Jeremy Stangroom criticizes New Atheists for incivility but excuses statutory rape

February 18, 2011 • 7:26 am

I’ve seen this over and over again: fellow atheists fill their blogs by criticizing Gnu Atheists for their incivility and stridency.  After a while, you start to realize that those same critical atheists aren’t very nice themselves:  they either have a secret mean side, are equally uncivil towards Gnu Atheists or other opponents like global-warming deniers and homeopaths, or simply lack intellectual integrity. Invariably, their readership drops off as people realize what they’re really like.

The latest case is that of Jeremy Stangroom, British writer, philosopher, and atheist.  For a long time he’s been writing stuff about the gnastiness of the Gnus (see an example here); it’s almost as if he’s obsessed with the issue.  In a new post he criticizes Russell Blackford for “incivility” because Blackford used some mild sarcasm, but then shuts off any comments on his (Stangroom’s) post. And, on the same site, the moral philosopher Stangroom manages to justify statutory rape.

Bear with me here.  A while back philosopher Jean Kazez, who is always tut-tut-tutting about the Gnus for their incivility (and who subsequently lost a lot of respect and readers) put up a post criticizing Gnus for—shades of  Cool Hand Luke—a failure to communicate.  Her post included a cringe-making fable, “The Emperor’s Gnu Clothes,” in which the children who criticized the emperor were seen as “rude and insulting.” (Subtlety is not Kazez’s strong suit).

Yesterday, Brother Blackford wrote a very nice post, “The Emperor’s Gnude Clothes,” which points out that behind the calls for civility from people like Kazez and Chris Mooney is really a dictum—STFU:

It’s a matter of 1. do not question the beliefs of liberal religionists; 2. do not criticize pro-evolution liberal Christians, 3. do not make atheistic claims. Again, I don’t see how this can be any clearer. What we have here is not a call for politeness or some degree of communicative restraint in the interest of social harmony. It quite plainly says that we should not “criticize” or even “question” the religious views of (so-called) “liberal” Christians or “moderates”, and in particular we should not say  “there is no God”. It’s there in black and white.

The current debate is not, in essence, about politeness or communicative restraint. If Jerry Coyne talks to a group of Christians he is polite to them, as long as they are themselves courteous, open to discussion, and so on. So am I. What we are proposing is not mocking individuals or generally behaving like arse/assholes. It is, however, doing the things that Mooney (and, apparently, Forrest) said we should not do. That is, we do intend to go on questioning religious beliefs, even so-called liberal ones, criticising religious apologists, even so-called moderates, and putting the case that “there is no God”. We will not do this in a way that lacks all “communicative restraint”, though the appropriate degree of restraint will depend very much on the context.

Blackford them constructs his own fable, much funnier than Kazez’s (of course, I’m biased), in which the little girl is told STFU:

“You must never say the emperor is naked,” one woman said, bending down to the little girl, “not even in the most polite and thoughtful way you can. First, the emperor is not making you go around naked, so why question his clothing choices? Second, the alternative emperor might be a nasty man, so be nice to the one you’ve got. Third, you can never prove definitively that the emperor has no clothes, so why make trouble? Civic friendship demands that you show epistemological and civic humility about emperors and their various degrees of undress. Now run along and play.”

At the end, Blackford gets in a swipe at our favorite accommodationist:

“But you’ve both got carried away here,” said a nicely-dressed kid with a big white Colgate smile. “Maybe the emperor actually enjoys being naked. Maybe he really doesn’t know he’s naked, and he can’t figure it out when you’re speaking to him politely. Maybe when he looks at you, your clothes look ridiculous to him, too! Calm yourselves!”

Jeremy Stangroom can’t stand this. Although most of Blackford’s article is simply a calm description of how accommodationists try to silence us, Stangroom, in a post called  “We’re not uncivil, you toothy bastards,” takes issue with only one thing: Blackford’s sarcasm towards Mooney’s “Colgate smile.”  Stangroom points out how Russell has used such toothy sarcasm before.

Of course Stangroom completely ignores every substantive point made by Blackford, concentrating only on the toothpaste sarcasm, which Blackford admits was “snark.”  It’s more STFU-because-you’re-uncivil stuff.   But the worst part is that Stangroom, contrary to his usual policy, closed the post to comments.  He faults Blackford for a lack of “class,” but what is less classy than going after someone and then forbidding them—or anyone else—from replying?

But that’s not the worst part—not by far.  Scrolling down that page, I was amazed to see Stangroom’s post from December 21 (I don’t often read the site), “14 year old boy has sex. Woman jailed.”It’s about a Daily Mail article that describes the case of Susanne Divers. Divers was a 26 year old English woman—engaged and a mother of two—who repeatedly had sex with a 14 year old boy.  The boy eventually told the woman’s fiancé about the affair and showed him incriminating text messages.  Divers thereupon denied the affair, and the boy, in despair, tried to hang himself.   The police then warned Divers to stay away from the boy, but couldn’t press charges because he wouldn’t file a complaint.

Divers continued to have sex with the boy, and it was only after they were caught again that the boy pressed charges. Divers was arrested and sent to jail for three years.

This is clearly statutory rape: the age of consent in England is 16.  What was Stangroom’s reaction?  I append his post in full:

Yet again, this is ridiculous. Look at her. The boy should consider himself damned lucky. The police and courts should not have been involved. She should not have gone to jail.

It’s just about possible to make an argument that her actions were wrong (for example, she was cheating on her fiancé), but jailing her is absurdly disproportionate.

Sure people will point out that the boy attempted to take his own life. But people often do stupid things when they think they’re in love, including sometimes killing themselves. It doesn’t follow that this had anything to do with her (or even his) age, or that she is any more culpable than anybody else who finds themselves involved in an inappropriate affair.

Yes, look at her (click the link).  A good-looking woman (Stangroom repeatedly refers to hear as “beautiful” in the comments and other posts, as if somehow the act would be more wrong if she were plain), clad in hot pants, boots, and fishnet stockings.  Clearly such a woman should be able to rape anyone she wants, and that lad should “consider himself damned lucky.”  The kid tried to tell the woman’s partner, she denied the affair, and he tried to kill himself.  The police warned her off.  She kept having sex with the boy.  She should have stopped—indeed, should never have become involved with the boy in the first place.

In comments on this post, and in a subsequent post, Stangroom attempts to justify his view that the only thing Divers might have done wrong was be unfaithful to her partner.  He says repeatedly that Divers was “beautiful” and recounts a story of a woman he knew who was 18 and had a sexual relationship with a mature-looking 13 year old boy who instigated the affair.  Stangroom claims that 13 year old boys can certainly consent to sex, and that in this case “They were both having a fabulous time.”  He adds that maybe it wouldn’t have been okay if it was an 18 year old male and a 13 year old female, but he’s not in favor of a gender bar to underaged sex or a hard-and-fast age line.  Presumably Stangroom sees situations in which there should be nothing illegal about a 30 year old male or female having an affair with a “mature” eleven year old of the opposite sex.

That’s absurd.  Yes, the law should certainly take into account issues of coercion when meting out punishment.  But society has—rightfully, in my view—decided that it’s best to draw a legal line for consensual sex at a given age, just like it’s drawn a line for drinking or joining the military.  The line is there simply as a conservative societal indicator of “age of consent”, avoiding all the argument that would occur if there were no line.  We all know the damaging effects that can result from underaged children having sex with adults, even if they appear to be consenting.  Would Stangroom apply the same flexible line to drinking, so that sometimes it’s okay for a mature ten year old to buy a pint, or a mature fifteen year old to join the army? Would it be okay for a “mature” nine year old boy to have sex with an older woman? And don’t forget that Suzanne Divers was warned by the police to terminate the affair after the boy attempted suicide (now there’s a sign of maturity and consent), but refused to do so.

The same goes for sex that is prohibited between people in asymmetrical positions of power and trust: professors and their students in high school or college, psychiatrists and their patients, and so on.  In “affairs” of this type, the victim may claim that he/she was engaged in consensual sex, or was even “having a fabulous time,” but that doesn’t make it right.  The line is there to prevent people in positions of trust from abusing that trust.

And when Stangroom talks about the woman being “beautiful,” and links to her semi-clad picture, saying, “Look at her,” and that the boy was “damned lucky,” or when he talks about the “fabulous time” enjoyed by another thirteen year old boy, he just seems creepy.  It almost seems as if he’s jealous of the boy. And remember, this is a moral philosopher!  He first spews all that unreasoning invective about New Atheists, and then produces an impassioned but misguided justification for statutory rape. Next to that, a reference to the Colgate Twins is trivial.  Ask yourself: would you rather have a beer with Russell Blackford or Jeremy Stangroom?

And, Dr. Stangroom, unlike you I’m not closing comments on this post.  So feel free to come over here and defend yourself—a privilege you didn’t extend to Russell Blackford.

247 thoughts on “Jeremy Stangroom criticizes New Atheists for incivility but excuses statutory rape

  1. Stangroom’s comments fills this feminist with rage. Seriously:

    1. Way to minimize trauma by assuming that once any boy enters puberty, he shouldn’t care about where the sex comes from, especially if it’s a ‘beautiful’ partner. I don’t know about you, but I like to think most men want more than ‘a beautiful and sexually available woman’.

    2. Way to miss the point that if the kid is attempting suicide, that’s an indicator that something is seriously wrong.

    3. Yes, a hard and fast age limit may have a few cases on the border that are fishy, but it’s better than offering arbitrary judgments based on someone’s personal opinion of maturity. And there is some flexibility in the law, to cover situations when there might be six months or a year between partners. But I don’t think a relationship between a middle schooler and an adult twice his age is ‘on the border’.

    1. In the UK the authorities do take into account the difference of participants when allegations of sex with an underage child are made. So a 16 year old having sex with a fifteen year old is not going to be prosecuted (assuming a lack of force or coercion). In fact in such cases the police most likely be more interested in handing the case over to social services and/or healthcare professionals for harm reduction intervention.

  2. As far as I’m concerned, the fact that this so-called “moral” philosopher has disallowed comments makes him, at best, a coward–and a sexist coward, at that. His statements about “morality” need not be considered, as he appears to lack the standing to discuss the matter.

  3. this kind of reminds me of a debate I saw between Dinesh and Pinker, I’m too lazy to look it up, but the title of the debate was something like “does god exist?”. Dinesh opens up by ridiculing Pinker for a paper he wrote on the ethical question of infanticide, where Pinker considered whether it is ethical to kill a new born, and I guess he didn’t condemn it strongly enough for Dinesh’s taste.

    At the time I thought “total non sequitur, and a rather cheap blow”.

    Sure, raping prepubescent boys is bad. Not sure what that has to do with the argument about accommodation.

    1. Sure, raping prepubescent boys is bad. Not sure what that has to do with the argument about accommodation.

      Maybe only this that they guy who does not see what is wrong with raping prepubescent boys probably does not fully express integrity in thinking and judging, and thus his opinion on Gnus might me similarly flawed.
      The fact that one blocks comments on his blogs is also probably a sign that one does anticipates controversial feedback from readers and is not interested to hear it. Is such person genuinely interested in discussing any point? So what was the point of publishing a post in the first place?
      And finally if moral judgement of “moral philosopher” is in such extent displaced – should we trust such person to provide us valid insight on other important moral questions?

      1. So it isn’t a non sequitur, it is all-encompassing? If he opines which singer is better, we will have to remind ourselves his opinion must be wrong because of his position on statutory rape?

        1. I agree with your point Bob and wish Jerry would have investigated it further. I have a theory that atheist moral philosophers struggle with the new atheists because they tend towards moral realism. It would have been interesting to consider Stangroom’s peevishness inside that idea relative to his willingness to afford moral license within statutory rape.

        2. I did not claim that both opinions (on accommodation and the sex affair) are following each other. They are not much connected indeed. The only connection is the author of opinions/posts. I think that Jerry does not claim that the two things follow. They are related by an author of opinion but do not follow. The unspoken issue is a question of TRUST.
          I said that it does not look good for someone who has written on his door “moral philosopher” to make such blunders. I think it is related only in that sense that it diminishes trust to judgments of such person in moral matters. In his comments he does not sound scholarly. Imagine A.C.Grailing telling how the young guy should consider himself “lucky” to be forced to sex with such “beautiful” woman. He would sound and look silly. Would you buy his next book without closer examination of its reviews?

          Blocking comments tells lot about one’s interest in truth and opinion on virtue of discussion. I think that this guy just fails here.

          1. I agree blocking comments is a very notable offense. That doesn’t magically remove the error I feel Mr. Coyne has performed here, however.

            This keeps being offered as an issue with Mr Perry. I could care less about him, I don’t follow his blog, and from what little I know, he seems like an ass.

            I’m not sure how demonstrating his assheadedness will rectify the issue I think Coyne failed at.

          2. Moral Philosophy has nothing to do with trust, he’s not a judge who dishes out punishment. You EXPLAIN your reasoning for peer review.

            The fact still remains that it is a complete non-sequitur and a smear of Bill O’Reilly standards

          3. You mean that his blog posts are peer reviewed? By leaving a comment to a post?

            By trust I do not mean unquestionable authority. I meant – to trust as to an expert.
            If the guy with “M.D.” on his door had an opinion that crystals can heal by vibrations – would you trust him fully when he expressed his opinion about best treatment of your liver? Those are two unrelated opinions, right?

          4. Newton believed in Alchemy and was arguably nuts.

            His principia mathematica however is still considered a masterpiece of physics and math.

            Why? Because the logic stands up for itself.

            A philosopher is not dispensing treatments or punishments, he is not a lawyer, a policeman or a judge, he has no authority over you. He simply makes an argument and you can accept it or not based on its own merit.

          5. Newton experimented with alchemy because it was the precursor to chemistry. He didn’t know what we know now. Cut him some slack. “Arguably nuts”? He was extremely anti-social, perhaps high-functining Aspergers/autism, but what was his psychopathology?

          6. @Shuggy

            It’s more than that he had some crazy religious convictions that were blasphemous even at the time.

            The point is you judge the man’s contributions on the merit of the contributions. In a field like philosophy and mathematics that it fairly easy to do as little or no trust is involved.

            You can’t dismiss all the jerks of history as having aspergers, jerks exist and there is no reason they can’t be competent at the same time.

        3. No. Because that’s a mere matter of TASTE. And as Hume said, TRUTH is debateable, not TASTE.

          Or the even older latin proverb: ‘de gustibus non est disputandum’

          Which roughly translates to: “tastes are not disputable”

          So, when someone is pontificating on a MORAL ISSUE, his previous MORAL FAILINGS or successes are important to know. After all, if a person has shown himself to be a failure, why should I listen? Or if I listen, give the benefit of the doubt?

          Jerry, I listen to. Many other ‘gnu athiests’ not as much. Even if they are ‘bigger’ or ‘more popular’ because I find them to be, many times, morally rigid and inflexible and/or condesendingly self-righeous in their behavior.

          OTOH, if he/she is talking about singers… So what? That’s just taste…

          1. You are aware there is more than one system of morality, yes?

            And a moral failing in one may be a virtue in another.

        4. I have to say I sort of agree with Bob here. They say that Hitler liked dogs (although of course, to a cat lover, that could be taken as further proof of his insanity).

    2. It does, because the Civility Police pretend that they are nice, charming people, while the rest of us act like we were raised by wolves.

      Meanwhile, this guys blithering about how *mean* a funny comment by Blackford is out one side his mouth, while condoning sexual abuse of a kid out the other side.

      Dude doesnt give a rats ass about ‘civility’.

      1. My post is not, in the tiniest bit, questioning whether he’s a jerk or not, a hypocrite or not, etc. All of these things could be true (likely are true) and that doesn’t make the non sequitur Mr. Coyne pulled any less non-sequitur’ish.

        1. So you cannot see how a person complaining about a lack of civility in one post, and the seeming to condone sex with an underage boy on another might not be showing much in the way of consistency ?

          1. If you cannot see I very much doubt I can help.

            You see, one does rely on other commentators here having a certain level of intellectual, moral and ethical development. If you have reached a sufficient level of development then all I can suggest is you go away and come back when you have.

            In the meantime, show some civility, and stop inflicting your stupidity on the rest of us.

          2. You’re claiming to see _nothing_ noteworthy about the same person (i) claiming to place a fainting-couch level of importance on civility in discourse while (ii) demonstrating a coarse, leering contempt for the notion of protecting adolescents from the sexual desires of adults (including the notion that there’s even any harm in such cases to protect them against). That’s absurd and I don’t believe you.

    3. It says something about this guy’s moral character that he thinks making fun of Mooney’s teeth is contemptible whereas statutory rape is not.

    4. Stangroom is clearly a tool, and I think Jerry is right to point out how silly his post about the Colgate reference is, but dredging up Stangroom’s post about statutory rape strikes me as a tu quoque fallacy.

  4. I imagine that when I was 14, I would have probably have wanted to do the same if I had the opportunity. To some extent, I may have even enjoyed it.

    This is not to say it would have been good for me. Certainly, the extreme response of the attempted suicide is an indicator that this boy was not quite all there in terms of maturity. If the woman had been 18 (4 years difference rather than 12), the situation may be more forgivable and the shades of grey could mitigate the prblem.

    What 14 year-old boys want and may enjoy is not the same as what is healthy.

    1. Yeah, I definitely had the hots for a couple of my teachers when I was 14. But the law is pretty clear on this: a 14-yr-old cannot give consent.

      And as you say, there are moral reasons to support the law.

    2. “I imagine that when I was 14, I would have probably have wanted to do the same if I had the opportunity. To some extent, I may have even enjoyed it. (But) What 14 year-old boys want and may enjoy is not the same as what is healthy.”

      Bingo. I would have jumped at the chance at age 14, and it would probably not have been good for me in the long run (although that’s hard to say, not having had the same experience). Still, I wonder how much of the trauma he’s experiencing is because of the punishment being inflicted on his “girlfriend,” vs. from having the affair itself? I have absolutely no way of knowing.

  5. Ask yourself: would you rather have a beer with Russell Blackford or Jeremy Stangroom?

    Well, already had a beer with Russell and can state that he’s a decent bloke as well as a smart bloke.

    I might once have liked to have had a beer with Jeremy Stangroom but the way he dirt-bagged Ophelia Benson made it plain that the man wasn’t quite the kind of person that this beer loving, uncouth, bogan would get along with.

    1. Jerry, you do know that the ‘would you rather have a beer with’ will be taken out of context. It will be used like a converse argumentum ad populum… Instead of being wrong for apealling to the majority, you’ll be wrong for appealing to who would the majority desire to drink with.

    1. Not clear at all. What do you believe is a “2bitsmear?” Why do you believe that Jerry’s comment is not a serious critique, but rather a “smear,” which implies a base and dishonest motive?

      You need to do better.

      1. I’m referring two the linking of criticising incivility but suggests something else is morally permissible.

        If it was “criticises gnus and then swears at opponents” it would be a blatant hypocrisy.

        It’s like creationists saying to each other “Jerry Coyne believes abortion is ok and therefore everything he says is invalid”

        And for the record I do agree with Russel Blackford.

        1. So condoning child sex abuse is not being uncivil ? Belittling what seems to have been a traumatic experience for the boy in questions (he tried to kill himself remember) is not being uncivil.

          I rather suspect you have warped sense of what is civil.

          1. 1st of all I wouldn’t trust the daily mail presentation of the issue. They specialise in distorting stories to cause a moral outrage.

            2ndly I haven’t seen anyone speaking to or addressing the boy.

          2. Well take a look at Stangroom’s post then.

            And learn to write English properly, if you want to be taken seriously. If you really cannot be arsed to write firstly, why should be we bother to read your crap ?

          3. A 14-year-old’s name would be censored by the authorities.

            It is a crime in Great Britain to violate those laws, I do believe. Just as it is in the US.

            So, do you want to satisfy your curiosity about whether this child enjoyed sex before or after he attempted suicide? Or for what other reason?

            Again, if it was a 14-year-old girl and a 26-year-old man, would your answer be different? Or a 14-year-old boy and a 26-year-old priest?

            Buy a clue, please.

    1. Ah, welcome to the site, Dr. Stangroom–I’m glad to see you taking advantage of the open-comment thread.

      And thanks for pointing this out–I didn’t know about Russell’s post. And of course I feel that Blackford is just as misguided as you are on this issue, though he seems to be a lot less creepy.

    2. Why “irony”?

      Are you implying that atheists are all in lock-step with one another?

      I think you don’t know us as well as you claim to.

      1. Stangroom did use the word “irony” correctly here. The irony is that Coyne accused Stangroom of hypocrisy for criticizing Blackford’s incivility. Coyne cited Stangroom’s defense of statutory rape as evidence of his incivility. Ironically, Blackford himself did not think that Stangroom was being incivil in his defense of statutory rape.


            Definition 3a(1)
            “incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result”

            Since Coyne is defending Blackford against a charge of incivility, which Blackford also believes is an unwarranted charge, Blackford and Coyne might be “expected” to share a common conception of what constitutes “incivility” with respect to the subject being discussed: statutory rape. Therefore, Stangroom can reasonably interpret the fact that they don’t as “ironic” using the above definition.

    3. Dr. Stangroom… please stop using “begging the question” when you mean “raising the question” or “raising an issue”. I don’t care if Hugh Laurie’s character does it on “House M.D.”; he’s playing an American. /pedant

      1. Dear everyone… please stop using “gay” to mean “homosexual.” That’s not what it originally meant, therefore it is WRONG. Also, stop using “fun” as an adjective – it started out as a noun and that is what it must forever be. Also, never point at someone and say “That’s him over there.” It should be “That’s HE over there.” Nevermind the fact that it sounds ridiculous. Language is not allowed to change, and phrases and words are not allowed to take on new meanings. While we’re at it, we should actually go back to Old English grammar, as well…. /logically consistent pedant

        1. In defense of sasqwatch’s request, I’d say that logical fallacies can often be difficult to spot. Confusion is likely if one isn’t careful to be precise with one’s language. It won’t necessarily be obvious, in such a case, which meaning the writer intended.

        2. I’m all for language change. Hell, I study language change (specifically, relationships between social network structure and language innovation).

          But I’m also for precision in some terms of language, especially where it concerns a very specific kind of logical fallacy. …and especially coming from a philosopher. Granted it is a stupid expression, and probably best avoided altogether. But it is easier than typing “petitio principii”, so I’d appreciate it if y’all’ld just tone down the language change in this one instance.

          Especially you, Tim. Troublemaker.

        3. Especially you, Tim. Troublemaker.

          Yeah, I admit it. 😛

          “Begging the question” having two meanings is less precise.

          I don’t want to belabor what is a minor point, but just to address this quickly: this is an assertion often made by those arguing against language change, and it is very seldom backed up by any evidence. The two meanings of “beg the question” seem to me completely easy to separate. Here are some examples of both types from the NY Times. Are these excerpts difficult to understand in any way? I don’t think so.

          “Those mature and bipartisan acts beg the question: What other issues should cause these men to speak with one voice?”

          “If a friend who has fallen away from the habit of reading for pleasure (or else never acquired it) should ask me what to read, I can choose from a nearly endless shelf… But if my friend should ask me why to read — whether to read — it would only beg the question to respond by handing her a book.”

          “Puzzling styles, like Alexander Wang jeans ($332) that look really, really down on their luck, sometimes beg the question of what these designers have been inhaling…”

          “Absurd as that is, it does beg the question of what equality is, of what feminists are working toward.”

          “To say that ‘all forms of impermissible political violence are terrorism’ is to beg the question, requiring the author to make subjective judgments about the ‘permissible.'”

          1. 1) Those are easy examples.

            2) You’re a bright guy. Lots of other people might not get the distinction in those examples, at least not at first glance.

            3) The thing I’d be more concerned about is not whether we can parse a statement to ferret our the writer’s true intent (although, we should WE have to do that work), but that if we’re going to accuse a writer of actually begging the question, or of simply creating more problems than solutions with their explanation, then we should write what we mean. Why not?

          2. 1) & 2) Again you’re making assertions without evidence. All I did was search the NYT index for “beg the question” and pick relevant examples. I did not search for “easy” ones. I can tell you the reason why every example is easy: it’s because when someone uses the new meaning of “beg the question,” they also tell you which question you’re raising. And when someone uses the old meaning, they don’t.

            The proof is in the pudding. You know why people are always quick to complain when someone uses the new meaning of “beg the question”? Because it’s completely obvious that they’re doing so. Otherwise, how would they know to correct you?

            3) I don’t entirely follow you. “Beg the question” has two meanings now – it’s an empirical fact. People who use either one are saying what they mean.

          3. “The proof is in the pudding” – is it? How do you know that?
            Surely you mean “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”?

            Atheist pedant

          4. Alright. Point taken. If you’ve got a good head on your shoulders, it really shouldn’t be much of a problem to discern one use from the other.

            But why not aim for precision? Richard Dawkins recently wrote about how he strives to be as crystal-clear as he can when he writes, in order to forestall any possibility of misunderstanding, and so that his readers have the best chance possible of gleaning his real intent, not to mention to avoid being quote-mined.

          5. Precision is good, as long as you don’t let it block communication (say by being obsessive, letting the effort stand in the way of writing, et cetera).

            Now it seems to me you are arguing for “easy” or perhaps effortless precision. (Since “easy” seems to have taken several different meanings in this thread.)

            That depends on the context of what makes it communication. And I don’t think you can put all the effort on the part of the sender in the back-and-forth. People may be relied to ask when they don’t get details (as long as it is details not the bulk, natch).

          6. TL:

            I’m not sure how precise language could hinder communication. The whole point of precision is to aid it – to, yes, cut down on the amount of “work” the recipient has to do to understand it.

            (unless you mean that laboriously searching for the most “precise” way of putting something hinders the writing process itself. But that’s neither here nor there in this discussion, I think.)

          7. Apologies for the late reply.

            @JS1685: I’ve presented the argument and evidence for why the two meanings of “beg the question” are not in fact that difficult to tell apart. You keep chiming that “but it’s still more difficult than it has to be!”, but haven’t provided any argument for this. I’m all for precision in language (within reason) – the very crux of my argument is that “beg the question” is precise. People do not seem to have difficulty differentiating between the two meanings; most of the discussion surrounding this focuses on why one meaning is “wrong,” which is a discussion that can only take place because people understand very well how the words are being used.

          8. I know I haven’t provided any evidence. I learn a lot from reading these threads, and in that sense, I take them seriously. But I’m honestly too busy to turn commenting here into a formal research project. On top of which, I’m pretty much speaking from personal experience. I’ve witnessed people confuse the two meanings. It happens.

            I see your point about precision. Yes, since people in fact use the phrase to mean “raise an issue,” then it does mean precisely that. I suppose my idea of precision was a 1:1 ratio between the phrases and their meanings.

            Uncle! I suppose I’m going to have to retreat into the realm of “personal preference” and the (probably fallacious) “slippery slope” idea that with this attitude, how can we say, and why would we bother to say, ANYTHING is wrong?

  6. I know what I did when I was 14/16, I stole booze and got piss drunk, because it was fun. If someone had given me a bottle of vodka at the time, I’m sure as hell would have considered myself “damned lucky”. This is why adults are sometimes called adults, because they should know better.

    1. Because having sex with a 26 year-old woman can damage your liver, increase your chances of getting into an automobile accident, and lead to alcoholism?

  7. my previous comment should probably be clarified. I was raped by a 21 y/o when I was 15 y/o. Then, I was raped by a 23 y/o when I was 17 y/o.

    I also raped a 14 y/o when I was 17 y/o.

    To put it mildly, I’m not so sure the term deserves the knee jerk vilification it often enjoys. I can’t say I look back at my early years with great fondness. However, I think applying the word “rape” to any of those situations is absurd. It belittles the word “rape”.

    1. Except for:

      … sex that is prohibited between people in asymmetrical positions of power and trust: professors and their students in high school or college, psychiatrists and their patients, and so on. In “affairs” of this type, the victim may claim that he/she was engaged in consensual sex, or was even “having a fabulous time,” but that doesn’t make it right. The line is there to prevent people in positions of trust from abusing that trust.

      I really can’t imagine disgreeing with this.

      This is the basis for prohibiting sexual harrassment and other kinds of abuse of power.

      Are you asserting that 14-year-olds are competent to make such consent? If so, where would you draw the line, and based on what data?

      It seems very, very simple to me: Adults are socially and legally bound to control themselves and not have sex with children.

      1. Keep in mind, you are not asking a general question, you are asking a specific question of whether I was an independent, capable of consenting adult, when I was 15 y/o (applying the issue to my example)

        From my position, I obviously was. I was paying rent, living on my own, working full time. I was in every way, shape and form an adult, doing all the adult things adults do. At the time I thought I was far more mature than people of my age usually are, mainly because kids of my age weren’t forced to deal with such issues.

        And that is exactly why it is so murky of an issue. The problem, to me, is the absurd dichotomy here. There are two options, full consenting adult, and PEDOPHILE RAPIST!!!!

        I hope you can see why those two options aren’t very helpful. There is a bit more spectrum to the issue, and the age guide lines are utterly arbitrary and meaningless on an individual basis.

        1. Your case may be a gray area. Generally speaking, 14 year-olds are not a gray area.

          You seem to be asking that people allow adults to have sex with 14-year olds.

          Maybe you’re just arguing that yours was a special case — fair enough on that; you know it infinitely better than I do.

          But this does not help the general case. Note that the 14-year old was not arrested. I wonder what the parents of a 14-year old girl would think about her having sex with an older male? Does this matter? (I think it does; but they will likely end up responsible for any resulting child.)

          There’s a reason parental permission is usually required for a 16-year old to marry: They have no independent legal responsibility.

          How can you tell that a 14-year old isn’t being manipulated (by threats or promises) by the adult to assert consent?

          What is the greater good here? If we err on the side of enforcing a statutory rape law, then a handful of adults are refused access to sex with children. If we err on the side of allowing assymmetrical sexual relationships for children, then many pedophiles will use this loophole and manipulation (in which they are expert) to abuse children.

          Which is the greater risk?

          This question is why statutory rape laws exist.

          1. Your case may be a gray area. Generally speaking, 14 year-olds are not a gray area.

            Indeed! Definitely not a gray area: the states of Alabama, New Hampshire, New York and both North and South Carolina all consider it to be perfectly legal for 14 year olds to marry (and all that entails), with varying amounts of both parental and/or judicial permission.

            So yes: it is not flat-out illegal for anyone to have sex with a 14 year old in the United States. In fact, the minimum age for women in New Hampshire is 13, with parental consent and a waiver. In those states, the only things that would have made this illegal is the fact that the two were not married.

            Furthermore, a great many states have their legal age of consent set at 16; indeed, that is the most common age of consent among all the states!

            So yeah. Having sex with teenagers: creepy, but not that rare actually.

        2. age guide lines are utterly arbitrary and meaningless on an individual basis

          Of course there is no magical brain transition which happens on birthdays which can instantly grant people the wisdom to vote, drink, drive, have sex, etc when the previous day they could not. They are necessarily making a continuum act as if it was discrete or quantized but does this mean it’s arbitrary or meaningless?

          When we start discussing ethics as it comes to legal matters we are left in the unfortunate spot of having to establish some sort of uniform, unambiguous criteria and age is an obvious one. We as a society or as parents often are faced with a dilemma – we know that imposing a strict cutoff rejects the continuum but then the acts which we’re talking about aren’t a continuum either. Kids either have sex or don’t, either vote or don’t, either go to war or don’t. With something like drinking you can conceivably ease kids into it by giving them small amounts when they’re in their early teens and slowly increasing the permitted amounts but you can’t ease into sex.

          So on a population level and at an individual level, guardians (parents or the state) are forced to set some sort of fixed line. It’s chosen to reflect human development so it’s not “utterly arbitrary” or “meaningless”, it’s just not as meaningful, subtle or relevant as you’d like. But I’d ask if you think there can exist some other guide lines which are substantially better, either for parents or the state.

          We can make improvements and refinements but are these substantial improvements?

      2. “…children.”

        Well yes I suppose, but in many ways my father was still a child well past middle age, although he was in his 30s and married to my mother when I was born. Anyway, the incident(s) under discussion didn’t really involve a child but an adolescent. I’m not arguing that that excuses anything, just saying I think you’re are exaggerating a bit.

        It may seem very, very simple to you but I doubt that it is always thus to the people involved. I’ve heard paedophiles say they believe one day their urges will become accepted, much as homosexuality is (or should be) today. Obviously it is not so very, very simple to them as it is to you. I stress that I am not condoning it, I’m saying that it is not always a simple matter. Consider also the issue of allowing people of any age with some disabilities (particularly wrt mental development) to have sex, or even to marry and live together. Sometimes the motivation is really love, I’m sure, and there are plenty of adults who have demonstrated that they are incapable of dealing with that responsibly.

        I’m glad I don’t have to adjudicate in these cases.

        1. “…I’ve heard paedophiles say they believe one day their urges will become accepted, …”

          According to the Pope, that day already came – in the 1970’s.

    2. “. It belittles the word “rape”.”

      I’d say that statutory rape should never be truncated to “rape.” The whole reason that statutory is in the term is because it is “rape” by statute not rape by force, the former being where the victim consented, but their consent isn’t considered legal by dint of their and by the age difference with the offender. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t prosecute people for statutory rape, but that we shouldn’t misrepresent the actual offense.

  8. I see all the commentary on tone as a peevish form of ad hominem. I wish we could all just grow a thicker skin and speak about the validity or invalidity of ideas.

    1. It’s not clear to me who you are suggesting is guilty of “a peevish form of ad hominem”.

      That aside, I’d say we probably have skin about thick enough although thicker probably wouldn’t hurt.

      However, challenging these accusations of incivility is important. If we just ignore them they will be repeated and become “fact” (i.e. regardless of the truth). These accusations need to be dissected and refuted (or otherwise). Yes they are a sideshow but they need to be swept aside to deal with the substantial issues, and that requires that they be demolished, not ignored.

      I think that the responses to these accusations are probably as much expressions of anger and frustration that defenders of faith will not engage with the substantial issues. So be it, but when these accusations are dealt with then the situation will come into clearer view, and that will reveal that those who bring these accusations of incivility have failed to address the substance.

      If their only reply to G(nu) A(theist) criticism is that GAs are uncivil then might not people be justified in thinking that the GA criticism is valid? Like, when we’ve demonstrated how naked the king really is (His willy has gone blue in the cold!) people will start saying to each other “Yes, the king is indeed quite naked”.

  9. Dr. Stangroom:

    Simple experiment. Switch genders. Do you STILL think it’s a “fabulous time” for a 14-year-old to have sex with a 26-year-old? One that then attempts suicide?

    1. Thanks — that’s exactly the point I was going to make.

      I have no doubt that one can construct all sorts of theoretical “what-if” scenarios of non-harmful sexual activity between all sorts of classes of people. The fact remains that, in the overwhelming majority of actual cases, adults who have sex with children abuse their disproportionate amount of power over the child.

      If we can agree that a universal ban on sexual relationships between bosses and their workers is bad — and, I’m pretty sure, we can reach such an agreement despite the small minority of cases which seem to work out — then we should have no trouble agreeing that the exact same ban should exist between adults and children.

      It’s quite disheartening that somebody who bills himself as a “moral philosopher” should so spectacularly fail to understand this matter.



      1. “If we can agree that a universal ban on sexual relationships between bosses and their workers is bad”

        We most certainly can not.

        1. Full agreement: Such a ban is correct for two reasons:

          1. Preventing sexual harrassment
          2. Preventing nepotism

          Everywhere I have worked, relatioships, and even the appearance of relationships between managers and “workers” (those they supervise) was/is strictly prohibited. And rightly so.

          1. I think Ben meant to say that boss/employee relationships are bad; a universal ban would therefore be good.


    1. Yes the Mail is rubbish but it doesn’t affect the debate here about the morality of an older woman having sex with an underage boy. There is a double standard here, Mr. Stangroom I’m sure wouldn’t think it OK if the genders were reversed and even if he did I’d lay a large bet he wouldn’t say so, which is where the link is to the sniping at Gnus. Double standards again.

    2. Agreed but as no one is contesting the basic facts as presented, maybe we Daily Mail sceptics can treat this as a hypothetical case 🙂

  10. I agree with Jerrys idea that ‘civility’ is code for STFU, and is entirely insincere (ie being uncivil to defend ‘civility’ is allowed, lol).

    But I would also add: ‘Civility’ is also used as a shield to protect weak personalities and weak ideas. I dont mean ‘weak’ as in introverted/unpopular, I mean ‘weak’ as in weak.

    Cant defend your position? Someone criticizing something stupid a friend of yours said? Ignore the substance of everything everyone is saying. Ignore the context of everything everyone is saying. Find anything that might be considered ‘mean’ (whether it was intended to be mean or not) and BAAAAAAAAAAW your way to ‘victory’! HUZZAH!

    1. Don’t forget you need to define civility, which seems to be a moving target.

      It seems like if you are in the accommodationist camp you can say all kinds of disparaging cruel mean unsupported things about your opponent because your opponent used one of Carlin’s 7 dirty words. As we all know swearing and shit is fucking uncivil.

  11. is jerry’s post really turned on its head because blackford says a few favorable things towards a discussion that really misses the point of that particular situation? not really.

    that kid may have known exactly what was going on, as he did inform the woman’s fiance of the affair. the real problem after that, is that she continued to seek the affair out, and it has produced a negative result (prior to arrest). are 14 year olds really the barometer for sexual will power? 14 year olds know dick about the world or their bodies, for the most part. we’re so underdeveloped mentally and emotionally at that age that it’s easy for an older, more experienced person, be it male or female, to rationalize how “right” the whole situation is.

    i agree with blackford that a 14 year old girl stands to lose a lot more if the situation were reversed but, that still strikes me as completely insensitive to young boys. do we not care about their mental/emotional stability because, as grown men, we look back on our teenage years with the benefit of hindsight, thinking to ourselves that we’d have been “damned lucky” to have slept with an older woman?

    i typed all this out and feel like a jackass now. these discussions are always interesting but can be a bit tedioius. but, whatever. i don’t think stangroom is completely off base, just sort of smarmy about it. that’s a shame.

    1. “i don’t think stangroom is completely off base, just sort of smarmy about it. that’s a shame.”

      Smarmy. Uncivil. Poorly framing his argument.

      That’s exactly the point.

    2. “i agree with blackford that a 14 year old girl stands to lose a lot more if the situation were reversed but,”

      Really? The boy tried to kill himself. Do tell how a girl has more to loose than that.

      Granted, my intuition/instinct/whatever tells me that girls have more to loose generally since we assume that girls have sex for love and deeper emotional connections rather than just for the fun of sex, and that young teenage boys will be happy just to have sex with a hot, experienced woman, but how true is that presumption? Clearly it isn’t 100% true since the boy in this instance, you know, tried to kill himself. Proof by contradiction. (And proven anecdotes *are* evidence in limited contexts, as in this case of proof by contradiction.)

  12. Stangroom is a hypocrite because his goal is to simply smear gnus – even at the cost of his own intellectual honesty – and couldn’t care less if the charges he himself levels against them are fair, justified, and true.

    Stangroom wants to use Russell’s granting slack to him over the sex abuse case as evidence that he does care about being fair and justified but then turns right around and wants to use the ‘Colgate’ reference to be an example of how dreadfully hurtful gnu atheists are when they ‘smear’ others. This is pathetic because it reveals the hypocrisy Stangroom embraces: he gets to smear gnus with abandon but thinks himself justified to hold them to some standard of integrity he himself refuses to practice.

    Furthermore, he has the audacity to pretend to care about what’s true when it pertains to him but won’t offer the same courtesy to anyone who is a gnu atheist. A perfect example of this immature duplicity was offered up in his drivel post about the Tom Johnson affair and didn’t even make a poor attempt to explain what was actually true, honest, and fair to explain why so many gnus were in a justifiable tizzy from untrue accusations; instead, he supported Mooney’s hypocrisy to allow Johnson and his assortment of sock puppets to smear gnus in general and Ophelia Benson in particular but denied her the right to establish what was actually true in fact… by banning her from commenting claiming contrary to evidence that she was just too nasty!

    Stangroom doesn’t care about what’s true in fact when it comes to gnu atheists; all he cares about is smearing them. He even fails to appreciate why using Russell’s agreement with him about the sex abuse case ices the cake in the irony department. Although I have no doubt he wishes to attribute to gnus this irony (as if he’s clever enough to find some), he in fact shows all that he just doesn’t get it: his use of Russel’s agreement glaringly detracts from and does not enhance the merit of his smearing campaign about those terribly rude and arrogant and mean-spirited gnus! You see, Russel cares very much about what’s true and is willing to agree with even such an unlikable person as Stangroom if the point he raises has merit. By missing this fact, Stangroom shows his inability to get past his own bias by simply discarding examples contrary to his opinion about what he believes to be true about gnus. This blind spot the size of his own ego reveals him for the intentionally disagreeable and intellectually dishonourable twit he really is.

  13. Funny, this is exactly the line o apologetics Muslims offer for prophet mohammad’s pedophilia. Sure, he “married” a 9 (or according to some narrators, 7) year old girl. But everything that happened was “consensual”, so that makes it just fine. And of course there are plenty of dirty men in Islamic world seconding that precedent to this day.
    So, Mr Stangroom, should there be an age of consent? If so, what should the cutoff be? 14? 12? Lower even?

      1. I am comfortable with the legal age as is. I was asking for Stangroom’s perspective, since he is the one who seems to have a problem.

        1. which state has the perfect legal age of consent.

          In my state, I have technically committed rape 3 times. In other states, I didn’t technically commit rape. If you could clarify it for me, I’d like to know if I should be ashamed of my actions when I was a teen or not.


          1. I think it is clear the ambiguity suites no one better than you.
            I am comfortable with the “legal” age. Meaning following the laws wherever you live. But this post is about it happening a 14 year old. Are you aware of any law approving this, that is not based on Islamic sharia?
            Speaking of which, you haven’t told us what YOU think about prophet Mohammad and his underage bride.

          2. As I posted up above, there’s plenty of places in the USA where this might have been appropriate – there are many states where the minimum legal age of marriage is 14 with parental consent (and it’s 13 for girls in New Hampshire!)

            So, if she had married him, there would have been no problem in various parts of the USA. Indeed, if she’d just waited two years, it would have been perfectly legal in quite a few states – 16 is the modal age of consent in the USA.

            So, yeah. In the USA, it’s totally okay to boink 14 year olds in some circumstances.

        1. Such debates happen all the time. They happen in places called “legislatures” which pass things called “laws”.

          In our western culture, “laws” are things to be “obeyed” at risk of something called “prosecution and jail.” Followed occasionally by “fun times in the shower” — abuse of pedophiles in prison is rife no matter if the offender is a man or a woman.

          Want to change the statute? Fine, be my guest. Participate in the legislative process. However, one never gets to substitute their own judgment (even of a bad law) and expect a consequence-free outcome.

          Both UK and US jurisprudence is based on the concept of being a nation of laws applicable to all.

          However, I should warn you that the general trend in this area is in the opposite direction of reducing the age consent. I don’t know of any state which has done so; only raised it.

          Fact: In New York State in the year 1900, the age of consent was 10! From which we might reasonably conclude that maybe Mohammed wasn’t such a pervert after all. (I’ve always been unmoved by that particular argument against Islam.)

          1. I might share your opinion if it weren’t for Muslim men “marrying” underage girls 40 years younger than them to
            this day and citing the prophet’s example as an excuse. As an individual he can be excused as following the zeitgeist of his day; as a shining example for all people of all times and places, he can’t.

          2. Sorry, but not in this country.

            I can’t imagine why you would bring up such a red herring, though.

            Are you saying, “Because Mohammed married a 9-year-old, it’s then OK for me to have sex with an under-age child”. Is that REALLY what you’re arguing. Because I can assure you that if you attempt to do such a thing, you’ll probably find yourself on a reality TV show, in a well-publicized trial, and in a prison for sex offenders…in that order.

          3. Kevin, you commented that you are “unmoved” by the argument that the Prophet’s (alleged) pedaphilia reflects poorly on Islam. You then asked whether Insightful Ape was excusing contemporary pedaphilia on the basis that “the Prophet did it too”, when Insightful Ape was quite clearly arguing for the exact opposite point. What on earth on you talking about?

  14. Can questions like this (eg would the situation be different if the gender of the participants were reversed) really be answered by philosophers sitting in armchairs? Maybe men really do “shake these things off” when they are older while women are traumatized for life; and maybe not. But surely it requires psychological studies following up on these victims, to answer questions of this sort.

    1. Totally agree – acknowledging that these types of “philosophical” questions have empirical answers is one of the important steps on the road to clear thinking. For example, “where did we come from” is not a philosophical question – it is an empirical question, and it would never have been answered if we had all just sat around thinking about it.

  15. When Jeremy Strangroom put this up on the Talk Philosophy site I was quite frankly disgusted, but I have stopped commenting over there. There was no longer any point. The discussions go nowhere.

    Quite evidently, Strangroom himself was drooling over the woman, and liked the idea of being 14 years old and having her for a lover. But he didn’t seem able to see that, if 14 year old boys can choose, then so can 14 year old girls. And if 14 year old boys should be thankful for being raped by grown women, however beautiful — does this really make a difference? — then 14 year old girls should be thankful for being raped too.

    Strangroom obviously has some problems over this issue. He was so turned on sexually by the idea that he couldn’t think of a reason why the boy might not have been able to consent, even though he was just a kid. It’s a bizarre situation, but it depends entirely on Strangroom’s own tumescence! That’s pretty pathetic for a philosopher, who is supposed to be able to think clearly.

    As for Strangroom and the new atheists, he’s simply lost it over that issue. He has no idea what he’s talking about. I find it surprising that someone so screwed up actually managed to write three books with someone as level headed as Ophelia Benson. He has even, apparently, “unfriended” Ophelia on Facebook. Shades of shunning. He’d make good pals for the local Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons.

    1. Yes, but only the sects that kidnap young girls and make them wear “Little House on The Prairie” outfits.

      I quite agree with your assessment. He’s thinking with his little head. Would he change his mind if he found the woman in question undesirable? The answer to me seems quite clear.

      This is feeding his own fantasies.

      Quite amazing to watch such a blatant display of it.

    2. So when the 14-year old gets the older woman (at least legally responsible in age, >18) pregnant, can he be held legally responsible for his parental duties?

      Probably not.

      This is not an idle thought. One of my relatives (girl, 16, barely legal) was impregnated by a 12-year old boy. Who ended up raising the child? The two grandmas, mainly the girl’s grandma.

      1. That’s a very, very good point.

        In fact, I’d say that’s one of the best points in this discussion. I was wrestling with what the “right” way of drawing these lines should be and now I know that this must be it. You’re old enough to have sex when you’re old enough to deal with all of the consequences and this boy clearly was not.

        1. I’m not ready to have children, but I do have sex. I rely on contraceptives. Is this called “not being ready to deal with the consequences”, to rely on something that works very well, but not 100%? Couldn’t a 14 year old do the same?

          1. You may not want to have kids but even with contraception it’s a possibility and I assume/home you’re old enough to understand that and to understand the significance.

            To look at clearer cases, our courts (and our society too, I think) often draw distinctions between an adult who must deal with unintended/unwanted consequences, and a child who we think isn’t fully capable of understanding all of the consequences of their actions. We feel a duty to protect kids from themselves.

            That’s what I’m getting at. It’s not a question of financial ability – if a boy or girl had a large inheritance or an unusually large income it wouldn’t change many people’s views that they were still not ready or capable raising a child (or even appreciating that this could be a consequence of sex).


          2. Hmm… when you put it that way, you may have a point. I’d have to think about some more concrete cases before committing to any judgements, but I concede that there is something to it.

    3. “And if 14 year old boys should be thankful for being raped by grown women, however beautiful — does this really make a difference? — then 14 year old girls should be thankful for being raped too.”

      Says who?

    4. To be fair, since girls mature faster than boys–and maturity was his concern here–girls should be allowed into the pool earlier.

      12 seems slightly too excessive, but I’m sure Stangroom wouldn’t have any problems with 13.

      After all, in some cultures she would already be Bat Mitzvah! Plenty mature to start making out with a hot 26-year-old.

      (Only a hot one, tho. Fuglies would have to be 20, max.)

    5. “…And if 14 year old boys should be thankful for being raped by grown women, however beautiful — does this really make a difference? — then 14 year old girls should be thankful for being raped too.”

      This does not follow. Boys and girls have different biological and cultural inclinations, opportunities, luxuries, responsibilities, and liabilities.

      What may well be healthy for a boy is very likely not to be healthy for a girl. And while the letter of the law is theoretically equal for the two genders, the actual application of the law has been quite different. And rightfully so, in my opinion.

  16. What is Stangroom up to? What is he on about?!

    PS Poeple with Colgate smiles have to be careful not to get strangled by their ‘Ring of Confidence’.

  17. I’m flabbergasted that anyone could describe this post as “a smear”. Stangroom has defended statutory rape multiple times. He has done so openly and publicly. It’s not as if Jerry went digging around obscure internet message boards looking for something “juicy” to use against Stangroom (as “smear” implies). No, he didn’t have to do that digging (nor would he, for that matter): Stangroom offered up the disturbing content himself. How, then, can this be described as “a smear”? I’m genuinely baffled by that accusation.

        1. I didn’t see any reason to be vague about it when you were being very specific about what you found unacceptable.

          If you are going to call out someone, don’t be meek about it.

          1. In general, I agree with you re: the vague thing. However, I assumed that, since “smear” was used twice on this thread, it was fairly obvious who I was referring to. Perhaps I shouldn’t have assumed that. Fair enough.

          2. Vague? Type CTRL F. Type “smear”. Or does knowing how to operate your browser get in the way of your indignant rage?

        2. I didn’t know a smear implied research. I thought conflating too non-related issues to damage the reputation of your opponent was an adequate definition.

          You know how creationists yell “he’s an atheist” when PZ explains biology.

          1. Yes, “smear” implies that an action is sleazy, dishonest, or underhanded. As I said, Stangroom made his opinions on this clear. Jerry didn’t have to go digging for them (as smear implies). And Stangroom has damaged his own reputation- he didn’t need anyone to help him with that.

          2. Jerry seems to be reporting accurately what Stangroom said in the post.

            If that is a smear then the author of the smear can only be Stangroom himself.

          3. Seems to me a smear is usually a falsehood or if not an outright lie, a misrepresentation of some sort, like for example taking a statement out of context so that it has an unintended meaning. I don’t think making a well supported observation that Stangroom according to his own writings approves of statutory rape qualifies as any kind of smear.

            I also don’t think a preacher would be smearing me if he told his congregation I was an atheist, since indeed I am, even though there might be an intent to discredit me and it might work with that audience. To me it would be merely a correct observation, and one whose consequences I should and must be prepared to face. I have long ago accepted that I must bear a certain amount of disdain from the religious. Is Stangroom not prepared equally to bear the disdain of all those who thinking statutory rape laws are just? If he isn’t he shouldn’t be advocating it.

            Anyhow it’s no kind of smear to provide in full an opinion espoused in writing.

          1. I find it ironic how often people project their failures on others. I never post here, but it seems I’m an instant troll the first time I find a post of Coynes that I have a strong opinion of.

            Little did I know, I’m instantly considered a troll by some random person I’ve never heard of. I apologize if you think I should have the slightest idea who you are.

          2. You admitted to trolling.

            Can you not see how that might well lead people to think you indeed a troll.

          3. That’s a harsh accusation and very difficult to defend against. Uncle Bob has offered his perspective, responded to posts, and presented arguments which he elaborates on when necessary. That makes him someone you disagree with or don’t like, it definitely does not make him a troll.

            I think that’s one of the big guns in a forum or blog thread and should only be brought out when the evidence is clear. I don’t think it’s anywhere near clear enough here, in fact I think that Uncle Bob has been one of the more substantive commenters.

            If you don’t like him that’s fine but I think it’s unjustified to accuse him of trolling.

  18. One has to ask, does Stangroom condone priests having sex with 14 year old boys ? And if he does not, how does he explain condoning it in this case ?

    1. Ironic as it is, that is exactly the argument offered by the conesting-age-is-writ-in-stone! people. Anyone that doesn’t find this OUTRAGEOUS is obviously in favor of pedophilia.

      1. Sorry but did you have a point ?

        If Stangroom thinks the age of consent in the UK should be 14 then he is quite free to argue that. However he has not done so.

          1. *sigh* and I thought the argument was settled on whether STangroom was a jerk or not. It turns out, he’s not the only one.

          2. no, sorry to disappoint. I found your failure to grasp my simple points on the issue to be a deal breaker on continuing the conversation. You haven’t demonstrated yourself to be even partially aware of the deeper issues involved, so I have a very hard time taking you seriously whatsoever.

            I apologize for dismissing you so thoroughly, and if you have any relative experiences to add, I’m all ears, but so far, you’ve just offered nonsensical moral dichotomies that I find pretty childish in relation to the issues on hand.


          3. So you are not troll only the grounds you are an arsehole.

            Fine. Sorry for the confusion.

            I think you can be ignored. It is not as though you have said any worthwhile.

            You might want to think about saying sorry, if only to be civil. However I will not insist on it.

          4. I’m not concerned whether you or the group at large decides I’m cool or not. I was actually addressing the moral argument. I have a bit of experience on the issue that perhaps you don’t have. I think that makes me more than a troll on the issue.

  19. Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Portugal, San Marino, Serbia, and Spain.

    These are the nations in Europe where what happened between the the 14-year-old adolescent and the 26-year-old woman would not be criminal.

    Jerry has missed the boat entirely here, and crossed a line by suggesting that sex with a 9-year-old is equivalent to sex with a teenager who has reached puberty.

    Many nations with relatively young ages of consent also have stipulations that the older person does not “seduce” the younger person. That’s the only sensible way to go.

    Those objecting are simply regurgitating sexual prudery instilled by our religion-contaminated culture.

    1. You list is not accurate.

      Many of the countries you list require that if a person over 16 has sex with someone between 14 and 16 the person between 14 and 16 must be mentally mature enough to consent.

      Why did not you mention this ?

    2. Oh, and need I point out that if the younger person attempts to kill themselves that is pretty good evidence that maybe they were not emotionally mature enough.

      1. Again, I wonder how much of that trauma is because of the punishment to his “girlfriend,” vs. how much is because of the affair. Or whether it was all pre-existing. I have no idea.

        1. While not at all condoning this event, it should perhaps be mentioned that the stories say the teen attempted suicide at the thought of the relationship ending; and supposedly, the woman then resumed the relationship out of concern.

    3. Jerry has missed the boat entirely here, and crossed a line by suggesting that sex with a 9-year-old is equivalent to sex with a teenager who has reached puberty.

      Where does Jerry say that? He pointed out that Stangroom is condoning statutory rape, which in this case was obviously harmful to the minor, and asks where Stangroom would draw the moral line.

    4. “Those objecting are simply regurgitating sexual prudery instilled by our religion-contaminated culture.”

      Not really. Cultures which do not seek to protect the weak against the predations of the strong are barbaric.

      The 26 year old woman, a teacher (who therefore has a much higher burden of responsibility toward a child) preyed upon the 14 year old boy. We punish people who abuse positions of trust and power to victimize people. We ought to be able to govern ourselves in this regard because it increases humanity’s well-being.

      That’s the basis of my objection, anyway, and not, as you say, religious prudery.

      1. Not just a burden of responsibility. At least in the US, teachers have a statutory obligation to not diddle their students.

    5. How can you tell that a 14-year old isn’t being manipulated (by threats or promises) by the adult to assert consent (they weren’t “seduced”)?

      What is the greater good here? If we err on the side of enforcing a statutory rape law, then a handful of adults are refused access to sex with children. If we err on the side of allowing assymmetrical sexual relationships for children, then many pedophiles will use this loophole and manipulation (in which they are expert) to abuse children.

      Which is the greater risk?

      This question is why statutory rape laws exist.

  20. Seems to me that the adults in the underage sex story are extrapolating their own fantasies onto all young teenage boys, which is something a rational-minded, emotionally mature adult wouldn’t do I would think. Leaving age aside, the emotional maturity of a 14-year-old can vary enormously; it is to avoid the sadness of attempted suicide and such that we have age-of-consent laws. The woman in this case should have heeded the warning she was given; she didn’t and now is suffering the consequence.

    So I’m wondering at her level emotional maturity. These things are rarely considered when applying the often sledgehammer letter of the law.

    There don’t appear to be any winners in this sad tale.

  21. I’m not entirely sure how differently it works out for a girl rather than a boy, but I think that the essential point, as matt says, is that young teenagers and children have little or no experience of the world; to that I would add “understanding” of the world, too, including all the subtle and confusing ways in which an adult can break down a child’s resistance. It is extremely easy for an adult to “persuade” a child (guilt, kindness, trust and knowledge of the world…it gets worse the more you think of it), and this matters not only in sexual relations but in many other areas, such as legal ownership (e.g. inheritance) and criminal behaviour (e.g. being an accomplice). It is necessary for the law to assert that a minor cannot be held accountable (as Ray Moscow reminds us), just as it is necessary for the courts to decide what is meant by “accountability” in a particular case. Minors are powerless against the decisions of adults, even when these are well-intentioned, and a child who actually knows better is easy to crush.

    The law is not able to make fine discriminations (except, of course, in the courts) but something has to be done to protect children from adult opportunism; therefore, there must be an age of consent and there must be a rule about the behaviour of people in authority – and “authority” must encompass every legal adult. A legal adult must be in loco parentis to a minor.
    – GordonWillis

    1. Fascinating.

      Having actually been a minor at some point, I don’t think your assertions really fit. Especially not in the case of a teenager.

      There is no need to disingenuously equate adolescents with infants in order to condemn this woman’s behavior.

      1. Don’t overdo it, Azkyroth. I do not need to equate adolescents with infants to make the point about ignorance, immaturity and emotional vulnerability, and the point of mentioning these things is the point of my objection to Stangroom. You are not the only person who has been an adolescent. Please keep “disingenuous” to yourself.

  22. I disagree with Dr. Coyne on one point: that shot of the 26 year old is not creepy; she obviously posed for it.

    But the rest: right on. Had it been a 26 year old male with an underage female…well, you know the reaction.

    As far as the criticism of the “gnus”, it boils down to “don’t scrutinize an idea if the label “religion” is attached to it.”

  23. Phil Plait is one of those. After his “don’t be a dick” schtick… And his Mooney-bullshit defending…

    I gave up on him.

    I don’t think you need to be a douche, that is fill your posts full of profanity and other bullshit to make your point to an innocuous inquiry or contention. But I also think that there is nothing wrong with factually, forcibly, and/or mockingly/scathingly if the other party is clearly refusing to discuss/debate in good faith.

    In fact, I find it less odorous than being a hypocrite (Phil can be quite dickish when it’s one of HIS pet peeves) like most of the Gnu Atheist bashers are… Their very position is a dick-move by its attempts to demonize, marginalize and stifle people who will stand up to religion and give it no special place or privilege.

  24. I’m not entirely sure how differently it works out for a girl rather than a boy

    Well, the list starts with terror, humiliation, coercion …

    A boy is much more likely to be able to defend himself than a girl (nothing against strong, feminist girls; but realistically …) which is why people have a somewhat different feeling about boys with adult women than the other way around. Which is why there’s a discussion here at all. Which is why we need to have and enforce strong rules against assymmetrical relationships.

    It’s a power thing. If [a person] can’t see that, then [they] may not be able to see what’s wrong with, for instance, rape, sexual harrassment, etc.

      1. I can’t agree that a boy is more likely to defend himself than a girl, I really can’t, having been a boy, and being a teacher of boys and girls (and adults), and having brought up a girl of my own. There is “a discussion here at all” because (I hope) sensible people are taking issue with Stangroom’s erroneous (I hope not self-serving) assumptions about the sexual inclinations of young boys being an acceptable excuse to exploit said young boys for selfish reasons. (I know that that’s not what he is saying, but I do think that that is what it amounts to). And I don’t think there is much difference with girls. But even if I’m wrong about that, the duty of adults to protect the young and not to regard them as the object or repository of private inclinations remains paramount.
        – GordonWillis

        1. Actually, I don’t think that the list necessarily starts with terror and coercion. It can very often start with being attractive, personable, warm understanding, sensitive… It really does get worse, as you think about the possibilities. Manipulation is subtle, and selfish and cruel. It doesn’t have to be blatant bullying to be deadly. Why did this poor boy want to kill himself?

        1. Oh, my issue was with the original comment, not with your follow up. Unless I’m being daft, a strong possibility, it seems that JBlilie is saying that the difference between this situation happening to a girl is that the girl can be coerced, as if boys cannot be coerced into sex.

          1. Sorry, rattlehead, I realised I missed the posting time. Gets very confusing.
            – GordonWillis

  25. Sorry, one more thought: there is the assumption that boys have to be “tough” – it’s what they’re for. Which is why we have people like Beethoven, I suppose. And there is the assumption that girls have to be weak, like Boudicca and Mary Wollstonecraft, who obviously need to be protected by us men.
    – GordonWillis.

  26. Stangroom sounds like a Catholic bishop:

    “There are 13 year old adolescents who are under age and who are perfectly in agreement with, and what’s more wanting it, and if you are careless they will even provoke you.” — Bishop of Tenerife

    1. Well, the bishop is right, and a priest does indeed have to be careful. There’s no reason to suppose that the bishop is actually blaming anyone. Life is how it is, and a 13-year-old who “wants it” will just have to wait, and an adult who “wants it” will just have to want it. Too bad. No one’s going to die of “wanting it”, after all.

  27. He’s offended by Blackford calling Mooney a phony, but is personally fine saying a sexual relationship with a woman is healthy as long as she’s hot enough.

  28. All up in arms and for good reasons!

    Maybe I’m just too tired, but it isn’t the moral creepitude that got my goat today. So excuse me for diluting the important discussion with a side issue: I just discovered that Mooney has no standing to discuss science. From the link to Russell:

    Science can’t prove a negative

    Mooney mistakes folk science for science!

    Moreover, whatever “prove” and “negative” means for someone uttering such blather, which neither is emphatically no part of science method as it is known, it is insanely wrong.

    First, science progress, as no other way of learning, by its ability to reject. This negative act is at the core of what makes science tick. In other words, “if you can’t tell what is wrong, how can you tell what is right?”

    Second, since scientists can reject they can choose between positive, factual statements and negative, non-factual.

    Third, this makes science able to verify non-existence all the time!

    Physicists knows that there is no non-conservation of conserved quantities like charge or energy, no objects traveling faster than light speed of vacuum, have come up with the “no cloning” theorem of quantum mechanics (you can’t make copies of arbitrary unknown quantum states), the “no hair” theorem of general relativity (you can’t have information, “hair”, of matter outside of black holes, apart from the black hole total mass, electric charge and angular momentum), and so on and so forth.

    In biology they know beyond reasonable doubt that there were no rabbit population in the Cambrian. Or, if such a population was discovered, they would know beyond reasonable doubt that there were no such thing as evolution. Accommodationists, how is that for a negative – you must choose, and currently the choice is extremely well tested.

    By exhaustion we have “proved” that science indeed handle negatives well. And nothing else was expected, since this is needed to arbitrate between fact and fabrication such as “faith”.

    Mooney may continue his religion+atheism crusade all he wants. But I wonder how Discover Magazine ended up harboring such a science buffoon?

    1. Shit. Pop my bubble. And here I was, struggling in my spare time with my hypothesis of phlogiston interaction with the luminiferous ether. Perhaps I’ll study something more promising.

      Absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence, at least when one can reasonably expect evidence. (Victor Stenger, paraphrasing)

  29. Yeah I noticed that post a while back and couldn’t help but think ‘creep.’ Not that it has anything to do with his arguments against gnus but it made me way more then hesitant to listen to any of his moral pronouncements.

    For the record I can think of situations where I wouldn’t be wholly opposed to a 30 year old sleeping with a 14 year old. I can also think of situations where keeping a howitzer in your basement would be a good idea. Doesn’t mean I think people should keep a howitzer in their basement.

  30. Saying there is no God is saying more than we can ever really know empirically, or based on data and evidence.

    To continue my woes with Mooney’s view of science, the general claim here is wrong. To cite WEIT commenter sasqwatch on physicist Stenger:

    “absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence. (at least when you can expect evidence)”

    For example, the absence of evidence of faster-than-light signaling is by way of testing special relativity evidence of absence of faster-than-light signaling.

    [And of course I personally maintain that not only is the specific claim non-factual, I believe I have a sound test for it. No matter here, but if Mooney insists despite the general claim problem, he is engaging in special pleading. What was the difference between accommodationists and other faithists again? I keep forgetting.]

    1. Oops, I am tired, now *I’m* blathering on this.

      An actual example would be a theory that predicts faster-than-light action, say Newton gravity’s “action-at-a-distance”. The absence of evidence of such action rejects the theory, thereby constituting evidence of absence.

  31. Seems that Stangroom came (ick), asserted that Blackford was on his side and then slunk back to his own warren.

    Hit and run trollism from a doctor of philosophy.

    My respect for the practitioners of the philosophical arts has reached an all-time low.

  32. As to the matter of the alleged incivility of atheists (gnu, new or just themselves), it is hard to be very polite towards people who are prepared to accommodate atrocity – which is to say, the truly atrocious results of faith, including the utter selfishness of those who insist on the “comfort” of their beliefs. The freedom to criticise must include the freedom to say that this or that idea is “foolish” or “stupid”, or even downright wicked, along with good grounds for holding such an opinion (which, in my experience, is normally given by the best free-thinking writers, including Jerry here).

    Consider the ex-archbishop Carey, who appears to show no understanding of the very laws that guarantee his own right to hold his beliefs.

    But I do not think that he is so much “stupid” as opportunist, self-justifying and cynically inflammatory. And if he isn’t, perhaps he is stupid after all, or at least very muddled, and dangerously so. But what the hell, that’s just my point of view. Only, if I have reason to think it’s true, I am going to say so, because it’s my right, and – I could argue – my duty. Religious belief is killing people, for goodness’ sake. It’s a great and terrible emergency. Why should I be nice and polite about it?
    – GordonWillis

    1. Religious belief is killing people, for goodness’ sake. It’s a great and terrible emergency. Why should I be nice and polite about it?

      Thank you, Gordon, that needed to be said.

      1. Maybe I should read and think more before I post a comment.

        Of course Archbishop Carey might be a civil bully, but there’s the rub. Those uncivil Gnu Atheists raise serious and valid questions about religion’s ill effects, and in reply we’re told that we/they are uncivil. That doesn’t refute Gnu’s arguments nor invalidate their criticism. I feel that until there is some willingness to address those criticisms seriously then a) it is hardly surprising that the critics might become less polite (although I can’t that a serious infraction has occurred), and b) if that is the totality of their response I think they have no valid response and they should concede.

        Gordon, you have my permission (not that it’s worth anything) to be downright rude. Maybe it will knock some sense into them. I think they sometimes deserve it.

  33. What troubles me, I guess, is that I consider the right of two persons of sound mind to have consensual sex absent legal interference or prosecution of equal importance to the right of people not to be forced to have sex against their will, so I’m troubled by the argument that some people in completely harmless, consensual relationships have to be punished in order to protect other people from being raped. I’m troubled by a legal system that takes it as given that someone 12, 13, 14 can have the maturity and presence of mind to be culpable for murder, but not consent to sex.

    Regardless of that I consider the notion that a rape victim should be considered “lucky” to be pretty gross. But the evidence as far as I’m aware suggests that adult-underage sexual relationships are rarely as harmful as is commonly believed, and so the defenders of statutory rape laws need to present the case that criminalizing a substantial number of completely consensual relationships is a justifiable step to protect a minority of teens.

  34. In response to Stangroom and Russell’s assertions about a 14 year old girl being more at risk because she could get pregnant – seriously? We should not worry about a 14 year old boy becoming father?

    I’m surprised this is brought up as the obvious criticism. Becoming pregnant does affect the adult woman in the case discussed, and she would have decisions to make about that. But how does the teen move forward if he’s a father and has responsibilities? How can he reasonably make decisions about child care?

    Yeah sex for a smitten 14 year old is an easy decision. The ramifications go beyond the sex act.

  35. I wonder if there are not some good evolutionary reasons for the less fuss that tends to be made in the case of the sexual abuse of a boy than in the case of the sexual abuse of a girl. Or, at the least, reasons that derive from the patriarchal tendency to regard and treat women as valuable objects of social exchange. (I suspect that this was why the abuse of altar boys in the Catholic church took so long to come out, and why within the church it wasn’t taken very seriously.)Stangroom’s response to this sorry case manifests patriarchal prejudice unthinkingly and almost reflexively.

      1. I wrote that because there seems often to be a feeling among both men and women (see JBlilie’s comment above – with whom, by the way, I otherwise agree) that boys can somehow look after themselves and should ‘deal with it’ when faced with unpleasantness, whereas girls need to be protected more; it struck me as something very deep-rooted, the reasons for which are interesting. ‘Does a little booby cry for any ache? The mother scolds him in this fashion: “What a coward to cry for a trifling pain! What will you do when your arm is cut off in battle? What when you are called upon to commit harakiri?”‘ (Inazo Notibe, ‘Bushido’ – quoted at the head of Ernst Junger’s strange essay ‘On Pain’) There is, in another militarised society, that of Afghanistan, the exploitation and forcing into prostitution of young boys, a practice that seems to be quite widely accepted there. And certainly in the schools I attended in England, there were paedophiliac masters who would prey discreetly on their charges, pretty secure in the knowledge that the boys would, because of the male ethos in which they had been brought up, as well as out of shame, keep mum about what happened. Young people of both sexes are very vulnerable.

  36. Heh, JAC, Brother Blackford, OB, and that muscular Eric McD are becoming quite a faction. OMG! You don’t suppose that there are actually EIGHT Horsemen of the Apocalypse?!?11

    Reminds me of the old joke about Englishmen battling Scots: “Don’t do it sir! There are two of the blighters down there!

    Stangroom does seem to be off the beam, although maybe he could plead entrapment (you naughty boy Russ). I’d still like to read or hear a convincing argument about New Atheist incivility though, as I’d like to read or hear an argument for religion that has fewer holes than a colander. It seems to me that pointing out logical flaws and factual inaccuracies is considered “uncivil”. Would it also be uncivil to point out that Star Trek or Harry Potter is fiction?

    On the box I saw a woman interviewed in the US who said she was offended by a poster that said you can be good without god. Her opinion and its implications are offensive to me. Can I get her to STFU?

        1. Yeah, except it isn’t quite how the original is worded. I think there should be capitals too, like “Riders of the Apocalypse”. Maybe I fuss too much.

      1. Isn’t she? What do you call a female rider in english!?

        [In my first language of swedish it is mostly non-gendered, ‘rider’ or ‘horseperson’ (actually ‘horsehuman’) if you are an avid equestrian.

        So it looks paradoxical to me to mix in the gender of the rider. At least as long as you don’t mix in the gender of the ridden as well. Then you get 4 “stereotypes” … ouch!]

  37. Unimpressed with Jerry’s attempt at poisoning the well here. Stangroom is a tone-concerned douche, that much seems obvious from him disabling comments, but I thought RB did a perfect job at handling him.

    1. I disagree that Jerry is attempting to poison any wells. He may achieve that end (though I doubt it) but that is not what he is attempting.

      The discussion above is pretty vigorous, but I didn’t read Uncle Bob calling Matt uncivil or vice versa. To be frank I think some of the comments are uncivil, but I’m not especially bothered by that. The uncivil comments here are not directed at the religious, and they are just the comments. When a “tone-concerned douche” makes accusations of incivility it is usually a tactic to deflect criticism, or an excuse to avoid answering it. That needs to be challenged. “Answer the fucking question!” might be a suitable response, but then there’ll just be just another accusation of being rude.

      Yeah Russ is a big boy with his own resources (onya Russ!) but I think these specious? spurious? accusations of incivility need to be beaten to death. They are nothing more than a dishonest attempt to avoid accountability, to avoid the real issue(s). They are also usually untrue by the evidence presented, and the accusers are frequently guilty of it, not the accused.

      Yes it can be a tiresome time waster even for readers, but like many demolitions of bad, stupid, or false ideas it is necessary. See for example Grayling’s closing remarks in his reply to Steve Fuller (the mention of Fuller’s name always makes me smirk)

      Btw, does Greta Christina have a horse?

      1. Wow, that was an awesome demolition by Grayling. Definitely worth reading. Also a very touching summary / definition of what humanism means.

        1. Yeah. I always find Grayling worth the read. I found “Among the Dead Cities” yesterday at a book sale. I have high expectations.

          1. I bought that book about a year ago, made it half way through, got busy work, and now it sits on my night stand – half read. The first half is more a history of WWII bombing campaigns – presumably the second half is where he gets into moral philosophy. Anyway, the history part is very good and informative – happy reading!

  38. Dr. Coyne:

    Your accusations about Dr. Stangroom are both irresponsible and thoughtless.

    Stangroom does not justify statutory rape, but indicates cases when the laws about statutory rape are ridiculous. I agree with his position, but that is not the point.

    Up until now, the online battle between the old atheists and the new atheists has been, let’s say, often adolescent. Mooney was mocked for his smile, and I myself have said some high-school type things about some new atheists.

    However, as you undoubtedly know or should know, whenever government bureaucrats investigate someone, perhaps for visa purposes, etc., they google his or her name. That is, in the future, if a govenment (or private) investigator googles Dr.Stangroom’s name, they will see your false accusation of justifying statutory rape. To be sure, if the investigator reads Dr. Stangroom’s entire post, they will see that he does not justify said crime, but we both know that busy and often semi-literate bureaucrats do not read far in philosophy blogs.

    I Maybe in the future, all of us should think before we post.

    1. Dr. Coyne’s observations are neither irresponsible nor thoughtless. Dr. Stangroom certainly does appear to be arguing that the woman, who clearly and uncontestedly committed statutory rape according to the local law, should not be held accountable. Stangroom appears to be arguing minimally that statutory rape laws should not apply to the case of adult female on minor male sex, at least for minor boys fourteen or older. Or he could be arguing against statutory rape proscriptions generally. It’s impossible to be certain from that one post.

      Note that Dr. Coyne says, “excuses,” not “justifies.” This is only exactly what Stangroom advocates. He suggests the woman who committed this crime should be excused from being held accountable according to the law. Why would you expect Dr. Coyne or anyone be obligated to protect Dr. Stangroom from being held accountable for his stated position?

      Do you want to argue there should be no proscription against sex with children whatsoever? I doubt that. So what exactly is it about this statutory rape case that makes it excusable? It would be nice if Stangroom would tell us. It really is not obvious to me why it is. Does he advocate allowing adults to have sex with any person down to an age of at most fourteen? Or will there be different ages for the four possible gender combinations of one-on-one sex? I wonder, will the number of adults and children involved also be involved in the formula for determining the extent of the infraction? Seems like it could get complicated. Why not just have one age requirement apply to all possible cases? But then, I never finished a moral philosophy doctorate, so maybe I’m being obtuse.

  39. Concern troll and statutory-rape apologist is concerned. Oh noez! I do wonder how many of those defending the old perv are men, and how many are women. Seems like all the defenders are guys who think with their little heads. I teach high school and have seen the damage that underage sex, let alone statutory rape, can do to the kids.

    Speaking of trolls, Josh R wants traffic, and he talks all about this (and more) – just look for “beer goggles” as the title. I think he completely misses the point, esp if he thinks that Blackford dismisses Mooney because of his smile (the whole Colgate Twin thing is apparently over his head).

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