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Richard Dawkins still doesn’t get it

Dawkins spoke at #whc2014 this morning, in an interview with Samira Ahmed. Ahmed held his feet to the fire a bit, and grilled him on the recent rape comparisons on Twitter. Unfortunately, he made the same justifications all over again. Basically, his argument was that his critics are:

  1. Irrational, incapable of grasping the lucid logic of his argument.

  2. Emotional, driven entirely by a visceral reaction to rape.

  3. Suppressive, unwilling to discuss the issues calmly. They never discuss some topics, like rape and pedophilia.

He received resounding applause from a receptive audience, and he would have deserved it if there had been any truth at all to his claims. There isn’t.

  1. Most of us understand the logic of “X is bad, Y is worse” not being an endorsement of X. To argue otherwise seriously disrespects your opponents (I would not be surprised if some individuals fail to get that, but they aren’t representative).

  2. When you are making an intentionally emotive argument, as Dawkins admitted, you lose the privilege to complain that your opponents have an emotional reaction. As he knows, some subjects are inherently threatening and are appropriately dealt with using a strong emotional component…not to reject logic, but to recognize the motivation that drives the importance of the topic.

  3. This one is extraordinarily aggravating. Feminists talk about rape all the time. The flip side of that complaint is to suggest that they’re reveling in victimhood and should just shut up about rape. You can’t win!

    It’s not that you aren’t allowed to talk about rape, but that you have to include some sensitivity to the fact that certain groups, such as men in prison and women in all situations, are particularly at risk and have a much deeper interest and awareness of the magnitude and impact of the problem, and that if you are outside those categories, you need to tread with great caution. It is especially galling when the outsider assumes they know best how to address the issue, because logic.Patronizing logic.

    Honestly, women have been wrestling with this deep problem in our culture for a long time. It was a bit like something else I’ve experienced: having a creationist march up to me and accuse scientists of never ever considering problem X with evolution.* Yeah, we have, and with more knowledge and evidence than you’ve got, guy.

Another problem is context. We’ve been dealing with political figures, like Todd Akin, who have been using an artificial hierarchy of wrongness of rape to argue for placing the blame for some rapes on women…on the victims. This is, as Dawkins would say, completely illogical, and I’m confident that Dawkins himself is not thinking that way. But people who have been threatened with rape know full well that the world is not logical — if it were, they wouldn’t be worried about other people violating their autonomy. Vulcans don’t rape, and rapists aren’t logical, so reducing a life-threatening issue to a simplistic logic problem is illegitimate, and we also know that irrational people will abuse any hierarchical ordering of crimes to justify policies that do great harm.

Zero points to Team Dawkins on this issue. He hasn’t grasped the critics’ arguments at all, and is still hammering away with this irrelevant logic, logic, logic complaint.

One point for defining humanism as atheism plus an ethical stance, which is pretty much what Atheism Plus is all about.

One point, maybe, for clearly announcing that he is a feminist, and further declaring that it is self-evident that everyone should be a feminist. I reserve the right to adjust that score if he’s talking about a Christina Hoff Sommers kind of faux feminist.

Generally, it was a good talk with lots of red meat for the godless, but it had that big disappointing chunk in the middle where he addressed criticisms with misperceptions of the critiques.


~

*Curiously, we had an example of that in the Q&A. A fellow got up to the microphone and announced that he was a medic, and that genetic scientists had never considered the problem of the number of genes — that they used to think there were hundreds of thousands of genes (factually wrong: when I was a genetics student in the 70s, my prof, Larry Sandler, told us the best estimate was a few tens of thousands), and that we’d never dealt with the reduction in the number of genes in the HGP. There aren’t enough genes to make a human, he claimed. He was getting ranty, and couldn’t manage to state a question, so he was unsubtly dragged out of the building.

That was an appropriate response. I wonder if he’s at a pub somewhere right now, regaling the other patrons with a fanciful tale about how Dawkins was unable to process his logical argument, got all emotional, and had to silence him?

Comments

  1. says

    Can’t say I’m shocked that Dawkins doesn’t understand the social problem with his statement.

    Question on the last bit. Was the medic the one who was out of line? Did

    Dawkins do something to antagonize him? If not then I don’t see how it is relevant. Or is this a role reversal situation and that is why you are referring to it.

  2. says

    The medic was ranty — the audience booed him because he was going on so long and so incoherently. Dawkins said nothing, but looked a bit annoyed. WHC staff escorted him out.

  3. Pete Shanks says

    Thanks, a clear and interesting counter-rebuttal. The misguided medic rather reminds me of the worst of the “scientific” attempts to address Christians, which can boil down to “you cannot have thought of this,” a sentiment that on occasion Aquinas or someone might dispute. As an atheist, I think the theologians are wrong, but some of them at least are most definitely subtle.

  4. Stevarious, Public Health Problem says

    PZ Myers: Most of us understand the logic of “X is bad, Y is worse” not being an endorsement of X. To argue otherwise seriously disrespects your opponents (I would not be surprised if some individuals fail to get that, but they aren’t representative).

    Not to defend his general behavior, but on this specific point – when Dawkins made some comments last year about ‘mild pedophilia’ (such as the awkward groping he experienced as a child) not being ‘as bad’ as violent child rape, he was in fact accused of defending pedophilia in a number of public media outlets, like Salon. If his had stopped his Twitter ‘logic lesson’ before bringing up date rape/knifepoint rape, I don’t think there would have been anything objectionable in his example.

    Of course, this is Dawkins on Twitter, so he couldn’t stop at ‘good enough’ – he had to keep going till he said something both incredibly insensitive and factually incorrect.

  5. dccarbene says

    If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
    One must be disappointed that Professor Dawkins has, seemingly, deliberately chosen to use only one tool.
    To quote PZ’s most favoritist author of all time, Robert A. Heinlein, “Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal”.
    Case in point: it took how many years for him to mumble out his not-pology to Rebecca Watson? Could it have been that he was ruled by those mythical “emotions” and not Pure Reason?

  6. says

    When you are making an intentionally emotive argument, as Dawkins admitted, you lose the privilege to complain that your opponents have an emotional reaction.

    This part really gets my goat. It’s so cynically psychologically and emotionally manipulative.

    Dawkins: “You’re a bunch of idiotic morons who can’t process logical arguments!”

    Critics: “Yeah? Well you’re a moron too! Here’s a logical argument about why!”

    Dawkins: “I’m so disappointed by your inability to eschew insults and engage in logical arguments!”

  7. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    dccarbene,

    Could it have been that he was ruled by those mythical “emotions” and not Pure Reason?

    Unpossible!

  8. zenlike says

    PZ

    One point, maybe, for clearly announcing that he is a feminist, and further declaring that it is self-evident that everyone should be a feminist. I reserve the right to adjust that score if he’s talking about a Christina Hoff Sommers kind of faux feminist.

    Yeah, Dawkins favourably retweets tweets by Christina H Sommers, so I wouldn’t hold my breath…

  9. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    When you are making an intentionally emotive argument, as Dawkins admitted, you lose the privilege to complain that your opponents have an emotional reaction.

    This. This whole thing started because of Sam Harris’ “Israel is bad but Palestine is worse” article. That’s obviously an inflammatory topic for a lot of people. Someone with a genuine desire to clarify backs off from the emotive subject matter and uses something neutral to illustrate the point. What you don’t do is muddy the waters further by introducing another, arguably, even more incendiary subject. And then retreat back to your blog to feign astonishment at the reaction you got and deplore the lack of cold rationality in the responses from the people you just quite deliberately goaded. And then accuse them of engaging in (totes not exaggerating, yo) witch hunts! inquisitions! thought police!

  10. doubtthat says

    It’s also worth pointing out that the purity of Dawkins’ logic is somewhat undercut by the fact that he provided the most notorious example of the common rhetorical usage of that construction. Glad he finally apologized (kind of) for “Dear Muslima,” but it’s hardly absurd for folks to inquire whether he meant it that way again.

  11. redwood says

    This reminds me of when I was a grad student almost 40 years ago and introduced a speaker at a linguistics conference. He wanted to make a point about how we sometimes use language inaccurately (or something like that). His example sentence was “After being raped, the virgin called the police.” His point was that she was no longer a virgin then so why don’t we say “ex-virgin” or something. Three people of the ten watching immediately criticized him, one even giving a less emotional example of “After emerging from its cocoon, the caterpillar flew off” as being more appropriate. Then the entire audience stood up and left. The presenter was dumbfounded. Some people just don’t get it.

  12. laurentweppe says

    Most of us understand the logic of “X is bad, Y is worse” not being an endorsement of X. To argue otherwise seriously disrespects your opponents (I would not be surprised if some individuals fail to get that, but they aren’t representative).

    Or, as I call it, the “I beat my wife but I heard that my neighbor rapes his kid therefore shut the fuck up” defense. Yeah it’s a longish title, but I daresay that it conveys the intent and meaning quite well.
    Also, claiming to be the victim of attempted suppression after relying so much on such disgraceful argument is clearly in my personal top 5 of the most insultingly disingenuous claims.

    ***

    Dawkins: “You’re a bunch of idiotic morons who can’t process logical arguments!”
    Critics: “Yeah? Well you’re a moron too! Here’s a logical argument about why!”
    Dawkins: “I’m so disappointed by your inability to eschew insults and engage in logical arguments!”

    This so clearly a microaggression; Person A clearly insults Person B: if Person B display even the slightest level of anger, Person A proclaim its inherent zen-like superiority, and if Person B display perfect calm and self control, Person A interpret it as a sign of weakness and increase the abuse: this is nothing more than a schoolyard bully’s level of reasoning.

  13. redwood says

    Oh, and going back to the medic, he said enough that Dawkins started to answer him by saying, “I think I see what he wants to ask” or something similar, to which the medic immediately shouted, “No, you don’t!” As he was being escorted out he was shouting, “This is censorship!” I think we need a new word for cases like this, like saying he was being removed for “assholery” or removing him was “jerksorship.”

  14. says

    Man, fuck accepting his bullshit about wanting to make a “X is bad, Y is worse” argument, when he deliberately used an example pointing to an argument he made specifically minimizing child molestation as “not that bad”. You don’t get to pretend you’re making an X is bad, Y is worse argument when you don’t fucking believe X is all that bad or should be viewed negatively at all.

    Bob damn, for someone who used to revere Dawkins’ books, I’ve really gotten sick of this disingenuous fuckwaffle.

  15. says

    I tried to talk to the medic afterwards. He wasn’t interested in listening, but instead started raving about mirror neurons. Mirror neurons explain everything! Then he spotted Dawkins walking away, and it was “look, squirrel!” As he ran after him.

  16. says

    redwood @14

    Yay for that audience.

    Too often assholes seem to think that hiding their douchiness in “thought experiments” or “logical puzzles” makes it somehow immune to criticism or not intentionally harmful and carrying cultural messages (such as the implicit construction in the speaker’s “example” that rape is sex and that rape should be a thing that reflects mostly negatively on the victim, plus the notion that rape is a fine and dandy thing for a white male asshole to exploit for “shock value” with no concern for the experiences of the audience or the fact that there is a good chance that someone in the audience has actually been raped).

    We’ve seen it out in force with Dawkins of late who’s tried to smuggle his old bigotry under this new lens of “but no, guys, I’m just making an argument about logic and philosophy, not at all calling back and defending my old assholery and using it as an excuse to call my critics enemies of logic and reasoning for recognizing the little fuck you.”

  17. zmidponk says

    This might be a bit triggery for some.

    In my opinion, the real problem with ‘X is bad, Y is worse’ arguments, especially when doing this with things like different types of rape, is that, for one reason or another, those who actually experience X might consider X to actually be worse than Y, and how can anyone else really say that they’re wrong? As an example, you might think rape by a someone you know might be bad, but stranger rape is worse because it’s an out of the blue attack by someone unknown to the victim. However, some people who have been raped by someone they thought was a friend might consider the rape a greater shock and it might be a greater emotional and/or psychological attack because that person was supposedly a friend. And, yes, subjects like rape are inherently emotional, so it should be no surprise that emotion plays a part in any discussion about it.

  18. jim959 says

    I was a genomics researcher a few years prior to the completion of the human genome. At that time, the most common estimate was 100k genes, with expert opinion running from tens of thousands to 200k. The EST (expressed sequence tag) assemblies had a cluster (partial gene) number of 300k – 500k (I don’t recall the exact number), and that was pushing people’s estimate of the human gene count higher. Of course, after the genome was complete and the number came in lower, everone shrugged and moved on–guessing the number was a fun game but the exact number didn’t make or break any important theory.

  19. Bernard Bumner says

    The appropriate time to start assessing exactly where on the scale of bad a rape is, is when you are a judge applying sentencing guidelines. Otherwise, don’t try to place other people’s experience on a meaningless scale (and to pretend that your subjective assessment, rooted in your own values and experience, is somehow unbiased and logical).

  20. says

    zmidponk:

    In my opinion, the real problem with ‘X is bad, Y is worse’ arguments, especially when doing this with things like different types of rape, is that, for one reason or another, those who actually experience X might consider X to actually be worse than Y, and how can anyone else really say that they’re wrong?

    ↑This↑
    Individuals get to decide for themselves which experiences are worse than others (if they desire). No one else has the right. Attempts to do so-by others-are patronizing, insulting, and demeaning.

  21. Al Dente says

    More and more I’m getting the impression that Dawkins purposely used rape examples for what is actually a quite banal argument. If he’d said “theft of £10 is bad, theft of £100 is worse” then the reaction would “yeah, right, so what?” Dawkins’ logical argument is so trite that I’m amazed he felt the need to express it. However I’m definitely thinking that he felt the need to express the rape and pedophilia examples to bolster his vapid argument.

    I agree with Cerberus @20:

    We’ve seen it out in force with Dawkins of late who’s tried to smuggle his old bigotry under this new lens of “but no, guys, I’m just making an argument about logic and philosophy, not at all calling back and defending my old assholery and using it as an excuse to call my critics enemies of logic and reasoning for recognizing the little fuck you.”

  22. blf says

    If I understand the argument correctly, an analogy would be whether someone who claims the great sky faeries only created very simple life and then let evolution take its course is “better” or “worse” than someone who claims the great sky faeries created all life in situ.

    I call humbug on both houses: You are both deluded eejits. Your premises (plural), that there are great sky faeries, and that one sort of abiogensis is morally preferable to another, are ridiculous. Either absurd premise on its own sinks the “reasoning”; two together suggests you don’t have a fecking clew.

  23. Anthony K says

    He wasn’t interested in listening,

    Sounds like atheist Horseman material. Next year have this man on stage.

  24. Anthony K says

    More and more I’m getting the impression that Dawkins purposely used rape examples for what is actually a quite banal argument. If he’d said “theft of £10 is bad, theft of £100 is worse” then the reaction would “yeah, right, so what?”

    Of course he did. It was all about triggering people who’ve been raped, so he could smug at how emotional they are. It’s a ‘two for flinching’ game.

    He’s an abusive, evil man.

  25. says

    Of course he did. It was all about triggering people who’ve been raped, so he could smug at how emotional they are.

    And it was all because he’s still angry that people took his statements about “mild pedophilia” being not as bad as heavy religious indoctrination or “violent pedophilia” to mean that he was endorsing “mild pedophilia,” an act which, to my knowledge, only one website did (and even then they qualified by saying that that was what he was doing “in essence”), and that was a website affiliated with, IIRC, Ray Comfort.

    It was all about his previous ego and being the King of Right Mountain.

  26. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    It’s a ‘two for flinching’ game.

    Thread over. We can all go home now.

  27. Anthony K says

    Sally, it’s a thing where someone raises their fist as if to strike someone else, and if that someone else flinches (a mostly involuntary response), the first person hits them twice.

    It’s a hazing, bullies’ game.

  28. says

    SallyStrange @30

    I almost think the typo works on its own, cause it really is about his previous ego. He used to be the biggest swinging cock on Dick Mountain and had nearly universal kudos and then Dear Muslima and his “mild pedophilia” bullshit revealed him to be a complete irredeemable fuckwaffle and now people are treating him less like the top of the penismound and are embarrassed to call him a leader in the atheist community and people, small insignificant, lesser people who are women and poor and queer and not white are looking at him like the shit someone scraped off their shoes and he no longer has the moral high ground against them.

    And like any egotist, he wants the universal worship back and to be the uncontested king of the gonad jungle and so is bitter and lashing out at those he sees as having “robbed” him of that. That being the people who objected or thought less of him because of his previous fucked up comments. And he will have his revenge if it is the last thing he does for that slight against the stature that was his by right.

  29. azhael says

    @26 Al Dente
    I said as much in the WEIT thread. Not only is it an extraordinarily trivial point to make, he also took that obvious, banal, extremely easy to put across point and mangled it into oblivion by choosing two categories that can’t actually be objectively ranked. So it was a trivial point that didn’t need to be made, and it was also the worst possible choice of examples.
    That alone certainly justifies some critical comments, but if on top of that you add his reaction and how he treated his critics, yeah, he fucked up….

    And yet, i was amazed to see people praising him for having the balls to raise “such good points” and starting a conversation about taboo subjects. I’m still trying to figure out how that’s possible.

  30. Al Dente says

    azhael @37

    I said as much in the WEIT thread.

    Typical for me, a day late and £10 short.

  31. A. Noyd says

    The problem with the logic end of the conversation is that it’s gone like this:

    Dawkins: You have to understand that when I say X is bad but Y is worse, I’m not endorsing X.
    Critics: Okay, whatever.
    Dawkins: See, I will illustrate by saying violent stranger rape is worse than date rape.
    Critics: Nope, that doesn’t work.
    Dawkins: It’s valid.
    Critics: It’s not sound. You can’t decide for other people what rapes are worse. The badness is subjective, based on the experiences of the individual victims. Though, what data we do have suggests more victims might experience worse effects from acquaintance rape than stranger rape.
    Dawkins: But it’s valid.
    Critics: It’s not sound.
    Dawkins: But it’s valid.
    Critics: No one cares about that. We’re pointing out your premises are bogus, making your logic unsound.
    Dawkins: You’re too emotional to find my logic valid.
    Critics: We find it valid. It’s NOT SOUND. Jesus Fucking Christ, you’re an idiot.
    Dawkins: Sheesh, I guess there are some topics you just aren’t allowed to discuss.

    Yes, you go, Dawkins, you grand defender of logickyness, you.

  32. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    azhael @ 37

    And yet, i was amazed to see people praising him for having the balls to raise “such good points” and starting a conversation about taboo subjects. I’m still trying to figure out how that’s possible.

    There are always people on the lookout for an opportunity to tiptoe up to the line between kinda-sorta forcing someone to have sex and actual really real rape rape and remind us all that the accused is the real victim in date rape cases cuz bitchez be lyin.

  33. says

    azhael:

    And yet, i was amazed to see people praising him for having the balls to raise “such good points” and starting a conversation about taboo subjects.

    Granted, I’ve not read every response to Dawkins’ idea of grading rape, but from what I have read, I can’t imagine the conversation went the way he (or his supporters) anticipated. Sure, people are talking about what Dawkins said, but a fuckton of people are talking about it bc Dawkins is an insensitive fuckwaffle (thanks Cerberus) with the audacity to tell people that sexual assault X is not as bad as sexual assault Y.

    What conversation do his supporters believe he initiated?

  34. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    A. Noyd @ 40

    I think you just spelled something out for me that I’ve been struggling to articulate for some time. I’m thinking of people like JT Eberhard and Matt Dillahunty along with Dawkins who are very respected for their arguments against religion but then, when they attempt to opine on subjects outside their wheelhouse, end up making utter asses of themselves. And it’s exactly like they’ve simply failed to test their argument for soundness, presumably because they’ve never had to in the past since all those anti-religion arguments had already been refined for them over thousands of years. The minute they try to do their own reasoning it becomes obvious that they don’t understand such a basic concept as validity vs. soundness.

  35. says

    If he’d said “theft of £10 is bad, theft of £100 is worse” then the reaction would “yeah, right, so what?” Dawkins’ logical argument is so trite that I’m amazed he felt the need to express it. However I’m definitely thinking that he felt the need to express the rape and pedophilia examples to bolster his vapid argument.

    I disagree. Did you steal from a bank or an individual? Did you steal from a child? Considering the crime alone in some kind of logical vacuum is impossible. If you’re not considering the victim, you’re being absurd.

  36. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    That or they’re just assuming their argument is sound because they’re unconsciously defining rational as “everything I already think” and irrational as “everything else.”

  37. says

    A Noyd @40

    Seriously.

    Plus there’s the bullshit way the whole “emotional” argument is just about removing the only people who actually have some real experience and knowledge about a situation out of the fold in favor of “objective” dominant group members as if they were at all objective about the situation or even knew what the fuck they were talking about.

    It’s an argument that ignorance is somehow “purer” and more reasonable than expert testimony. It’d be like if we interrupted an environmental biology conference, because any speaker who has actually been in the field doing research can’t be expected to be “objective” about the state of knowledge in the world, so a bunch of yokels that saw a nature documentary once should be turned to as the actual experts and praised for their “fortitude and brilliance” whenever they shit-talk the actual science or the people who actually study that shit for a living.

  38. The Mellow Monkey says

    A. Noyd @ 40

    Dawkins: You have to understand that when I say X is bad but Y is worse, I’m not endorsing X.
    Critics: Okay, whatever.
    Dawkins: See, I will illustrate by saying violent stranger rape is worse than date rape.
    Critics: Nope, that doesn’t work.
    Dawkins: It’s valid.
    Critics: It’s not sound. You can’t decide for other people what rapes are worse. The badness is subjective, based on the experiences of the individual victims. Though, what data we do have suggests more victims might experience worse effects from acquaintance rape than stranger rape.
    Dawkins: But it’s valid.
    Critics: It’s not sound.
    Dawkins: But it’s valid.
    Critics: No one cares about that. We’re pointing out your premises are bogus, making your logic unsound.
    Dawkins: You’re too emotional to find my logic valid.
    Critics: We find it valid. It’s NOT SOUND. Jesus Fucking Christ, you’re an idiot.
    Dawkins: Sheesh, I guess there are some topics you just aren’t allowed to discuss.

    QFFT

  39. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    What conversation do his supporters believe he initiated?

    I suspect they are insulated people, and don’t understand the concept of dog whistles. Which I RD is giving off, but I don’t think he realizes it, being above plebeian politics. Actually, I can’t tell if it is deliberate, or just naivety.

  40. anteprepro says

    I love that Richard Dawkins and his brigade are using Logic in much that same way that theologians and Christian apologists do. As in, they only use it insofar as it convenient. Sloppily, to reach foregone conclusions. Then they will thump their chests, and crow, and shout out about how they are the true followers of Logic, and how all others are inferior followers of the path of Logic the Almighty. So what is true of Christians is also true of atheists: the more they bleat about Reason and Logic, the more likely they are to incompetent at both.

  41. says

    Seven of Mine:

    I’m thinking of people like JT Eberhard and Matt Dillahunty along with Dawkins who are very respected for their arguments against religion but then, when they attempt to opine on subjects outside their wheelhouse, end up making utter asses of themselves.

    I was aware of JT, but what did Matt do?

  42. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    Tony! @ 51

    Well he defended JT during the Bria Crutchfield thing and, in the process, said basically all the same shit that JT did. I think he may have said some things via twitter but I’m primarily remembering a conversation in the comments section at Black Skeptics on a blog post about the whole situation. A couple of people very patiently and articulately explained the problems with the things he and JT had said and he pretty much gave them the finger and flounced.

    There was also a fiasco with him at the A+ forums where he turned up as a sock puppet to prove to some ‘pitters who were goading him via twitter about how people at A+ won’t countenance disagreement in any form. His chosen topic for respectful disagreement was that someone who had recently been banned for clear trolling (and was later discovered at the pit crowing about it) had simply been misunderstood (so a brand new account uses post #1 to tell the regulars they’re running the place wrong) . There was some back and forth and then he announced his twoo identity as if it was supposed to make us all suddenly feel ashamed that we’d been so rude to him. He subsequently made a couple of videos rationalizing it. As moderators we sacrificed a lot of credibility with the users because we put off banning him because ya know ya gotta give Matt Fucking Dillahunty the benefit of the doubt.

  43. A. Noyd says

    Seven of Mine (#42)

    presumably because they’ve never had to in the past since all those anti-religion arguments had already been refined for them over thousands of years.

    Good point about not having done their own work. I think they’re also getting confused by the difference between objective questions (like whether god exists) and subjective ones (like which rapes are worse). Both might elicit emotional responses, but emotional responses are only irrelevant to answering the first kind of question.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    SallyStrange (#50)

    Mind if I steal your comment for a Facebook post? With or without attribution, as you prefer.

    Go right ahead. You can just attribute as “commenter on a blog” or something.

  44. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    A. Noyd @ 54

    I think they’re also getting confused by the difference between objective questions (like whether god exists) and subjective ones (like which rapes are worse). Both might elicit emotional responses, but emotional responses are only irrelevant to answering the first kind of question.

    Right. So it’s as if they’re accustomed to regarding emotional response as irrelevant to the argument since it is irrelevant to what they’re talking about. But then they’ve sort of made an axiom out of that and are now trying to incorrectly apply it to all arguments.

  45. stevebowen says

    Hi PZ.
    First of all it was great meeting you at the WHC, really enjoyed the couple of chats we shared.
    As for “the medic” I and many members of the BHA know George and he has pet theories ( they relate to mirror neurones, empathy, free will and information theory) that he likes to expound to any audience he can get to listen to him. He was shut down because he has form and would never have got round to asking a legitimate question. I spoke to him in the bar afterwards and said exactly this to him which he accepts.
    I don’t agree with with your characterisation of RD’s answers about the rape tweets. What I heard was that he was responding to criticism of his description of his own “mild” abuse as trivialising or condoning such abuse. He used another hot button issue of date rape vs attack rape as a comparison only because that is perhaps the only other issue beyond child abuse that provokes a similar visceral response. He explicitly said that that X vs Y arguments or face slaps vs broken noses don’t make the point as forcefully.
    Like my friend George, Dawkins has form and had I been there before the tweet I would have advised against that approach on similar grounds but just as George got to explain his point in the pub I think RD explained his well enough in congress.

  46. anteprepro says

    Tony!: The shared mindset is “I am Logical, therefore I am Right, and you are Illogical and Wrong”. Or in other words: Arrogant Stupidity.

  47. says

    stevebowen #56

    He used another hot button issue of date rape vs attack rape as a comparison only because that is perhaps the only other issue beyond child abuse that provokes a similar visceral response. He explicitly said that that X vs Y arguments or face slaps vs broken noses don’t make the point as forcefully.

    So he admits he chose an emotive example. Three points:

    If someone deliberately pushes emotive buttons, complaining about emotional replies is disingenuous.

    Pushing people’s emotive buttons is a fucking callous way to make a logical point.

    His point regarding X and Y was blindingly obvious and trivial. I fail to see why it needed to be made “forcefully.”

  48. anteprepro says

    What I heard was that he was responding to criticism of his description of his own “mild” abuse as trivialising or condoning such abuse. He used another hot button issue of date rape vs attack rape as a comparison only because that is perhaps the only other issue beyond child abuse that provokes a similar visceral response.

    If you are referring to his initial tweets, this is false. The point of the “logical exercise” in those tweets about rape and pedophilia was in the context of a debate about Israel and Palestine. He was not using the rape example to defend his own characterization of his abuse as a child. At least not at the time.

    The problem with Dawkins and his characterization of his abuse as “mild” is that he continues to do this and continues to imply that there is such a thing as “mild pedophilia” and that people who suffer that SHOULD be like him and be less traumatized by that than other forms of abuse. But it just isn’t true. It isn’t obviously and empirically true to say, when looking at the trauma of the actually victims, that “mild pedophilia” isn’t “as bad” as “violent pedophilia”. Dawkins isn’t relying on science or logic. He is just using “common sense” and is thus talking out of his ass. And doing so on an emotional subject. But he doesn’t care, because he doesn’t personally have an emotional reaction to it. Which is basically the reason for all of his bullshit in a nutshell. Dawkins apparently thinks everyone should have emotional reactions to things as Dawkins does and if you aren’t, you are wrong. He has a severe deficit of empathy. A severe inability or unwillingness to see life from another person’s perspective, at least on this issue.

  49. anteprepro says

    stevebowen: If Dawkins is now claiming that the rape tweet was in response to a debate about his stupid “mild pedophilia” distinction, he has changed his story.

    https://richarddawkins.net/2014/07/are-there-emotional-no-go-areas-where-logic-dare-not-show-its-face/

    I also quoted Sam as saying “I don’t think Israel should exist as a Jewish state.” So of course I, and Sam, got vituperative brickbats from Israel and from American Jewish interests. I summed up my position on the fence (linking to an interview with Christopher Hitchens) as follows: “It is reasonable to deplore both the original founding of the Jewish State of Israel & aspirations now to destroy it.” But I swiftly learned that emotion can be so powerful that reasonable discussion – looking at both sides of the question dispassionately – becomes impossible.

    Apparently I didn’t learn swiftly enough – and I now turn to the other Twitter controversy in which I have been involved this week.

    ‘“Being raped by a stranger is bad. Being raped by a formerly trusted friend is worse.” If you think that hypothetical quotation is an endorsement of rape by strangers, go away and learn how to think.’

    That was one way I put the hypothetical.

  50. Akira MacKenzie says

    zenlike @11

    Yeah, Dawkins favourably retweets tweets by Christina H Sommers, so I wouldn’t hold my breath…

    Heh… Considering that Sommers is very much a creature of the Right, I wonder if she and her conservative fans appreciate having the most well- known atheist on Earth rooting for her?

  51. Anri says

    My comment on this remains: until he shows his work in quantifying his scale, it falls under the title of Stuff I Made Up In My Head, by R. Dwakins.

  52. azhael says

    @39 Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    You are absolutely right, force of habit and a limited repertoire of expressions. I apologize.

  53. doubtthat says

    This may not come out clearly, let me see if I can articulate this point:

    I find these two concepts from Dawkins to either be contradictory or evidence of an awkward backtrack:

    1) All this kerfuffle shows that rape is a taboo topic that cannot be discussed.
    2) The tweets about rape were just hypotheticals; he did not mean them to be taken as factual assertions.

    The criticisms of his tweets are based around a factual discussion of rape, namely how the date/stranger dichotomy is not very meaningful if your goal is to rank the trauma experienced by the victims (which is a strange and insulting thing to be doing in the first place).

    In other words, the very people Dawkins accuses of invoking a taboo to shut down conversation are the ones providing actual conversation about the topic. Dawkins’ doesn’t actually take up that conversation, he runs away claiming that he was just “challenging taboos.” What a bizarre way to “challenge” a taboo: just bring it up but don’t say anything meaningful or factual about it.

    Certainly, if you felt discussion of the Holocaust had become a taboo subject, the worst way you could challenge this taboo was by appearing to defend Hitler and when you were challenged just saying, “Oh, I didn’t mean anything when I defended him, I just wanted to bring it up for shits and giggles.”

  54. anteprepro says

    doubtthat: Well put. It’s starting to become evident that Dawkins is real excuse here is “I did it for the lulz”

  55. says

    Left before the debate today. There are only so many humanist congress debates I can take in a weekend. The medic in question, was he the same Scotish guy who have been trolling every questions session?

    As to your answer to Dawkins: Yay! Sadly the interviewer asked the difficult questions, but didn’t follow up on the answers. She should have been able to, considering that this has been the party line ever since the great melt down.

  56. Goodbye Enemy Janine says

    I am going to get slightly off topic here but please allow me a little bit of leeway.

    I do not know if Richard Dawkins regularly retweets Christina Hoff Summers or not but the one retweet is extremely problematical.

    Michelle Goldberg wrote a terrible article about the ongoing battle between trans women and TERFs that was essentially an apologia for TERFs because they are so mistreated by trans women and that TERFs are being increasingly marginalized by feminists. (In case one is not aware, I am a trans woman so, no, I am hardly an unbiased observer here.)

    Summers tweeted a link to the article with this statement:

    A bitter fight on feminist left over who counts as a woman. Radical feminism vs. Transgenderism. Fascinating.

    So much wrong in so few words. There is not a fight going on over this in the feminist left. Frankly, most feminists do not care. If they did, they would denounce TERFs for simply claiming to speak for all women. The feminists who do fight over this are intersectional feminists and they come down on the side of trans women.

    Also, it is not radical feminism vs trans women; it is Trans Exclusive Radical Feminism (Note the initials!) vs trans women.

    Also, there is no transgenderism.

    But the extremely logical Richard Dawkins thought that this tweet was one that his followers should have some very deep thoughts about.

  57. erik333 says

    @40 A. Noyd

    Critics: It’s not sound. You can’t decide for other people what rapes are worse. The badness is subjective, based on the experiences of the individual victims. Though, what data we do have suggests more victims might experience worse effects from acquaintance rape than stranger rape.

    That seems kind of contradictory? A) We can’t decide what rapes are worse. B) Acquaintance rape (not even factoring frequency) seems to be worse.

  58. anteprepro says

    Janine

    But the extremely logical Richard Dawkins thought that this tweet was one that his followers should have some very deep thoughts about.

    I think you meant “derp thoughts”.

    Thus far, it looks like Dawkins is only interested in the debate between TERFs and other feminists because he gains pleasure from seeing feminists agree amongst themselves. He has a very serious hate-on for feminism. That seems to be the consistent narrative.

    But I would be willing to bet that if he dared to step into the debate, beyond just silently retweeting glib comments linking to horrid articles, that he would wind up outing himself as transphobic. Actually, I would be surprised if he hadn’t already stuck his foot into mouth on that subject already. But it really is only a matter of time.

  59. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    erik333 @ 68

    Something being subjective does not preclude the ability to observe a broad trend.

  60. says

    He just doesn’t understand what rape does to a person. Being held at knifepoint makes the world an unsafe place for victims. Being raped by someone you know and trust makes the world an unsafe place for victims. The latter have a harder time actually calling it rape. Hearing that its “not as bad” as rape with a weapon has real negative impact on the majority of victims of sexual violence. The majority of victims know their perp.

    Rape victims are telling him that he is acting like an asshole. He should listen up instead of doubling down. Why hasn’t he thought “perhaps there is something they know that I dont?”. So disappointed every time he tweets something dumb. His mind is capable of thinking clearly but I strongly suspect that it causes some hurt for him to examine the privileges he reaps from patriarchy.

  61. anteprepro says

    erik333

    That seems kind of contradictory? A) We can’t decide what rapes are worse. B) Acquaintance rape (not even factoring frequency) seems to be worse.

    A is on the individual level, B is on average. And is also controversial. Here’s the first studies I could find on the subject in Google Scholar.

    Trigger warning and data overload warning.

    Study 1: Groups vary as victims of rape/assault and with culprit being husband/stranger. No difference in psychological distress between these groups, but all higher than control group..

    Study 2: Stranger rape was more likely to be violent (unless acquaintance was a husband), but no difference in psychological symptoms.

    Study 3: Rape victims with PTSD were more likely to have been raped by stranger, or with weapon present, or sustain injury than those without.

    This is a combo: Study 4 says that rape victims are more likely to be psychologically and physically healthy if they find supportive social reactions and less likely if they find negative ones, specifically victim blaming. And Study 5 shows that people are more likely to blame the victim in the case of date rape.

  62. A. Noyd says

    erik333 (#68)

    That seems kind of contradictory? A) We can’t decide what rapes are worse. B) Acquaintance rape (not even factoring frequency) seems to be worse.

    Even if we can see that more individuals report greater negative effects from acquaintance rape, it still doesn’t tell us which kind of rape is worse for any given individual. But the point people were making with the data on the effects of rape was to show that Dawkins’ premises were not based on any kind of facts at all.

  63. pacal says

    Re: Stevebowen no. 56

    “He used another hot button issue of date rape vs attack rape as a comparison only because that is perhaps the only other issue beyond child abuse that provokes a similar visceral response.”

    Aside from confirming that Dawkin’s was deliberately trolling for an emotional response the above contains a problematic idea. The statement “date rape vs attack rape” forgets that all rapes are assaults and therefore attacks.

  64. jambonpomplemouse says

    “I reserve the right to adjust that score if he’s talking about a Christina Hoff Sommers kind of faux feminist.”

    Ehh, even if he isn’t, his fan base will assume he is. There are “good feminists” (female MRA’s) and there are the “man-hating, radical feminazis” (actual feminists). I think the most disheartening thing to come out of this latest foot-in-mouth controversy was so see how many people on Twitter started out defending Dawkins, and quickly devolved into rants about how “You feminists want to redefine rape to be regret sex” and “women are too emotional/biased to be trusted to talk about rape”, followed by a healthy does of “Dawkins is too important to the movement to be criticized.”

  65. ck says

    Al Dente wrote:

    If he’d said “theft of £10 is bad, theft of £100 is worse” then the reaction would “yeah, right, so what?”

    Maybe. The problem with all these “which crime is worse” is that the proverbial devil is in the details. If the victim of the £10 theft is living in poverty, but the £100 theft victim is a multimillionaire, then things aren’t so simple as looking at how much money was stolen.

    Sadly, that is just one example of why I hate the “hierarchy of crimes by badness”. It’s always about the punishment mandated by the law rather than the victims, when the degrees of punishments are usually supposed have more to do with the person who committed the crime than the harm done to the victim. Used properly, this punishes those who planned and committed a crime more severely than those who commit crimes of opportunity or passion. (Used wrongly, it punishes visible minorities for being visible minorities.)

  66. neverjaunty says

    I reserve the right to adjust that score if he’s talking about a Christina Hoff Sommers kind of faux feminist.

    Yes, well, that faux-feminist routine was in evidence long before this, PZ; did you think Dear Muslima was ‘egalitarian’? As zenlike noted at @11, dude has been retweeting Sommers herself. I’m not sure what else he has to do for you to stop rushing to give him the benefit of the doubt in the face of monumental evidence to the contrary.

  67. says

    anteprepro @ 69

    Dawkins is only interested in the debate between TERFs and other feminists because he gains pleasure from seeing feminists agree amongst themselves

    ITYM “seeing feminists argue amongst themselves”.

    Also: yeah, that sounds about right. Dawkins does not like the uppity ladies.

  68. 2kittehs says

    This one is extraordinarily aggravating. Feminists talk about rape all the time. The flip side of that complaint is to suggest that they’re reveling in victimhood and should just shut up about rape. You can’t win!

    And when feminists talk about any sort of sexual harassment, he tells them to shut up because others have it worse.

    Curious thing, this morning on another site someone was doing the “we have to minutely parse what type of abuse this is and give it its technical name” thing about child rape, despite being told by victims that it just wasn’t on. I suggested that sort of behaviour should be called Dawkinsing … and then I click here and see this. Quelle surprise, not.

    I had a whole lot more I was going to say, but everyone’s saying it better already, so I’ll just say what a relief it is to see Dawkins being called out as the abusive, manipulative piece of shit he is. Feminist? Nope. He can claim it all he likes, but he’s squarely in the misogynist camp as far as I’m concerned.

  69. says

    I’m late to the party but why not.
    Emotions are part of the whole process for him and he needs acknowledge this because the only other option is that he lets his emotions do what they do without his knowledge. The whole reason he is choosing to target his logic where he is, is because of an emotional reaction. Going back to dear muslima he saw people discussing issues of social justice and it bothered him (he may have apologized but that reaction was why it happened, it matters). He had a reaction and wanted Rebecca Watson to stop complaining so he made a comparison between harms that displayed utterly shitty logic (don’t talk about bad stuff here because someone there has it worse!). Emotion is what we use to target the process of logic. So if he gets to target his logic with emotions and others target responses (with a logic of their own) with emotion he has no business bringing up emotion in that way.

    Also emotions have logic and that is a thing that should be an issue as well. It’s mismatched logic meant to function in a different environment than the one we live in but it still has a logic. Contextualized traumatic experience alters emotional logic and emotions related to the trauma. This is not hidden knowledge, a person like Dawkins should be able to look stuff like this up before making statements like this.
    Having your suffering casually compared to another creates an emotion. Seeing a supposed leader say that your suffering is not so bad so you should stop complaining creates an emotion. Seeing a supposed leader suggest that because their molestation was not so bad, the others treated like him also should be just fine creates and emotion. The logic of this process is what he is totally ignoring just to make a pathetic point about being able to rank suffering, that rolls on back to an attempt to get someone to stop saying that that she does not like it when guys do certain things.

    Irrational, incapable of grasping the lucid logic of his argument.

    Emotions related to traumatic experiences tell logic to fuck off in trauma victims. Richard Dawkins is a…
    …Is there a word for someone who deliberately triggers trauma victims? A specific one? We really need a good one for something like this.

    Emotional, driven entirely by a visceral reaction to rape.

    Like your visceral reaction to a woman complaining about a man’s behavior, that led to your emotionally driven obsession with comparing harms that is an emotionally driven need to defend your horrible logic and lack of knowledge of the logic of emotions?

    Suppressive, unwilling to discuss the issues calmly. They never discuss some topics, like rape and pedophilia.

    Because we know that casually comparing traumatic events does not actually do anything to help. The only ones who should be comparing suffering should be psychologists and other professionals who are looking for clues about suffering to alleviate suffering. Certainly not a guy that basically wants to pretend that this is not about doubling down on excuses made to get women to shut up about people acting creepy in elevators.

  70. says

    The problem™ with feminists talking about rape and sexual assault in approved™ ways:
    -talking about how women can avoid being raped
    -talking about women exclusively, because it’s hard to talk about how children should avoid getting raped and admitting that men are victims, too
    -what victims are entitled to, in terms of legal resources (like abortion) and how much they are allowed to talk about it.
    -false rape accusations.

    Instead they talk about thing like rape culture, systematic biases and societal structures.

  71. 2kittehs says

    Brony @81:

    Richard Dawkins is a…
    …Is there a word for someone who deliberately triggers trauma victims? A specific one?

    It’s not specific, but sadist comes to mind.

  72. anteprepro says

    We could always just coin a new term to describe that specific behavior. Call it “Dawking”.

  73. vaiyt says

    we also know that irrational people will abuse any hierarchical ordering of crimes to justify policies that do great harm.

    This is what Dawkins doesn’t seem go grok. He’s saying that a core premise of rape apologia is logically sound without disavowing their conclusions, AND he’s treating it like treading new ground that other people don’t dare. No, dude, the reason other people avoid going that route is because that will put them in the company of rape apologists.

  74. vaiyt says

    I would reserve “Dawking” for the practice of muddying up a discussion by introducing technical distinctions between types of objectionable behavior that are meaningless from the point of view of the victims.

  75. Pierce R. Butler says

    … resounding applause from a receptive audience…

    Apparently the A+ brigade did not fundraise enough to send each other to Oxford last week.

    I suppose, given the location, that the place was packed with Dawkins fans who would have cheered vigorously had he read from a grocery list, but this line raises more questions for me than the non-news of RD blowing it yet again on social issues. Does British humanism show any signs of progressivism as recognized (just barely) in the US, or does their idea of “PC” begin and end with Pat Condell?

  76. says

    Pierce R. Butler:

    I suppose, given the location, that the place was packed with Dawkins fans who would have cheered vigorously had he read from a grocery list

    Grocery list fans aren’t confined to Britain.

    the non-news of RD blowing it yet again on social issues.

    I understand you have questions in another line regarding Dawkins’s influence, however, please don’t do what you did above, dismissing Dawkins’s commentary on social issues. That commentary is immensely harmful, damaging to individuals on a wide scale, fosters false information, and encourages rape apologism and victim blaming. It’s far from being non-news. (Yes, I know what you meant, Pierce, but the moment we accept this sort of thing as expected and blasé, we’re giving up the good fight.)

  77. Crimson Clupeidae says

    You suppose it would take a very concrete emotive response to get Dawkins to understand?

    If someone jumped out from a dark alley, held a large caliber handgun to his head, and calmly and rationally explained that because Dawkins has lots of money, and the guy with the gun can’t even afford to eat, then Dawkins would clearly be compelled, but only by logic, to give the guy some money for food, and would totally not report that to the police because….logic!

    Right?

  78. Pierce R. Butler says

    Sorry, Inaji @ # 90, but I just can’t muster full-court-press indignation about Richard Dawkins digging his hole another metre deeper.

    The lack of pushback from UK (and “world”) humanists comes (to US-based me, anyhow) as a more significant aspect of this particular stumble in RD’s trek towards the Dark Side (w/ apologies to Stephen Andrew). Does the intersection of feminism and humanism even exist in the scepter’d isle?

  79. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    Pierce @ 92

    This isn’t about Richard Dawkins’ hole. This is about the harm he does when he says this shit. If you can’t manage to give a shit, then just keep your mouth shut instead of undermining what other people are trying to do.

  80. says

    Pierce R. Butler:

    Does the intersection of feminism and humanism even exist in the scepter’d isle?

    Are you trying to be offensive today? Of course the intersection of feminism and humanism exists in the U.K., which I expect you’d know, if you bothered to pay attention to the many regulars here who happen to live in the U.K.

    Also, your apathy as to the effect Dawkins has on people is blinding you when it comes to such intersections. Those intersections get tromped on, repeatedly, by those grocery list fans who do listen to every chunk of Dawkins’s shovel. That would be one of the reasons people should care about that hole, eh?

  81. says

    Pierce:

    The lack of pushback from UK (and “world”) humanists comes (to US-based me, anyhow) as a more significant aspect of this particular stumble in RD’s trek towards the Dark Side (w/ apologies to Stephen Andrew).

    Are you sure there’s a lack of UK based pushback, or is the fact that you’re US based blinding you to the pushback?

  82. J Wunder says

    Find a tech way to get rid of sex. Should be possible in a physical universe. No more feminism, sexism, gay problems. A lot of other ‘moral’ problems gone. Nerds are so smart.

  83. says

    J Wunder:

    Find a tech way to get rid of sex. Should be possible in a physical universe. No more feminism, sexism, gay problems. A lot of other ‘moral’ problems gone.

    Please tell me you’re not serious.
    Please tell me you’re not reducing the issue of sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and a host of other issues down to sex.

  84. Pierce R. Butler says

    Apologies to Seven, Inaji & Tony for delay in response.

    Seven @ # 93: This is about the harm he does …

    Which would amount to only self-harm if he had a more critical audience. The critiques here so far focus on Dawkins, not on the other X hundred people in the room. Our esteemed host’s report doesn’t mention any hand-sittings, walk-outs, or other protests, so I’d say RD figured quite accurately what his fans wanted to hear.

    Inaji @ # 94 – Just which of my many offenses against which of the multiple meanings of “offensive” operative here do you find offensive today?

    Inaji @ # 94: Of course the intersection of feminism and humanism exists in the U.K., …

    Possibly even at Oxford. Yet not, save for our esteemed host, perceptibly present in the historic chambers to which WHC has just contributed another footnote. And I can’t blame Prof Myers for observing rather than intervening, possibly provoking an international incident before the Krakens are fully laser-trained…

    Tony @ # 95: … you’re US based blinding you to the pushback?

    All I know is what I read in the blogs. If there had been pushback from the feminist/humanist corner, given that Prof M has well-calibrated antennae for such wavelengths, we would probably have read about it here by now. Absence of evidence, y’know.

    Perhaps some devastating Tweet is bouncing around even as I type, but so far my question stands: what feminist/humanist pushback?

  85. Pierce R. Butler says

    Sally Strange @ # 102 – It doesn’t matter if you’re chopped liver, it matters if you’re chopped liver at the World Humanist Conference, making waves in the gravy. I suggest forming a coalition with the foie gras and the blood pudding, against the baloney.

  86. 2kittehs says

    vaiyt @88

    I would reserve “Dawking” for the practice of muddying up a discussion by introducing technical distinctions between types of objectionable behavior that are meaningless from the point of view of the victims.

    Yes! That’s a better-phrased description of what I was aiming at with “Dawkinsing” in that “but they’re not technically pedophiles” blurgh on WHTM yesterday.

  87. says

    Pierce R. Butler:

    Which would amount to only self-harm if he had a more critical audience. The critiques here so far focus on Dawkins, not on the other X hundred people in the room.

    No and no. Did you bother to read the two earlier threads about Dawkins? I realize you want to focus on the narrow happenings in the U.K., but doing that is a mistake. The people applauding him and nodding their heads in agreement are simply one slice of all those who have been defending Dawkins’s very poor thinking on social issues.

    There’s been a lot of commentary about those who do agree with Dawkins, and there’s been a great deal of upset over the lack of critical thinking going on. However, focusing on Dawkins is on point and necessary. This is someone who should be well trained in critical thinking, as well as helping others to employ critical thought. The majority of people don’t have critical thinking skills, so someone in Dawkins’s position should be very aware of that, and be more careful of what he tosses out to a very large, global audience.

    Dawkins’s refusal to acknowledge the unsoundness of his views and arguments regarding those views not only has a large impact well beyond the X hundred people in a room, it has the added problem of allowing a great many people to feel as though they have done critical thinking about an issue like rape, when they haven’t done that at all. Right now, we’re already in a situation where way too many people seem to believe that skepticism is nothing more than cynicism with a bad mood, a game of “nuh uh!” to any statement, and golly, they’ll pat themselves on the back for being such good skeptical thinkers. Dawkins adds to that, and makes it worse by valuing his own opinions over actual critical thought and sound arguments, which leads to a whole lot of people who start doing the same damn thing. The damage he is doing is tremendous, and you’re ignoring that in favour of “well, there wasn’t a protest, so it must be that there isn’t any feminism in the U.K.”, which is a damn stupid conclusion.

  88. Maureen Brian says

    Pierce R Butler,

    I was not present at Oxford so this can only be a guess. Apart from the fact that as a people we have had better politeness training than you, I would imagine that the lack of a newsworthy walk-our (a riot, even) was down to very simple factors. First, much of what Dawkins says is actually interesting. Second, this was an international gathering and his support for global humanism is appreciated. Thirdly and more worryingly, the malign influence of Dawkins in limited areas may be creating a younger generation who foolishly accept his re-designation of paedophilia and sexual assault as yucky therefore not part of human experience therefore not a proper subject for humanists.

    If that last were true I would be worried and so should you be.

    As for the intellectual development of the UK, I’ll start with Mary Wollestonecraft – friend and rival of Thomas Paine, able destroyer of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s nonsense in Emile – and move onward and upward from there. Triumphs and setbacks, of course, plus the horse-shit of ignorance to dig through at regular intervals.

    You want a reading list?

  89. says

    It doesn’t matter if you’re chopped liver, it matters if you’re chopped liver at the World Humanist Conference, making waves in the gravy. I suggest forming a coalition with the foie gras and the blood pudding, against the baloney.

    I fail to see why the geographical location of the feminist/humanist pushback renders it more or less relevant. It doesn’t count unless it was inside the hall, at that precise moment? According to whose rules, and to what purpose?

  90. says

    There IS a lot of pushback. In their very polite way, European humanists do not blithely follow the assertive model of American atheism. David Silverman, for instance, got a lot of rejection of his talk.

    Also, one of the difficult things about the WHC is that so few people seem to understand the concept of a question. They ought to rename the Q&A to the manifesto period, with everyone rising to speak for a few minutes each on their opinion. I refused to participate in that — and standing to argue with Dawkins when I was supposed to be asking for clarification wouldn’t have helped.

    I have a place where I can blather on and state my opinion at length already, you see.

  91. Maureen Brian says

    Clearly, SallyStrange, Pierce is more concerned that the set designer should be Christopher Wren than with the quality of the arguments – including his own.

  92. Pierce R. Butler says

    Got a busy day coming up, so can’t give replies all the attention they deserve.

    Inaji @ # 103: I realize you want to focus on the narrow happenings in the U.K., but doing that is a mistake.

    Comments about what did and didn’t happen at WHC don’t fit in a thread about WHC?

    The majority of people don’t have critical thinking skills…

    If this applies to the majority of people at WHC, &/or Oxford, I propose we switch from activism to active drinking. The hard stuff.

    … a large impact well beyond the X hundred people in a room …

    The exact same words from another Hyde Park soapbox orator would dribble away without effect. The context – a self-selected cross-section of upper-tier humanists giving “resounding applause” – deserves attention and analysis.

    Maureen Brian @ # 104: … as a people we have had better politeness training than you…

    Y’all also have the advantage in cutting wit and subtle rejoinders. I fantasize Dawkins getting left all a-splutter over his sherry at the following reception as his interlocutors drop apropos quotations from Wollestonecraft and Woolf and bat their eyelashes demurely. If it happened, word has yet to leak out.

    Sally Strange @ # 105: I fail to see why the geographical location of the feminist/humanist pushback renders it more or less relevant.

    Think tactically. Getting the WHC buzzing would get through (both to Dawkins and world humanists) more effectively than will, say, this thread.

    Alas, as a colonial barbarian I lack the cultural referents to grasp your terpsichorean-primate allusion.

    PZ Myers @ # 109: There IS a lot of pushback.

    Ah, new information from a well-situated witness!

    David Silverman, for instance, got a lot of rejection of his talk.

    Please tell (or link) us more. Also, did RD get any visible feedback besides “resounding applause”? Did the purported fem/hum corner have a verbal ninja or two lined up for the manifesto-&-answer session?

    Maureen Brian @ # 110: …Pierce is more concerned that the set designer should be Christopher Wren than with the quality of the arguments – including his own.

    My argument, declassé as it must be considering the source, concerns the absence of reported response to a highly predictable challenge to the F/H cadre. Perhaps I got it wrong in thinking that Myers &/or Benson would note any such counterthrust, and in fact the whole campus was set aflame by tasteful yet dramatic feminist aphorisms, with Dawkins cast in the role of Harold II at the Battle of Hastings. From what little information we have here, it still appears an open question as to whether the members of the World Humanist Conference deserve comparison with those of, say, The Amazing Meeting.

    Possibly an organized feminist campaign in World Humanism would prove quite rewarding, and perhaps WHC2014 will stimulate such efforts – I dunno. From up here in the peanut gallery, it looks like potential organizers will need all the encouragement they can get.

  93. says

    First, a bit of shameless self-promotion on this topic: About Thought Experiments.

    Second, regarding the following comment by Stevarious upthread:

    when Dawkins made some comments last year about ‘mild pedophilia’ (such as the awkward groping he experienced as a child) not being ‘as bad’ as violent child rape, he was in fact accused of defending pedophilia in a number of public media outlets, like Salon.

    I’ve yet to see any legitimate examples of this accusation of “defending” (or “endorsing”), AKA presenting a supportive stance towards it; so far, in all the times I’ve asked people for examples of this, I’ve been provided with a)examples of people saying he’s trivializing/minimizing (AKA trying to make is seem less bad), with the strongest language being “apologia” (of which one meaning is minimizing-to-zero); or b)ultra-right wing strawmen using Dawkins to attack some other pet issue, e.g. sex ed or “moral relativism”.
    IOW, either Dawkins is talking to right wing assholes who are strawmanning him, or he can’t tell the difference between trivialization and endorsement, or he himself is strawmanning his critics.

  94. 2kittehs says

    Thank you for that shameless promotion, Jadehawk; your piece was very interesting. Dawkins really got the thought experiment thing backward, didn’t he? (That’s putting the kindest interpretation on it, that he was indeed trying to do one and not just trying to hurt people.)