22 August 2012

Does Richard Dawkins support infanticide?

I was doing some research for a forthcoming post, and I stumbled across the blog Wintery Knight. If you're wondering what it's like, it's basically like Wide As the Waters with a few extra megatons of science-denying, conservative-idolizing, atheist-bashing inanity. Hard to fathom, but read it at your own risk.

The anonymous author of this blog frequently references the creationist blog Uncommon Descent, which is one of the blogs of the ID-touting comedy troupe The Discovery Institute. And he pulled a doozy of a Youtube clip from there in which it appears that Richard Dawkins is rather unequivocally endorsing infanticide. Here's the clip, as posted on the site:



How horrible! Surely this is proof that atheism leads to a complete abandonment of the sanctity of human life -- not at all like the god of the Bible, who only slaughtered children and/or ordered his minions to do so when it was, like, culturally appropriate at the time.

This isn't just a lesson in face-palm-worthy hypocrisy, though. It's a lesson in willful ignorance. Because I was curious about the actual context of this quote, I sought out the original video. In just the first few minutes, it becomes abundantly clear that, by removing the context of the discussion, the religious nuts are straw-manning Dawkins rather embarrassingly. Heck, why not just trim it down until it's only the sentence in which Dawkins appears to be unequivocally endorsing the wholesale slaughter of babies?

This is reminiscent of when Sam Harris was maligned for allegedly endorsing torture (and, I admit, I jumped on the critical bandwagon prematurely). But he was considering a serious moral dilemma, which is what good moral philosophers do. That's what Peter Atkins is doing, and that's what Dawkins is doing as well. The theist response to this is to edit out all the actual discussion and context, and emphasize the most emotionally provocative soundbite possible. That way, instead of actually thinking critically about complex moral issues, you can just get angry and shake your righteous fist at those abominable atheists.

Here's the full clip, at just under an hour, from Dawkins' The Genius of Charles Darwin DVD. It's quite provocative and I highly recommend watching it.







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