Keipernicus pretty well has this one down cold in this Youtube rebuttal to this article by Ed West for the UK Telegraph. Video and more below the fold.
Hilariously, Ed West actually subscribes to the same Genetic “Fallacy” that Dawkins espouses, which people like Zdenny have denied in the past — and I say “fallacy” in scare quotes because it is only so called a fallacy because that lends to creationists’ arguments against it. In other words, it’s another example of creationists taking a successful tactic (pointing out actual logical fallacies that are so prevalent they’re named), and twisting it to meet their ends (naming a successful argument a fallacy despite it not having any property a logical fallacy might have).
The Genetic “Fallacy” is that people are generally brought up to believe what their parents believe, because what you teach a child during their formative years sticks with them most of the time. If you teach a child that Yahweh exists from a very young age, they will believe that Yahweh exists, and will likely believe in such most of their lives. If you teach a child that the Upanishads are the ultimate doctrine for living your life and are never to be questioned, they will likely never question them. If you teach a child that assertions should be questioned and answers should be weighed for their relevance and evidence, they will probably become atheists later in life. This is self-evident.
Unless, that is, something happens to also cause them to question their earlier indoctrination; after which, they will go through a wrenching period of introspection and will either come out re-forged in their original beliefs or they will shift worldviews entirely to something that makes more sense to them. This could be another religion, this could be atheism, or it could be some self-smelted amalgam of beliefs. And all of these ways of coming to a thought process are valid, but they in no way disprove the memetic passing of beliefs from parent to child.
The fact is, people like Ed West are annoyed by the atheist “surge”, and in an attempt to shake the worldviews of the less ardent rationalists, he’s trying to rankle emotions, to force people into the position of questioning their earlier indoctrination. While some atheists are atheists not because they’ve fully examined the evidence but because they were brought up that way, a huge majority of us were brought up in a religion first. Those of us that came to the wrenching realization that their earlier indoctrination was completely meritless and came to rationality on our own are unlikely to have our emotions rankled in this manner.
There’s a chance people like West will peel off the weak atheists, people who don’t believe in a god or gods but have never really given them much thought, or otherwise people who were never exposed to religions and may be open to the concept. But the likelihood of him getting under Dawkins’ skin by stating that one grandmother had 1400 Christian descendants? Pretty damned low.