“So I crossed out ‘Jews’ and I put ‘Trinity College Cambridge’.”


Newsweek Europe does a rather silly interview with Dawkins.

With no good evidence whatsoever, I sense in him the potential for great anger.

“Other people have said that. I don’t believe it. Anger isn’t the right word.”

“Rage?”

“No. I do use ridicule a lot.”

“Waspishness” is how it strikes me. He gets irritable easily, and it manifests as waspish retorts – or, as he says, ridicule.

Ridicule is tricky, especially for someone like him. That’s why Dear Muslima was so odd: it apparently never crossed his mind that that level of waspish irritable ridicule of someone way below him in the pecking order might be not so much ridicule as bullying. By “someone like him” in this case I mean someone with his level of fame and, in many quarters, adulation.

Ridicule is tricky even between equals with no fame or adulation. Ridicule can wound, annoy, humiliate. It’s not to be used lightly. It’s not to be used of people “a lot” – yet he says he does use it a lot. That…well, that says a lot about him.

Dawkins has never shied from controversy. In 2013 he provoked considerable outrage on Twitter after tweeting that “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though”.

“That,” he concedes, “was a mistake. Lalla [his third wife, the actress best known as Romana, companion of her former husband Tom Baker in Doctor Who] and I had been to dinner with the then chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. About 20 leading Jews were there.”

He was informed that “between a quarter and a fifth of Nobel Prizes had been won by Jews. We also learned that the total percentage of Jews in the world is below 1% [and that] only one or two Muslims had ever won a Nobel Prize”.

“They were boasting?”

“Yes but with good reason.” The number of Muslims in the world, Dawkins says, “Is gigantic compared to Jews. I wrote a tweet about it, then I thought, I can’t send that. So I crossed out ‘Jews’ and I put ‘Trinity College Cambridge’.”

Um…oh gawd. Where to begin. He did manage to notice that he’d said something he couldn’t say – because it was a shitty thing to say. But he didn’t manage to notice all the ways it was shitty, so he simply dropped one word and substituted a Cambridge college. That explains so much, and yet so little. Why can’t he expand “then I thought, I can’t send that” to cover more of what he says?

Richard Dawkins is a kind of equivalent, in the digital age, of the professor who can’t be trusted to post a letter. He described Nadia Eweida, the British Airways check-in clerk who was fired for wearing a crucifix as having “one of the most stupid faces I have ever seen” and observed that “Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse”.

What was he thinking of?

“I don’t remember that [last indiscretion]. I don’t think that these are interesting topics.”

WHAT????????

He doesn’t remember it??? He wrote a long post about it! There were hundreds of comments on it! It was a row that went on for days. How can he possibly not remember it?

And as for not thinking these are interesting topics – then why does he keep talking about them on Twitter?

Could such episodes have fostered the misunderstanding that he is aggressive?

“Clarity,” he believes, “can be mistaken for aggression. Maybe I’m a bit impatient”.

Know thyself.

Comments

  1. Al Dente says

    “Clarity,” he believes, “can be mistaken for aggression. Maybe I’m a bit impatient”.

    Dawkins often isn’t clear. He tosses out non sequiturs and gets upset when people point out that they are vague or ambiguous. He punches down. He’s pompous and condescending when asked for clarification. He gets overwrought when he’s questioned. He proclaims with fervent passion that everyone who disagrees with his logic is overemotional.

  2. David Evans says

    I find the Nadia Eweida remark more worrying than any of the other quotes. It is gratuitously and irrelevantly insulting, and I would have said it was out of character for him. The others could be seen as a (misguided and insensitive) pursuit of an argument.

  3. johnthedrunkard says

    Thoughtless, hasty, fuddled, and reflexively rationalizing.

    Indignation and ridicule should be shelved if one is no longer able to steer them, or exercise some self-correction when wrong.

  4. Silentbob says

    I think stripped of its, um, “clarity”,

    I don’t remember that. I don’t think that these are interesting topics.

    translates as, “I’d really much rather you changed the subject. (I’m getting irritable. You wouldn’t like me when I’m irritable.)”.

  5. Silentbob says

    Funny thing is, I recall he defended the “Trinity College” tweet by saying it was simply a statement of fact, and how could anyone object to a simple statement of fact? But then wouldn’t that have been equally true if he hadn’t crossed out ‘Jews’?

    It’s almost as if, somewhere in the dark recesses of his mind, Dawkins realizes there is such a thing as subtext.

  6. Mark Beronte says

    This PC code you are all so happy to enforce is much worse for our civilization than anything Dawkins has ever said. Dear Muslima was satire to point out the fact that many of the same type of people who complain about these minor subjective experiences of sexism in America, seem to make excuses for the much worse, straight out misogyny, that is common in much of the Islamic world. This kind of hypocrisy should be skewered harshly.

    And how is pointing out a fact about an ideology a “shitty” thing to say? According to you and your special book of PC etiquette? Would it be a shitty thing to say about Christianity? As a percentage of their population they too are significantly underrepresented in Nobel prizes compared to Jews and Atheists. But Islam is the worst by far. Could it possibly have anything to do with the fact that both of these religions put so much faith in authoritarian orthodox belief and in the power of a single book? It is not a “shitty thing” to point out how these kinds of world views can hold a culture down. In fact in my view, it would be a shitty thing to not do so.

  7. Mark Beronte says

    And yes, of course moderated comments. Why does that not surprise me. I would imagine my comments then will never see the light of day. Can’t disturb the bubble.

  8. jonathan davies says

    In what way is the proposition ‘knifepoint rape is worse than date rape’ wrong?
    I have defended and prosecuted both. I know which is worse.

  9. Omar Puhleez says

    Flattery corrupts, but adulation corrupts absolutely. The adulated come to believe they are gods.
    Then crunch. Happens every time.
    I am sure the ancient Greek dramatists were aware of that.

  10. leni says

    As a percentage of their population they too are significantly underrepresented in Nobel prizes compared to Jews and Atheists.

    So are African Americans. Or even Africans. Can you think of a few reasons why that might be a shitty thing to say?

    It is not a “shitty thing” to point out how these kinds of world views can hold a culture down. In fact in my view, it would be a shitty thing to not do so.

    I think everyone here would agree with you about that, but what Dawkins tweeted wasn’t really the same thing. Ophelia makes that same point pretty much every day with regard to gender and lately with regard to the murders against atheist bloggers in Bangladesh and elsewhere. Go back and look.

    The problem is not that he was criticizing Islam, the problem (as it usually is with Dawkins) is that he did it in a way that resembles race-baiting more than it does legitimate criticism. He knew that, which is why he changed the word “Jews”.

    Dear Muslima was the same sort of crap. He could have “satirized” everything he has ever done or said in his entire fucking career. Yet he didn’t. instead he chose to target someone dealing with a problem he doesn’t have to worry about and admittedly doesn’t even care to think about. Of course he’s the expert of things he doesn’t even think about, he’s Richard Dawkins.

    As for PC code, why don’t you go back a few weeks in Ophelia’s posts and see how many of them are criticizing Muslims, particularly the ones who use murder and death threats as a tool to stamp out dissent.

    By the way, is it ok if I Dear Muslima you for complaining about “PC code enforcement”? Were you able to leave the house today? Ok great, now stfu.

    (PS That was satire. Even so, I hope you can understand how childish and shitty it is.)

  11. Katherine Eaton says

    “In what way is the proposition ‘knifepoint rape is worse than date rape’ wrong?”

    For a lot of female victims, being raped by someone who they thought they could trust is worse on an emotional level than being raped by a stranger, because of that violation of trust. Also, the victim and rapist are far more likely to have friends and/or relatives in common. This often means that a lot of people won’t want to believe the victim, so the victims whole life can be upended and their support network shattered. In contrast, if the rapist is a stranger, and particularly if he was violent, the victim is more likely to be believed and supported by those around her and to be able to go on with her life. The initial attack may have been more physically painful, but the aftermath is easier to deal with. I don’t claim that this is universal. I’m also not sure if male rape victims have similar experiences in these respects.

  12. Mark Beronte says

    “So are African Americans. Or even Africans. Can you think of a few reasons why that might be a shitty thing to say? ”

    Here we go. comparing criticism of ideas with criticism of someone’s race. Can’t you really not work out the difference between these two endeavors. One is free speech, the foundation of all free societies, science and democracy, the other is racism.

    “is that he did it in a way that resembles race-baiting ”

    Ah is that how YOU interpret it? And of course you are the last word on the subject is that it? The only problem is that “race baiting” is defined as the “unfair statements about RACE” and don’t look now, but neither “Muslim” nor “Jew” nor “Oxford” refer to specific races. Of course once again he is comparing the way ideologies can cause societies harm, and cause them to not progress into free, open and successful ones. Richard would love to see the Muslim world move past our own Middle ages in terms of ideology and and enjoy the benefits of a more libertarian view of the world . The question is why are you satisfied to see them wallow in ancient authoritarian dogma, that is clearly corrosive to such a society?

  13. Helene says

    Leni,

    Muslims are not a “race”. They are members of a religion. A vicious, domineering, thoroughly intolerant religion. As I know well, because I was born into it.

    Jews are one of theose rare groups (Sikhs are another) who could be members of their group either through religion or ethnicity. I know plenty of atheist Jews. In fact probably all of my “Jewish” acquantances are either atheists or simply non-observant. There’s no such thing as an “atheist Christian” or, Allah forbid (!), an “atheist Muslim”. The penalty of apostasy under Islam is death. What Dawkins was pointing out is that Islam is simply inimical to science or any sort of independent thought. I’m sure that some of of the Jewish Nobel prizewinners were more or less “observant”, mainly because modern Judaism is a pretty relaxed affair and Jews (both ethnically and religiously) have traditionally encouraged reading and general knowledge. This doesn’t apply to the ultra-orthodox Jews, of course. Don’t expect any Nobels from that group. But Islam is even worse. Much, MUCH worse. And the proof is in the Nobels.

  14. Mark Beronte says

    And BTW Ophelia, I apologize if I’ve incorrectly lumped you in with so many PC “liberals” who criticize people like Dawkins on almost a daily basis, while giving a pass to almost anything done in the name of Islam. From reading just a bit more, I think, and hope, you are more thoughtful and dare I say liberal than that. Cheers

  15. leni says

    Muslims are not a “race”.

    That’s exactly why I said his response resembles race-baiting.

    I specifically chose the word “resemble” for that reason. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

  16. Mark Beronte says

    Katherine,

    Those are all very good points, but without actual evidence, I still have trouble believing that all the varied crimes that constitute “date rape” are more psychologically devastating than the trauma of being violated by a stranger and subjected to the very real possibility of a violent death. I could be wrong, but I don’t think it is an unreasonable assumption, no matter who voices it.

  17. Helene says

    And if Muslims are offended by Dawkins’ remarks, too bad. It’s time they realized that their “religion” is a hateful, destructive ideology, one of the greatest plagues of the 21st century.

  18. Mark Beronte says

    “That’s exactly why I said his response resembles race-baiting. ”

    You are just repeating yourself. Criticism of an ideology may “resemble” racism to you, but this is only because you lack the knowledge to differentiate between the two. When you do obtain this knowledge, you will see that two things could hardly be more different. One is the basis of modern western intellectual history, while the other is pretty much limited to the most intellectually challenged among us.

  19. Katherine Eaton says

    Mark – I am not the one ranking different kinds of rape. You are the one claiming some sort of ranking system in the absence of evidence. I am claiming that each rape is traumatic in its own horrible constellation of ways. My examples of the harms often faced by victims of date rape was meant to help you understand that that sort of rape can be traumatic in ways you might not have considered. It was not meant to in any way minimize the trauma of stranger rape. In fact, some victims of stranger rape also face accusations that they are lying and ostracism by friends and family. Telling any rape victim that her or his rape was somehow less “psychologically devastating” than someone else’s is sick.
    You are also seriously minimizing the amount of violence that goes into any rape. Rape itself is a very violent act. Many date rapists are also violent abusers. Women are far more likely to be murdered by intimate partners than strangers, so the threat of death sometimes hangs over in cases of “date rape” as well.

  20. arthur says

    Dawkins should convert. He should become Jewish. There is clearly some genius brain expanding super power to be gained by being Jewish. Unlike like Islam, of course, which is plain dumb.

    Rabbi Jonathan Sacks knows it, why doesn’t Dawkins?

    Other factors; socio-political, geo-political, historical and colonial etc are irrelevant and not worthy of conversation. It’s the being Jewish that’s the trick.

  21. Mark Beronte says

    “Mark – I am not the one ranking different kinds of rape You are the one claiming some sort of ranking system”

    I’m curious. Do you really think all rape is identical? That’s a bit scary. Could you really not discriminate between say a boyfriend and a girlfriend who had had sex many times, and who were drunk at the time when things apparently went a little farther than the woman wanted,. and a brutal violent rape at knife or gun point perhaps in the woman’s own home? If you can’t, I would say this is a very sad failure of compassion and critical thinking.

  22. Mark Beronte says

    “Other factors; socio-political, geo-political, historical and colonial etc are irrelevant and not worthy of conversation. It’s the being Jewish that’s the trick.”

    Wow! So much simplistic thinking here, it could become a full time job.

    You again miss the point. Of course history and all the other things you mention shape a culture, but so does the IDEOLOGY a culture adopts to build their lives around. People who criticize Islam almost universally agree that all of these thing go into defining a culture. The difference between them and those such as yourself is that you demand that IDEOLOGY should be taken off the table entirely, which is more than a ironic, since ideology is the thing that people build all their beliefs around, and beliefs are what drives actions.

    Nazism, Stalinism, Christianity, (even today, but especially during the middle ages) were all toxic ideologies that caused massive human suffering. Why is it so hard to understand that Islam is as much if not more of a utopian, authoritarian dogma dependent on keeping people as credulous followers, every bit as damaging to human well being as the rest? If you care about Muslims at all you should be criticizing their ideology at every chance you get, and supporting the Muslim reformers who are risking their own lives to free their fellow Muslims from the chains of authoritarian dogma.

  23. arthur says

    Mark, you miss the point.

    Being Jewish makes people clever. Just check those Nobel Prize winners. It must be the IDEOLOGY.

    You got a problem with that?

  24. Katherine Eaton says

    Wow Mark, no need to get so emotional. It’s not like you’re the one who raped your girlfriend, right?

  25. Mark Beronte says

    “Wow Mark, no need to get so emotional. It’s not like you’re the one who raped your girlfriend, right?”

    And wow Katherine, this is so insane it’s hard to believe you just said such a thing. Do you really think I must be a rapist if I can see a difference between different forms of rape. This makes as much sense as saying I must be a murderer if can see the difference between different forms of murder. I guess calling people racist is not the only way to shut down the opinions of people that we don’t want to hear. I guess we can accuse people of being rapists now as well. Hurray.

  26. Mark Beronte says

    “Being Jewish makes people clever. Just check those Nobel Prize winners. It must be the IDEOLOGY.”

    Can you not read? There are many factors involved, including ideology. But ideology is always a major one which indeed is reflected in the fact that you won’t find many Nobel Prize winners among the Jewish orthodox either. Isn’t it funny that the more our ideology gives us all the answers, the less inclined we are to search for them ourselves? The connection could not be clearer.

  27. chigau (違う) says

    Mark Beronte
    There are no ‘different forms of rape’.
    Rape is sex without consent.

  28. Mark Beronte says

    “There are no ‘different forms of rape’.”

    Sounds like dogma to me. Thanks, but I prefer to use my mind.

  29. Silentbob says

    @ 30 Mark Beronte

    I prefer to use my mind.

    Yeah. Mostly your imagination.

    You imagine that criticism of tweets means a desire to “enforce” a “PC code” (@ 7). You imagine that the target of Dear Muslima makes excuses for misogyny in the Islamic world (@ 7). You imagine you’re being censored when you’re not (@ 8). You imagine a comment about the intellectual achievements of “all the world’s Muslims” is obviously “criticism of ideas” (@ 13). You imagine, without basis, that other commenters are “satisfied to see Muslims wallow in ancient authoritarian dogma” (@ 13). You imagine people who understand implication and subtext will ignore them if they “obtain knowledge” (@ 20). You imagine people “demand that IDEOLOGY should be taken off the table entirely” when they’ve said nothing of the kind.

    It’s like you’re in training for Tilting At Windmills as an Olympic sport.

  30. John Morales says

    [meta]

    Mark Beronte:

    I guess I will also have to imagine you have an argument.

    I take it the “also” refers to your imagining you have an argument.

    <snicker>

    You do make a claim:

    This PC code you are all so happy to enforce is much worse for our civilization than anything Dawkins has ever said.

    In relation to the OP (the ostensible topic), this claim is an irrelevance.

    (It is quite informative about you, though :) )

  31. Silentbob says

    @ 32 Mark Beronte

    You want an argument? Here’s my argument:

    My proposition is that coming to this blog and complaining that

    If you care about Muslims at all you should be criticizing their ideology at every chance you get, and supporting the Muslim reformers who are risking their own lives to free their fellow Muslims from the chains of authoritarian dogma.

    demonstrates you to be an ignorant chucklehead.

    Evidence in support of my proposition is here.

    Set aside a couple of years and catch up on what you missed, doofus.

  32. Helene says

    Just for the record, Mark, I agree that there are differences in rape just as there are differences – of degree, circumstance, violence, etc. – in other crimes. As for Islam and rape, just don’t get me (re-)started…

  33. says

    Do you people have any arguments on substance on interesting topics, or do you just want to stick to what you are good at and call names? I’ve already apologized to OP for perhaps taking her blog out of context, having never read it before. You are very late to that party.

  34. says

    Mark Beronte – if you’d never read it before, what business did you have making such wild assumptions on the basis of one post?

    You’re not contributing anything and you’re derailing a lot, plus you’ve been pugnaciously rude from the outset. Either slow down and improve your game, or run along.

  35. James Madison says

    And such a shame too Ophelia since according to your Wiki page there is nothing we should disagree about. Sad world when even people who agree on almost everything, can’t communicate effectively. You should really examine the possibility that in old age you are becoming the very thing you hate, and that rather than engage productively, you would rather simply be told what you want to hear, when you want to hear it, and how you want to hear it. I understand the urge, I’m not young myself, but you shouldn’t abandon everything you claim to stand for, in exchange for comfort and empty sycophantic platitudes. Or as one of my favorite lines of all time says, “Don’t exchange a walk on part in the war, for a lead role in a cage”, Oh well, I’ll will now leave you to the world you have created for yourself. Cheers

    Mark Beronte

  36. Donnie says

    Mark Beronte says

    This PC code you are all so happy to enforce is much worse for our civilization than anything Dawkins has ever said.

    Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
    Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
    Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

    If there was ever a statement made by a person deserving of ridicule then Mark Beronte has just provided such a statement.

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