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Richard Dawkins: Stroke caused by stress

(RNS) The prominent atheist says his recent stroke was likely the result of stress caused by his "getting into controversies."

Richard Dawkins. Photo courtesy of Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science


(RNS) Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist and the world’s most prominent atheist, says stress most likely caused the stroke he suffered earlier this month.

In an audio message released on Saturday (Feb. 13) by his foundation, Dawkins, 74, said he suffered a hemorrhagic stroke that affected only his coordination, not the more serious ischemic stroke that could have affected his cognition.

“I gather that if you’ve got to have a stroke, this is a pretty good one to have,” he said in the message.

Dawkins was home alone in England on Feb. 5 when he felt his left arm was “not behaving properly.” He stood up, staggered and fell. He spent four days in the hospital before coming home — where the message was recorded — on Feb. 9.

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Dawkins has had “chronic blood pressure problems for a while,” which he and his doctors thought were under control. The doctors asked if he was under stress and, “I had to say yes, I had,” he said.

Dawkins said he was stressed about being disinvited from the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism after he retweeted a video likening feminists to Islamists. Dawkins has been at the center of multiple Twitter controversies in the past three years.

He said doctors “keep advising me not to get involved in controversies and I am afraid I had to tell them that controversy — that not getting into controversies — is one of the things I am not particularly talented at.”

The stroke occurred on the same day he received what he called a “gracious” apology from NECSS and a reinstatement of his invitation — something he called “good news.”

Dawkins has cancelled several speaking engagements and there is no word on when he will resume his schedule, or take his seat on the board of the Center for Inquiry, which recently merged with his foundation.

(Kimberly Winston is a national correspondent for Religion News Service.)