Fishy Dawkinsia tales, tragic Dawkinsian philosophy

One of the fish species assigned to the new genus named in honour of Richard Dawkins: Dawkinsia filamentosus (Common name: blackspot barb)


In case you missed the fanfare of publicity associated with this news last month, “Sri Lankan scientists have identified a new genus of fresh water fish and named it after the evolutionary biologist and renowned atheist Richard Dawkins.”1,2

The fish in this new genus are not themselves ‘new’ to science. These small tropical fish are already well known as ‘barbs’, a popular aquarium fish. The new genus, Dawkinsia, comprises nine species3 found in south Asia which were formerly assigned to the genus Puntius, comprised of around 120 species.4

Lead researcher Rohan Pethiyagoda said extensive studies in India and Sri Lanka showed that the level of diversity among such fish was “much greater than previously suspected”. That was basically the justification given for the new genus, and also partly the reason that the researchers had chosen to name it after Dawkins, who they admired for having written anti-religion books such as The God Delusion.

Wikipedia.orgRichard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins’ numerous polemical anti-God books adorn the ‘bestseller’ shelves of bookshops around the world. And now nine species of tropical freshwater fish bear his name.

“Richard Dawkins has through his writings helped us understand that the universe is far more beautiful and awe-inspiring than any religion has imagined,” said Pethiyagoda. “We hope that Dawkinsia will serve as a reminder of the elegance and simplicity of evolution, the only rational explanation there is for the unimaginable diversity of life on Earth.”5

Perhaps not surprisingly, Pethiyagoda’s praise of Dawkins, and his own Dawkinsian-like endorsement of evolution as the explanation for our origins, delighted those in the skeptical blogosphere. This sample comment/challenge by ‘Friendly Atheist’ Hemant Mehta epitomised their glee:

“Your move, Creationists.”6

Our ‘move’? What’s there of substance to respond to?7 If you remove the evolutionary phraseology of Pethiyagoda and his colleagues, all they’ve done is study the existing diversity of a south Asian fish genus, subsequently deciding to re-classify some into a new genus, with nine species. None of this is any cause for evolutionists to gloat. As we’ve pointed out many times: diversity, adaptation, speciation, natural selection are in no way evidence of fish-to-philosophers evolution; the modern notion of ‘species’ is not akin to the biblical ‘kind’, and so on (and on, and on).

Like the poor fisherman who can only tell his ‘fish tales’ about the fish that got away as he has no evidence to show for it, so too there’s no evidence here of any evolution—we are simply expected to accept the evolutionists’ word on it. But unlike the honest fisherman who truly did observe ‘the one that got away’, there’s something fishy here about the evolutionists’ Dawkinsia tales of its origin, because they did not observe evolution. As Richard Dawkins himself has famously said, “Evolution has been observed. It’s just that it hasn’t been observed while it’s happening.”8

The ‘Immortal’ Dawkins?

Richard Dawkins, responding to the honour of having a fish named after him, told BBC interviewer James Menendez,9 “I’m delighted, it’s a great honour, it’s a kind of immortality. And it’s a delightful little fish, well there are four species actually, and they’re all delightful little fish, and so I’m really very pleased, I’m very grateful to Dr Pethiyagoda and his colleagues.”

Dawkins used the interview opportunity to remind BBC listeners that evolution means that we too are merely evolved species:

“Species are divided into genera. So for example we are Homo sapiens and there used to be other species, Homo erectus, Homo habilis.”

Odd that he mentions Homo habilis when it’s been thoroughly discredited by evolutionary anthropologists themselves as being the much hoped-for ‘transitional form’ leading to man. (See Homo habilis hacked from the family tree.) And the facts about Homo erectus square with it actually being Homo sapiens. But then the interviewer provided Dawkins with a ‘free kick’ opportunity to defend his evolutionary fish-to-philosopher philosophy from the warnings of members of the public savvy enough to recognize its tragic consequences for society.

James Menendez (BBC): “I just wonder, because, you know, some of the comments made about you recently—you’ve been accused of a destructive form of atheism. I wonder whether this is also perhaps a chance to demonstrate the beauty of evolution and the sheer diversity.”

Richard Dawkins: “Of course it is. And anybody who calls me destructive has never actually read anything I’ve written. Unfortunately a lot of people read what other people say about me, and it’s terribly common of course, one does that all the time. But anybody who actually reads any of my books will find that they’re the very opposite of destructive. I am—my whole life—devoted to extolling the beauty and the wonder of the living world. And Dr Pethiyagoda in his paper very kindly paid tribute to that.”

Actually, and unfortunately, people have read things that Dawkins has written, resulting in them becoming “very upset”, or even resulting in their suicide. As one grieving father said of the effect of a Dawkins book upon his late son, “It just destroyed him.” See our short article: ‘The God Delusion’ and evolutionary teaching linked to tragedies.

Dawkins knows of this, for on his own website he has drawn attention to it, providing his readers with a hyperlink to it (mobile website), but is dismissive:

“I give it so that we can all see how utterly ridiculous the allegation is: http://creation.mobi/focus-332#god-delusion-tragedies10,11

Clearly Dawkins is sensitive to people pointing out the destructiveness of his writing. But he is certainly being disingenuous when he says that “Anybody who calls me destructive has never actually read anything I’ve written.” That’s because Richard Dawkins himself has written (in his book Unweaving the Rainbow—which we have also reviewed):

“A foreign publisher of my first book confessed that he could not sleep for three nights after reading it, so troubled was he by what he saw as its cold bleak message … A teacher from a distant country wrote to me reproachfully that a pupil had come to him in tears after reading the same book, because it had persuaded her that life was empty and purposeless.”12

Creationist author Richard Barns nails Dawkins on this in his book The Dawkins Proof for the existence of God. In relation to the above Dawkins quote re sleeplessness and purposelessness, Barns writes:

“This doctrine that robs adults of sleep and leaves teenage girls in tears is the evolutionary atheism of Richard Dawkins. The above quote is from the preface to his book Unweaving the Rainbow in which he attempts to answer this problem; but all he has to offer in that book is materialistic mysticism. He tries to make his readers feel that life has meaning but he has not abandoned his belief that everything reduces to particles of matter obeying the laws of physics. Thus life is meaningless and so is every value and standard that we hold dear. It is materialism that causes real distress and despair to those who take it seriously. Christianity has an answer to the doctrine of hell—the doctrine of eternal life as the gift of God—but Dawkins has no answer to the hopeless purposelessness of atheism.”13

Well said, Richard. Richard Barns, that is. Not the other Richard who presently disdains the gift of God in Jesus,14 instead limiting himself to the ‘kind of immortality’ apparently proffered by having a fishy namesake.

Published: 28 August 2012


  1. Sri Lankans baptise new fish genus for atheist Dawkins, http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/asia/302733/sri-lankans-baptise-new-fish-genus-for-atheist-dawkins, 16 July 2012. Return to text.
  2. Sri Lankans name new fish genus after atheist Dawkins, uk.news.yahoo.com/sri-lankans-baptise-fish-genus, 16 July 2012. Return to text.
  3. Viz., Dawkinsiaarulius, D. assimilis, D. exclamatio, D. filamentosa, D. rohani, D. rubrotinctus, D. singhala, D. srilankensis, D. tambraparniei. Return to text.
  4. Pethiyagoda, R., Meegaskumbura, M. and Maduwage, K., A synopsis of the South Asian fishes referred to Puntius (Pisces: Cyprinidae), Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters 23(1):69–95, June 2012, http://www.pfeil-verlag.de/04biol/pdf/ief23_1_12.pdf. Return to text.
  5. In their paper (Ref. 4), Pethiyagodaet al. more formally wrote: “Etymology. The genus is named for Richard Dawkins, for his contribution to the public understanding of science and, in particular, of evolutionary science; gender feminine.” Return to text.
  6. New Genus of South Asian Fish Named After Richard Dawkins, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012/07/16/new-genus-of-south-asian-fish-named-after-richard-dawkins/, July 2012. Return to text.
  7. Similarly, when the Higgs boson media circus flared in July this year, atheists gloated over their ‘God particle’, with one blogging: “Suck it, creationists.” But there was really nothing in the Higgs boson news to give them any basis for their God-denial—see Scientists claim to have confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson—but fail to credit God who created it. Return to text.
  8. ‘Battle over evolution’—Bill Moyers interviews Richard Dawkins, Now, 3 December 2004, PBS network. Return to text.
  9. BBC Newshour, Dawkins fish—Richard Dawkins talks to James Menendez about the new group of fish named after him: Dawkinsia, bbc.co.uk, http://audioboo.fm/boos/886789-dawkins-fish?utm_campaign=detailpage&utm_content=retweet&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter#t=2m14s, 16 July 2012. Return to text.
  10. The Richard Dawkins Foundation, http://richarddawkins.net/articles/646657-no-fence-to-sit-on, 3 August 2012. Return to text.
  11. On seeing this, one of the Dawkins website bloggers wrote in response: “So apparently, of the millions who have read TGD [The God Delusion], 2 felt suicidal. Think about this statistically. If this establishes any causal link whatsoever, it seems TGD prevents suicidal feelings.” The Richard Dawkins Foundation, http://richarddawkins.net/articles/646657-no-fence-to-sit-on, 3 August 2012. Return to text.
  12. Dawkins, R., Unweaving the Rainbow, Penguin Books, London, 2006, Preface, page xi. Return to text.
  13. Barns, R., The Dawkins Proof for the existence of God, www.thedawkinsproof.com, 2nd edition, 2010, p. 30. Available via creation.com/store. Return to text.
  14. As per John 3:16—“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.Return to text.

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