Richard Dawkins has provoked outrage by belittling the 14-year-old Texas teenager who was arrested on suspicion of building a hoax bomb that turned out to be a homemade clock. The scientist and writer slams Ahmed Mohamed for claiming the clock was his ‘invention’ and hits out at tech firms that have rushed to offer him invitations and freebies. Dawkins also questions whether the teenager was, in fact, trying to get arrested.
‘He disassembled & reassembled a clock (which is fine) & then claimed it was his “invention” (which is fraud),’ Dawkins wrote on Twitter. While conceding that the police should not have arrested Ahmed, he questions: ‘what was his motive? If the reassembled components did something more than the original clock, that’s creative. If not, it looks like hoax,’ he adds.
So, this story about a 14 year old boy in Texas that was arrested on suspicion of creating a bomb hoax (who, apparently just wanted to show off his latest electronics project to his teachers) that has blown up (no pun intended) all over the news and social media, caught my attention immediately. Not because of his race, or his religion, the seeming absurdity of the situation, the emotionally charged photo of a young boy in a NASA t-shirt being led off in hand cuffs, the hash tags, the presidential response… no, none of that. I’m an electronics geek. I was interested in the clock! I wanted to figure out what he had come up with. I found the highest resolution photograph of the clock I could. Instantly, I was disappointed. Somewhere in all of this – there has indeed been a hoax. Ahmed Mohamed didn’t invent his own alarm clock. He didn’t even build a clock.
For starters, one glance at the printed circuit board in the photo, and I knew we were looking at mid-to-late 1970s vintage electronics… So I turned to eBay, searching for vintage alarm clocks. It only took a minute to locate Ahmed’s clock. See this eBay listing, up at the time of this writing. Amhed’s clock was invented, and built, by Micronta, a Radio Shack subsidary. Catalog number 63 756….
Ahmed Mohamad did not invent, nor build a clock. He took apart an existing clock, and transplanted the guts into a pencil box, and claimed it was his own creation. It all seems really fishy to me. If we accept the story about “inventing” an alarm clock is made up, as I think I’ve made a pretty good case for, it’s fair to wonder what other parts of the story might be made up, not reported factually by the media, or at least, exaggerated.
Ya think? But of course the whole fishy event was immediately seized upon as an example of “Islamophobia” we always hear so much about it and yet never quite seem to see, as well as (how about that?) a “teachable moment” by the philo-Islamic Obama White House. The entire story smacks of a disinformation operation. Dawkins, meanwhile, immediately got it from all the usual suspects and began backing away:
Dawkins, the author of books including the groundbreaking The Selfish Gene, the bestselling The God Delusion and the memoir A Sense of Wonder, is a leading critic of religious belief and an advocate for rational thought. On Sunday, the emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford said he was simply looking for the truth of the Texas schoolboy’s story. In a tweet, the scientist linked to a YouTube video entitled Ahmed Mohammed [sic] Clock is a FRAUD, in which user Thomas Talbot alleges Mohamed’s clock “is in fact not an invention. The ‘clock’ is a commercial bedside alarm clock removed from its casing”. In his tweet, Dawkins said: “If this is true, what was his motive? Whether or not he wanted the police to arrest him, they shouldn’t have done so.” His next tweet said of the video: “This man seems to know what he’s talking about.”
Subsequent tweets, issued against a growing storm of online protest, said: “Assembling clock from bought components is fine. Taking clock out of its case to make it look as if he built it is not fine. Which is true?
Here’s the video Dawkins refers to:
Dawkins eventually retreated. He devoted tweets to questioning police motives and tweeted a reference to the new leader of Britain’s opposition Labour party: “Sorry if I go a bit over the top in my passion for truth. Not just over a boy’s alleged ‘invention’ but also media lies about J[eremy] Corbyn.” In an answer to a Twitter user who wrote: “I think you too frequently confuse ‘truth’ with ‘obsessive and unnecessary dedication to accuracy’”, Dawkins wrote: “That could well be true, in which case I apologise. I guess I’m a bit sensitive about being among the many fooled.” He subsequently retweeted President Obama’s White House invitation to the boy.
Shut up, they explained.