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Joint statement by Ophelia Benson and Richard Dawkins


Joint statement by Ophelia Benson and Richard Dawkins

It’s not news that allies can’t always agree on everything. People who rely on reason rather than dogma to think about the world are bound to disagree about some things.

Disagreement is inevitable, but bullying and harassment are not. If we want secularism and atheism to gain respect, we have to be able to disagree with each other without trying to destroy each other.

In other words we have to be able to manage disagreement ethically, like reasonable adults, as opposed to brawling like enraged children who need a nap. It should go without saying, but this means no death threats, rape threats, attacks on people’s appearance, age, race, sex, size, haircut; no photoshopping people into demeaning images, no vulgar epithets.

Richard adds: I’m told that some people think I tacitly endorse such things even if I don’t indulge in them. Needless to say, I’m horrified by that suggestion. Any person who tries to intimidate members of our community with threats or harassment is in no way my ally and is only weakening the atheist movement by silencing its voices and driving away support.

Also posted at RDF.

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Comments

  1. screechymonkey says

    Hmm. The first time I read it, I thought: is that all? Without specifics, what value does this have? There’s no recognition by Dawkins that he might have done anything to encourage this impression.

    Then I thought, but it may really come as news to some people who think that they’re pleasing Dawkins by attacking his enemies that way. And the fact that he’s willing to issue any kind of a statement about a subject that he typically seems to dismiss as beneath him is a positive sign.

    I guess the question I’m left with is, does anything else come of this? I’m not suggesting that Dawkins be forced to play an endless session of the “here’s something awful one of your supporters said/did. Please denounce it” game. But if a week from now, he’s promoting another ridiculous YouTube video, then this will all have been pointless.

    Anyway, good on you, Ophelia, for convincing him that this really did need to be said.

  2. says

    Time now to point out one particular instance of someone who honestly truly thinks Dawkins is pro-harassment and anti-social-justice. Thanks for handing me the club with which to disabuse someone of their delusions, Ophelia and Richard. :)

  3. jenBPhillips says

    The value here is a clear statement that while Richard Dawkins clearly has some blind spots (don’t we all) he also has limits, and if there are lines to be drawn, it’s pretty clear from the list of bad behaviors listed that he’s not going to be on the same side as some of the atheists we’ve been talking about lately.

  4. Sili says

    Bah. You’re just trying to bask in the Great Man™’s refelected glory because you’re jealous of all the Youtubers who are much much cleverer than you.

    Or summat.

  5. Sassafras says

    Is this being cross-posted to Richard’s site or twitter or anything? I ask because I honestly think there are some people who will refuse to believe he actually agreed to this until he publishes it himself. (Of course, they’ll probably say he was bullied into it after that, but still).

  6. says

    Wow. Well, if this doesn’t temper the hate of the slymers, then nothing will. I’d love to hear the story of how this statement came about, Ophelia.

  7. Shireen says

    Slightly tangential, but shouldn’t relying on reason ultimately lead everyone to the same conclusions? Surely it’s people who rely on dogma who are bound to disagree with eachother, not people who rely on reason (who, logic would dictate, are bound in the end to agree). Therefore, disagreements within the secular movement (just as in any other movement) may be attributed to dogmatists within it. The only way people who rely on reason not dogma could possibly disagree would be if one of them was wrong (ie their reasoning was flawed), surely? Bullying behaviour and harrassment would surely suggest a person with an emotional rather than a rational attachment to a certain viewpoint

  8. Jean says

    Well, if the date on the Dawkins link is correct (July 3) that statement doesn’t look to translate into much positive action.

  9. says

    Cool, an unambiguous statement against harassment, including pretty much every low tactic certain anti-SJ obsessives think is their Dawkins given right to use. My opinion of Richard Dawkins had been on an inexorable decline, I’m hoping this is the beginning of the hockey stick…

    Any person who tries to intimidate members of our community with threats or harassment is in no way my ally and is only weakening the atheist movement by silencing its voices and driving away support.

    They are driving away support, you’d be surprised how many are embarrassed to call themselves “atheist” when online it is synonymous with harassing asshole. The “Mens Rights Movement” is almost 90% atheist and steeped in misogyny, this doesn’t help either. I hope Richard does some research into it as this should not have been a surprise to him, many assumed it wasn’t and he was tacitly supporting them.

  10. says

    RD.net’s story is posted “July 3rd”. I suspect this is an error in back-dating, and not that the post has been sat on for 23 days. This error will have the side-effect of not sorting the post to the top of the news feed.

  11. annie55 says

    Thank you both. Silent lurkers will have an easier time contributing if this gets traction.

  12. Sili says

    RD.net’s story is posted “July 3rd”. I suspect this is an error in back-dating, and not that the post has been sat on for 23 days.

    Ophelia hinted at this statement recently – apparently it was submitted for comment a while back without any response forthcoming, so it’s possibly Dawkins has sat on it for three weeks.

  13. jenBPhillips says

    I see it on the front page and featured at the top of the ‘original’ page of the site, so it does seem to be pretty visible, despite the dating error.

  14. tuibguy says

    This is encouraging, and a start and I appreciate the effort to reach out and do this.

  15. kellym says

    Thank you for your work in getting this done, Ophelia. I had absolutely no idea that Dawkins did not support the “Fair Game” hatred of feminists found at the Slymepit. Most of his actions/tweets regarding sexism/harassment in the atheist community now completely baffle me. I share your hope that this is a game changer.

  16. Louis says

    Whatever else I and others may disagree with Prof Dawkins about, I’m bloody glad he’s come out explicitly against harassment etc.

    Okay so it’s a bare minimum, but I’ll take it as a first (tiny) step in the right direction.

    Louis

  17. says

    No no no this definitely does not go back to July 3. We were discussing it this week, then there was a pause because Richard was traveling. This is current. The date at RDF is just a glitch.

  18. Sili says

    Let us hope it trickles down to those who most need to hear it….which includes MANY other men in “leadership” positions….

    Can I have a pony while were at it?

  19. Jean says

    Good to see this is current and it is a positive thing. I did not want to put any damper on this but that did look strange.

  20. Katherine Woo says

    Abbeycadabra wrrote:

    But it’s going to take more than this to make up for Dear Muslima.

    Dawkins is actually tackling issues of harassment and you are still fuming about that one comment.

    I understand why Dear Muslimah upset people, but it was really a crass variant on the ‘First World Problem’ rebuttal that many of Dawkins’ harshest leftwing critics would not be above using in other circumstances. It was not misogynistic, but rather an inappropriate jibe at a time when emotions were running high at a specific, unrelated problem.

    Despite all the misogynistic abuses listed in this statement, abuses that need to be addressed, one should never forget that those abuses pale in comparison to some of the issues women face in the Islamic world.

    Suffering a mean-spiritied photoshopping really isn’t really quite on the level of having acid thrown in your face or just being gunned down in the street.

  21. says

    When you mentioned this recently, I had no idea you were talking about Dawkins. As significant as the actual content of the statement is the fact that he wrote and published it jointly with you.

    Richard adds: I’m told that some people think I tacitly endorse such things even if I don’t indulge in them. Needless to say, I’m horrified by that suggestion.

    Not at all needless. In fact, he really needed to say that.

    ***

    My opinion of Richard Dawkins had been on an inexorable decline, I’m hoping this is the beginning of the hockey stick…

    Hope springs eternal.

  22. Barb's Wire says

    I don’t think Dawkins had any idea what the slymepit is, what they are about, what they are and continue to be capable of, and that their collective maturity level might reach that of just post-adolescence on a good day. I don’t think he’s aware of the elevator-gate silliness and harrassment that had lasted YEARS, the online bullying of feminists and basically anyone that gives a shit about any group or person other than themself. It would take a long time to bring him up to speed with that and about the masses of MRM atheists that try to make women’s lives more difficult and even dangerous. Would he even have the time or patience to learn? But every time he endorses an anti-feminist, a slymer or their friends, it lends credibility to the anti-feminists, the bullies, the MRA and strengthens them. So if he’s going to move into endorsements of any kind, he HAS to learn the dynamics at work, or continue to be embroiled in one controversy after another, leaving a path of bullying, threats and harrassment in his wake… a wake he appears to be unaware of.

  23. Uncle Ebeneezer says

    (Applause!!) Well done. Hat’s off to you (and everyone else involved) for bringing it up/pressing-the-issue. It’s a great start.

    Of course, I’m not sure how this would jibe with his endorsements of JG videos…but, baby steps.

  24. says

    I don’t see any tackling here. After all the crap he himself has dumped on people, a statement that he’s actually against harassment seems rather weak (however welcome it may be). I want to see him walking the walk. No more twitter slamming feminists. No more using his pulpit to boost the signal of misogynists and racists. An apology for Dear Muslima and his treatment of Rebecca Watson would also not go amiss.

  25. Maureen Brian says

    I think you’re a little generous, Barb’s Wire. It’s on record that PZ Myers advised Dawkins three years ago that some of his comments were being taken as permission for / endorsement of what he now recognises is harassment.

    Nevertheless, “sinner that repenteth” and all that. Well done, Ophelia. Well done, both.

  26. tonyinbatavia says

    For some of the reasons cited above, I am cautious about what this means going forward. The flip side is that I am significantly more optimistic than before I read it. A great step in the right direction. Great job, Ophelia!

  27. Al Dente says

    Thank you for your efforts on this, Ophelia. It’s good to see that Dawkins is willing to take a stand against outright threats and bullying. Now if he would pay some attention to the more subtle sexism and misogyny going around.

  28. carlie says

    Thanks, Ophelia. I have a feeling it might have taken a lot more work to get this written and jointly endorsed than most people could imagine.

  29. Barb's Wire says

    Perhaps you are right Maureen, and he is not nearly as oblivious as I consider him to be about the facets (including those with no scruples, no caring for others, and those who cause harm), of the overall group who declare themselves atheists. Maybe he’ll start to have a greater awareness about the results of his comments and alliances, if he lacked it to some degree before? I don’t think he’ll move away from JG and her silliness though….

  30. chasstewart says

    Excellently worded and i will absolutely abide by those standards as well as chide those that flout them. I hope images like these will be ignored.

    [link to horrible image deleted]

  31. says

    You’re right, Chas, that’s totally on par with an MSPaint drawing of Rebecca Watson in bondage gear, covered in cum, with a note that she should always remember she’s someone’s property.

    In all seriousness, yes, get rid of both. I’ll sacrifice the loving and accurate portrait of Richard Dawkins thinking about a thing he described once on Twitter, to get rid of the sexual objectification and harassment that women face daily.

  32. says

    Oh good, does this mean I’m allowed to express admiration for his books and what he has done to advance atheism in his long career, despite being recently “schooled” for not knowing about his mysogynitic antics…without getting ripped a new one, again, because I don’t have the exact right words? Is Dawkins once again being considered a fallible human being, and not that washed up carcass we need to eject from the atheist movement because he’s past his prime and out of touch with “today'” issues?

    I hope this forward movement without all the venom I’ve seen in some of the FtBs.

    Thank you, Ophelia, I am cautiously optimitic once again.

  33. Blanche Quizno says

    Finally. Maybe there is room for cautious optimism after all. Congrats to these two leaders for joining up in a step forward.

  34. Reality_based_community says

    I this real? Is so, a very positive move in the right direction. I commend both of you.

  35. chasstewart says

    I guess you’re right, Ophelia. If i want it to be ignored in the future then i shouldn’t link to it now. I just thought it was an of a mean spirited meme (expertly drawn) that got passed around by his critics. Sorry for that.

    Jason, i was not comparing or ranking the various images out there. Just picked one that i thought might be overlooked.

  36. says

    I am glad to hear (read) a more positively phrased statement from the likes of Dawkins regarding hateful behaviour — by “positive”, I mean to say “not stated as a negation”, as with for example, his absurd and dismissive poke at Muslimah. I suppose one should be able to take encouragement and ethical coaxing from any source, right?

    But, I have an actual objection.

    it would seem that The Movement is less a movement and more of an aggregation of philosophical tourists who “F’ing Love Science” — well, the nice pictures of stars, Mars, and DNA — but still have little to say about the methods of science(s) per se; much less about the introspections of philosophy.

    The greater source of social problems can be seen in this disconnect. I see a loose grouping of people having a few shared ideas masquerading as a movement. Among the various emergent phenomena, some character or another pops up regularly. He or she happens to share a few of these atheistic, sciencey ideas, perhaps for their Modernist shine, and overtly rejects any public accountability for the effects of his or her words and actions; his trolling smoke-bomb rolls into the room and suddenly The Movement has a crisis and a meltdown! The Movement becomes aware of a rift! Well, the rift was always there, since at no time was there a movement!

    Personally, I think the statement, a bit late in the game, has just a bit too much of the whiff of self-importance. Surely it is little more than feel-good preaching to the choir. It is fairly oblivious, too. After all, the objectionable characters aren’t going to stop trolling the room because some or another prominent author only now decides that maybe the implied goals of Atheism+ might have been a good idea. Are the “bad atheists” going to stop ‘photoshopping’ naughty images and producing spittle-flecked Feminist/Liberal/gay-bashing videos? Probably not.

    Are the members of this “movement” going to learn to ask better questions that aren’t designed to evoke the answers they simply want to hear? I suppose that depends upon each of them and upon the mentors they take.

  37. says

    Well done, both of you. Collaborative efforts such as these to set clear limits and expectations in our community make it much easier to provide safe and supportive secular spaces (online and off) to anyone in need — regardless of political opinions or affiliations. As someone whose primary work in the community is in the secular support movement, I applaud this statement. On behalf of Grief Beyond Belief, thank you.

  38. John Morales says

    Amateur @55:

    Personally, I think the statement, a bit late in the game, has just a bit too much of the whiff of self-importance. Surely it is little more than feel-good preaching to the choir. It is fairly oblivious, too. After all, the objectionable characters aren’t going to stop trolling the room because some or another prominent author only now decides that maybe the implied goals of Atheism+ might have been a good idea.

    You really think the joint position statement amounts to belated, oblivious, self-important feel-good preaching to the choir?

    (You must truly be versed in the introspections of philosophy!)

  39. says

    chas stewart @ 54 – well it didn’t get passed around by me, or by anyone I know that I know of – I’d never seen it before. I don’t see what the point can possibly have been to point it out here – especially since you added, to Jason, that you thought it might be overlooked. Overlooked is the goal!

    While there’s a nasty caricature of me that was sent to me just yesterday, sitting on the blog now.

    But if your point is that nobody should do nasty caricatures and photoshops? Absolutely; that’s what we said.

    RBC @ 52 – no, it’s not real, it’s a hoax.

    Of course it’s real! What a silly question.

  40. Shatterface says

    Personally, I think the statement, a bit late in the game, has just a bit too much of the whiff of self-importance. Surely it is little more than feel-good preaching to the choir. It is fairly oblivious, too. After all, the objectionable characters aren’t going to stop trolling the room because some or another prominent author only now decides that maybe the implied goals of Atheism+ might have been a good idea. Are the “bad atheists” going to stop ‘photoshopping’ naughty images and producing spittle-flecked Feminist/Liberal/gay-bashing videos? Probably not.

    Personally, when someone tries to make amends I try not to be a dick about it.

    Ophelia seems to have put in some effort to get this joint statement so sneering over it as too little, too late, looks like a dick move.

  41. chasstewart says

    By “overlooked”, I meant “evaded moral circumspection”. I will be more careful with my word selection from now on.

  42. Paul Irvine says

    Forgive me, but I’m just a little bit more cautious and a little less optimistic than some posting here – call me a cynic, I’m happy to be proved wrong. That’s not to detract from what you’ve achieved Ophelia (and Richard –
    if you can characterise not being a dick an achievement, which I suppose it is)…time will tell.

  43. arthur says

    Good work Ophelia. As ever :)

    I’m full of admiration for your resilience in the face of years of abuse.

    You were right, you are right, and you always will be right on this. And I’m very happy that Richard Dawkins, who is a crucial figure in the whole misadventure, has made this public statement with your endorsement.

    Thank you for being so strong.

  44. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    Amateur @ 56

    Personally, I think the statement, a bit late in the game, has just a bit too much of the whiff of self-importance. Surely it is little more than feel-good preaching to the choir.

    On the one hand, I don’t disagree with you. On the other, a statement in clear, plain English that those specific behaviors musn’t be tolerated is a step farther than most prominent atheist organizations have been willing to go. I don’t think anyone is saying that it makes up for all the past mistakes but it’s certainly a good first step.

    After all, the objectionable characters aren’t going to stop trolling the room because some or another prominent author only now decides that maybe the implied goals of Atheism+ might have been a good idea. Are the “bad atheists” going to stop ‘photoshopping’ naughty images and producing spittle-flecked Feminist/Liberal/gay-bashing videos? Probably not.

    Be that as it may, there is still one more prominent atheist figure who is on record as being explicitly opposed to that behavior. That’s not insignificant at all.

  45. furthermore says

    Will there be an apology forthcoming from Dawkins for knowingly and deliberately harming Rebecca Watson’s standing and career, both through action and years of inaction? Or does he not quite possess that much integrity?

  46. says

    At the risk of offending Ms. Benson, I think that such a “statement” from Dawkins is little more than self-serving. You can label this is a “sneer” if that makes you feel better, but I think that is just evasion.

    Come on, now! Precisely who is the audience for such a statement? People who already know better, that’s who. And how easy is it to contributes to a statement condemning death and rape threats or to distance oneself from character assassination in various forms? It is easy to the point of being completely effortless!

    By contrast, how hard is it to make a public statement in support of the very people he has distanced himself from in the past? It must be excruciatingly difficult, since his half-hearted apologies have always seemed fairly dismissive — and not just a touch sneering, if we’re going to use that word now. Perhaps the various ethical philosophers, humanists, and so on, aren’t so worthy of his impressive status granting presence:

    …There comes a point when you have to say you are — by agreeing to appear on a platform with somebody like that — you are giving them status.

    I thought it was just Creationists and Stork Theorists and people he proclaimed as “whiny”.

  47. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    It’s no secret that I’ve been pretty hard on Richard Dawkins. But this statement is a good thing. A thing of hope. Even makes this unrepentant pessimist smile. ;)

  48. rorschach says

    Dawkins doesn’t know his own movement very well, does he. But I don’t really think it’s good enough to play the aloof professor and claim ignorance about what people get up to in his name or with his presumed or implicated approval.
    Anyway, it’s a statement that was needed, and it will make a few MRA heads explode, so that’s good.

  49. John Morales says

    Amateur @67:

    Come on, now! Precisely who is the audience for such a statement?

    It should not be so elusive to you: it’s a position statement; it places a position on the permanent record.

    (The audience is therefore anyone who cares to read it so as to be informed)

    And how easy is it to contributes to a statement condemning death and rape threats or to distance oneself from character assassination in various forms?

    The metric for the meritoriousness of a statement is not how difficult its stating may be, but rather its significance.

    It is easy to the point of being completely effortless!

    But not so insignificant as to preclude your continuing interest in informing others of your opinion of it.

    (Is that difficult for you to do?)

    Anyway, I assure you you have made your opinion explicit and placed it on the record already.

    For what it’s worth.

  50. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    rorschach seems to share my mood.

    I want to give thanks to you, though, Ophelia, deep and heartfelt thanks. I can imagine the work you put in to convince Dawkins that this would be a good thing to do. I can imagine me pulling out my hair trying to do something similar.

    Good work.

  51. says

    All an apology or message like this does is signal that it may be worthwhile to make a new observation. If actions flow from the words that show the lesson has been learned and the behavior changed, then a reevaluation may be made. That reevaluation doesn’t have to mean we are all friends now. Even when a wound heals there is scar tissue and damage remaining. But it means the situation has changed for the better.

    If the observation reveals no change, or a change for the worse, well, sometimes dead and infected tissue needs to be excised.

    I’ll take another look at Dawkins. If he stops being a jackass, I may find myself willing to again be part of his ‘atheism’. But there is an element of too little too late. I may be willing to tolerate him again, but it’s going to take a long time walking the good path before I can respect him once more.

  52. says

    My opinion of Richard Dawkins had been on an inexorable decline, I’m hoping this is the beginning of the hockey stick…

    My sense is that hope will be disappointed. This statement has value in terms of the specific matter of an ongoing patter of collective behavior that’s beyond the pale (and to which Dawkins has contributed actively or passively). It doesn’t appear to signal any other change. He’s recently retweeted Steven Pinker: “Interview with Christina Hoff Sommers: Author, Who Stole Feminism?” and someone saying “Muslims look forward to ‘Judgement Day’. Islam says this won’t come until they kill the Jews.”

    He’s also retweeted someone responding to the joint statement: “The fact that some bloggers needed confirmation of this stance is very sad.” I thought Dawkins might be misinterpreting, but judging from a quick look at this person’s other tweets evidently I was.*

    * It’s true, but not in a way he or the original tweeter appreciate.

  53. mikee says

    Ophelia, well done.
    I don’t tend to post much here but I just had to say well done. Given the acrimony across different atheist groups over the past few years it is nice to see two high profile atheists take a constructive and positive step towards repairing some of the damage

  54. Omar Puhleez says

    All of the above – well, most of it anyway.
    But here’s the pistol shot in the concert: the elephant swept under the parlour rug. Dear Muslima: the condensed version:
    .
    “Dear Muslima
    “Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated … yawn … aren’t allowed to drive a car… can’t leave the house without a male relative, …. your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery…. But your poor American sisters are worse off [they get propositions in elevators]… [etc].”
    .
    What was wrong with that? In brief, its author Richard Dawkins was attacking (inter alia) some of the most marginalised and mistreated people in the modern world: the women of Islamic countries. And from the security of a very well-paid tenured position in an English university. If he had gone to Riyadh, and openly attacked and socked it to the House of Saud, ie really let the Saudi royal family have it, that might also have been foolish, but also foolhardy, with emphasis on the hardy. Admirable even, in its own inevitably disastrous way, and with probably more coverage in both the atheist and non-atheist media.
    .
    I am frankly surprised that a ‘bright’ of Dawkins’ unquestioned intelligence and ability, the author of so many fine books, could have done something so politically dumb. Not so much ‘incorrect’ as just plain dumb. And insensitive.
    .
    Ah well. It takes all sorts. But congratulations to you Ophelia for your part in setting this up. And to you, Richard, for your part: in this instance very admirable.

  55. screechymonkey says

    SC@75,

    Well, let’s face it, this is a very limited statement. There were no apologies, no big kumbaya moment.

    Dawkins (and our host) didn’t agree not to criticize each other. Dawkins didn’t promise not to stop bashing “feminism” or whatever straw version of it lurks in his heads and that of his supporters. He’s not calling off his boycott of conferences that invite Watson to speak. (And, by the same token, Benson didn’t agree to stop pointing out Dawkins’ cluelessness and privilege, his poor communication on Twitter, and his careless choices of allies.)

    A peace treaty this isn’t. Even if Dawkins and Benson had any binding authority on their respective “sides” — and obviously they don’t — it’s more analogous to a Geneva Convention on the rules by which the “war” will continue.

  56. says

    Re arthur/#63, re your resilience in the face of years of abuse, and thank you for being so strong…

    All of that, again. As always.

    And thank you, both of you, for doing this. It’s good to see.

  57. rorschach says

    What is ignored in all of this is of course the fundamental fact that a movement made up of not-fans of Manchester United is completely pointless. It’s nice to see one of the most ardent and well-known not-fans come out and declare that some not-fans harrassing other not-fans is not on, but it doesn’t change the fact that such a movement is fairly useless, and its members unlikely to share more common goals or beliefs that any random bunch of people.
    Which is exactly while most atheists are assholes. Because most people are assholes. And that’s why I am now totally disinterested in attending any atheist convention, unless there is a strong social justice commitment being made at the same time. Because that’s where some non-assholes might be found.

  58. says

    screechy @ 79 – right. That was deliberate. We don’t agree on all the things – but we do agree on what was in that statement.

    Crip Dyke – thanks! It actually wasn’t difficult. It took some time, because of logistics & other things to do, but it wasn’t very difficult.

  59. Marcelo Huerta says

    Does this mean that Dawkins will also retract all the disparaging things he says about people talking about patriarchy and privilege? Or apologize for Dear Muslima?

    No, I didn’t think so either. Too little, too late. Sorry, I’m not buying.

  60. says

    I know there’s still a lot of leeway even for nastiness. After all, part of the problem has not been agreeing on things like what harassment actually is.

    But, it’s a nice, bright spot. I would like to indulge in a little hope. And I definitely want to add appreciation to Ophelia for the effort and getting something positive done.

  61. chrisho-stuart says

    From #78:
    A peace treaty this isn’t. Even if Dawkins and Benson had any binding authority on their respective “sides” — and obviously they don’t — it’s more analogous to a Geneva Convention on the rules by which the “war” will continue.

    Good. I don’t really want a unified movement for atheism, or skepticism. I just want basic decency as we engage many many points of difference.

  62. says

    Indeed, a good step forward, and a much needed one. I do reserve the right to attack someone’s haircut, though, bur I promise to do it nicely. ;->

    Shireen #10

    Slightly tangential, but shouldn’t relying on reason ultimately lead everyone to the same conclusions? Surely it’s people who rely on dogma who are bound to disagree with eachother, not people who rely on reason (who, logic would dictate, are bound in the end to agree).

    I remember thinking so myself, years ago. But reasoning does not happen in a vacuum; it is always based on premises, which in the final analysis cannot be based on reason alone, or you’ll have an infinite regress problem. In politics, some of the premises are your values – what do you value more, individual freedom or the collective good? Because of this, there is always room for reasonable people to disagree.

    This is tangential as you say, but it is an important point, for if you don’t get it, you are bound to consider anybody disagreeing with you to be a dogmatist. Or you’ll be forced to admit to be one yourself, heaven forbid.

  63. Pan Paniscus says

    #70 rorsach:

    But I don’t really think it’s good enough to play the aloof professor and claim ignorance about what people get up to in his name or with his presumed or implicated approval.

    Is any of the harassment actually done “in his name”? There seems to be the idea that the harassers (and, by the way, I don’t doubt that there are many contemptible harassers out there) see themselves as doing what Dawkins wants with Dawkins’s approval, and that they would stop if only Dawkins asked them to.

    This seems to me a bizarre interpretation — though I could be wrong — is there actually any evidence that the harassers think like this, or that they care two hoots what Dawkins thinks, and that they would take any more notice of a Dawkins request than, say, a PZ request?

    Having said that, this joint statement is very welcome — kudos to Ophelia — and — I hope — will lead to better relations between many of the leading notables in atheism, who do actually agree on vastly more than they disagree on.

  64. Omar Puhleez says

    Harald @#86:

    True. That is an important point.

    Otherwise, politics (what should we do?) and ethics (what should I do?) would just become two branches of mathematics.

  65. Gerard O says

    This is politically astute but the the problem with secularism circa 2014 remains: not enough people identifying as atheists are cultivating a sense of self-awareness, and an awareness to Being itself. Unless we pay more attention to integrity and virtue these problems will continue for the foreseeable future.

  66. says

    Omar: indeed. To further drive the point home, even in mathematics there is room for disagreement. Do infinite sets exist? What does that mean, even? And what do Gödel’s incompleteness theorem really tell us? Even B&W is not immune to such disputes. I have been embroiled in one myself, and I am sure my opponent was a very reasonable person. (I think I am, too.)

  67. says

    Thank you Ophelia Benson and Richard Dawkins for this statement. It is very good to see.

    “The fact that some bloggers needed confirmation of this stance is very sad.”

    The issue with Elevatorgate wasn’t the proposition in the elevator; it was the years of threats and abuse in response to Rebecca Watson’s mild little comment about it. RW never compared the elevator incident to oppression of women in Islamic countries, but in his “Dear Muslima” comment RD implied that she had. By this and by steadfast disavowal of the very concept of privilege he let Slymepitters think they had his approval. So this position statement is very necessary. And yes, the need for it is sad.

  68. says

    screechy monkey and Ophelia – Yes, I realize that. I was responding specifically to the hopeful suggestion that this might be the beginning of a larger shift for Dawkins away from his more reactionary politics or his promotion of feminist-bashing in more “civil” forms. Its value is in a specific context, which is particularly important for people who’ve been subject to several years of threats, harassment, and slurs.

  69. says

    [I]n his “Dear Muslima” comment RD implied that she had. By this and by steadfast disavowal of the very concept of privilege he let Slymepitters think they had his approval. So this position statement is very necessary. And yes, the need for it is sad.

    Yes, that’s the reality, but doesn’t appear to be what was meant by the person who tweeted that statement (again, judging from a glance at his other tweets). What Dawkins’ interpretation was when he retweeted it, I can’t say, but the action was typical of his pattern of behavior on Twitter.

  70. tonyinbatavia says

    You know what gives me even more hope about all this? A Tweet I just read from Sara Mayhew warning Richard Dawkins about interacting with Ophelia and FTB. If Mayhew doesn’t like it, Ophelia must be on the right track. Even more props, Ophelia!

    Speaking of Sara, it’s been far, far too long since I donated to the “You Hate, Ophelia Profits” fund on her behalf. I have now remedied that.

    Sara Mayhew, you have just been responsible prompting a nice, shiny cash-money donation directly to Ophelia Benson via PayPal. Ophelia can obviously use the money however she wishes, but I hope she thinks of you as she spends it and that she is further motivated to take actions that piss you off. Because, you know what? You are on the wrong side of this.

  71. johnthedrunkard says

    The loathing of Dawkins seems to have continued unabated. This response thread doesn’t have much from the slymepit, but I suspect they aren’t changing much either.

    Being perved in an elevator does not compare with being shot in the head for trying to go to school. That isn’t, and shouldn’t be taken for, a shockingly controversial statement.

    It is the avalanche of misogyny directed at Watson AFTERWARD that represents the horrific stain that sullies the whole atheist net-o-sphere.

    Dawkins is still white and male, and genuinely accomplished. His occasional cringe-worthy statements will probably not cease. The exaggerated reaction to them will continue. These are not THAT bad things to be going on. Some level of reasonable irritability is healthy.

    The pathological misogyny has been unveiled since the elevator incident. Its extent is shocking, the population it represents is loud and intrusive. #ANYmen are too damn’ many for any movement. Especially one the purports to advance knowledge and reason. MRA/PUA is no more ‘skeptical’ or ‘rational’ than Mormonism.

  72. Winnie Boal says

    I must not be in the secular in crowd because I have no idea what this general statement is referring to.

  73. Samantha George says

    Wow, the majority of the comments over at RDF are an example of a severe case of “not getting it.”

    That’s just sad.

  74. says

    My favorite is the one that solemnly explains why they HAVE to photoshop me and caricature me and make fun of me for being so ugly: it’s because I’m so wrong about everything and I won’t agree with them that I’m wrong about everything.

  75. Samantha George says

    @Ophelia #102

    Alice is doing yeoman’s work there, trying to explain (and it’s pretty clear that English isn’t her first language), and getting ‘splained down to… because of course she totally misunderstood what her lying eyes saw.

    That whole thread just makes me really sad.

  76. Samantha George says

    And of course, they’re now re-litigating Rebecca Watson’s elevator situation.

    ^headdesk, headdesk^

    Aggressivegly Not Getting it.

  77. Hj Hornbeck says

    Well, this was pleasant thing to return to.

    I do agree that there’s a difference between talk and action, but talk is the first step to action. This little statement signals Dawkins is aware of the situation, and disapproves of it. Looks like I wasn’t the only one to think he approved of it instead, so just for clarity alone this is much appreciated. Whether Dawkins does much beyond sternly disapprove is another story, but at least he’s upped the ante; should he do nothing, this statement will be thrown back in his face. It’s raised my opinion of him a notch, either way.

    Thanks for the statement, Benson and Dawkins. It’s one brick in a pathway, but it’s an important brick.

  78. says

    I can’t understand how badly some people are misinterpreting this statement.

    It is clearly NOT “can we all please be friends” and NOT “let’s all say sorry and agree on everything” and not even “let us all agree to disagree”.

    It is clearly simply a call to keep the brickbats verbal, on a reasonable level and focussed on the issues at stake and not personally abusive aimed at the individual.

    Issues wise no quarter has been given by anybody and why would it have been? If Dawkins ‘Dear Muslima’ was an issue for you before then it isn’t that he needs to “do more”: he hasn’t done anything in regard to that, his position is the same as last week.

    FWIW I agree with Benson and Dawkins: however much we are irked or insulted by others we need to keep the toys in the pram.

  79. says

    @Omar #78

    Sorry Omar, I can’t let that past.

    What Dawkins was trying to say in Dear Muslimah was the exact opposite of what you have him saying. It was a clumsy and disastrous attempt at satire, but he was absolutely not mocking muslims. He was attempting to ridicule westerners’ complaints of what he saw as comparitively trivial sexism and abuse, and got it badly wrong.

    I’m sure he has learnt a lot since, as have many of us.

  80. latsot says

    I’m very late to comment on this but not because I haven’t been paying attention. Having said that, I’ve only read most and not all of the comments here. I contain multitudes. Multitudes of hypocritical versions of myself, apparently.

    Anyway, for what it’s worth I share with many of those commenting above both the gratitude to Ophelia for making this happen and the cautious optimism that Richard will walk the walk. More than a few people I recognise commenting (and blogging) here and elsewhere have told Richard personally again and again why some of his comments have been problematic and why he might apply his own advice of raising one’s consciousness to address his own plight. He’s had the clues since (at the earliest) Dear Muslima and he’s seemed to more or less ignore them as a matter of course.

    Well, he seems to be listening to Ophelia. Let’s hope he continues to do that.

    In the meantime, there are already a dozen…oh, I was going to say ‘tropes’ but fuck it, let’s be a little bit wicked and say ‘memes’.

  81. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Best thing I’ve heard, well read Richard Dawkins say for a long time.

    A very hopeful sign I think – & thanks for the good news.

  82. screechymonkey says

    Is it too much to hope that the vehement opposition of so many people — including, apparently, many at his own web site — will cause Dawkins to conclude that yes, this really did need to be said after all?

    Not that the reaction proves that people thought Dawkins approved of such things (you can argue the opposite, that the reaction shows that the pro-harassment brigade doesn’t take its lead from him), but it does show that there really is a faction of people who not only engage in such things, but claim it’s intellectually defensible, and that many of them are among his audience.

  83. Jackie says

    Then he used mental illness as a slur to insult theists.

    …and now Dawkins is explaining on Twitter how some forms of child molestation are “mild” and that people raped by someone they know (which is most rape victims) doesn’t have it as bad as people raped by strangers. He’s Dear Muslima-ing rape survivors, even those who were assaulted as children.

    The man is trash and I don’t care what he has to say about anything. He and his fans can fuck off with their toxic bullshit. He’s no ally to anyone but rapists who want to tell themselves that they aren’t doing anything THAT bad.

  84. says

    Jackie #111

    He’s back at that again? I’m not going to look; I’m already triggered. Bur if he’s doing that, that’s it for me.

    The man is trash

    Earlier, I quoted my grandmother: “Handsome is as handsome does.” Now, I have another quote for him, “As a dog returns to his vomit, so fools repeat theiir folly.” Proverbs 26:11 NIV

  85. says

    “..be able to manage disagreement ethically, like reasonable adults, as opposed to brawling like enraged children who need a nap.”

    “It should go without saying, but this means no death threats, rape threats, attacks on people’s appearance, age…”

Trackbacks

  1. […] were a problem. He didn’t listen to any of us who wrote to him, but several years later, he did help call for an end to threats and harassment, and I thought for a few seconds he’d seen a glimmer of light, before he went back to being a […]

  2. […] That, however, hasn’t happened yet. Harassment of atheists, particularly women, who criticize anything said by the big names? That happens all the time. It is reasonable to make it clear that this is not behavior desired by the people being defended. Richard Dawkins, in fact, was particularly keen to clear this up in his joint statement with Ophelia. […]

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