Richard Dawkins – the biologist, humanist, and author – is a well-known critic of religious faith. As he once put it, ‘Religion is capable of driving people to such dangerous folly that faith seems to me to qualify as a kind of mental illness.’
Traditional religion may have loosened its grip on society, certainly in the United Kingdom, but new quasi-religious ideologies are taking root in spaces that the churches have vacated.
Earlier this month, Dawkins upset the transgender brigade by questioning their core beliefs. He Tweeted,
‘In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black. Some men choose to identify as women, and some women choose to identify as men. You will be vilified if you deny that they literally are what they identify as. Discuss.’Richard Dawkins, Twitter
It’s a very good question, though a better analogy might be transubstantiation. I’m perhaps best known for being a trans person and a scientist, but I am also a Christian. I disagree with Dawkins when he talks about faith being a mental illness. My mental health is strong and that is in part due to the purpose and perspective that comes from my faith. But I’m in the same boat as Dawkins regarding the bread and wine at the communion table: it is symbolic, certainly, but the literal body and blood of Christ, it is not.
Today, we can fortunately both make those claims without fear of sanction or cancellation by the traditional religious authorities. But question the ideology that men can become women by the power of thought alone and this new mob will come down on you like a ton of bricks. Two days later Dawkins clarified his comment, saying ‘I did not intend to disparage trans people.’
Dawkins didn’t disparage anyone, but he did upset the perpetually offended. What seemed to upset him though was being seen to ally with ‘Republican bigots in the US.’ But his was surely a ‘sky is blue’ kind of statement. We all know the sky is blue – bigots included – and it can be understood scientifically as the result of Rayleigh scattering in the atmosphere. Only a deluded ideologue would try and claim that the sky is whatever colour it chooses to identify as.
That is physics, my subject. In Biology – Dawkins’ own discipline – the ideologues have taken over, and astonishing ideas that we are whatever sex we choose to identify as have taken root. If even Richard Dawkins backs down, maybe it is game over for the scientific enlightenment?
But no explanation is ever good enough for the transgender thought police. Despite everything, Dawkins found himself excommunicated by his own kind. As Steerpike reported yesterday, the American Humanist Association stripped him of his 1996 ‘Humanist of the Year Award.’
It seems that we can criticise Christianity, but transgender ideology is untouchable. The American Humanists cast aside their tradition of rational thought and critical thinking, and condemned Dawkins for demeaning marginalised groups, ‘an approach antithetical to humanist values.’
If marginalised groups – though transgender people are hardly marginalised in the UK – are speaking nonsense, it needs to be called out. The key catechism of their ideology: ‘Trans Women are Women’ is simply not true. We are the opposite sex to women. But we are not supposed to debate this claim, instead we are told to ‘Get Over It.’
Being of religious faith I am no humanist, but I respect their right to hold their views and debate them. Their philosophy is noble. Humanism is, according the American Humanists, ‘a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism or other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfilment that aspire to the greater good.’
I just wish they would apply these principles to transgender ideology. It might not be theistic but it has developed into a quasi-religious movement that now has the power to separate even humanists from rational thought. Science cannot be fooled even if the Humanists can be.
As for Dawkins, he has previously questioned transgender ideology, while at the same time affirming trans people. In 2015, he wrote, ‘Is [a] trans woman a woman? Purely semantic. If you define by chromosomes, no. If by self-identification, yes. I call her “she” out of courtesy.’
I’d say that was generous, and it’s certainly not transphobic. But the transgender idealogues will never be placated – Dawkins must realise that by now. If the Humanists have been captivated, then let them take back their awards from 25 years ago. It’s a pathetic response, reminiscent of children taking their ball back when they no longer want to play the game. But this is no game. Science is being ignored, women’s rights are under attack and the safeguarding of children is being compromised.
Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.
* This article was first published by The Spectator on 21 April 2021: How Richard Dawkins fell victim to the transgender thought police.