Dawkins Takes a Positive Step

“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.” — Richard Dawkins

This is part of a new statement Dawkins issued this weekend, on his own website and elsewhere, denouncing the horrible way many (usually anti-feminist) atheists have been behaving the last few years. Greta Christina for the full scoop.

This is a remarkably positive sign. Dawkins has up to now been insensitive and out-of-touch on the treatment of women inside the atheism movement (the worst example being now a named trope, Dear Muslima). So my opinion marker is being moved a little back to favorable by this.

For those who aren’t sure what this is all about, see coverage by Alex Gabriel, Greta Christina, Stephanie Zvan, and Ophelia Benson.

[I apologize for not being clearer, but in my original posting of this information I expected people to read Christina’s coverage for the full scoop, but some may not have and thus may have missed key facts of the story: this was a joint statement proposed and written by Ophelia Benson in consultation with Richard Dawkins and agreed to and signed by Richard Dawkins.]


    • says

      Oh no, that was deliberate. My link to Gabriel wasn’t about the Dawkins statement (I linked to Christina for that); it’s about the context of the behaviors the statement addresses.

      (Yes, amazingly, there are still people who don’t know that. Like Dawkins himself, apparently. Until recently.)

  1. Skep tickle says

    Apologies. I see now that you were not linking to coverage of the statement, but instead of lead-up to the statement as reported by FtB bloggers in the days preceding the statement.

  2. surreptitious46 says

    This is a positive step in trying to address the harassment that exists within and / or against the online atheist community and should for that reason alone be commended. But it is not a panacea and unfortunately given the nature of trolling it will not stop those who have no respect for their fellow human beings from continuing to engage in the way that they do. But nevertheless it is a good thing that someone as prominent as Dawkins comes out with a statement as unambiguous as this

    One of the problems – if not the major problem – why there is such division in the first place is the tendency to groupthink which assumes on all sides intellectual or moral superiority. This over time undermines any attempt at serious debate and it is in this atmosphere that trolling is allowed to flourish. Now groupthink is not exclusive to atheists and neither is trolling and neither can ever be eradicated. But any small step in trying to eliminate either should be welcome. I myself do not identify with any groupthink for the reason given. I am not interested in who someone is but in what they have to say. I also never attack anyone no matter how much I disagree with them and treat every one with basic respect. Now if everyone just adopted those two principles the online atheist community would be a much more positive one. I am old enough and wise enough to realise that this is not in all probability going to happen – at least not on the scale necessary to make a real change – but if it happens in some small way then that will be a positive step nonetheless. But it is not my place to tell others how to change their behaviour for that is only something they can do and no one else. I am cautiously optimistic that this statement by Richard might affect some change in the online atheist community but only time will tell. But as I have already said it is a positive step in the right direction and forb that he should be commended by all

  3. Steven Carr says

    I predict that the content of Dawkin’s Tweets will not change one iota, and that the chances of him and Rebecca Watson both speaking at the same event have gone from zero to nil.

    • says

      Sure. But now people can’t honestly claim that criticizing Dawkins’s dumb tweets (or his irrational blacklisting of Watson) is “the same thing” as the harassment and abuse and belittling garbage he just denounced. Because basically Dawkins just said so.

      Criticism is fine. But that shit isn’t legitimate criticism. It’s bullying and childishness. The bullies and children had until now been claiming Dawkins was on their side. Now they can no longer claim that. He’s very definitely against them.

      (On this matter.)