Written by Iona Italia
Yesterday I learned that Richard Dawkins was de-platformed from a speaking event at liberal radio station KPFA in the town of Berkeley, where he was scheduled to talk about his new book, Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Atheist. The organizer canceled his talk because of his “comments on Islam” which they categorized as “abusive speech.”
Dawkins has always been a man without a filter, who says exactly what he thinks, without worrying whether it might offend. This means that, in his public statements on politics, he occasionally sounds goofy or politically incorrect or voices a sentiment without considering how it will be interpreted by others. He’s no diplomat, no politician. But his frankness is one of his most important qualities, a manifestation of the passion his new book title alludes to, a passion for truth. He has real integrity: he always says what he believes to be true, unafraid of how it will be received. He sometimes admits he’s wrong and corrects himself but he never self-censors in advance. He always speaks truth to power.
Dawkins is certainly capable of expressing what we might ironically term reverence. He’s no cynic or satirist for its own sake. His book The Ancestor’s Tale is one of the most moving, most poetic works I’ve ever read. It expresses his profound awe and wonder at the natural world or what he elsewhere calls “the magic of reality” in a way that is utterly captivating. It’s a hauntingly lovely and yet scrupulously rational and scientific account of life on this planet, where, against all odds, we have the enormous privilege of living. I’ve often described it as my favorite novel — a novel which also happens to be true.
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