Categories
atheism minus patronizing as heck pedophiles oh sorry ephebophiles playing the victim richard dawkins

Richard Dawkins opens mouth, inserts foot, mumbles something about "mild pedophilia" again

A young Richard Dawkins contemplates the beauty of the universe.
A young Richard Dawkins contemplates the beauty of the universe.

Apparently Richard Dawkins was worried that people might have forgotten what an asshat he is. So, helpful fellow that he is, he decided to give us all a demonstration of why he’s one of the atheist movement’s biggest liabilities, a “humanist” who has trouble remembering to act human.

Earlier today Dawkins decided, for some reason, that he needed to remind the people of the world of a fairly basic point of logic, and so he took to Twitter and thumbed out this little thought:

 Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins  ·  5h  X is bad. Y is worse. If you think that's an endorsement of X, go away and don't come back until you've learned how to think logically.

However petulantly phrased this is, the basic logic is sound: If I say that Hitler was worse than Stalin, I’m not endorsing either Hitler or Stalin. Unless I add “and Stalin was totally awesome and I endorse him” at the end.

The trouble is that Dawkins didn’t stop with this one tweet. He decided to illustrate his point with some examples. Some really terrible examples.

    Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 5h      Mild pedophilia is bad. Violent pedophilia is worse. If you think that's an endorsement of mild pedophilia, go away and learn how to think.     Details         Reply         189 Retweet         287 Favorite  Richard DawkinsVerified account ‏@RichardDawkins  Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that's an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think.Yep, that’s right. He decided to do what comedians call a “callback” to some terrible comments he made last year about what he perversely described as “mild pedophilia.” And then he added asshattery to asshattery by suggesting a similar distinction between “date rape” and “stranger rape.”

Anyone seeing these comments as insensitive twaddle designed to minimize both “mild” pedophilia and date rape has good reason to do so. As you may recall, in the earlier controversy about so-called “mild” pedophilia, Dawkins told an interviewer for the Times magazine that

I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild pedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today.

He went on to tell the interviewer that when he was a child one of his school masters had “pulled me on his knee and put his hand inside my shorts.” But, he added, he didn’t think that this sort of “mild touching up” had done him, or any of the classmates also victimized by the teacher, any “lasting harm.”

Huh. If Dawkins says that a teacher groping him was no big deal, I guess this kind of “mild” abuse shouldn’t be a big deal for anyone else, either, huh?

I’m pretty sure there’s some sort of logical fallacy here.

Given his history of minimizing these “mild” sexual crimes, it’s not a surprise that his crass tweets today inspired a bit of a twitterstorm.

Dawkins has responded with his typical petulance, and has stubbornly defended his comments as an exercise in pure logic that his critics are too irrational to understand.

If you take a few moments to go through his timeline you’ll find many more tweets and retweets reiterating this “argument.” Dawkins is not the sort of person to admit to mistakes. Indeed, he so regularly puts his foot in his mouth it’s hard not to conclude that he must like the taste of shoe leather.

But these recurring controversies can’t be doing much for his reputation. Indeed, they seem to cause more and more people to wonder why anyone takes Dawkins seriously on any subject other than biology. Even his critics on Twitter are growing a bit weary.

https://twitter.com/endorathewitch/status/494071064008597504

Seems like it. I’m beginning to wonder why any atheists — at least those who are not also asshats — continue to think of Dawkins as an ally of any kind.

Click my kitty to see the smash hit new blog!
Click my kitty to see the smash hit new blog!

 

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

938 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
booburry
6 years ago

I’m amused in a way. After he just recently put out that co-statement with Ophelia Benson and people in the comments who basically said “yeah, this doesn’t really make up for what hes been doing all this time” and got tsked tsked at for not accepting it on its face.
Shocker.

Johanna Roberts
6 years ago

And here I didn’t think I could hate Dickey anymore than I already do.

davidgerard
6 years ago

He’s speaking from his perspective as a victim of child molestation here.

davidgerard
6 years ago

I mean, it’s not clear that “shut up” is quite the right message here.

Johanna Roberts
6 years ago

@davidgerard and yet he doesn’t speak for ALL of us. If he has processed what happened to him, fine. It doesn’t make it any less a terrible offense. There are no levels to this sort of thing and saying so is something we have every right to tell him to play hide and go fuck himself over.

magnesium
magnesium
6 years ago

How can someone so smart be so bad at logic?

He’s arguing that people who disagree with his assessment of what constitutes no-big-deal sexual assault and what constitutes “worse” sexual assault are claiming that he is endorsing one and not the other?

Uh, no, there, Dickey. Your assertions are based entirely on anecdotes and evidence-free opinions. Labeling everyone who disagrees with your assessments as dumb-dumb meanies is, well, pretty goddamned illogical.

Example: he claims that “date rape” is apparently not as bad as being raped by a stranger. What metric is he basing this on? Because everything I have read on the subject suggests that being assaulted by someone known and trusted results in more psychological damage than an attack by a stranger. Legally and socially, a woman who is attacked by a stranger with a knife will see loads more support than a woman who is attacked by an unarmed friend or family member.

In fact, one could easily argue here that Dawkins is perpetuating the “legitimate rape” myth, but insisting that it is somehow worse to be raped by a stranger with a knife than by a trusted acquaintance, but why bother? He’ll only retort by telling you what a stupid-head you are for disagreeing with the Great and Powerful Dawkins.

There’s a parody account, https://twitter.com/RlCHARDDAWKlNS, and every so often I wonder if it and the real Dawkins are slowly melding into one, really wacky person.

Kim
Kim
6 years ago

However petulantly phrased this is, the basic logic is sound:

His logic is sound but his premise is unsupported.

It’s bizarre how often people who claim to be super logical forget that you can have perfect logic and still be wrong.

Totoro
Totoro
6 years ago

In fact, from a logical point of vue, Dawkins is perfectly right ; but this is an illustration that we don’t use logic to think, and even that it is impossible to think only in a logical way.

opium4themasses
opium4themasses
6 years ago

“Hitler wasn’t as bad as Stalin, so let’s try to think less negatively about Hitler.”
“Child labor isn’t as bad as slavery, so let’s try to think less negatively about child labor.”
“Christianity isn’t as bad as Islam, so let’s try not to think so negatively about Christianity.”
“Dawkins isn’t as bad as Hitchens, so let’s try not to…” I can’t even find wish that one.

Disclaimer: I do not think these sort of comparisons are valid. Trying to balance tragedies against each other on a scale is probably one of the most callous and pointless acts of faux-intellectualism.

Kel D
6 years ago

Why doesn’t he think that ‘mild’ pedophilia (e.g. groping children) is, by its nature, violent? Doesn’t he understand what violence is?

opium4themasses
opium4themasses
6 years ago

Crap crap crap. I meant to delete the religion one. I wrote it then thought better of it. I meant for it to sound of me some of the bullshit the “New Atheists” would say but realized it would be dumb.

I am very sorry about that. I in no way support that statement. Please excuse me while I chew on my shoe.

Sarah
Sarah
6 years ago

What on Earth is even “mild pedophilia”. Pedophilia that he wants to compare favorably to something?

daintydougal
daintydougal
6 years ago

I AM LOGICBOT 3000. I AM HERE TO TEACH YOU THE LOGIC SCALE OF BADNESS. YOU CANNOT DISTRACT LOGICBOT WITH YOUR PATHETIC HUMAN NOTIONS OF NUANCE AND NOT BEING AN INSENSITIVE ARSE.

freemage
freemage
6 years ago

The only–and I mean ONLY–time it becomes appropriate to speak in such relative terms is when you’re discussing how to allocate scarce resources to address the distinct problems. If you have a limited budget to address both leukemia and the common cold, it’s legit to say, “Well, leukemia is worse, research there gets the lion’s share of the money.”

But that is so very, very not what we’re dealing with here. The only resource feminists are calling for in addressing rape culture is empathy and human decency, which are not actually scarce–except, of course, in Richard fucking Dawkins.

Lea
Lea
6 years ago

There is no “mild” pedophilia. There is nothing positive about the person who rapes you being known to you. Dawkins is a piece of shit and any atheist organization that still pays him to speak is one that I want nothing to do with. He’s a misogynist asshole and he’s emboldening his fans who are rapists by telling them that what they do to other people isn’t so bad. The man is a blight.

Ally S
6 years ago

You are personally more afraid of violent sexual abuse. Ok, that’s none of my business. You think everyone should feel the same way you do because logic and reason? Fuck you.

Lea
Lea
6 years ago

He’s reiterating his “Dear Muslima” and this time he’s applying it to children too. He’s already said that teaching kids there is a hell is worse than molesting them, because as a kid he says being afraid of hell was worse than being molested and it’s clear that his feels are the only feels that matter.

emilygoddess - MOD
emilygoddess - MOD
6 years ago

So is he retracting “dear Muslima”? Because by this logic, the fact that the oppression of Saudi women is worse than being hit on in an elevator doesn’t mean being hit on in an elevator is OK. Or is it different when women are talking?

Feh, he’s a misogynist either way.

freemage
freemage
6 years ago

emilygoddess: He’s not so much retracting “Dear Muslima” as doing the Mansplain Two-step around it. He’s claiming that people who say that DM was a piece of insensitive, callous and demeaning claptrap were misreading it–that he wasn’t trying to claim that street harassment wasn’t bad, just that it’s not as bad as the various forms of persecution that occur in the Middle East these days. He’s still not grasping, of course, that while this is very true, it’s even more irrelevant to the situation he was addressing at the time.

twofortyseven
6 years ago

Lurker surfacing for the first time here.

I think some of the commentary about what he said does a disservice by focusing on whether what he said is “true,” “valid,” or “sound.” There are lots of things you can say that are true, but just aren’t worth saying, because human communication involves more than just relaying facts.

It’s like last year, when Dawkins had the blow-up about his comment to the effect of “Fact: There are more Nobel Prize winners at Trinity College than in the entire Muslim world,” and then was surprised that people took offense to it, because after all, he was just innocently relaying a fact. But the issue is that Dawkins was actually communicating, and intending to communicate, a lot more than a fact (by his tone, and things he’s said before, he was implying that Muslims were stupid, or something to that effect). It was the “more” that people were taking offense to.

It’s the same here. Even if what he were saying were true (and the sexual assault one isn’t true, for reasons pointed out above but also because every victim reacts differently to their assualt and you can’t just lump them in categories), the problem is the context. What Dawkins is really saying is “I’m not sorry for the ‘mild pedophilia’ remarks I made a few months ago” and “I’m willing to use sexual assault victims as an example to explain why I’m not apologizing.”

emilygoddess - MOD
emilygoddess - MOD
6 years ago

Yeah, I didn’t think he was retracting it, because that would requite admitting he was wrong, which he seems constitutionally incapable of doing. But I thought the two arguments looked pretty contradictory.

magnesium
magnesium
6 years ago

The “Dear Muslima” incident was so disappointing. Not just because of his decision that it’s apparently wrong to even discuss harassment of women in the western world, but because, by his line of reasoning, western atheists need to stop being so cranky about fundamentalist Christians trying to teach creationism in school, because there are countries in the world that literally execute atheists. The whole “There’s a bigger problem somewhere else, so these little problems shouldn’t matter, and you’re a crybaby if you bring them up” philosophy ruins everything, because there’s always going to be something worse.

Doug
Doug
6 years ago

Just taking his argument on their own terms, I don’t think you can easily declare that date rape is less bad than stranger rape at knife point. At a minimum, we know a horrible breach of trust is present in the former and not present in the latter. The emotional damage from the breach of trust could easily outweigh whatever additional horrors are present with the stranger scenario.

GrumpyOldNurse
GrumpyOldNurse
6 years ago

I had some lovely personal anecdotes to dispell Mr. Dawkins’ assertions about what kind of abuse is worse (even light pedophila), but then I thought better of it (TMI). I am far too angry right now.

Richard Dawkins, why can’t you shut the hell up about things other than biology? Also, your general asshattery is being used by my creationist relatives to try to disprove evolution (they logic bad). Please don’t help the cause anymore.

Sorry if that was rambly, but I am very cross just now.

fruitloopsie
fruitloopsie
6 years ago

There is no such thing as ‘mild’ pedophilia or ‘violent’ pedophilia. Pedophilia is just that, Pedophilia.

“Date rape is bad but stranger rape at knife is worse.”

http://img.pandawhale.com/82733-why-not-both-meme-5LvD.jpeg

kirbywarp
kirbywarp
6 years ago

@Doug:

Right. “Well, I was raped, but at least they didn’t have a knife.” Said no rape victim ever.

Dawkins has evolved into the kind of person that refuses to admit what he says has implications beyond the exact meaning. It may be true you can categorize some tragic events as worse or better, and doing so is not saying the less tragic event is ok, but nobody claimed Dawkins was endorsing the less tragic things. Even with his ghastly “mild pedophilia” thing, everyone knew that he just felt it didn’t do lasting harm rather than saying it was a good thing to happen.

Not only is Dawkins lashing out at straw people, but in doing so he’s just drawing attention back to all the horrid things he did actually say. Like worries about harassment are really petty compared to the things muslim women go through. Or that having a hand shoved down your shorts as a kid was no big deal, and not condemnable from a modern perspective.

I’m amazed this came out so soon after the joint statement… How could he have thought this was a good idea?

marinerachel
6 years ago

Honestly, I’m happy for him that he feels he hasn’t suffered terribly as a result of the sexual abuse he experienced.

Not everyone is him though. How individuals experience comparable able differs.

For a lot of people I’m sure it’s true that child rape is more traumatic than molestation and stranger rape is more traumatic than date rape. Whether that’s the case though can only be determined by the individual who suffered it.

“Speak for yourself” is, I believe, the appropriate expression here, not because he’s universally wrong outside his experience but because he’s imposing his experience on others. Not OK.

DJG
DJG
6 years ago

Maybe he’s polled a hundred people and put the top six offences on the board – no, wait, that would be Richard DAWSON.

skiriki
6 years ago

*headdesk*

Yeah, speaking as an atheist, this dude is so not speaking for me and I also think he should stick to biology and leave psychology, sociology, and cultural anthropology to other people.

cloudiah
6 years ago

@twofortyseven,

But the issue is that Dawkins was actually communicating, and intending to communicate, a lot more than a fact (by his tone, and things he’s said before, he was implying that Muslims were stupid, or something to that effect). It was the “more” that people were taking offense to.

And I think he’s smart enough to know exactly what he’s doing when he does that, which is what makes this all so terrible.

By the way, have a Welcome Package.

cloudiah
6 years ago

That @somegreybloke tweet is hilarious and perfect.

Did we ever settle in on the best term to describe that subcategory of atheists who are odious, smug, asshats?

Puddleglum
6 years ago

I read about this on fb, and instantly headed here, and happily found that Dave had posted about the wtfery. Yay.

My first thought (disgust doesn’t really count as a thought) was ‘citation needed’. Because taking two horrible & related things and judging one as worse than the other really needs a hel of a lot of citations.

Because really, how the fuck does he know which is worse? He’s basically using ‘everyone knows’ beliefs (you know, those things not backed up by logic or fact?) to fill in his logic circuit, without even blinking at the illogic of using ‘everyone knows’ beliefs.

deniseeliza
deniseeliza
6 years ago

X is bad. Y is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of X, go away and don’t come back until you’ve learned how to think logically.

OK, so let’s say I agree with the premise that X is bad and Y is worse. That doesn’t mean that you get to say “BUT Y” whenever anyone complains about X. Well, I mean, it’s not illegal or anything, but it’s still being a fucking asshole.

And even if someone decides to agree that, in a vacuum, “mild pedophilia” is worse than “violent pedophilia”, that doesn’t mean that every victim of “mild pedophilia” is less hurt by victims of “violent pedophilia”. And it certainly doesn’t mean that they’re being illogical. If someone hurts you, you hurt the way you hurt and logic isn’t a part of it. Humans have emotions. It’s part of what makes us human.

weirwoodtreehugger
6 years ago

But they aren’t debating, they are emoting.

Can someone explain to me why emotion is always irrational? I hear my fellow atheists (typically the white straight cis male ones surprise, surprise) say things like this a lot and I strongly disagree.

Emotion can be adaptive and completely rational. Does it not occur to Dawkins and his fan boys that being strongly invested in keeping children from harm is beneficial to the human race? Of course most people have intense emotional reactions to child abuse. It’s a healthy instinct. How is this different than a non-human mother animal behaving nervously and aggressively when she feels that her young are threatened? It would be faulty biology to make the claim that humans are higher and better creatures that don’t operate on animal instinct after all.

emilygoddess - MOD
emilygoddess - MOD
6 years ago

Can someone explain the “joint statement” thing? I’, not in the atheosphere and I definitely don’t follow Dawkins’ doings.

FTR, Dawkins is responding to criticism of his rape comparison with “fine, reverse the two, but my point still stands”, completely ignoring the part where making the comparison was fucked up in the first place (and seriously, of all the things he could have compared, why rape? It’s almost like he’s got an axe to grind about feminism…)

I also think he should stick to biology and leave psychology, sociology, and cultural anthropology to other people.

As one of my religious studies professors once noted, folks in the “hard sciences” get tetchy when laypeople try to pass themselves off as experts on their subjects, but no one seems to object to laypeople passing themselves off as experts in the social sciences, including religion. All you need is an opinion and a platform and you, too, can be an expert on a vast and complicated phenomenon – I guess all those PhD candidates are wasting their time with all that research and writing.

But they aren’t debating, they are emoting.

People are getting emotional about rape and abuse? Gosh, can’t imagine why.

On a more earnest note, I’d rather talk to someone who’s emotional about rape than someone who insists on remaining cool and distant. Caring about people’s pain is not a bad thing.

Argenti Aertheri
6 years ago

“Did we ever settle in on the best term to describe that subcategory of atheists who are odious, smug, asshats?”

I had proposed Assholery Among Atheists (AAA for short), but idk, does it cover people who are always assholes?

As for the topic — yeah, no. Gaslighting ex fucked me up more than rapist ex’s did. And I’m sure for some people rape is worse than gaslighting, but I wasn’t one of them. And seriously, I’d be a complete asshole to generalize that — how do you even do that besides in such obscenely precisely defined ways as to be useless? Being stabbed twice is worse than being stabbed once — well, probably, BUT WHO GIVES A FUCK?! What does this add to anything? And the inverse? Two ice creams are better than one! Yeah, but be happy you have one, said everyone arguing with a kid ever. So, be upset, if you are, that you were stabbed once.

…that works in my head, idk if it makes sense outside my head, I’m pre-coffee and cranky at Dawkins (also, I spent yesterday fighting with PHP)

saphy
saphy
6 years ago

Ol’ Dick Dawkins. The religious fervour of his most devoted fanboys has really gone to his head.

kirbywarp
kirbywarp
6 years ago

weirwoodtreehugger:

Here’s every argument I can think of to say that emotion is not rational.

Emotion can make people “lash out,” where they aren’t engaging but just trying to hurt the other party somehow. Not conducive to discussion.

Emotion on its own isn’t always a good indicator that something is right. Think of how some people have emotional reactions of disgust towards gay people.

Actually, that’s not quite right. It’s why emotion isn’t “always” rational.

Anger can cut through the bullshit facade that a purely logical argument can put up, reminding people that the topic affects real people and isn’t some philosophical masturbation.

Emotion can be a justified response to some things, like your example with protecting children.

Pathos (argument appeal to emotion) is not logos (appeal to logic). It doesn’t make an argument true, but it does make an argument powerful. People pretend that logic should be the only tool in the box, but when trying to make a convincing argument, you need more.

What’s going on here is different though. When Dawkins says his critics “aren’t debating, they are emoting,” he’s just dismissing his critics by pretending they are just lashing out and not thinking clearly, which they obviously must be because they aren’t swayed by his impeccable logic. And of course, he completely fails to actually listen to what they’re saying.

weirwoodtreehugger
6 years ago

Kirbywrap,

I agree that emotional reactions can be irrational. I just don’t agree when people say they’re always irrational. Emotional arguments aren’t useful in a formal debate or academic setting of course but that doesn’t mean that emotion is always wrong and irrational. Life isn’t a formal debate.

Emmy Rae
Emmy Rae
6 years ago

@argenti and even the stabbing example could have more context. Are they two stabs in the heart, the leg, the pinkie finger? Does the person have a previous injury in that area? Are they fencing? The whole exercise is useless, whether it’s physical or a different kind of abuse/injury. Why is he talking about this again?

Hugs if you want them for past abuse.

Dawkins as usual has nothing worthwhile to say, except “go away”. Gladly! Unless I need to come back and make fun of you!

kirbywarp
kirbywarp
6 years ago

@emilygoddess:

Link

Basically, Dawkins has been on one side of a divide (or “DEEEP RIFTS”) in the atheist community, and Ophelia Benson (and many others) have been on the other. The divide has been about whether Atheists should care about social justice issues, and also about what to do with all the assholes in the atheist community (Dawkins has been one of those assholes with his condescending tweets).

The joint statement was nice not only as a bridge, but also because it was basically the first time Dawkins has explicitly repudiated the assholes in the community, the ones who harass and are sexists or belittle feminists or other social-justice-minded folks.

And then he goes right back into asshole territory with an indignant defense of his other thoughtless statements.

Ally S
6 years ago

Life isn’t a formal debate.

I want a t-shirt with these words on it.

kirbywarp
kirbywarp
6 years ago

@weirwoodtreehugger:

I agree with you. Actually, I’d go stronger and say emotions can be useful even in a formal debate. I thought it was pretty well known how important charisma can be in a debate, because debates are not just about finding truth, but about convincing people.

Jack
Jack
6 years ago

I can think of a few other cases where you can do comparisons. Like, I’ve had arguments with MRAs about male circumcision vs. FGM, and why there’s more activism focused on the latter. He bemoaned the fact that people cared more about FGM than male circumcision. However, most forms of FGM (and the ones that are illegal in the US) are worse than male circumcision, so it’s not “wrong” for someone to be more focused on the one.

The problem isn’t with the idea that some things are worse than others, and that the existence of worse things doesn’t make bad things good. That’s not a terrible argument. The problem is that it’s being made by Dawkins, who effectively said Western women shouldn’t care about how they’re treated because women in Muslim countries have it worse (though you’ll notice he doesn’t say Western Atheists should be okay with their treatment…). He used his own experience as a victim of child molestation to say that others shouldn’t care. He’s dismissed date rape.

When he’s brought up the “worse things,” it’s almost always been in a context of arguing against those who bring up the “bad things.” That’s the issue with the argument. The problem is that he has implied that X isn’t something that people should be worried about, that X really isn’t that bad.

philosopheria
6 years ago

I agree with many here, that Dawkins’ comment is insensitive and he is generalizing from his own experience to experiences of others. But he is referring to an idea in moral philosophy about moral absolutism – there is intellectual history here. If people are equally infuriated about all instances of a bad act, they are not seeing the complexities of analyzing the act. (Another example of this in ethics is the idea that while a miscarriage is a terrible experience, an early miscarriage is not as bad as a stillbirth at 8 months gestation.)
Also, emoting does not seem to be the same as having an emotion.

Luzbelitx
6 years ago

“My sexual assault example was not at all offensive or misguided. Here are more uninformed examples of sexual assault to prove it”

sparky
sparky
6 years ago

Smugma was another term someone came up with for smug assholes like Dawkins.

It’s like Dawkins has no idea of the concepts of “context” or “nuance” or “basic human decency.”

meme
meme
6 years ago

people are debating cause Dick makes up new phrases like “mild pedophilia”, or “mild touching up” (this is more of a wrong use of phrase). if you want to communicate with other people you have to use real phrases and real language. it is obvious why Dick inability to communicate lead to debating. Dick go away and don’t come back until you learn some English, or better yet just don’t come back.

Luzbelitx
6 years ago

Re: emoting vs debating

I think people like to call “rational” the practice of ignoring humans have a very wide range of emotions and react differently to similar situations, and also suffer and face vulnerabilities.

I get this a lot.

This is especially noticeable in debates regarding a country’s (or world’s) economy: you get the “rational” people who want to follow “the market rules” (hey, rules are rational, right?), and then the “irrational people” who would rather see first that no one starves to death.

It’s not a difference in their logic, it’s a difference in acknowledging human suffering… also known as “not being an asshole”?

1 2 3 19