Happy Birthday, Fidel

Castro

Today marks the 87th birthday of Fidel Castro, former president of the Republic of Cuba. In January, 1959, Castro and the movement that he led overthrew the American-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. He spent the next 50 years transforming Cuba into an independent country that today leads in education and healthcare. Castro stepped down from power in 2006, but still remains the vibrant inspiration for the Caribbean nation. As a champion of anti-racism, anti-sexism, and anti-imperialism, Fidel Castro also stands as a light for all peoples resisting domination throughout the world today.

Richard Dawkins: Racist

Richard Dawkins has recently made some incendiary remarks on Twitter towards Muslims. In classic form, he utilizes skewed standards to attack Muslims on his own terms. Considering that this isn’t the first time (and it’s likely to happen again), I decided that it’s about time that I cut any ties I’ve ever had to this man.

Anyone who’s known me for a few years will certainly be able to remember a time that I prescribed to Dawkins’ atheism. In fact, I still own a copy of “The God Delusion” that I got autographed by him a few years ago. Fortunately, I’ve moved on. Unfortunately, he hasn’t.

So if you aren’t caught up: Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist, former professor at the University of Oxford, and atheist extraordinaire. He’s famous for books like “The Selfish Gene”, “The Extended Phenotype” (which is my favorite and is, admittedly, an excellent book), and “The God Delusion”. He’s also a bumbling fool when it comes to anything outside of his discipline.

DawkinsCrazy

Woah.

Dawkins is notable for constantly defending his position on the infallibility of scienceScience, he argues, is the only valid standard to measure the world, as if science was something outside of humans. If you can’t prove something scientifically, then it’s entirely bogus.

This week he got on Twitter and posted this incredibly scientific gem: “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.”

Let that soak in for a second.

He’s basically mocking 23% of the world for not having enough Nobel Prizes. The irony of course being that Dawkins doesn’t seem to understand that Alfred Nobel’s society, based in Sweden, maybe has a bias. Who hands out Nobel Prizes? A bunch of Europeans. To whom do they hand out Nobel Prizes? A bunch of Europeans.

Coincidence? I don’t think so.

For someone who prides himself on using the standards of Science, Dawkins isn’t being very “scientific” when he criticizes Muslims in this way. The Nobel Foundation is not some perfect, absolute measure of human worth with regards to thinking. Let’s not forget, these people gave Obama a Peace Prize.

On this argument, however, Dawkins doesn’t even get creativity points. Neil deGrasse Tyson, another one of these atheist scientists who shouldn’t stray from his/her discipline, made this very same argument a few years ago in this idiotic lecture:

(For a break down of deGrasse Tyson’s lecture, check out: Neil deGrasse Tyson and the Myth of Islamic Anti-Science)

Apparently, these scientists aren’t interested in learning anything about history, sociology, anthropology, psychology, area studies, cultural studies, critical theory, development studies, geography, colonialism, philosophy, or anything that relates to actual human beings living out there in the world.

If you think I’m being too harsh, let’s assume that the Nobel Foundation is infallible. Okay, so now, where do most Muslims live? Asia and Africa, right? Do you think that they’re getting a whole lot of grant money work in super high-tech labs with state-of-the-art equipment? Are students there provided with education on par with Europe and North America?

Of course not. Because of historical circumstances (colonialism, wars, genocides, mass migrations), Africa and Asia did not develop on the same trajectory as Europe. Is this because Muslims are backwards and stupid?

The answer, just in case you’re wondering, is: no.

What makes Dawkins’ analysis so pathetic is that he was born in Kenya! He is a direct product of one of the most destructive forces in the world in the past few centuries: English colonialism!

job creatorr

Whether we want to take about how the Middle East was carved up by a Frenchman and an Englishman or if we’d like to talk about English colonialism in Egypt, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Malaysia…you get the idea…the fact of the matter is this: there’s probably a good reason that the “Muslim world” isn’t producing a whole lot of Nobel Prize-winning scientists.

So I don’t make this accusation lightly: Richard Dawkins, either because of willful ignorance or sheer stupidity, is a bigot and a racist.

Oh, and by the way, Dawkins has never won a Nobel Prize.

A Guide to Critical Thinking

First of all, I ought to apologize for the delayed absence from WMT, I’ve been in the process of moving, which makes blogging a bit more difficult.

Lately I’ve been engaging in discussions about wildly different issues with old friends and family. Many of these conversations have turned out to be fruitful, because I’ve discovered some methods that people use (and don’t use) to think critically about the world.

iStock_000016040394XSmallAnd in the spirit of blogging, I thought I might share some of these observances for public scrutiny and posterity. And maybe to help you and me. So without further ado, the steps one must take to think critically:

1. Define things.

Someone got into an argument with me over communism. They made this wonderfully typical claim: “Communism looks good on paper, but it doesn’t work in real life, because of human nature.”

Now this argument tells me a few things: this person doesn’t know anything about communism, this person hasn’t read anything about communism, and this person absolutely knows what “human nature” is, apparently. My response was to push them to define communism. What does communism mean?

Of course, they couldn’t provide any solid definition.

This way of questioning isn’t only important for winning an argument, however. It’s also important for speaking to someone in clear terms. If I say “communism”, but I’m talking about something else entirely, then we can’t have a genuine conversation, right?

It’s also the only way to have a genuine conversation with yourself. It’s necessary to define ideas in order to truly understand them. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Question your own assumptions.

This is easily the hardest thing to do, but observing and challenging your own assumptions is the most beneficial thing you can do when thinking. Need a concrete example?

Let’s imagine you’re arguing with someone over the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Regardless of which side of the “gun control” debate you’re on, you’re probably arguing over how to interpret the text, purpose, and intentions behind the constitution.

What is the assumption here?

Of course, the assumption is that the constitution is an objective document that we can base arguments on and against. The way to break this down critically is to ask, “What is the constitution? Why do we give it power? Whom does it serve?”

Why, in the United States today, do we treat the constitution as some holy writ?

Because we understand it in a constructed context.

3. Context, Context, Context

A few weeks ago, when Zimmerman was let off, the United States was split between people who felt that the crime, trial, and acquittal had obvious racist undertones and people who are stupid.

There were hordes of white people chanting from the rooftops that the case had nothing to do with race. Why is it justified for me to call them stupid? Because they don’t understand the context.

People who thought that the case had nothing to do with race were ignoring the enormous problems surrounding race in this country. They don’t understand that race still plays a huge role in how we view each other. They don’t understand that we’re not in some post-racist utopia.

Putting the death of Trayvon Martin in the context of race relations in this country makes the situation clear. The situation that being a black male in the United States makes you a target. And this is what makes the study of history so pertinent.

If you know the names of Troy Davis, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Jordan Davis, Brandon McClelland, Kendrick Johnson, and so many others, then you’re less likely to see this as a single case and, instead, put it in its proper context.