A Marriage Made in Hell: Militant Atheism, Scientism, Wikipedia and Eugenics
Richard Gale and Gary Null PhD
Progressive Radio Network, February 21, 2020
The many apparent discoveries and successes in science and medicine have awarded these advances with an authority that we far too often accept without question. Skepticism is a necessary and healthy faculty. However, when skepticism itself becomes a doctrine unto itself, then a large body of scientific evidence that convincingly takes authority to task is simply denied or aggressively denounced. Surrendering critical thinking and healthy skepticism to authority figures and institutions more often than not sidelines both the scientific and social need for an open and honest debate that can bring forth evidence that challenges the rule and control of a dominant authoritative view. Of course, many of the most radical scientific voices in the past who challenged authoritative paradigms were marked heretics, such as Galileo and Newton. And inevitably with the passage of time, the mavericks were proven correct. Today the pariahs of the dominant scientific order include Deepak Chopra, Rupert Sheldrake, Nobel Laureates Brian Josephson and Luc Montagnier, and numerous medical professionals who have had the courage to look outside the glass walls of the dominant medical paradigm. But worse, when skepticism surrenders its own reasoning in order to proselytize an ideology or dogma then it risks being a very real danger to society. In effect, it becomes a fundamentalist cult.
Modern Skepticism, as a movement within the sciences, has become a pseudo-science better known as Scientism. The extreme radicalized New Atheism, represented by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Jerry Coyne, Steven Novella, etc is a natural outcome of Scientism’s false certainty in its own absolute and rigid beliefs that have been transformed into rational objectivity.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines Scientism as:
“an exaggerated trust in the efficacy of the methods of natural science applied to all areas of investigation (as in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities)”
This earmarks a fundamental characteristic in modern Skepticism: an exaggerated trust in its own methodology and belief system leading to a fallacious and pretentious faith that it can explain everything based on reason and observation. As an example, the absolute belief that the only way to treat cancers is through chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, in spite of the statistics that several hundred thousand die annually from these treatment. Hence Scientism’s paradox that people are rewarded based upon the certainty of their beliefs and methodologies even when the results fail to achieved the desired goal. It is not the therapy that should be challenged, but rather the rigid thinking of those who hold the authority over these treatments at the expense of denying all other cancer treatments. In effect, it is our trust in those in power that blinds us from critically investigating what they advocating.
This same self-confidence extends to modern Skepticism’s Scientisim to discredit everything associated with religion and spirituality, the paranormal, and non-conventional and traditional medical systems. In short, similar to religious fundamentalism, when Skepticism takes its beliefs literally it becomes its own ideology. And this ideology, not unlike today’s most militant religious movements, poses an enormous threat to a democratic society and the freedoms a true democracy protects.
In the developed world, we are fortunate to have many freedoms. There is freedom of speech, freedom to follow a religion or no religion. We have the choice to marry or not marry whoever we wish. We have the freedom to decide what we can eat or how to treat our bodies. There are still choices to decide on the type of medical treatment we prefer.
Unfortunately, many of our freedoms are now being oppressively challenged. For example, the unholy alliance between the pharmaceutical industry and federal and state governments is determined to mandate and enforce vaccination. The unspoken, hidden argument in this effort is that we have no choice as to what gets injected into our body. Efforts are even underway to make criticism of Israel’s illegal settlements on Palestinian land a criminal act. Activism supporting divestiture from firms supporting Israel’s apartheid over Palestinians are equally being repressed. In fact, the government along with Google and Facebook monitor everything that is not officially acceptable, and Wikipedia is increasingly playing a role in this censorship and as an agent of attack on the character of those who raise legitimate challenges.
A recent episode may offer a glimpse into the potential nightmare hidden in the marriage between Skepticism’s Scientism and the New Atheism. Last Sunday, the world’s most popular Atheist and representative of Scientism Richard Dawkins stated on Twitter that eugenics is a workable solution. It was a strange pronouncement that Dawkins sent to his almost 3 million followers. He did not defend eugenics for any more moral reason; however, ethical concerns aside, we should not assume it is a workable solution to problems. He posted,
“It’s one thing to deplore eugenics on ideological, political, moral grounds. It’s quite another to conclude that it wouldn’t work in practice. Of course it would. It works for cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses. Why on earth wouldn’t it work for humans? Facts ignore ideology.”
Writing for the blog The Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta speculates that perhaps Dawkins was making an off-the-cuff comment about the resignation of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s senior advisor Andrew Sabisky, who has voiced approval of a eugenics program to prevent a “permanent underclass.” Sabisky resigned only a day or two before Dawkins’ tweet. If that is the case, then Dawkins is acknowledging eugenics’ feasibility to rid society of the unwanted or improving the race through selective breeding while not condoning such a program itself. Nevertheless, to understand how dangerous this idea is we only have to recall the Nazi’s Final Solution, the worst of Stalin’s show trials, Mao’s public executions, slave trade and the forced sterilization of Black women in the American South, and the red baiting of McCarthyism.
What freedom of choice does the victim of eugenics have?
Of course, Dawkins belief that “eugenic” breeding of other species has been successful is ludicrous. Pedigree breeding of dogs and horses, for example, has been a medical horror for their owners and veterinarians. One angry respondent to Dawkin’s argument comparing human eugenics with his questionable views that eugenic practices work for other species replied,
“I work on human genetics and am honorary professor at the UCL Genetics Institute. I’m the editor-in chief of a journal which used to be called Annals of Eugenics. I just wanted to say that we now know from the latest research that eugenics simply would not work.”
Greg Epstein, an ethicist and humanist chaplain at Harvard and MIT, tweeted in response, “So unacceptable for Richard Dawkins to tweet about eugenics without clearly condemning it. Dawkins is ‘supposedly’ one of our exemplars of humanism and science outreach. Yet today he’s given every manner of passive and active bigot an opening to ‘consider’ persecution on steroids.”
A more abrasive reply came from Scott Lynch,
“You absolute pin-headed simpleton. It doesn’t work in practice because too many of the goals turn out to be arbitrary fantasies, and too many of those fantasies are the pet projects of abusive bigots who f*** up any civilization they get their hands on. Are you new here?”
Clearly, Dawkins has again fallen into sloppy reasoning and logic, a habit he has shown repeatedly over the course of his public career and unleveled diatribes against Muslims, religious believers, and medical practices outside of the pharmaceutical establishment. On one occasion he made the argument on Twitter that being raped by a stranger was worse than a “date rape” to try to prove some nonsensical point of faulty logic.
“Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think.”
“Mild pedophilia is bad. Violent pedophilia is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of mild pedophilia, go away and learn how to think.”
I guess that follows the same logic of decapitation by a finely crafted guillotine blade is milder and less bad than decapitation with a rusty, blunt scimitar?
No doubt, for whatever inarticulate reason that compelled him to write this post, as an ardent secularist who claims to espouse humanistic values, Dawkins cannot possibly be advocating for eugenic programs. Following the firestorm, he again tweeted, “I deplore the idea of eugenic policy,” and later “A eugenic policy would be bad.” Yet Dawkins has earned a reputation for frequently making incendiary statements that are supposed to be provocative. It is one of his characteristic personality traits that has endeared him to a horde of disciples in the Skeptic community. But what Dawkins is actually saying is that although he does not favor eugenics, you are nevertheless an idiot if you do not believe eugenics can solve problems. More worrisome is the fact that Dawkins would even entertain such eugenic thoughts as a workable solution for anything should disturb everyone, especially his followers.
Dawkins and other Skeptics frequently align themselves with humanism — a philosophy that stresses humanity’s inherent potential towards goodness. Therefore they seek a moral high ground on their judgments. As there is no problem with a person being an atheist or agnostic, every person has a similar right to their beliefs without being disparaged and criticized. However, for anyone to think of themselves as a humanist, we find having a code of ethics or spiritual belief to live by as essential to claim this moniker. What we are witnessing are militant Atheists such as Dawkins and Jerry Coyne engaging an intellectual blood sport by considering themselves the most enlightened minds and intellectually superior to everyone who disagrees with them. William Buckley was a perfect example of an erudite intellectual mind, lacking wisdom, and priding himself in out-debating his opponents. This is a common characteristic throughout the Skeptic community that also permeates Wikipedia and Silicon Valley and many of America’s leading think tanks.
There appears to be a strange romantic attraction between the radicalized Scientism preached in the Skeptic movement with the kind of modern atheism promulgated by Dawkins and his colleagues. If the human mind, consciousness and subjective experience is nothing more than a computerized printout from an organ within our skull that is composed of protein, fat, water and electricity, and if there is nothing divine or sacred in our world or universe that can give us a greater sense of purpose and values, then the rationale for a eugenic tendency is intrinsic to this equation. Therefore it is not surprising that the Skeptic organizations have failed to challenge or chide Dawkins’ acknowledgment of eugenics’ viability. Far more important is not what the Skeptics believe but rather the volumes of scientific literature that point to humans being far more than a computerized robot and that there is something far more mysterious to our lives and purpose on earth. Hence what Skeptics condemn as quackery and pseudo-science and meritless, is supported by clinical human experience.
In the early 20th century, many prominent advocates of eugenic practices to weed out “degenerates” and the “feebleminded” from society were both atheists and believers in dogmatic scientific materialism. The term “eugenics” was first coined by Darwin’s distant cousin Francis Galton who believed the human race could evolve more efficiently through selective breeding. Early eugenic arguments were similar to the Nazis’ theory of Lebensunwertes Leben or “life unworthy of life” — concerted efforts to preserve the fittest for society by killing off the weaker. Notable atheists who defended some type of eugenics include Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger and Bertrand Russell who in 1924 raised the suggestion of distributing “procreation tickets” in order to preserve the gene pool of the intellectual elite from being polluted by inferior humans. And of course the Rockefeller Foundation contributed to founding and funding the German eugenics program run by Josef Mengele before the evil doctor left for Auschwitz to carry out his horrendous experiments. But before the arrival of the Nazis, eugenics was well underway across the US. Twenty-seven states had policies of forced sterilization, racial segregation and marriage restrictions with California as eugenics’ epicenter. Nearly half of the 60,000 forced sterilizations recorded were performed under California laws to the delight of the US Army doctor and venereal disease specialist Paul Popenoe. An atheist — according to his youngest son, Popenoe authored the 1918 book Applied Eugenics, which included a chapter on ways to exterminate undesirables, including execution and exposure to harsh environments, such as freezing weather and pathogenic organisms.
This is not to suggest that we are singling out atheism for discrimination. Buddhists, Jains and classical Taoists do not believe in a transcendent Being or a personalized God. They too can be categorized as atheist, or more properly a-atheists, faiths. However, these Asian religions recognize the sanctity of life based upon other factors such as karma, non-localized consciousness and non-duality, that Scientific Atheism ridicules and denounce.
In the case of Buddhism, it has conducted the world’s longest empirically-based experiment into the study of subjective experience and consciousness with innumerable advanced meditators over the course of its 2,500 year history. The biological sciences, including neuroscience and evolutionary biology, have never been able to properly define and explain the human mind nor consciousness. For that reason, the question of why and how we are conscious of qualia or phenomenal experiences, and their origination, has been labeled science’s “Hard Problem”. Consciousness and the causative factors behind human behavior still remain a profound mystery that alludes all neuroscientists despite their hypotheses and theories. Serious Buddhist practitioners on the other hand have been probing the depths of the conditioned mind and the nature of consciousness and have repeatedly achieved discoveries that modern neuroscientists with their MRI scans can barely comprehend and fathom. As mathematician John Paulos has said, our scientific methods and knowledge for our unique subjective experiences and behaviors are insufficient.
Instead, our caution concerns the dangers when religious Atheism — which journalist Chris Hedges eloquently explored in his When Atheism Becomes Religion: America’s New Fundamentalism — becomes inseparable from the scientific reductionism of Scientism. And Dawkins is the current exemplar of this unholy marriage under the banner of the modern Skeptic movement.
In 2016, Richard Dawkin’s Foundation for Reason and Science united with and became a separate division of the Center for Inquiry (CFI). One of the Foundation’s primary goals has been to proselytize scientific atheism and provide opportunities for people, including celebrities such as Bill Maher and entertainers Julia Sweeney and John Davidson, to openly identify themselves as non-believers. The merger has created the world’s largest secularist organization carrying a mission to promote secularism and science (i.e., Skepticism and Scientism) according to a CFI press release. Commenting about the merger, Dawkins, who now sits on the CFI’s Board of Directors, stated, “CFI is the biggest player in the secular / non-religious / skeptical world… I look forward to adding my voice to CFI’s focus on promoting secular humanism and fighting the proliferation of pseudoscience.”
Does CFI’s silence over the Dawkins-eugenic controversy suggest it favorably agrees with his outrageous statement? And will Wikipedia, where many of its administrative editors, as well as its co-founder Jimmy Wales, are closely aligned with the Skeptic network, likewise censor the controversy from Dawkins’ biography on the encyclopedia?
As we have written on many previous occasions, Wikipedia has become the world’s loudest soundboard for Atheist-Scientism. The Skeptics who advocate this dogmatic faith wield enormous power over significant content that denies and censors the freedom of speech of scientists, clinicians, provocative non-Skeptic thinkers and educated patients who make efforts to set the record straight about alternative medicine, parapsychological research, and mysticism. Currently there are tens of thousands of doctors and clinicians with millions of patients who have made free choices to treat or be treated by means other than pharmaceutical drugs and invasive surgeries. But all of these voices and the volumes of scientific papers supporting these alternative treatments are being censored. Dawkins is only the most well-known and vocal of these voices; however, his call for “militant skeptics” has been heard by thousands of his loyal followers who have been given editorial privileges by Jimmy Wales to act as the Grand Inquisitors in the name of Scientism.
It is one thing to disagree with another’s point of view. That is perfectly fine. Hence dialogue, debate and open discussion are essential. You may disagree with an opinion, but that does not mean conversation is dead or that one must resort to defamation, ridicule and outright hatred. But honoring free speech has never been a strategy of the most prominent Skeptics — notably in our opinion David Gorski and Paul Offit. Rather militant Skeptics prefer to use Wikipedia’s form as a bludgeon to castigate people and scientific evidence that they personally abhor.
Therefore, modern Skepticism, besides advocating for an authoritarianism based upon scientific materialism, contains the very seeds for a rebirth of eugenic philosophy. For this reason, people should be encouraged to explore this ideology more deeply, discover its contradictions, irrational weaknesses, and its threats to a free society, and then make every effort to expose it to a wider public.