OH RICHARD DAWKINS NO

Yesterday, I made the long drive to St Paul to to talk to a small group at Minnesota Atheists about some entertainingly bad science, and explain why it’s bad science. While I was there, I talked with August Berkshire for a bit, and he knows I’ve been despairing of the state of the atheist movement (David Silverman’s behavior is just the most recent example of trouble), and he tried to reassure me that American Atheists is getting back on track. August is a good guy, a long-time local leader of the atheist movement, and Minnesota Atheists has always been an inspiration — they’ve never questioned a commitment to social justice as part of atheism. They’re good people and I’ll always listen to August’s opinions.

We drove away at the end with good feelings, and then I made the mistake of reading Twitter. No, never do that if you want to retain some vestige of joy. I discovered that…Richard Dawkins has spoken again.

OH RICHARD DAWKINS NO.

He’s endorsing a conference by something called Sovereign Nations, and just the name of the organization ought to set off klaxons, sirens, and alarm bells. I had to check, and it’s as bad as my first impression told me it would be. Sovereign Nations is a Christian Nationalist front by a guy named Michael O’Fallon. As near as I can tell, it’s one of those things where a rich conservative decides that he’s a leader of a movement and he starts hiring speakers and contriving conferences to support his views, sort of like another Travis Pangburn (who, by the way, is now tweeting climate change denialism). It’s great for the grifters who will leech off of him for a while, but there’s no there there, and we can expect it all to collapse like a flaccid balloon soon enough.

Meanwhile, O’Fallon is spewing the most awfully written glurge. Dawkins, who if nothing else is a phenomenally lucid writer, ought to be curling up in shame at endorsing a guy who could write this:

The purpose of Sovereign Nations is best understood as a prolegomenon to the formation of a new, and not just sentimental, conservative and Constitutional Republic. Sovereign Nations serves as an exploration of the intellectual viability of the conservative political habitat, with a view to establishing the groundwork for the construction and elaboration of a broader and more comprehensive vision for the movement in relation to the exegetical intent of our founders through the national founding documents. The essential precondition for a renewed conservative engagement with intellectual life is confidence in its own coherence and credibility.

As can be seen over the past 8 years, the goal of Open Society Foundations is to demean and destroy the tenets of traditional conservatism and thus create a crisis of conscience within the mind of the conservative. In order to succeed, we must rebuild the confidence in the presuppositions of conservatism in all of its exercised forms including in economics, civil liberties, family, sovereignty, theology, rule of law, and foreign affairs. What was once heresy is now law and what was once law is now heresy. The issue for progressive Open Society Foundations is that their new “law” has no foundational presupposition.

It is our hope to engage with the ideas and concepts that are at the center of Open Society Foundations without descending into ad hominem argumentation. We would seek to be upfront with our disagreements, respect our philosophical and ideological opponents, and look forward to creating a common ground of open discussion.

O’Fallon also writes for Whirled Nut Daily.

The first-century B.C. poet Virgil stated, “Fortunate is he who understands the hidden causes of things.”

This statement is as brilliant today as it was 2,000 years ago. Why has the entire foundation of law and justice been cast aside in an all-out embrace of Marxist-sourced social justice conformity?

Why have the Judeo Christian concepts of freedom and liberty been thrown into the ash heap of history as the nations of the earth sprint toward the chains of global manipulation?

Will the United States succumb to open borders and the manipulation of leftist billionaire George Soros?

Well, wasn’t that a lovely collection of right-wing buzzwords? He’s also, as you might expect, vigorously pro-Trump.

Knowing that President Trump has been dragged through the mud and his reputation has been sullied and attacked viciously by the Open Society Foundations, the progressives they fund and their media proponents – but he has not backed down – has shamed all of us who react in fear instead of purpose. We must follow Trump’s example.

This isn’t his first conference, either. In January, he promoted something called Social Justice & the Gospel: the God-Breathed Hierarchy and the Postmodern Crisis Within the Church. In 2018, he hosted something called Identity Politics & The Marxist Lie of White Privilege at the Trump hotel in Washington DC, featuring Jordan Peterson as a speaker. O’Fallon has obsessions about Marxism, about the Holy Mother Church, about George Soros (call that what it is: anti-semitism), about post-modernism, about retaining the privileges of class and race.

Dawkins says he had no idea about any of that. All I can say is…goddamn it, LEARN. As an influential voice in atheism, you’ve got a responsibility to figure it out.

Furthermore, this is a “conference” with just 3 speakers, Boghossian, Lindsay, and Pluckrose, who have a deplorable reputation as bad scholars who make up shit in their crusade against post-modernism, just like Peterson, while not having the vaguest notion of what it is. O’Fallon, who is a Florida man, is flying them off to a “conference” in an arbitrary location, London, which none of them have connections to, and the trio have cheerfully accepted, apparently without looking crosswise at the Catholic conservative who is funding their junket. This is a guy who publishes articles like Hitler the Progressive, which argues that the problem with Nazis was that they abandoned Christian morality, and they’ve just unthinkingly joined his crank crusade.

Can we someday have an atheism that isn’t all tangled with the likes of Dawkins, Boghossian, Lindsay, Pluckrose, and their mob of slimy ignorati? Please?

Dawkins and “Dear Muslima”

Now that Zombie Pharyngula has been raised from the dead and is sort of walking mindlessly over at ScienceBlogs, I have another complaint, and it’s aimed at National Geographic. Years ago, when they took over, one of the things they decided to do was to port over all the old content to WordPress.

They botched it. They botched it bad.

They got all the articles converted, as near as I can tell, but the comments…huge numbers of comments were lost. I’m talking hundreds of thousands of comments. I told them this, they didn’t care, and that was one of my first presentiments that this whole deal was not going to go well. It didn’t. They did a half-assed job and then neglected the whole thing, until it fell apart.

For instance, take a look at this short post from July of 2011. I remember it because the comments section turned into a huge firestorm of fury and outrage, to the point where people were linking to the comments directly, not my article, all over the place. Look now, and it’s empty, not a single comment survived.

That’s a shame, too, because it was a critical moment in the history of the atheist movement. This was one of the trivial events that led to the disintegration of what had been a growing community, and clued in a lot of us to the rot underneath it all. It was the moment when Richard Dawkins shat the bed.

I at least saved the text of those critical comments, that I also verified were directly from Dawkins himself, so I’ll put them here.

This is “Dear Muslima”.

Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.

Richard

How can you forget “Zero Bad”?

Many people seem to think it obvious that my post was wrong and I should apologise. Very few people have bothered to explain exactly why. The nearest approach I have heard goes something like this.

I sarcastically compared Rebecca’s plight with that of women in Muslim countries or families dominated by Muslim men. Somebody made the worthwhile point (reiterated here by PZ) that it is no defence of something slightly bad to point to something worse. We should fight all bad things, the slightly bad as well as the very bad. Fair enough. But my point is that the ‘slightly bad thing’ suffered by Rebecca was not even slightly bad, it was zero bad. A man asked her back to his room for coffee. She said no. End of story.
But not everybody sees it as end of story. OK, let’s ask why not? The main reason seems to be that an elevator is a confined space from which there is no escape. This point has been made again and again in this thread, and the other one.

No escape? I am now really puzzled. Here’s how you escape from an elevator. You press any one of the buttons conveniently provided. The elevator will obligingly stop at a floor, the door will open and you will no longer be in a confined space but in a well-lit corridor in a crowded hotel in the centre of Dublin.

No, I obviously don’t get it. I will gladly apologise if somebody will calmly and politely, without using the word fuck in every sentence, explain to me what it is that I am not getting.

Richard

The Internet doesn’t forget, but it does tend to make those memories fragmented and inconvenient to access.

Organizations have the right to not invite Richard Dawkins — or me — to speak

A talk by Richard Dawkins on his newest book, Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist, was canceled by the radio station that was hosting it, KPFA, a public broadcasting station in Berkeley. Their reason:

We had booked this event based entirely on his excellent new book on science when we didn’t know he had offended and hurt – in his tweets and other comments on Islam, so many people. KPFA does not endorse hurtful speech. While KPFA emphatically supports serious free speech, we do not support abusive speech. We apologize for not having had broader knowledge of Dawkins views much earlier.

Richard Dawkins complains with, unfortunately, the kind of argument often used by the alt-right:

I am known as a frequent critic of Christianity and have never been de-platformed for that. Why do you give Islam a free pass? Why is it fine to criticise Christianity but not Islam?

Somehow, a minority community in America that is threatened with deportation by the government, is routinely condemned by talk radio and the likes of Breitbart, and that lives in fear of good Christian citizens who vandalize mosques and threaten violence (and sometimes, carry out violence) gets accused of having a “free pass”. That’s precisely the kind of blinkered nonsense that I can understand KPFA objecting to, so Dawkins is not helping his case at all. It’s also denying the fact that the New Atheists have been particularly specific in denunciations of Islam; Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the newest member of the “four horsemen”, has recommended converting Muslims to Christianity, so there clearly is a hierarchy of religions with Islam at the bottom, deserving special contempt. And Sam Harris, of course, is all about anti-Islamic sentiment, going so far as to suggest that using torture and nuclear weapons against them might be justifiable. Let’s not play the wide-eyed innocent, “what, me abuse Muslims?” game. Let’s not pretend that Dawkins has never made any hurtful, regressive comments on his twitter feed, or on my blog.

CFI handles it a little better, pointing out that Dawkins has, for instance, opposed Trump’s Muslim travel ban, and that this particular talk was to be about science, so his other views were irrelevant. I suspect that it would have been a good talk that I would enjoy, since it wouldn’t contain the regressive views I’ve found so exasperating in Dawkins. So, sure, you can make the argument that Dawkins is a speaker of considerable virtue, and that he wouldn’t be flaunting his vices in this talk.

But then they go too far.

“We understand the difference between a people and the beliefs they may hold,” said Blumner, “All of us must be free to debate and criticize Ideas, and harmful ideas must be exposed. It is incredibly disappointing that KPFA does not understand this.”

I am disappointed that CFI does not understand that this is not a free speech issue. Dawkins is free to debate and criticize ideas. He’s the best-selling atheist author in the world! He isn’t oppressed or censored in any way; his books are popular, they get translated into dozens of languages, he gets to appear on television, he doesn’t have to fear that he’ll be ejected out of the country or murdered for his views (people like Maryam Namazi or Taslima Nasrin do). KPFA, as the host of this talk, has the right to decide that they’d rather not.

I’m going to agree completely with Siggy on this matter. That Richard Dawkins has some controversial, even objectionable, views does not, in some weird reversal of free speech concerns, obligate every entity on the planet to host him on demand.

People are always thinking of these issues in terms of the speaker’s free speech, but if anything, it’s about the inviters’ free speech. If speakers have a right to platforms, where are all my speaker invitations, and why isn’t anyone standing up for my free speech?

It wouldn’t even matter if KPFA’s reasons for rejecting Dawkins were totally bogus, so all the spluttering about how he isn’t really anti-Islam is irrelevant. Making it a free speech issue is just using a bullhorn to yell about how you don’t understand free speech.

Dawkins (and I) might not particularly like the idea that this rejection was made so late that it was obvious, but it is within KPFA’s rights, and it does no major harm to Dawkins. This is a case where the appropriate response is to shrug and move on.

There have been two cases in just the past year where conference organizers have contacted me, asked if I’d be willing to speak at their event, and then later written to me and retracted the offer without explanation. I’m sure it was because there are vocal members of those groups who objected vehemently to my appearance, but it was done before the final list of speakers was announced, so the change was not publicized. And that was fine, I didn’t complain, I didn’t announce that my free speech was being violated, I didn’t try to argue that their reasons for cutting me were invalid. Conferences have that right.

Why doesn’t CFI understand this?

Richard Dawkins has had a stroke

Last weekend, Richard Dawkins had a medical emergency.

Richard Dawkins has suffered a minor stroke, said the Sydney Opera House on Friday in a statement.

He is recuperating and is expected to “make a full or near full recovery”.

The well-known atheist was scheduled to deliver talks in Australia and New Zealand, which have been cancelled.

“On Saturday night Richard suffered a minor stroke, however he is expected in time to make a full or near full recovery. He is already at home recuperating,” said the announcement. “This unfortunately means Richard will be unable to make his planned Australian and New Zealand tour.”

“He is very disappointed that he is unable to do so but looks forward to renewing his plans in the not too distant future.”

Despite our differences, we should all hope for his full recovery.

It’s just the total Dawkins meltdown now

Oh god no. He hasn’t learned a thing. Lindy West is just running circles around him on Twitter right now, an embarrassment that David Futrelle has documented. There are signs of desperation everywhere. He’s grasping at every lifeline the MRAs toss at him: someone tells him that Futrelle is an abuser of women and liar, with A Voice For Men as a source.

Dawkins’ response is to say that’s interesting. Even smart people are prone to confirmation bias, I guess.

For the quality of argumentation on Dawkins’ side, I’ll just point out this response to me when I praised Lindy West’s arguments.


hahahahahaha, fuck off. you just like her because she’s as fat as you, loser

And now…you know you’re really in trouble when an atheist starts comparing himself to Jesus.


Jesus de-platformed. Heaven Gazette reports that the Second Coming is disinvited. Jesus had not a single woman or minority among 12 Apostles

This is how you know I’m not actually a cephalopod: I’m pining for more limbs to adequately facepalm myself.

A question for Richard Dawkins

drawingaline

In a letter to the Times, Richard Dawkins protests.

Along with many others, I didn’t like Sir Tim Hunt’s joke, but ‘disproportionate’ would be a huge underestimate of the baying witch-hunt that it unleashed among our academic thought police: nothing less than a feeding frenzy of mob-rule self-righteousness.

Fortunately, I’ve also already written my reply. It’s a simple question.

If you’re one of those people who called this a “witch hunt”, an “Inquisition”, a “lynching” — what would you have people do differently when an esteemed senior scientist gets up to a lectern and says something sexist, or racist, or simply idiotic?

I’m also curious, and have an additional question. How should we reply when someone says something stupid in public about evolution? If a government official were to spout creationist nonsense, for instance, would a full-throated roar of disapproval from the electorate be appropriate, or would that fall into the category of “feeding frenzy of mob-rule self-righteousness”? Would you propose that after one thought-leader says “tut, tut”, the rest of us should withdraw to a decorous silence?

Sometimes, these lines are hard to draw, and where we draw them says a lot about the biases of the delineator.

Dear Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins: you’re wrong. Deeply, profoundly, fundamentally wrong. Your understanding of feminism is flawed and misinformed, and further, you keep returning to the same poisonous wells of misinformation. It’s like watching creationists try to rebut evolution by citing Kent Hovind; do you not understand that that is not a trustworthy source? It’s a form of motivated reasoning, in which you keep returning to those who provide the comfortable reassurances that your biases are actually correct, rather than challenging yourself with new perspectives.

[Read more…]