October 17, 2021

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Richard Dawkins Stripped Of Top Humanist Award For Using Science To ‘Demean Marginalized Groups’

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Topline

The American Humanist Association (AHA) has revoked its top “Humanist of the Year” honor from British biologist and noted atheist Richard Dawkins for the academic’s history of demeaning marginalized groups under “the guise of scientific discourse,” the group announced Monday, pointing to a recent statement that questions the validity of transgender people and suggests Black identity can be “assumed when convenient.” 

Key Facts

The AHA said its board had voted to rescind the award in light of a number of statements the biologist has made that uses the “guise of scientific discourse to demean marginalized groups.”

The organization said this is “antithetical to humanist values.”

The group did not point to specific statements Dawkins has made, though did refer to the academic’s recent call to “discuss” trans and Black identities. 

The group said Dawkins’ “subsequent attempts at clarification are inadequate and convey neither sensitivity nor sincerity.”

Dawkins received the award in 1996 in recognition of his work as a science communicator, something the group said is an “important aspect of advancing the cause of humanism.”

Key Background

Dawkins, a respected evolutionary biologist, Oxford academic and best-selling author, is no stranger to controversy, having become one of the most prominent faces of the New Atheist movement. His aggressive  and blunt rhetoric has seen him accused of hate speech and led to some instances of no-platforming. 

Surprising Fact

Dawkins coined the word “meme” in his book “The Selfish Gene.” Initially described as an idea or behavior that spreads within a culture, it has been co-opted by the internet to describe viral content.

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