Comments

  1. says

    Shorter Dawkins: “How do I pander to my fans’ sex/gender bigotries and make it sound sciencey? Maybe if I talk about karyotypes…”

    I’m pretty sure Dick to the Dawks wouldn’t be carrying a sex-gene-sampling kit in his pocket to determine whether this or that feminine-looking person is a “real” woman. (Did Starfleet ever have rules of etiquette for when to whip out a tricorder to probe someone’s physiological state? I certainly don’t think Cap’n Kirk would have done that before deciding whether or not to kiss a good-looking alien.)

  2. consciousness razor says

    Did Starfleet ever have rules of etiquette for when to whip out a tricorder to probe someone’s physiological state?

    Well, they’ve got regulations for everything, but they’re also very intrusive at times yet people generally seem okay with that. I would say yes, and they’re mostly ignored unless it’s important for the plot. They also don’t apply to androids, just because.

    You had me worried for a minute. It occurred to me that we may have gotten the mirror universe Dawkins around ten years ago and never noticed the difference. But then … that doesn’t sound right, since he’s just not showing enough skin. I mean, when’s the last time you saw his belly button, for instance? So that’s a relief. I guess bodysnatcher/shapeshifter is still a live option though.

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    Raging Bee @1: Starfleet had the sociopathic Prime Directive, so “etiquette” is kind of a joke in that context.

  4. ANB says

    I love smart women! Especially when they take down smart men (esp. when they are idiots–not a contradiction; you can be smart, and an idiot. But we all know that already.)

  5. Silentbob says

    When she got to, “is he still alive?”, I literally lol’d. That was mean of me.

    Did you know next year is the 10th anniversary of “Elevatorgate”. How time flies, huh.

  6. says

    Also, when people say that they’d respect Trans people’s pronouns and names, they’re usually lying. They’re saying it because they exactly know what hateful bigots they are and that many people would be disgusted. And here I’m not talking about people h here who already think so, but your “ordinary people” type : folks who have never spent a lot of time thinking about matters of sec a sned gender and trans people, but who are generally inclined to be good people, with some general humanism. The kind of people who aren’t sure what they think of trans women competing in the Olympics, but who don’t want to actively harm Trans folks. For them, people like Dawkins want to seem reasonable. They actually want to seem “respectful” (oh the irony), they want to have plausible deniability about being transphobes.
    Once they either feel like they can escalate the rethoric in public or have become deeply entrenched in their circles it’s all misgendering, deadnaming and talk about 5 o’clock shadows.

  7. specialffrog says

    @10: Musk has a BSc in Economics and a BA in physics. He hires people to understand aerospace engineering.

  8. leerudolph says

    Giliel@9: I assume that “sec a sned” is either a typo or jargon I haven’t encountered before, but in neither case have I managed to figure it out (quite likely through ignorance). Please help.

  9. Craig says

    @3: I think it was earlier than that that he went off the rails. I saw him speak at Politics and Prose in 2006 on his promotional tour for The God Delusion. He was called out on being wrong a few times, but other than showing pompous befuddlement at being questioned, he didn’t really seem to understand that he was in fact wrong.

    @10: it doesn’t matter whether her background is in biology as to whether Dawkins is in fact wrong, despite your appeal to authority.

  10. says

    I notice “sjwslayer” (gee, what could that self-appointed name mean? But I digress…) didn’t actually specify where “Becky” was wrong.

  11. captainjack says

    sjwslayer is the kind of asshole that, when you call them an asshole, is proud of the recognition.

  12. says

    BTW, by BiL has a PhD in biology, yet he famously thought that cheetahs (Gepard in German) and leopards were the same species, and that caribou were a kind of antílopes living in the African savannahs.
    I’ll trust him on all things virology. But we both know that he can’t hold a candle to his teenage niece’s knowledge in zoology…

  13. garnetstar says

    Does Dawkins even know his own karyotype? He assumes it’s XY, but what if it’s one of the six other common ones (or one of the four rare ones) that Watson showed in the video, by a researcher who studies them?

    BTW, @10, what’s your karyotype? Yeah, I didn’t think you knew either.

  14. says

    Maybe I am. Still better that being a follower of the mad prophet running this blog.

    Because famously none of us ever disagree with PZ.

  15. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    Watching Rebecca’s video here reminded me about Cleese’s stupid shitpost recently. The person involved was asking Cleese what business it was of his. When he suggested that it would be ludicrous for him to self-identify as a Cambodian policewoman, I thought, “Wait a minute… wouldn’t that also be no one else’s business until you decided to arrest someone? Because there’s an authority that decides who is a policewoman. When you find the magic authority that gives out woman licenses, then we can take you half-seriously”. It’s the same thing here. No one asked about your fucking opinion on the biology, Rich. They asked you if you could treat them with respect. All you had to do was say “Yes”.

  16. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @20: Actually, Rebecca (nice that you decide to misogynistically refer to her as “Becky”, fuckwit) has had plenty of talks with Richard in the past. The dude gets mad salty. But it’s also super honest how you ignored that Dawkins was talking outside of his field and corrected by people within it, and is contradicting the consensus understanding of gender and sex. Since Dawkins has had to cite works every time he’s written virtually any book, clearly we should ignore him because he wasn’t the guy who did any of the work he cited. Wow, arguments from authority sure are real dumb, aren’t they?

  17. anon1152 says

    May I ask a question? When she says: “This is somehow related to a Guardian columnist who resigned after stating that transwomen aren’t women, which is both rude and obviously wrong because hello, the word “women” is right there in “transwomen.” It’s like saying that airplane mechanics aren’t mechanics, only mechanics are mechanics.”… Was she being serious? At first I thought she was joking, but given the general argument I wonder if perhaps she was being serious.

    Do people seriously argue that transwomen are women by saying “the word woman is in there, therefore it must be true”?

    That can’t be a serious argument. Can it? Otherwise how would we account for candy corns, sweet meats, sweetbreads, pineapples, hamburgers, eggplants, etc etc etc?

    Anyway… if anyone out there is so-inclined, please let me know what you think. I have a feeling that perhaps she wasn’t being serious and I’m just embarrassing myself (much like my reaction upon hearing the news that “the word gullible was taken out of the dictionary”).

  18. says

    anon 1152
    Well maybe it’s what we call “a joke”, because Rebecca and her viewers clearly understand that language works in complicated ways and is also at the very best a pale reflection of material reality. You know, just like the “gender critical” crowd goes around claiming that “woman” is defined as “adult human female” as if that somehow excluded trans women or as if they could give you a reasonable definition of the word adult. In language it’s turtles, eh words all the way down.

  19. anon1152 says

    Giliel@28…

    I think it’s best presented as a joke. Perhaps it’s better to avoid that sort of argument entirely…

    Looking at these debates I’m struck by how much of it comes down to names, categories, the meaning of words… and the fact that in the end the categories are created by us. We draw the lines around one species versus another. That’s not to say that the real world doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter. Some ways of drawing these lines are better than others. And our understanding can evolve.

    One analogy that might be relevant (if I’m able to put together a coherent argument/account of my own) might be the case of birds and reptiles. Alas, I’m not an expert, but my understanding is that we have these biological categories which inherited from scientific work done in the past, and as we learned more we realized that we needed to modify our categories. Genetic research shows that some things we call birds are more closely related to some things we call reptiles than they are to other things we call birds… so that big division between birds, reptiles, mammals, etc needs some revision.

    Perhaps there were (are?) heated debates in a few scientific journals about this… but it never gets too heated since it doesn’t really affect anyone’s “rights”. It’s not as if birds and reptiles will suddenly be using the same changing room at the YMCA…

    Anyway… I’m just thinking aloud.

  20. Owlmirror says

    Genetic research shows that some things we call birds are more closely related to some things we call reptiles than they are to other things we call birds

    ???

    This is confused. All animals that we call “birds” are also dinosaurs, If all dinosaurs are reptiles, then all birds are also reptiles. However, to be fair, “reptiles” traditionally (that is, going back to Linnaeus) excluded birds (Linnaeus gave them their own classification group, Aves).

    The confusion over how to classify birds led to the creation of an ancestral group Sauropsida, which basically includes what are traditionally known as reptiles, with birds as the descendants of dinosaurs properly included.

    For whatever it’s worth, the reptiles/sauropsids most closely related to all birds are crocodilians, despite the very disparate physical forms, in that both groups are Archosaurs.

  21. says

    anon 1152

    Looking at these debates I’m struck by how much of it comes down to names, categories, the meaning of words… and the fact that in the end the categories are created by us.

    That’s exactly the point. As humans we look at things, see some common characteristics, and then create categories. That’s ok. What is important is to constantly keep that in mind. The map is not the territory and anybody who ever wrote any kind of paper or thesis, knows that you first spend a lot of time making clear how you define your terms.

  22. KG says

    Genetic research shows that some things we call birds are more closely related to some things we call reptiles than they are to other things we call birds… – anon1152@30

    To expand on what owlmirror@31 said, anon1152, the bit I’ve quoted from you above is mistaken. Birds are considered “monophyletic” – descended from a single ancestor – and AFAIK that includes not only all living birds, but all fossil birds back to Archaeopterix. But some things traditionally called reptiles are more closely related to birds than to other reptiles – and that includes both all dinosaurs (Aves is now generally considered to be part of Dinosauria, so one can say that birds nest within dinosaurs (and not in trees, as commonly believed ;-)); and crocodilians, the living “reptiles” most closely related to birds, as Owlmirror says. I believe lizards and snakes are also considered to be more closely related to birds than to turtles, although less so than crocodiles.

  23. anon1152 says

    Owlmirror and KG:

    What if I had said “some things we call reptiles are more closely related to things we call birds than other things we all reptiles”?
    This has forced me to try to find whatever it was I read that led me to say what I said. I think I found it.

    Perhaps it’s funny that it’s from a Richard Dawkins book? (The Greatest Show on Earth, pp75-76).

    Here it is:
    “Zoologists have traditionally divided the vertebrates into classes: major divisions with names like mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Some zoologists, called ‘cladists’,* insist that a proper class must consist of animals all of whom share a common ancestor which belonged to that class and which has no descendants outside that group. The birds would be an example of a good class. + All birds are descended from a single ancestor that would also have been called a bird and would have shared with modern birds the key diagnostic characters – feathers, wings, a beak, etc. The animals commonly called reptiles are not a good class in this sense. This is because, at least in conventional taxonomies, the category explicitly excludes birds (they constitute their own class) and yet some ‘reptiles’ as conventionally recognized (e.g. crocodiles and dinosaurs) are closer cousins to birds than they are to other ‘reptiles’ (e.g. lizards and turtles). Indeed, some dinosaurs are closer cousins to birds than they are to other dinosaurs. ‘Reptiles’, then, is an artificial class, because birds

    are artificially excluded. In a strict sense, if we were to make reptiles a truly natural class, we should have to include birds as reptiles. Cladistically inclined zoologists avoid the word ‘reptiles’ altogether, splitting them into Archosaurs (crocodiles, dinosaurs and birds), Lepidosaurs (snakes, lizards and the rare Sphenodon of New Zealand) and Testudines (turtles and tortoises). Non- cladistically inclined zoologists are happy to use a word like ‘reptile’ because they find it descriptively useful, even if it does artificially exclude the birds.
    But what is it about the birds that tempts us to hive them off from the reptiles? What is it that seems to justify bestowing on birds the accolade of ‘class’, when they are, evolutionarily speaking, just one branch within reptiles? It is the fact that the immediately surrounding reptiles, birds’ close neighbours on the tree of life, happen to be extinct, while the birds, alone of their kind, marched on. The closest relatives of birds are all to be found among the longextinct dinosaurs. If a wide variety of dinosaur lineages had survived, birds would not stand out: they would not have been elevated to the status of their own class of vertebrates, and we would not be asking any such question as ‘Where are the missing links between reptiles and birds?’ Archaeopteryx would still be a nice fossil to have in your museum, but it would not play its present starring role as the stock answer to (what we can now see is) an empty challenge: ‘Produce your intermediates.’ If the cards of extinction had fallen differently, there would just be lots of dinosaurs running about, including some feathered, flying, beaked dinosaurs called birds. And indeed, fossilized feathered dinosaurs are now increasingly being discovered, so it is becoming vividly clear that there really is no major ‘Produce your missing link!’ challenge to which Archaeopteryx is the reply.”

  24. Owlmirror says

    What if I had said “some things we call reptiles are more closely related to things we call birds than other things we all reptiles”?

    Well, you need to be clearer, since “reptiles” is ambiguous and confusing nomenclature. I would reword it like this:

    Given that “reptiles” has traditionally excluded birds, some animals that we call “reptiles” (like crocodiles and dinosaurs) are more closely related to animals we call birds than other animals we call “reptiles” (like snakes and lizards).

    Dawkins is just expanding on why “reptiles” is ambiguous and confusing, given that it has traditionally excluded birds, even though birds are descended from “reptiles”.

    That having been said . . .

    (Dawkins)

    Cladistically inclined zoologists avoid the word ‘reptiles’ altogether, splitting them into Archosaurs (crocodiles, dinosaurs and birds), Lepidosaurs (snakes, lizards and the rare Sphenodon of New Zealand) and Testudines (turtles and tortoises).

    Dawkins doesn’t explain what “cladistically-inclined zoologists” would do use instead of “reptiles” when referring to all of the above-mentioned groups as a single commonly-descended group. There are really only two options for those so inclined:
    (1) Use “reptiles”, but assert that the previous traditional definition of “reptile” is simply wrong, and the term needs to be redefined, and propagated with this new and more correct definition. When referring to reptiles, it would help to specify that they intend for reptiles to include birds: “All reptiles, including birds, are descended from a common reptile ancestor.”
    (2) If they really give up on “reptiles” altogether, then, as I already wrote, they would use a term that means almost the same grouping as the traditional term, but doesn’t exclude birds: “All animals traditionally considered to be reptiles, and all birds, descend from a common sauropsid ancestor.”

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