Before you have to slap her »« Guest post: The passion burns brighter

Brilliant

I love it when people who have zero experience of a certain kind of prejudicial treatment, because they’re not in the category of person who gets that kind of prejudicial treatment, gets all contemptuously dismissive about that kind of prejudicial treatment. I just love it. It’s so clever, so thoughtful, so reasonable, so everything a mature intellectual and academic should be.

daw

It’s brilliant, that’s what it is.

Comments

  1. moarscienceplz says

    Hoo boy. I guess Dear Muslima just had a daughter. Won’t somebody please take away the keys to his Twitter account?

  2. Blanche Quizno says

    “Seriously, Dawkins? You’re embarrassing yourself.”

    Yes, @2 Stacy, that’s what happens when a lecherous old codger starts panting after some sweet young thing old enough to be his granddaughter.

  3. Al Dente says

    Blanche Quizno @5

    I don’t think Dawkins is panting after Glenn. It’s more likely she’s just agreeing with his prejudices, which his inflated ego considers “brilliant.”

  4. throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble says

    I’ve also noticed that the smartest people in the world tend to agree with every one of my positions. The rest of the world is just every shade of wrong and lazy-witted.

  5. Omar Puhleez says

    Dawkins is a rather brilliant biologist, one among a great many such in the modern world. But unlike a significant number of his scientific colleagues, he is also a very good communicator, and has a rather large readership for his writings. Nothing wrong with that either.
    .
    He also engages in debate non subjects outside his academic field (eg ‘Dear Muslima’). Nothing wrong with contribution to public debate either, as long as he manages to avoid the ‘fallacy of relative privation’*.
    .
    But being an authority on biology does not automatically make him an authority or positive influence on whatever else he chooses to buy into; as I think he has proved.
    .
    .
    *Bonitas non est pessimis esse meliorem.
    (“To be good, it is not enough to be better than the worst.”)
    .
    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Not_as_bad_as
    http://atheismplus.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=1412

  6. tuibguy says

    Do you think I may be getting something wrong if I have zero interest in watching that stupid video?

  7. screechymonkey says

    At this point, I think someone could record a video of themselves saying “feminists are poopyheads” on a ten-minute loop and Dawkins would call it “brilliant.”

  8. Anthony K says

    he is also a very good communicator

    This trope is rather an article of faith among the initiated than an objective claim. “The Selfish Gene” was published not long after my birth, and the biology textbook I used (Miller, natch) in my second undergraduate degree, a full ten years after I graduated high school, still had a section explaining exactly what Dawkins was supposed to have meant by “Selfish” gene.

    He’s obviously been a capable biologist at one point, but a great communicator? I don’t see it as obvious. I think there’s a case to be made that he’d be a lot less popular if he were a great communicator; that he’s skilled at promoting himself on the heels of the controversies his poor communication skills inevitably attract. His influence, on the other hand, is indisputable.

    And he’s not alone here: many influential individuals are skilled in communicating unorthodox ideas to those in the field but not necessarily to those without, and the media and lay public excel at misinterpreting scientific analogies proffered as models in good faith. He’s not unique in being misinterpreted. So maybe he is a good communicator, and his persistent misinterpretations are other people’s fault. That could be.

    So how’s Dawkins doing now? Is he still a great communicator? If not, why the need to acknowledge this past reputation as an excuse every time he’s brought up, particularly when the issue is one of communication?

  9. Anthony K says

    Put another way,

    Twitter is approaching ten years old. It’s not new technology. Social media is not new technology. Hack comedians aren’t relying on cheap laughs over people tweeting their breakfasts. Arby’s is dropping bon mots on Twitter for fuck’s sake.

    So how long should it take this great communicator to understand Twitter? Or stop using it, as so many people advise? He can’t be a great communicator and also unintentionally be this terrible. He’s not unintentional. He is this terrible.

  10. Omar Puhleez says

    “This [Dawkins as communicator] trope is rather an article of faith among the initiated than an objective claim.”
    .
    ??? Please enlighten me as to how that claim could be ‘objectively’ established, cf say ‘Mt Kosciuszko is the highest mountain in Australia’.
    .
    “So how’s Dawkins doing now? Is he still a great communicator?”
    .
    I’d say he gets his thoughts across very competently, inside his field and even outside of it. (I’d say that it could well be that there’s a chance of a possibility that he’s got you pretty well stirred up: hot under the collar even.) ;-)
    .
    “If not, why the need to acknowledge this past reputation as an excuse every time he’s brought up, particularly when the issue is one of communication?”
    .
    Not applicable – see above. But I put it to you that the ‘issue’ is not one of ‘communication’, but rather that he has communicated at least one attitude that is out of favour around here; an attitude incidentally that I do not share.

  11. Anthony K says

    ??? Please enlighten me as to how that claim could be ‘objectively’ established, cf say ‘Mt Kosciuszko is the highest mountain in Australia’.

    You’re the one claiming he’s a great communicator, not I. You propose a measure.

    I’d say he gets his thoughts across very competently, inside his field and even outside of it.

    Yes, that’s the claim in question. You don’t need to repeat it; you need to defend it.

    (I’d say that it could well be that there’s a chance of a possibility that he’s got you pretty well stirred up: hot under the collar even.)

    That cannot seriously be your criterion for ‘great communicator’. Every troll who’s ever trolled is a ‘great communicator’. If the trait is that ubiquitous, it hardly qualifies as ‘great’.

    Not applicable – see above. But I put it to you that the ‘issue’ is not one of ‘communication’, but rather that he has communicated at least one attitude that is out of favour around here; an attitude incidentally that I do not share.

    Yeah. Having communicated at least one attitude is not being a ‘great’ communicator. Functionally competent is not ‘great’.

    Look, all I’m asking is that you stop wasting time. If you actually don’t mean anything more than he’s garden variety internet annoying and has been successful at communicating an attitude at least once when you say “he’s a great communicator”, then don’t say it. That’s not what ‘great’ means.

  12. Athywren says

    Dawkins thinks being annoyed by strawman arguments means you’re getting something wrong? How odd. I thought rationality and skepticism were things that mattered to him?

  13. Omar Puhleez says

    Anthony,

    Anthony, I wrote @#8: “Dawkins is a rather brilliant biologist, one among a great many such in the modern world. But unlike a significant number of his scientific colleagues, he is also a very good communicator, and has a rather large readership for his writings. Nothing wrong with that either.”
    .
    You extended that to his being a “great communicator”. As I happen to have read a number of his (popular) scientific books, I incline to allow that. Except that it is not what I originally said. So I could accuse you of trying to set up a straw man. But I won’t.

    “I think there’s a case to be made that he’d be a lot less popular if he were a great communicator; that he’s skilled at promoting himself on the heels of the controversies his poor communication skills inevitably attract.” You obviously have some idea of what you are trying to say there. I’m stuffed if I do.

    Dawkins’ social media activities are of little interest to me. I don’t do twitter or any of the rest. I am only going by his print publications. Those I have read are excellent, and are the basis of his well-deserved reputation. I suggest that ‘Dear Muslima’ was a bridge too far on his part, and while it may show something of his personality, it cannot subtract anything from his science.
    ..
    Finally re your statement @#12: “This trope is rather an article of faith among the initiated than an objective claim.”

    ‘Very good'; ‘great'; ‘brilliant'; ‘shithouse’…. How could any such an evaluation be established ‘objectively’? You were the one who implied that it could. Or do you always take a subjective evaluation to be an “article of faith”?
    I suggest they are not the same.

  14. Bjarte Foshaug says

    I think there are two traps to be avoided here, both involving the Halo Effect and the all too human tendency to demand too much consistency between our opinions (i.e. thinking that X must either be great or lousy across the board), probably also a hefty dose of cognitive dissonance. One such trap is concluding that Dawkins views on feminism can’t be that bad since he’s such a good science communicator. The other is concluding that he can’t be a good science communicator because he’s such a dick about feminism.

    Having read all his books up to and including The Magic of Reality I think Dawkins is comparable to Carl Sagan (usually the first name that comes up when talking about great science communicators) in his ability to explain difficult scientific concepts to a lay audience in an entertaining and interesting way without oversimplifying or dumbing down the material. That’s no small feat. The same goes for that other Champion of Male Douchery Richard Feynman. As much as I now loathe them both, my understanding of evolutionary biology and physics respectively is definitely better than it would otherwise be thanks to them. Of course that doesn’t make their views on women any more excusable or defensible.

    Dawkins’ brilliance on the topic of atheism seems to me far more questionable, but not for the reasons that frequently come up (i.e. being to strident and uncompromising etc.). I have some major issues with Dawkins, but being too critical of religion is not one of them. I basically agree with him and the other so-called “new atheists” that faith (i.e. unjustified belief) should never have been granted such respect in the first place. I also don’t think the so-called “sophisticated theology” of apologists like Craig, Plantinga etc. deserves any more respect than Dawkins gives it credit for.

    On the other hand he doesn’t strike me as a very deep or original thinker on the subject, which is why The God Delusion didn’t really contain any arguments I hadn’t heard expressed at least as well by others. He also doesn’t seem very critical of his sources as long as they serve his purpose. I no longer have a copy of the book, but in it he repeats a quote attributed to Augustine (condemning intellectual curiosity if my memory serves me right). I tried to verify the quote years ago, and at best it seems to be a gross distortion of what Augustine actually said.

  15. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    Jaclyn Glenn couldn’t reason her way out of a paper bag and Dawkins thinks she’s brilliant. Right then.

  16. leni says

    Having read all his books up to and including The Magic of Reality I think Dawkins is comparable to Carl Sagan (usually the first name that comes up when talking about great science communicators) in his ability to explain difficult scientific concepts to a lay audience in an entertaining and interesting way without oversimplifying or dumbing down the material. That’s no small feat.

    Well, Dawkins never had Sagan’s warmth. That hasn’t always done him favors in his career as a science communicator, with either the general public or his fans. He enjoys poking hornets nests a bit too much, I think. And doesn’t know when to shut up. I don’t recall Sagan having that problem, though I may have missed something.

  17. screechymonkey says

    leni@20:

    He enjoys poking hornets nests a bit too much, I think. And doesn’t know when to shut up.

    I think this is more or less right. I’d say he has two flaws as a writer/communicator:
    (1) His “off-the-cuff” communication is dodgy. We all benefit from re-reading our work and editing it — and even more from having a good editor do it — but he more so than most. His long-form writing is generally very good in my opinion; his blog posts and op-eds less so, and his tweets…. well, the less said, the better.
    (2) Even in his longform writing, he tends toss in the occasional bomb and acts then surprised at the reaction. I’m not sure how much of it is intentional nest-poking as you note, and how much is just tone-deafness. And this all predates “Dear Muslima” — I’m thinking of things like “Brights is a really good name!” and the various religion/child-abuse comparisons.

  18. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    I’ve always found Dawkins to be snide and callous. There is a video kicking around Youtube of a conversation between him and PZ. PZ tells a story about one of his students experiencing some pretty significant anxiety over being in his class because her fundy Christian family had wound her up so much about Ebil PZ Myers. PZ spoke of her with compassion, as if he felt bad that her family had done that to her. Dawkins scoffed.

    There’s another video of Dawkins talking to a creationist. She was typically smugnorant but Dawkins was also teeth-grindingly condescending and snarky toward her. He was beyond dismissive and well on his way to outright meanspirited, IMO.

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