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Richard Dawkins and the dangers of Geriniol

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Hold up! Before you read on, please read this...

This post was published more than 14 years ago

I keep old posts on the site because I often enjoy reading old content on other people's sites. It can be interesting to see how views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have, to put it mildly, mellowed.

I'm not a believer in brushing the past under the carpet. I've written some offensive rubbish on here in the past: deleting it and pretending it never happened doesn't change that. I hope that stumbling across something that's 14 years old won't offend anyone anew, because I hope that people can understand that what I thought and felt and wrote about then is probably very different to what I think and feel and wrote about now. It's a relic of an (albeit recent) bygone era.

So, given the age of this post, please bear in mind:

  • My views may well have changed in the last 14 years. I have written some very silly things over the years, many of which I find utterly cringeworthy today.
  • This post might use words or language in ways which I would now consider highly inappropriate, offensive, embarrassing, or all three.
  • Factual information might be outdated.
  • Links might be broken, and embedded material might not appear properly.

Okay. Consider yourself duly warned. Read on...

In a very cleverly written allegorical article for Prospect this month (“Opiate of the masses: It is a highly addictive drug, but governments everywhere encourage its use“), Richard Dawkins grapples with the inherent dangers associated with ‘Gerin oil’:

Gerin oil (or Geriniol to give it its scientific name) is a powerful drug which acts directly on the central nervous system to produce a range of characteristic symptoms, often of an antisocial or self- damaging nature. If administered chronically in childhood, Gerin oil can permanently modify the brain to produce adult disorders, including dangerous delusions which have proved very hard to treat. The four doomed flights of 11th September were, in a very real sense, Gerin oil trips: all 19 of the hijackers were high on the drug at the time.

I’m quite surprised that the Mail hasn’t picked up on this and given Dawkins a pretty hard time for it – but then, perhaps they didn’t get it. Either way, it’s a superbly well written piece, and has some pretty convincing arguments, many of which I largely agree with:

It is easy to regard such people as evil criminals, from whom the rest of us need protection. Indeed, we do need protecting from them. But the problem would not arise in the first place if children were protected from becoming hooked on a drug with such a bad prognosis for their adult minds.

It’s very well worth reading, whatever your point of view, and I think it was quite a brave piece for Dawkins to write. He’s always been one of my favourite scientific authors, and this has certainly done nothing to change that view.

This 754th post was filed under: News and Comment.

Some recently published posts

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Some random old posts

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The post-hope politics of House of Cards / July 2014, Less than a minute long

The ‘Goth’ subculture / March 2006, 4 minutes long


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