Richard Dawkins is a Proven Pseudoscientist and Cult Leader

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

On Saturday night last week I was on one of my rare indulgences (margeritas) and got annoyed when I saw Sargon of Akkad, aka Carl Benjamin, send a fawning tweet to the fading pseudoscientist and cult leader. I got more irritated than I should have (which I apologize for). But as someone who was long bamboozled 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, and double irked when I see otherwise intelligent people still lionizing the sad old fraud.

To my delight, however, my being irked at Carl wound up giving me opportunity to help publicly educate people on one of the most thoroughly noxious pseudoscientists, pseudohistorians, and pseudophilosophers on Planet Earth. When I noted that Memetic Theory is clearly pseudoscience, I was presented by one of his followers with this hilarious paper:

Journal of Bioeconomics (2009): An empirical investigation of organizational memeticvariation. 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 these days that you can’t trust the peer review system anymore.

Anyway, I read it. The paper is 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 tergiversations and maths applied to nothing concrete, 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 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’s 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’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 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.)

In closing, below is the tweet exchange which inspired me to get this all out. I couldn’t have had a better conversation with those caught up in The Dawkins Delusion if I’d wanted to. Dawkins is exposed as what he is: a cult leader and a pseudoscientist who has actively made people dumber on subjects such as evolution, religion, psychology, and sociology.

I continue to double, triple dare Sargon of Akkad and his followers to read The Last Superstition by the way. And I hope he and his circle 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 paper that attempted–and failed–to find a scientific basis for Meme theory was a Jill Shepherd, an obscure researcher with mostly a business management background, with a secondary author Bill McKelvey, 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 flees the cult.

The Scientific Reality of the Scientism Cult

I am a scientist, you need to listen to me!
I am a Scientist, you need to listen to me! I know the way we know The Truth!

The Scientism cultist believes he loves science. Sadly, he only dimly understands science, so ironically, he tends to harm science by bringing unearned discredit to it.

Science, which can only demonstrate things by observation and measurement in the physical world, can by definition only tell us so much about anything. Real scientists understand this completely. But the Scientism cultist does not understand this; he treats science like a divine force, the source of all truth and enlightenment, as well as miracles he only dimly undestands like iPhones and the Internet.

I frequently meet people today who deny that “Scientism” exists as a religious philosophy. Then they’ll turn around and make the most dogmatic assertions of faith you will ever hear in your life, such as “Science is how we know things are true” and “Science can be trusted unlike the dark religious superstitious beliefs of the past.”

The belief that science is how we know things are True (as opposed to one way we know some things to be true) is, ironically, unsupportable scientifically. When you point this out, Scientismists will then respond with “well, it’s the best we have.” Which they also offer, unironically, without scientific proof. That too is a dogmatic faith statement, you see.

It’s just like their faith that there’s nothing running the laws of probability or physics. They simply believe things like that unquestioningly, and somehow experience no cognitive dissonance. Or at least pretend to have no cognitive dissonance.

Probably the biggest reliable indicator of the Scientismist religion is the dogged fascination its adherents have with credentialed scientists. A Master’s degree in some area of science appears to make you eligible for Deacon status in the Scientism Church, with a PhD entitling you to full priesthood. Bishop status is accorded by large research grants or at least a tenured faculty position in some area of the sciences. Or a big media presence at least.

Harsh reality: most "scientists" today do no science and often don't even understand science.
Harsh reality: most “scientists” today do no science and often don’t even understand science. “Most scientists today are devoid of ideas, full of fear, intent on producing some paltry result so that they can add to the flood of inane papers that now constitutes scientific progress in many areas.” –Philosopher of Science Paul Feyerabend

The laity of the Church of Scientism tends to look at scientists not as people doing research who sometimes finding useful or interesting results, but as moral and intellectual and even spiritual (they prefer the term “psychological”) authorities the rest of us should listen to because, supposedly, the credentialed scientist is wiser or more moral or more trustworthy or more incorruptible than the rest of us.

Especially if they have a high IQ, since supposedly the high IQ is the indicator of worthiness or at least wisdom as a human being. It’s another unstated part of the Scientism creed, you see. One every Scientismist believes, though he rarely is bold enough to say it aloud.

Scientism cultists also almost always claim that religion was primarily science’s enemy for most of human history. This is the great Creation Myth of the Scientism religion. Unfortunately for them, it’s pure superstition, a superstition utterly unsupportable by any scientific look at history.

History does indeed show religious people getting in the way of science sometimes, but nonreligious people doing it as often if not moreso, as we see whenever there is a vested monetary or ideological interest in a scientific theory that may be bunk. In the meantime, it remains that for thousands of years, it was ancient organized religion and philosophy that spurred most interest in, and funding for, the development of education and science. Rulers were busy fighting each other; it was the religious and philosophical who were off “wasting time” doing odd things like figuring out how the laws of physics actually worked.

Another big sign of the Scientism cultist? He views criticism of his religion as an attack on science. Proving once again that he does not know what science is and is not. The most rabid, frothing Fundamentalists of the Scientism cult will use the phrase “Science Denier!” and “Conspiracy Theorist!” to shut off all criticism and dissent, and discredit all who would dare question the Holy Word of what they call “science.” (But which, I remind you again, is often not science at all.)

Meanwhile, in the land of actual science, institutional science is in a shambles. At this point, with any given scientific paper, you can basically flip a coin as to whether or not it’s got anything valid or is total garbage. Literally, following scientific literature is now about as good as following astrologers, since research in too many areas of institutional science is no longer reliable at all.

But what have the Scientismists been doing the last couple of decades, instead of cleaning house? Terrifying the public with fears of the “Creation Science” fringe loons, and against the horrifying danger that someone, somewhere might take a homeopathic remedy and feel a positive effect*. While they were chasing down theological clowns and fringe medicine, institutional science was, and still is, falling apart at the seams.

As someone who’s loved science his whole life and still does, it’s hard not to curse the Scientism cultists for being a big part of the problem. They put something they call “Science” where God and humility were supposed to go, to be blunt. As a result, they did massive harm to people’s ability to trust science at all, by turning it into an intolerant, money and status-obsessed cult.

For those who doubt Scientism is real, or doubt what I’m saying about the increasing shambles the sciences are in, here are a few references from completely credible scientific sources. I’ll probably add to them over time as more objections pop up and more comes to my attention. The crisis in the sciences is huge, and escalating, in the Western world, and the Scientism cultists are in deep denial. It’s more important to them to obsess over fringe ideas like Michael Behe’s ID theories* or the thought that someone, somewhere, might be getting positive results with acupuncture*.


  1. Thomas Burnett. American Academy for the Advancement of Science: What is Scientism?
  2. Beryl Lieff Benderly. Science. How scientific culture discourages new ideas.
  3. Clinical Chemistry journal: A Critique of the Hypothesis, and a Defense of the Question.
  4. New Scientist: Why so much science research is flawed – and what to do about it.
  5. The Lancet: About half of medical science is total garbage at publication.
  6. Science (world’s most prestitious science journal): Pretty much no reason to believe most psychological studies.
  7. Henry Markovitch. PLOS Medicine. Why the corruption? Editors, Publishers, Impact Factors, and Reprint IncomeJohn P. A. Ioannidis
  8. John P. Ionnaddis: PLOS Medicine. Most published research findings are false. Why?
  9. Nature: Monya Baker. 1,500 Scientists lift the lid on reproducibility.
  10. Nature: C. Glenn Begley finds that about 90% of “landmark” cancer drug research is not reproducible.
  11. Nature: Brian Owens:  About 80% of target-validation studies on cardiovascular medicine, women’s health, and oncology are not reproducible.
  12. Science Magazine, Jocelyn Kaiser: Top U.S. Scientific Misconduct Official Quits in Frustration With ‘Remarkably Dysfunctional’ Bureaucracy.
  13. Science Magazine, Mara Hvistendah: China Pursues Fraudsters in Science Publishing (noting massive blatant fraud in Chinese research).
  14.  William Reville, Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry at University College Cork: Fraud is Now the Biggest Enemy of Science.
  15. Michael Hanlon. Has Progress In Science Ground to a Halt? The Golden Quarter.
  16. Dean Esmay: You like Science, the Arts, Philosophy, Mathematics, and Western Civilization? The Christian Church says You’re Welcome.

By the way, it is highly predictable that I will, once again, be accused of “attacking science” for writing any of this. That should tell you something about how widespread the superstitions of the Scientism Cult really are. In the meantime, if you need an actual scientist to tell you more about the Scientism religion, this presentation by Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT, Ian H. Hutchinson:

…and this longer but even more hard-hitting talk by Professor Lawrence Principe of Johns Hopkins.

David Berlinski notes how and why the atheist Scientism cultists, sometimes known as “naturalists,” are increasingly viewed negatively due to their arrogance, condescension, and overreaching claims.


*NB: I have never met a homeopathy fan or taken a homeopathic remedy in my life and I give it no endorsement. Ditto acupuncture. And by the way, I’m not an ID fan either.

The Lancet: About half of scientific papers may be bogus

“The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.”

(Emphasis mine.)

Read more from The Lancet.

It’s funny how every time I link an article like this from a scientific publication, and note that the peer review system as currently constructed has too many opportunities for corruption, I’m told that I’m a conspiracy theorist. Whatever. I have had multiple working scientists (and retired scientists) tell me this. Yet apparently I’m wrong to bring it up. Oh well.