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Controversial Comments From Richard Dawkins
Posted: 10 September 2013 06:09 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Recently Dawkins has stated that he was molested at the boarding school he attended, and claims it doesn’t cause terrible after-effects in everybody. Child protection groups are very angry about this, of course.

I tend to agree with Dawkins here.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/richard-dawkins-under-fire-for-mild-pedophilia-remarks/2013/09/09/3ae7b150-1974-11e3-80ac-96205cacb45a_story.html

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Posted: 10 September 2013 09:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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This kind of thing falls under what I call the “Hitler Thinks Puppies are Cute” category.  The truth or falsity of a statement doesn’t matter, only the context. So if Hitler thought puppies were cute, there would have been some people at the time who would disagree with him simply because it was Hitler saying it, not because of anything to do with the cuteness of puppies.  This Dawkins thing is the same, except substitute Pedophilia for Hitler for the context.  OTOH Dawkins should have been smart enough not to step into that trap.

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Posted: 10 September 2013 07:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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It’s also called “reading comprehension in basic English.” The quote from Peter Watt in the article doesn’t even show comprehension of Dawkins’ comments: ““But we know that the victims of sexual abuse suffer the same effects whether it was 50 years ago or yesterday.” Dawkins never said anything contradicting this, and Watt seems to take that made-up ‘counter’ as his main point of contention.

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Posted: 11 September 2013 04:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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TromboneAndrew - 10 September 2013 07:59 PM

It’s also called “reading comprehension in basic English.” The quote from Peter Watt in the article doesn’t even show comprehension of Dawkins’ comments: ““But we know that the victims of sexual abuse suffer the same effects whether it was 50 years ago or yesterday.” Dawkins never said anything contradicting this, and Watt seems to take that made-up ‘counter’ as his main point of contention.

That’s right; Watt is an example the emotional hysteria surrounding this stuff.

Makes it very hard for it to be discussed rationally.

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Posted: 11 September 2013 05:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I don’t know why this is suddenly a controversy as Dawkins even mentions the incident in his book “The God Delusion” So it’s not as if he suddenly announced to the World that he favors pedophilia as his critic seems to presume. Sounds like another cheap shot at an atheist leader.

Cap’t Jack

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Posted: 11 September 2013 11:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Thevillageatheist - 11 September 2013 05:35 AM

I don’t know why this is suddenly a controversy as Dawkins even mentions the incident in his book “The God Delusion” So it’s not as if he suddenly announced to the World that he favors pedophilia as his critic seems to presume. Sounds like another cheap shot at an atheist leader.

Cap’t Jack

Cheap shots are all the religious right has in its arsenal. Expect more.

Lois

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Posted: 12 September 2013 04:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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It’s probably not a cheap shot in itself - although I can easily picture theists claiming that this means Dawkins “is a fag”,  or “this is obviously why he’s an atheist, he was molested!”

However, there are plenty of non theists who overreact to any hint of possible child abuse.

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Posted: 13 September 2013 06:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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!) Children can be very resilient.
2) Children who are well nurtured and cared for, and who have healthy caregiver attachments in their developmental years tend to be more resilient.
3) Some persons are less prone (than others) to suffer prolonged ill effects from exposure to trauma.

Hence it is completely credible to say that not all children who are exposed to a single or short term period of molestation are going to experience “terrible (long-term) after effects”.

This truth should in no way diminish our society’s efforts to prevent and punish child abuse.

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Posted: 13 September 2013 07:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Dawkins has issued not an apology, but a clarification of his remarks. He could have been more clear initially, but it does seem people were reading a lot into what he originally wrote. This is a tempest in a teapot.

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Posted: 23 September 2013 08:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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TimB - 13 September 2013 06:35 PM

!) Children can be very resilient.
2) Children who are well nurtured and cared for, and who have healthy caregiver attachments in their developmental years tend to be more resilient.
3) Some persons are less prone (than others) to suffer prolonged ill effects from exposure to trauma.

Hence it is completely credible to say that not all children who are exposed to a single or short term period of molestation are going to experience “terrible (long-term) after effects”.

This truth should in no way diminish our society’s efforts to prevent and punish child abuse.

Tim:

This thread has been bothering me for days now. There hasn’t been one clearly dissenting voice.

Dawkins’ tweet on this is very weird.

(i) First I reject right off the bat what I’ll call the ‘I’m just sayin’ defense’. Dawkins is a very public figure; he doesn’t get the same pass as Uncle Richard does, tweeting to his buddies and relatives.
(ii) So what did he say was his purpose in tweeting this? He is a public figure, but not any sort of expert in child abuse; he’s not likely getting ready to defend mild sexual fondling of children; he’s not an expert on pedophiles, mild or otherwise.
(iii) Sexual acts by adults on minors is *really* serious. Right? Casual talk about it, even if it happens to be true, is like casual talk about bombs while strolling through a federal building. We can all agree that political correctness can easily get out of hand while being worried about what we say and how we say it.
(iv) Your points may be true, but they are not really relevant *for the adult* who committed those acts upon those children, including Dr Dawkins as a child.
(v) They are not relevant because a large percentage of children *are* traumatized by those acts, and the consequences are long-term. It is hardly practical to wait for decades, and then say the pedophile in question hasn’t done anything serious *because many of the children he fondled are relatively okay.* There are numerous studies online for you to peruse, and from respected, peer-reviewed journals. I happen to know many people who have life-long consequences of sexualization as children.
(vi) Dawkins is looked up to by many, including intelligent children old enough to read. His words could well be construed as ‘when an adult fondles you, maybe you shouldn’t think it’s so serious as to tell anyone.’ Isn’t this a clear case of sending the wrong message? And again, he does it rather casually, no matter what clarifications he’s added. His childhood experiences are his own to reveal or hide, but has he coughed up the name of this nice teacher?
(vii) His protestations that some sexual fondling isn’t so bad seems rather strange when compared to his insistence that raising kids to be Christians, Muslims, Jews etc. is child abuse. Dawkins has never issued ‘clarifications’ of the second claim! So, pound for pound, which causes more damage? What the hey!?
(vii) Lastly, there’s also a rather pitiful and disturbing personal fact to all this: twice now, Dr. Dawkins has admitted to being fondled by an adult who at least fondled other students under his care, but downplays it. Again, what’s the message being sent, to young people who read and admire him, to pedophiles?

Chris Kirk

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Posted: 23 September 2013 09:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Comments by a British atheist blogger:

http://freethoughtblogs.com/godlessness/2013/09/10/richard-dawkins-wont-condemn-mild-child-molestation/

I accept his distinction between ‘pedophilia’ and ‘molestation’ - i was using the former rather loosely: it invokes psychology and I’m not sure that matters just now; behavior in society toward children, the law, and being a public intellectual are more relevant.

Here is Dawkins’ clarification:

http://www.richarddawkins.net/foundation_articles/2012/12/22/physical-versus-mental-child-abuse#

To prove his point - that causing children to fear Hell is worse than physical abuse - he would have to show us that a higher percentage of people can trace their ills to exposure to the latter than the former, or that the results of the former are generally worse than the latter. Otherwise it’s just a self-serving assertion that allows him to avoid backing off on his tweet.

Chris Kirk

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Posted: 23 September 2013 09:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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inthegobi - 23 September 2013 09:29 AM

Here is Dawkins’ clarification:

http://www.richarddawkins.net/foundation_articles/2012/12/22/physical-versus-mental-child-abuse#

To prove his point - that causing children to fear Hell is worse than physical abuse - he would have to show us that a higher percentage of people can trace their ills to exposure to the latter than the former, or that the results of the former are generally worse than the latter. Otherwise it’s just a self-serving assertion that allows him to avoid backing off on his tweet.

Chris Kirk

Seeing as how he says in this article that psychological research to confirm or deny his supposition would clear things up, I don’t see where your disagreement is.

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Posted: 23 September 2013 09:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Andrew,

TromboneAndrew - 23 September 2013 09:45 AM

Seeing as how he says in this article that psychological research to confirm or deny his supposition would clear things up, I don’t see where your disagreement is.

Yes, it *would*, *if* we had it. The point is that he doesn’t have it, nobody else has it, and so his claim has no probative force. And since he *knows* his claim has no support, and he’s no expert on any of this, *therefore* his claim isn’t much more than merely intellectual squid-ink. Child abuse experts hardly need Dr. Dawkins to give them pointers for future research!

And to add, of course a little thought will quickly reveal that it’s absurd to think that all those millions of Christians (never mind other major religions with some sort of Hell, even Hinduism and popular varieties of Buddhism) have been psychologically scarred in anything like the proportions of children sexually molested by adults. The numbers I’ve seen in reputable papers estimate serious consequences for the latter running percentages from the high 20s to high 40s.

Chris Kirk

[ Edited: 23 September 2013 10:02 AM by inthegobi ]
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Posted: 23 September 2013 04:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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inthegobi - 23 September 2013 08:46 AM

Tim:

This thread has been bothering me for days now. There hasn’t been one clearly dissenting voice.

Dawkins’ tweet on this is very weird.

(i) First I reject right off the bat what I’ll call the ‘I’m just sayin’ defense’. Dawkins is a very public figure; he doesn’t get the same pass as Uncle Richard does, tweeting to his buddies and relatives.
(ii) So what did he say was his purpose in tweeting this? He is a public figure, but not any sort of expert in child abuse; he’s not likely getting ready to defend mild sexual fondling of children; he’s not an expert on pedophiles, mild or otherwise.
(iii) Sexual acts by adults on minors is *really* serious. Right? Casual talk about it, even if it happens to be true, is like casual talk about bombs while strolling through a federal building. We can all agree that political correctness can easily get out of hand while being worried about what we say and how we say it.
(iv) Your points may be true, but they are not really relevant *for the adult* who committed those acts upon those children, including Dr Dawkins as a child.
(v) They are not relevant because a large percentage of children *are* traumatized by those acts, and the consequences are long-term. It is hardly practical to wait for decades, and then say the pedophile in question hasn’t done anything serious *because many of the children he fondled are relatively okay.* There are numerous studies online for you to peruse, and from respected, peer-reviewed journals. I happen to know many people who have life-long consequences of sexualization as children.
(vi) Dawkins is looked up to by many, including intelligent children old enough to read. His words could well be construed as ‘when an adult fondles you, maybe you shouldn’t think it’s so serious as to tell anyone.’ Isn’t this a clear case of sending the wrong message? And again, he does it rather casually, no matter what clarifications he’s added. His childhood experiences are his own to reveal or hide, but has he coughed up the name of this nice teacher?
(vii) His protestations that some sexual fondling isn’t so bad seems rather strange when compared to his insistence that raising kids to be Christians, Muslims, Jews etc. is child abuse. Dawkins has never issued ‘clarifications’ of the second claim! So, pound for pound, which causes more damage? What the hey!?
(vii) Lastly, there’s also a rather pitiful and disturbing personal fact to all this: twice now, Dr. Dawkins has admitted to being fondled by an adult who at least fondled other students under his care, but downplays it. Again, what’s the message being sent, to young people who read and admire him, to pedophiles?

Chris Kirk

Chris, I think that you have expressed your point of view clearly and thoroughly.  My thoughts in response:

I think the controversial comments were from a Times magazine interview rather than a tweet.  (Tweeting is a whole new form of communication and the modified structure and social ramifications of the Twitterverse and about what goes on there could be a topic unto itself. )
http://www.richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2013/9/7/the-world-according-to-richard-dawkins-the-times#

I think that there is nothing wrong with sharing your thoughts accurately from a personal perspective in an interview if one is capable of doing that.  The misinterpretation of such remarks are the responsibility of the reader.

Time magazine readers are typically adults.  I was relatively intelligent as a child, but I don’t recall any particular interest in it.  But if there are some rare precocious children who have read the article in question, it is questionable that the message they took from it is, as you say: “when an adult fondles you, maybe you shouldn’t think it’s so serious as to tell anyone.” The message taken could as well be what Dawkins actually said “I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild paedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today. (Bold mine)

In this article Dawkins was illustrating through personal experiences, his thoughts on a “shifting moral zeitgeist” in human society.

The topic shifts later in the interview, and Dawkins mentions his feelings of guilt, as an adult, for standing idly by as a child when he saw other children being bullied.  A precocious child who read the article might well take away the message implicit there.

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Posted: 23 September 2013 05:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Tim,

Time magazine readers are typically adults.  I was relatively intelligent as a child, but I don’t recall any particular interest in it.  But if there are some rare precocious children who have read the article in question, it is questionable that the message they took from it is, as you say . . . .

Fair enough. To be more precise by ‘child’ I was including adolescents and teenagers 17 and under. We might wrangle over drawing the line among individual teenagers, but the law is quite clear about the line: under a certain age, you are being sexually assaulted if someone over the line treats you sexually.

I was intelligent enough to read Dawkins as a teenager of 13 or 14, and argued a little with a fellow-nerdy friend raised as an atheist (his family celebrated Isaac Newton’s birthday on Christmas, which I thought was a little lame, but I’m more tolerant now!). I bet there are lots of underage atheists who look up to Dawkins, as a very public figure with a very public internet presence. So I’m not sure Time Magazine is enough of a fig leaf for him.

In this article Dawkins was illustrating through personal experiences, his thoughts on a “shifting moral zeitgeist” in human society. The topic shifts later in the interview, and Dawkins mentions his feelings of guilt, as an adult, for standing idly by as a child when he saw other children being bullied.  A precocious child who read the article might well take away the message implicit there.

Eh, you’re a nice guy with a positive outlook, and I’d feel churlish bashing Dawkins any more. Sexual molestation is, I repeat, *very* serious; and, it is really wrong to use such molestation to take a swipe at Christians, especially in the middle of a ‘clarification’. The proverb is wrong: it’s not always true that any stick is good enough to beat a dog with.

Chris Kirk

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Posted: 23 September 2013 06:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I think that it is wrong to beat dogs.  But I think that anyone who fondles a child should be removed from society. (I wouldn’t mind them being beaten up first. It wouldn’t bother me if a person, whose licentious instincts lead them to cause lasting damage to a child, were tortured and killed.)  And I’m okay with calling Christians out on frightening children with their concept of Hell.

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