As part of his YouTube video, Richard Dawkins claimed
Because most of the letters were written by Religious Fundamentalists, viewer discretion is advised.
Yet, as we have seen, Dawkins provides no evidence to support this truth claim. He expects everyone to accept it on faith. Those of us concerned about intellectually honesty, and willing to apply the principle of charity, will find it necessary to deflate Dawkins unsupported, strong claim and acknowledge instead it is merely plausible that most of those letters could have been sent by religious fundamentalists.
The problem is that is also plausible that most of those letters could have been sent by Poes – internet atheists who impersonate radical fundamentalist Christians in order to mock religious people. After all, we have seen there is a rather large community of such people who are quite addicted to such role-playing on the internet.
So we have two plausible explanations on the table. How do we choose?
To date, no one has come up with any reason to think the Poe explanation is implausible.
So let me move the ball and share two reasons to begin thinking Dawkins explanation is implausible.
Let us assume, for the sake of argument, the emails are genuine. Much is made of the fact that they are hateful. Yet people are overlooking another aspect of these emails – whoever sent those emails has serious problems with spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence construction.
Consider one letter that Dawkins read in his video:
I HATE YOU YOU DONT THINK GOD IS REAL BECAUSE YOUR GAY AND STUPID! WHY DONT YOU STOP BEING GAY AND STUPID AND GO HAVE SEXY TIME! I BET YOU HAVE SEX WITH MONKEYS CAUSE EVELOOTON SAYS SO! MISTER GAY AND STUPID!
In fact, the atheist “hate mails” so commonly have problems with spelling, grammar, and punctuation that one atheist organization published them in a book entitled, “To the Far Right Christian Hater … You Can Be a Good Speller or a Hater, But You Can’t Be Both.”
And it’s not just the serious, glaring problem with spelling, etc. The people sending the hate mail are incapable to formulating anything close to a real argument. They either make assertions, filled with name-calling, or make arguments that are so ridiculous it’s as if someone is playing a joke.
What I am saying here should be obvious: if those hate mails are genuine, the people sent them are profoundly uneducated. These would be individuals who have serious problems with spelling, don’t know how to put a proper sentence together, and who don’t know how to reason. They would be people who probably left school around the sixth grade. Uneducated. This point is undisputable.
So let’s move to the next point, a point I will make with a simple question:
How many deeply uneducated people even know who Richard Dawkins is?
Sorry, Richard, but you are simply not that famous and well-known. I would argue that Dawkins’ popularity is a function of being educated. That is, the less educated the person, the less likely they even know who Richard Dawkins is. Let’s face it – someone who thinks evolution is spelled evelooton is someone who is quite unlikely to know of Richard Dawkins.
Do you see the problem? To receive hate mail at the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, we must assume the senders a) know who Dawkins is and b) know how to navigate the internet to find his organization and send an email. But people who are as ignorant and uneducated as the emails portray are among the least likely to a) know who Dawkins is and b) know how to navigate the internet to find his organization and send an email. How can someone send hate mail to Dawkins if they don’t even know who he is? Just how plausible is that?
So not only is there no evidence to support Dawkins truth claim, upon closer analysis, it is becoming incoherent.
And it gets worse.
The spelling errors, poor grammar, and persistant problems with punctuation and sentence construction exhibited by many of the emails indicate not only the person would be uneducated, but also that he/she does not read very much. For the simple act of consistent reading itself, over time, would be sufficient education to correct many of these problems – much of human learning occurs through mimicry. And the problem for Dawkins is that it would be difficult to make the case that religious fundamentalists don’t read very much. On the contrary, religious fundamentalists tend to read. They tend to read alot. In fact, the more religious they are, they more likely they will read often. They will read their Bibles, their Bible studies, their religious books, their devotions, their church bulletins, etc. GIven that the spelling, grammar, and sentence errors seen in the emails is inconsistent with someone who reads on a regular basis, Dawkins’ truth claim suffers another blow.
In summary, Dawkins truth claim is plagued with two serious inconsistencies. First, the spelling, grammar, and sentence problems, combined with the illogical nature of the letters, is evidence of a deeply uneducated state. But the deeply uneducated are among the least likely to know who Dawkins is, read anything he wrote, or be able to contact him. Second, the spelling, grammar, and sentence problems are inconsistent with someone who has much experience with reading and religious fundamentalists, as a group, tend to be readers. These inconsistencies suggest Dawkins truth claim is not plausible.
The Poe explanation, on the other hand, does not suffer from any such inconsistencies. A Poe is likely to know who Dawkins is and how to contact him. A Poe could easily pretend to not know how to spell or write a proper sentence as part of an effort to reinforce his/her negative stereotypes about religious people.