Richard Dawkins makes Time 100

Good Idea: include Richard Dawkins in the Time 100, the list of the 100 men and women whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world.

Bad Idea: get Michael Behe to write the profile.

Of Richard Dawkins’ nine books, none caused as much controversy or sold as well as last year’s The God Delusion. The central idea—popular among readers and deeply unsettling among proponents of intelligent design like myself—is that religion is a so-called virus of the mind, a simple artifact of cultural evolution, no more or less meaningful than eye color or height.

It is a measure of the artful way Dawkins, 66, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oxford, tells a tale and the rigor he brings to his thinking that even those of us who profoundly disagree with what he has to say can tip our hats to the way he has invigorated the larger debate.

Dawkins had a mild Anglican youth but at 16 discovered Charles Darwin and believed he’d found a pearl of great price. I believe his new book follows much less from his data than from his premises, and yet I admire his determination. Concerning the big questions, the Bible advises us to be hot or cold but not lukewarm. Whatever the merit of his ideas, Richard Dawkins is not lukewarm.

I just… can’t understand it. And this is the highly edited version – here’s what he wanted to say. I can only imagine what the next Time 100 is going to look like:

  • Tony Blair, profiled by Robert Mugabe
  • Sir Ian McKellen, profiled by Fred Phelps
  • Michael J. Fox, profiled by Rush Limbaugh
  • Jon Stewart, profiled by George W. Bush
  • Neil Armstrong, profiled by Bart Sibrel
  • Noam Chomsky, profiled by Paris Hilton
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61 Responses to “Richard Dawkins makes Time 100”

  1. Look, I think getting someone’s antagonist to write the blurb for a top 100 list being an interesting idea (as long as it’s properly edited, so as not to be a straight ad hominen attack).

    But you’d have to do it for all 100, and you’d have to make it explicit to the reader that the blurbs what the whole concept behind them was, so they are read in that way.

    That said – Time as a serious information source. Funny.

  2. looking at the piece, even the original, i don’t think there is really anything wrong with it. the guy states that he is on the opposite side of the argument. he also remains rational and gives, grudging, respect. it makes me think that there is hope for the IDiots. if there are rational people on their side, then they might eventually realise that they are wrong

  3. residentRsole Says:

    …and yet I admire his determination

    How patronising ! As if the cogent arguments put forward by Dawkins are just “mere opinions”.

    I sometimes peruse bookshops and I see that the “God Delusion” is often sold at reduced prices and that there are many copies. Recently, I bought a copy in Plumstead for R80.00. Like “Johnny Mnemonic”, it looks like this great book will end up in the bargain bin.

    (As an aside, Carl Sagan’s book “UFOs – A scientifc debate” has been in my local library since 2003 and is in pristine condition – unsurpisingly)

  4. Andy, Dyst – i think you’re missing the point here. Michael Behe is a pseudoscientist whose work stands against everything about the entire category in which Dawkins appears – science and technology. Whether he agrees with Dawkins or not, the point is that he is not in any way qualified to assess Dawkins, his work, or its impact, or that of any scientist for that matter. It’s like getting a homeopath to review someone who has done great work in pharmaceuticals, or getting an astrologer to review someone who has achieved much in the field of astrophysics. Whether the review is positive or not, it is the choice of reviewer that is insulting.

  5. That aside, you sort of need to know a bit about theology to read between the lines before deciding if it’s a positive review. “Believed he had found a pearl of great price” is code for “thought he had found something as good as the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 13:45-46), implying that Darwinism is just a misguided religion replacement for Dawkins, as opposed to one of the greatest scientific theories of the last 200 years.

    Also, the whole ‘mild anglican youth’ is an underhanded swipe at Dawkins’ apostasy. It’s the usual No True Scotsman fallacy – if he cast off religion, his belief must have been ‘mild’ in the first place, and his mistake simply one of youth.

    It’s not a positive profile, and he doesn’t give grudging respect. You can say “Whatever the merit of his ideas, Robert Mugabe is not lukewarm” without giving him any respect. All Behe acknowledges is that Dawkins is strongly and well spoken. It’s like being asked to say something positive about Nelson Mandela and only being able to grudgingly admit “Well, he’s certainly very black.”

  6. [...] Dawkins makes Time 100, get screwed up in his profile Richard Dawkins makes Time 100, get screwed up in his profile Good Idea: include Richard Dawkins in the Time 100, the list of the 100 men and women whose power, [...]

  7. I must say it sounds like a reasonable blurb to me.

  8. Forget Time! Dawkins features in the latest issue of Viz comic

    db

  9. The fault lies with Time. The fence-straddling hypocrisy of naming someone, anyone, to your ‘100’ list and then enlisting a philosophical nemesis to write the piece is back-handed and disingenuous.

    Further, the piece (of…) doesn’t even fulfill its stated purpose. This is a book review, not a biographical profile. Whatever you think of him, Mr. Dawkins is far more than the other of nine books. You think Time might want the profile to summarize why Richard Dawkins is in their top 100. I have concluded from this piece that they are journalistic cowards.

    By turning the honor of profiling an intellectual adversary into an opportunity to talk about himself (“…those of us…I believe…I admire…”), Micheal Behe demonstrates why he’s on no one’s list.

  10. ron powell Says:

    Time magazine is a cartoon for people who don’t really want to think. Why is anyone surprised they would do something like that to Dawkins, who deals with big ideas.

  11. Not that Richard Dawkins – or anyone else that believes in such things as he – isn’t profoundly presumptuous and arrogant for believing in what he believes in, but I have to say; Michael Behe comes across as a dunce.

    The Bible says no such thing “concerning the big questions.” The illustration the Word does draw is one of admonishment of ineffectiveness. Christ was admonishing a church in Laodicea for being neither hot (as hot water has therapeutic characteristics) nor cold (as cold water also has use) but being lukewarm, such as the water piped into Laodicea from hot springs miles away.

    Trying to apply this illustration to Dawkins’ work is nothing but Behe trying – in vain – to appear creative, studied and poetic where he is not. Christ would not have considered the work of Dawkins in the same category as the work of a church in Laodicea and would have used an admonishment similar to 2 Timothy 4:3,4: Dawkins’ work in “The God Delusion” is nothing but fable.

  12. Josh: That would be awesome. A debate between Jesus and Richard Dawkins.

    Besides, no one mentioned that Dawkins is married to the hottest Dr. Who assistant of all time (Romana II) who was introduced to him by Douglas Adams! I think Dawkins would agree with me that we should stop all this posturing about religion and search out hot sci-fi babes for sessions of dueling genes!

  13. @Josh:

    I think you’re the one who is arrogant and presumtuous. Maybe you should go pray to not be so.

  14. Well, Vel; you’re certainly free to think whatever you like. Advising me on course of action, however, is just slightly obnoxious. Still, my main point remains. Behe comes across as a dunce in his text.

  15. [...] Richard Dawkins Makes Time 100 I liked the idea of this post. [...]

  16. [...] Time 100, get screwed up in his profile Filed under: Uncategorized — recar @ 9:04 am Richard Dawkins makes Time 100, get screwed up in his profile Good Idea: include Richard Dawkins in the Time 100, the list of the 100 men and women whose power, [...]

  17. I don’t understand why anyone trusts Dawkins when he goes on about religion. He’s a great evolutionary biologist sure, but no sociologist, and so he is really speaking from a lay perspective on this.

    That and the fact that even i can see evolutionary advantages to religion (not to mention that every major civilisation that has ever developed has centred around some religion).

  18. Chris: Evolutionary advantages to religion? Maybe you’ve heard about the Creation Museum that’s about to open in Kentucky that will be educating us dinosaurs were on board Noah’s Ark? http://paralleldivergence.com/2007/04/28/creation-museum-madness/

    If that’s what “religious evolution” is all about then you can count me out.

  19. Guys, if you read the whole list, you would notice that this was done throughout the Top100. I thought it was an interesting, well thought out idea. It shows respect from the other side for people and gives a more grounded review, rather than praise from admirers.

    After all, Newt Gingrich wrote Nancy Pelosi’s blurb. It was done throughout the Top100.

  20. Chris – Dawkins’ point is that, over human history, religion as a memeplex HAS been an evolutionary advantage, inspiring humans to work together, form stronger societies based around that religion, and providing incentive to help your fellow man (as well as disincentive to hinder them) – but it is a trait which has now outlived its time. Humans have advanced to the point scientifically where the presence of a god is no longer required to answer our questions about why things are the way they are, and religion is stubbornly trying to retard scientific advancement.

    Evolutionary history is full of examples of traits that have been evolved to adapt to one environment and then later lost when the environment changed. As mammals, dolphins have to have some evolutionary history on the land, and for that they needed to evolve legs – yet do modern dolphins have feet? Religion in modern times is on the same standing as a dolphin swimming around with fully formed legs – a hindering holdover from an earlier period of history.

  21. Michael Says:

    Well, it’s nice to see that someone is able to write a few letters about Mr. Dawkins. Even if the text would read: “The biggest idiot of all time, and I don’t care about the things he wrote”, this would not change the fact that the scientific theory is there.

    Arguing about religion is pretty much a waste of time – everybody is free to believe whatever they think. Belief is de-facto non-provable. So greetings to all religious people, enjoy your life.

    Most people don’t need to read “The god delusion” to start asking questions. Thats why religiosity is slowly going down – the answers are mostly not good enough.

    Enjoy your life – make sure you don’t face hell, afterwards. I’ll just rot happily.

  22. Three of the Republican candidates in the US Presidential campaign raised their hands when a debate moderator asked “Who doesn’t believe in evolution?”

    Time is out to make money and keeps that crazy 25% of the US public in mind when they publish things like this. Like it or not, that 25% is much more vocal than the rational, thoughtful 75% who understand Dawkins is a scientist and the reviewer clings to belief as more important than fact.

    Time magazine stands more for making money than good journalism. Sensationalism over accuracy, please, sell more magazines.

  23. who reads that worthless corporate rag anyway?

  24. Carcer – (Thanks for clarifying Dawkins viewpoint, i’ve haven’t read the books, just seen the tv series, so i wasn’t sure)

    What is it about today’s society that means we no longer need these incentives? Our societies today are very similar those which spawned the religions, the only major difference being technological advancment, which has very little effect when looking at broad social trends. And as for religion “stubbornly trying to retard scientific advancement” most the of the best scientists around be are religious in some way or another.

    (N.B. I’m not sure what side of the argument Dawkins is on, but applying evolutionary biology to groups larger than the individual is i think quite a controversial topic in evo-bio)

  25. “Look, I think getting someone’s antagonist to write the blurb for a top 100 list being an interesting idea (as long as it’s properly edited, so as not to be a straight ad hominen attack).”

    I don’t see a problem with it. And since you didn’t address any of Behe’s comments, I would think it is safe to assume you found nothing objectionable in his comments.

  26. I think that writing from a position of someone who deeply disagrees with Dawkins, Behe did a very respectful job. Although I have very strong ideas about both of these gentlemen, I find nothing scandalous about the blurb.

  27. “he has invigorated the larger debate.”

    Wake up, there is no larger debate…..

    A recent creationist plea is for “balanced treatment” in the classroom: “Let us present creationism along with evolution, so students can make an informed choice. That’s only fair isn’t it?” (The spirit of fairness doesn’t seem to prompt them to invite biologists to present a “balanced treatment” of evolution at revival meetings, though.)

    OK, let’s go along with it. In 9th grade biology let’s do evolution on the first day of the school year–then we’ll proceed to “alternative theories of origins” and “intelligent design theories.” Tuesday we’ll cover the Algonquin creation myth, Wednesday the Shinto, Thursday the Yoruba, Friday–Mayan. Next week it’s Pawnee, Inuit, Mogollon, Hindu, and Zoroastrian. We’ll get to the Hebrew adaptation of the Babylonian (as recorded in Genesis) the third Thursday in May (if we don’t have a fire drill).

    One of the Big Lies of creationism is that there are only two alternatives, and that by “defeating evolutionism” (sic), the only possible remaining alternative is the Genesis myth. (Those of us who have Seen the Truth know that the TRUE creation account is that preserved since the Beginning by the !kung bushmen of South Africa.)

  28. Con-Tester Says:

    Chris: “Our societies today are very similar those which spawned the religions …” Not true. They were much smaller and the biological kinship was much closer.

    … the only major difference being technological advancment, which has very little effect when looking at broad social trends.” The IT revolution of the past 30 years, to name but one striking example, has had little effect on broad social trends? That is news to me.

    … most the of the best scientists around be are religious in some way or another.” If you mean “religious” metaphorically as denoting a strong belief in something epistemologically relevant (e.g. the existence of physical laws, or the cosmological principle, or the utility of empiricism), then that is true. But if you mean “religion” to denote belief in a supernatural creator that needs worship and obeisance, then I think you need to do a lot more research on this topic.

  29. Just another way for TIME to give credence to ID through “teach the controversy” BS. This is the same tactic they used when they had Newt Gingrich write Nancy Pelosi’s bio (which is mostly about himself, oddly enough) and overall I think the move was in bad taste. I don’t agree with Dawkins all the time but getting a well-known advocate of pseudoscience (who had his butt kicked when he testified at the Dover trial and suggested that if we accept ID, then astrology and other wingnuttery becomes acceptable as well) is simply disrespectful and once again gives credence to the drek the Discovery Institute is famous for pumping out.

  30. You should read what Behe actually wrote:

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/05/time_what_michael_behe_actuall.html

    Apparently, Time changed his article fairly substantially. In his original, he came across way less stupid and it was much more informational.

  31. adam dickinson Says:

    i agree somewhat with kuba.

  32. rationalist Says:

    “Three of the Republican candidates in the US Presidential campaign raised their hands when a debate moderator asked “Who doesn’t believe in evolution?”

    Time is out to make money and keeps that crazy 25% of the US public in mind when they publish things like this. Like it or not, that 25% is much more vocal than the rational, thoughtful 75% who understand Dawkins is a scientist and the reviewer clings to belief as more important than fact.”

    Sadly, Rick M., you have the numbers reversed. Surveys, including a major periodic Gallup survey more recently held in 2007, consistently show that fewer than 15% of the US population accept the reality of biological evolution by natural selection.

    Fully 45% are Young Earth Creationists, reject evolution altogether and believing that God created man in his final form within the last 10,000 years.

    A CBS poll held in late 2006 had the number even higher, with 55% of Americans being Young Earth Creationists.

    The remaining one-third of the population either believe evolution takes millions of years but that it is literally guided by the hand of god, or are unsure one way or another.

    Parsed another way, a majority of Americans are creationists of one kind or another, and a strong majority reject evolution, the fossil record, geological processes such as those that create fossil fuels (a majority of Americans do not believe oil comes from fossils). Also, more than three-quarters of the US population cannot provide even a basic definition of DNA.

    The number of unsure has risen over the past 20 years, at the expense of strong supporters of evolution by natural selection.

    Here is a chart from National Geographic comparing belief in evolution in the US to 32 European nations and Japan. The US ranks next-to last, with only Turkey being more creationist.

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/bigphotos/21329204.html

  33. Zappato Says:

    Dawkins is one of those few brave scientific geniuses that only pops up once or twice in a generation, this time around speaking clearly and wholeheartedly about what he sees are the problems religions face in an ever-more-informed, ever-more-aware world of explanatory scientific discourse, and in the modern intellectual landscape; and the problems the world faces due to the ubiquity (and staunch survivalist nature) of these glorious monsters, these ideological beasts, these most tasteless edifices of lies and dangerous dogma. No wonder Dawkins is getting media attention. Unless this was an honest mistake, though (which is doubtful), it is quite a shame that Times has done this to Dawkins. Whoever was responsible to let this Behe guy disrespect/insult such an intellect printing such a mediocre, lousy, tasteless review should be re-assigned to less important tasks within the magazine (like… the orbituaries).

  34. ‘I just can’t understand it.’

    My thoughts, exactly.

  35. Actually, I really, really hope they take your suggestions to heart. I’d be quite keen to read the Paris Hilton one.

  36. nyendrak Says:

    Quite disturbing and disappointing this is. Dawkins: 1, Michael Behe: 0
    The words, “Intelligent Design” actually make me feel queasy. Barf.

  37. Flight505 Says:

    Dawkins is an angry old man. His book, and philosophy, is less science and more of a socio-political movement. Double standards abound.

  38. astarwashere Says:

    That’s it. I’m boycotting Time magazine forever.

  39. It’s amazing to see what these evolutionists respond like when there is even a halfway perceived insult to their modern-day champion. You would think that Behe had said Dawkins was a murderer and rapist or something.

    Sadly, Rick M., you have the numbers reversed. Surveys, including a major periodic Gallup survey more recently held in 2007, consistently show that fewer than 15% of the US population accept the reality of biological evolution by natural selection.

    Fully 45% are Young Earth Creationists, reject evolution altogether and believing that God created man in his final form within the last 10,000 years.

    A CBS poll held in late 2006 had the number even higher, with 55% of Americans being Young Earth Creationists.

    The remaining one-third of the population either believe evolution takes millions of years but that it is literally guided by the hand of god, or are unsure one way or another.

    Excellent, excellent points. Something people forget is that the opinions of major newspapers, mass media, and the sophisticated elites who insist that we cannot possibly understand what they are talking about do not represent the opinions of the rest of the country. Since when have those groups mentioned found something groundbreakingly true that surpasses the understanding of the rest of us? Some of them are so obsessed with understanding so-called higher things that they cannot understand common sense. A verse from the Bible applies here: “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much, and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.”

  40. truth teller Says:

    It doesn’t take a genius to figure out Jesus was a traveling magician. The modern stupidy of the world is astounding.

  41. I dont see anything wrong with the blurb. But I’m not atheist so I might not be as smart as everyone else.

    Feel free to check out why I’m not Muslim, though.

    http://eteraz.wordpress.com/2006/02/07/why-i-am-not-a-muslim-by-ali-eteraz/

  42. “…the sophisticated elites who insist that we cannot possibly understand what they are talking about do not represent the opinions of the rest of the country.”

    Did anybody say that? If so they are wrong. In fact, what you are describing is more akin to what religious leaders have done for thousands of years. Catholicism still rejects the idea of a personal relationship with ‘God’ and reserves that for their own elite, the clergy. Sumerian clerics and scribes jealously guarded cuneiform scripts to prevent the common people from becoming literate preserving their elite status as custodians of religious tradition.

    No true scientist will ever say that anyone cannot understand what they are talking about. Science doesn’t have to resort to trickery to defend itself because scientific findings are supported by evidence and published for all the world to see, if they really want to.

  43. jmtrue, you are right. That is exactly what the Catholic church did for years. The problem is that people get Christianity and the Catholic church mixed up. They are not one and the same. Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship with God.

    I (I’m not sure why my post went under the name of Harrison) am saying that snobby elitist professors, some of whom I’ve argued with, are insistent that most of us rude, uneducated people don’t understand evolution. Quite frankly, I’m not sure how they manage to understand it, seeing as how it is a ridiculous amount of complexities that could only happen under manipulated circumstances.

  44. Does Dawkins get right of response? If so, no big deal. If not, this is pathetic.

  45. hola cuidate xao yo memllamo moises y tengo que wear pa acer esta caga xao muerete

  46. It could have been worse; they could have transcribed the South Park episode that riffed on Dawkins.

  47. [...] Richard Dawkins makes Time 100 Good Idea: include Richard Dawkins in the Time 100, the list of the 100 men and women whose power, talent or moral […] [...]

  48. i’d pay money to see the chomsky/hilton article.

  49. You came back with a bang after your absence with this article, didn’t you? On an almost entirely unrelated topic, I cam across this article, essentially about some studies into how superstitious people can be and I thought of you:

    http://www.newscientist.com/channel/being-human/mg19426031.700-a-quirky-look-at-our-quirky-species.html

  50. [...] Richard Dawkins makes Time 100 « moonflake Richard Dawkins makes Time 100 « moonflake [...]

  51. aidoann Says:

    If you guys read what Behe originally wrote, as kennon posted a link to, you’ll find that he’s much more articulate and calm than what was put in the Time magazine.

    I don’t think ID should be taught in biology classes, but evolution also shouldn’t be the main focus of a high school biology class. For one thing, if creation was taught, there are so many different versions and it is all entangled in a religious mess (separation of church and state – no advocated religion in public schools, right?).

    Science should be about how things are. We don’t know for certain where life came from, but we can know with a reasonable amount of certainty the parts of the cell, what organisms eat, how they reproduce, etc. THIS is what people should be studying in biology. The whole argument with evolution and ID is more philosophy than science.

    -Aidoann

  52. Mr Angry: i blame it on digg. Thanks for the link – great read!

  53. Harrison: Here’s another stat for you – in a study of 34 countries worldwide, the US came 33rd in acceptance of evolution. Don’t judge the sensibilities of the entire world’s population by one country with notoriously poor public science education. I’m sure a lot of americans don’t understand how nuclear fusion works either, but i don’t see that turning the sun off any time soon. By your reasoning, if we could get enough americans to stop believing in gravity, we’d all be able to fly.

    What a pity natural laws aren’t determined by public opinion.

  54. [...] Richard Dawkins makes Time 100 « moonflake – Good Idea: include Richard Dawkins in the Time 100, the list of the 100 men and women whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world. Bad Idea: get Michael Behe to write the profile. [...]

  55. Very good reading. Thanx for sharing.R.

  56. [...] Richard Dawkins makes Time 100, get screwed up in his profile [...]

  57. [...] talent or moral example is transforming the world. Bad Idea: get Michael Behe to write the profile.read more | digg [...]

  58. Melanie Stephan Says:

    Hi, , You should read Richards lastest book titled, “I am so much smarter than God”. At the very beginning of the book he states God never finished High School and that he holds a number of BS degrees from various Universities. In the next chapter he then explains in scientific terms everything in the Universe and how it works. He then continues to name each and every species and how they are a benefit to the ecosystem. In Chapter 3 there are pictures of Richard in the Lab actually creating new life. Turning the page I see a picture of Dawkins and Darwin receiving an award for their work in science. Funny how the name Dawkins and Darwin are almost the same. Then in the last chapter, he goes on to say “See even I can create life, it’s not that hard”.
    All I have to say is: Richard do you really expect us to believe that you can create life out of nothing? Don’t you think that people are going to say your nuts? If your going to state that your a scientist I’d think you should have some proof to back up your statements? Richard stay out of trouble, stop writing and go back to teaching genetics.
    God knows where you live.

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