Kindle versions of some books of interest available cheap: Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science by Dawkins, and not a big favorite of mine but other people like it, made in america: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States by Bryson. Enjoy.
Whether you find Richard Dawkins a suitable leader in your personal mythology or prefer him roasted on the spit of MRA fueled internecine warfare among skeptics and science supporters, you still have to read The God Delusion by him. Cheap now on Kindle. Continue reading Dawkins’ Delusion Cheap (and some other books)
Years ago I knew Richard Dawkins as a fellow evolutionary biologist (met him only once, at a memorial event for WD Hamilton, but we have numerous mutual friends and colleagues). To be frank, and I’m only being frank now because I’d prefer not to use my real name, Dawkins was considered a bit of an enigma. He had great fame (and fortune and privilege) but that was without doing much important research. I always defended him back in those days. His fame came from The Selfish Gene and his subsequent books, and his popularization of science was well done and important. Those who complained,and there were many (but always behind his back) were just jealous.
Then, later, Dawkins got famous in another area, as a spokesperson for atheism. In fact, as a leader of the Atheist movement worldwide. A major milestone in that digression from biology was, of course, his book, The God Delusion. In The God Delusion, he told most people in the world that they were afflicted with a psychiatric disorder that caused them to believe in god. Atheists totally ate this up and for good reason. Also, Dawkins did the whole thing in his quaint British Accent and that took some of the edge off of it, and really, he did it well.
Then Elevatorgate happened, which had absolutely nothing to do with Richard Dawkins, but he chimed in. When he chimed in he said “Ladies, there is no way to get raped in an elevator. All you have to do is push the Stop and Door Open button and leave.” (or words to that effect).
Then just a few weeks later the person of all the people in the world who is closest to me was raped in an elevator.
The rape was interrupted not by her pressing the stop or open button, because they did not work. The rape was interrupted because she decided to kick the rapist’s ass. Then, he was the one pushing the buttons and when the door finally opened he ran. But it certainly did not have to turn out that way. He happened to be unarmed, for example.
Anyway, Richard Dawkins is a dick and that is not just because of his name. He’s a dick because he is utterly unaware of his white, male, British, academic, authory, etc. etc. privilege. Which would be OK, because who really cares, but privilege interferes with activism and being the guy who wrote The God Delusion makes you an activist. Privilege interferes with being a member of a diverse community (diverse as in other people don’t have the same privilege). You can only be an effective leader of a movement if you recognize your membership in the community, even if as a leader.
But you can stay in charge for longer than most, for longer than you deserve, if you corner the market you’ve developed for yourself. My friend and colleague Sarah Moglia overheard Dawkins say something one day that seemed to be an example of his cornering the market. He told someone in charge of major public event that if a particular person was allowed to speak at that event, Dawkins would not go. In other words, he used his huge and unchecked privilege to get another speaker tossed off the podium.
Why? Who did he get tossed? When did this happen? Why are we only hearing about it now?
It all comes down to Elevators, real and metaphorical. And shoes. Dawkins is actually pretty short.
PS. I happen to know what Sarah is doing right now, as I’m writing this post. The image above is a clue so you can guess what that might be!
After the Big Bang, more or less evenly distributed stuff and energy somehow became slightly unevenly distributed, which caused a kind of Universal Angular Momentum to set in which gave early heterogeneity and structure to everything that existed. The lightest elements formed more or less spontaneously, but in order for heavier elements to form matter had to get sufficiently clumped in stars that massive gravitational forces changed light elements into heavy ones. Perhaps if the initial clumping and spinning of stuff in the very early universe was a little bit different, the whole universe would have come out differently, in detail if not in other more profound ways. Or at least, I’d be wearing a blue tee shirt instead of a black one right now and I’d be using vim instead of emacs to type this blog post.
When Elevatorgate happened, the ensuing Universe Known as Rebeccapocalypse was shaped and determined by a number of early events that have caused the final result … well, not the “final” result, but the result that we are stuck with as of this writing … but had those first few days of Internet activity been a little different things might have come out a different way.
Here I would like to do two things. Continue reading Making sense of our fights on the Internet
Recently, Richard Dawkins said (full quote below) that a woman should not be concerned about her own safety if she finds herself in an elevator (under some sort of threat, presumably), because it is trivially easy to get out of an elevator if you are under attack. I’m sure Richard is a very smart guy and maybe he’s right, but there is evidence to the contrary that women can just leave the scene if they are uninterested in being raped or groped.
Dawkins gave a talk that could be criticized as not particularly new, in that his main idea is that human brains are too powerful and adaptable to continue to function primarily within an adaptive program serving as a proper adaptive organ. Instead, human brains think up all sorts of other, rather non-Darwinian things to do. This idea has been explored and talked about in many ways by many people. Kurt Vonegut Jr.’s character in Galapagos repeatedly, in a state of lament, quips “Thanks, Big Brain…” as evidence accumulates that our inevitable march towards extinction is primarily a function of that particular organ’s activities. People have talked about the brain as the outcome of runaway sexual selection. Evolutionary psychologists have talked about the evolution of strong preferences and desires, which in turn play out i a rather Frankensteinian fashion in a world where those desires can be met with ease instead of hard work and much time. Thus, we have evolved a yearning for rare nutrients such as salt and fat, and then we invented the ability to have unlimited access to salt and fat. So now, in a ‘civilized world’, it is the salt and fat that kills us incited of the predator or the con-specific competitor over access to some food or some sexual opportunity. (Thanks, Big Brain….)
Continue reading Dawkins…. On Purpose
Before the talk, several of us got together at Annie’s Parlour. It was harmonic convergence, in a sense, of numerous independent groups all planning to go to Annie’s and ending up at the same table, including but not limited to Amanda and myself, PZ and his wife and daughter, Stephanie, Mike, Mr. and Mrs. Linux in Exile, Lynn, and a few others who don’t have links. After the talk, we spent close to an hour hanging around with Amanda and a teacher colleague of hers and his wife, Kristine and Mr. Kristine (Oh, and Kristine regaled us with her famous Jerry Falwell/Richard Dawkins/Galapagos story), and Lynn, conversing about the talk. Also attending in our group was my friend Lizzie and a couple of her buddies. All in all, it was a great social event that I wouldn’t have missed for the world!
Oh, and somewhere in there Richard Dawkins gave this talk, and I enjoyed it a great deal.
I have three bad reviews, one by this guy and two that came in to me after the talk via cell phone from academics who were in attendance. All those people are showing their own lack of grounding with these negative reviews, really. Dawkins came to give a talk to the public about certain ways to look at the complexity of evolutionary process and society. As an academic who actually studies this stuff, I could easily say that Dawkins talk was trite, same-old-stuff we’ve all been saying all along slightly re-wrapped, self evident, and so on and so forth. But I guarantee that Dawkins did not come all the way across the Great Pond to give talks in Michigan and Minnesota and elsewhere for the benefit of Ed Brayton, me, or any other PhD toting scholars. This talk was for the interested public, they’re the ones that packed about four thousand people into Northrup Auditorium, and they are the ones for whom this talk was crafted, and I think Dawkins did an excellent job.
PZ Myers gave a very well crafted and entertaining introduction, by the way. And here is his blog post on the event.
I’ll probably write up a bit more about Dawkins talk and a few further thoughts I have about it. But right now I’m off to bed. It’s a school night!!!!