Dear Richard Dawkins: I Want My Money Back

I feel you’ve defrauded me, sir. You see, I used to think your outrage at religion and creationism was genuine, that the ideas you expressed were due to sincerely held positions, and I bought books in good faith. Now I know this was just a scheme. Your passionate arguments and righteous anger weren’t at all real. That was fake outrage. You only ever wrote the things you did for money. I feel you have defrauded me, and I demand a refund in full.

I’m sure you understand, as you yourself would never wish to enrich those employing fake outrage. Let us be consistent, then. Your $135 million net worth can surely absorb the blow.

Here are the books I require you to reimburse me for:

Image is the cover of the God Delusion with "FAKE" stamped across it.
The God Delusion

This is a book filled with outrage – which I now understand was faked, as no one writes from a position of impassioned and angry honesty, but only feigns these emotions for attention. This might explain the outrageous comparison of teaching a child about hell to abusing a child. I understood at the time that you believed some children were so traumatized by the fear they would end up in hell forever, it affected their psyche worse than physical abuse would have done. However, it appears now that you were just being an outrageous asshole and infuriating child abuse survivors for attention. Anything to sell another book, eh, Richard?

List price: $15.95


Image is the cover of The Greatest Show on Earth with "FAKE" stamped across it.
The Greatest Show on Earth

This whole book is one huge sneer at creationists, but Chapter 6, in which you print creationist comments made to you, only to denigrate those poor misinformed people cruelly and make fun of their “crocoduck” and monkey arguments, is especially vicious. You had us all rolling with your readings from it when you toured. I know now your rapier wit with its bright edge of anger was not being employed in service of evolution and against creationists, but merely to pick our pockets. And since I bought this book brand-new at a Barnes and Noble, hardcover, with no discount, in order to have it there in case you deigned do a signing that night (either you did not, or I was unable to get your signature), I am asking for the full hardcover price.

List price: $30.00

Image is the cover of The Extended Phenotype with "FAKE" stamped across it.
The Extended Phenotype

This one is mostly about evolution, and I don’t remember you being particularly outraged in it, but right at the very beginning, you say, “This is a work of unabashed advocacy.” As you are advocating for evolution, and I can only think you are advocating against creationists whenever you do so, this book counts as part of your fake outrage oeuvre.

Besides, it’s in 10 point font, which is an outrage all its own.

List price: $19.99



Image is the cover of Climbing Mount Improbable with "FAKE" stamped across it.
Climbing Mount Improbable

This book is basically nothing more than a gigantic “fuck you” to creationists, who think that evolution cannot possibly lead to such variation in forms as we see today. You shit all over religious metaphor in order to show creationists that Eden’s apple (which was, according to someone you heard lecture once, was actually a fig, and isn’t it silly anyone believes it matters because fake story is fake, duh) wasn’t designed, but evolved in a long series of tiny steps. I’m sure you wrote it just to upset creationists rather than any regard for the truth.

List price: $16.95


Image is the cover of The Blind Watchmaker with "FAKE" stamped across it.
The Blind Watchmaker

You were really going all-out with this one, weren’t you, Richard? First you insult Paley’s work by filching his title and adding a sneering (ableist) word to it, then right in your new introduction, you call creationists “backwoodsmen.” Insult = outrage, and so this is a work of fake outrage rather than reasoned, dispassionate sifting of evidence for evolution. You spend the whole book bringing up creationist arguments only to stomp on them. According to you, criticism is fake outrage, and one only engages in it for the money, so you obviously didn’t believe a single word in this thick tome. All fraud. For shame, sir.

List price: $19.95

Image is the cover of The Selfish Gene with "FAKE" stamped across it.
The Selfish Gene

Why, the whole of the new introduction is nothing but you criticizing your critics, and as we all know, criticism is fake outrage. Plus, you spend time calling God a “meme” and saying, “It provides a superficially plausible answer to deep and troubling questions about existence,” which seems to be unnecessarily provocative language – unless you were trying to drum up some outrage in order to nudge sales up a bit.

I tell you, it is unconscionable.

List price: $19.95


Image is the cover of River Out of Eden with "FAKE" stamped across it.
River Out of Eden

At long last, have you no decency, sir? Fake outrage is one thing, but deliberately poking sharp sticks at the sincerely religious folk by titling your book after their treasured myth, and including as your title quote a verse from their most holy book, and then proceeding for nearly two hundred pages to bash their simple worldview? That is not only fake outrage (as we know you were only doing these things to sell more books), but bloody cheek. I should charge you double.

But I am an honorable person.

List price: $15.95

Image is the cover of The Ancestor's Tale with "FAKE" stamped across it.
The Ancestor’s Tale

Your fake outrage is right there in the index, which is supposed to be the most dispassionate part of a book! Under “creationists,” you have the following:

“on alleged unevolvability of bacterial flagellar motor”

“going on about ‘gaps'”

“hopes dashed on improbability of large molecules”

“love of Cambrian Explosion”

So not only is the entire book a fine fuck-you to those who argue for a literal interpretation of Genesis, but you get snide in even the driest bits, and so I can only conclude you meant to drum up a lot of fake outrage to drive sales. Otherwise, you would have been relentlessly Vulcan in your language, I am sure.

List price: $16.95

Right. So that is a total of $155.69 US dollars you owe me for playing upon my good faith and my trusting emotions, sir. Now, I am nothing if not fair. I admit I seem to have had a small bump in traffic after blogging about yourself, your bosom pal Michael Shermer, and your buddy James Randi. I admit to using heated language against people who had done reprehensible things, which, by your estimation and that of your friends over there on your side of the Deep Rifts™, means I am an “outrage junkie” blogging for all that sweet, sweet victim money, of which there is lots. Give me a moment to tot up the total and deduct it from your bill.

Image shows a miffed-looking cat with an open textbook and its paw on a calculator. Capion says, "Calculator cat is not happeh with teh anser."

Oh, for… fine. Fine. Stupid !#[email protected] solar-powered crap in a place notorious for lack of sunshine.

Image shows a gray cat lying on its side with a pencil in its mouth. Caption says, "Right. I shall do this the wold-fashioned way."

Okay. After doing some strenuous math and diligently checking the figures, your new total is $153.83. You’ll find my donate button in the sidebar. I encourage you to make use of it, as that will save you the trouble of scrounging up your checkbook.

I shall be donating my copies of your tomes of faux outrage to our local no-kill animal shelter, which can always use things for the puppies to chew on.


Dear Richard Dawkins: I Want My Money Back
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18 thoughts on “Dear Richard Dawkins: I Want My Money Back

  1. 5

    I LOLed. Except then I had a sad because one of the most famous people in my field is a misogynist, racist asshat. :( Why, Richard Dawkins, why?!

  2. rq

    Just make sure he doesn’t pay you back in autobiographies. (I read other reviews that called his writing ‘charming’ and a ‘love letter to science’. Not going to bother finding out who’s right, actually.)

  3. 8

    I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned I love you.


    (But, you know, not in the creepy stalker way. Just in the admiring commenter way.)

  4. 10

    @rq #7
    My that was an interesting read. I would like to think of something clever to say about the whole tea served “with beautiful silver teapot and hot-water jug, and a milk jug under a dainty muslin cover weighted down with periwinkle shells sewn around the edges” – all provided by loyal servants but urk – the best I can do now is try to inflict upon you the weird mental vision I had of Dawkins as Scarlett O’Hara. Later he stands on a barren hill and yells to the sky “As Oxford is my witness, I’ll never be religious again!”

    (sorry, I blame that on the splitting headache.)

    And to think there is a second volume to look forward to.

    From the review, I really liked calling Dawkins the “ideologue of scientism.”

  5. rq

    Dawkins as Scarlett O’Hara

    I was looking forward to a quiet evening with the kitten. Now I’m going to be giggling sporadically throughout.

  6. 13

    Wow. Remind me to never piss you off. You get mean, when you are pissed. That was one of the nastiest eviscerations I’ve ever seen. A little mixed media presentation, mean, vicious, and cruel, so very well deserved.

  7. rq

    You do realize how awful it is to call a woman ‘mean’, right? Even if you mean it as a compliment? See definition here, definition 2. Now tell me where Dana is being selfish in a petty way; unkind; cruel, spiteful, or malicious. She’s just asking for her money back in a snarky way.
    Please consider the words you use. Even the synonyms are shit:

    Synonyms: mean2, low1, base2, abject, ignoble, sordid
    These adjectives mean lacking in dignity or falling short of the standards befitting humans. Mean suggests pettiness, spite, or niggardliness: “Never ascribe to an opponent motives meaner than your own” (J.M. Barrie).
    Something low violates standards of morality, ethics, or propriety: low cunning; a low trick.
    Base suggests a contemptible, mean-spirited, or selfish lack of human decency: “that liberal obedience, without which your army would be a base rabble” (Edmund Burke).
    Abject means brought low in condition: abject submission; abject poverty.
    Ignoble means lacking noble qualities, such as elevated moral character: “For my part I think it a less evil that some criminals should escape than that the government should play an ignoble part” (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.)
    Sordid suggests foul, repulsive degradation: “It is through art . . . that we can shield ourselves from the sordid perils of actual existence” (Oscar Wilde).

    [emphases mine]

  8. 15


    I do try to say what I mean–and that homophone is going to be a problem here, isn’t it? 8-)

    I have to wonder why you felt it necessary to take apart that comment, looking for a reason to berate me, when I clearly thought that what Dana wrote is one of the most successful slappings down of an overblown ego I’ve ever seen?

    Of course, words mean more than what shows up in a dictionary and in addition (and this is where I suspect we are having a problem) they can vary a great deal depending on where you live. Where I grew up mean meant more or less to be openly hostile and deliberately hurtful. Dana was being openly hostile and her intent to be hurtful was pretty clear. Where I live it is a common phrase to say “He/she gets mean when he/she is pissed.” Note it can be either men or women who get mean and pettiness is seldom implied. In a way the phrase means that you don’t suffer fools gladly or without reprisal. At worse, there can implication that the reprisal may be more harsh than is deserved, but that is not always the case, and certainly not when you are clearly complimenting someone.

    Of course I knew mean once meant “low class and petty” and a bunch of other bad things, just as vulgar once meant “common”. But the history of a word does not lock up its meaning. Languages change if they are living and if the language is spoken across many countries and cultures the meanings are even more likely to differ. In this case I meant openly hostile, willing to gut someone metaphorically. It is possible for there to be an implication that the gutting is not deserved (or is a bit of an overreaction), though the rest of my comment makes it pretty clear I think it was deserved. Context is a big help in these situations.

    So, to those who think that I meant “selfish, petty, or malicious” or “cruel, spiteful, or malicious”, I would like to point out that nothing else in that comment suggests such a thing. However, since some apparently do think that mean means selfish, petty or malicious, I will avoid it in the future when writing on an international forum.

    And rq, perhaps you could try “Wow, you know where I come from mean means selfish, petty or malicious, but you clearly don’t mean that, so what is up with that?” which would open a cool discussion without implying that I am either illiterate or malicious and petty.

  9. 16

    And, by the way, Dana, kittens like to shred paperbacks too. In addition, hook-billed birds like tearing up paper too. If all else fails, they make a good mulch, though you should not use them for that if they have full color illustrations.

  10. rq

    Sure, and when I call you [racial slur], I just mean it as a compliment.
    Because the word ‘mean’ still has, for the most part, all those negative connotations. Plus carries a lot of other baggage (see: context of the title Mean Girls – I doubt ‘mean’ is ever applied to boys in the same blanket way). And funny none of the synonyms I ran across were particularly nice. And by ‘funny’ I really mean ‘odd’, to be clear.
    Illiteracy was never the question – word choice was.

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