Dawkins’s “hero of 2010”

It’s Christopher Hitchens.

I must say that if I had a mortal illness, I wouldn’t have the intestinal fortitude—much less the mental concentration—to engage in public debates on matters of faith and reason.  The man is amazing.
Hitchens’ latest piece from Slate: “Turn yourself in, Julian Assange: the WikiLeaks founder is an unscrupulous megalmomaniac with a political agenda.”


  1. Posted December 7, 2010 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    I couldn’t agree more. He marches forward with such determination!! Since this kind of medical condition makes people evaluate the import of their various projects and endeavors,we are apparently witnessing just how much value Christopher places on this kind of dialogue.

  2. Insightful Ape
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Growing up in a theocracy, I can’t tell you how many times I heard that there is no strength in the face of adversity without faith. It was simply accepted that if you are not relying on something bigger than yourself, the day bad luck comes, you are toast. What is more, I believed all of those myths.
    I couldn’t dream of a refutation this powerful-ever.

  3. gillt
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    The Slate article link doesn’t work for me.

  4. Posted December 7, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Personally, I think Julian Assange is heroic. I’m surprised that Hitchens (another person I find heroic) isn’t on board with Assange’s crusade for an open society.

    • Posted December 7, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think that Assange is especially heroic – some of his actions seem at least questionable – but I do want to see the rule of law applied to him. In this context, that means no retrospective criminal laws, no extra-territorial laws, no arrests on trumped up charges.

      What’s coming across at the moment is that the US authorities, aided by those of other countries, are out to get him, come what may, whether or not he actually broke any laws that were in operation at the time in the jurisdiction where he was located at the time. In particular, it’s coming across that the authorities of his own country are happy to hang him out to dry.

      • Adam M.
        Posted December 7, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

        As far as his motivations, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Here is a recent interview with him where (in the latter pages) he describes his motivations for what he does:


        I don’t think he “resents the civilization that nurtured him”.

      • Posted December 8, 2010 at 7:15 am | Permalink

        I think that it is heroic to put your personal freedom and safety at risk to further the cause of an open society, which is something I believe in personally. For all of the anti-authoritarian/totalitarian talk that Hitchens injects into his public case against God, I think it’s interesting that he’s not an Assange supporter. I also agree with you that the charges against him seem fishy. Personally, I find it hard not to sympathize with a man who has managed to turn many of the world’s governments against him simply by disseminating information.

        One of the interesting reactions to Assange that I’ve noticed among lower and middle class liberals and conservatives in the U.S. midwest is that they all seem to be generally in favor of what he has done. The big complaints seem to come from government officials of all political stripes.

        This is not so much a left/right issue as it is a top/bottom one.

    • Jason
      Posted December 7, 2010 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

      Agreed on the heroism.

  5. Ravi
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    While I admire Hitchens for the way he upholds reason and argues against faith and religion, I do not agree with his politics, especially his blind agreement with US foreign policy on its wars of aggression, which is ironic for a man who worships logic and reason.

    The Slate article shows that he has not bothered to read the actual Wikileaks documents relating to King Abdullah’s comments, but is content with accepting the reporting of the New York Times as the gospel truth.

    • Posted December 7, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      Hear, hear.

      Hitch seems to think that it’s the job of the people to make life easy for the diplomats. Nothing could be further from the truth, just as it’s not the suspect’s job to make life easy for the police.

      They have a hard job, sure, and they’re to be admired for their willingness to do it. But their job is not to make nice with the rest of the world; that’s just one of the tools that they use to do their job.

      The real job of diplomats is to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States first and foremost, and secondly to carry out the lawful orders given them by the Executive branch.

      While Wikileaks has revealed just how miserable a job the diplomatic corps has been doing at their real job, much of the brouhaha has been over how this will make it harder for them to do the irrelevant parts of their job — the parts that, coincidentally, make it easier for them to pervert their jobs into the nightmare alternate universe Wikileaks has revealed we actually find ourselves in.

      There has been damned little in the news recently to give me hope that we will stop our nearly-complete transformation into a totalitarian state. Wikileaks is the one ray of hope I find I can cling to.



      • truthspeaker
        Posted December 7, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

        Well said.

  6. MadScientist
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    The article linked to makes no sense to me. Diplomacy and surrounding secrecy is so overrated. You’d hope that humans could progress beyond an 800+ year old model of diplomacy. Yet people are so concerned about the inconvenience of some communications being exposed. Where in recent history has diplomacy made great strides in cases that mattered? Look at how many decades it took merely to establish the euro. The old style of diplomacy is largely failing the fast changing world. Global CO2 cuts? Killed by diplomacy – just as corporate interests wish. Trade agreements? Saddled with diplomatic nuances. Peace talks? Hah – now there’s an oxymoron.

    I still can’t see why Hitch brands Assange as a megalomaniac – he doesn’t even have a Persian kitteh, so how is he meant to take over the world and what is his agenda?

    • Hamilton Jacobi
      Posted December 7, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      I still can’t see why Hitch brands Assange as a megalomaniac – he doesn’t even have a Persian kitteh

      OK, I’ll admit that made me laugh out loud. Several times.

  7. Helen Wise
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Much as I respect and admire Hitchens, there have been numerous instances when he is bad wrong. His support of the US invasion of Iraq is one example; this article about Julian Assange is another. Meh. Nobody’s perfect.

    • Posted December 7, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      There have been remarkably few conservative thinkers throughout history whom I respect. Hitchens is the only one left alive; Buckley and Goldwater were others. I certainly don’t agree with them, but they were intelligent, honest, and well-considered.

      I also find it fascinating that the same thought processes that lead people to atheism also generally lead them to liberalism. Hitchens seems to be quite rare in being an outspoken conservative atheist.



      • J.J.E.
        Posted December 7, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        I’m not sure Hitchens is so easily classified as “conservative”. Surely he has argued for causes championed by self-styled conservatives. But it isn’t clear to me that invading Iraq was a particularly “conservative” thing to do in any sense. Nor was it particularly liberal. It strikes me more as paternalistic and/or imperialistic. I think those motivations are orthogonal to conservative.

        • Helen Wise
          Posted December 7, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

          I think your turn of phrase “orthogonal to conservative” is absolutely delicious, but I do want to point out that invading Iraq was much supported by conservatives on the right–much, much less so by progressives on the left–which is not to say that there weren’t fools on both sides.

        • Posted December 7, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

          “Conservative” and “liberal” are quite poor descriptors, but their meanings are commonly understood. For example, Ronald Reagan was the archetypal American conservative, yet his fiscal policies hardly did anything to conserve finances. Similarly, James Watt was the archetypal conservative on environmental matters, yet he was vehemently against conserving natural resources.

          The proper label for Hitchens’s political perspective in America is “conservatism,” regardless of how well the common meaning of the term fits his views.



          • Andrew
            Posted December 8, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

            I disagree that those terms are commonly understood. Whenever they are used they lead to people asking what they mean, just as people are doing here. I think the best approach is to avoid using them and attempt to describe political leanings with more than just one lazy catch-all word.
            Also, political conservatism has nothing to do with conserving objects like finances or natural resources. Conservatism is a philosophy which seeks to maintain (or change only very slowly) the status quo.

  8. Stephen Turner
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    However bad we may see the U.S. government as being in some of its actions in recent years, unfortunately its enemies and competitors are mostly much worse, and I think this helps those rivals.

    That’s why it’s a shame that Wikileaks hadn’t exposed (say) the Chinese government’s cables instead.

  9. Dan L.
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    The man is plainly a micro-megalomaniac with few if any scruples and an undisguised agenda.

    The above quote is from the article, but I feel like you don’t have to squint too hard to apply it to Hitchens. As much as I love Hitchens’ writing, he is certainly a megalomaniac, he certainly has an undisguised agenda, and as far as that agenda is concerned, he doesn’t seem to me to have too many scruples.

    From Hitch’s perspectives, the hundreds of thousands of Afghani and Iraqi civilian deaths, the thousands of deaths of American soldiers, the millions of refugees from this area, the corruption and incompetence of the US puppet governments there — these are all just bits of broken eggshell, the inevitable result of the Democracy omelet he’s been advocating for the last 9 years (remember, it was all worth it to get rid of Saddam). If that doesn’t speak to him being something of a megalomaniac whose scruples are subordinated to a personal cause, I don’t know what does.

    This is not to say Hitchens is wrong about Assange. Just to point out that he may not be the fairest judge of political ethics out there. I don’t see how fighting secrecy whatever the consequences is all that different morally from fighting tyranny whatever the consequences.

  10. Adey
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    News from the UK
    Assange arrested,faces court and remanded in custody over extradition warrent pending appeal.

  11. Marella
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I have no doubt that Julian Assange is not the sort of person you’d want your daughter to marry. That doesn’t make what he’s doing illegal or immoral and the obviously trumped-up charges against him prove that. It wouldn’t be necessary to acuse him of rape, a charge which even the Swedes admit has no real legs, if they could charge him espionage or treason as they would like.

    Christopher Hitchens is and has always been a member of the ruling classes. As he has got older he has identified more and more with the class he was born into. The thing the ruling classes most fear is the hoi polloi rising up against them and one of their weapons against us is secrecy, information is power and they want us to have as little of it as possible. Hitch’s siding with ruling elites is not really all that surprising, he is one.

    Now that Assange has been arrested, if he is not released within a few days he has said that he will publish the encryption key to hundreds of thousand more documents which he previously deemed too dangerous to publish. These documents have been downloaded in encrypted form by servers all over the world (my 18 year old son has access to one set!) as a form of insurance for Assange.

    I predict he will be set free very shortly. He is Australian and has a very high level of support down here.

    • McWaffle
      Posted December 7, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think the dead-hand will trigger until he’s actually convicted in Sweden. My bet is that he’s going to legally milk the system for as long as humanly possible and obey every letter of the procedural law until then. I think the “insurance” is more intended against 1.) your obvious thuggery (assassination, kidnapping, etc…) and 2.) your subtler thuggery (ginned up espionage charges and extradition to the US).

    • truthspeaker
      Posted December 7, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

      He may have support from Australian citizens, but not from the Australian government.

  12. Posted December 7, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    “Turn yourself in, Julian Assange”? Er… That’s exactly what he did today. He went to a scheduled meeting with the police in Britain and was promptly arrested. And refused bail.

    I know Hitchens’ piece is dated from yesterday, but quoting it today seems a bit pointless. (Not to mention that Christopher Hitchens calling someone a “megalomaniac” and “politically motivated” is, well, a bit rich…)

  13. MosesZD
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    I like a lot of Hitchens, but his foreign policy politics is, frankly, a throw-back to the hey-day of the romanticized views of the old British Empire. So, eloquently argued or not… It’s very British Rajah.

    If would have had Wikileaks, perhaps the Baath party wouldn’t have been raised to power with the help of the United States. Perhaps their democracy would still be standing and we wouldn’t have destroyed a country and bankrupted our future while dishonoring our country further.

    And I could go on… Vietnam. Iran. Nicaragua.

  14. Gayle Stone
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Before I commented on this I had to go to R. Dawkins site and see his full comment: here! here! Richard! Then I wanted to revisit Obama’s comments on the site re: Religion. Intelligent! I rememberd Richard’s statement that he refused to debate with Creationists and seeing him on the O’reilly program reveals why. He did not go there to debate or as Richard says, convert anyone, just to discuss. At the end Richard remained silent and let O’Reilly stew in his own juice, repeating, repeating as is done with the Koran, I stick with Catholicism, I remain with C., no matter what you say I BELIEVE in C. Richard did not comment further but O’reilly kept drumming, I stick with C. “O’Reilly” probably would refuse to read Robertson’s “The Case of the Pope” because he has been coditioned to NOT READ the BIBLE.
    Hithchen’s “The Portable Atheist” is my first source of reference on any religios question because a persona that put it “all” in print can see the big picture and even in his present condition its up there in that 4.5 billion year old evolved brain of his which he uses to the utmost!

  15. Don
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    I like Hitchens, but I think he went too far. I found this post a more compelling assessment.


  16. Brian
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    I prefer Johan Hari’s take on this over Hitchen’s. Still love Hitch though.

  17. joe
    Posted December 7, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    mr hitchens does not acquit himself well in that piece; the poor man lost his marbles on 9/11, though, and is not to be taken seriously with regard to political matters.

  18. bsk
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Sad that this article stands against all the passionate defenses of free speech that I’ve read and watched from Hitchens over the years.

    This is one of the few areas where I disagree with him strongly. Assange is obviously human (with all the weaknesses that that entails), but aside from the possible rapes (though what I’ve read so far suggests this is a trumped-up charge), he is a hero for enabling these documents to be released. Heroes do not have to be perfect in every sense.

    I still consider Hitchens to be a hero, of course.

  19. Posted December 8, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Those people here – normally my kind of people – who regard Julian Assange as a hero, are you sure you really mean it? Have you really thought it through? Do you seriously think governments could function if they can’t exchange private messages with their ambassadors etc, without the rest of us reading them? Do you really think all of us have the right to read private emails, messages, confidential documents? Presumably you don’t think you have the right to read private letters between, say, me and my wife? Why shouldn’t the same apply to a government and its embassies throughout the world? Don’t you think you are carrying anti-establishment anarchy to ludicrous lengths?

    • Posted December 8, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      I’m not sure comparing government cables to your private letters to your wife is a good analogy, Richard: Invading the privacy of private citizens and asking the government to be accountable to the public are different things.

      While I’m sympathetic to the idea that some government business will have to go on behind closed doors, I think this wikileaks ordeal should remind those in power that they aren’t safe from public scrutiny. The public employs the government, and I think it’s reasonable for an employer to inquire into the activities of its employees.

    • Helen Wise
      Posted December 8, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      One must make a distinction between private correspondence and correspondence conducted privately by public officials.

      You, your wife, and anyone communicating with you or your wife have every right to expect (and demand) that your correspondence is private, although, of course, that is not an unlimited right, as you would discover if you were charged with a crime.

      But public officials who are acting on behalf of their employers (that would be citizen taxpayers) should, like employees everywhere, expect that communications involving their employment are subject to publication on the front page of the New York Times.

      • Posted December 8, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

        OK, I accept that private letters between a husband and wife are not a good parallel. So let’s try another one. Should Anglo-American military plans in the second world war have been published, in the interests of freedom of speech, in a place where Hitler’s generals could read them? I don’t think you who support Wikileaks really think so. In which case the onus is on you to clarify the distinction. Maybe you can do so. I really think you should.

        • bsk
          Posted December 8, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

          Richard, I think this is the only thing I’ve ever disagreed with you on. I wonder if it’s an internet generation thing.

          At any rate, I think the context is very different here. We are not fighting a war against a clear aggressor. The Wikileaks releases suggest that in many cases coalition forces have acted in ways we would associate with the aggressor in a conventional war. This is much closer to Vietnam. Would you deny that the leaks in that conflict had a positive effect (ie, ending the war)?

          I have two reservations about Wikileaks. One, that truly sensitive information (ie, the names/details of people genuinely at risk of reprisal) will not be properly redacted. Two, that Wikileaks is focusing too much on the United States.

          The latter is partly explained by the fact that, at least according to Assange, they get more material from US sources and would very much like, say, Taliban or Chinese dissidents to send them documents. The former reservation is more difficult to deal with, however. I think on balance the leaks are doing good, and I have not yet seen a clear case of harm caused that would not otherwise have been.

          Tentatively, then, I call Assange a hero, and stand ready to revise my opinion should clearer examples to the contrary come to light.

        • Helen Wise
          Posted December 8, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

          Military plans are an order of magnitude different from embarrassing diplomatic cables. As far as I know, no organization that was a depository of Wikileaks has published classified information or claimed to be in possession of classified documents.

          I think you’re neglecting to make the proper distinction between information that is “classified” and is therefore illegal to disclose, and information that is “sensitive” or “confidential”.

          These are government officials who don’t mind the ugliness of doing politics, but they don’t want anyone watching while they’re going about it. Wikileaks makes the argument that what these officials are doing in our name is our business.

          • Posted December 8, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

            Hm, well, how about this?

            • Helen Wise
              Posted December 8, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

              It’s a decent example, and I admit to feeling anxious about those disclosures. But why get after Assange for publishing information that was already fairly simple to acquire on the internet?

            • Notagod
              Posted December 9, 2010 at 9:06 am | Permalink

              – Security by obscurity is itself a security problem.

              – I don’t want to be governed by nor represented by a pool of corruption.

              – If there wasn’t unrestrained corruption at the “top” of our societies wikileaks would have no function.

              – If we are going to have better more equitable societies there is probably going to be some pain involved during the cleaning process.

              – I think the upper classes in most of our societies are doing a grave disservice to the rest of humanity and to the planet in general. The poor and powerless aren’t the ones that are driving the mess, but are the ones that generally die for the wealthy (in more ways than one.)

              – The wealthy can take the jobs that they “provide” and shove them where the sun doesn’t shine.

              – In practice the diplomats work to enhance the position and power of the wealthy in the countries that they represent, any benefit obtained by the poor is a residual effect.

              – Exposing and reducing corruption is a worthy pursuit.

              – Our societies shouldn’t honor those that are driven by the accumulation of wealth.

              – Wikileaks may not be the optimal way to go about it but when it is all we have, I have to say yes to wikileaks.

            • Peter Beattie
              Posted December 9, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

              Seriously? This is the best example you could find of potential harm the leaked cables might do? A cable containing a list of sites with no specific locations mentioned? Something like “Taiwan: C2C Cable Network undersea cable landing” and “Germany BASF Ludwigshafen: World’s largest integrated chemical complex”?

              How is this going to seriously endanger anything or anyone? Do we think The Terrorists are lacking ideas as to what to blow up next? Do we think they cannot find out most of this stuff on the Interwebs? Do we think that a list of literally hundreds of sites would even begin to help make a decision on what to bomb?

              Another clue that this is completely ridiculous is that the usual suspects, from Malcolm Rifkind to PJ Crowley and Hillary Clinton, are howling with fake outrage at the disclosure, warning of horrible things to happen—without ever providing any details whatsoever about what those horrible things might actually be. The exact same thing happened with the Afghanistan logs—not even the Pentagon has to date found a single person who has even been harmed, and don’t think they weren’t looking really hard for a chance to prove the “blood on their hands” talking points.

              This is nothing but fear-mongering propaganda.

        • Alex Burton
          Posted December 9, 2010 at 8:11 am | Permalink

          While I can’t locate it at the moment, he answers a very similar question in an interview on youtube.

          He says something like:
          that was a very complex period of history, and that the only way to prevent harm may be to publish after the event.

          I have spent a great deal of time reading and listening to his interviews and have to conclude that he is worthy of a great deal of respect. I think if anyone could it is he ho should be called the leader of the free world.
          Thats a big call, I hope is not a rapist or megalomaniac.

          BTW – Love your work Richard.

        • Posted December 9, 2010 at 11:43 am | Permalink

          After some reading, talking, and reflection, I think I’m going to have to adjust my position on Julian Assange and wikileaks. The two best arguments against my position that I have encountered have been as follows:

          1)some of the disclosed documents put people’s lives in danger.

          2)a totally open society would lead to total government dysfunction.

          The only argument that I can concoct to support putting lives at risk in order to force the world into an open society is an ugly, utilitarian one. I’m not an ‘ends justify the means’ kind of person, so I can’t put forward that argument in good faith.

          I can’t answer the government dysfunction challenge either. Imagine trying to broker a deal with someone as macho and paranoid as Vladmir Putin: Obviously, He’s not going to give any ground publicly, and with the threat that his private communications with various diplomats and middle-men may come sensationally to light via wikileaks or some such organization, it becomes more doubtful that he’ll give any ground behind closed doors either (after all, in an open society there are no closed doors).

          So, I have to cede those points.

          • Posted December 9, 2010 at 11:50 am | Permalink

            As an aside, I’m glad that I had the opportunity to argue with Richard Dawkins, even though I ultimately lost the argument. It was fun.

      • Andrew
        Posted December 8, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think your employment analogy works. The relationship between civil servants and citizens is not one that involves employment. Accountability through the democratic electoral process is a different matter.
        I agree with Richard Dawkins on this one. It is completely legitimate for states to wish to have secrets about diplomacy and international relations. While Assange may not have broken any laws, I think he has behaved unethically. If he were releasing evidence of corruption then I could condone what he is doing, but from what I can tell these latest cables don’t do that.

        • Helen Wise
          Posted December 8, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

          I don’t understand what you mean when you say that the “relationship between civil servants and citizens is not one that involves employment”.

          I, personally, am employed as a civil servant, and you can’t swing a dead cat in my office without being reminded twice a day that the taxpayers are paying your salary.

          Nor can you write a single word of email without the explicit reminder that your emails can be seized by the city at any time, for any reason, with no warning.

          • Andrew
            Posted December 8, 2010 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

            I work in a law-firm and my clients pay money that becomes my salary, but that doesn’t mean my clients are my employers, and it doesn’t mean that my clients are entitled to the inside knowledge of my law firm.

            • Notagod
              Posted December 9, 2010 at 7:45 am | Permalink

              Maybe it would be better if they were your employers (or at least that you thought of them that way) and were entitled to inside knowledge of your law firm.

    • Peter Beattie
      Posted December 8, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      Well, Richard, do you think that governments could not function if they ran the risk of having lies, double-dealing, criminal activity, and corruption exposed well after the fact?

      As a matter of fact, yes, we have thought it through, thanks for asking, and so has, for example, Daniel Ellsberg—whom I suppose you wouldn’t so rashly accuse of not having thought this stuff through. He has been thinking about these issues for well over 40 years, is an actual and undisputed expert in the field, and he has said Manning and Assange were heroes.

      Anyway, your question is terribly leading, and it assumes a couple of things that are simply not true:

      1. WikiLeaks did not just indiscriminately dump 250,000 diplomatic cables on the Internet. They only published cables that their media partners (NYT, Guardian, El País etc.) had selected and redacted.

      2. This is not about the innocuous goings-on at embassies, it is about abuses that the public has a right to know about. Read Glenn Greenwald to find out about major news that the disclosed cables contained.

      3. These communications are of course not private in the sense of the “private emails” you refer to. On the contrary, they are official. And also of course the public has a right to know what the officials who work for and represent them are doing.

      4. You are implying that “anti-establishment anarchy” is (at least potentially) a much bigger problem than an anti-democratic secrecy regime. Who is advocating “anarchy”? And what kind, exactly? The vernacular kind, synonymous with ‘chaos’—or the refined and enlightened kind that, say, Noam Chomsky would advocate?

      Have you really thought this through?

      • Andrew
        Posted December 8, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

        Take it easy, Peter Beattie! I think some chilling out on your part is necessary. Your defensive tone is hardly conducive to promoting discussion about the issue.
        (By the way, are you the same Peter Beattie that used to be the Premier of Queensland?)

        • Peter Beattie
          Posted December 8, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

          Andrew, did you notice that I took pains to replicate Richard’s tone? Why is it that I need to chill out?

          And it is certainly not defensive or inconducive to discussion: on the contrary, I explicitly point out some of the things that are actually needed to have a meaningful discussion in the first place.

          And no, I didn’t used to be Premier of Queensland, I only lived there for a short while. 🙂

    • Peter Beattie
      Posted December 22, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      Seriously, Richard: innuendo couched in rhetorical questions certainly got you off to a bad start, but to not even offer a reply when somebody then shows that there was no basis even for that? That’s just disappointing.

  20. Vanilla
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    These particular Wikileaks seem to disclose information that does not undermine strategic intervention in the same way as, say posting the D-Day landing protocols would.

    I think I am generally inclined to see what Assange has done as positive in the sense that he has highlighted hypocrisies (the cover up of the deaths of 15,000 civilians)etc. But it could follow through to him cutting his nose off to spite his face. Yes you make all of this information public in and about a country that advocates freedom of speech but do you do so to such an extent that the safety of that country is undermined? That seems slightly too idealistic. Do we all go up in smoke defending our beliefs as much as the religious extremists?

    I think Assange (so far) has done the right thing but I also think the governments of the world are reacting as they should.

  21. Peter Beattie
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    And on Chris Hitchens: Yes, he is amazing. But this piece in Slate on Assange is extremely poor journalism, reiterates factless smears on Assange, and even ludicrously praises the New York Times’s hit piece as “everything you need to know about Assange”. (More on the NYT journo Burns’s profile on Assange here.)

    To get that from Hitchens is, I’m sorry to say, anything but amazing.

    • Richard Benton
      Posted December 9, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      well said.and really sad for atheisms united front against falsehood

  22. Richard Benton
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Permalink


    • Helen Wise
      Posted December 8, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      Ok, no need to shout.

      • Richard Benton
        Posted December 8, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

        Lighten up.I just forgot take off my caps lock.I wasnt shouting

  23. Richard Benton
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    By the way,Richard I am a ataunch atheist,reformed religious nut.I read all your books.But I really believe your ultra-darwinian position is too closeminded on possible other ways evolution happened.There is something to group selection in the sense the members os species assist each other-social insects,wolf pods,etc.I think competition,and cooperation are both extant.I have bees subjected my entire adult career as a production carpenter to intense selective pressure.Believe me,social darwinism is alive and well.

    • Notagod
      Posted December 9, 2010 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      Social darwinism isn’t something that biologists generally advocate and I think most are against its practice. Your work environment, which is constructed by humans, isn’t a factor of consideration when trying to understand how differences in species occurred.

      You would need to turn your attention to your employer or the society in which you live in order to change your work environment.

      • Richard Benton
        Posted December 9, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        There is no field in the world that is outside the context of nature.What I am dealing with in the workplace is not some experiment outside of nature.Wendell Berry has pointed this out many times.I did not say anybody is advocating it.I said it is being practiced everyday,all the time in the American workplace at this time.In fact,it is rampant unacknowledged abuse,and history will not be kind to it.Dawkins himself has explicitely stated he wouldnt want to live in a society ruled by darwinian principles.Well,he is we are,in every way.What is to be done about it.Also,based on some conversations I have heard amongst working class people,they completely misunderstand how selection works.Their misperception is translated into submission to the status quo,which delibarately uses this misperception to keep us all as wage slaves.As I said-social darwinism is alive and well,and ive got the scars to prove it

  24. Richard Benton
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Oh,one last thing.God is not great,and Why Orwell Matters-should be required reading for high school students

  25. FreedToChoose
    Posted December 10, 2010 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    “I must say that if I had a mortal illness, I wouldn’t have the intestinal fortitude—much less the mental concentration—to engage in public debates on matters of faith and reason.”

    As a cancer survivor, I disagree, not with your premise, but through personal experience. When the big C is diagnosed those I know continue as before making room for treatment, but pressing on with what’s important to them and Hitchens has important work to do. I do hope you never face this situation, but if you do, be not surprised if you find yourself more focused than before. In my case, my biweekly chemo knocked me out for several days, but I was back at work every other week for the six months it took.

    My friends shook their heads and marveled at my resolve. I, on the other hand, could see no other course. It wasn’t courage. I have no idea what it was, but it was real.

    Still, Hitchens has my best wishes for a good outcome.

  26. Xavier
    Posted January 19, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Hello everyone,

    Being a huge fan of Richard Dawkins’ work and interested in the debate about Wikileaks, I was surprised to discover his view on it (this would be the first time I disagree with him on something…). I communicated my surprise to my brother, who just answered “come on, it’s just a blog where everyone can post under any name, these are certainly not Richard Dawkins’ comments…”.
    Then, is there any way to know if this is indeed the “real” Richard Dawkins writing here?
    (My take is that it could be Richard, since he cited Jerry Coyne several times in his books, but I’d just like to be able to offer a solid argument to my brother…)


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