That’s Not Richard Dawkins on Twitter June 16, 2008

That’s Not Richard Dawkins on Twitter

He isn’t Twittering.

He says so in this comment:

Yet again, some impostor is pretending to be me. I do not Twitter, I had never even heard of Twittering until a thread on alerted me to it, and I most certainly have not signed up for it. I am told there are numerous Facebook pages purporting to be mine. None of them is. I do not have a Facebook page, or anything comparable.

I don’t understand the motivation of these impostors. They do not seem to intend malice. If that were the motive, I could kind of understand it. If it were amusing satire I could understand the motive. But the fictitious persona that they invent for me is not particularly discreditable, nor is it funny. The statements attributed to me are not wildly implausible. But they are not mine. They are pure fiction. If anybody can suggest a possible motive I would be curious to know. What kind of person makes up fiction about a real person, which is neither malicious nor humorous but just sort of DULL?

And does anybody know how to let it be known to the Twitter admin people that this is an imposture?

Richard Dawkins


So sad to know there are lies on the Internet…

At Professor Dawkins’ request, please help spread word that the Twitter guy ain’t him.

[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

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  • Matt

    How do we know this message was not from an imposture? For that matter maybe Richard Dawkins isn’t Richard Dawkins and The God Delusion was put out by the Discovery Institute?

  • now i have doubts as to whether it’s really me typing this comment.

  • doubly submitted.

  • Josh

    I agree with Matt. How do we know this message was not from an imposture? It seems like something like would be mentioned on his website, but there is nothing here. Instead he posted in the comments of a site, that while popular, isn’t exactly the medium for this sort of thing.

    Actually, this follows a trend I’ve been noticing, and perhaps I’m being paranoid, but this sort of thing has been happening a lot, on a few other sites I follow as well. Some comments are likely to be faked, while others are just odd. It just doesn’t make any sense…

  • Jen

    I think his comment might be fake- he doesn’t sound like he writes in other venues. While a comment here is different than The God Delusion, I still can’t get it to read in his voice in my head.

    But why would someone pretend to be him? I have no idea. Why do people have fake Miley Cirus myspaces? Very strange, all around.

  • The IP address from the comment makes me think it’s legit, but I wrote Dawkins an email asking for confirmation.

  • Gadren

    It’s become obvious that the Twitter account is a fake, since whoever did it essentially admitted it. He or she seems to think that Dawkins is a “militant atheist.”

  • I was skeptical, but he’s posted the exact same comment in his own forums, where presumably it would be slightly more difficult to impersonate him: Link

    So even if this wasn’t him directly, it would be someone c/ping his words. Unless there’s an impostor on the forums as well, of course. 😉

    (Also, the fake Twitter seems to be shutting down. Further validation?)

  • Richard Dawkins responded. He did, in fact, make the comment above.

  • You’ve got me wondering, what proof do I really have for Richard Dawkin’s existence? I’ve never met him.

  • VB

    I met Richard Dawkins He’s real !!!

  • spiderbrigade

    I know Richard Dawkins is real because I read a book, written by him, in which he says he exists.

  • philosophia

    *gasp* Lies on the internet? No!

    spiderbrigade: cute, very cute 😉

  • Vincent

    Not sure what the motivation is, but it has existed for a long time. W.C. Fields famously said he wanted “I’d rather be living in Philadelphia” put on his tombstone, and it was. But of course he never actually said it. The large majority of the quotes attributed to him he never said, but he did comment on the fact and say something to the effect that though he never said them he would admit to every one of them.

  • Pierre

    Don’t you guys get it yet? You are all suckers, suckers for thoughts and ideas. You may be closer than the rest, but you need to keep going. All your ideas and concepts and scientific thought does not make one shred of difference.

    You were fooled by your idolatry of Dawkins. Are you awake yet?

  • spiderbrigade, I could love you for that comment.

  • stogoe

    Well, we do actually have a bunch of pictures of Richard Dawkins, so there is some evidence that he exists.

    Then again, now I expect a horde of SomethingAwful goons or Fark-heads to descend on us like locusts, screaming “photoshopped!” over and over, in ceaceless cacaphony.

  • I know that RD exists because my friends and I have received His words in…lectures.

    If only prayer worked the same way…”Yes, my child, you will win the lottery tomorrow. Also, don’t forget that I’ll be giving you a test on the first five chapters of the Oxtby text on Thursday.”

  • Shame on us as atheists and supporters of intellectual rigor that we fell for it (myself included). Aren’t we supposed to be the ones who check sources, who are skeptical until given significant proof? But someone pops up with a Twitter account name that matches Dawkins’ and we don’t even question it. It’s not like this is the first time anyone’s thought of this.

    In the future, we really should be more skeptical until we see an official post on a person’s website or get a confirming e-mail before we start spreading the news that so-and-so’s gotten on Twitter.

  • I began to think that it wasn’t him when he started to twitter spam me..

  • Gadren

    Perhaps, jmccance, but I believe more in extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence. Dawkins getting a Twitter account isn’t that unlikely, and so I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect a large dose of skepticism upon first hearing about it.

  • But VB, how do I know you’re telling the truth? Why should I trust your testimony?

  • Siamang

    But VB, how do I know you’re telling the truth? Why should I trust your testimony?

    I’ve met him too, so perhaps I can answer similarly.

    Number one: because it is an unremarkable claim, it’s not prudent to automatically disbelieve unremarkable claims. If you do disbelieve as a matter of daily action, unremarkable claims, then please don’t do business with a bank, because you’ll be marching down every day demanding to see the dollars in your account, and asking to see the gold backing them.

    Obviously you don’t do this… so you do accept reasonable evidence for unremarkable claims.

    In fact, PROPORTIONALITY is the standard by which most of us evaluate the claims of others. Trivial claims require trivial evidence… usually no evidence, you just rely on general goodwill to accept them.

    If I told you I owned a chevrolet, you would accept evidence proportional to that claim. If you found me particularly untrustworthy, you might require I show you the car keys or the title deed.

    If I told you I owned a lear jet, and yet dressed like a homeless person, you might require evidence proportional to that… you may require that I show you the jet and talk to the people at the airport.

    If I told you I commanded the United States Air Force, you would require an altogether more impressive body of evidence before you believed me. You would require to see me in uniform, and on the news with the President, and with an everpresent company of Airmen of very high rank. You would require that I live near Washington DC, and you would require that I would have a multi-decade history of military service of high distinction.

    Number two: evidence. If for some reason, you find the claim that I met Richard Dawkins particularly suspicious, I can produce many pieces of evidence to support this claim. Firstly, I can show you the book that he autographed for me. Secondly, I can show you photographs of me taken with Richard Dawkins, as well as a catalog of photographs taken by myself and others of the exact same event on the same date in the same location. Thirdly, I can provide you with the names and addresses of other people who also appear in the photographs who will concur that I indeed was present that day.

    Certainly you could say that the book is a forgery, that the photographs are faked, that the entire staff of CalTech is lying when saying that Dawkins did in fact speak there on the date in question, etc. But at some level, we have passed the point of normal skeptical inquiry and gotten into some level of pedantic obtuseness. Indeed at this point with the number of lines of evidence that would need to be forged, and the number of people who would need to be in the conspiracy, it has gotten to the point that it would be quite a bit MORE remarkable for it to be a conspiracy.

    At that point, you need to be gathering the evidence to support the idea of a conspiracy in order to continue to support the claim that I didn’t meet Dawkins.

    But of course, this is in the support of an UNREMARKABLE claim. The evidence I have in my possession and viewable by request, if you’d like, is in support of a very mundane claim… that a man publicly known to be making an american book tour was met by me at a university close to my home at a speaking engagement on that tour.

    Please note, I am not making a remarkable, an extravagant or an astronomical claim such as that I met the creator of the universe and he told me that I need to stop eating pork, for example.

    In that case, I would expect the evidence to need to be of a scale correspondingly staggering. As David Hume put it:

    ‘That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish….’ When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.

  • Siamang, ok, proportionality, that’s reasonable. Where I pull up short though is your last few comments. Because it hangs to a large extent on your definition of miracle and what you consider miraculous. I find that athetists typically conflate the distinction between the miraculous and the non-miraculous with the distinction between the supernatural and the natural. That sort of conflation is however foreign to the hebraic worldview.

    What makes something miraculous or not is not whether or not it can be scientifically explained or not (for that is a very anachronistic way to go about things) but whether God is glorified through that thing or not. So, a plague of locusts (an otherwise natural event) may be considered miraculous if seen as fulfilment of prophecy, but Reiki healing (which is generally attributed to supernatural causes) would not be considered miraculous from a Biblical perspective. What I am suggesting here is that the God I worship is no “god of the gaps” and that God may work providentially through otherwise “unremarkable” phenomena. In such cases (take the plague of locusts above for instance) what sort of evidence would you consider reasonable to say the prophecy and the plague actually occured if I told you about it?

    As for more remarkable claims. I do actually have one. Last year I had a friend who, for reasons I wont go into, was facing an arm amputation. His fingers had blackened and died, his arm was dying and I was there when the doctir said it had to come off and the only question was whether above or below the elbow. Another friend and I prayer over him for healing. Not long after I recieved a call from his dumbstruck mother to tell me, he’s been healed, that his fingers had turned pink and come back to life. The doctor was angry because he could not explain it. Now, you don’t know me or how trustworthy I am and how uncharismatic and prone to skepticism I am. I have no evidence to offer, other than my own testimony, and you have no reason to trust that. But though you will no doubt consider my story unproven, can you assume a priori that it is untrue?

    The thing I would suggest to you though is, even when remarkable evidence is not always available, it does not automatically follow that the remarkable never happened. It only follows that it can’t always be proven to your satisfaction. Is the commander of the United States Air Force ALWAYS in a position to prove he is the commander of the United States Air Force? I would suggest the answer is … possibly not. Of course here I am only speaking of a personal experience, I am not posing this as an argument for all miraculous experience, but having personally experienced the remarkable I am open to the possiblity that the remarkable occurs in ways I have not dreamed of, and I don’t need ever more remarkable evidence to have confidence in that. What I have is sufficient. I thus find the statement unconvincing.

  • BK

    OK, all fun and philosophy aside – this is a great example of personal branding issues. Even if one isn’t interested in Twitter/Facebook/NewThingy/ThngMssngVwls – if one has a public persona (which is becoming all of us) it is important to take control of that presence, and at least direct it to the official site. There is a lot of good advice out there (especially Chris Brogan) on personal branding, and if you don’t take it – someone else might.

    So, even if you think all this social media stuff is a fad and waste of time, it is worth it to stake your digital claim, at least so no one else can – just point it to the place where you are active.

  • would sombody please tell me why I need to give my heart to Twitter, to take my phone out of its nice charger or deliberately install IM or something that’s going to annoy me every 5 minutes and twice on Sunday?

  • Metal Guru

    Old, but:

    Matt, if your god does his work in unremarkable ways, then isn’t it safe to say that if he does exist, he’s completely pointless? The only difference between a cloud of locusts and a cloud of locusts “glorified through god, fulfilling a prophecy” is how you interpret it. You have no way of knowing if it’s really god fulfilling a prophecy, or just a coincidence. In the meantime, all you have is a big ol’ cloud of locusts that may or may not be a gift from your jerk of a heavenly father. This isn’t a great argument anyway, since god doesn’t seem to have bothered to really fulfill a prophecy since “Bible Times.” Bible miracles were pretty cool, but I don’t think I remember any remarkable modern day prophecies being fulfilled. Maybe god has just gotten lazy! Either way, why bother with an impotent god?

    As for the idea that one doesn’t always have evidence to verify remarkable claims: that’s true. But your god doesn’t give us any evidence to verify any remarkable claims at any time. We can’t even establish some baseline standard of behavior for your god, which would at least lend him a little credibility. Why did god supposedly heal your friend’s arm, but not anyone else’s arm? Is your friend more righteous? Did you pray better? Does god just hate all the other righteous people with limbs about to fall off who are praying for his help? Or does god only help people who were born on January 7th and like the Celtics, who occasionally wear blue and have freckles on their butts? Why does “god’s will” have to be so arbitrary? It goes on and on, but I’m rambling.

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