Let’s sit down together and discuss that proposition itself


The title of Dawkins’s new post asks a question: Are there emotional no-go areas where logic dare not show its face? The first paragraph re-words the question.

Are there kingdoms of emotion where logic is taboo, dare not show its face, zones where reason is too intimidated to speak?

My answer is yes, of course there are. Not the ones he has in mind, necessarily, but there are some. There are plenty of situations where reason just isn’t wanted, only sympathy or affection or solidarity or just warm-bodiedness will do. There are others where only joyous abandon is wanted.

But that’s interpersonal; RD is talking about public discourse. That’s different. Discourse by definition rests on at least minimal reason and logic. But does that mean emotion must be banished?

He talks of thought experiments and hypothetical worlds, of questions about genetic superiority of races, cannibalism, abortion, eugenics, torture.

There are those whose love of reason allows them to enter such disagreeable hypothetical worlds and see where the discussion might lead. And there are those whose emotions prevent them from going anywhere near the conversation. Some of these will vilify and hurl vicious insults at anybody who is prepared to discuss such matters. Some will pursue active witch-hunts against moral philosophers for daring to consider obnoxious hypothetical thought experiments.

That’s too simplified. I don’t think it’s just a love of reason that motivates people to pursue the discussion where it might lead – I think it also has to do with wanting to get the morality right. And that is partly emotional. People who love intellectual puzzles for their own sake are less interested in moral questions than in technical ones, I think.

But more to the point, it isn’t just random daft meaningless “emotion” that makes people wary of discussions of, say, abortion. It’s emotion about things like consequences and experience and the difference between being someone vulnerable to the harm under discussion and being someone who is not vulnerable to it.

So we could have another discussion about the morality of trying to discuss moral issues that have huge impacts on one kind of people but no impact on you. Does that make a difference? Should it make a difference? Is it possible that, for instance, a very rich person who has always been very rich and has no personal experience at all of what it’s like to be poor – that such a person would have a shallow understanding of the consequences of, say, a wage cut for bottom-tier workers in a company? Should very rich people be the only people deciding what wages get paid? Is that a question about reason and logic, or emotion, or both?

I say it’s both. Emotion is relevant to discussions of that kind, and it’s rational to accept that. It’s not automatically irrational to take emotions into account.

So this is the part I most disagree with:

I believe that, as non-religious rationalists, we should be prepared to discuss such questions using logic and reason. We shouldn’t compel people to enter into painful hypothetical discussions, but nor should we conduct witch-hunts against people who are prepared to do so. I fear that some of us may be erecting taboo zones, where emotion is king and where reason is not admitted; where reason, in some cases, is actively intimidated and dare not show its face. And I regret this. We get enough of that from the religious faithful. Wouldn’t it be a pity if we became seduced by a different sort of sacred, the sacred of the emotional taboo zone?

You need both.

For an example: suppose you get a group of prosperous comfortable well-fed men having a rational logical discussion of rape. Is it excessively emotional to point out that a group like that would be simply talking over the heads of the people most vulnerable to rape? I don’t think it is. I don’t think it’s excessively emotional to point out that there’s something blood-chilling about seeing people who are safe talk calmly detachedly and in the abstract about the risks or tragedies faced by people who aren’t like them.

Some subjects are fraught, and it makes a difference who is talking about them, and to whom. This is what Richard is objecting to, and concerned about – the existence of taboo subjects. He explains that that’s why he chose rape to illustrate his point about logic: because it’s fraught.

I think rationalists should be free to discuss spectrums of nastiness, even if only to reject them. I had noticed indications that rape and pedophilia had moved out of the discussion zone into a no-go taboo area. I wanted to challenge the taboo, just as I want to challenge all taboos against free discussion.

Nothing should be off limits to discussion. No, let me amend that. If you think some things should be off limits, let’s sit down together and discuss that proposition itself. Let’s not just insult each other and cut off all discussion because we rationalists have somehow wandered into a land where emotion is king.

Let’s. That’s what I’m doing here. I’m saying why I think some subjects need care in discussing.

Comments

  1. Blanche Quizno says

    I’m sorry, but that first quote was so vainglorious, so highfalutin, so bloated and pretentious that I’m afraid it put me over my daily maximum threshold for biggery.

    I’m officially overbiggened >.<

  2. A Hermit says

    It’s not so much that there are “no go” zones as that there are “go carefully” zones. Being logical and rational doesn’t mean charging around making crass, careless comments about rape on Twitter.

    I’m also still waiting for Dawkins to explain why he feels there’s a need to take on the subject of rape at all right now. Does he think rape victims are creating some sort of problem that must be calmly, logically and dispassionately dealt with?

  3. says

    And it all goes back to privilege. It’s easy for someone to say everything should be up for discussion and debate all the time, when the results of discussion will never ever affect them personally. Abortion? Sure. Dawkins will never die from sepsis because some bishops decided to value some spasming tissue above his health and life. Rape? Sure. Because who’s going to hold Richard down and penetrate him against his will?

    And as if the people who are emotional because they have a stake in the outcome can’t also be reasonable and logical. We just don’t think those discussions ought to be had without acknowledging that there are real people with real consequences to face all mixed up in those philosophical topics, and speaking sensitively, always with that knowledge in mind.

  4. says

    There are those whose love of reason allows them to enter such disagreeable hypothetical worlds and see where the discussion might lead.

    There are also those who understand that reason has ALREADY BEEN THERE, and see no valid reason to go back there and act like they’re boldly going where none have gone before. Seriously, have there been any new developments in either genetic superiority of races, cannibalism, abortion, eugenics, or torture, since the last time reasonable people discussed them?

    If you think some things should be off limits, let’s sit down together and discuss that proposition itself. Let’s not just insult each other and cut off all discussion because we rationalists have somehow wandered into a land where emotion is king.

    Yeah, if you’re being emotional, you should just sit down and let rational people calmly and dispassionately explain why you’re wrong and your feelings don’t matter. So shut up, that’s why.

  5. says

    PS: Consistent and callous disregard for other people’s feelings — and the reasons and causes for such feelings — is really not as rational a practice as some people think. A truly rational person would at least respect such feelings enough to try to understand WHY they arise, and WHAT they may be trying to tell us.

  6. Donnie says

    Remember, there is a secular reason to support pro-life arguments. Please, Prof. Dawkins, let’s go over that area, again, simply for your intellectual enjoyment. Prof. Dawkins, you are more than capable of having that conversations with people in a private setting. In public, you should be prepared for backlash because your logic and use of logic has no bearing on another’s bodily autonomy.

  7. screechymonkey says

    Dawkins is failing to account for the fact that conversations and human interactions take place on multiple levels. We don’t confine ourselves to simply responding to someone’s statement; our minds are constantly trying to figure out why is this person saying that? What is their point in bringing this up? Do they have an agenda?

    That’s not a question of logic vs. emotion. If a stranger stops me on the street and says “nice weather today, isn’t it?” it is entirely rational and logical for me to evaluate more than the truth or falsity of his statement: is this person just making idle conversation, or about to hit me up for money or to sign a petition, or drag me into a lengthy conversation that I have no interest in having? Am I better off ignoring this person, responding politely and moving on, or stopping to discuss?

    And that’s just for a statement on an innocuous topic. When someone starts making statements about controversial areas like rape, or race, or abortion — subjects where there are all sorts of agendas, hidden and otherwise — it’s entirely rational and logical to try to figure out where someone is coming from, and to be suspicious of apparently benign “statements of logic” like “some forms of rape are more traumatic than others.”

    Let me give an example from Dawkins’ own experience. There’s a famous video that creationists like to tout where they claim Dawkins was “stumped” by a question by his interviewer about evolution creating new information, because he pauses for several seconds on-camera after hearing the question. Dawkins has explained many times that the reason for the pause was not that he was “stumped” by the question, but that the question — which is a favorite supposed “stumper” of creationists — alerted him to the fact that this interviewer had an agenda that he wasn’t aware of, and he was debating internally whether to continue the interview, kick them out of his home, etc.

    Now, Dawkins would surely agree that evolution and creationism are not “taboo” topics, and he’s not “emotional” about them (or, at least, he’s capable of setting his emotions aside). But he might want to consider that when he or anyone else pipes up to make “innocuous” remarks or logical syllogisms about rape, that some of us have a “Dawkins pause” and want to know where this is going. Some people are going to suspect they know exactly where this is going (as Dawkins did with the “information” question), and their response is going to be based on that assumption rather than playing the speaker’s game.

  8. says

    The thing is his twitter feed is a long list of examples of him acting out in an infantile manner when his logical superiority is called into question by his lessers…the people who take him to task over issues around rape, molestation etc.. ARE by definition his “lessers” because they are in his mind swamped under a tsunami of irrational emoting…unlike himself who is just acting like the witty Don he is…or sees himself as… detached, analytical, funny even.

    You must concede…. YOU are the one not engaging in logic and reason…because no reasonable person could disagree and have strong feelings about what he has said….Because he the superior cool headed logician has declared all of this – a game – an experiment – the purpose of which is to bring you up to his level.

    You are also irrational for not seeing the gift in his open palm…his desire to help you up.

  9. says

    Is there some sort of rule akin to Dunning-Kreuger which covers the phenomenon of self-declared “rationalists” having blind spots with regard to their own irrationality, blind spots, bias – It’s like Kevlar with some of these folks…nothing can penetrate it.

  10. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    Tweets are not a place for rational discourse. There isn’t room for nuances and complications. Tweets can be jokes, assertions, absolute claims, but you can’t have a rational discussion of a subject, especially not a subject that people have strong emotional feelings about, on Twitter.
    I’d have thought that that was logically obvious.

  11. Pliny the in Between says

    Another way to answer Dr Dawkins is to ask some opposite questions – are there areas where emotional outrage is the only appropriate response? Are there questions that can only be answered through empathy in place of logic? Is a dispassionate individual’s logical assessment always superior to the emotional response of one nearer to the problem? Are there times when those unaffected by a particular set of circumstances, simply have to agree to support the positions of those who are?

  12. Tessa says

    Hrm. There is an amazing level of irony here. Let’s look at it logically. A reason people get “emotional” is that they have a stake in the implications of these “logical discussions,” or they are empathetic to people who have a stake. For example, if someone perceives a threat on their freedom, they may get emotional. Just a random example completely off the top of my head, let’s say someone perceives a threat to their free speech, either real or imagined, they may get so overwrought and paranoid that they consider it analogous to a witch hunt or an inquisition.

    And this is just a response to criticism. Imagine a real life logical discussion about taking away Dawkin’s free speech. Especially if it was an actual possibility. Could he be non emotional?

    (I do not actually think there should be any discussion of taking away rights, just pointing out Dawkins certainly doesn’t remain non-emotional when it’s something that affects him.)

  13. deepak shetty says

    Are there kingdoms of emotion where logic is taboo, dare not show its face, zones where reason is too intimidated to speak?
    Teach the controversy!

  14. qwints says

    Richard states ” We shouldn’t compel people to enter into painful hypothetical discussions,” but his post criticizes people who won’t enter into those discussions. He also conflates reasonable discourse with dispassionate discourse. It’s simply not true that the only valid way to discuss a subject is to do without caring about the result. All said, the post is less about arguing for free thought and more about saying that forms of argument he doesn’t personally like are incompatible with rational discourse.

    As an aside, this part of Ophelia’s post bothered me:

    I don’t think it’s excessively emotional to point out that there’s something blood-chilling about seeing people who are safe talk calmly about the risks or tragedies faced by people who aren’t like them

    I think I agree with the intent of this, which I perceive to be a condemnation of “let them eat cake” style dismissals of suffering. It does, however, seems to go further and condemn even talking about how to help people if people are doing it wrong.

  15. funknjunk says

    The whole thing just reminds me of TFoot’s crazy rant giving advice to all the wimminz about how not to be assaulted. The attitude of “well, I should be able to talk about this”, having no idea of what actual women think about and go through on a day to day basis already in that area…. I mean, if Dawkins wants to have conversations, why not, uh … converse with other people! Not send out these tweets from on high making risible pronouncements about things of which he knows nothing….

  16. says

    Are there kingdoms of emotion where logic is taboo, dare not show its face, zones where reason is too intimidated to speak?

    Little could better show the level of intellectual and epistemic arrogance of Dawkins and others who think like him. He sees himself not as an equal participant in an exchange of ideas, but as the put-upon embodiment of logic and reason (it would only have been better had he capitalized them).

    This is the opposite of the humility demanded of science, which requires that you recognize that you don’t embody objectivity. It’s also willfully ignorant of a basic historical fact: that claims and arguments that support the white male supremacist status quo have always required much less in the way of logic and reason for their acceptance, such that even the most illogical and unreasonable arguments* are allowed not only to stand and be taken seriously but to be paraded around as unassailable conclusions based on scientific evidence analyzed according to the most disinterested reason. Meanwhile, claims and arguments that challenge the status quo have always had to fight an uphill battle (even to be heard), and face constant condescending accusations of unwillingness to face the Truth and seeking to silence or distort Science with a political-emotional agenda.

    * Once again, witness:

    Boys favor construction and transportation toys, whereas girls favor toys such as dolls Connor & Serbin, 1977, Liss, 1981. Boys are also more active Campbell & Eaton, 1999, Eaton & Enns, 1986 and show more rough physical play than girls (DiPietro, 1981). These sexually dimorphic play styles are thought by many to derive from learning and cognitive mechanisms associated with gender socialization (see Serbin, Poulin-Dubois, Colburne, Sen, & Eichstedt, 2001 for a recent discussion). Learning theories suggest that sex differences in play activities and toy preferences arise from modeling and reinforcement of sex-typical play Bandura, 1977, Fagot & Hagan, 1991, Langlois & Downs, 1990. Cognitive theories suggest further that children develop an understanding of their gender identity that results in schemas or mental representations of socially defined gender appropriate behavior and a positive evaluation of toys and activities associated with this gender identification Maccoby, 1988, Martin, 1999, Martin et al., 1990. Sexually dimorphic play has, in turn, social and cognitive consequences. Children have strong preferences for compatible play styles and playmates of the same sex (e.g., Alexander & Hines, 1994). The resulting same-sex groupings for play appear to encourage sexually dimorphic social interaction styles (Maccoby, 1990) and may promote male-typical cognitive abilities (e.g., spatial abilities) (Sprafkin, Serbin, Denier, & Connor, 1983). Sex-typed play styles, therefore, appear to further human sex differences in social and cognitive development.

    …The present research addressed the hypothesis that toy preferences may be associated with factors other than human social and cognitive development by measuring toy preferences in a nonhuman primate, the vervet monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops sabaeus). Unlike humans, vervet monkeys are not subject to the specific social and cognitive influences proposed to explain human sex differences in toy preferences. To evaluate the possibility that sex differences in toy preferences can arise independent of these social and cognitive mechanisms, we therefore tested the hypothesis that vervet monkeys, like human beings, show sex differences in toy preferences.

    …For each trial, six toys were placed in the group cage, one at a time, in a random order. Each toy remained in the enclosure for 5 min. The six toys were a ball, a police car, a soft doll, a cooking pot, a picture book and a stuffed dog. These toys were categorized as “masculine” toys, “feminine” toys, or “neutral” toys on the basis of evidence that boys are more interested than girls in balls and cars (the “masculine” toy set), girls are more interested than boys in dolls and pots (the “feminine” toy set), and boys and girls are approximately equally interested in books and stuffed animals (the “neutral” toy set) Berenbaum & Hines, 1992, Connor & Serbin, 1977, Maccoby & Jacklin, 1974. The six toys were selected because children in a broad age range categorize them as “masculine,” “feminine,” or “neutral” and, for those toys categorized as “masculine” or “feminine,” the sex difference in toy preferences is reliable and relatively large in children.

    …In sum, our data suggest that sex differences in preferences for object features may contribute to the formation of perceptual categories of sex-typed toys, and these preferences for features or functions appear to generalize across at least some primate species. Moreover, it seems that, like chromatic color vision, sex-related object preferences appeared early in human evolution, prior to the emergence of a distinct hominid lineage….

  17. karmacat says

    What Dawkins seems to be forgetting is that he really doesn’t have all the information to be able to discuss the issue of rape. He doesn’t have information on how different kinds of rape affect people, especially in terms of emotional health. Also, emotions are a signal that we need to look at an issue. In psychotherapy, if you want to know what it is important or significant to a patient you follow the emotion the person is expressing

  18. says

    It also seems confused to me. He’s acknowledged, I believe, when he accepted that he deems it a legitimate for some people to consider “acquaintance rape” worse than “stranger rape” due to feeilngs of betrayal and the destruction of trust, that his ever-so-logical rape rankings themselves contain or at least allow an emotional element. The whole question of “better” and “worse” human experiences of this sort inherently involves emotions. Questions of morality and crime inherently involve emotions. To fail to recognize this isn’t to purify your reason, but to weaken it and render your conclusions offensively narrow and irrelevant.

  19. Rabidtreeweasel says

    Why does he feel there needs to be a debate about the degree of horrible involved in different rape experiences? Does he feel there is a lack of discourse on the subject? Well, there are certainly men running around informing women that their rape isn’t so bad because Uganda. So let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about how degrees of suffering are used to shut people up. Let’s talk about how arbitrary decisions by men in authority positions affect minorities negatively. Let’s calmly and rationally pick apart rape culture and examine how supporting statements like knife point rape is worse than mild rape creates subcategories that aren’t necessary and how such categorization pulls support away from those who need it. And then we can look at the brain, at the hypothalamus, and very carefully and rationally examine how repeated trauma shrinks that part of the brain. Then let’s look at the statistics, at how traumatic sexual assault experiences are repeated across a woman’s life until the different degrees of trauma don’t really matter any longer because what really is affecting her is the sustained trauma of living in a society that promotes rape culture. And then, once that has been established, we can logically deduce that someone with chronic PTSD would have a very emotional reaction to someone suggesting, yet again, their own individual trauma is trumped by knife wielding mustachioed rapist trauma because the rape script we’ve accepted in our society has established that fantasy as the ultimate boogeyman.

    That is a discussion I’d be perfectly willing to watch Dawkins engage in, but that doesn’t seem to be what he wants. What he seems to want is the privilege to say whatever occurs to him without facing reasoned critique.

    How emotional of him.

  20. jenBPhillips says

    qwints:

    I think I agree with the intent of this, which I perceive to be a condemnation of “let them eat cake” style dismissals of suffering. It does, however, seems to go further and condemn even talking about how to help people if people are doing it wrong.

    I think I get what you are trying to say, but the critical point to me is that no mention of ‘helping’ has been made, as far as I’m aware. I realize that discussing sterilized hypothetical examples of sexual trauma because LOGIC is apparently supposed to help us overcome our reflexive, emotional tendencies to make such topics taboo. But it’s arguably not helpful at all to the actual, non-hypothetical victims of such trauma or the culture in which these acts regularly occur. It is, in fact, harmful.

    Active helpfulness (or the intent thereof) aside, it’s not that talking about rape in any form is condemned, but the particular way he’s going about it, completely without empathy. It is possible to have a logical discussion about rape, rape culture, pedophilia, or any number of sensitive topics and somehow manage not to come off as a tone-deaf, insensitive asshole whose concern for the overzealous prosecution of perpetrators of ‘mild rape’* FAR outstrips any concern for the actual victims. Dawkins has failed at this spectacularly.

    *and even greater concern over the overzealous persecution of Brave Heroes who just want to ask questions about the rape spectrum unhampered by emotional filters.

  21. says

    You know what? As a last ditch effort, I wouldn’t mind seeing a public sit-down with Dawkins about all this, as long as it was, like, Dawkins and then Ophelia, PZ, Greta, and Rebecca (yes, outnumber Dawkins) or something along those lines… only because there’s this hopeful part of me that still wants… needs… Dawkins to get it, and maybe being bludgeoned over the head with it (metaphorically, obviously! I don’t mean literally be bludgeoned!) in a very public setting is what he needs to finally get it.

    Of course that’s never going to happen and it really is time to just give up on him, but hey… I’m a dreamer… but I’m not the only one… :D

  22. says

    Excellent post, rabidtreeweasel.

    What he seems to want is the privilege to say whatever occurs to him without facing reasoned critique.

    I think this might be connected, sadly enough, to the joint publication of the declaration with Ophelia. As I said at the time, I thought that his writing and publishing it jointly with her was as important as the content. It was a (small, belated, woefully insufficient) demonstration that he had the capacity to openly acknowledge some of the experiences of women and feminists. What he’s done since is (probably unconsciously) try to signal that he still holds us in contempt and will trod on our feelings at will, regardless of the social harms. Doing so publicly and repeatedly seems almost like a compulsion driven by fears and anxieties about losing a sense of power and control.

  23. jenBPhillips says

    In all the parallel conversations on this topic I’m sure this has been covered, but I haven’t seen it, so maybe worth interjecting here:

    It seems unbelievably facile to me to even try to create a spectrum of badness for something as complex and multifaceted as sexual assault. If the creator of such a scale has any intention of basing the values of real life experiences, the inherent variation of those experiences must be considered.

    Here’s an actual example of real research on the topic of why *some* kinds of rape circumstances might be more or less traumatic for *some* people, specifically, a comprehensive study that finds a trend of increased trauma when sexual violence is followed by institutional betrayal–e.g. the Catholic Church or Penn State coverup for pedophilia, University admin responses to student reports of rape, etc. (**TW, obviously**)
    http://dynamic.uoregon.edu/jjf/institutionalbetrayal/

    Point being, here are some psychologists who spent years focusing on a very specific facet of sexual violence–just one of many, and found a previously undescribed variable. Many other such variables are known and have/will be explored. Even a multi-point linear yardstick of rape severity would be woefully inadequate, let alone a binary ‘X > Y’ designation.

  24. Barb's Wire says

    The problem here is, he creates thought experiments about something he hasn’t necessarily experienced, and then when people who have experienced these things, or have vastly more knowledge of that topic say, “no, this example makes no sense at all in this context” and tells him why, he covers his ears like a petulant child, refuses to listen and understand that even logically he’s wrongheaded (and I think for him that’s the greatest insult of all), and it’s insensitive to those who have suffered rape (far less important to him…. because, you know, logic). But oh no, he refuses to budge, simply because we won’t just agree with him. After all…. he’s been “always right” for decades, has he not? *sigh*

  25. Barb's Wire says

    25. SC -excellent post. Well said. I think it is driven by all these things, and worst of all, a fear of irrelevancy that happens as one grows older and the younger generation questions all one’s sacred cows along with what one may feel is hard-won wisdom. That irrelevancy is a real thing btw… I feel it often…. and I fear it also. Doesn’t excuse his bad behaviour one bit, and it is dangerous if accompanied with an unwillingness to keep learning, which we are seeing with Dawkins. Even when willing, that learning may get tougher with age as well.

  26. says

    @21 et al: Yes, why indeed? What is to be accomplished by sitting around intellectualizing in a vacuum about the relative trauma of various types of sexual assault? Surely the relevant parties to such a discussion would be: assault victims, psychologists and counselors dealing with the aftermath thereof, and those responsible for making and enforcing the law in this area. And the relevant information should cascade in that direction. Everyone else can STFU. Which I’m now going to do.

  27. Pen says

    Well, to answer his questions:

    1) i don’t know that there are real no go zones in discussion. I discuss race pretty freely, and the only repercussion is that people sometimes disagree with me. Pedophilia may be genuinely different. I’m pretty sure my blog got deleted from blogger once because I commented on a type of representation of children which is still acceptable in French culture, but not in Anglo-Saxon cultures. However, it got re-instated (eventually) so obviously I freaked someone but their complaint didn’t stand up to inspection. I could certainly understand the representations I discussed being subject to extreme criticsm, but I didn’t think the discussion itself should be banned.

    2) That doesn’t mean anything anyone says about race/gender/pedophilia should be treated kindly. Some propsitions concerning any of those topics are at least as absurd, ignorant and harmful as any religion and Dawkins doesn’t advocate handling religions with kid gloves so why should he get kid glove treatment himself?

    3) Much of what concerns human society and identity falls outside the realm of logic, certainly in so far as we don’t have reliable premises to base ourselves on. In theory, it could be an empirical field of knowledge but we’re not there yet. It’s rational and properly skeptical to admit this.

    4) One of the few things that does seem certain is that where humans are concerned, any position which ignores our emotive, motivated and context-dependent nature isn’t rational.

  28. tecolata says

    When I was sexually assaulted, by a doctor, during an employment physical, and got fired when I reported, I was told by other women that I had not been actually raped (true, there was no penetration) and that it was insulting to women who had been raped to compare my trivial experience to theirs. Since my trivial experience, I have never gone to a male doctor for anything, even if it means driving 50 miles for a female doctor or refusing care entirely, and I have never had consenting sex with anyone. I am not anti sex for others, but don’t ever fucking touch or even look at me.

    No one has the right to tell anyone their experience is trivial or less bad. Was it not as bad as being raped to death by 30 men? Probably. That does not make it trivial.

    Dawkins reminds me of the male anti-abortion crowd. You tell them the worst possible outcomes, 10 year old girls raped and impregated by their fathers, women hemorrhaging to death in childbirth and they smugly stick their noses and dicks in the air and say “no abortion!” Because they aren’t the ones dying. I think those men get off on the thought of women suffering and it’s beginning to look more and more like Dawkins, who I once admired for his writing and his outspoken advocacy of science and reason, gets off on talking about rape.

  29. Maureen Brian says

    Richard Dawkins claims to be struggling against the forces of darkness – however defined – in order to have a logical and rational discussion on sensitive subjects. In order to do that, though, you would need facts. I don’t see that he even mentions facts, let alone informed opinion, let alone research.

    No-one, not even intellectual super-stars, can be expected to conduct such a discussion as a pure intellectual exercise, nor would a wise man choose Twitter as the forum. How do you have a dialogue when you don’t know to whom you are talking or what knowledge or preconceptions they bring to the imaginary table?

    Curiously enough, I have been having logical and rational discussions – some intense, some more relaxed – for a good fifty years on all these “sensitive” subjects but every last one of them informed by knowledge and experience, developing knowledge and experience not 140 characters plucked out of thin air. One is tempted to ask, “Richard Dawkins, where have you been all these decades?”

    To take just one example, Dawkins takes it as read (and Brave Sir Brendan in the Telegraph rushes to his aid) that, of course, a rape by a stranger who threatens with a weapon just must be worse than a rape by someone you know. Of course it must be because neither of them sees a person there – just a hole being penetrated with a degree of force. Hooray for fact-free logic!

    Except that it’s not getting us very far, is it? Maybe it’s not getting us anywhere because neither of those men can see the woman, perhaps with small children, trapped in an increasingly abusive relationship without a means of escape. Nor do they see the person totally betrayed by someone they’ve grown up with, the family friend who’s always been around who suddenly turns and rapes them. Because we are not talking holes, gentlemen, we are talking people and your first step towards a rational discussion would be to acknowledge their experience, draw on their understanding. Not something you can do on a whiteboard or a computer but a necessary first step.

    Do you all remember Sandra Fluke the first time we saw her, fighting to give evidence to a Congressional Committee? Then berated by all and sundry for the dastardly crime of understanding the human reproductive system rather better than Rush Limbaugh? Or the woman member of of a state legislature, thrown out of the chamber for using the word vagina when the subject under discussion was – wait for it! – compulsory intra-vaginal ultrasounds. And all the many hearings down the years where we have laughed at one row of elderly men earnestly taking evidence from a matching row of elderly men? Or watched them take evidence from celibate clerics but refuse to hear from women, even women specialists in the subject? And no matter that in all the cases I list the health and well-being of women were at stake.

    We are not irrational because we are feminists or because we are women. Feminism is full of seriously brain-stretching rationality. Nor do we need to start such discussions – on bodily autonomy, on birth control, on sexual identity, whatever – from scratch. They have been going for two, three hundred years. They have involved both men and women and the literature is vast. The handful of texts I own would take even an Oxford professor a week to read. And I have read several times that amount but remain an amateur.

    So the question is not will we stop reacting to wild and ill-informed Tweets which serve only to inflame. The question is, rather, will you come down off your kyriarchal pedestal and join as an equal in the logical, rational and fact-based discussions which have been going on since before you were born?

  30. says

    To discuss rape without reference to emotion is to abandon rationality completely. Because most of the impact of rape, I believe, is emotional. To ignore that is to make all the data biased and irrelevant.

  31. says

    qwints @ 16 – you’re right. I amended it a bit. (I struggled over that sentence. I meant people just talking about it as a thing to talk about, a thing to exercise their intelligence on, not about what to do.) (So I should have just said it that way.)

  32. smhll says

    Thank you Ophelia and commenters for so many good thoughts on this topic.

    (When I saw the newest stuff from Dawkins about witch hunts I just wanted to bang my head against the wall. I had been optimistic after he modified the earlier tweet and agreed that the betrayal of being raped by someone close could also be strongly traumatic.)

    Hrm. There is an amazing level of irony here. Let’s look at it logically. A reason people get “emotional” is that they have a stake in the implications of these “logical discussions,” or they are empathetic to people who have a stake. For example, if someone perceives a threat on their freedom, they may get emotional. Just a random example completely off the top of my head, let’s say someone perceives a threat to their free speech, either real or imagined, they may get so overwrought and paranoid that they consider it analogous to a witch hunt or an inquisition.

    And this is just a response to criticism. Imagine a real life logical discussion about taking away Dawkin’s free speech. Especially if it was an actual possibility. Could he be non emotional?

    I’m with you here. And I’m tempted to spin a hypothetical scenario intended to make the most serenely detached academic squirm a little.

    Hypothetically – what if we levied a heavy tax on atheists and used the funds to fund robot research. The goal of this not actually real research would be to replace all professors with teaching machines. Then we would set up chop shops to render the superfluous educators into reusable parts. (But not really) And, for fun, lets start with the oldest professors first. Would it be wrong? Is their value in considering it?

    (Yeah, I don’t do this as well as Jonathan Swift, but I wanted to jump in and make my own ‘Proposal’.)

  33. leni says

    … let’s say someone perceives a threat to their free speech, either real or imagined, they may get so overwrought and paranoid that they consider it analogous to a witch hunt or an inquisition.

    PS I lol’ed.

  34. says

    Dear Muslima, while you’re whining about being sentenced to be raped as punishment for being raped, there is a poor, put-upon Oxford academic with real problems

    Dear Richard,

    “Academically detached abstract pondering” is probably the worst possible way in which to discuss rape. Rape isn’t just a violation of social & physical boundaries, it’s a crime shot through with emotional & psychological trauma that often outweighs and outlasts the physical violence. For you, myself and the vast majority of other adult white men, it is one of those things that not just happens to but is done to other people and, in our respective home countries of England and Australia, mostly by fellow adult white males. As people to whom rape is extremely unlikely to happen, we have a responsibility both to discuss it carefully and learn when not to and to defer to those to whom it has happened and is most likely to happen.

    Rape is not and cannot be an emotion-free-zone dominated by Spockish deconstruction and cladistics. In order to fully appreciate the impact of any sexual assault, a person needs to at least try and comprehend the emotions it provokes in survivors (both initially and long-term) and in those close to them.

    And when you’re criticised for said sober public pondering of which “kind’ of rape is worse, petulant persecution fantasies complete with invoking witch hunts and Orwell is the worst possible way to respond. All it does is confirm your image as just another out-of-touch, older white man, abstractly & without empathy discussing actual trauma that happens to actual people like it’s a fascinating new species of insect; concerned with your own pride far more than with the real effects your words cause.

    Sincerely
    H

  35. says

    There’s another thing.

    If that were really right, judges shouldn’t be allowed to impose harsher sentences for some rapes than for others. Do we really want our courts to impose a single mandatory sentence – a life sentence, perhaps – for all rapes regardless? To all rapes, from getting a woman drunk and taking advantage at one end of the spectrum, to holding a knife to her throat in a dark alley at the other? Do we really want our judges to ignore such distinctions when they pass sentence? I don’t, and I don’t think any reasonable person would if they thought it through.

    Hmm.

  36. screechymonkey says

    Do we really want our courts to impose a single mandatory sentence – a life sentence, perhaps – for all rapes regardless? To all rapes, from getting a woman drunk and taking advantage at one end of the spectrum

    Good heavens, no. Clearly, the penalty for that offense should be a life sentence of speaking gigs on the skeptic/atheist lecture circuit.

  37. mildlymagnificent says

    The thing that strikes me is that the claimed “logical” approach hasn’t even been examined logically for different or better ways to undertake the project. If that’s what one wants to do.

    He could have avoided all of this if he’d approached it from another logical angle. Several people who are not Dawkins have raised it. Some rapes are “simple” sexual assault and others are accompanied by violence or other criminal activity and not limited to the sexual assault itself. If he’d postulated this distinction as a logical question in itself he might have got away with it. Should these be considered as different kinds or levels of rape or should rape be one offence and perpetrators be subject to additional charges in those cases? Physical assault, intimidation, assault with a weapon, administering drugs/alcohol, threats against others, abduction/false imprisonment are all too often committed as part of or in order to facilitate a rape.

    The logical issue then becomes whether, how, when, why we should say that a rapist committed a single offence against that victim or was it a case of two or more offences. Other logical issues can then be discussed by the dispassionate, disinterested participants about their reasons for thinking about which additional offences should always/never be bundled in with a rape charge and which should always/never be treated as separate matters.

    Of course, once our group of dispassionate, disinterested, high-minded logicians set out on this path, they may find there’s not much to talk about. Rape is bad. Other things are also bad. Not very interesting or exciting I would have thought.

  38. says

    If you think some things should be off limits, let’s sit down together and discuss that proposition itself.

    I believe someone here either said, or quoted someone else as saying, “There can be no civil and rational discussion of my status as a human being.”

    …just another out-of-touch, older white man, abstractly & without empathy discussing actual trauma that happens to actual people like it’s a fascinating new species of insect; concerned with your own pride far more than with the real effects your words cause.

    …with an extra touch of naive-rationalist twelve-year-old boy who’s just adopted Mr. Spock as his all-time-favorite role-model and thinks he can apply Vulcan Logic and thus be the smartest human ever.

  39. screechymonkey says

    Maureen Brian @35:

    Curiously enough, I have been having logical and rational discussions – some intense, some more relaxed – for a good fifty years on all these “sensitive” subjects but every last one of them informed by knowledge and experience, developing knowledge and experience not 140 characters plucked out of thin air. One is tempted to ask, “Richard Dawkins, where have you been all these decades?”

    mildlymagnificent @47:

    Of course, once our group of dispassionate, disinterested, high-minded logicians set out on this path, they may find there’s not much to talk about. Rape is bad. Other things are also bad. Not very interesting or exciting I would have thought.

    Yeah, that’s just it. My reaction is, “ok, Professor Dawkins. By all means, talk about rape. What would you like to say about it? Go ahead and tell us all your thoughts on the subject, and I won’t interrupt with cries of outrage. Please tell us all that you have learned from your extensive research on the subject and your deep logical thinking” I suspect he really would have little to say on the matter that was in any way novel or enlightening.

  40. surreptitious46 says

    Dawkins asks an interesting question and for me the answer to it is no. Although there is no such thing as absolute morality it is on balance better to use logic than emotion when discussing issues of a moral nature. However there are some important caveats. No one can think logically all of the time so it is only inevitable than logical reasoning will be tempered by emotion but that is perfectly fine as long as it does not compromise the logic itself. It is also important to reference the experience of others if the issue in question is one you have no experience of yourself. And one should also be wary of automatically dismissing alternative views just because they are different to ones own. And one also should be prepared to change ones opinion if and when the opportunity arises. Nothing should be set in stone

    I myself find that as I get older I am less sure about anything. I have opinions of course but I do not seem to possess them with the same degree of certainty that I did when I was younger. I put this down to getting old and realising that ultimately what one thinks does not matter at all. I also find myself being more influenced by logic in my thinking and less influenced by emotion which can only be a good thing. But I am also aware that not everyone thinks the same in that respect and so one should avoid trying to convince others how they should think as that is a matter for them and no one else

  41. Sylvia says

    Let us have a rational discussion about sending tenured professors, those terrible drains on society, the parasites on the proletariat, to the rice paddies. Let us have a calm and rational discussion about the laws that can be effected to move specifically atheist professors, the godless b@stards. And let us have 50 years law and custom and dead professors, to lend weight to the logical, rational, emotion-less discussion.

  42. melina hutton says

    Hi I’m a long time (years) lurker who loves this blog and feels sufficiently moved by this to finally comment. Insisting on talking about rape as an emotion-free logical abstraction, so that anybody who is disturbed by seeing it treated as such is written out of the circle of reasonable interlocutors, is not the exact same thing as threatening individuals with rape in order to get them (and those like them) to shut up, but I think it’s a sneaky way of achieving a similar outcome. There’s much better plausible deniability – nobody said anything about your personal experience, dear (and you’re all the more irrational for responding as if someone did! ooh snap!) – and of course the letter of the agreement about epithets, etc., is upheld. But it’s very difficult for me to see this as anything other than a transparent pseudo-refinement of the same basic strategy: reduce women’s participation in debate by using mentions of sexual violence to make them uncomfortable. If anything it’s a more robust weapon than direct threats, because high-prestige people can use it without implicating themselves in direct personal cruelty. I think that’s what Dawkins is doing, and I think he’s smart enough to understand what he’s doing (whether he’s capable of being psychologically honest with himself about it is a separate question, probably unknowable). I mean come on, he’s being completely frank about it: defining people to whom rape is a sensitive issue as “needing to learn how to think” – needing to sit down and shut up – and insisting on talking about rape in a way that will prompt them to do so in real time. I think it would take an almost willfully naive level of charitable interpretation to take the logic of rape (or of anything) as what he’s mainly about with this, and the part about [women, the implication could not be more clear] “needing to learn to think” as a bit of boorishness into which he’s stumbled while pursuing that other object, and may be guided out of via careful engagement. No. Telling women to shut up is the object, and the bit about rape and logic and moral rankings blah blah blah is just the purpose-built supporting bit. I agree with SC at 25 above – this has to do with your cosigned agreement, and is a way of walking it back. (But unlike SC I don’t think it’s happening unconsciously. ) OK, OK, fine: no direct, literal threats. But no concession on the broader principle of men’s right to keep women out of discussion by deliberately making them personally and socially uncomfortable qua women. You are going to see a lot of this new tactic – men running their mouths about rape etc. in the (wink, wink) “abstract” – because it is actually quite a brilliant way around your objections to the cruder direct attacks. I hate to say this, especially as a new commenter, but I think you’ve been had. I think trying to deal with Dawkins in good faith has been shown to be a mistake.

  43. EveryZig says

    I am starting to get the impression that Dawkins has the impression that human psychology is a binary between pure perfect logic and irrational emotion.
    The whole “Saying X is worse than Y does not endorse Y” thing is technically true but shows a vast ignorance of how people actually think. Bringing up a worse X will quite reliably make people perceive a bad Y as less bad, leading to a number of psychological effects like the decoy effect that have been used in marketing for years.
    In the issue of “taboo topics”, he seems to be constructing a dichotomy between “topic completely off limits” and “say anything any way, and any consequences are emotion based and therefore invalid”.

  44. shari says

    Melina @52 – your theory had – depressingly – occurred to me too. I lurk here daily and lack your eloquence, as well as your logic skills, i appreciate your phrasing this better than I would.

  45. piero says

    This is going to be a very unpopular post, I’m afraid. To put it bluntly, every single comment vindicates Dawkins’s point, as I’ll do my best to demonstrate.

    First: Ophelia’s comment concerning “a group of prosperous comfortable well-fed men having a rational logical discussion of rape” is deliberately worded to gain sympathy for what is, in fact, a gross fallacy. If she intended to make the point that only those directly affected can have opinions on the matter, then saying “a group of men” would have been enough, the “prosperous comfortable well-fed” being completely irrelevant and chosen merely so that the association with “pigs” is almost inevitable. As screechymonkey said in one of the more readable comments, conversations are carried out on more than one level. Indeed they are. But maybe that wasn’t Ophelia’s main point. I hope so, because even a more sober wording would have been fallacious: should only victims of murder talk about murder? No, that’s ruled out because it is stupid. How about only close relatives of the murdered? No, because each one of us is potentially a murder victim, so we are all involved. Should then only women be allowed to discuss rape, since they are potential victims? No, because – guess what – a lot of men also suffer when a woman is raped. Why should men be automatically considered incapable of solidarity, affection, tenderness, love, support? Is it unavoidable that a group of men discussing rape should reach inconsiderate, mean, superficial, callous and necessarily wrong conclusions? Might they not perhaps conclude that the best thing to do is to shut up and listen? Do you think that if my wife, my daughter or a friend was raped I would say something like “let’s not get too emotional about it, shall we”?

    Second: Several comments are aimed at debunking an opinion which Dawkins manifestly does not hold, namely that people should behave strictly according to reason and banish emotion. In fact, it pains me to have to point this out. Tessa goes as far as to say “There is an amazing level of irony here”, as if Dawkins emotions somehow demolished his very argument. Is it really that difficult to distinguish the desire to discuss emotions rationally from that of abandoning emotions altogether? I don’t think it is, and neither do those of you who would very much like Dawkins to have confused them.

    Third: Blanche and Ibis3 took exception to the quotations where Dawkins waxes lyrical about an intimidated reason. Unfortunately, there is no rational connection between the quotations’ content and the conclusion drawn from them, namely that “Dawkins sees himself as the embodiment of that intimidated reason”. Unless, of course, you want that to be the case; because then the connection would be in your desire; and a desire is an emotion; so there! The question “are there zones where reason is too intimidated to speak?” cannot possibly be interpreted as “are there people who are too intimidated to speak rationally about some topics?” because it would be A. boring; B. objectionable; C. a stylistic eyesore. The answer would be obviously “yes”, the conclusion that he is referring to himself would be foregone, and the question would not deserve even a minor rhetorical role, let alone the opening paragraph. The meaning of the sentence is simply “are there topics so unsettling as to merit their status as taboos?”, as should be obvious to anyone even sporadically acquainted with his writings. Do you think Dawkins, of all people, would expose himself to the charge of banality? However much you might dislike Dawkins, give him some credit at least in that respect.

    Fourth: screechymonkey came tumbling down from a previous well-reasoned post and hit his/her all-time low with “, “Ok, Professor Dawkins. By all means, talk about rape.” As if suggesting a rational discussion was synonymous with pontificating. I welcome rational discussions of anything at all, even those I do not participate in, because I always learn something. Is that the same as saying that I will teach you all there is to know about anything? How so?

    Fifth: Sylvia proposes that Dawkins put himself in the shoes of a professor threatened by the proletariat. To what end? I don’t know for sure. Leaving aside the unfortunate choice of a far-fetched example when there are plenty of better ones at hand, what is meant to be achieved by this? If he were to find himself in that position, would it then follow that he would object to anybody else’s opinions on the basis that they cannot possibly know what it is like? Allow me to doubt it. If that was not the point of your post, I apologize (nah, just kidding).

    Sixth: Melina Hutton takes the biscuit for the most absurd post in this already not very enlightened thread: ” Insisting on talking about rape as an emotion-free logical abstraction,..” Who, pray tell? Who insists on that? And can you rpovide some evidence, or are we expected to understand that Dawkinsa said so and that we should take it as given because you said so?
    And then: “But it’s very difficult for me to see this as anything other than a transparent pseudo-refinement of the same basic strategy: reduce women’s participation in debate by using mentions of sexual violence to make them uncomfortable.” “Telling women to shut up is the object, and the bit about rape and logic and moral rankings blah blah …”elling women to shut up is the object, and the bit about rape and logic and moral rankings blah blah blah elling women to shut up is the object, and the bit about rape and logic and moral rankings blah blah blah …” Really? Are you serious? You mean to say you’ve been inside Dawkins’s mind and know his motivations? Why did you not publish your findings in a peer-reviewed paper, for heavens’ sake! This… this achievement… is amazing! I’m speechless!

    Finally, I would personally not censure Dawkins for being smug and arrogant. I don’t think he is, but if he was I would perfectly understand why. Hell, even I feel intelligent after reading this thread.

  46. John Morales says

    piero @55:

    Ophelia’s comment concerning “a group of prosperous comfortable well-fed men having a rational logical discussion of rape” is deliberately worded to gain sympathy for what is, in fact, a gross fallacy. If she intended to make the point that only those directly affected can have opinions on the matter, then saying “a group of men” would have been enough, the “prosperous comfortable well-fed” being completely irrelevant and chosen merely so that the association with “pigs” is almost inevitable.

    The actual “comment”:

    For an example: suppose you get a group of prosperous comfortable well-fed men having a rational logical discussion of rape. Is it excessively emotional to point out that a group like that would be simply talking over the heads of the people most vulnerable to rape? I don’t think it is. I don’t think it’s excessively emotional to point out that there’s something blood-chilling about seeing people who are safe talk calmly detachedly and in the abstract about the risks or tragedies faced by people who aren’t like them.

    You didn’t need to suppose; the last quoted sentence from the OP explicitly states the point she’s making — and it’s not “that only those directly affected can have opinions on the matter”.

    Hell, even I feel intelligent after reading this thread.

    Imagine if how much more intelligent you’d feel if you actually found you didn’t need to speculate about what someone’s explicitly stated point might be!

  47. piero says

    John, mine was supposed to be a rhetorical point in order to highlight the irrelevance of Ophelia’s caharacterisation of the men as “prosperous, well-fed, etc.” Would it have changed anything if the example had been “a group of poor, homeless, hungry men”? Yes: that in that case readers would have been puzzled (“What has that got to do with anything?”) whereas the actual wording was aimed at tapping shared prejudices. Because you probably don’t know that all prejudice is bad, except when the target is the perceived enemy.

    And thank you for your reply. I’m feeling positively a genius!

  48. John Morales says

    [meta]

    piero @57: Whatever your intent might have been, you posed it as a conditional:

    If she intended to make the point that only those directly affected can have opinions on the matter …

    Care to consider whether it might it be it was a counterfactual conditional, and her point was actually what she stated rather than what you imagined?

    Because you probably don’t know that all prejudice is bad, except when the target is the perceived enemy.

    But you do, right?

  49. says

    No, it wasn’t aimed at “tapping shared prejudices.” It was aimed at making a point about people who are fortunate in a lot of different ways having “rational logical” discussions of subjects that look different to people who are much less fortunate in all those different ways.

    Suppose the discussion is about the ethics of funding homeless shelters for instance. People who have no chance of ever being homeless are in a different position from people who are homeless now.

    Pointing that out is not aimed at “tapping shared prejudices.”

  50. piero says

    Ophelia, OK. But you said:

    “Is it excessively emotional to point out that a group like that would be simply talking over the heads of the people most vulnerable to rape?”

    Whereas it would have sufficed to say

    “Is it excessively emotional to point out that a group like that would be simply talking over the heads of the people most vulnerable?”

  51. says

    No, it wouldn’t. I meant most vulnerable to rape, and that’s why I said that.

    Also I would never say your version, because it’s a mess rhythmically.

    You seem to be determined to believe there is no subtext here; that there are no barely-hidden motives for all this talk about rape. That’s a mistake. The surface isn’t all there is.

  52. screechymonkey says

    piero, your post @55 has many flaws, but I’ll just focus on the rampant hypocrisy of you making numerous accusations about other people’s states of mind and intentions:

    First: Ophelia’s comment concerning “a group of prosperous comfortable well-fed men having a rational logical discussion of rape” is deliberately worded to gain sympathy….

    I don’t think it is, and neither do those of you who would very much like Dawkins to have confused them.

    only to then play the “any inferences about someone else’s state of mind or intention is tantamount to mind-reading!!!!!111 Apply for the JREF Million Dollar Challenge LOL!!!!!” card:

    Really? Are you serious? You mean to say you’ve been inside Dawkins’s mind and know his motivations? Why did you not publish your findings in a peer-reviewed paper, for heavens’ sake! This… this achievement… is amazing! I’m speechless!

    Hell, even I feel intelligent after reading this thread.

    Thank you for a perfect illustration of Dunning-Kruger.

  53. piero says

    No, John.
    Yes, John.

    No, it wasn’t a counterfactual conditional. The wording is infelicitous, but the meaning is nonetheless clear. Ophelia characterised a group in the worst possible light in order to make a rhetorical point pass as a logical one. We can see prejudice clearly enough when it works against our beliefs, but are usually blind to it when it confirms them. Suppose I were to say this:

    “suppose you get a group of old, decrepit, ugly and sick men having a rational logical discussion of affluence. Is it excessively emotional to point out that a group like that would be simply talking over the heads of the people most likely to actually be affluent?”

    It would take a split second for someone to retort “Hey, you can be old, decrepit, ugly and sick and still have something to say about happiness! Maybe they are also unhappy, but not necessarily. And even if they are, they can still reason about happiness” And then someone else would chime in: “Hey, are you saying that being old, decrepit, ugly and sick makes you ipso facto unhappy? What do you know about the minds that inhabit those bodies? How presumptuous can you get?”

    And yes, I am guilty of prejudice much more often than I would admit even to myself.

  54. alqpr says

    First, let me congratulate you, Ophelia for saying what needed to be said in a way that Dawkins should actually be expected to respond to. Also for prompting many excellent comments – such as Tessa@#14. That “witch hunt” language really does make him look ridiculous in a pontification in favour of reason taking precedence over emotion.

    I understand why melina hutton@#52 is suspicious of Dawkins motives but I think a lot of it is subconscious and that he is less intelligent than either he or she thinks he is. So I don’t think you have been “had” and I urge to keep it up (with the same level of restraint as you have been showing ever since the joint statement).

    P.S. I don’t agree with much of what piero said – and especially on his offensive insistence on using the word “deliberate”. But I do think that the words “prosperous comfortable well-fed” were unnecessary and unfortunate because the reaction he had to them was predictable and made progress towards mutual understanding somewhat less likely than might have been the case without them.

  55. says

    alqpr – maybe so, yes, but I wanted to make the point that people who are insulated from most kinds of suffering are quite likely to be handicapped in the empathy department.

    But yes; it was piero’s insistence on saying “deliberately” that caused me to get fed up with him. He can come back if he’ll stop doing that.

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