In 1996, Richard Dawkins was awarded the American Humanist Association’s highest honor: Humanist of the Year.
Tonight, the AHA took it back.
Regrettably, Richard Dawkins has over the past several years accumulated a history of making statements that use the guise of scientific discourse to demean marginalized groups, an approach antithetical to humanist values. His latest statement implies that the identities of transgender individuals are fraudulent, while also simultaneously attacking Black identity as one that can be assumed when convenient. His subsequent attempts at clarification are inadequate and convey neither sensitivity nor sincerity.
Consequently, the AHA Board has concluded that Richard Dawkins is no longer deserving of being honored by the AHA, and has voted to withdraw, effective immediately, the 1996 Humanist of the Year award.
They’re referring to a recent tweet in which Dawkins compared trans people to Rachel Dolezal — implying that trans people choose their identities — and complained about how critics were “vilified” for questioning those identities.
In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black. Some men choose to identify as women, and some women choose to identify as men. You will be vilified if you deny that they literally are what they identify as.
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) April 10, 2021
That last word didn’t help his case, either, suggesting that all of this was merely academic for him, all while Republicans across the country are pushing or passing laws designed to hurt trans people.
Dawkins added days later:
I do not intend to disparage trans people. I see that my academic “Discuss” question has been misconstrued as such and I deplore this. It was also not my intent to ally in any way with Republican bigots in US now exploiting this issue .
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) April 12, 2021
Too little too late. It was a weak attempt at walking back what he said and didn’t even address the main issues.
As I wrote last week, and as the AHA alluded to, Dawkins has done this sort of thing before, creating ammo for conservatives to use in their attacks on transgender individuals by questioning the legitimacy of who they are. He even appeared to pat himself on the back for using trans people’s preferred pronouns.
Is trans woman a woman? Purely semantic. If you define by chromosomes, no. If by self-identification, yes. I call her "she" out of courtesy.
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) October 26, 2015
Yes, I know it’s behind a paywall but it’s worth it. Superb article by Trevor Phillips on the oppressive nonsense that can flow from aggressive “wokeism”, e.g. demanding that employees should sign a statement that “trans women are women”.https://t.co/EYp3EPElBg
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) November 8, 2020
While the AHA’s revocation of his honor is mostly symbolic, it follows a separate denunciation from American Atheists’ Alison Gill, a trans woman and the group’s Vice President for Legal and Policy:
We need science communicators like Richard Dawkins to put in the time to learn this information and then communicate it clearly and accurately to the public, not reinforce dangerous and harmful narratives put forward by the opponents of equality.
Meanwhile, the Center for Inquiry, where Dawkins serves on the Board of Directors and which merged with his foundation years ago, has not said anything publicly yet.
The AHA has revoked the same honor from one other Humanist of the Year: Lawrence Krauss. In 2018, several months after sexual misconduct allegations first came out against the physicist, and shortly after his university confirmed reports that he had violated their harassment policy by groping someone at a conference, the AHA said it would withdraw the award they gave him in 2015.
… The AHA board has concluded that the documents recently made public by [Arizona State University], at the end of their process, substantively and reliably establish that Krauss is undeserving of such recognition. The board has consequently voted to withdraw, effective immediately, all recognition accorded to Krauss by the AHA, and specifically the award of Humanist of the Year 2015.
The Humanist of the Year award is meant to honor someone who is “an exemplar of humanist values.” If you look through the list of past recipients, there are now two blank spots where Krauss and Dawkins’ names used to be.