Atheist Richard Dawkins: Slavery Profiteer?
Telegraph newspaper: His family once owned slaves
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 19, 2012 4:38 PM CST
British ethologist, writer and Oxford University graduate Richard Dawkins, watches a film as he attends the launch of the 'Oxford Thinking' campaign at the British Academy in London, on May 28, 2008.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Renowned atheist Richard Dawkins fired back at the Telegraph today after the paper accused him of profiting—albeit indirectly—from slavery, the Guardian reports. The Telegraph's article notes that Dawkins' great great great great great grandfather, Henry Dawkins, owned 1,013 Jamaican slaves before he died in 1744. Dawkins called the article "a smear tactic" and says the family slave fortune dwindled long before he was born.

According to Dawkins, the Telegraph reporter called him and quoted a Biblical line about the Lord "visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation." The reporter also suggested that Dawkins—an evolutionary biologist—has a "slave supporting" gene. Dawkins writes in his blog that he expected a "smear" after clashing with a former chancellor of St. Paul's cathedral on a BBC program this week. "But in my wildest dreams I couldn't have imagined the surreal form this one was to take."