I didn’t really expect the Telegraph to go through with it, the “scandalous revelation” that one of Richard Dawkins’ ancestors owned slaves, but they have, and the article is even more scurrilous than I expected.
It starts badly: “Richard Dawkins, the secularist campaigner against “intolerance and suffering”, must face an awkward revelation: he is descended from slave owners and his family estate was bought with a fortune partly created by forced labour.”
Why must Dawkins be singled out, because he knows the name of his slaver ancestor? We all have unsavoury characters in our family tree, and some more admirable ones too, but we don’t all know their names. Besides, we aren’t responsible for what happened long before we were born, good or bad, so we should take neither the blame nor the credit.
The article continues, at some length, to mudsling-by-proxy, citing other examples of Dawkins’ ancestry who the “journalist”, Adam Lusher, obviously considers should be regarded as shameful, and them arrives at this conclusion:
“He is now facing calls to apologise and make reparations for his family’s past.
Esther Stanford-Xosei, of Lewisham, south London, the co-vice chairman of the Pan-African Reparations Coalition in Europe, said: “There is no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity.
“The words of the apology need to be backed by action. The most appropriate course would be for the family to fund an educational initiative telling the history of slavery and how it impacts on communities today, in terms of racism and fractured relationships.””
It’s true, there is no statute of limitation on crimes against humanity, except one. Death. The people in Dawkins’ family who owned slaves are all long dead, and the money they made is all spent. The same almost certainly applies to my family, and yours too, especially if you are of white European extraction.
There is one last parting shot:
“On Tuesday 14 February, some critics branded him “an embarrassment to atheism” after what many listeners considered a humiliation in a Radio 4 debate with Giles Fraser, formerly Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, in which the professor boasted he could recite the full title of Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species”, then when challenged, dithered and said: “Oh God.””
As I’ve already addressed this point, I’ll just note that the image that popped into my mind when I read this was of a petulant child, lower lip quivering, shouting “…and another thing”, before being sent to bed with no supper.
And so Adam Lusher should be.
And, of course, the Mail has chimed in. Read more here: http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/02/19/and-now-the-daily-mail/