantly fun way of calling out Dawkins to do the right thing when it comes to what is being done in his own name.
Your move, Richard.
UPDATE, Nov 7:
Hats off to Galtonian, who has taken the fight to the Blank Slaters over at RichardDawkins.net. It’s been a sight to behold. It’s too bad they aren’t a bit brighter: they would be embarrassed, and might find more productive ways to occupy themselves.
It’s just a wonder to me that they choose to push so hard on what are at most verbal disputes. Does the problem with genetic differences in cognitive abilities across groups go away simply by refusing to call any of those groups “races”? How on earth does that alter the underlying facts of those differences, which is what is of social and political importance? I personally find it hard to take it seriously when people offer up this argument; I can’t help but feel that they’re just trying to pull my leg, and at any moment might say, “I was just messing with your head, man! But I got you going, didn’t I?”
Here is the link to Galtonian’s first post — you can proceed from there to follow the discussion.