Richard Dawkins – wrong again!

And once again, he admits his mistake and apologises! Have a look at  ‘An Apology’ by Richard Dawkins.

I admire people who can acknowledge their mistakes. People who won’t, but will go through all sorts of mental gymnastics to justify a mistake, are really behaving like children. Their egos are overriding their logic.

This time Richard is apologising for the way he and his team handled the reorganisation going on at the website. The changes being made to the forum on this site have upset some participants, some rather emotional and outrageous statements were made and staff reacted defensively. Richard himself responded to these attacks in what he himself describes as “insensitive ‘Outrage‘ post, which was written in the heat of the moment.” He is apologising for the tone of his post, as well as mistakes made in handling the changes. He has also introduced some changes to the reorganisation of the forums to accommodate some of the concerns expressed.

I am really not interested in the details of this incident. The internet is a bit like driving a car – it seems to bring out the worst in people. Forums and blog discussions are notorious for bad, childish and rude behaviour. I really should try and keep away from them. But I think Richard’s apology and his attempts to accommodate valid concerns reflect one of the characteristics of this man that many people admire.

I used to be very critical of Dawkins (see Putting Dawkins in his place) and avoided reading his books. Shame on me, I know. I was behaving a bit like those very vocal critics of Dawkins who attack him for his book The God Delusion but refuse to read the book!

Once I did start reading Dawkins I was impressed, both by his writing and his honesty. Perhaps it was worth waiting 30 years to read the celebratory edition of his The Selfish Gene. It sets a great example. Dawkins notes mistakes and errors in his first edition and corrects them, together with some back story, in the notes of the later edition.

It was a great example to me of the scientific ethos of honesty.

Now just imagine of some of our local climate change deniers acknowledged their “mistakes” when they are caught cherry-picking data, distorting information or outright lying. And imagine if those deniers responsible for the current attacks on NIWA scientists publicly acknowledged their attacks were based on huge errors on their part. And then apologised for their behaviour.

I guess that’s like asking pigs to fly.


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One response to “Richard Dawkins – wrong again!

  1. “In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.”

    – Carl Sagan, 1987 CSICOP Keynote Address


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