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The left and Islamism - People who let me down - Richard Dawkins - 2004 letter

Open letter to Richard Dawkins, Jan 2004

I generally admire what Richard Dawkins says about science and religion. But politics is a different issue. In the Bush era, I thought his politics were pretty terrible. I felt he did not understand the Islamist threat and he scorned those who were fighting it.

Here's something I wrote in 2004. I think he has got better since.

Dear Prof. Dawkins,

I am an atheist and scientist (artificial intelligence is my field). I agree with almost everything you have written on religion and science. But not on politics. On politics - especially on the war on Islamism - I think you are dead wrong.

This, I hope you might agree, is interesting. Or at least more interesting than learning that a creationist Christian disagrees with you on politics.

Why do I think your writing on politics is not up to the high standard of your writing on science and religion? Because, in politics, there is little evidence that you have read what your enemies actually say and believe.

I hope you'll agree that, in general, before you write in public about a topic, you need to read all sides, even if some sides are crazy. That's why you're so good on science and religion. Because you've read everything. You know what the creationists say. So you know it's rubbish.

If you want to talk about politics, you've got to read everything too. It's no good reading third-hand accounts in the Guardian of what the evil neo-cons supposedly believe. You've got to read their arguments for yourself, at places like the National Review, the Project for the New American Century, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and many other places I link to, and then explain what is wrong with them. You've got to read people like Victor Davis Hanson, Max Boot, Michael Ledeen, Stanley Kurtz, Rudolph J. Rummel and many other writers I link to, and explain why they're wrong.

These people use cold, calm reason, evidence and statistics to prove lots of unpopular and counter-intuitive points, such as that:

  1. All war and genocide is caused by non-democracy. Not by poverty. Not by over-population. Not by lack of education. Not by religion. Not by ethnic tribalism. Only by non-democracy.
  2. All famine is caused by non-democracy. Not by nature. Not by weather. Not by disease. Only by non-democracy.
  3. The world will never be safe until all non-democracies are ended. And we can do this by 2050.
  4. Terrorism does not have to have a cause.
  5. Hatred does not have to have a cause.
  6. The Islamic world needs reform and we are the people to reform it.
  7. The UN is bad not good.
  8. The left is still in the racist world. The right is post-racist.
  9. The new right do idealism and revolution. The new left do realpolitik and stability.
  10. The most criticised societies are the best ones.
  11. Cultural imperialism is good not bad.
  12. Christianity, Judaism and Islam are not all the same. Yes, they all have the same intellectual status. But morally, Christianity and Judaism are superior. Christians and Jews all over the world believe in freedom and run free societies where atheists, gays and other minorities can live happily. This is not the case with Islam, which does not believe in freedom of religion and sexuality.
  13. Israel is a tiny oasis of democracy, human rights, free speech, science and religious tolerance in a vast Islamic sea of totalitarianism.

A good place to start reading your right-wing enemy is just by reading Watch [*] every day. You should like these people. You should be on their side. The right uses reason to utter unpleasant and unpopular truths. (The world is filled with crazy people who hate us and want to exterminate us.) The left uses emotion to claim the world is as they would like it to be. (If only we listen to the UN everything will be ok.) Sound familiar? It should. In politics, the right are the unpopular atheists, telling us what we don't want to hear. The left are the comforting establishment theists.

In conclusion, you're right on science and religion, but I'm afraid you're wrong on politics. How can this be? Yes, I think it's all about memes. It is not well recognised that people's political beliefs, as well as their religious beliefs, are dominated by meme competition, rather than by reason and logic. You are firmly in the grip of the liberal-left meme complex, perhaps the strongest mutually-supporting meme complex in the west today. September 11th was a shock that enabled some people to escape this meme complex and migrate to other meme groups. That's what happened to me. For you it may require something stronger, like a successful Al-Qa'ida nuclear attack.

Yes I know it's patronising, but hey, you probably believe this about my memes. I'm saying that your perfectly correct liberal-left beliefs - hating Bush, opposing Israel, reading the Guardian, thinking Robert Fisk is a fine journalist, believing that the war on Islamism is going badly, and so on - that all these beliefs are a product of meme competition rather than logic and evidence. To prove me wrong, read in the original what the neo-cons say and explain why they're wrong. They are the most deadly enemies on the planet of Islamic religious extremism. These are the people who won WW2 and the Cold War. And they'll win the war on Islamism as well, if we let them.

Bush may be a creationist. I don't give a damn. He's fighting for all of us, for you and me. All atheists should support him.

All the best,

Mark Humphrys

Jan 2004

Dawkins has the best explanation of why the ideas of Islam, for example, can gain millions of followers, despite no evidence that they are true.
It is because they are successful memes.
It is ironic, therefore, that Dawkins does not realise that many of the ideas that flow from Islam - such as Palestinian, Arab and other Islamic "grievances" against Israel, America and the West - are not based on logic and reason either. They too are only successful memes.

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Who I block on Twitter: I will debate almost anyone. I love ideas. I will not debate (and will block) people who: (a) target my job, (b) target my appearance, or: (c) libel me. Also, since 2016, abusive reporting has become a thing. I was targeted with abusive reporting by an Israel-hater pretending to be "Jewish". So I now also block: (d) any account that even hints that it reports its enemies, and: (e) any Israel-hater that claims to be Jewish. It is just self-defence.