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Sep 06 2013

Secrets and lies

Stephanie has a post about standards and how we decide whom to believe and related subjects. In it she links to a document that reveals some important background information.

So here we have to weigh Sarah’s word against that of Cornwell, now the former RDFRS executive director. This would be harder for me if Cornwell didn’t have a history of using falsehood to deflect negative attention from Dawkins. She did this in the forum debacle a few years ago. (Yes, that email has been verified with someone who worked for RDFRS at the time. No, the source of the verification is not Timonen.) She did this by privately “clarifying” that Paula Kirby wasn’t part of Dawkins’ foundation when people were baffled that Kirby would write something like “The Sisterhood of the Oppressed”, though Cornwell’s email states that Dawkins insisted that Kirby be included in the foundation. [ETA: Kirby herself has also claimed the association.] Given Cornwell’s history, I don’t see any good reason to think that when someone otherwise trustworthy says something about Dawkins that Cornwell contradicts, I should trust Cornwell.

The link under “forum debacle” is, as Stephanie says, to an email. The email reveals some secret relationships, which explain some things about the atheist and secularist movements – secret relationships among people who ran major organizations and held positions on the boards of other major organizations. The email sheds light on a lot of things – things which should never have been secret – conflicts of interest, in short. Undeclared nepotism, in short. And, probably, why Dawkins took such a ferocious dislike to Rebecca Watson.

63 comments

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  1. 1
    jenBPhillips

    I admit, I found that email shocking–but the possibility that the ideas behind ‘Sisterhood of the Oppressed’ originated as pillow talk makes a lot of sense.

  2. 2
    Amphigorey

    I feel like I’m missing something – how does the email explain why Dawkins has such a ferocious dislike of Rebecca Watson?

  3. 3
    hjhornbeck

    I’m having a tough time deducing the second half’s authorship. I’d guess it was quoted from Timonen, but it talks about a White House dinner (Faircloth?) and is signed “r” (but talks about Dawkins in the third person).

  4. 4
    Ophelia Benson

    Jen – you admit?! I found it massively shocking. Not the relationships themselves, but the nondisclosure.

  5. 5
    Ophelia Benson

    r is for Robin, which is Cornwell’s first name.

    Amphigorey – it probably helps to know that Kirby was on a panel at that Dublin conference, and that Rebecca disagreed with some of what she said on her, later panel.

  6. 6
    Anthony K

    I admit to being a little unclear on the relationship between this and his dislike of RW as well.

    I took away the fact that I’m much more adept at handling relationships with exes than RD is. Also, when I was in fundraising, if I was having a sexual relationship with someone who then volunteered with my organisation, it was disclosed. (And because I’m terrible, my partners did not get cushy board positions as a result of our relationships—if anything I put my relationships in jeopardy by asking my partners to work so many fucking bingos.)

  7. 7
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    Not the relationships themselves, but the nondisclosure.

    Isn’t Dawkins married? If so, and he’s not in an open marriage, it makes sense that these two affairs (and probably others beside) weren’t made public knowledge.

    It also explains one reason why Dawkins has such a dismissive attitude to claims of sexual harassment in the community/movement. If he’s accustomed to trolling for mistresses among the women involved in the movement, he’s probably going to see that behaviour (i.e. treating women as objects for his own sexual gratification) as perfectly acceptable and anyone complaining as annoying bitches trying to cramp his style.

  8. 8
    MrFancyPants

    Anthony K:
    In Dublin, RW said that Kirby was using an “argument from ignorance” in downplaying sexism in the skeptical/atheist movement because she didn’t personally experience it. Given Kirby’s personality, I would guess she took offense at that, and probably the entire rebuttal. That is the link between Kirby and Dawkins’ dislike of RW–if RW offended Kirby, and Kirby is in an intimate relationship with Dawkins, then it would be natural to assume that he adopted her offense as his own.

  9. 9
    screechymonkey

    Not that this should necessarily change anyone’s opinions about the whole thing: those who already thought that “Dear Muslima” and “if she’s going to be there” were perfectly proportionate responses will continue to think so regardless of what other motivations he may have had. And those who thought otherwise aren’t likely to think more highly of Dawkins just because he may have been “defending ‘his’ woman.”

    I will, however, note the irony of all those who loved to toss the “whiteknighting” at Dawkins’s critics, and/or who implied that (e.g. PZ) either already was or was hoping to sleep with (e.g. Watson).

  10. 10
    jenBPhillips

    Anthony:
    One of RD’s former mistresses says that he has ‘psychologically complex’ difficulties with strong women + Rebecca gives a talk refuting the sentiments of RD’s present mistress = dislike of RW
    is how I read it.

  11. 11
    Anthony K

    Ah, I see Mr. FancyPants.

    This kind of thing is why I got out of NFP work. (Also, I got tired of being handed cartloads of obsolete computers and other useless equipment and having to MacGuyver a working, networked office out of the trash.)

  12. 12
    screechymonkey

    Ibis3 @7:

    Isn’t Dawkins married? If so, and he’s not in an open marriage, it makes sense that these two affairs (and probably others beside) weren’t made public knowledge.

    A couple of years ago (I think), Dawkins wrote what I thought was a rather strange op-ed piece; I forget where it appeared. Essentially the theme was that “sexual jealousy” was irrational. There may have been some reference to evolutionary psychology, but otherwise it seemed strange because it was kind of a departure from his usual subjects. It also seemed pretty darned close to a declaration of polyamory. Not that I have any problem with that, but I was expecting that it would set off a round of “ah, here you see those amoral atheists and their lack of respect for marriage, etc.”

  13. 13
    Anthony K

    Thanks for the explanation as well, jenbphillips.

  14. 14
    screechymonkey

    Ah, here’s the op-ed I was thinking of. It’s older than I thought: 2007, originally published in the Washington Post and/or Newsweek.

    I, for one, feel drawn to the idea that there is something noble and virtuous in rising above nature in this way. I admit that I have, at times in my life, been jealous, but it is one of the things I now regret. Assuming that such practical matters as sexually transmitted diseases and the paternity of children can be sorted out (and nowadays DNA testing will clinch that for you if you are sufficiently suspicious, which I am not), what, actually, is wrong with loving more than one person? Why should you deny your loved one the pleasure of sexual encounters with others, if he or she is that way inclined? ….
    And why don’t we all admire — as I increasingly do — those rare free spirits confident enough to rise above jealousy, stop fretting about who is “cheating on” whom, and tell the green-eyed monster to go jump in the lake?

    I don’t know, maybe we shouldn’t even be discussing this subject. I sort of understand the conflict of interest point Ophelia is making, but I still don’t think that obligated him to inform the public of his personal life.

  15. 15
    S Mukherjee

    @Ibis3, Let’s burn some bridges — I don’t know if Dawkins is in an open marriage, but some years ago he wrote on the RDF website that just as people have multiple platonic friends without any jealousy, so they should be allowed to have multiple romantic/sexual partners without jealousy and disapproval from society. It makes sense, and though I’m not polyamorous myself, I can see his point. But the thing is, platonic friendship is NOT the same thing as a sexual relationship, and also platonic friendship can be subject to jealousy! Moreover he had written this piece in criticism of a recent (at that time) incident of some well-known man being divorced by his wife for his infidelity (Dawkins was blaming the courts and the wife for wishing to end a marriage because the husband’s extra-marital affair, because you know, so what if the husband had other sexual partners) — therefore it left me with a slightly bad taste in the mouth.

    [Just to clarify: I am not against polyamory or open marriages -- there was just something in Dawkins's writing in that post that nettled me a little bit, the way he was defending this well-known chap's right to go bed-hopping. And this well-known chap was NOT in a polyamorous or open marriage.]

  16. 16
    eigenperson

    I sort of understand the conflict of interest point Ophelia is making, but I still don’t think that obligated him to inform the public of his personal life.

    He’s obliged to inform the public of his professional life as trustee, founder, and figurehead of the RDF, and that includes any personal relationships he may have with the people he hires to run the RDF. That’s sort of a minimal transparency standard for someone who runs a large organization.

    It doesn’t require him to reveal any part of his personal life that doesn’t directly bear on his professional activities. But this absolutely does.

  17. 17
    kaboobie

    I commented on Stephanie’s post, but it got lost amidst an argument with a Christian apologist. Forgive me if I repeat myself.

    I had heard rumors before about both Cornwall and Kirby. Dawkins has been married to Lalla Ward for quite some time. Perhaps she knows about his mistresses, perhaps she does not. Whether their relationship is open or not, Cornwall being the Executive Director of the US branch and Kirby running the UK branch* of the RDFRS all feels rather unsavory to me, like he can’t have a working relationship with a woman he hasn’t slept with.

    Cornwall spoke at the Atheist Alliance of America conference over Labor Day weekend. I thought the diversity of the lineup and the quality of the talks was excellent overall. However, Cornwall’s talk, even more so that her closing speech at WiS2, was all about how awesome Richard Dawkins is (though even she admitted to wishing he would stay away from Twitter). It was rather embarrassing, actually. She also gave an intro to Dawkins’ video greeting later that evening, part of the award presentation to Steven Pinker, and I think she should have left it at that.

    * Apparently this is the subject of some dispute, whether her position is official or not

  18. 18
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    @screechymonkey & @ S Mukherjee

    Yeah. I have no problem with open polyamory either, but it’s difficult to tell whether in that op-ed Dawkins is telegraphing that he is himself in an open relationship or whether it’s rationalisation for “hypothetical” behaviour that he’s secretly engaged in (esp. as he speaks of admiring those “rare free spirits” as if they are other people).

    In the whole piece, he never makes a distinction between having multiple relationships with the full knowledge and agreement of everyone involved and cheating (i.e. doing it behind someone’s back). The only problem he acknowledges is jealousy not deception. Seems a little dubious to me.

    In one of the most disgusting stories to hit the British newspapers last year, the wife of a well-known television personality, Chris Tarrant, hired a private detective to spy on him. The detective reported evidence of adultery and Tarrant’s wife divorced him, in unusually vicious style. But what shocked me was the way public opinion sided with Tarrant’s horrible wife. Far from despising, as I do, anybody who would stoop so low as to hire a detective for such a purpose, large numbers of people, including even Mr. Tarrant himself, seemed to think she was fully justified. Far from concluding, as I would, that he was well rid of her, he was covered with contrition and his unfortunate mistress was ejected, covered with odium.

    He’s making the betrayed woman out to be the villain and the adulterous husband the victim. How convenient?

    But anyway, I brought it up merely as a possible explanation for his keeping the relationships with Cronwell and Kirby a secret. The rest is just more insight into his character.

  19. 19
    georgebean

    Not to mention coming dangerously close to the edge of workplace sexual harassment.

    It is legally actionable (let alone morally reprehensible) when new mistresses exert pressure to punish or shut-out old mistresses at the workplace.

    And though the Reason Rally may not have the same employment protections that come with an employed position – independent contractors don’t enjoy the same protections in law – it would constitute legally actionable workplace discrimination if a man interferes with another’s work in retaliation for public disagreement with his mistress.

    In other words it’s legally actionable when someone’s sexual needs/wants result in any kind of influence on other employees, good or bad, at the workplace. So it’s not only legally actionable if issues with a mistress interfere in any way with another’s job prospects, but it is legally actionable if one hires a mistress at his company over otherwise equally suitable or better candidates that don’t sleep with him!

    Good grief. I know these scandals aren’t necessarily pervasive in the movement, but geez. Do leaders in this atheist/skeptic movement have the least clue how professionals are supposed to act? Because the picture that’s being painted here is that the movement is treated like some Mad Men role play, 1950′s workplace nostalgia for the days when workplaces were college fraternities that issued paychecks and women were as dispensable as office chairs, and whose primary function in “frat world” was to keep sexually insecure boys’ penises happy.

  20. 20
    Raging Bee

    It also seemed pretty darned close to a declaration of polyamory.

    Just a technical quibble: a married guy shagging whoever he wants without regard to his wife’s feelings =/= polyamory. Not sure if that’s really the situation with Dawkins’ marriage, but if it is, that’s not polyamory, it’s just plain selfishness.

    Also, a guy who has a wife, a mistress, AND a third woman the mistress wants out of her “turf?” That’s a lotta women for a guy who has “deep psychological problems” with women. The WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot is strong with this one…

  21. 21
    Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy

    I’m getting three screens of what looks like mail headers, error messages, and such when I try to connect to the PDF linked in “the forum debacle” (using Firefox from a Mac); is there a plain text version?

    Also: I’m polyamorous. That doesn’t necessarily entitle the rest of the world to know about my relationships, or my partners’ other relationships–openness in this context means that my partners all know about and accept my other relationships, and I know about and accept theirs. But neither am I going to, say, praise a book or song by someone in my relationship network and pretend that this person is a complete stranger whose work I happen to have come across.

    If one of my partners were accused of something dubious, I might keep quiet, especially if I wasn’t sure of what had happened; I might say “I know that didn’t happen because we were in Minneapolis that weekend, not at that event in Chicago” (that’s the sort of factual denial that any eyewitness could provide); or I might say that I thought this was really out of character, based on X years’ relationship. I wouldn’t pretend to be a disinterested stranger or casual acquaintance who just happened to greatly admire this person.

  22. 22
    kaboobie

    It’s also interesting that Dawkins speaks against sexual jealousy when, according to the email, Kirby’s jealousy drove her to disrupt both the friendship and working relationship between Dawkins and Cornwell.

    I’m just going to assume from now on that anyone who speaks out against sexual harassment policies has a vested interest in being able to harass with impunity. Good old boys will be good old boys.

  23. 23
    screechymonkey

    Yeah, even putting aside the sexism/harassment issues, the past couple of years have not filled me with confidence in the administrative abilities of the various skeptic-atheist organizations. The JREF, RDF, and CFI have leaders who can’t seem to avoid putting their foot in their mouth, and can’t or won’t listen to their PR/Communications staff. The JREF seems to be in this circular limbo by which it exists for the purpose of holding TAM, which exists for the purpose of raising funds for the JREF. The RDF closed its own user forums, sued one of its key people, and seems to have all sorts of personal behind-the-scenes drama. CFI seems particularly adept at turning triumph (its role in WiS) into disaster (Lindsay’s “welcoming” address). And I guess AA is still litigating that discrimination lawsuit.

    I guess there are some well-run ones, though, right? I don’t care for NCSE’s accomodationist tone, but at least it seems to be run well. I only seem to hear good things about Americans United. I don’t know much about SSA other than that it’s grown a lot in recent years.

  24. 24
    screechymonkey

    Raging Bee@20, your “technical quibble” is right on — sloppy wording on my part.

  25. 25
    MrFancyPants

    Just poking around on the internet, I came across this interesting forum posting that seems to imply that it’s long been “common knowledge” that Cornwell was Dawkins’ mistress (back when she was). So that lends some credence as to the truth of the email posted here.

  26. 26
    Ace of Sevens

    It’s been rumored for years that the Richard Dawkins foundation is staffed mostly by his mistresses. Good to see it substantiated. Yes, his affairs aren’t anyone’s business, but his hiring practices are, especially since he’s soliciting money from us.

  27. 27
    notsont

    Wow so fully half of the big elevatorgate drama, is the same stuff I thought I left in high school. I’m really not impressed.

    Also that email seemed to be talking about trying to deceive the readers of the RDF forums, instead of being open and honest about things they were trying to close something down and hide things, while still appearing to be open and honest. Seriously not impressed.

  28. 28
    theoreticalgrrrl

    Wow, that email was eye-opening. Who are the “f**ktards that she’s referring to?” The former RDF forum members?

    I have no problem with poly-amory if both parties are fully enthusiastic about it. I prefer serial monogamy, I like to be completely with someone when I’m with them. But I find most heterosexual “open” relationships are ones where the man is in an open relationship and the woman believes she’s in a monogamous one.

    I think it would be much braver for those rare free souls to rise above being deceptive and dishonest with their significant other and to rise about their need to stick it in everyone they meet. But that’s just me.

  29. 29
    notsont

    I dunno about and don’t really care about someones personal relationships, but I think there might be an issue with someone who has one mistress running his UK org and another mistress running his US org. Seems a little unethical to me, maybe I’m old-fashioned.

  30. 30
    dshetty

    How was this email obtained and whats is its veracity?

  31. 31
    georgebean

    @MrFancyPants – Roger Derwin? Marion Mistress? Coulda been worse, I guess. It’s casts a tad less stink and ridicule over the foundation bearing his name than if he’d chosen a name like “Carlos Danger”.

    I know almost nothing about the lawsuit or story surrounding it. Is it relevant to the issue if I ask how it came to be that Cornwall’s and Dawkins’ relationship developed into a workplace issue if it was over with before she was hired? If it was all “in the past” so to speak? Based on the Owens declaration (which I searched out elsewhere given the one linked in the lordpasternack post was dead) it sounds like Cornwall was engaging in foundation business before she was actually employed and continued to use the “Marion Mistress” account and other alter-ego accounts for company business.

    What?? They all seem to act like a buncha kids playing “dress up” games. They are merely play acting the roles of running a foundation in grown-up world!

    The Richard Dawkins Foundation is a virtual clown show, innit?

  32. 32
    MrFancyPants

    I don’t know hardly any of the details, georgebean, just what OB has posted here and what is in that rationalia thread. Regarding that thread, check out lordpasternack’s twitter feed. It appears that she’s been complaining about Dawkins’ conflict of interest with hiring his mistresses for some time now.

  33. 33
    MrFancyPants

    Also, the word “mistress” annoys me, and I wish I hadn’t used it. Dawkins and Cornwell (and allegedly Kirby) presumably entered into whatever relationships they did on a mutual, consensual basis, and I have no issue with that. I don’t like the historical associations evoked by the word “mistress”, though. So, retroactive apologies for having said it.

  34. 34
    Stephanie Zvan

    MrFancyPants, I would say Dagleish (lordpasternack) has gone beyond doing lots of complaining to harassing both Dawkins and Cornwell about it. Not sure about Kirby.

    Speaking of which, dshetty, Dagleish was originally spreading the letter around about a year ago. Its veracity was confirmed with a former(?) employee of RDFRS at the time.

  35. 35
    Ophelia Benson

    Well “mistress” is the word Cornwell used, so you probably picked it up without noticing.

  36. 36
    hyperdeath

    What amazes me, is how the mainstream media hasn’t made a big deal of this. Dawkins is subjected to so many ridiculous attacks (e.g. that slave owner thing), but these affairs have never been mentioned.

    Another question: How does Josh Timonen fit into this? He was once Dawkins’s golden boy, having an entire book (The Greatest Show On Earth) dedicated to him, but he was later shunned, under somewhat mysterious circumstances. Entering the realms of blatant speculation: Could that have been to Kirby wanting to drive away a perceived love rival?

  37. 37
    dshetty

    Its veracity was confirmed with a former(?) employee of RDFRS at the time.
    Then either Timonen or Cornwell have to have “leaked” the email to the employee (or hacked!) and both have some apparent conflict of interest in this matter. Also the email can be accurate but Cornwell is hardly a reliable authority.
    In any case this seems to be a needless distraction – whether Dawkins was angry on behalf of Kirby or not isn’t the issue.(other than the running of RDF where it is relevant , but I guess most of us no longer care about RDF or its issues)

  38. 38
    Stephanie Zvan

    Actually, I care a great deal about how resources in this movement are being used.

  39. 39
    Ophelia Benson

    Deepak, you’re wrong about that. Cornwell is, for instance, on the board of CFI. She used to go to the “Heads” meetings. She has clout.

  40. 40
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    Good grief. Are people here forgetting that little matter of the RDFRS v. Timonen, Norton, Upper Branch lawsuit? Go find out what happened. A whole lot of the Dawkins Foundation’s dirty washing came out into the public arena because of discovery motions, including a heap load of e-mail correspondence, and various figures such as the Foundation’s trustees being subpœna’d or deposed.

  41. 41
    notsont

    Another question: How does Josh Timonen fit into this? He was once Dawkins’s golden boy, having an entire book (The Greatest Show On Earth) named after him, but he was later shunned, under somewhat mysterious circumstances. Entering the realms of blatant speculation: Could that have been to Kirby wanting to drive away a perceived love rival?

    You can follow links from lordpastemacks twitter feed, there is a thread talking about another one of RDs affairs, they also talk about Tinomen and some accusations of embezzlement. /shrug

  42. 42
    dshetty

    @Ophelia
    Ah which part are you saying im wrong about (Im dont think I have commented on the relative influence cornwell or kirby have)
    @Stephanie
    Sure – I meant that most of us dont donate to RDF or have left the forums awhile ago – hence dont care how RDF runs its operations.

  43. 43
    Ophelia Benson

    Deepak – wrong that it’s a needless distraction.

  44. 44
    hyperdeath

    Damnit, in my post 36, it should say “dedicated to him”, rather than “named after him”. I shouldn’t post when sleep deprived…

  45. 45
    Ophelia Benson

    I did think Josh Timonen had an awfully complicated and multi-part middle name. :)

  46. 46
    Erin (formerly--formally?-- known as EEB)

    (Following hyperdeath’s question over here.)

    Another question: How does Josh Timonen fit into this?

    Echoing the question. Not really because of any prurient curiosity in salacious details, but just because I keep hearing the name and mentions of huge drama surrounding the website (and a lawsuit apparently?), and I have no idea what y’all are talking about. It was either before my time or it took place while I was in the hospital. Since I was out for about 7 months, that’s not uncommon–hell, I missed the Japanese tsunami and the Egyptian Revolution, so I’m sure I missed a lot of Internet Drama, too. (I get a lot of “What, do you live on Mars?” when people reference well-known events, and especially pop culture, that took place from late ’10 through mid ’11. I’m trying to catch up.)

    Anyway, if someone can catch me up or link me to an explanation of who, what, and where (as it appears why and/or how are still unknowns?) I’d really appreciate it. :)

  47. 47
    dshetty

    @Ophelia
    Ah I see what you mean.

  48. 48
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Vicki #21:

    It’s a Google Doc. It’s an HTML page with the “PDF” actually displayed from PNG image files. I’m baffled and interested by the output you are receiving.

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/1lPLttSqEhkqJlLcK6Lt_uFkUI-PFnpV_nL2oQ2G5feXHt8gWzEpfWleSyb5e/image?pagenumber=1&w=800

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/1lPLttSqEhkqJlLcK6Lt_uFkUI-PFnpV_nL2oQ2G5feXHt8gWzEpfWleSyb5e/image?pagenumber=2&w=800

  49. 49
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    (I’m bothered that this private email is on the internet and being called attention to….)

    Echoing the question. Not really because of any prurient curiosity in salacious details, but just because I keep hearing the name and mentions of huge drama surrounding the website (and a lawsuit apparently?), and I have no idea what y’all are talking about.

    It’s been several years and my memory might be off on some of the details, so I welcome corrections. Timonen was for a while Dawkins’ right-hand man and IIRC managed the site. Several years ago, some at RDF – Timonen at least – decided not just to end the forum in its then incarnation but to destroy it. As might be expected, this gave rise to protests amongst many of the moderators of and contributors to the forum, some of whom had put years of work into it, but these were ignored. That seems to be the context of the purloined email.

    There was a long discussion about this on Pharyngula at the time. I objected vigorously to the destruction of the forum archives, both because I thought it showed contempt for the people who’d given a lot to the organization* and because I, as someone who does historical research, object to the petty and pointless demolition of a valuable archive (science!).

    After that, there was no reason for anyone to continue to support the organization, as any sense of trust had been destroyed and the basis of any of its not-remotely-democratic decisions was entirely unclear .

    Shortly after, there was a lawsuit against Timonen (and his girlfriend?) for fraud and embezzlement. The allegations were serious, but [?] the case was later dismissed or dropped. The details are murky. In any case, more reason to be concerned about what was going on there.

    ***

    Dawkins has a history of narcissistic sensitivity at Pharyngula. He also – and I don’t know if you remember this, Ophelia – was quite the preening prickly pear during the Greatest Show tour.

    *The forum wasn’t exactly free of sexism or misogyny, to put it mildly, but I can’t imagine feminism had anything to do with its destruction. My arguments would be the same regardless of the nature of the forum in question.

  50. 50
    Stephanie Zvan

    The case against Timonen was dismissed with prejudice, meaning it can’t be refiled.

  51. 51
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    In one of the most disgusting stories to hit the British newspapers last year,

    Really. One of the most disgusting? That’s a telling assessment.

    the wife of a well-known television personality, Chris Tarrant, hired a private detective to spy on him. The detective reported evidence of adultery and Tarrant’s wife divorced him, in unusually vicious style.

    In the face of the common scenario of men assaulting and murdering women over perceived or real infidelities,* this is the “unusually vicious” case of sexual jealousy he chooses to highlight.

    I, for one, feel drawn to the idea that there is something noble and virtuous in rising above nature in this way.

    You know what can go jump in a lake? EP and its speciesism. Humans don’t “rise above” nature in this or any way. Because we’re animals – every single thing we do is animal. Dawkins’ view presupposes that sexual jealousy is an “animal” thing that noble, virtuous, enlightened human elites have transcended. Nonsense. Our emotions, our reason, our culturedness: animal. “Nature” and “animal” do not mean predetermined and inflexible, and it’s sad and appalling that an expert on evolution refuses to recognize this. It’s infuriating that EP plays this speciesist double game.

    *Oh, right – that’s only Muslims.

  52. 52
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    the wife of a well-known television personality, Chris Tarrant,

    He gets a name. She does not.

  53. 53
    georgebean

    And embezzlement allegations? Which I assume couldn’t be substantiated (why else would RDF drop the suit)? This is a corporate non-profit established to support reason and evidence, and the powers-that-be didn’t have even rudimentary accounting controls in place for tracking money coming in and out? It’s just not plausible that they’d take in hundreds of thousands of dollars in CASH, which maybe – if mishandled – can vanish without leaving a trace. How would they expect to produce accurate and verifiable numbers for their tax returns? Gut instincts?

    Dawkins wasn’t taking his own foundation seriously-more like a hobby. But then, he’s always had an irritating tendency to disparage knowledge and no-how outside his own field of expertise. RDF sounds like it allowed a bunch of amateurish goofballs to handle the business affairs. I never donated money to them, but the foundation has no business collecting donations as a non-profit when it’s to fund a clique of hobbyists who simply want to take salary to cavort amongst each other just like they used to do before for free.

  54. 54
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    From a Darwinian perspective, sexual jealousy is easily understood. Natural selection of our wild ancestors plausibly favored males who guarded their mates for fear of squandering economic resources on other men’s children. On the female side, it is harder to make a Darwinian case for the sort of vindictive jealousy displayed by Mrs. Tarrant. No doubt hindsight could do it, but I want to make a different point. Sexual jealousy may in some Darwinian sense accord with nature, but “Nature, Mr. Allnutt, is what we are put in this world to rise above.” Just as we rise above nature when we spend time writing a book or a symphony rather than devoting our time to sowing our selfish genes and fighting our rivals, so mightn’t we rise above nature when tempted by the vice of sexual jealousy?

    Idiocy.

  55. 55
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Sexual jealousy may in some Darwinian sense accord with nature, but “Nature, Mr. Allnutt, is what we are put in this world to rise above.”

    Film quotes are very scientificalish and all.

    But wait… – “put in this world”? For a purpose? Say what?

  56. 56
    theoreticalgrrrl

    I donated money to RDF.

    @ SC
    That essay is so ridiculous it’s actually funny. Feeling hurt and wronged by someone who promised to be exclusive and faithful to you is very understandable. Cheating on and lying to someone you promised to be exclusive to seems to be the low road, but he portrays it as the high road, even noble and virtuous for gods sake. How convenient for him, given that he apparently has no problem dating other women while he’s married.

  57. 57
    Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion

    Sounds like a serious case of “It’s not bad when I do it”.

    The hypocritical cry of privilegus denialii, commonly known as the Special Snowflake.

  58. 58
    S Mukherjee

    @Ibis3, Let’s burn some bridges — thanks for quoting that passage, I was trying to remember the exact words. Yeah, you see how he vilifies the wife of Chris Tarrant and makes Tarrant to be some kind of wronged hero? It gave me a bad feeling, especially this whole business of mixing up the notions of polyamory and plain old infidelity.
    Dear Prof Dawkins, if you saw a nice chap whom you thought Lalla Ward might fancy, you’d bring him home to her, I’m sure, and leave them alone together while you went to get cigarettes or something, because it would be awfully mean of you to deny your partner the chance to get love and desire elsewhere? Or did you mean that only YOU get to screw around?

  59. 59
    Eamon Knight

    @58 et al: Yes, well: there’s a common theme coming back to haunt us, isn’t there? What’s the difference between open polyamory and fooling around behind your partner’s back? C-O-N-S-E-N-T

  60. 60
    hapalochlaena

    Some of the story behind the closure of the Dawkins forum can be found here: Death of the Dawkins Forum.

  61. 61
    Sili

    Jesus Fucking Christ.

  62. 62
    hapalochlaena

    I forgot this update. Same site, two days later.

  63. 63
    Dave Ricks

    About the relationships, “Don’t worry momma, things won’t get weird.”

    But seriously, thank you hapalochlaena, for the links about the death of the forum. I knew people were upset, but I wasn’t close to the story.

    After sleeping on this a few nights, I remember my main interest here is building the present secular movement. Women in Secularism has been very exciting for that. But I don’t know about RDFRS, and Cornwell. In her talk at the Reason Rally, she tried to lead a chant, and her talk at WiS2 started with a “gotcha” question to the audience. I dislike feeling manipulated, and unpacking that feeling, I feel most speakers invite me to see their point of view, but with Cornwell, I feel something else. But these are my feelings, and I’m not asking other people to feel what I feel.

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