Bits and Bobs – Is Richard Dawkins an ape?

In an interview with a black African bishop, the British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins identified himself as an African ape. ‘I am an ape. I am an African ape. I am very proud to be an African ape and so you should be’, Dawkins told the bemused cleric. Even though he did not intend it, Dawkins’ statement brings out starkly the intuitive implausibility of evolutionary theory. When hearing those words, one is immediately struck by the obvious falsity of the claim. No matter what he may choose to call himself, Richard Dawkins is certainly no African ape.

To give an idea of the distance separating the two creatures, below are some things that Richard Dawkins can do, but which an ape – African or otherwise – could never do:

  • Read a novel
  • Reflect on his own existence
  • Enjoy a Shakespeare play
  • Wonder about the meaning of life
  • Appreciate a Beethoven symphony
  • Think about the theory of evolution
  • Dream about his future
  • Perceive right and wrong
  • Complete a crossword puzzle
  • Contemplate the size of the universe
  • Form a mental concept of God

Richard Dawkins can do all this, and more, while even the brightest of apes is incapable of even grasping the point behind these mental activities. To suggest that there is some kind of fundamental equivalence between Professor Dawkins and an ape is not only demeaning, it is outright incredible. It is also indecent, since there is something almost blasphemous about a person putting himself on the same level as an animal.

Some people may think that Dawkins’ self-description is a sign of humility, but the opposite may well be the case. Dawkins is a man who has been generously endowed with considerable abilities, but who stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the source of these gifts. ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights’, we read in the first chapter of James’ Epistle.

The truth is that we have all been created in God’s image. Fallen though we are, we still bear the divine stamp in our being. We must never forget that. Above all, we must not teach our children that they come from animals. Not only is this untrue, but if we tell them that they are animals, they will eventually start acting like animals! We need to teach them that there is something more to humanity than the physical nature we share with the animal world. We must explain to them that those yearnings for goodness, for love, for immortality and transcendence, that sometimes stir in their souls, have been implanted there by God. Most importantly, we need to teach them love and respect for our Creator who gives us all good things, not only in this life, but also in the one to come.

Richard Dawkins’ intelligence and the ability to speak and reason did not come from apes. Neither are they a product of chance. They are gifts from above. He should not be using these gifts to demean himself or the One who gifted him so liberally.



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