Political correctness and Richard Dawkins

I have been frequently asked about the meaning of the meme “political correctness.” The intention of the question was not to get the answer but to convey the message that I am exaggerating in my frequent use of it. My critics want to say that political correctness is a red herring.

The unfortunate interview of Piers Morgan with Richard Dawkins should serve as an outright expression of how political correctness enacts. First, I have to repeat my admiration for Richard Dawkins before he started his non-scientific attack on religion in the name of science. His three books, The Selfish Gene (Dawkins 1976), The Extended Phenotype (Dawkins 1999), and The Ancestor’s Tale (Dawkins and Yan 2016), are mindblowing leaps in evolutionary biology that should become obligatory entry textbooks for a student of any particular science. However, Richard Dawkins is not famous because of mentioned books, apart from The Selfish Gene, but because of his fierce attack on religion. While, for instance, The God Delusion (Dawkins 2006), his most prominent and concise attack on religion, received almost 13.000 customer reviews on Amazon, The Selfish Gene, written 30 years before, received only half of that number. I speculate that only a fraction of those referring to The Selfish Gene read it. As I have expressed in this blog quite often, like in Reductionism as Religion and especially in Meme, should Dawkins took his last chapter of The Selfish Gene seriously, he would have never become an atheist. If memetics is a part of evolutionary biology and since memes are second replicators, religion, and all other memetic »phenotypes« are as valid for human evolution as the memetic »phenotype« of the science. The paradox of Dawkins still is that he destroys science in the name of science. This background is crucial to understand why I was so interested in the recent interview with Dawkins and especially the part of it that received such substantial social media attention and other media attention. This sequence is genuinely heartbreaking. However, what is a message apart from the fact that Dakins explicitly censored himself? A thread of almost 1500 comments on the above-cited tweet of Jasmine Mohammed only shows the wide specter of messages that have emerged.   The specter of reactions is much broader, as it could be inserted into this post. However, if there is one common ground between them, it is wokeism on one side and political correctness on another. Dawkins is explicit in the rest of the interview regarding wokeism. Even though he does not mention this word, he, as an evolutionary biologist, can not be on the side of a woke culture. Woke is unscientific. However, he shuts down when questioned about ISIS: he even says he should have warned Morgan not to open this issue up front. Minutes before, he pleaded for an open debate, a challenging debate. If he were physically threatened and openly talking against a specific culture of terror, then it would be evolutionarily sustainable for his culture to protect him against a culture that threatens. But he had to be politically correct to stay alive? My speculation about the message goes much further. Dawkins shut down because he was clever enough to understand that he landed flat on his theory. The only scientifically correct way to debate ISIS with Morgan would be to introduce memes, differences between memetic fields that separate cultures and individuals. Moreover, he would have to accept the fact that science and religion are two non-overlapping magisteria, as Stephen Jay Gould (Gould 1997) prophetically stated. If Dawkins was physically threatened, I feel deeply sorry for him. Nevertheless, I feel sorry even more for his internal memetic challenge realizing how counterproductive and unscientific his fight against religion is.   Literature

Dawkins, Richard. 1976. The Selfish Gene. New ed. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.

———. 1999. The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene. Rev. ed. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.

———. 2006. The God Delusion. Bantam Press.

Dawkins, Richard, and Wong Yan. 2016. The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life. 1st edition. Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Gould, Stephen Jay. 1997. ‘Nonoverlapping Magisteria’. 1997. http://www.blc.arizona.edu/courses/schaffer/449/Gould%20Nonoverlapping%20Magisteria.htm.

Andrej Drapal