Richard Dawkins is a Proven Pseudoscientist and Cult Leader

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This man is a Zoologist, whose Selfish Gene, Memetic Theory, and God As Delusion hypotheses are all debunked pseudoscience.

Richard Dawkins has managed to go through his life bamboozling scientists into thinking he’s a great philosopher, and everybody else into thinking he’s a great scientist. In reality, he is neither.

As someone who was long fooled by Dawkins–back when I was an Atheist, I really thought he was at least a reputable scientist–I am sickened when I see a man who uses his science credentials to promote pseudoscience.

To my delight however, I was handed a prime opportunity to help publicly educate people on one of the most thoroughly noxious pseudo-scientists, pseudo-historians, and pseudo-philosophers on Planet Earth when I was presented by one of his followers with this hilarious paper:

Journal of Bioeconomics (2009): An empirical investigation of organizational memetic variation. 11:135–164. DOI 10.1007/s10818-009-9061-1

“Peer reviewed papers” are so respected by Scientism fanatics they obviously don’t bother to read them. I, on the other hand, make a point of reading such papers before I trust them–after all, it’s an open secret you can’t trust the peer review system anymore.

Anyway, I read it. The paper clearly illustrates the fallacy of Memetic Theory with 30 pages or so of handwaving and smoke-blowing that attempts–and admittedly fails–to provide some sort of empirical framework for Memetics. This is fascinating on multiple levels. Read it yourself if you don’t believe me.

But first, notice the publisher: Journal of Bioeconomics. That journal is an obscure publication that “Encourages creative dialogue between biologists and economists.” Change that to “biologists and feminist academics” and tell me how it would read to you.

Second, I happen to know that the only peer reviewed journal that ever tried to make the case for Memetics as a real science, known simply as “Journal of Memetics,” ceased publication in 2005 due to lack of interest or much in the way of results. These researchers had been working on trying to make something real of Memetics since 1976–that’s right, 1976. They eventually gave up, having produced almost nothing coherent to back up the incoherent Memetic Theory.

So now fancy this: four years after the only journal to ever really take Memetics Theory seriously threw in the towel, some obscure Memetics advocates manage to get a tentative paper published in 2009. A paper where they admit clearly that Memetics is “empirically under-developed” and finally, after 30 pages of meandering handwaving, conclude with this devastating line:

Ours is a tentative first empirical move in organizational research toward the micro/macro resolution we see in biology.

That’s right kids. More than 40 years after Richard Dawkins first proposed Memetic Theory, two researchers published a “tentative first empirical move.” They don’t even claim they showed anything empirical, just that they may be close to having something that might be empirical someday. There’s been no followup that I can find.

Memetic Theory is busted. So, by the way, is Selfish Gene Theory.

If you doubt Selfish Gene is busted, you should see the way Dawkins’ fellow Atheist and far more accomplished Evolutionary Biologist, Lynn Margulis, demolished him at Oxford University just a few years ago: Margulis-Dawkins Debate, 2012.

Margulis, an Atheist, an accomplished Evolutionary Biologist, and a member of both the American AND Russian Academy of Sciences (a rare honor and distinction) showed that most life on Earth doesn’t even use nuclear DNA and freely swaps what genetic material it has with other organisms–and the human body has more such organisms in it than it has cells. This leads to the obvious question of what cells and organisms really use DNA for, and what the limits of DNA might be. While admitting to “liking” Selfish Gene as a crude way to describe large animals, Margulis utterly demolished the NeoDarwinist paradigm that ‘Selfish Gene’ is based on for an audience of some of the world’s foremost Evolutionary Biologists and other scholars.

This was a long time coming. Many biologists, especially young ones, knew it would happen because Margulis and quite a few others had been showing for decades already that NeoDarwinism (the basis of Selfish Gene) was bunk.

Even now, while there are some old grayhairs holding out for it, almost no one who studies evolution or genetics believes there’s anything to Selfish Gene or NeoDarwinism. As scientists say of incoherent gibberish, Selfish Gene is so bad it’s not even wrong. Only the dying remnants of Dawkins’ Celebrity Scientist cult still really hold out for it.

And by the way, Memetic Theory was specifically Dawkins’ effort to mesh Ideas and mental processes to Selfish Gene theory. In other words, Selfish Gene is the debunked “science” that Memetic Theory is based on.

You can’t get more pseudo-sciencey than one debunked theory on top of another debunked theory. Except maybe with “Feminist Theory” or “Social Justice Theory”.

Finally, the notion of God as a delusion, which Dawkins is fond of asserting, has no empirical basis in psychological or psychiatric research, either. God As Delusion is unscientific poppycock. See “Does Evolutionary Psychology Explain Why We Believe In God? (Part 2).” 

What does all this mean? It means all the big things Richard Dawkins is known for–Selfish Gene, Memetic Theory, and the God Delusion–are all either pseudoscience, or not science at all. But it’s worse than that: They all run up against demonstrable science that proves them wrong.

Sorry Richard Dawkins Fans, but there’s no more substance to Dawkins and his work than  the average ‘Famous Astrologer’ found at “Top Ten Astrologers.”

In reality, Mr. Dawkins just doesn’t like God as an idea, even though countless perfectly sane, non-delusional people know God is, at minimum, a perfectly rational and coherent concept based on evidence. (See http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/concepts-god Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy for a rational analysis of the idea.)

I continue to double, triple dare any member of the “Online Skeptic Community” or their followers to read The Last Superstition.  By the way, I hope any or all of them  one day have the guts to finally start talking to theists who are at least as smart as they are.

*Update*: A check on the principle author of the 2009 (Jill Shepherd · Bill McKelvey) paper that attempted–and failed–to find a scientific basis for Meme theory was an obscure researcher with mostly a business management background, with a secondary author whose background is also primarily business management.

That’s a real cutting-edge research team right there. And neither seems to have published anything since 2009 on this or other major topics besides business management. No surprise. There’s no “there” there when it comes to “Memetic Theory.”  Memetic Theory isn’t science and never has been.

*Update 2*: A former Dawkinsite, Sue Blackmore  of The Guardian attended the “Explaining religion” conference in September of 2010.  She spoke first, presenting the view from memetics that religions begin as by-products but then evolve and spread, like viruses, using humans to propagate themselves for their own benefit and to the detriment of the people they infect.  By the end, though, she acknowledged that, while religions can be ‘memeplexes’ to an outside observer, they are not viruses, “unless we twist the concept of a “virus” to include something helpful and adaptive to its host as well as something harmful, it simply does not apply.” The article is online at the following location; https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2010/sep/16/why-no-longer-believe-religion-virus-mind.

Joe Brewer, wrote a fawning adulation of Dawkins’ Memetic Theory (https://evolution-institute.org/blog/a-forty-year-update-on-meme-theory/), focusing on how societal knowledge and developments are “translated into slogans, political speeches, editorial commentaries, and dinner table debates more times than can be counted.”  He continues in this vein, stating that this body of tools and techniques can be applied to meme theory, demonstrating that “researchers across many fields have found value in the perspective that culture can be studied as information patterns that arise in a variety of social settings routinely and with modular elements that are readily discernible in each new instance. The claim that information patterns do not replicate is contradicted by the evidence for image-schematic structures (like the metaphor for taxes above with its distinctive inferential logic and recognizable use cases.”

Greg Downey of neuroanthropology.net wrote a scathing indictment of memetics at Neoruanthropology.net.  In the blog, he openly states “I think ‘memetics’ is one of the bigger crocks hatched in recent decades, hiding in the shadow of respectable evolutionary theory, suggesting that anyone who doesn’t immediately concede to the ‘awesome-ness’ of meme-ness is somehow afraid of evolutionary theory. Let me just make this perfectly clear: I teach about evolutionary theory. I like Charles Darwin. I have casts of hominid skulls in my office. I still think ‘memetics’ is nonsense on stilts on skates on thin ice on borrowed time (apologies to Bentham), as deserving of the designation ‘science’ as astrology, phrenology, or economic forecasting.”  ).

In his critique of memetics he begins with a declaration that “memetics sucks the air out of the room for a serious consideration of the ways that culture, knowledge, technology, and human evolution might be interrelated. That is, like a theory of humours and vapors in illness, it provides pseudo-explanations in place of just getting the hell out of the way of serious thought.” He continues by adding that he hates “the concept of ‘ideas replicating from brain to brain”.  He states that he works in physical education and imitative learning; shouldn’t he be happy that memetic theory places such a premium on imitative learning? He lists Ten Problems with Memetics to keep it manageable.  I have copied his problems and summarized the issues for the sake of brevity.

1) Reifying the activity of brains: ‘Culture’ is already a bit of a reification (treating a complex of heterogeneous behaviors or concepts as a ‘thing’).  Therefore, a ‘meme’ is a kind of super-reification of any human idea or concept.  When a memeticist claims that ‘ideas replicate from brain to brain,’ we consider the potential meanings of what they are saying.  To argue that ‘ideas’ are any form of self-serving agent that can replicate demands several layers of reification that are profoundly crippling to memetic theory.

2) Attributing personality to the reification of ideas: It’s one thing to reify a concept, it’s another thing to start attributing it a whole complex personality, drives, desires, and levels of different reification.  This line of theororizing rapidly tumbles down the trail of ‘ideas have us’ rather than the reverse.

3) Doesn’t ‘self-replicating’ mean replicating by one’s self?  There are problems with defining even a gene as a ‘self-replicating’ structure, like, if DNA is so self-replicating, why is it so chemically inert? (Hit to Selfish Gene theory) Self-replicating’ means, by definition, replicating by itself. Has anyone, ever, anywhere, seen an idea ‘replicate’ itSELF?

4) The term ‘meme’ applied to divergent phenomena. Calling an idea a ‘meme’ gets around the enormous problem of incommensurate phenomena in the same category. Memeticists refer to single ideas, strings of idea, melodies, and a host of other things as ‘memes.’ Even the most cursory glance reveals serious problems of scale; is a meme a single idea, a chain of ideas, a system of ideas, or an entire worldview?

5) Could memes transfer stably? Any tranfer of information is fraught with ‘transcription’ errors (try the game of telephone). Though the term ‘transcription’ risks dignifying the whole ‘meme=DNA’ metaphor which memeticists are abusing like a borrowed mule. Even teaching might demonstrate how utterly improbable it is that ANYTHING gets copied accurately

6) A host will not evolve traits in order for parasite to benefit: That is, unless a trait is beneficial in natural selection to the host, the parasite is not going to get evolution to create a better host for its own benefit. If the meme is truly a parasite, then there’s no way that the human brain is going to grow for the good of the meme.

7) Trivial examples as analogy to ideological change: A recurring problem in memetics theory is triviality being used to explain serious issues. These simplistic examples are then argued to be analogous to something like Christian conversion or the spread of capitalism, as if getting a jingle stuck in your head is like undergoing a major religio-ideological or political-economic social transformation.

8) Gradual cultural transmission not like infection: The metaphor of ‘infection’ is another one that gets used in memes, as it is clear that memes must have some sort of insidious dimenion.  They argue that ideas are infectious. Are they saying that annoying commercials or insipid songs really take over our brains and is force us to do their bidding? 

9) Objective ‘science’ inconsistent with normative judgments about memes: There’s this strong stream of judgment in most memeticists that’s inconsistent with evolutionary theory. Some argue that ‘toxic ideas’ are like the pathogens brought by explorers to the New World. They state that Western memes are wiping out indigenous ideas around the world in much the same way that European diseases obliterated native populations in the New World..

10) Resistance to memetics is not ‘anti-Darwinism; Darwinism not a religion: It’s not ‘Darwinism’ that Greg says he supports, like it’s a cult or a form of thought that he must follow religiously; adding that ‘Darwinism’ is only useful in that it is a theory that provides hypotheses to be tested, a powerful explanatory framework that explains some (though not all) phenomena

This was a long time coming. Many biologists, especially young ones, knew it would happen because Margulis and quite a few others had been showing for decades already that NeoDarwinism (the basis of Selfish Gene) was bunk.

Even now, while there are some old grayhairs holding out for it, almost no one who studies evolution or genetics believes there’s anything to Selfish Gene or NeoDarwinism. As scientists say of incoherent gibberish, Selfish Gene is so bad it’s not even wrong. Only the dying remnants of Dawkins’s Celebrity Scientist cult still really hold out for it.

And by the way, Memetic Theory was specifically Dawkins’s effort to mesh Ideas and mental processes to Selfish Gene theory. In other words, Selfish Gene is the debunked “science” that Memetic Theory is based on.

You can’t get more pseudosciencey than one debunked theory on top of another debunked theory. Except maybe with “Feminist Theory” or “Social Justice Theory.”

Finally, the notion of God as a delusion, which Dawkins is fond of asserting, has no empirical basis in psychological or psychiatric research, either. God As Delusion is unscientific poppycock. See my Proof from Evolutionary Psychology for references on that.

What does all this mean? It means all the big “scientific” things Richard Dawkins is known for–Selfish Gene, Memetic Theory, and the God Delusion–are all either pseudoscience, or not science at all. But it’s worse than that: They all run up against demonstrable science that proves them wrong.

Sorry Richard Dawkins fans, but there’s no more substance to Dawkins and his work than the average famous Astrologer.

In reality, Mr. Dawkins just doesn’t like God as an idea, even though countless perfectly sane non-delusional people know God is, at minimum, a perfectly rational and coherent concept based on evidence. (See Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy for a rational analysis of the idea.)

  • It is a myth – credulously parroted in hundreds of publications – that Richard Dawkins coined both the concept and term “selfish gene”. The fully evidenced mythbust is here: https://archive.li/CvdUy Whilst he has, to his credit, admitted that the concept of the selfish gene was William Hamilton’s, he has never – to my knowledge – not ever admitted that the all the books, journals, websites etc are wrong to claim he coined the term. Since the term is the concept, that is why so many expert scientists have been confused by this and written that Dawkins coined both the term and concept.

    Charles Darwin did the exact same thing with Patrick Matthew’s original discovery and prior publication of the full theory of macroevolution by natural selection Matthew coined the term for his theory: ‘natural process of selection’ Darwin shuffled those same four words into their only grammatically correct equivalent; “process of natural selection.” And, just as in the Dawkins case, thousands of scientists now write that Darwin discovered the theory. Read ‘Nullius in Verba: Darwin’s greatest secret’ for the full story of darwin’s newly proven plagiarism by glory stealing lies and for more on Richard Dawkins effectively insisting that the (now newly discovered in print) history of repression of Matthew’s ideas – due to their heresy and sedition – should be ignored and that Matthew never understood what he discovered or else he would surely have “trumpeted it from the rooftops”.

  • It is a myth – credulously parroted in hundreds of publications – that Richard Dawkins coined both the concept and term “selfish gene”. Whilst he has, to his credit, admitted that the concept of the selfish gene was William Hamilton’s, he has never – to my knowledge – not ever admitted that the all the books, journals, websites etc are wrong to claim he coined the term. Since the term is the concept, that is why so many expert scientists have been confused by this and written that Dawkins coined both the term and concept.

    Charles Darwin did the exact same thing with Patrick Matthew’s original discovery and prior publication of the full theory of macroevolution by natural selection Matthew coined the term for his theory: ‘natural process of selection’ Darwin shuffled those same four words into their only grammatically correct equivalent; “process of natural selection.” And, just as in the Dawkins case, thousands of scientists now write that Darwin discovered the theory. Read ‘Nullius in Verba: Darwin’s greatest secret’ for the full story of darwin’s newly proven plagiarism by glory stealing lies and for more on Richard Dawkins effectively insisting that the (now newly discovered in print) history of repression of Matthew’s ideas – due to their heresy and sedition – should be ignored and that Matthew never understood what he discovered or else he would surely have “trumpeted it from the rooftops”.

  • It is a myth – credulously parroted in hundreds of publications – that Richard Dawkins coined both the concept and term “selfish gene”. Whilst he has, to his credit, admitted that the concept of the selfish gene was William Hamilton’s, he has never – to my knowledge – not ever admitted that the all the books, journals, websites etc are wrong to claim he coined the term. Since the term is the concept, that is why so many expert scientists have been confused by this and written that Dawkins coined both the term and concept.

    Charles Darwin did the exact same thing with Patrick Matthew’s original discovery and prior publication of the full theory of macroevolution by natural selection Matthew coined the term for his theory: ‘natural process of selection’ Darwin shuffled those same four words into their only grammatically correct equivalent; “process of natural selection.” And, just as in the Dawkins case, thousands of scientists now write that Darwin discovered the theory.

    Read ‘Nullius in Verba: Darwin’s greatest secret’ for the full story of Darwin’s newly proven plagiarism by glory stealing lies and for more on Richard Dawkins effectively insisting that the (now newly discovered in print) history of repression of Matthew’s ideas – due to their heresy and sedition – should be ignored and that Matthew never understood what he discovered or else he would surely have “trumpeted it from the rooftops”.

    Readers on this site might be further interested to learn that Matthew appeared to be a “God” mocking atheist in his 1831 book (although it is debatable whether he used the capitalized word “Providence” to mean Scottish sensible prudence or the involvement of a supernatural “creator” in nature. What we do know with certainty is that in his later letters to Darwin he believed in intelligent design (using the beauty of flowers as his “evidence”) and that natural selection, leading to new species was somehow designed-into nature. Nonetheless he mocked the notion of revealed truth in religion. In one of his letters to Darwin he wrote along the lines that he believed humans were never meant to know the origin of their species.

    For a peer reviewed science article on the independently verifiable newly discovered hard facts on the topic of Darwin and Wallace’s plagiarism of Matthew – which many Darwinists do not want you to read – Google “On Knowledge Contamination” by “Mike Sutton”

    • Dawkins isn’t the only one with a plagiarism problem, Christopher Hitchens is a proven plagiarist too. Sam Harris has been shown to use provably fake data that he copied from Hitchens and Dawkins, data easily debunked as false but that he quotes them as experts on as if what they said was true.

      See our interview with historian Borden Painter Jr. on this. Richard Dawkins is a fraud all the way through, as a scientist, a philosopher, a commenter on history, on what Atheism is, and on religion generally.