Originally a comment by doubtthat on To testify & jail a man.
1) By the time Dawkins slouched his way to that tweet, he was in full retreat mode. All of initial tweets were from the perspective of concern for the accused: Oh, what an injustice that someone would be jailed with NO EVIDENCE and only on the word of a victim who testifies that they remember nothing (something that has never happened); it’s wrong to rape, certainly, but isn’t it also wrong to accuse someone when you’re drunk…blah blah.
Then, probably being somewhat aware of how fucking wrong that was, he started to slowly shift his point to glib, disingenuous “concern” that the poor victims just won’t be believed by juries. THAT’S what he’s really worried about — never mind that the behavior of an average jury in the US has nothing to do with whether or not WE believe victims, or, specifically, a particular woman.
2) I pointed this out on Nugent’s blog as was accused of generating a straw man:
If you want to be in a position to testify & jail a man, don’t get drunk.
Notice the contrapositive of that statement:
If you do get drunk (have gotten drunk) then you’re not in a position to testify or not in a position to jail a man.
The Dawkins defenders said over and over that No, No, NO, our sweet leader was not suggesting that women who had been drinking should stay silent or should be precluded from testifying, yet there it is. A statement and its contrapositive are logical equivalent, and Dawkins is saying that the only condition under which a woman has been drinking is she’s unable to “jail a man,” meaning that she should either stay silent or expect to not be believed.
I assume Dawkins understands first order logic, so he is responsible for the contrapositive of his statement.
As a general rule, if you find yourself arguing that a properly formed contrapositive is a “straw man” or some voodoo like manipulation of a person’s statement, you should either refrain from describing yourself as rational or head over to the local community college for a symbolic logic course before making further claims.
Similar admonitions apply if you think that substituting “has been drinking” for “got drunk” constitutes a nefarious alteration of the original statement’s meaning. *coughNugentcough*
Nugent is assuming that drinking into a blackout is a ‘choice.’ This is so blatantly false that it shouldn’t require addressing.
People DO get behind the wheel of their car, despite ‘knowing better,’ because their judgment is impaired by alcohol itself. Anyone who gets a second DUI is demonstrating that alcohol’s effect is not freely chosen.
And in the assaults and rapes described in these instances, there is no question of the victims ‘choosing’ to be incapacitated.
Alan Cooper says
If you want to use logical pedantry in an argument then at least you should do so correctly.
(1) What is offensive about this latest tweet is its context – wherein the addressee is known by almost all readers to be presumably the victim of a perceived rape who is being portrayed in the tweet as having entered the situation with an intent of entrapment of the alleged rapist. It also has the effect of putting the onus of protection from rape on the victim by implying (in an obviously intended but less than rigorously logical way) that any woman who drinks does not deserve to have her complaints taken seriously. These are really important points to make, but it is also important not to pretend that they follow from some kind of rigorous analysis of the tweet itself.
(2) Indeed, Dawkins’ devious cleverness is that when the tweet is taken out of context there is actually nothing wrong with it. Anyone who is entering a situation with the intent of recording events for possible use in court should of course avoid any kind of intoxication – that’s one reason police officers are told not to drink on duty.
(2.1) The statement as it stands is an instruction and not a proposition and so has no contrapositive. A reasonably equivalent proposition might be “If you want to be in a position to give testimony that will be effective in ensuring a conviction then you should not drink” and its contrapositive is “If it is not true that you should not drink then it is not true that you want to be in a position to give maximally effective testimony”. Put either way, this does not mean that if you drink your testimony will necessarily be completely dismissed but just that the freedom to drink is incompatible with having the primary intent of collecting maximally credible evidence.
(2.2) Just to clarify, as noted above, I do think it’s obvious (though not provable) that Dawkins’ intent was to plant the suggestion that the woman’s testimony should be discounted and that his participation in this issue has been disgusting.
(2) Unless the person is testifying to their inebriation. Or are you saying being drunk precludes someone from being able to convincingly testify that they were drunk? Recall that the point at issue is whether the person in question was too drunk to consent. I’m not sure how staying sober would make such testimony more convincing as it’s more or less an impossibility.
(2.1) The contrapositive is always true of a conditional statement. You can’t elude the effect of logic by claiming a special exemption for an “instruction.” Any sentence that takes the form If A then B, can be rewritten If not A then not B (or in this case, If A and B then not C; If C then not A or not B). The logical meaning is the same, but if you want to argue that there was some subtlety of meaning that was lost in forming the contrapositive, you need to do better than just composing a new statement.
But this is not true. Folks are sliding back and forth between a statement about what will convince an average jury (the testifying party should do X, Y, Z) and true statements about the world. Juries bring in a host of biases and incorrect views, one of them being that a drunk person cannot testify accurately about his/her experiences (or, more to the point, a woman who gets drunk was asking for it — which is really the social view that we’re discussing here, no matter how many euphemisms and distractions Dawkins wants to sprinkle in).
But then you conclude from a statement purportedly about what is effective in court to a statement about fact collecting. This is an unwarranted leap. Again, why are investigators bound by jury bias, or more importantly, why are we when evaluating a situation?
I read something here that I don’t see addressed in the discussion. From the plain view of this statement, it is implied that the woman in question had the prior motive of sending the man to jail.
Compare: If you want to go swimming, don’t forget your suit. If you want to get a degree, don’t drop out of school.
A goal is mentioned, then the activity that may make achievement impossible.
My first impression of this was, and still is, that Dawkins is implying that women want to get men in trouble. That the woman* in the bar has a plan*; to get her victim to rape her, so she can send him to jail. In which case, he’s advising her not to get drunk, because that will keep her from reaching her goal.
I am sure that he will deny this, but his formulation of the tweet leads to that conclusion.
* An evil woman, an evil plan, to be sure.
Ophelia Benson says
Susannah, yes, exactly. I think I discussed that in “To testify & jail a man”
but not as well as you did.
Hj Hornbeck says
Bu-but I was assured that accusations of sexual assault were devastating to a person’s career…
Now I’m wondering just what it takes to be kicked out of one of these organizations. Excessive feminism?
Hj Hornbeck says
Oh, and Russell Blackford’s now part of the gang? He’ll fit in well.
Hj Hornbeck says
[blinks a bit]
Er, I meant to post those two over here. Had the wrong tab open.
Alan Cooper says
@Susannah, I certainly agree with you, and I thought I said pretty much the same thing in #3 above where I said that what is offensive about Dawkins’ tweet is that the addressee “is being portrayed in the tweet as having entered the situation with an intent of entrapment of the alleged rapist”
@doubtthat, I agreed that when the instruction is phrased as a proposition it is equivalent to its contrapositive. Both say that the goal of collecting evidence which is maximally likely to convince a jury is incompatible with having the only witness drinking. And of course this is true. But the malicious inferences that I think Dawkins wants the reader to take from that are not true and do not in fact follow logically from what he said. So rather than trying to “prove” that he said what he didn’t, I think a better strategy is to admit that he has deniability but argue from the context that it seems pretty clear what his intent was. (Or, if one wants to be much more charitable towards him than I do, to say that his innocent comment had the unfortunate effect of possibly being mis-taken as supportive by those who think any woman who drinks deserves to be raped.)
Alan, yes you did say that. I guess I was reading too quickly,
Phillip Hallam-Baker says
The behavior of Dawkins really doesn’t surprise me, the establishment finds any excuse to close ranks to protect its own. Take the following letter from a councillor who had compiled a report on child abuse. He is worried that the ‘investigation’ will be a white wash:
He wasn’t wrong. The investigation rejected his report and censured him for having brought the matter up. Fortunately, the police had a rather different attitude and many of the serial rapists running the children’s homes went to prison. The role of the politicians covering up is only just being investigated now.
To get an idea of what the establishment does, read the following.
The MP who made the ‘call your dogs off’ telephone call is still an MP. His wife was made secretary of state for health and human services with ultimate responsibility for such matters after this incident.
There are many, many more documents. But before making accusations against the parties concerned it is important to know that all the people involved were aware of the coverup and people who tried to stop abuse tended to be moved out of positions where they could affect matters.