Richard Dawkins hands feminists a fabulous argument and not one of them touches it. I wonder why not?

25 Aug

I am an atheist.

I do not believe in God.

I do not believe in the “afterworld”.

I do not believe any sort of imaginary force, being or energy controls or created the universe.

I don’t KNOW how the universe was created and neither does anybody else. That information will be discovered soon enough, and until then, I am not compelled to make up a story to fill in the knowledge gap.


Richard Dawkins, perhaps the most famous atheist in the world, found himself in the midst of a Twitter tsunami when he tweeted “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.”

Oh dear. Cue the shitstorm. Dawkins takes down his critics beautifully in a post on his own blog, which you can find here:

The relevant passages are:

1. “There are 1.6 billion Muslims, nearly a quarter of the world’s population, and we are growing fast.” There is even, sometimes, a hint of menace added. In the words of Houari Boumediene, President of Algeria, “Le ventre de nos femmes nous donnera la victoire” (the belly of our women will give us the victory).

2. “Islamic science deserves enormous respect.” There are two versions of this second claim, ranging from the pathetic desperation of “the Qu’ran anticipated modern science” (the embryo develops from a blob, mountains have roots that hold the earth in place, salt and fresh water don’t mix) to what is arguably quite a good historical point: “Muslim scholars kept the flame of Greek learning alight while Christendom wallowed in the Dark Ages.”

Putting these two claims together, you almost can’t help wondering something like this: “If you are so numerous, and if your science is so great, shouldn’t you be able to point to some pretty spectacular achievements emanating from among those vast numbers? If you can’t today but once could, what has gone wrong for the past 500 years? Whatever it is, is there something to be done about it?”


Dawkins targets early childhood education as a principal defect in Muslim culture: they are not educating their children for scientific achievement, and appear to be incredibly successful at achieving nothing scientifically.

I don’t think skin colour has the slightest bearing on ability to win Nobel Prizes, whereas it is highly probable that childhood education in a particular religion does. Educational systems that teach boys only memorisation of one particular book, and teach girls nothing at all, are not calculated to breed success in science.

Has something gone wrong with education in the Islamic world, and is it a problem that Muslims themselves might wish to consider? Just to throw in a separate piece of information, colleagues lecturing to aspiring doctors in British universities inform me that Muslim students boycott lectures on evolution. And I have myself interviewed, for television, pupils and teachers at one of Britain’s leading Islamic secondary schools – one with impeccable Ofsted ratings – where I was informed by a teacher that literally all the pupils reject evolution.

Just as an aside, do you know that Noah’s Café in the Creation Museum offers gluten-free meals?


Hahahahahahahahahahahahahah! Oh, I’m sorry. Do you lack the genetic variation necessary to digest wheat? Has an over reliance on wheat based foods for the past ten thousand years created a sensitivity? Is your digestive tract still adapting to this novel food item?


Professor David Sanders, Consultant Gastroenterologist at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital and University of Sheffield, says, “Only for the past ten thousand years have we had wheat-based foods in our diets, which in evolutionary terms makes wheat almost a novel food. If you put that in context to the 2.5 millions years that mankind has been on earth, it makes sense that our bodies are still adapting to this food, and more specifically, the gluten that it contains.”

Who wants to bet they caution people to use the handsanitizer, too? Use anti-bacterial soap in the kitchens and bathrooms? Gotta watch out for those superbugs! Pretty nasty flu virus going around this season. Can’t be too careful.

Can’t be too stupid either, by the looks of it.

*Yes, I understand that evolution happens over countless generations and not just one person. It’s still an example of extreme cognitive dissonance to believe you can’t digest a plant because you lack the necessary genes and deny evolution at the same time. Is there genetic variation across human populations that responds to environmental stimuli or is there not? Pick one, for fuck’s sake.

Okay, so Dawkins is wondering if the lack of scientific achievement in the modern Muslim world can be linked to faulty education. Perfectly valid question, and he’s probably right that YEP! The scientific method, which is the basis of all discovery CAN be discovered by accident, but it’s better to teach it systematically, especially to children.

But Muslims are not the ONLY group who are A) numerous, and B) boastful about their supposed abilities, and C) devoid of any actual achievements.


Women have fewer Nobel Prizes in scientific achievement than Trinity College, too.

Women have been awarded 44 prizes (Marie Curie was honored twice, so only 43 women have won), but when you ditch Literature, Peace and Economics, the number collapses to 16. Trinity College claims 32 prizes. 31 prizes in scientific achievement. One college beats Muslims, and women hands down.

Now why might that be?

Can we blame the educational system? Are women being socialized as young children to ignore science, to discredit irrefutable theories like evolution and gravity while boys are not? Is the school system rigged to make sure boys direct their attention and energy towards all the really hard thinky subjects like math and engineering and biomechanics, leaving the girls to study literature and home economics?


Hmmm. Doesn’t look like it. In California, women now outnumber men in high school math and science courses.

At the high school level, female enrollment exceeds male enrollment in every core subject area except computer science, where females lag males substantially (p7).

But it makes no difference. Girls get all the same training as boys, but do NOT translate that into even low level achievement.

The results of the analysis indicate that high school boys lag girls in English, foreign language, and social science but that girls are 10 percent less likely than boys to take physics and 43 percent less likely to take college-preparatory computer science classes. These last two areas of study prepare students for some of the highest-paying jobs in today’s labor market. Girls also lag boys in Advanced Placement (AP) course enrollment in calculus, chemistry, physics, and computer science.

Girls take all the core subjects, but not at high levels and not to prepare to do advanced work in those subject areas.

There is no flaw in the education system.

But you won’t hear that reported anywhere in the media. Girls outperform boys in math and science around the world, except in Canada, the United States and Britain. But they do not translate that outperformance into achievement.

Because patriarchy, obviously.

The US Department of Education has found that girls “who have a strong self-concept regarding their abilities in math or science are more likely to choose and perform well in elective math and science courses and to select math and science-related college majors and careers”.

The department emphasizes that: “improving girls’ beliefs about their abilities could alter their choices and performance … particularly as they move out of elementary school and into middle and high school.”

Oh wait. You mean girls who are actually interested in math and science tend to pursue math and science? Wow! What an incredible insight. People do things that interest them. Genius! I’m glad we cleared that up.

Most girls aren’t interested in math or science.

But don’t you dare suggest that the girls are making a conscious choice that reflects those interests, or lack thereof! Larry Summer’s did, and he was crucified! How hilarious that he was run out of Harvard for speaking truth. Harvard’s motto, of course, is VERITAS.


Which is Latin for “shove your truth up your ass, you sexist prick”.

Unlike Muslims, who did in fact have some glory days back in the Middle Ages, women have NEVER contributed very much to the world scientifically. Well, except in one way.


They gave birth to great scientists.

Lots of love,


30 Responses to “Richard Dawkins hands feminists a fabulous argument and not one of them touches it. I wonder why not?”

  1. gaoxiaen August 25, 2013 at 21:50 #

    Lets not forget one great Arab contribution. They were the first to distill alcohol.


  2. judgybitch August 25, 2013 at 21:51 #

    Followed immediately by the first case of date-rape?


  3. Spiralina August 26, 2013 at 01:14 #

    I used to work in a top private school in a wealthy Muslim country. Students were taught that the prophet Muhammed invented science, medicine and philosophy. They weren’t actually taught any science, medicine or philosophy…just that the prophet invented these things and devilish foreigners stole his inventions and took the credit. We weren’t allowed to teach from science textbooks because they all contained information that contradicted this narrative. Instead we were expected to use the Quran to teach science. So yeah, that might explain the dearth of great Muslim scientists.


  4. gigi August 26, 2013 at 01:25 #

    Long time lurker, first time poster here. I find your blog to be providing a refreshing perspective on the gender issues that is not contaminated by the batshit cray feminist agenda. However, as an honest to God female scientist, I gotta call bullshit on the whole Larry Summers issue. The problem with his comment is not necessarily the actual facts behind it (if’t we’re talking averages here, he may be right), it but rather a dismissive attitude towards women who are ALREADY in science that is perpetuates. Ben Barres, arguably one of the most influential current neuroscience investigators, covered the issue to a great extent in the past several years. He would do so because, as a transsexual, he has a perspective on the attitude towards both male and female scientists (his infamous opinion piece in Nature can be found here -
    On another topic – what’s your take on the most recent NYT article that is following up on their early 2000s story on women who left prestigious jobs to become SAHMs? Jezebel made a show out if it, as usual.


  5. judgybitch August 26, 2013 at 01:28 #

    I just paid my first tuition installment and I am beginning to collect the materials to begin the lit review for my PhD. I will save that article for my post on how the PhD is affecting my life. I have only just begun, so the effect is negligible at the moment.

    But it’s on my radar….


  6. Sasha August 26, 2013 at 04:00 #

    I did not know that.

    So they invented booze and then immediately outlawed it?

    What a waste!


  7. Odysseus August 26, 2013 at 04:22 #

    While correlation isn’t causation, the cultural prevalence of 1st cousin marriages is another data point to ponder.


  8. Exfernal August 26, 2013 at 08:45 #

    Have you noticed that the offered alternative is called a “Stephen Jay Gould hypothesis”? He was known to support unsubstantiated claims before.


  9. Amagi August 26, 2013 at 08:49 #

    In fact, we need to separate Arab and Muslim to get to the real picture. Until aboud 1000 AD, Central Asia was extremely advanced in areas like astronomy and algebra. After the muslim religion took over, there has not been jack shit ever since.


  10. Spaniard August 26, 2013 at 09:18 #

    Muslims runned the south of Spain (Caliphate of Cordoba) for 800 years.
    In that time the Arabic numbers (0, 1, 2, 3, 4…) were introduced in the rest of Europe via Caliphate of Cordoba.
    Arabs were masters in running water (like the Romans) when in the rest of Europe the only running water was the river. And the first skycraper on Earth was build in islamic Seville: the “Girlada” tower. And ancient minaret that today is teh cathedral bell tower.
    That is History, anyway.

    We should not make a confussion between radical Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and secular Arabic countries like Syria, Irak (in the past), Algeria, Lebanon or Turkey (not Arab and secular), Iran (not Arab and secular) There are Arab countries, also, which are not secular but “light” Islam, like Morocco or Tunisia.
    Believing the whole Arabic-Islamic world is radical is like believing all USA is Bible Belt.

    I love the North of Africa. I like the Arab world and I like the Jews too. They live together with no problem at all in Morocco and Algeria, for instance. And they used to live happy together in the Caliphate of Cordoba, in the Middle Ages. Both were expelled from Christian Spain in XV Century. The Spanish Jews are the Sephardian group. Simon Peres was Sephardian (“Peres” comes from the very Spanish last name “Perez”) Even today, in Israel, the Sephardians speake an “strange” Spanish called “Ladino”. It is the equivalent to the Askenaz “Yiddish”.

    I am a great admirer of Richard Dawkins, and I am Catholic, anyway. Progressive Catholic.

    I think Dawkins fights the traditional dogmatic idea of God but I think he does not fight (maybe he does not care) the mystical and individual experience of God: that notion you can find explained in books by William James, Carl Jung, Alvin Plantinga, Ludwig Wittgenstein or Erwin Schroedinger…
    I think Dawkins is a deeply religious man. But he is Spinozean, not Christian.


  11. Spaniard August 26, 2013 at 09:23 #

    Mistakes: “Skyscraper”, “An ancient minarete that today is the Cathedral bell tower:.


  12. Spaniard August 26, 2013 at 09:27 #

    I guess that Muslim country is Saudi Arabia.
    Which is not at all in the “Axis of Evil” like the secular Syria, but in the “Axis of Good”.


  13. Spaniard August 26, 2013 at 10:11 #

    Mistakes: “Shimon Peres IS Sephardian”. “Giralda tower”.


  14. Goober August 26, 2013 at 14:58 #


    Methinks you missed the point of the article entirely. She conceded that during the middle ages that it was the Islamic nations that kept science alive. The question she’s asking now, ans it is a good one, is “why did they fall behind? Why did they go from leaders in scientific knowledge to last in line?”

    Your response listing achiements from the middle ages wasn’t even relevant to the discussion because it only reinforced a point which had already been conceded.


  15. Spaniard August 26, 2013 at 15:43 #

    I do not think is because Islam. In that case, we would not have great men of science from such a heavy Christian areas like Poland, Bavaria, Bible Belt… Fanatic Chritians could be worts than fanatic muslims.
    I think it has to do with race.
    White race has become the most smart and tallented on Earth. And the whiter, the smarter.
    Until XVII Century, the economy, art, sciencei, technology were runned by Mediterranean whites.
    Then, there was a move to the Northern whites, Even Philosophy become a German discipline, more than Greek.
    Why? I have no idea. A mutation?
    Until today it is just like that. Germany, Britain, Scandinavia, are the strong in Europe. P.I.G.S we are the weak. Until XVII Century was right the opposite. But I do not thinkit has to do with the Reform.
    Maybe is the Lutheran Work Ethics which we have no in the South. I do not know.


  16. Goober August 26, 2013 at 15:54 #

    Good reply. While I don’t agree that the issue is racial, it explains the intent of your previous comment and I get your point now.


  17. Goober August 26, 2013 at 16:21 #

    Religion. Blergh. Why did you have to go there? There is nothing more charged and more apt to bring about nastiness than discussions about religion.

    But, hell, let me dive right in…

    I’ve a more nuanced approach to religion than you. It goes a little something like this:

    • I don’t know. We don’t know. The scientific discoveries necessary to answer the questions that would indicate/contraindicate the existence of a higher power haven’t been made yet;
    • Until I/we know (by making those discoveries), I’m open to any possibility;
    • IF there is, indeed, a higher power, it makes sense that it closely resembles some amalgamation of the being/beings described by the various world religions, assuming it has attempted to make contact with us in the past – men wrote down what they experienced and tried to make sense of it, but probably fell short in truly understanding what was going on;
    • That higher power will probably not be something that we can truly understand, and will probably manifest in a way that we never thought possible – describe a color outside of the human’s visible spectrum to get an idea of what I mean, or try to picture 4 dimensions of space – you can’t do it, and likely won’t be able to if such a being ever presented itself;
    • The physical reality of our situation here on Earth is probably way beyond our capability to understand. Ants on an ant farm can’t grok interstate highways and the internal combustion engine, much less theoretical physics and computation. I feel like the reality of our reality is likely beyond our ability to comprehend, even if it was patiently explained to us. My dog is amazed by my ability to throw a stick. What can God do? Are we a science experiment? A computer simulation? Does it even matter, since no matter what the truth is, we’re faced with our own reality that we must deal with?
    • Assuming it exists, the higher power isn’t supernatural or magical in any way. His “powers”, as they were, are 100% natural forces that he can command that we just don’t understand and can’t command ourselves, yet. Like my dog and throwing a stick – does she think I’m magic? Maybe. But because I can understand things like ballistic trajectories and have opposable thumbs and a brain capable of performing the complex calculations necessary to know when to let go, I can throw a stick and she can’t. She will never be able to understand, and so she’ll never be able to throw a stick. That’s why I don’t think religion and science are exclusive. That’s why I see evolution and creationism as being one and the same – the higher power didn’t “magic” life into existence, it just did a science experiment and let nature take its course.
    • Praying to this higher power, or asking it for dispensation or favorable treatment, is a waste of time. I had an ant farm when I was a kid, and as long as the farm was healthy, I couldn’t have given less of a fuck about any individual ant in the farm, even if they had the ability to contact me and communicate with me in some way (which they didn’t, and I suspect we don’t, either). This is why my friend’s 12 year old daughter died of leukemia on Thursday despite thousands of people praying that it wouldn’t happen – the higher power, assuming it exists, didn’t even know we were trying to contact it, and if it did, it probably wouldn’t have cared, and if it did, it probably wouldn’t have had the ability to cure her leukemia anyway.

    But I don’t know. This is just what I’ve reasoned myself into believing the higher power would be like based on my own experiences of standing apart from, and above, lower life forms. Based on that, we can only hope that this higher power doesn’t intend to eat us some day… LOL…

    But one thing I do know – those people who are certain that there is no higher power of any kind are basing that assumption on just as much faith as those that are certain that there is. I see nothing wrong with that, but I do take exception to those people displaying a sort of superiority over people of faith, when their beliefs are based on just as much faith as those whom they would pretend to lampoon.

    It also doesn’t change the fact that no matter what the situation, when it comes to day to day life, and death, and interpersonal and intrapersonal dealings, we are truly, totally, and 100% on our own, and the only thing we leave behind when we’re gone are our children, our tangible accomplishments, and the memories of ourselves when we go. It’s up to each individual to figure out how they want to be remembered.


  18. Spaniard August 26, 2013 at 18:24 #

    God exists in His context.
    In the churches, in the monasterys, in the mosques… you can feel Him there. Out of sacred spaces He makes no much sense.

    That is the philosophy of religion of Wittgenstein. God exists within the religious language.


  19. Steve August 27, 2013 at 02:36 #

    Beautifully and concisely stated. My own views on the matter are very much the same. I consider myself an agnostic; my views on a higher power can be summarized as “I don’t know, and have no way of finding out.” I do not profess my agnosticism. I respect the faithful (for the most part) and see no point in bothering them with my lack thereof. I do, however, have contempt the “atheist community.” As you said, they made the same leap of faith as the religious and are as tiresome as the worst bible-thumper, but to less purpose.


  20. Luke August 27, 2013 at 07:49 #

    Several thoughts here…

    1) That’s NOBEL Prizes, not “Noble”.

    2) Marie Curie’s second Nobel was widely considered by contemporary physicists to be charity and grossly unearned.

    3) Consider the Arab world, which stretches from the Iran/Iraq border to the Atlantic coast of Morocco. If you exclude petroleum, that area of hundreds of millions of people has a GNP less than that of little Belgium.

    4) Islam, polygamy, and marginal genetics are probably why the latter IMO.


  21. Master Beta August 27, 2013 at 13:10 #

    It seems to have a lot to do with climate:

    5000 years ago, all the most successful civilizations were in Mediterranean-like climates. From Egypt to Babylon to China. Then the Romans and the Greeks as we all know became the globe’s dominant civilization for a 1000 years or so. Meanwhile, in cold England, Russia and Germany, we were still barbarian tribes.

    Come the industrial era though and you get a different picture. Russia, England and Germany were suddenly powerhouses, and still are really. The Mediterranean countries on the other hand, lagged behind (and still do – China is only a powerhouse because it has 1 billion people). And what about America? Well you get similar picture across the states, America’s economic powerhouse is New York, which is Northerly and cold.

    The Medieval era was the sort of cross over period between the two eras – the era of the warm climate countries’ domination and the era of the cold climate countries’ domination.


  22. Spaniard August 27, 2013 at 13:35 #

    Marie Curie got all her knowledge vaginal via.


  23. freetofish August 27, 2013 at 16:01 #

    Its an interesting theory, but I don’t think you can tie it to climate so much as the ability to create surplus. Prior to the industrial revolution, warmer climates had an easier time for a civilization to create the surplus needed to allow some members to not have to spend all their time growing food/hunting or otherwise providing the bare necessities of life.

    Now as someone mentioned, excluding petro dollars which in many of the Arabic/Muslim nations are vacuumed up by the rulers and their sycophants, these are poor, poor countries. Countries where children can’t be spared from working to receive a proper education. They are needed just to try and maintain a subsistence level of survival for the family.

    How many famous scientists came from rural America in the 1800’s where school was a one room class where kids went to learn to read and write in the winter and summer but were needed on the family farm for most of the year.


  24. ibtisaam August 29, 2013 at 13:32 #

    what’s the GNP of “the West” without slavery and colonialism?… quick quote: civilisation is a combination of technology AND morality.. but of course that perspective is lost on atheists


  25. Exfernal August 31, 2013 at 10:44 #

    Scandinavian countries are quite civilized. Not forgetting their Viking heritage, there was not much of slavery (except in the early middle ages) nor colonialism (again, except in the early middle ages, like Normandy) in the course of their history. One hopes that Norway’s petrol revenue won’t be spent frivolously.

    “but of course that perspective is lost on atheists”
    And your point is?


  26. James Versluis September 1, 2013 at 00:19 #

    Ohh. So they built a building, except it was tall. That is impressive. Sort of like building a spoon, except you make it big (i.e. the ice cream scoop, an Official Black Invention We Are All To Be Impressed With).

    And the zero (0) concept is Indian, not Muslim.

    But hey, they did master water. Which is to say, they built some pipes. The computer is nothing next to that, of course.

    And they could kill people and take land (ie Spain), that is, if they had enough white people to man their Janissary armies.

    And they didn’t immediately throw out the genius of another blond haired, blue eyed people (the Greeks). Do Arab accomplishments know no bounds?

    My, you *have* made a good argument for Arab creativity and genius. I am fucking astounded. Well done. Your list was totes impressive, Spaniard. Seriously, you are the man. Arab accomplishment stands perfectly on par with Western civilization. They made a building, except it was big. Fucking wow.


  27. SK September 29, 2013 at 08:35 #

    That’s actually innacurate, in it’s early stages, science flourished under Islam, while being forgotten by the christian west. One of the driving forces behind Algebra was the need to distribute inheritance according to Muslim law; math and astronomy were also important to calculate the direction of Mecca in time to pray. They also preserved and translated Greek knowledge.

    Nobody is sure what happened.



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