A letter to Richard Dawkins

Posted on July 7, 2011


Dear Richard Dawkins,

Richard, you’re my idol.  You made me think–hard–about a lot of things.  I can honestly say that I would not be the person I am today without your influence.  I am, in fact, finishing up a B.S. degree in evolutionary biology and will be applying for graduate school in ethology.  That is how much you have shaped who I am, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Because of my tremendously high opinion of you, it was difficult for me to read the things you wrote in the comments on PZ’s blog.  Indeed, I tried to agree with you, I tried to see how you were right, because, well, you usually are.  As much as I wanted to agree with you, I could not.  It’s like the idea of belief–you can’t profess belief in something unless you actually believe it.  You do not choose your beliefs–you have taught me this.  And this is why I can’t agree with you, because I believe you are wrong.  Richard, I believe you were flippant and extremely insensitive in your comments to Rebecca Watson and all women who have been in similar situations.

I have not, as some other people have said, “lost all respect” for you.  That would be impossible for me to do, since I respect you for so many things.  I haven’t even lost “a little” respect for you.  You erred, and displayed profound ignorance about feminist issues and the concept of privilege.  But, as I have also learned from you, ignorance is no crime, so long as you’re open to the idea of having your mind changed and do not bar yourself from the proddings of reason.

I certainly don’t think that you have sealed yourself off somewhere, stuck your fingers in your ears while chanting “La la la la, I can’t hear you!”  No.  I think that, having read all of your books and seen probably every video yours on YouTube, you are probably educating yourself right now on these issues on which your were shown to be quite ignorant.  At least, I hope that’s what you’re doing.  We all know you’re a smart guy and a thinker, but we also know that you’re wrong on this issue.  And I think the reason you’re wrong is simply because you haven’t ever really thought about these issues before.  I hope that, because you’re wrong and a smart, thinking person, you’ll come to understand what all the fuss is about.

The concept of privilege is a doosey, since part of that privilege is not realizing that you have it.  Indeed, it usually takes a public gaffe, or a private one around the right people, to have one’s consciousness sufficiently raised about one’s own privilege.  Believe me, I know–that’s how I learned about it!

So, what am I asking of you?  Simple–an apology, to Rebecca Watson in particular, and also to the women and men who have been hurt by your callous, thoughtless comments.  And not just an “If I say sorry, will it shut them up?” kind of apology, but a well-informed apology demonstrating that you have indeed raised your consciousness on this matter.  Do it not?  Then I, sir, will have lost some considerable respect for you as a human being.

Hoping to remain your biggest fan,

Colin Wright

Posted in: Atheism, Feminism