Ken Perrott of New Zealand SciBlogs waded into the controversial Dawkins disinvitation, and wrote a load of typical bullshit. That is, he tries to logic all critics of Dawkins into some kind of fallacy, because they must be mistaken, and we cannot examine the flaws in Dawkins worldview without first dismissing everyone who disagrees with him as irrational. Therefore, suggesting that Dawkins has said some terrible things…
…is so mistaken I think only people who are already hostile or desperately searching for something to confirm their anti-Dawkins or anti-male bias would actually fall for it – or promote it. But that is the sort of thing we get on social media – especially Twitter.
This is the fallacy of faulty generalisation – or more precisely, faulty induction. Very often resorted to by people with a large axe to grind.
One problem here. None of the people he names were initially “anti-Dawkins” and none seem to be “anti-male”. It defies reality to make this accusation: the accurate generalization is that a lot of people in the atheist community were extraordinarily enthused to have a scientist of Dawkins’ stature promoting unbelief. He is still a huge draw at conferences, and look at me — I’ve been asked to introduce Dawkins at events, I’ve shared a stage with him a couple of times, I am definitely not nor have ever been “anti-Dawkins”. Yet I have been disillusioned by his gullible anti-social justice stance in spite of my bias in his favor.
And then, of course, it’s all Rebecca Watson’s fault, because she hates Richard Dawkins and evolutionary psychology. I’ve known Watson for a few years, and again, this was not a prior bias. This was a gradual and strengthening rejection of what they stand for, built on experience and evidence. When you’ve been blacklisted by Dawkins, I think it’s only rational to oppose him. As for Watson and evolutionary psychology…
I can’t help feeling there is a lot of bruised ego involved there – but lets stick with her logical fallacy. I have criticised her in the past for committing the fallacy of faulty generalisation. In that case her use of valid cases where studies in evolution psychology amounted to very poor science and bias confirmation (pop-psychology) to attribute that problem to the whole field of evolutionary psychology.
No. The problems are that EP’s premises are not valid: the undemonstrated brain modules, the bogus
environment of evolutionary adaptedness, the whole idea that the last ten thousand years of adaptation to agriculture and urban living don’t count. And then they hide behind the uncontroversial claim that the brain evolved every time someone questions their much more specific assumptions.
That Watson can also get so much mileage out of the truly appallingly awful pop psych studies is also a problem for EP: apparently, they are so undiscriminating and credulous that they won’t criticize their own.
And then Perrott goes after Massimo Pigliucci.
My point is that Massimo comments seem motivated by professional jealousy, rather than any real concern about the sceptic/atheist “movement.” He is being unprofessional to carry out a personal public campaign in this way. And he ends up looking foolish for that and his identification with the NECSS blunder (I have not seem any comment from Massimo on the later reinvitation which attempted to correct that blunder.)
Ah, the old “professional jealousy” argument. You’re only criticizing him because he’s smarter and more popular than you!
I have my differences with Pigliucci, but get real. He’s a successful and popular scientist and science popularizer, too, and suggesting that his substantial criticisms are purely the product of seething envy rather than genuine intellectual rigor and serious thought makes Perrott look foolish. And I say that as someone who disagrees with some of Pigliucci’s arguments while agreeing with others.
Oh well, I did learn something from that tripe. It turns out the retraction of the disinvitation of Dawkins was authored by Jamy Ian Swiss. But of course it was.
You might want to read Siouxsie Wiles, a fellow Kiwi, rather than Perrot. She points out the real problem with the attitudes that too many skeptics and atheists have.
Watson and Roth continue to be active in the atheist/skeptic community but many others have left because of the treatment they have received. It saddens me that Dawkins either doesn’t appear to understand the impact of his actions, or doesn’t care, and neither do his supporters. Perrott ends his post by implying that Watson and others are bullying extremists who bandy around words like “sexist” and “misogynist” to shut down important discussion. I disagree. They are valuable members of the atheist/skeptic community who have a different perspective from people like Dawkins and are actively working to make the community a more inclusive one. Watching the harassment feminists have received by people who identify themselves as critical thinkers also saddens me. It would be nice to see them apply those critical thinking skills to their idols as well as their ‘enemies’.
There is an authoritarian trend behind all the defenses of Dawkins — the idea that one Great Leader is too valuable to question, even if he is actively repelling a substantial number of precisely the people we need to broaden the reach of atheism. Atheism already has the avid support of scientists and manly patronizing men — speaking as one, I can assure you I will never lose confidence in my declarations that there are no gods — but picking up a privileged class that hasn’t had much use for religion anyway is no challenge. If we expect to grow beyond our little techno-scientific enclaves, and further, if our techno-scientific enclaves want to be more inclusive, we have to accept that we need greater depth.
And no, tempting as it is, manly patronizing men like me can’t simply explain to women, black people, Latin folk, American Indians, blue collar workers, etc., why they should find solidarity with our cause. Especially not when we’re sending the message that old white dudes get all the excuses for whatever they say. We members of the priesthood of Man Science need to step back and let others tell us what’s best for them.
Sometimes, letting go of control is the best and only way to learn.