Several months after it was filed, the $58 million lawsuit against Richard Dawkins has finally been resolved.
The lawsuit was filed by Karl L. Dahlstrom, a self-proclaimed “modern Renaissance man” who wrote an anti-evolution book called The Organized Universe in 2013. That book offered “scientific proof” that Darwinism was a hoax. To no one’s surprise, the experts were not convinced.
Dawkins, of course, has made a career out of explaining evolution to the masses — and he gets noticeably frustrated by people who trot out the same faulty arguments against evolution time and time again.
And that was the source of conflict.
In 1989, Dawkins wrote in a New York Times book review that “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).”
Dahlstrom was convinced that the “somebody” Dawkins referred to in that statement was him.
Last June, he wrote in the lawsuit (brace yourself):
… Plaintiff Karl L. Dahlstrom not only does not believe in Evolution, but he is the only individual on earth in the history of man that has scientifically disproven Evolution. This makes Karl L. Dahlstrom the number one candidate for Richard Dawkins attack, even though Karl L. Dahlstrom, i.e., the “somebody”, could not be ignorant, stupid, or insane or wicked as scientifically proven by the book, The Organized Universe by Karl L. Dahlstrom with C. Phillip Clegg. Thus, the allegations or accusations/statement that Karl L. Dahlstrom, i.e. “somebody”, who does not believe in Evolution is ignorant, stupid, or insane or wicked is totally incorrect and false with results being a tort or worse against the Plaintiff Karl L. Dahlstrom. Richard Dawkins has caused millions of persons to be prejudiced and biased against Karl L. Dahlstrom and injured his reputation and subjected him to hatred, contempt, ridicule and financial injury from persons not exposed to the truth about Darwinian Evolution and the position Plaintiff Karl L. Dahlstrom has taken on this issue.
It’s worth mentioning that Dawkins made his statement in 1989, about 24 years before Dahlstrom even published his book.
Anyway, the lawsuit was ridiculous. Dahlstrom was saying that criticism of those who don’t accept evolution was a personal attack of the highest order. And this lawsuit was his way of getting revenge.
Dahlstrom demanded that Dawkins pay him $8 million in actual damages and $50 million in punitive damages — numbers he pulled out of his ass, as far as I could tell. It was $58 million for what basically amounted to an opinionated tweet directed at nobody in particular.
Furthermore, he wanted Dawkins to publicly apologize and destroy “by fire or shredding” every publication that included the statement. So… every copy of a New York Times from 1989. He wanted every online mention of that statement gone as well. Somehow. This statement right here. As if someone could just erase parts of the Internet.
(This, by the way, is really the worst attempt at proving to the world that you’re not ignorant, stupid, and insane…)
This was a legitimate lawsuit. As much as you’d think a judge could look at this and just rip it up, Dawkins had to respond. And that’s what his lawyers did last July. In a set of responses that asked to dismiss the motion and responded directly to its claims, Dawkins’ people explained why the complaints were frivolous:
The statement here, that someone who does not believe in evolution is ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked, is the equivalent of a financial advisor writing that anyone who buys a car instead of leasing is an idiot. It is hyperbole meant to make a point. It does not rise to a level beyond what is decent and tolerable in a civilized society.
You get the idea. There was plenty more about how Dawkins wasn’t stating a “fact,” how he wasn’t referring to Dahlstrom, how it wasn’t defamatory, and how there was no malice intended. They also pointed out that Dahlstrom didn’t support any of the allegations he made (which you’d think is obvious but still had to be clarified in detail).
I’m happy to say there’s finally a resolution to this case, and it doesn’t involve $58 million going into Dahlstrom’s wallet.
Plaintiff offers nothing more than his own far-fetched rhetoric that Dawkins’ statement refers to and was intended to personally harm him. Plaintiff does not dispute, and in fact admits, that Dawkins has repeatedly made this same general statement in his books, at conferences, in interviews and debates, and that on its face, the statement does not attack any particular individual, but merely references “somebody”.
Because Plaintiff’s allegations — that Defendant Dawkins’ statement about evolution referred to and was intended to harm Plaintiff — amount to nothing more than unsubstantiated conclusions, they are not entitled to assumption of the truth.
And this past week, a U.S. District Judge adopted that recommendation — in part because Dahlstrom seems to have forgotten about the lawsuit, offering no rebuttal at all — resolving the case for good:
Having received the report of the United States Magistrate Judge, and no objections thereto having been timely filed, this Court is of the opinion that the findings and conclusions of the Magistrate Judge are correct and adopts the Magistrate Judge’s report as the findings and conclusions of the Court.
It’s easy to forget that, for all the perks of fame, you have to occasionally put up with bullshit like this.