Can We Have an Intervention for Richard Dawkins?

They say the first step to getting better is recognizing when you can use some help, and I really think Richard Dawkins needs someone to sit down with him and explain a few things. Lately, it seems that every time he says something about Islam (or feminism), he’s embarrassingly prone to putting his foot in his mouth. Witness this unfortunate example from earlier today:

There are plenty of legitimate and even necessary criticisms that can be raised against Islam, but this ain’t one of them. I strongly suspect that the factors which lead to a country producing a large number of Nobel Prize winners have very little to do with which religion is dominant there, and more to do with its education system and its level of wealth and economic development, which allows more time and effort to be devoted to fundamental research. After all, the United States of America is host to a virulent strain of anti-science religion which is far more influential than in almost any other industrialized country; yet we still produce our fair share of Nobelists.

But the really unfortunate thing is the way Dawkins chose to defend this tweet when criticized for it:

This is extremely disingenuous, and Dawkins must know that. No one is advocating the creation of a list of Forbidden Facts which may not be mentioned, but no one just reels off random facts for no reason either. We assume that someone who does this (following Steven Pinker’s theory of the cooperative principle of language) wants to urge people to a specific conclusion which those facts point towards. That’s why people were angry at Dawkins: not because he was citing facts, but because they believed he was trying to indirectly convey an inflammatory conclusion.

This is a tactic beloved by bigots, because it allows them to advance a hateful idea by implication without coming out and openly admitting their prejudice. “Women’s brains are smaller than men’s brains! Blacks are arrested and imprisoned at much higher rates than whites! Hey, why are you attacking me for saying these things? They’re just facts!” (Or, on a more familiar note: “Christians built all the great schools and hospitals in the Western world, and atheists didn’t build any. It’s just a fact!”)

The obvious rejoinder is that facts can be explained in multiple ways. If women’s brains are smaller than men’s, it’s because women in general are smaller than men and every body part scales down accordingly. It doesn’t mean that women are less intelligent or less capable than men; we have no evidence that brain size correlates with intelligence in any straightforward way. Similarly, if more black people are arrested and convicted than white people, it’s not because black people are intrinsically more likely to be criminals, but because we live under a racially biased justice system that enforces the same laws more harshly against minorities. But when people don’t mention these vital caveats, it’s all too easy to conclude that they’re unaware of them or are denying them.

To be fair, I don’t think Richard Dawkins actually meant to defend a bigoted conclusion. What I think he probably meant to argue is that, in the modern world, Islamic fundamentalism has mutated into a form that’s especially hostile and detrimental to scientific inquiry, and that this is evidenced by the low rate of scientific productivity in countries governed by Islamic law. That’s a fair argument, and I’d probably even agree with it myself if it were phrased in those terms.

But by not spelling this out, he made it all too easy for people to draw the unflattering alternative conclusion, “Richard Dawkins thinks that Muslims are less intelligent than non-Muslims.” Colin McGinn used this phrase in an obviously specious attempt to deflect charges of sexual harassment, but this really is an instance where “the distinction between logical implication and conversational implicature” matters a lot. I wish that Dawkins would pay more mind to this before blurting out things which cast him, and by implication all atheists, in a poor light.

Image: The Nobel Prize in Physics won by Joseph Taylor and Russell Hulse in 1993. Photo by the author.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Ian Cromwell

    The thing that makes me pretty much not-at-all likely to give Dr. Dawkins the much-vaunted “benefit of the doubt” is that the man’s principal characteristic is that he is a COMMUNICATOR. Words are his stock and trade. For him to pretend as though this frequent anti-Muslim nonsense is just “misunderstanding” would be insulting, except that he is surrounded on all sides by people telling him what a genius he is – he probably thinks such a feeble excuse would be convincing.

  • Patrick Kay

    Interesting brand of PC atheism you have. One cannot condemn the religion without condemning the believer.

  • katiehippie

    He’s got some privilege that he doesn’t realize. He also doesn’t realize that some things he talks about aren’t just thought experiments. They involve real people and real problems that you can’t flippantly dismiss.

  • http://skepticink.com/humanisticas/ Peter Ferguson

    I think Dawkins’ two major problems are his inability to communicate effectively, and the the fact he doesn’t clearly differentiate between Islamists/Islamism and ordinary Muslims.

    As you say, if he was trying to say that fundamental Islam retards scientific inquiry then he did it extremely poorly. Instead he seemingly insulted the intelligence of the whole Muslim community and their culture.

    I have always read his tweets charitably (as I do everyone’s) but the frequency and consistency in which Dawkins blurs the lines between Islamism and Muslims, and makes broad, over-simplifications is making me question his true intent.

    He is supposedly an intelligent man, so the “inability to communicate effectively” excuse is wearing thin quickly, and is probably no longer a valid excuse for many.

  • http://fractalheretic.blogspot.com/ Fractal Heretic

    I recently encountered someone who said that the first people who enslaved Africans were Africans, that the Spanish had more slaves than America, and some other interesting trivia. Within the context of the conversation, it was obvious he was trying to imply something about America not being responsible for slavery. I found myself in a very strange position: I couldn’t disagree with him; he was just quoting facts. And I couldn’t argue with what he was obviously implying, because then he could accuse me of straw-manning, since he hadn’t actually said it. Clever.

    Bigots are getting more and more adept at using these dog whistles, and they’re becoming so subtle that their hate speech is sometimes indistinguishable from innocent, unintentional double-meanings. Some well-meaning people try too hard to identify these dog whistles, and end up attacking innocent people. That only reinforces the perception that political correctness is a witch hunt; in fact, sometimes it is. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. We can’t go around criticizing people just for quoting facts that don’t support our agenda. That way lies madness.

    Our answer to fact cherry-picking should be more facts, not less.

  • Brad C.

    One of the tweets in his sequence was:

    “Why mention Muslim Nobels rather than any other group? Because we so often hear boasts about (a) their total numbers and (b) their science.”

    I’ve never heard this claim, but if in fact Muslims do frequently “boast about their science” (whatever that means), then the original quote makes SLIGHTLY more sense in this context.

    But with no reference to this claim, it makes no sense.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    And you can tell by looking at the list how those Nobel Prizes were awarded purely on merit, with no societal biases involved at all.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Oh, right, right. Dawkins wasn’t making any sort of point. He was just popping off a random nugget of data without context or motivation from the lottery ball machine of his mind. I’ll remember not to attribute actual thoughtfulness to his utterances in the future, since he gets so upset when people do that.

  • Jadehawk

    another one of those “just facts” that gets mentioned a lot is the “abortion stops a beating heart”, which is true often enough. I still get to be pissed the fuck off when someone spouts that, since that sort of shit is used to deny my ability to decide what happens to my body.

  • Jadehawk

    there are no “boasts about their science”, there’s sensible arguments pointing out that there’s nothing inherent in Islam preventing science from happening (hence the common Medieval example, since that was when the roles of Christianity and Islam were reversed in terms of where the science was happening and where it wasn’t).
    And using Nobel Prizes and cambrige as a comparison point… well, that’s it’s onw kind of special, but I highly doubt Dawkins would understand (or even listen to) any argument explaining why it reflects extreme cultural bias more than anything else. I mean, you look at that list and you’ll notice right quick that there’s also a shortage of women…. would RD like to draw some conclusions from that, too (OTOH… maybe I’d rather he didn’t, considering)

  • Bdole

    “So…what are you saying?”

  • seanfriel

    For people fighting Dawkins on this…the question has to be asked: What has he really said and why has he said it?

    It would be very unlikely for Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist of the very highest order, to imply that an opt-in religious philosophy would have any effect on potential intelligence (something that falls in the “nature” column as opposed to the “nurture”). The alternative to that very highly unlikely implication, and what he very likely intended, is “Muslim culture as it stands today retards the enrichment and cultivation of their most intelligent people. That culture is more staunchly by the book than the other, more progressive Judeo-Christian religions.” I think it’s far and away more likely that he intended to say something of that order and…THAT is demonstrably accurate and completely fair. Islam retards at least fifty percent of its population by way of being brazenly, outwardly and unwaveringly misogynistic. Within the male population it’s hard to imagine that the doctrine that builds a nearly perfect wall to open inquiry would sprout many seeds of higher intellect on the freer side of their populations in Muslim nations.

    Muslim culture in those countries is most assuredly very oppressive and sexist and sometimes homicidally so in both cases. When not homicidally, sometimes just by way of physical torture. This as punishment for thought-crimes alone! This is a fact, I’m sorry to say. If you don’t think that killing and maiming is going to keep people from achieving the highest they can in life you’re simply off your tits.

    When they describe these things with pride and chant “Allah-hu akbar!” afterward, the world sits speechless in their ignorance. We can’t believe the complete rebellion against freedom of thought, freedom of speech, or freedom to read what a person wants to read (just a few examples). Who of us don’t shudder at the idea of taking a rape victim to court and prosecuting her for sex out of wedlock or adultery? It’s beyond shocking. I’m ashamed for the human race when I hear that things like these are carried out supposedly in the name of goodness somehow. Then, to make matters worse, supposedly intelligent people here on this website have suggested that if a non-Muslim dare say that these things they brag of in their way of life are evil and reprehensible, that he or she should be called a bigot. Seriously, when you see such horrible acts carried out and you say nothing about the philosophy that allows it, you’re a coward. You are the silent Germans who let the Jews be fried. You are utterly spineless. If you’re one of these people who goes one step further and tries to silence people who are intolerant of these kinds of philosophical or religious justifications, calls the people who fight against it bigoted, and tries to somehow defend it, you’re the craziest bastards I think I can really imagine. You are hanging yourself and buying the rope to do it.

    Anyone deserves better than what many Islamic states offer their people. Caged minds, women in bags, mercy killings, maiming people for apostasy, conjuring an unbelievable world-reaching hateful retaliation for a goddam cartoon, killing a film-maker for being critical of the religion, threatening the life of an author FOR YEARS for being critical of the religion…we know these things to be wrong and they flaunt them. The brag about them without the slightest hint of shame, and there are people who read this now and say that mentioning it should be somehow prohibited amongst the first world. If you’re a part of that group you’re crazier than they are. They’ve been taught it since they were infants. What’s your excuse?

    How can it be so bad to say that this is terrible and scares people into lower ranks of achievement? What Muslim country doesn’t show characteristics that fall on this spectrum of totalitarian theocratic bullying and madness?

    Answer those questions if you can and then you’ve got your argument against Dawkins.

  • Richard Hollis

    I think it is curious that whenever I’ve heard Richard Dawkins speak for himself at length, he always comes across as eminently reasonable and rational. It’s only on such sites as Twitter which work on sound bites and snippets of conversation he apparently embarrasses himself.

    Some would argue that that’s because there’s no editor to act as a filter between him and his audience. Also plausible is that a tweet is much easier to take out of context and send around the internet in indignation.

    Looking over Dawkins’ Twitter account, he seems to have been engaged in a dialogue with people about the scientific achievements of Islam. This was not a random tweet thrown out apropos of nothing. Put back into context I don’t really see how this was intended as a slur on the intelligence of the average Muslim. The unspoken conclusion he seems to be hinting at is that Islam has become much less conducive to scientific achievement than it was centuries ago.

    Is that position in itself a bigotry? Perhaps. It’s certainly a weak argument to support the point. As many have pointed out, Nobel Prizes are a poor measure of merit. But the more general position that “religion poisons scientific thinking” is one that he has been championing for the last ten years, no?

    As for being careful with his words so that they cannot be misconstrued, that’s surely an impossible responsibility.

  • neil atkin

    Great post Adam . Reminds me of a comment Ian Hislop made on Have I got News for You. “The Daily Mail (well known as a bigoted newspaper in the Uk), racist so you don’t have to be”

  • Austin

    I have to disagree with you on this one Adam. Had he crossed the line and mentioned race or ethnicity, I would have been with you, but he didn’t, he referred specifically to the belief. You state:

    “Nobel Prize winners have very little to do with which religion is dominant there, and more to do with its education system and its level of wealth and economic development”

    You do realize that muslim states make up 2 of the top 5 and 3 out of the top 10 countries with the highest GPD per capita? There is no good reason why the muslim block of nations are not captains of science and industry..no good reason except perhaps a religion that virtually enslaves half it’s population, validates and empowers archaic systems of govt. and quite literally still feels that free thought should be punishable by death.

    Honestly, I’m curious about this what do you think is the reason (if not religion) that is halting scientific progress in some of the richest nations on this earth?

  • Analyst

    Your statement contains one non-sequitur.” Education (Nobel prizes) has nothing to do with religion rather the educational system”. From what I read and see Muslims exert a great influence on their children’s education: madrassas for religious stereotyping, oh and don’t forget girls whose education is deliberately repressed, remember Malala Yousoufzai?

  • DavidMHart

    Actually, you can. People can get indoctrinated as children into believing all kinds of harmful stuff that they would never take seriously if they didn’t encounter it until their critical thinking skills are mature.

    It’s not unreasonable to see the believers of extreme forms of religion as victims of beliefs that they didn’t really have any choice in being indocrinated into, even while pointing out that these same people also present a danger to others when they act on those beliefs.

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.co.uk/ Steve Bowen

    Meh! That Dawkins has a tin ear when he speaks or tweets off the cuff is not news, I’ve been embarrassed on his behalf enough times now that I prefer to avoid watching him in any other setting than formal debate or scripted documentary.
    He comes over as genuinely bemused when people take his remarks “out of context” as he would see it, like the time he referred to the authors of the Old Testement as “ignorant”… He knows what he meant and in a literal sense he was right, but didn’t seem to understand that people think colloquially, not with a copy of the OED.

  • GCT

    I recently had an experience on Libby Anne’s blog that was very similar to this. It was a thread on George Zimmerman, and the poster in question was just posting facts about incarceration and crime rates of blacks (the same ones Adam talks about in the OP actually). The intent was clear and this person actually ended up banned for blatant racism in the end. The sad part was that the post actually had tons of facts in it that countered the claims being made which were simply ignored in the interests of this person’s racism. (Note: this person also posts here, so if Adam allows it I’m more than willing to divulge who it is.)

    I find a lot of similarities with this tactic to JAQing off. I feel like we need a clever way of referring to it. Anyone have any ideas?

  • GCT

    Then, to make matters worse, supposedly intelligent people here on this website have suggested that if a non-Muslim dare say that these things they brag of in their way of life are evil and reprehensible, that he or she should be called a bigot.

    Who has done that and where. Citation sorely needed.

    there are people who read this now and say that mentioning it should be somehow prohibited amongst the first world.

    Again, citation needed.

  • Aoife O’Riordan

    Eg-freaking-zactly. Dawkins isn’t just some well-known guy making these comments. Communicating is his job, and it’s one that he can do bloody well when he puts his mind to it.

  • crashfr0g

    there’s sensible arguments pointing out that there’s nothing inherent in Islam preventing science from happening

    Well, except as Adam says: “its education system and its level of wealth and economic development[.]” The enormously corrosive influence modern Muslim culture has on local education really does seem to put those societies far, far behind the curve, regardless of what happened in Medieval times.

  • crashfr0g

    There are plenty of legitimate and even necessary criticisms that can be raised against Islam, but this ain’t one of them.

    No, I think the incredibly corrosive influence that modern Islam tends to have on the spirit of free intellectual inquiry that is necessary for scientific achievement is very much one of the legitimate and necessary criticisms of Islam. I’m not sure how anyone could disagree.

    That’s why people were angry at Dawkins: not because he was citing facts, but because they believed he was trying to indirectly convey an inflammatory conclusion.

    “They” is doing an awful lot of work in that sentence. Is there, in fact, anyone who thinks that Dawkins was saying “Muslims r dumb”? Because you go so far as to openly state that you don’t think he was saying that:

    To be fair, I don’t think Richard Dawkins actually meant to defend a bigoted conclusion.

    Well, ok then. So your criticism of a 140-character tweet, at this point, was that it was brief and insufficiently loquacious as to dispel all possible alternative interpretations, including the bigoted, outrageous one that nonetheless, nobody (except maybe some already prepared to interpret all of his remarks in the least charitable light) seems to think is what Dawkins actually meant.

    So I’m struggling to see what the issue is, here. Dawkins doesn’t seem to have failed on the communication front, since you knew exactly what he meant. It’s just that you take his meaning as being unacceptably close to another statement that you know he didn’t make. Are you sure he’s the one with the communication problem? Or maybe just a counting problem:

    That’s a fair argument, and I’d probably even agree with it myself if it were phrased in those terms.

    Perhaps, but Dawkins has phrased it in those terms in other places, and your own phrasing of it weighs in at a whopping 240 characters. Shave 100 characters off that and give it back as a tweet, and we’ll see the degree to which you’re able to bridge “the distinction between logical implication and conversational implicature”, particularly in the eyes of those determined to grant you the least charitable interpretation of your words. Good luck!

  • crashfr0g

    If you pull one tweet out of the middle of a sequence of them representing a conversation, how is that not being taken out of context? Adam’s post implies that Dawkins got up one morning and decided to slag Muslims on Twitter for no reason.

    Well, actually, the relative prevalence of scientific achievement under Islamic rule was the topic of a conversation, here, which Adam has chosen not to show. That this is all in the context of a post about facts being deployed to “indirectly convey an inflammatory conclusion” is an almost ridiculous level of irony.

  • crashfr0g

    I think Dawkins’ two major problems are his inability to communicate effectively, and the the fact he doesn’t clearly differentiate between Islamists/Islamism and ordinary Muslims.

    I’m not seeing the evidence of his “ineffective communication”, since there doesn’t seem to be any confusion about the point Dawkins was trying to convey; the controversy, to the extent that there is one, is that if you take one of his tweets completely out of context and then assume it means something other than what everyone apparently understands it to mean, it could be construed as insulting to the intelligence of ordinary Muslims, even though the words “ordinary Muslims”, or “intelligence” don’t appear in it.

    And to your second point – maybe he doesn’t differentiate because there’s no differentiation to be drawn. Islam isn’t like Catholicism, where a reactionary, conservative, and extremist clergy sits atop a liberal laity that doesn’t take it all that seriously. The best sociological research and sampling seems to indicate that a large number of the tenets that we would probably ascribe to “fundamental Islam” enjoy broad, majority acceptance among the world’s Muslims – including legal punishments for those who insult Islam or the prophet and even execution for apostates.

    But, look, I’m sure you can prove Dawkins wrong and rattle off a long list of scientific achievements emerging from the Muslim scientific community in the past, say, 50 years?

  • crashfr0g

    But I think you have to grapple with the fact that nobody, including Adam or you, seems to think Dawkins was making any point except “Islamic fundamentalism has mutated into a form that’s especially hostile and detrimental to scientific inquiry”. In other words he seems to have successfully communicated the exact point he intended to.

    So where’s the “misunderstanding”? It seems to be in everybody else’s assumption that somebody else could have been misled into thinking that Dawkins thinks that Muslims are stupid. I’ve not seen any evidence that anybody was, though.

  • David Simon

    One cannot condemn the religion without condemning the believer.

    That’s like saying that one cannot condemn an idea without condemning everyone who buys into that idea.

    People can change their minds.

  • crashfr0g

    It’s only on such sites as Twitter which work on sound bites and snippets of conversation he apparently embarrasses himself.

    In the context of the actual conversation he was having, out of which this tweet was taken, it’s not exactly clear that he’s “embarrassed himself.” And the difference you perceive in the content of his statements in venues where he’s afforded the opportunity to express his whole thought, vs those where snippets of his remarks can be quoted without context, might be seen as evidence that there’s a bit of a cottage industry growing up, here, around trying to mislead others as to the views that Dawkins (and the other so-called “Horsemen”) hold. See Sam Harris’s supposed “views” on torture.

  • GCT

    What you’re missing is the whole section of the OP where Adam talks about Dawkins’ second cited tweet. The whole, “I’m just stating facts” while ignoring the context of those facts is a d-bag move and generally the strategy of bigots.

  • crashfr0g

    The whole, “I’m just stating facts” while ignoring the context of those facts is a d-bag move and generally the strategy of bigots.

    It’s also the strategy of people who are, you know, stating facts to people who insist on reacting like a completely different argument was just made.

    Adam admits that the outrage, here, is about an argument we all agree Dawkins didn’t make or intend to make. Whether or not “I’m just stating facts” is a disingenuous argument often made by bigots who actually aren’t just stating facts is irrelevant, because “I’m just stating facts” is also a completely non-disingenuous argument when made by people who are, in fact, just stating facts but are being accused of making arguments they’re not actually making. As everyone seems to agree is happening here.

  • Paul

    I think Dawkins’ comment is fine. My first thought was not that he didn’t like people from countries that are predominantly Muslim in religious orientation. It was that the culture is anti-science as it currently stands. Some of the Muslim-majority countries have low GDPs, and women aren’t encouraged to be educated. But even in the high-GDP countries, they are not trying to make the world a better place with science.

  • Agrajag

    The solution to this is mostly to ask them to state explicitly what their point is, what they’re getting at.

  • Agrajag

    Agreed. “It’s just a fact” isn’t a defence. You still have to explain the point of stating -this- specific fact when there’s gazillions of facts to choose from. You can hardly argue you picked it randomly, that’d just make your speech utter nonsense. So it’s *reasonable* to assume that any fact stated, is supposed to lead to some conclusion, have a certain effect.

  • Dylan Evans

    Well written, well argued, and nicely judged. Thanks for this juicy intellectual nugget.

  • GCT

    It’s also the strategy of people who are, you know, stating facts to people who insist on reacting like a completely different argument was just made.

    Not when you are trying to make a meaningful point.

    Adam admits that the outrage, here, is about an argument we all agree Dawkins didn’t make or intend to make.

    If you read more closely, he says that he’s giving Dawkins the benefit of the doubt (I’m paraphrasing). But, whether he meant to make that argument or not, his strategy is still in question.

    Whether or not “I’m just stating facts” is a disingenuous argument often made by bigots who actually aren’t just stating facts is irrelevant, because “I’m just stating facts” is also a completely non-disingenuous argument when made by people who are, in fact, just stating facts but are being accused of making arguments they’re not actually making.

    Whether it’s used by bigots or not isn’t entirely irrelevant when the context can be taken to be bigoted. It doesn’t look good. Secondly, the tactic of “Just stating facts” is a bad tactic to use even if bigots don’t use it as part of their playbook, because it doesn’t actually help the person’s argument most of the time, including this time.

  • Dylan Evans

    Good point crashfr0g – I hadn’t thought of that, but now you point it out, it makes a lot of sense. Could it be that, lurking underneath many apparently noble concerns with “misunderstanding’, there is an implicit condescension? A tendency to underestimate the general level of sophistication in those who read Tweets?

  • smrnda

    A point could be made that we’ve only had Nobel Prizes for a short time, they originated in an European country at a time when Europe was highly dominant. It’s about as valid a point as saying that the US makes the best movies since they win the most Oscars.

    A good point could be made that history shows us that Islam and learning, and discovery are not mutually exclusive, and that the present state of Muslim countries with respect to research and development should not be taken as an ahistorical norm, and then we could talk about what makes these countries so hostile to learning in the present.

  • L.Long

    I do think you all protest too much!
    Dawkins was twitting!! & how many characters are there??? in a twitt?
    And as some of you have pointed out there are many factors that determine the number of Prize winners. And guess what he says that in his twitt. Because islame has not produced any Prize winners..Fact.. Now analyze the fact and say why? Because they have turned to hating science, good education, dogmatic adherence to their BS religion.
    I read Dawkins’ twitt and that is what I read what you see above.
    I did not read it as Dawkins hates muslins. One of the main reasons I DON’T twitt is because summing a statement into a twitt just gets you hate comments by someone who should not be doing so. We skeptics say we are better then that, and of course we show we are not. I’ve seen dogmatist turn a 5 screen blog into ‘they are hating us!!’ rant. So why should he turn his twitt into a 5 screen explaination, they will still try ti hang him anyway.

  • L.Long

    Sorry Fractal I call BS on you!!!!
    Africans were the 1st slave traders! The Spanish had more slaves? Ok could be? so he stated facts, that does NOT imply something or anything about USA. You made that leap, and you could very easily have stated ‘but that does not excuse anything the USA did!’ or you could have asked for clarification. We are suppose to be THINKERS not accepters.

  • YesDavisIsMyFirstName

    The problem arises when we borrow the tools of the enemy so to speak. How often do we not jump down the throats of people who infer terrible conclusions by quoting random facts? In his defense, he spends a lot of time debating creationist… It doth appear that some of that filth rubbed off.

    It may be true that those facts are true facts. But Adam is right to point out that the implication of these facts when presented in tandem is tantamount to making the implication that Islam is responsible for the lack of Nobel Prize winners wherever Islam is dominant. There may be a loose correlation. But blindly asserting that inference to your large twitter following, can be problematic. (especially when you are a well known and respected scientist and frankly should know better. )

  • Bdole

    ” mercy killings”? Pretty sure you meant “honor killings.”
    I wonder if “The West” is helping to liberal-brain drain the Islamic world. We talk about how many authoritarians are over there while the liberal elite flee to Europe and America. If they actually stayed* and fought for their countries (probably with their lives) maybe things would change.
    If there had been an America-like country in the 18th century to which the forefathers could flee and enjoy prosperity and freedom, there might not be an actual America, today.
    *of their own volition

  • Bdole

    If Dawkins hates muslin, then he’s a fool. It’s so comfy.

    Just out of curiosity, what would you say is the past tense of twitt?

  • Bdole

    “THINKERS not accepters”
    I’m a donor!

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.co.uk/ Steve Bowen

    I’m not suggesting that he isn’t justified in complaining about context, as I said Dawkins knows what he means and he uses language almost pedantically to say it. What he lacks is understanding of how his message will be received. Twitter is a complex medium ( it seems to me) and requires a knowledge of a different social convention, it’s bad enough in blog comments when in theory you can explain yourself to death let alone in 140 characters. Frankly Dawkins just isn’t good at it it and should probably not indulge in attempting to raise nuanced ideas in a medium he isn’t able to navigate.

  • L.Long

    Good question, not being a twitterer, I would hazard a guess at

    ‘He twatted a twitt.’

  • Pattrsn

    Sounded to me like he was doing just that, slagging muslims in general. Doesn’t help that he uses the whiny troll “it’s just a fact” rationalization.

  • Bdole

    I was so hoping you’d say that.

  • http://fractalheretic.blogspot.com/ Fractal Heretic

    I guess you had to be there. I didn’t want to bore you with a detailed account of the entire conversation. But since you’re so interested, I repeatedly asked this person what their point was, and I was only met with more lists of cherry-picked historical tidbits. And I repeatedly stated that I think whites and non-whites were all basically jerks to each other during that chapter of history, and that it wasn’t like the simplified heroes vs. villains duality that you see in movies. But I got the distinct impression he was approaching this as some sort of contest to decide whose ancestry was less despicable by comparison. What really floored me though, was his comment that “There’s a difference between making someone a slave and buying a slave.”

    The reason I related this story is that I found it a very unusual situation. Normally we’re the ones asking for the facts and downplaying opinions. But there I was asking for opinion and getting facts. What I learned that day is that sticking to the facts doesn’t automatically make one intellectually honest. It is possible to quote carefully selected facts within a carefully crafted context in order to imply something without actually saying it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    Just-factsing? Nah, probably not catchy enough. (Maybe, with analogy to “freeze peach”: “JUSTFAX!”)

    I found the thread in question without any difficulty, so it’s pretty easy to see who you were referring to there. I’ll have to keep an eye on that person.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    What I learned that day is that sticking to the facts doesn’t automatically make one intellectually honest. It is possible to quote carefully selected facts within a carefully crafted context in order to imply something without actually saying it.

    Yes! Well put. And it’s something that bigots are often good at, by necessity. When they’ve learned that they’ll incur social penalties for coming out and expressing their prejudiced opinions directly, they soon learn how to imply them without outright stating them.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    You do realize that muslim states make up 2 of the top 5 and 3 out of the top 10 countries with the highest GPD per capita?

    Yes, but I said wealth and economic development, not GDP alone. Most of the Gulf countries make a lot of money from oil, it’s true, but that flows mostly to the top and they have virtually no economy other than that. IIRC, Saudi Arabia has something like a 25% youth unemployment rate.

    Some economists call it the “resource trap” – extractive industries like oil or diamond mining paradoxically don’t improve living conditions for the country that has them, and may even make things worse by encouraging corruption and discouraging the development of a genuine, balanced economy.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    It would be very unlikely for Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist of the very highest order, to imply that an opt-in religious philosophy would have any effect on potential intelligence (something that falls in the “nature” column as opposed to the “nurture”).

    Until not long ago, I would have also thought it was very unlikely for Dawkins, or any other reasonably intelligent and progressive person, to seriously believe that the existence of worse misogyny elsewhere means that mistreatment and harassment of women in Western countries isn’t worth thinking about. But there you have it.

    Frankly, having seen Dawkins completely blinded by privilege on some issues, I find myself less inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt than I might previously have been. As I said, I don’t personally think he meant to convey something prejudiced in this particular instance, but if someone else did believe that, I’m not sure I’d have a convincing counterargument to make.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    Yes, thank you: that was my point exactly. If people had accused Dawkins of prejudice based on his first tweet and he’d replied, “Of course I didn’t mean that Muslims are intellectually less capable than other people!”, then the matter would have ended there, I think.

    But when people accused him of prejudice and he came back with, “I’m just pointing out facts!” as though that immunizes him against such accusations… well, as I said upthread, if someone did accuse him of bigotry based on that tactic, I don’t know what counterargument I could make.

  • Spongman

    Watch Tyson’s explanation of this.
    http://youtu.be/fDAT98eEN5Q
    Dawkins may be tactless, but he’s right.

  • Bdole

    “factbaiting” perhaps?
    Or, “factbating”

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    I like “factbating”. The implied similarity to masturbation definitely works.

  • terralthra

    The cooperative principle of language was put forward by Grice, not Pinker.

  • Jadehawk

    you don’t know what the word “inherent” means. or you think islam somehow caused colonialism and the modern world system. either way, I can’t take you seriously.

  • Bdole

    Hah, yeah, the analogy to fun and just short of productive seemed apt.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/ Ani J. Sharmin

    This is a tactic beloved by bigots, because it allows them to advance a hateful idea by implication without coming out and openly admitting their prejudice. “Women’s brains are smaller than men’s brains! Blacks are arrested and imprisoned at much higher rates than whites! Hey, why are you attacking me for saying these things? They’re justfacts!” (Or, on a more familiar note: “Christians built all the great schools and hospitals in the Western world, and atheists didn’t build any. It’s just a fact!”)

    That last bit is especially relevant. There are some other atheists who recognize the implied discrimination when religious people selectively quote certain stats to imply something discriminatory about atheists, but feign ignorance when they are accused of using the same tactic. (This kind of thing isn’t unique to atheists, of course; it’s a human flaw. But it’s still wrong.)

    What always gets to me about this (with Dawkins, and others who make similar statements) is the difference in the way they talk about Islam compared to other religions. Their defenders will claim that they are criticizing all religions, and that we are being “too sensitive” when it comes to Islam. (I notice people in this thread have brought up that argument as well.) But, in reality, their criticisms of Christianity are usually more substantial and well-thought-out and explained compared to those about Islam. Yes, there are people who say simplistic, badly-expressed, and badly-thought-out things about Christians as well … but there’s a disparity in that it happens (percentage wise, or at least that’s my impression) way more often with Islam, without as many knowledgeable, informative critiques of Islam as there are of Christianity. So, when Dawkins wrote this tweet, he did so in the context that most “criticism” of Islam are similarly simplistic with implied (or outright stated) insult or discrimination. And he did so in a context in which he’s made similarly oblivious statements in the past, unsupportive of equality.

    As an example, Dawkins has mentioned (on multiple occasions) the importance of reading the Bible, but apparently doesn’t feel the same way about the Qur’an; even if you want to argue that the Qur’an doesn’t contain as many literary passages (which I would grant) there is still the concept of knowing what you’re talking about before you talk about it (especially if you are *known* for talking about that topic).

    Dawkins might not believe that Muslims are somehow inherently less intelligent, and he may have been making a point about how Islamic teachings and theocracy are among the factors which contribute to an environment in which there is lack of access to quality education, due to things like acceptance of creationism, overemphasis on religious (rather than secular) subjects, and gender discrimination. But that’s not what he said. He can’t demand that people always take away the most positive interpretation from everything he says, regardless of how he decided to express it. Especially when it’s happened multiple times, now. And it makes his concern for, e.g. Muslim girls who are denied an education, seem disingenuous if he’s going to make statements implying discrimination against Muslims and women.

    (And this isn’t the same as, say, Maryam Namazie writing a short, simple critical statement of Islam in response to a news story in a post on her blog … because she’s written extensively about Islam and has shown concern for human rights. She gets the benefit of the doubt because of other things she’s written and said. And, no, you don’t have to be an ex-Muslim to get this benefit of the doubt … you just have to actually put in the work to show you know what you’re talking about.)

    Again, what strikes me is the way that certain atheists see Christians as worthy of having conversations with and convincing, but just see Muslims as the enemy. So many of these conversations are framed as us vs. them, as defending people of a certain race or nationality against the “other”, instead of seeing this has a human rights concern in which the effects on everyone matter.

    Thanks for writing, Adam. That intervention should include a lecture by you, addressed to Dawkins. :)

  • Austin

    Just a few facts to paint a more complete picture.

    Qatar has an unemployment rate of 0.5%, Brunei: 2.6%, Kuwait 2.7% and Saudi Arabia 5.8%.

    Yes as you state, Youth Unemployment in Saudi Arabia isn’t pretty. ~23% the last time I checked. However, that’s an incomplete picture, so let’s add some perspective to that.

    Youth Unemployment in Germany (Europe’s flagship economy) is in the high teens, steadily approaching 20%, Youth Unemployment in spain is over 50%, youth unemployment in these united states is at 16%. Youth unemployment is terrible everywhere.

    Make no mistake, being a Muslim male in most of those countries, is just about as far from a ‘hard life’ as you can get.

  • Austin

    The reality is that Dawkin’s was right on this one. Human knowledge has reached a point that is simply incompatible with traditional religion in literally every sense. It’s not a coincidence that leaders in science and technology are generally not religious, and the few that are, hold very different religious views from traditionalists.
    Let me ask a different question – when is the last time you saw a staunch Christian win a nobel prize (other than the peace prize)?

    Therein lines the problem. The nature of Islam (and here I”m referring to the whole ecosystem – teachings, culture and community) is an ‘in for a penny in for a pound’ mentality. It simply doesn’t allow for the same cherry picking and alterations that people are able to do in other religions. You generally don’t find muslims, that have ditched many of the traditional views of their religion – and until this changes, they will continue to be misrepresented in the fields of science and technology.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/ Ani J. Sharmin

    I love the video, so thanks for that.

    I have to disagree with you, though. Tyson acknowledged and praised the achievements of Muslims, mentioned one of the reasons why more anti-scientific ideas became common, and expressed regret for lost potential (showing that he thinks Muslims are just as capable, but didn’t have the chance, due to the religious negative effect on scientific inquiry). He also used this as an example of how this can happen in other cultures as well, including his own, instead of singling out Muslims for negative comments while simultaneously bragging about his own country the way Dawkins did.

    I can’t give credit to Dawkins for stuff he didn’t say. That’s long been one of my issues with Dawkins (and Sam Harris as well). They seem to *want* everyone to assume *positive* stuff and context they didn’t actually say and interpret their comments in the best possible light. But if someone assumes *negative* stuff they didn’t say, then they’ll say the person was misinterpreting them and should just look at the statement they made instead of inferring other things.

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

    I agree with your arguments and the conclusion.
    I would add that, thinking scientifically (mathematically), we’d have to consider that poor countries produces less Nobel Prize winning scholars, irrespective of religion. So the correlation has problems from the start. Grabbing at correlations is the mark of bias — something Dawkins should be aware of.

    An intervention would be cool — cause I love lots of Dawkins’ stuff!

  • crashfr0g

    So, your criticism is that instead of just asserting he didn’t make the argument he’s being accused of making, he… asserted that he didn’t make the argument he’s being accused of making?

    Your whole argument here, Adam, is so topsy-turvy I don’t know what to make of it. It’s pretty obviously just an excuse to attack Dawkins on a manufactured basis.

  • crashfr0g

    As I said, I don’t personally think he meant to convey something prejudiced in this particular instance, but if someone elsedid believe that, I’m not sure I’d have a convincing counterargument to make.

    Why wouldn’t “he didn’t actually say that” be a convincing counterargument? It’s not like human speech is some kind of mystery, here; there’s an objective reality about what statement Dawkins attempted to make, everyone seems to agree on what it was. I don’t see how someone who contends that Dawkins intended to call Muslims idiots has a position any more worth engaging with than someone who contends that Dawkins said that flying monkeys were pouring out of his kitchen faucet.

  • crashfr0g

    And it’s something that bigots are often good at, by necessity.

    And that’s all very well and good, but what’s the possible relevance of that to this? Nobody thinks Dawkins “implied without outright stating” that Muslims are inherently idiots, or whatever.

    What you’re basically saying is that we can’t state things that sound like things racists sometimes state; that I can’t ever say “some of my best friends are black” even if that statement turns out to be true and I’m not saying it to immunize myself against an accusation of racism. Racists say it sometimes; therefore I cannot. Racists sometimes say “hey, I’m just stating facts”; therefore Dawkins cannot (even though he didn’t actually even say it.)

    I’m usually pretty dim on most attempts to police speech, but usually those attempts have some rational basis behind them. What on Earth could be the possible purpose of this? If a racist says “cancer sucks”, do we all have to come out in favor of cancer?

  • crashfr0g

    “factorbaiting”

  • Dave O

    First of all, HOW IN HELL (to invoke the concept, not the belief) did
    Dawkins’ comments on Islamic intellectual contributions turn into a
    finger-pointing contest on who’s responsible for African slavery? Please
    stop trying to censor a guy who has done so much to encourage and lead
    so many critical thinkers, secular humanists, and atheists. What if it
    became the rule that one must be beaten severely for every verbal tactic
    which MAY be miscontrued as in some way taboo, even when he is in fact
    one who’s life’s work is to promote controversial ideas? Then there
    would not be any such leaders left alive to lead aetheists against the
    popular insanity of religion. He was dealing with a very ticklish issue,
    and although he does have a penchant for being too blunt sometimes, he
    was right about this – religion DOES have a deleterious impact on
    intellectual achievement, and when it dominates a society, that society
    contributes less to the improvement of world culture. Muslims are
    multi-racial, and Dawkins did not address any specific race, so again –
    how did his comments become an issue on RACE????

    I find it far
    more disagreeable the argument that it’s the education system which
    separates America from the Middle East. US education is far behind world
    standards, and much of this is due to incessant bombarbment by
    Christian fundamentalists who simply cannot tolerate any curricula which
    promotes critical thinking. Such constant assault drives down the
    quality of a high school education (thereby making graduates poorly prepared
    for college) because so much important material is compromised out of
    it. This problem is reigned in only by a national constitution which was
    established not by religious people, but by secularists, and this is
    the one reason why America has ever been able to lead the world.

    The
    cause of intellectual disparity between cultures is no mystery, as in
    the chicken/egg theory! Islamic societies fail to promote academic and
    scientific achievement because they support fundamentalism, which is the
    enemy of reason. Those people live by the dictates of the imams, who
    waste hours of their time daily, bowing on carpets. Half of that
    population (the female half) is legally barred from education. The rest
    are conditioned to put Allah above every other life pursuit, and this is
    why their economy has been stuck in the shitter. Economic management in
    those countries consists of nothing better than convincing so many
    unemployed young men to blow themselves up. These are facts of life in
    the Islamic world which render a population a stagnant pool for
    intellectual contribution. I present to this argument facts, not
    bigotry. There were no racially-bigoted words stated by Dawkins, and
    there will never be any from me, but the facts on what a religion does
    to intellectual progress are and always will remain FACTS.

  • Dave O

    This is all true, well said! It should also be noted that that religious leaders actually do go to school, and that this art of exploiting facts is primarily what is taught in their schools. In my Christian Academy school, where biographies of Christian leaders did abound, the talent for “argument” was an implicitely heroic trait for an evangelical Christian. The above statements may have implied an art which is named with a single, more crass word, and is actually no less the truth.

  • Dave O

    Dude, Dawkin’s stock and trade is as an Oxford biologist! As a professor there, good communication skills are necessary (no easy feat for most scientists), and then if you ever read his books you would know just how good he really is at this. I will never know what it’s like to be one of Dawkins students, but his videos do show him being sometimes a little slow on his feet (certainly compared to now-deceased Christopher Hitchens). Many great thinkers become great writers because they aren’t so good in a verbal or interactive web exchange.

    However, I don’t believe Dawkins made any error in addressing that big, hairy Mastadont of Islam. He did not attack Islamic people, he did attack the beast which is their religion. If you cannot understand the difference, then it means that it has you in it’s grip, and that it does and will use you as a pawn in it’s own defense.

  • Dave O

    Nobody’s perfect all of the time. Communication is what the Hitch-slap did well almost every time, but as the now-deceased member of the “‘Four Horsemen” of atheism, he was the only one for which it actually was his JOB. His job was journalism, and this isn’t really what Dawkins, Sam Harris, or Daniel Dennet were trained for. Maybe you can do better?

  • Dave O

    …and I thought I was the only one here who was thinking rationally! The liberal thinker’s approach that religious dominance has nothing to do with intellectual progress (which I DO NOT equate to intelligence) is pure dogma, just like any religion.

  • Dave O

    Dude, I tire much of liberals and their arrogance too, although not all of their ideas are bad considering the royal hubris of the right wing. However, this is not on-topic, unless you are implying that liberals are more intelligent than those who lean politically right or not-so-left of center. I can hardly believe that the most intelligent people all over the world are liberal! However, agreed that those who leave their countries behind should stand and fight for change there when they can, and maybe there really are some liberals who wish to enslave the global population through such immigration policies and economic globalism (this is shaping up to be the the effect of both).

  • DavidMHart

    Actually, Dawkins held the post of href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simonyi_Professorship_for_the_Public_Understanding_of_Science”>Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Sciencefrom 1995 to 2008. If that isn’t a job for which communication is the prime qualification, I don’t know what is.

    Also, all of the ‘four horsemen’, whatever their day-to-day careers, chose (side) careers as authors and speakers. So for all them, communication was or is part of at least one of their jobs.

  • Bdole

    When I say “liberal” I mean relative to the types of guys in the Islamic world that condone honor-killings, or are willing to kill over Mohammed cartoons, not western liberal. Our political spectrum barely overlaps with theirs.

  • J-D

    If what he meant was ‘Islamic fundamentalism has mutated into a form that’s especially hostile and detrimental to scientific inquiry’, why didn’t he just say exactly that?

  • J-D

    Dawkins thinks it’s ‘interesting’, obviously in a pejorative sense, that a simple statement of an undeniable fact can be offensive.

    But OF COURSE a simple statement of undeniable fact can be offensive! Is Dawkins really such a dullard that he can’t see that?

  • seanfriel

    The easy question to ask then is what he’d need to have an intervention for, then. If his statements are to be taken case by case (as I believe they need to be) then in this case he’s said nothing that is demonstrably untrue or indicative of his privilege or lack of insight or awareness. By your response to my comment what you seem to be reacting to is other comments he’s made that make you question his method of thinking, not this one.

  • seanfriel

    You’d like me to cite people reading what I wrote and saying things?

  • http://fractalheretic.blogspot.com/ Fractal Heretic

    Ah, but that’s exactly what a racist would say! Kidding. I know exactly what you mean. That would be the association fallacy. I don’t think anyone here is saying that, though.

  • GCT

    There is no campaign to attack Dawkins, from atheists at least.

  • GCT

    Next time I see an opportunity, I’ll try that out and see how it flies.

  • GCT

    No, his strategy of factbating and ignoring context. Then, when called out on it, his response of “I was just stating facts” seriously calls into question his motives.

    But, hey, thanks for ignoring the context of my comments so that you can pretend that I’m not saying anything worthwhile.

  • GCT

    Well, if you’re bound and determined to not understand it, then there’s little we can do.

  • GCT

    First of all, HOW IN HELL (to invoke the concept, not the belief) did Dawkins’ comments on Islamic intellectual contributions turn into a
    finger-pointing contest on who’s responsible for African slavery?

    It didn’t.

    Pleasestop trying to censor a guy who has done so much to encourage and lead
    so many critical thinkers, secular humanists, and atheists.

    No one is trying to censor anyone else. We aren’t even trying to censor you, even with your over-the-top rhetoric that is divorced from reality.

    …religion DOES have a deleterious impact on intellectual achievement…

    That’s not what he said or how he said it.

    Economic management inthose countries consists of nothing better than convincing so many
    unemployed young men to blow themselves up. These are facts of life in
    the Islamic world… I present to this argument facts, not
    bigotry.

    So, it’s a fact that “those people” (your words) have envisioned an economic plan that is centered exclusively around convincing unemployed young men to blow themselves up? “Those people” are uniformly pro-suicide bombers? And, that constitutes fact now and there’s nothing bigoted about it? Riiiiiight.

    It’s not like we don’t have fundamentalists here, which you point out. So, that seems to be a common denominator. Here in the US, you point out the problem, but them give them a free pass as inconsequential and not representative of the whole culture and all the people. For Muslims, the fundamentalists are representative of everyone there, according to you. Nope, no biases there.

  • John Alexander Harman

    “Christians built all the great schools and hospitals in the Western world, and atheists didn’t build any. It’s just a fact!”

    I don’t know if Daniel Coit Gilman was actually an atheist, but he did invite Thomas Henry Huxley to give the keynote speech at the opening of Johns Hopkins, he did not include a prayer in the ceremony, and he established that university’s purpose as explicitly secular and scientific. I suppose a Christian apologist might try to argue that JHU and its hospital are not among “the great schools and hospitals in the Western world,” but anyone familiar with those institutions would most likely laugh him off the stage.

  • crashfr0g

    No, his strategy of factbating and ignoring context.

    Except that neither of those two things happened; the only one ignoring context, here, is Adam.

    And again you didn’t answer the question. “Factbaiting” is not a strategy, it’s a tactic, but my question was – towards what end, exactly, was that tactic supposedly being deployed?

    After all, the criticism here is that Dawkins was “factbaiting” in order to imply that Muslims are inherently dumb. But neither you nor Adam assert that Dawkins actually intended to do that, and that any reading where he did would be mistaken.

    Which really raises the question – what is the whole point of this? It completely evaporates once you grant that Dawkins didn’t actually say anything controversial.

    But, hey, thanks for ignoring the context of my comments so that you can pretend that I’m not saying anything worthwhile.

    I don’t have to pretend, frankly.

  • GCT

    Except that neither of those two things happened; the only one ignoring context, here, is Adam.

    Whenever you find yourself saying, ‘I’m just posting facts, why are you getting offended at facts? What other facts am I not allowed to post?’ (paraphrased) then it’s most likely time to stop and think about why you are saying that.

    And again you didn’t answer the question. “Factbaiting” is not a strategy, it’s a tactic, but my question was – towards what end, exactly, was that tactic supposedly being deployed?

    When did you ask this question before? Either way, it looks a hell of a lot like the way he handled his Dear Muslima controversy. It’s petulant. He seems to have been saying, “Fuck off, who are you to question me?”

    After all, the criticism here is that Dawkins was “factbaiting” in order to imply that Muslims are inherently dumb. But neither you nor Adam assert that Dawkins actually intended to do that, and that any reading where he did would be mistaken.

    Nice straw man. This has already been pointed out to you. You refuse to argue against our actual positions. It seems no amount of us trying to get it through to you will work since you have no intention of dealing with us honestly. But, I’m glad to note that you don’t have to pretend being so dishonest – it must come naturally.

  • J-D

    ‘Towards what end did Dawkins deploy the tactic of saying “I was just stating a fact”?’ is a good question. And the answer to that question is that he deployed it towards the end of garnering sympathy for himself, lashing out at his critics, and making himself feel better.

    Those were his goals, but one of the unintended but predictable effects of aiming at those goals was to make himself look self-righteous, and that’s not a good look.

  • GCT

    Yes. You’ve made some accusations that you should back up.

  • GCT

    Except we don’t live in a vacuum. We can’t simply take his comments case by case, because his body of work indicates an overall problem of being unable to recognize privilege.

  • seanfriel

    It’s commentary on a general sentiment, not necessarily what has been said but what seems as though people intend to say. A bit hyperbolic maybe. It’s a discussion board, not a graduate paper.

  • seanfriel

    I can’t say I agree or disagree since I don’t know what examples you’re leaning toward. If you don’t have examples and this is something that you’ve sensed through assuming things he’s thought I would say that it’s possible to see it through another lens. I don’t see how this tweet or any of his work that I’ve read ignores his own privilege. Anything he says could be said by anyone on earth and ad hominem critiques are unproductive.

  • GCT

    You’re leveling very specific charges at people here. I expect that you’ll back them up or retract.

  • GCT

    Dear Muslima is one example that easily comes to mind. It has nothing to do with assuming and everything to do with the actual words and arguments he uses. Additionally, the idea that other people could also say the same things doesn’t mean that they are not operating under the influence of privilege.

  • crashfr0g

    Dear Muslima is one example that easily comes to mind.

    So then you are actually going case by case, and not by his “body of work.”

  • crashfr0g

    it’s most likely time to stop and think about why you are saying that.

    I think Dawkins did stop and think about saying it, and what he thought was “this is a perfectly factual statement about what I’m currently doing, and those who claim to be taking offense are not correct to do so.” That is, after all, a position which everyone (including Adam) has apparently agreed is true.

    So, again, we’re back to the part where “I’m just stating facts” is a fact you can’t state, because sometimes racists say something that kind of sounds the same.

    Either way, it looks a hell of a lot like the way he handled his Dear Muslima controversy. It’s petulant. He seems to have been saying, “Fuck off, who are you to question me?”

    This still doesn’t answer the question. And your rather pissant personal attack at the end suggests you have no intention to.

  • GCT

    Um, no. If one is going case by case, it’s very easy to slip into the idea that the event is an isolated occurrence, and forget about past occurrences that set the stage. By not ignoring his past deeds and how he has handled them, I’m not going case by case.

  • GCT

    Well, I’m glad that you can read Dawkins’ mind and know that he never had any intent to do anything wrong, ever, in his whole entire life and that you think he’s an angel that walks on water and heals people with his presence, but the rest of us look at the gaffs and how he doubles down when called out and see what is really going on. And, that’s really the problem. Everyone has biases. It’s unavoidable in a culture that is soaking in it. The real test is what you do when those biases are pointed out. Do you examine the situation and try to see the point of view of the disadvantaged minority that is seeking equality, or do you double down and attack that minority because you can’t possibly be wrong? Dawkins seems to prefer the latter.

    So, again, we’re back to the part where “I’m just stating facts” is a fact you can’t state, because sometimes racists say something that kind of sounds the same.

    Well, you can continue to erect this straw man, but it doesn’t make it any more true.

    This still doesn’t answer the question.

    I’m sorry, but if you can’t see that as an answer – it was pretty straight forward – then how am I not supposed to see you as not being interested in honest discussion? Your tendency to resort to hyperbole and willful ignorance of what everyone else is saying is rather telling.

  • Jack Mudge

    [quote]I’m not seeing the evidence of his “ineffective communication”, since
    there doesn’t seem to be any confusion about the point Dawkins was
    trying to convey; the controversy, to the extent that there is one, is
    that if you take one of his tweets completely out of context and then
    assume it means something other than what everyone apparently
    understands it to mean,[/quote]

    As atheists, we generally share a common base of knowledge and understanding. It is with this that we can deduce what he may have* meant to say. That does not mean that he actually said that, or that what he said communicated it effectively. If you — or anyone — did not already know the background (that Islamists are causing most of the middle east great trouble at the expense of upstanding Muslims around the world), then the implicit message would be anything but obvious.

    Now, one might be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, except that Adam (who, while erudite to be sure, is not a major public figure) was able to construct, in fewer characters, a sentence that does say what Dawkins might have meant without the disrespectful tone:

    “Islamic fundamentalism has mutated into a form that’s especially hostile and detrimental to scientific inquiry.”
    – Short. To the point. No islamophobia included. Dawkins absolutely could have spoken better, if this is what he intended. So either it is what he intended and he therefore severely botched his communication, or it isn’t what he intended and he’s a bigot. Take your pick.

    * Personally, the tone indicates to me that he probably didn’t mean Adam’s charitable interpretation.

  • crashfr0g

    I’m sorry, but if you can’t see that as an answer – it was pretty straight forward

    It was a pretty straightforward answer to a question I didn’t ask (i.e. “What did this look like” or some such.) I asked you to what end was the tactic of saying “I’m just stating facts” being deployed? As Adam said, when racists do it, it’s to conceal a racist argument behind a feint.

    What do you assert Dawkins was trying to “conceal”? Answer the question. Answer this question, specifically, not another question of your invention.

  • GCT

    Once again, he was trying to be petulant and jab people in the rhetorical eye. That was the end (IMO, since I don’t have magical powers of mind reading as you seem to have). I’ve already stated this, no matter how many times you dodge it and pretend that I haven’t.

    So, kudos on reviving a necro-thread in order to once again dodge my points.


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