there is something not quite right with many of the responses to Dawkins. The point he was trying to make, I would assume, is that Islam is a religion which holds back intellectual development, and thus the Nobel Prize count is skewed towards non-Muslim countries. This might be a silly argument in point of fact, but it is perfectly acceptable to make these types of claims. Religions are man-made things. People choose to follow a particular faith. It would be one thing to say that the color of one’s skin sets back one’s intellectual development; Dawkins was (I think) trying to say that a belief system human beings choose to follow has impaired their development. Arguments like this should be not only within the bounds of reasonable debate, but are completely necessary.
To which Sullivan then added,
Isaac is rightly tough on Dawkins for tweeting such a grand and foolish generalization. But it would be strange not to consider culture when analyzing any part of the world which is quite clearly lagging in economic, intellectual and social development. Just take a read of the UN reports on the Muslim Arab world and absorb their devastating conclusions about the region. Think of what the Israelis have managed to achieve in a few decades and then look at Egypt’s pathetic record.
Imagine for a moment that he were making a similar argument for the merits of criticizing culture when looking at sustained poverty and joblessness in the among African Americans. After all, surely culture must play some part. And of course conservative pundits do this regularly. Enough about disparities in education and the application of our countries laws along racial and ethnic lines–what about the differences in culture!?
Take Israel for instance. While culture may play a part, I don’t think I nor anyone else really has any idea how much of one, let alone how the hell we would even go about measuring it in the first place.
What I can tell you though is that Israel receives more than twenty times the amount of financial aid from the U.S. that Egypt does. I suggest that plays no small part in what makes both countries’ economies different.
Still, I’m certainly sympathetic to Dawkins view. Indeed, Chotiner’s moderated position is one I mostly agree with. I don’t like “Islam” as a cultural propagator of ignorance and oppression anymore than I like “Catholicism.” But his suggestion was nonetheless phrased idiotically. Noble Prize winning scientists also skew male, but obviously Dawkins does not think that sex is what’s holding women scientists back from being equitably recognized.
But isn’t religion something you can choose, where as sex isn’t? Well not if people like Dawkins are to be believed.