The Saga Continues……

A few weeks back, a skeptic’s organization appearing to stand on principle disinvited Richard Dawkins from their meeting:

The Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism has withdrawn its invitation to Richard Dawkins to participate at NECSS 2016. We have taken this action in response to Dr. Dawkins’ approving re-tweet of a highly offensive video.

We believe strongly in freedom of speech and freedom to express unpopular, and even offensive, views. However, unnecessarily divisive, counterproductive, and even hateful speech runs contrary to our mission and the environment we wish to foster at NECSS. The sentiments expressed in the video do not represent the values of NECSS or its sponsoring organizations.

We will issue a full refund to any NECSS attendee who wishes to cancel their registration due to this announcement.

The NECSS Team


Strong words.  But recently, the NECSS reversed themselves, causing Dawkins to gloat:


Now, the NECSS writes:

We wish to apologize to Professor Dawkins for our handling of his disinvitation to NECSS 2016. Our actions were not professional, and we should have contacted him directly to express our concerns before acting unilaterally. We have sent Professor Dawkins a private communication expressing this as well. This apology also extends to all NECSS speakers, our attendees, and to the broader skeptical movement.

Dawkins originally made this announcement in an audio recording to this fans.  In that recording, Dawkins made it sound like the feminists were to blame for his stroke:

The doctors, obviously, were worried about what caused it. I’d been having blood pressure problems for a while, which the GP and I’d thought were under control, but apparently not. The doctors asked me whether I’d been suffering from stress, and I had to say, yes I had.  They keep advising me not to get involved in controversy, and I’m afraid I had to tell them that controversy– that not getting involved in controversy is not one of the things I’m terribly talented at.

I told them that I’d had a certain amount of controversy and was very distressed, and on the 28th of January I was dis-invited from a conference in America to which I’d previously been asked. This upset me very much. I’m used to getting hate from religious nuts and creationists but when I get hate from what I think of as my own people…the left, liberals, feminists and so on, that directly hurt me. And I might’ve been expected to get a stroke after that, if ever.

But paradoxically, the stroke came after I got a bit of good news. On the morning of February the fifth, I had a very gracious letter from the conference organizers, the committee, graciously apologizing for dis-inviting me and re-inviting me, and I was overjoyed at that. And you might think that’s the last time I’ve have got a stroke, but it was actually the evening of that same day that I got the stroke.

Ophelia Benson wrote:  So he’s sort of kind of blaming us for his stroke.

So Dawkins showed up at her blog to complain:

Ophelia is apparently so eager to revel in the victim’s-eye-view of the underside of the bus, she overlooked the fact that I actually said the exact OPPOSITE of what she so spitefully alleges. I said it MIGHT have seemed easy to claim that my stroke was caused by the stress of being disinvited by NECSS. But I went on explicitly to rule that out because the stroke came AFTER the joyful news that NECSS had decided to re-invite me. And that, by the way, also rules out the equally spiteful suggestion, by one of the commenters on this site, that the NECSS change of mind was a cowardly response to my stroke. To repeat, for the benefit of those who seem to have difficulty understanding plain English, the wonderful (and stress-REDUCING) news of NECSS’s courageous change of mind arrived, and greatly cheered me up, BEFORE my stroke.

And I most certainly do not “jeer at feminism”. I remain a passionate feminist who looks at the world beyond America and clearly sees that by far the majority of misogynistic atrocities are committed in the name of Islam.

I await Ophelia’s apology and thank her in advance for it.

Benson replied:

Next, no, I didn’t overlook the rest of what you said. That’s why I said “he’s sort of kind of blaming us for his stroke” – sort of kind of is there for a reason. You did mention it after all, and there is such a thing as implication. I think you have a tendency, at least on Twitter, to imply things and then get indignant when people understand your implication.

I think Benson is correct, as Dawkins has a history of implying things and then getting indignant when people understand his implication and react to it.  In this example, Dawkins admits he was under great stress, but the cause is unclear.  Was he stressed because he got disinvited to some obscure meeting?  Or was it the “hate” of his “own people?” The latter seems more plausible.  The “hate” of his “own people” caused him great distress, where the deplatforming was just the symptom.  It meant that the “hate” of “his own people” was having a real-world effect.  But then Dawkins seems to invoke some magical thinking – being re-invited was supposed to magically erase the effects of all that stress.  But the body does not work that way.  Removing a stressor does not instantly erase the effects of that stress up to that time.  That Dawkins received the good news just before his stroke tells us his body was still feeling the effects of that stress.

One more thing.  Was Dawkins re-invited just before he had the stroke?  It’s plausible.  But then again, there is no evidence for this claim.  Does Dawkins expect us to believe this as a great cop-out?

Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.

The Pro-Reason, Pro-Science crowd never fails to disappoint.

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11 Responses to The Saga Continues……

  1. Ilion says:

    Ophelia Benson wrote: So he’s sort of kind of blaming us for his stroke.

    Goose, gander.

  2. Dhay says:

    Richard Dawkins > I’m used to getting hate from religious nuts and creationists …

    That’s very questionable. His two “Love Letters …” videos have been looked at in detail in previous threads on Shadow To Light and analysed for their frequency of arrival — Dawkins has made much propaganda out of an average six-a-year trickle — and for the likelihood of each being a Poe — usually likely, often strongly likely. Looks like Dawkins actually gets very few genuine hate mails from “religious nuts and creationists”.

    It’s quite possible that many of those hate mails from “religious nuts and creationists” were from atheists: as a recent response at S2L shows, the New Atheist called AtheistMax (or one of his mates) has certainly demonstrated mastery of the “religious nuts and creationists hate mail” style.

    > … but when I get hate from what I think of as my own people…the left, liberals, feminists and so on, that directly hurt me.

    In his two videos Dawkins made the reading of the alleged “hate from religious nuts and creationists” into occasions of great hilarity. When he reads presumably incontrovertibly real hate mail, it’s a very different matter.

    > And I might’ve been expected to get a stroke after that, if ever. But paradoxically, the stroke came after I got a bit of good news.

    That the stroke came after Dawkins “got a bit of good news” is “paradoxical”, he says: if ever he “might’ve been expected to get a stroke”, it was after the hate mail.

    Hmm, Dawkins is quibbling about that “if ever”, claiming he hadn’t implied the hate mail had caused the stroke; but I think it is easily possible on an ordinary English reading to conclude that Dawkins reckons the hate mail could have been a cause of his stroke, that Dawkins reckons it should have been a cause of his stroke, except, “paradoxically”, it just happened to be that it wasn’t.

  3. Dhay says:

    I note that in addition to the portion Michael quotes, the NECSS also wrote:

    We wish to use this incident as an opportunity to have a frank and open discussion of the deeper issues implicated here, which are causing conflict both within the skeptical community and within society as a whole. NECSS 2016 will therefore feature a panel discussion addressing these topics. There is room for a range of reasonable opinions on these issues and our conversation will reflect that diversity. We have asked Professor Dawkins to participate in this discussion at NECSS 2016 in addition to his prior scheduled talk, and we hope he will accept our invitation.

    So, the NESCC tells us that prior to learning of his recent illness — the stroke — they had decided to re-invite Dawkins as a speaker, but to ask (or “invite”) Dawkins to participate in a panel discussion of his views where a variety of views (mainly dissenting from Dawkins, else why was he disinvited in the first place) would be discussed.

    This is code, I think, for what an employer will typically do with an employee who disgraces himself and the company by contravening company policy: Dawkins was intended to be forced into receiving remedial education.

  4. Dhay says:

    Richard Dawkins > I said it MIGHT have seemed easy to claim that my stroke was caused by the stress of being disinvited by NECSS. But I went on explicitly to rule that out because the stroke came AFTER the joyful news that NECSS had decided to re-invite me.

    “Joyful news”, says Dawkins; but was it so? Yes, he’d been re-invited, but as part of that re-invitation confronted with the Hobson’s Choice of having either to take part in what would surely end up as a public critical and hostile discussion of his attitudes as part of that discussion panel, or else to publicly refuse to take part. Either way, it’s a further loss of prestige and “face”; and it’s a loss right in front of an audience of “what I think of as my own people…the left, liberals, feminists and so on”.

    “Joyful news”? I think not: that sort of quandary would certainly raise my blood pressure, and I rather doubt it didn’t raise Dawkins’.

    I’m a bit puzzled by this “hate from what I think of as my own people…the left, liberals, feminists and so on” which Dawkins claims he is getting. I see he’s not getting it via the RDF’s ‘Mailbox’ webpage, not in either the ‘Hate’ section or the ‘Disagreements and Oddities’ section; Ophelia Benson and her blogging peers seem to be most certainly critical but certainly not expressing hate, ditto those who respond there — if Dawkins thinks that disagreement and criticism constitute “hate”, then by his own standard he himself has been guilty of hate speech and hate mail for decades. (Mind you, I don’t get out much in that neck of the blogging woods, so if anybody does spot genuine hate — not exasperation, hate — aimed at Dawkins, please do provide a link.

  5. Dhay says:

    The RDF ‘Mailbox’ ( was absent from the RDF site for some months after its last reorganisation: that probably explains why there is plenty in the ‘Fan Mail’ section dated 12 September 2014 or earlier (ie transferred from the previous RDF website incarnation), then nothing until two fan mails dated 21 and 22 December 2015, followed by a seven-week gap until a third dated 9 February 2016. At that rate, Dawkins is not exactly being inundated with fan mail, is he. Perhaps it’s the lack of fan mail that he counts as ‘hate’.

    The previous ‘Mailbox’ had sections called ‘Good’, ‘Bad’ and ‘Ugly’: the first has been re-labeled ‘Fan Mail’ (lots of old entries, but only three recent entries, as detailed above), the second re-labeled ‘Disagreements and Oddities’ (eighty-odd old, but zero recent entries), and the third re-labeled ‘Hate’ (twelve old entries currently listed, and a sole recent entry).

    As has become usual at every RDF website reorganisation, the earlier sites’ posts, whatever their actual dates of receipt, have all been re-dated to the start of the new website. Lies, damned lies, statistics and RDF mail dates.

    Looking for the “earliest” ‘Hate’ mail (“29 January 2013”), I was surprised to find one which on the old site was classified merely ‘Bad’: it’s the one now labelled #(207), from the suspiciously over-pompous “Gwyndaf M Hughes, BA”, which has been given the heading “Breathtaking arrogance” by RDF staff. (Personally, I’d have left it filed as one of the innocuous ‘Disagreements and Oddities’ mails, but I suppose ‘Hate’ is in the eye of the beholder, and the RDF Staff have moved it in with the ‘Hate’ mails.)

    In my responses here on S2L I’ve already examined this then merely ‘Bad’ mail (which was originally dated 07 October 2011), and I concluded then that “Gwyndaf M Hughes, BA” was almost certainly a spotty teenager still in secondary education. To that earlier response, which looked at the external evidence, I will add that to British and Welsh eyes and understandings, Gwyndaf’s post looks silly, even surreal: his mail’s a Poe on both external and internal evidence. He was trolling the RDF and Dawkins for a laugh; it never was a genuine merely ‘Bad’ mail, and it’s likewise not a genuine ‘Hate’ mail.

    More fool the RDF staff. Or how clever to see and seize propaganda opportunities — a hate tool.

  6. FZM says:

    In respect of Dawkins and his hate mail I noticed this:

    I remain a passionate feminist who looks at the world beyond America and clearly sees that by far the majority of misogynistic atrocities are committed in the name of Islam.

    suggesting he has some interest in the Islamic world.

    Maybe if Dawkins used some of his money and contacts to create a specially adapted low priced ‘people’s edition’ of the ‘God Delusion’ in Arabic and more specifically aimed at Islam he could both increase the amount of threatening mail he receives, giving him something more substantial to talk about in his videos, and help fulfil any moral obligation he might feel to free the Arabic speaking world from the evils of Islam.

  7. Michael says:


    Unlikely to happen. As Dawkins said back in 2010, “”I may refrain from insulting you. I may refrain from publishing a cartoon of your prophet. But it’s because I fear you. Don’t think for one minute that it’s because I respect you.”

  8. TFBW says:

    There’s an unofficial Arabic translation, available as a PDF. Dawkins himself wasn’t aware of its existence until he was told about it by someone who had read it.

  9. Dhay says:

    > … and the third [Mailbox section] re-labeled ‘Hate’ (twelve old entries currently listed, and a sole recent entry).

    Further to my last response in this thread, that sole recent entry — entitled Krauss is ‘nothing not something’, Mon, May 20 2013 #(1933) — remains the sole recent ‘Hate’ entry. Indeed, with a 2013 date, I should really have described it as the sole more recent entry.

    I’ll add that the ‘hate’ quality of the ‘Hate’ mails seems to have gone down markedly, and is pretty tame nowadays. So tame, in fact, that nearly all of the thirteen so-called ‘Hate’ mails would be better categorised as “Disagreement and Oddities”.

    It’s seven weeks since my previous response highlighting the absence of any recent hate mail to the RDF site, and in that seven weeks, and in the nearly three years since the date of the last ‘Hate’ mail, no more ‘Hate’ mail has arrived.

    Makes you wonder where Richard Dawkins and his staff are going to get their next ‘Hate’ mail video material from.

    Indeed, there’s ‘Hate’ mail material quoted in the last ‘Hate’ mail video which neither appears anywhere in the ‘Hate’ mail section of the previous reincarnation of the RDF site, nor in the ‘Hate’ mail section of its latest reincarnation.

    Did Dawkins (or his staff) simply make that suspiciously missing stuff up?

  10. Dhay says:

    Looks like the RDF staff are somewhat gullible. Just for interest, I took a quick look at one of Richard Dawkins’ more recent fan mails, dated 22 December 2015 and entitled (most probably by the staff) “Kindest regards from Australia”:

    Dear Professor Dawkins,
    Thank you, sir, for playing an instrumental role in my deconversion from Christianity. Public intellectuals such as yourself, the late Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris, have not only opened my eyes to my previous ignorance (yes, I was indoctrinated), but have also inspired me to pursue life as an academic at the University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia). Mr Dawkins, you have inspired me to study biology and pursue a scientific career. I cannot thank you enough.
    Kindest regards from Australia,
    Jack Holmes

    Well, Jack Holmes might well have been “inspired … to study biology and pursue a scientific career” — or maybe he hasn’t, for I do not spot a biologist on the LinkedIn page for Jack Holmes profiles in Australia — but “pursue[ing] life as an academic at the University of Queensland” he ain’t.

    My conclusion: even Dawkins’ fan mail gets Poe’d.

    What is it about kids that they play adult with pompous language, telling fibs about actually being their fantasy images of what they’d like to be.

  11. Dhay says:

    Richard Dawkins does his own Poe-ing rather more subtly, in that quintessentially British fashion which is sending oneself up. He recently wrote an 04 June 2016 Guardian article entitled “What’s in a number?” and sub-titled “Forty years of The Selfish Gene”.

    The key to understanding that that Dawkins article might be be a subtle self-Poe is this passage from the middle:

    Dawkins’s Law of Conservation of Obscurity states that obscurantism in a subject expands to fill the vacuum of its intrinsic simplicity. Academics sometimes language up their writing to conceal how little they have to offer. Francophoneyism – postmodern metatwaddle – is a smokescreen designed, possibly not deliberately, to make shallow authors seem profound.

    Far from languaging up, the temptation [when explaining science] is to dumb down. Einstein said we should make it as simple as possible “but no simpler”.

    In the preceding text of the article, musing that we celebrate multiples of ten because by accident of ancient evolution we have ten fingers, Dawkins alleges that if we instead had had eight fingers “it might have been a real blessing because octal arithmetic is more binary-friendly than decimal, and computer technology might now be centuries ahead (or at least an octal century of 64 years).”

    I’d say octal is slightly more binary-friendly hence computer-friendly than denary; but that’s it; the conversion is easy enough, amounts in practice to the usually trivial slowing of spreadsheets, databases etc, and especially in word-processors, games, robotic tool control or fly-by-wire programs in most real-world applications.

    “Computer technology might be centuries ahead”, my foot; if we except Babbage’s and perhaps a few mechanical analogue devices such as battleship gun-aiming technology, computer technology — and in particular the digital computer technology Dawkins here refers to — is not even one century old yet. “Centuries”!?

    Looks like “Dawkins’s Law of Conservation of Obscurity” certainly applies to the pretentious twaddle of the first part of his own article.

    Same in the second half: Dawkins examples good prose poetry (“for when your readers can’t cope with higher mathematics”) by quoting Peter Atkins, including this pretentious classic of “Francophoneyism”, the Dawkins-described “glorious” ending of Atkins’ book:

    We are almost there. Complete knowledge is just within our grasp. Comprehension is moving across the face of the Earth, like the sunrise.</blockquote

    Is Dawkins deadpan serious, but a pretentious asshole suffering himself from the francophoneyism he decries … or is he tongue-in-cheek sending himself up?

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