Dawkins loses the plot: Blames violence on ‘faith’, which he expands to include Nazis

Chimpanzees, our closest relatives, fighting.

Vocal atheist Richard Dawkins has suggested that the Pakistan school massacre earlier this week shows how religion can lead to great acts of evil.

More than 140 people, including at least 132 pupils, were killed by seven Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers on Tuesday at an army-run school in Peshawar, Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban said the attack was in retaliation for an anti-terrorist military offensive.

Dawkins posted a number of tweets blaming the horrifying massacre on Islam and religion as a whole.

The best-selling author tweeted on Wednesday, “Mental illness can drive a lone nutter to it. But an organised group needs an extreme motivation— faith, in something like a god or Nazism.”

He added, “Very few faith-heads are as evil as Taliban or IS. Yet what else but faith is CAPABLE of making people do such evil?”…

For a man who specializes in evolution, he is really not thinking at all. The answer is staring him in the face: violence was clearly an evolutionary advantage.

Think of how well the Rule of the Clan for war worked: Kill the defeated men (because they a danger to you), take women as slaves and wives (why waste a chance to perpetuate your genes with conquered women?), enslave the children (they are too young to be a danger but they might be useful as workers for you).

It makes perfect sense. Sure it is brutal, but Dawkins should know better on the subject.

So why have we generally fallen away from this pattern?  I’ve been through this before: the break up of the tribes of Europe for a start (a side effect of a ‘faith’).  Then the Age of Enlightenment, Age of Science, spreading literacy, earnest attempts by (often Christian) do-gooders to try to alleviate suffering.  Read a book on the Victorian age — the era was full of devout Christians trying to improve things.

But the basic nature of humans did not change.  And sometimes the bad guys won — as they did in Nazi Germany and Communist Russia.

Meanwhile, in the world of Islam, nothing has changed much for centuries.  Islam was tribal from the start and remains so to this day.

Human nature is not doomed to perpetual violence.  Sometimes it was to a tribe’s advantage not to fight: co-existence could be better, depending on a range of factors: trading arrangements, for example.  This is where evolved intelligence comes in: trying to decide which course to follow.

  • Drunk_by_Noon

    Richard Dawkins is a God damned goof!
    A poser.

    • Frau Katze

      I would have thought he understood evolution better.

      • BillyHW

        If they admit that homosexuality is natural, they have to admit that rape is also natural.

        • Jason

          That’s correct – IF (big “if”) passing on your genes is ultimately the only motivator/determinant of our actions, then rape is clearly “good” and logical.

        • winniec

          Islam is the only religion with RULES for rape. How can rape be justified under any circumstance? Ask a mullah.

          • BillyHW

            And just think, before the 7th century there weren’t any rules for rape! That’s Islamic progress for you.

      • winniec

        Yep. Chimps are genocidal.

      • Just a thought

        If he did, he’d know what was wrong with it (see Denis Noble video above). Note that Noble believes in evolution, but not those aspects of it that have been shown to be wrong.

    • dance…dancetotheradio


  • G

    Yeah, all those hospitals, orphanages, single mother shelters, and child sex trade rescue programs in the third world that are paid for and run by Christian churches.

    How evil. How awful.

    Fuck off Dawkins you effete, weak little pedophile apologist. You and Maher are a couple of useless starbucks sipping closet fags who hate the thought that someone somewhere doesn’t believe the world revolves around you.

    • winniec

      In debates with Christian philosophers and theologians, Dawkins was repeatedly defeated. He isn’t as smart as thinks he is. He should stick to science.

    • Atheist

      Pedophile apologist? Do mean EVERY person that covered up sexual abuse in the Catholic Church?

      • Oh shut up. Get some new material.

        And if you start banging on about Bronze Age Myths I’ll send my crow army after you. I say this as an agnostic.

  • Alain

    If that be the case then one would need to say that faith of some kind motivated Stalin, Pol Pot, Castro, Mao and Hitler. The question then becomes which faith, and with the possible exception of Hitler (more pagan than anything else) it was the faith of atheism. They did everything possible to destroy and crush other faiths (Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism,and Taoism). I suggest that faith in itself is not the problem; the problem is that not all faiths are equal. Some are good and some are down right evil.

    • Jason

      I agree completely. But he claims that their actions had nothing to do with their atheism, that they were just brutes, mentally ill, etc. That “nothing to do with …” sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

    • Frau Katze

      He skipped the Commies, perhaps because of their well known atheism.

  • Jason

    he really was well regarded in his area of specialization but then he decided that he was also a philosopher and wrote The God Delusion and subsequent work and … well, many atheist philosophers now distance themselves from him and his arguments because they are frankly weak and embarrassing.
    He insists on talking about some things really being evil (for instance the attack in Pakistan) and yet rejects the idea of objective good and evil. Which leaves subjective notions of good and evil, and why should anyone accept his version? The Taliban clearly doesn’t. Yet he is desperate to say that there really is a meaningful difference between a serial killer and say, Mother Teresa. When according to his worldview, it’s apples and oranges – just a matter of personal preference. He even has postulated an alternative 10 Commandments, all the while blissfully unaware of the glaring inconsistency with his belief system.

    • Oh, he was a famous atheist long before The God Delusion (which is unreadable).

      • Frau Katze

        I haven’t tried it.

        • Hitchens’ God is not Great isn’t much better, but Hitch was a much more interesting man than Dawkins is, so there is that.

          It’s so silly. There’s nothing original to be said about the “Is There A God Or Not” debate. All you get is a little psychological insight into the authors.

          • Frau Katze

            I agree. I never argue the topic.

  • DMB

    Richard Dawkins has no credibility for someone who claims he is about science & reason. First he will NOT condemn individuals such as Michael Mann and Al Gore for perpetrating their money making fraud of man made climate change in the name of science. Second he is a staunch supporter of abortion and with overwhelming scientific evidence that the unborn child is alive and has some form of self awareness he still will not condemn abortion purely to promote his left wing political agenda. Both of these reasons where actual scientific evidence is available Richard Dawkins who claims he is a man of science & reason will instead choose to make his decisions based on his politics rather than science & reason.

  • winniec

    You’d think a scientist would do a study and do a mathematical model, rather than blurt anecdotes off the top of his head. It’s disappointingly inept and filled with inexplicable animus. Many great and kind people would say they are kind because of their faith. Surely there are more of them than psychopaths…but Islam encourages psychopathy.

  • Xavier

    On his deathbed, Dawkins will convert – just like B.F. Skinner did. No balls.

    • People said that about Hitch (who I liked vastly more than Dawkins).

      • Many of Hitchens’ views were obnoxious but he was fearless and consistent.

    • Atheist

      No he fucking won’t.

  • disqus_PwGxBXHn8l

    “blaming the horrifying massacre on Islam and religion as a whole.” Dawkins should retire. Religion as a whole includes a great many door-to-door leaflet distributors, hermits and monks, Sally Ann lassies, Hindu seniors who have been declared civilly dead, do-gooders, whirling dervishes, and a variety of other people who, whatever the merits of their activities, are not really an obvious threat to anyone.

    Isn’t his tweetfest just a way of avoiding the fact that Islam produces an extraordinary amount of violence, relative to other religions? Why can’t we just confront this fact?

    Re evolution and violence: It’s not clear that violence is necessarily an evolutionary advantage. Dominance, however, is.

    Violence would only be a clear advantage if one were certain of victory. Lacking that certainty, male animals often go to considerable trouble to avoid serious harm while fighting for mates or territory. Bullfrogs inflate themselves to square off, male cobras twist around each other until one submits (they don’t bite), bears scratch a tree as high as they can to apprise others of their probable size, tomcats allow other toms to mate with the female as long as they have had their turn, wild stallions engage in rearing and pooping contests.

    I am not, of course, referring to a struggle to avoid being prey; I mean struggles over territory, rank, and mates … things that the life form might lose and nonetheless survive.

    Killing for one’s religion strike me as a human specialty. 😉

    • John

      Go on with you. Both Dawkins and Harris have stressed the danger Islam poses over and above other forms of clerical fascism.

      • disqus_PwGxBXHn8l

        Perhaps they ought to stress it more often then or more loudly. That is just not the message that is coming across.

        • Frau Katze

          He did talk about Islam earlier, but he was attacked fiercely, so he’s moved on to the above.

          • disqus_PwGxBXHn8l

            But that’s just the trouble, isn’t it? It’s easier to go back to “blaming religion,” which – as per my opening comment above – is a copout. Torching our local Mennonite Brethren Community Church or lifting its tax number will not stop ISIS from beheading aid workers or Boko Haram from putting a stop to science education in Africa.

            We can’t prevent what we can’t confront. I just wish cowardice were not so widely praised.

    • Frau Katze

      Not all species are territorial or fighters. Bonobos, closely related to chimps but living in a different terrain, don’t fight. It just didn’t fit — I read about it but can’t recall the details.

      Others just fight over females. I’m talking mammals here. I’m not a biologist and I realize things may be very different in non-mammals.

      • disqus_PwGxBXHn8l

        Yes, it is true that not all species are territorial or combative.

        Those that are, including mammals, have stopgaps built into their social systems that prevent a war of all against all. Once dominance hierarchies are established, all further fights would deplete the gene pool of useful characteristics.

        Suppose, for example, the loser in a dominance contest carries a gene that confers immunity to a disease that will sweep the herd next year – but the winner doesn’t. It would not enhance survival if all offspring were sired by the winner. Similarly, subdominant wolves help protect the cubs of dominant wolves.

        So if we are talking about fighting other than for one’s life – to avoid being prey – we will routinely find avoidance of any generalized war of all against all.

        I am not a biologist either, but I find the study of ethology (the behaviour of animals) fascinating and instructive.

        Is it possible that humans are less able than many animal species to avoid a war of all against all because we get involved with dangerous ideas?

        • Frau Katze

          By all against all, you means episodes like WW I and II? If so, that is explained by advances in science and technology (side effect of our intelligence as a species).

          The advances could make life much better (eg vaccines, antibiotics) but they could create very deadly weapons, like nuclear bombs.

          WW I was territorial. There were no particular ideologies in play. It killed huge amounts of soldiers because of improvements in cannons and rifles, for example. You can kill a lot of people with a machine gun.

          Disqus doesn’t work properly on the iPad. It’s very hard to enter long comments because it won’t let me edit them. So I’ll sign off.

          I use my Mac to enter the posts, but I browse the comments in the evening from the iPad.

          • disqus_PwGxBXHn8l

            Actually, “war of all against all” was Thomas Hobbes’ expression: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hobbes-moral/

            The idea is that civilization usually functions to prevent such a war among human beings.

            Among animals, the war is often prevented simply by the habits of the species, which typically include non-lethal means of determining who is the top animal. It’s possible that species that always used lethal means to determine such matters are now extinct. 😉

            Here’s the problem: It would be a good way for a species to GO extinct. There is a background war going on: Macrobes against microbes = animals and plants against bacteria, viruses, and one-celled animal parasites.

            Inheritance of immunity from these microbes, who see macrobes as a free supermarket, may or may not coincide with inheritance of physical strength from a dominant sire.

            The sub-dominant animal may have better immunity from a microbial infection that will sweep the area next year.

            So the pattern we see in animal life is that dominance contests are not usually zero-sum games. That’s good, because a subdominant animal who sneaks in a mating may pass on immunities that could prove more critical than mere physical strength or cunning.

    • Just a thought
      • disqus_PwGxBXHn8l

        Thanks for updates. The Internet has the potential to make whitewash an endangered substance. Denyse O’Leary

        • Just a thought

          Those who say “the internet is forever” are only partially correct. I used to have some really good material on the subject, but it’s no longer available. Still, what is available it (and on most topics) is often sufficient, with care, of course.

  • John

    My beliefs aren’t threatened by either Dawkins or Sam Harris. I read both.

    • Drunk_by_Noon

      Please don’t imply that we are such intellectual ‘delicate flowers’, when the reality is that most of us chose not to read books written by those we know to be dumber than we are.
      Dawkins has yet to articulate a thought that ever made me go ‘hummm’, but instead puts forward arguments that off the top of my head I can construct at least one, and usually more, just as valid counter arguments or outright refutations.
      In my book, that’s not the sign of a deep thinker.

  • L.S.

    violence is an evolutionary advantage in societies that have not yet learned to cooperate. But once the conditions for cooperation have been established, then cooperation becomes an advantage. In today’s world even the most advanced of societies needs it’s violent element in order to deal with the more violent societies.
    Inbreeding is a major factor in the genetics of violent people existing in violent tribes.

    • Frau Katze

      Cooperation is what our society emphasizes, but there would have to be a situation where cooperators left more offspring for the violence to be winnowed out. I don’t see it happening in the present day, although some have theorized that this happened in societies that moved from hunter/gatherer to agriculture.

      But there no research done it (say, comparing people today from the different types, because it would be extremely politically incorrect).

  • DD_Austin

    violence was clearly an evolutionary advantage.

    It clearly is not an advantage, all “higher” animals develop cooperative societies
    man, dogs, apes, prairie dogs, birds etc. Or breed in excess to survive their morality rate. All are territorial.

    Violent members of societies are killed off by their own more often than outsiders

    BTW Darkins is wrong,
    religion doesn’t make people evil, evil people make religions

  • Xavier

    In my entire life, I have never encountered a single person more interested and informed about evolution than myself.

    Then I found this blog; I realize now how patchy my self education was.

    Damn you all. 😉

  • First of all, pigs are closer to humans than apes are:


    That’s right, Islamists- hate yourselves on the genetic level!

    Secondly, militant atheists have a serious and illogical hatred of Christians and Christianity even though it has done far more good for the West than Islamism which they tend to ignore.

    Suck it, Dawkins, is my point.