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

Richard Dawkins: Stroke caused by stress


(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.)




  1. I was surprised to see the author was a religion reporter. The coverage was very even handed.

  2. If people like Richard Dawkins and their religious opponents simply refocused their outrage on how they (and so many others) treat each other and their personal boundaries and proprietary beliefs, rather than on the vain “rightness” of their respective unprovables, imagine the productive impact their mutual refocus would have on humanity and Mr. Dawkins’s stress level.

  3. Well maybe his stress levels were in part by his seminars denigrating biblical thought, people of the book and his vehement ISIS like mentality against Christians. just maybe his manifested anger towards everyone who has a religion unlike his own paternal religion on his faith based ideologue of evolution, well maybe he needs to wake up and realize he was spared. He needs to resist the desire to be angry with christian s who did nothing to him.

  4. My point exactly. And, just as you said about Mr. Dawkins, those equally wrongful Christians who similarly denigrate the equally rightful beliefs, lives, and choices of atheists and others who don’t even go to their church should also realize that they’re trespassing on other people’s private property.

    It’s important for all sides to realize just how much they have in common with the others: Most members of each group respect other people and their beliefs. But boy-oh-boy, those few exceptions…

    It’s all about how we treat each other, and the Golden Rule applies.

  5. In times of stress the human body produces the hormone adrenaline which makes the search for an exit. Stress in small quantities needed by all because it makes you think and look for a way out of the problem. Without stress, life would be boring. But on the other hand, if the stress becomes too much of the body weakens, it loses strength and the ability to solve problems. For more info about stress please visit

  6. I agree that it should be about the golden rule and how we treat each other. Unfortunately it so often doesn’t play out like that. Dawkins doesn’t have a particular loathing for Christianity. He sees all organized religions as evil, and Islam as worse than Christianity in that regard. He’d leave them all alone if they’d do the same, but as a scientist, he feels the need to step in when people go beyond peaceful religions practice and do things like issue fatwas, promote suicide bombings or try to force non-science “alternatives” to evolution into public education. Live and let live.

  7. “He’d leave them all alone if they’d do the same”

    You perfectly state the problem, and that particular Fool’s Golden Rule is mined by far too many people, including respected authorities/celebrities/spokespeople of all beliefs.

    I see virtue in holding only oneself to the real Golden Rule. It’s not only honorable, but also easier and less stressful, since it avoids the crash-and-burn temptations to (1) exalt oneself over others; (2) hold them to one’s own beliefs; (3) get upset at them when they don’t obey; (4) bear their undeniably valid protests; and (5) feign legitimacy while flailing miserably to save face.

    I believe the Golden Rule means respecting others’ personal boundaries, beliefs, belongings, bodies, bedrooms, and business, along with their rights, freedoms, privacy, and equality, as one would have others respect one’s own. This broad reading has the added advantage of helping me see who’s doing the trespassing when both sides cry “Foul!”

  8. “Blame” usually is directed at people. and should I believe, always be kept, as a word, for that intention. Richard Dawkins was blaming absolutely no one for his stroke! More than that, he was taking full responsibility for his tendency to get embroiled in controversy.


  9. Do not be afraid when some become rich,
        when the wealth of their houses increases.
    For when they die they will carry nothing away;
        their wealth will not go down after them.
    Though in their lifetime they count themselves happy
        —for you are praised when you do well for yourself—
    they[g] will go to the company of their ancestors,
        who will never again see the light. Mortals cannot abide in their pomp;
        they are like the animals that perish.

  10. Me, too, mate. Praying for recovery, and change of heart.

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