Richard Dawkins Gamely Takes On Rick Perry's Evolution Denialism

The world's most famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, apparently recovered from the unpleasant Elevatorgate business, took to the pages of the Washington Post this week to say nasty things about Rick Perry.

Of course, lots of people say nasty things about Rick Perry, but a takedown by DickDawk is a special thing. He doesn't hedge, doesn't equivocate — he cuts right to the nuts of what he perceives to be the truth with the brutal immediacy you'd expect of a man who's spent his life in empirical science. Nature doesn't shilly-shally.

The essay is a response to Perry's public utterances about evolution via natural selection — that it's a "theory" with "gaps," and so on. This is the kind of thing that Dr. Dawkins cannot stand, and his angry incredulity is enough to melt your monitor:

There is nothing unusual about Governor Rick Perry. Uneducated fools can be found in every country and every period of history, and they are not unknown in high office. What is unusual about today's Republican party (I disavow the ridiculous ‘GOP' nickname, because the party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt has lately forfeited all claim to be considered ‘grand') is this: In any other party and in any other country, an individual may occasionally rise to the top in spite of being an uneducated ignoramus. In today's Republican Party ‘in spite of' is not the phrase we need. Ignorance and lack of education are positive qualifications, bordering on obligatory. Intellect, knowledge and linguistic mastery are mistrusted by Republican voters, who, when choosing a president, would apparently prefer someone like themselves over someone actually qualified for the job.

...The population of the United States is more than 300 million and it includes some of the best and brightest that the human species has to offer, probably more so than any other country in the world. There is surely something wrong with a system for choosing a leader when, given a pool of such talent and a process that occupies more than a year and consumes billions of dollars, what rises to the top of the heap is George W Bush. Or when the likes of Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin can be mentioned as even remote possibilities.

Elegant! Efficient! Better than a barrel of Maureen Dowds!

Dr. Dawkins proceeds to write about why it's important that leaders accept evolution through natural selection, even though they may never get around to legislating for or against its teaching.

...a politician's attitude to evolution, however peripheral it might seem, is a surprisingly apposite litmus test of more general inadequacy. This is because unlike, say, string theory where scientific opinion is genuinely divided, there is about the fact of evolution no doubt at all. Evolution is a fact, as securely established as any in science, and he who denies it betrays woeful ignorance and lack of education, which likely extends to other fields as well. Evolution is not some recondite backwater of science, ignorance of which would be pardonable. It is the stunningly simple but elegant explanation of our very existence and the existence of every living creature on the planet. Thanks to Darwin, we now understand why we are here and why we are the way we are. You cannot be ignorant of evolution and be a cultivated and adequate citizen of today.

Towards the end, Dawkins spins some extremely pretty prose describing the awesome power and elegance of Darwin's theory, which makes Perry et al. look like extreme goons for failing to grok it. Somebody! Get the doctor a column!

[Images via AP]