by David Catchpoole

In case you missed the fanfare of publicity associated with this news last month, “Sri Lankan scientists have identified a new genus of fresh water fish and named it after the evolutionary biologist and renowned atheist Richard Dawkins.”1,2

The fish in this new genus are not themselves ‘new’ to science. These small tropical fish are already well known as ‘barbs’, a popular aquarium fish. The new genus, Dawkinsia, comprises nine speciesfound in south Asia which were formerly assigned to the genus Puntius, comprised of around 120 species.4

Lead researcher Rohan Pethiyagoda said extensive studies in India and Sri Lanka showed that the level of diversity among such fish was “much greater than previously suspected”. That was basically the justification given for the new genus, and also partly the reason that the researchers had chosen to name it after Dawkins, who they admired for having written anti-religion books such as The God Delusion.

“Richard Dawkins has through his writings helped us understand that the universe is far more beautiful and awe-inspiring than any religion has imagined,” said Pethiyagoda. “We hope that Dawkinsia will serve as a reminder of the elegance and simplicity of evolution, the only rational explanation there is for the unimaginable diversity of life on Earth.”5….

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