GOOD

The Science Behind Richard Dawkins’ Problem with Ahmed Mohamed

Why one of the world’s most celebrated scientists decided to attack a 14-year-old boy.

Richard Dawkins. Image via Wikimedia

Sometime this weekend, Richard Dawkins, one of the world’s most celebrated and renowned biologists, decided to get on Twitter and start a beef with Ahmed Mohamed, a boy who loves clocks. Dawkins (tweets below) accused the 14-year-old of committing an insidious act of clock “fraud” for various pernicious motives, among them “possibly want[ing] to be arrested?” and an invitation to the White House. It was a sad and embarrassing moment for many in the scientific community, who saw Dawkins’ comments not only as impulsively patronizing, but completely irrelevant to the situation at hand.


Dawkins’ implosion may seem like an aberration, but the scientist is no stranger to Twitter controversy, and his thinking is grounded in (some limited, misguided interpretation of) empirical scientific reasoning. True, as some scientists and reporters have been careful to point out, Dawkins’ central claim—that Ahmed may have simply dismantled an alarm clock, rebuilt it, and called it an invention—isn’t entirely without basis. But his commitment to a very narrow definition of reason obscures the larger realities of the situation: one boy’s religion, and one school’s state-sanctioned Islamophobia, materialized with child-sized handcuffs. The relentless skepticism Dawkins’ so eagerly uses against Creationists (many of whom pose real harm to our evolving world) he used against a 14-year-old boy, who, Dawkins believes, could pose a real danger to … the clock community?

But Dawkins isn’t just relying on “simple logic.” His cynicism about the invention (or not-invention. Who cares?), and his belief that a 14-year-old could mastermind his way to a White House tweet, is founded both in cold reason and the emotional hyperbole he so vehemently accuses his critics of. Why Dawkins chose to start a Twitter war—either to cloak his Islamophobia, as some have suggested, or to teach a kid a lesson, as he himself probably thinks—is up for real, scientific debate and questioning. But the best way to test those hypotheses is not to denounce them as problems but explore them as conclusions, using the scientific method Dawkins spent his career defending.

Articles

A two-minute television ad from New Zealand is a gut punch to dog lovers who smoke cigarettes. "Quit for Your Pets" focuses on how second-hand smoke doesn't just affect other humans, but our pets as well.

According to Quitline New Zealand, "when you smoke around your pets, they're twice as likely to get cancer."

Keep Reading
Health
via Bossip / Twitter

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders took aim at former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg onstage at Wednesday's Las Vegas Democratic debate, likening the billionaire businessman to President Donald Trump and questioning his ability to turn out voters.

Sanders began by calling out Bloomberg for his stewardship of New York's stop and frisk policy that targeted young black men.

Keep Reading
Politics
via United for Respect / Twitter

Walmart workers issued a "wake up call" to Alice Walton, an heir to the retailer's $500 billion fortune, in New York on Tuesday by marching to Walton's penthouse and demanding her company pay its 1.5 million workers a living wage and give them reliable, stable work schedules.

The protest was partially a response to the company's so-called "Great Workplace" restructuring initiative which Walmart began testing last year and plans to roll out in at least 1,100 of its 5,300 U.S. stores by the end of 2020.

Keep Reading
Communities