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Putting Richard Dawkins in His Place, Harvard’s E.O. Wilson Calls Him a "Journalist"

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From The Guardian:

The war of words between the biologists EO Wilson and Richard Dawkins has reignited after the Harvard professor described his Oxford counterpart as a "journalist".

In an interview with Evan Davis on BBC2’s Newsnight to promote his latest book, Wilson was asked about his differing view of natural selection compared with that of Dawkins.

Wilson answered: "There is no dispute between me and Richard Dawkins and there never has been, because he’s a journalist, and journalists are people that report what the scientists have found and the arguments I’ve had have actually been with scientists doing research."

Shortly after the programme was broadcast, Dawkins tweeted: "I greatly admire EO Wilson & his huge contributions to entomology, ecology, biogeography, conservation, etc. He’s just wrong on kin selection."

But of course Wilson is exactly right. Dawkins is not a working scientist or science instructor. Considered without undue reverence, he’s a retired scientist, or perhaps ex-scientist. Being a biologist by training and having worked as one in the past is not (contrary to what many in our culture think) the secular equivalent of being religiously ordained. A rabbi having received ordination remains one even if he never serves in a pulpit. I understand the same is true of Catholic priests.

But if like Dawkins your currently line of business is writing books bashing religion and emitting provocative tweets, that makes you a journalist — at best!

At Why Evolution Is True, Jerry Coyne (current book: Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible) finds Wilson’s characterization of Dawkins "unfair, inaccurate, and uncharitable." Maybe because it cuts a little too close to home.

I’m on Twitter. Follow me @d_klinghoffer.

H/t Denyse O’Leary.

Image: E.O. Wilson/Wikipedia.