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Richard Dawkins stripped of ‘humanist of the year’ award after inviting discussion on transgender issues in tweet

The organization said Dawkins had recently implied that “the identities of transgender individuals are fraudulent, while also simultaneously attacking Black identity as one that can be assumed when convenient,” noting he would be stripped of an award granted to him some 25 years ago. It declined to specify the offending comment.

“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,” the AHA said on Monday.

While the Humanist Association gave few other details and offered no examples of Dawkins’ “accumulated history” of inflammatory remarks, an April 10 tweet from the biologist drawing comparisons between transgenderism and the self-described “trans-black” activist Rachel Dolezal is a likely culprit. 

“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,” Dawkins wrote, calling on his followers to “discuss” the apparent contradiction.

He followed up with another post days later, presumably in response to netizens outraged over the first missive, saying he did 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,” Dawkins added.

The later post apparently did nothing to appease the AHA, which said that Dawkins’ “subsequent attempts at clarification” were “inadequate” and did not convey “sensitivity” or “sincerity.” 

While some observers said rescinding Dawkins’ award was a “good call,” the move also triggered an outpouring of criticism online, with many suggesting the atheist org had become beholden to “woke gods” and adopted a “pseudo-religious” devotion to political correctness.

“Identity politics is the new religion. We can be good without it,” one user wrote, putting a spin on the AHA’s slogan, “Good Without a God.”

One self-avowed humanist and Dawkins critic called on AHA members to terminate their ties with the association over its decision, which other users deemed an overreaction to the biologist’s “reasonable” call for discussion.

Dawkins’ April 10 tweet is far from his first controversial post, stoking a wave of condemnation in February after suggesting that eugenics could “work in practice,” while also indicating that he “deplore[d]” the idea on “ideological, political [and] moral grounds.” Before that, he was accused of racism in 2018 after tweeting that the bells of England’s Winchester Cathedral were “so much nicer than the aggressive-sounding ‘Allahu Akhbar’” heard at Muslim mosques, one among several hot-button posts about Islam over the years.

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