More tributes to Grania

Atheist Ireland (AI) posted a lovely tribute to Grania on its site yesterday. It was written by its President, Michael Nugent—who knew Grania well—and tells about her activities for AI (she was one of its founders as well as its first secretary), her penchant for gaming, and other things I did not put in my memoriam yesterday.

The tribute was reprinted on Michael’s webpage, too, and you can see either or both versions by clicking on the screenshots below.

From AI:

And on Michael’s site:

As I had hoped, the many comments on my post about Grania’s death—there are now 319, a very large number—acquainted her sisters, with whom she hadn’t spoken in several years—with the many people who considered Grania a friend, as well as with some facts about her life and work. Her sister Gisela posted this as a publicly-viewable announcement on Facebook.

Finally, Richard Dawkins tweeted the sad news:


  1. BobTerrace
    Posted June 18, 2019 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Subscribe 😦

    • GBJames
      Posted June 18, 2019 at 10:43 am | Permalink


  2. Posted June 18, 2019 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    tears again.

    and sub

    • Posted June 18, 2019 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      Ditto. Such a terrible loss for you, Jerry, and her other closest friends, her family and all of us. I am so glad she was here to share her wit, love and light with as as long as she could.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 18, 2019 at 11:26 am | Permalink


    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted June 18, 2019 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Maybe one ‘positive’ straw: she did not go after a long suffering.

    • Mark R.
      Posted June 18, 2019 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      Mixing tears and coffee…second morning in a row. Lovely tribute though.

  3. Posted June 18, 2019 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Virtual hugs… She would have loved this –
    How canines capture your heart: scientists explain puppy dog eyes

  4. Posted June 18, 2019 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    A note of distraction. Michael Nugent describes The Ancestor’s Tale as a more “popular book” as compared to The Selfish Gene, suggesting it was easier or lighter reading. I found The Ancestor’s Tale perhaps the most difficult of Dawkins’ books to read. Was it just me?

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted June 18, 2019 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      I found ‘the extended phenotype’ his most difficult book. ‘The ancestors tale’ I found quite accessible.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted June 18, 2019 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

        I’d probably go with that – though I was a lot younger when I read “Gene” and “Phenotype” than when I read “Ancestor”.
        Actually Dad got me “Ancestor”, having first checked that I hadn’t brought it already. We got those wires crossed over “The Silmarillion”.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted June 18, 2019 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      I think you’re probably right – Nugent is equating “popular” with easier, and indeed I found Ancestor’s to be much easier since I knew the outline of the territory before it was published nearly 30 years after The Selfish Gene

      I encountered The Selfish Gene [or The Immortal Gene as recognised as a truer title by RD years later] in my earlier guise of callow youth & it was conceptually, attractively challenging back in 1976. It took me three reads or so to accept & internalise that the unit/vehicle of evolution is NOT the individual. Not many people could have written that book & even fewer with the clarity of Dawkins. A very special book that almost causes a brain rewiring.

      The Ancestor’s Tail was a disappointment by comparison – I couldn’t get into the reverse chronology contrivance & my mind wasn’t in the least bit blown by it. I ended up speed reading it & I have no desire to reread it.

      RD’s mistake was writing his best book first 🙂

      • merilee
        Posted June 18, 2019 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

        I really liked Climbing Mount Improbable.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted June 18, 2019 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

          Yes I agree, Climbing Mount Improbable is amazing – RD on the co-evolution of various wasp & various fig species is top drawer Dawkins, [a far superior writer to overhyped Gould & Sagan BTW] both in terms of prose & explanatory power. In my edition there’s this huge, long footnote on it which still fries my brain & I’ve read it many times.

          Dawkin’s footnotes are gold – best to have a large format book as the Penguin paperback should be sold with a magnifying glass!

          • merilee
            Posted June 18, 2019 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

            I read it quite a while ago – I think the hardcover. I was thoroughly dazzled.

      • rickflick
        Posted June 18, 2019 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

        I agree. Ancestor’s Tail was a bit off-putting for me as well. I thought the reverse chronology was gimmicky, but I thought it might attract and/or entertain others. I liked The Selfish Gene and Extended Phenotype. None of it seemed radically new and different, just an excellent presentation and elucidation of the implications of natural selection. But, I think Dawkins could write an instruction manual for IKEA and make it sound beautiful.

        • merilee
          Posted June 18, 2019 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

          Um, isn’t it Tale, not Tail🤓

          • Posted June 18, 2019 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

            😀 well, our ancestors did have tails.

            • merilee
              Posted June 18, 2019 at 10:56 pm | Permalink


    • Steve Gerrard
      Posted June 18, 2019 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      I enjoyed The Ancestor’s Tale, perhaps for the same reasons that others didn’t like it. It is not presenting new insights into the mechanism of evolution, it is just a romp through zoology, a subject I don’t know very well. You can pick it up and jump to the chapter on Xenarthrans, without missing a beat. A discussion of the star-nosed mole and the duckbilled platypus is just fund to read.

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 18, 2019 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Nice that so many loved her. Sad that she probably didn’t know how much.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 18, 2019 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      A good reminder to make sure you let the ones you care for know on a regular basis.

  6. davidintoronto
    Posted June 18, 2019 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    A Twitter user remarked that Prof. Dawkins link to WEIT would not load. But – quelle surprise – the fellow lives in Pakistan.

  7. uommibatto
    Posted June 18, 2019 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    I thought Jerry’s tribute the other day was very touching, and the tributes moving. A good reminder that what we do, and how we conduct our lives can touch so many others…

  8. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 18, 2019 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the additional information on Grania and about her life.

  9. Nell Whiteside
    Posted June 18, 2019 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Gosh, the news about Grania is so sad. My thoughts are with you, her family and friends.

  10. rickflick
    Posted June 18, 2019 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Hell, I’ll raise another glass…to Grania.

    • Mark R.
      Posted June 18, 2019 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      Me too! Does anyone know if she drank, and if so, her favorite libation? If not Guiness, its probably not available to me, but I would like to raise a glass filled with her favorite beverage.

      • Posted June 18, 2019 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        Yes, she drank, but she didn’t like Guinness. Since she was wary of carbs, I used to watch her drink Bud Light (ecch!) and sometimes vodka with cranberry juice.

        • rickflick
          Posted June 18, 2019 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

          I’ll pass on the Bud Light, but the vodka with cranberry sounds interesting.

        • Mark R.
          Posted June 19, 2019 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

          Sorry it took so long to say thanks for the info. I’ll pass on the Bud Light as well, but I enjoy a good Cape Cod as long as the cranberry juice is on the sour side. A nice squirt of lime helps.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted June 18, 2019 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

        Grania’s GRAVATAR says this:

        Passionate about gaming, science, good coffee, dogs and critical thinking; although not always in that order. Have a book addiction that has swamped my apartment.

        So how about a real rich, dark roast coffee? Which you can improve with a generous dash of Irish whiskey of course 🙂

        [I’m not advocating an Irish coffee – I think the cream & sugar are superfluous or even a negative. Coffee + whiskey is perfect!]

        • darrelle
          Posted June 18, 2019 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

          An excellent suggestion.

        • Posted June 18, 2019 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

          Is a whipped cream topping, no sugar, allowed on the whiskeyfied coffee?

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted June 18, 2019 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

            There are other ways of knowing 🙂

            When I worked in a bar at Butlin’s Holiday Camp in ’71 as a 17 yr old I was told the cream wouldn’t float without sugar in the coffee-whiskey/whisky mix & also you HAD to pour the cream over the back of a cold spoon so the cream slipped gently onto the surface without sinking. I heard the same tale in a few bar-work jobs in the ’70s & I was too trusting of experts back then to test this immutable Law.

            I think this sugar & spoon myth got a grip because a lot of ’70s British ‘hospitality’ was absolutely dire – cheap, bitter, pre-ground coffee out of a can & put through one of those paper filters with boiling water? Demerara sugar hides the crap coffee & thin cream [often UHT] that lasts forever or even Carnation out of a can was used & there’s not much fat in those.

            Use a warmed glass, a rich cafetière coffee & a heavy, real, unprocessed cream & it floats fine – the fat & bubbles I suppose. Very cold cream too thick to pour is best & just put it on top with a spoon like you would an ice cream.

            No spray cream from cans, an abomination, or you’ll not go to Heaven!

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted June 18, 2019 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

              PS – I believe the original south of Ireland recipe had sugar, perhaps a taste thing given how nearly everyone had tons of sugar in their mugs of tea back then. Guessing.

            • Posted June 18, 2019 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

              Gonna try what you described with Devonshire cream!

        • Mark R.
          Posted June 19, 2019 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, I like the sound of that- better than a Cape Cod.

  11. Tom Czarny
    Posted June 18, 2019 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Jerry mentioned yesterday in his lovely tribute that Grania led a lonely life in Cork, and today he said that she had not been in touch with her sisters for several years. This hurts my heart deeply. I hope she had some knowledge of the regard with which she was held on WEIT.

    • rickflick
      Posted June 18, 2019 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      It seems to me more often than you’d think, family relationships fail. I can think of many examples of disowning, failing to communicate, and angry emotional feuds that go on for years, among family members. Unfortunate but common. So, it doesn’t surprise me that Grania, or anyone we get to know and respect, have difficulty that way. But, as we know, she had other attachments and a great many admirers. Yes, I’m sure she had knowledge of the love for her that’s out here in the rest of the world.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 19, 2019 at 6:28 am | Permalink

        I wouldn’t read the circumstances into implying any discord between Grania and her sisters. Gisela’s FB post doesn’t imply that.

        Often family members living in different locations with different interests don’t find occasion to talk to each other regularly.


        • rickflick
          Posted June 19, 2019 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

          Your right. Not necessarily any discord – perhaps just a lapse. Discord is just what jumped to mind. We don’t know in this situation.

  12. BJ
    Posted June 18, 2019 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    I had no idea Grania was a founder of AI. She was even cooler and more accomplished than I knew.

  13. zackoz
    Posted June 18, 2019 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Commiserations to Jerry for the loss of such a valued friend, and such an obviously admirable person. At such an early age too. And condolences to her family of course.

  14. Dominic
    Posted June 19, 2019 at 3:08 am | Permalink

    Still finding it hard to get my head around this…

    • Liz
      Posted June 19, 2019 at 9:13 am | Permalink


  15. Roo
    Posted June 19, 2019 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Beautiful tribute.

  16. Posted June 19, 2019 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Many thanks for all tribute details. She made a mark on many people’s lives, including mine.

    Not that it’s a Turing substitute, but thousands of her thoughts can be found within the WEIT chronicles. Brings another tear, but a slightly happier one.

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