Richard Dawkins canceled at Trinity College Dublin

The University Times, the student newspaper of Trinity College Dublin, reports that an invited address by Richard Dawkins has been canceled. The rescinded invitation was initially tendered by “The Hist”, the University Historical Society, who withdrew it. Why? Because Dawkins’s past statements on Islam and sexual assault might cause “discomfort” to the students. Click on the screenshot to read:

Here’s a summary of what happened, which is almost humorous in the emphasis on “discomfort”—apparently the most important factor in deciding whether a speaker is appropriate (my emphasis):

The College Historical Society (the Hist) has tonight rescinded its invitation to Richard Dawkins to address the society next year.

Auditor of the Hist Bríd O’Donnell announced the cancellation in a statement on her [actually The Hist’s] Instagram page, saying that she had been “unaware of Richard Dawkins’ opinions on Islam and sexual assault until this evening”, adding that the society “will not be moving ahead with his address as we value our members comfort above all else”.

“The invitation to Richard Dawkins to speak at the society was made by my predecessor and I followed up the invitation with limited knowledge of Mr. Dawkins”, O’Donnell said. “I had read his Wikipedia page and researched him briefly. Regretfully I didn’t look further into him before moving forward with the invitation.”

“I want to thank everyone who pointed out this valuable information to me”, O’Donnell added. “I truthfully hope we didn’t cause too much discomfort and if so, I apologise and will rectify it.

. . . In an email statement to The University Times, O’Donnell said: “I was not previously aware of the harmful statements made by Richard Dawkins. The invitation was issued in advance of this committee’s tenure, and we are deeply grateful to the members and students who brought this to our attention.”

“The comfort of our membership is paramount, and we will not be proceeding with Professor Dawkins address. I apologize for any distress caused by this announcement, and the Hist will continue to listen and adapt to the needs and comfort of students”, she added.

It looks as if a social-media mob descended on Ms. O’Donnell and “convinced” her to withdraw the invitation. Apparently what Dawkins said in the past (more on that in a minute) is sufficient to prevent him from ever speaking again, as I’m pretty sure his address to The Hist would not have been about Islam or sexual assault! And, of course, by no means should any speaker make the audience uncomfortable!  The Hist needs to learn the lessons of history: every controversial and progressive talk makes some people uncomfortable.

I wrote Richard to find out what he was going to talk about and got this response:

I had not been going to speak about anything in particular. I had been graciously offered a Gold Medal, and I would doubtless have been expected to say a few gracious words in accepting the medal.
Ironically, the Gold Medal, not mentioned in the report, was described in the invitation as “the prestigious ‘Gold Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Public Discourse'” (and the Medal has presumably been withdrawn as well).

So what were the offensive statements? Gript reports on the sexual assault issue:

And what has he said about sexual assault, you might ask?  Well apparently it refers to two tweets he sent in 2014 [below], in which he suggested that being drunk and unable to remember being assaulted might make it more difficult to secure a prosecution:

Is he right or wrong there? That’s a matter of opinion. Are those views so dangerous and discomfiting that students should be protected from them? Not on your life.

Here are the 2014 tweets that Gript says are at issue. Some people apparently construed them as “blaming the victim” tweets. Given today’s climate, I would not have made them myself, but surely they don’t warrant canceling a talk six years later.

As for the anti-Islam tweets, well, Dawkins has issued many of those. And note that they’re anti-Islam, not anti-Muslim. It would have helped had O’Donnell specified which tweets or views made Dawkins an unacceptable speaker. At any rate, Dawkins has also issued at least as many tweets (and an entire book) on religions besides Islam, especially Christianity. Apparently those opinions aren’t supposed to make people uncomfortable!

The fact that Islam is singled out above the other faiths criticized by Dawkins tells us what The Hist is really afraid of: not of making religious people of any stripe uncomfortable, but of making Muslims uncomfortable. This is again the bigotry of low expectations, for Muslims should be able to listen to Dawkins as readily as Christians. And if you’re “uncomfortable” for statements made in the past, but probably not planned to be made in the scheduled talk, well, suck it up—along with all those who beefed to O’Donnell and made her cancel the talk.

One Trinity professor, an economist, responded appropriately:

 

 

h/t: Melissa

111 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Shameful. But not surprising.

  2. merilee
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Everyone’s going To demand cushions and comfy chairs next.

    • C.
      Posted September 28, 2020 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      As a person of height, I demand taller tables, chairs, lab benches, stools, and more leg room/shoulder room/arm rests in auditorium seats!

      But why stop there? I’m entitled to cushions and comfy chairs! And a puppy. And adult coloring books instead of exams. And comic books instead of textbooks. And naps. I want college to be kindergarten!

      • Posted September 28, 2020 at 10:39 am | Permalink

        The naps at least would probably actually do some good. ^_^ (Well, so would the puppies, but they’d be a bit distracting.)

      • merilee
        Posted September 28, 2020 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

        🤣

      • Mark R.
        Posted September 28, 2020 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

        I too am estimated too tall and I want more leg room on airplanes, dammit! And headroom for that matter. Not that it matters now. How about a “rent-a-cat” business or “rent-a-dog” for anxiety issues? Might be a kick-ass biz…loaning instead of owning.

        • merilee
          Posted September 28, 2020 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

          And I, on the other hand, at barely 5’2”, would like to demand lower chairs and foot rests on airplanes. Harumph!

    • mike cracraft
      Posted September 28, 2020 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      I’d recommend that they pass out joints to all members of the Hist to ensure relaxation and comfort prior to controversial lectures.

    • Posted September 28, 2020 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      I have become
      comfortably numb …
      and comfortably ignorant

    • ritaprangle
      Posted September 29, 2020 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      Oh, No! Not the comfy chairs!

      • merilee
        Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

        The worst🙀

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Ms O’Donnell has made me uncomfortable. I should probably get that looked at.

  4. eric
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Yeah, that assault tweet seems problematic since it puts the onus on women to remain sober at all times, lest a man assault them. No, that’s not the way it works or should work; women should be free to drink in restaurants and bars and not be assaulted after they do so – and if that means the law needs to seriously consider the testimony of drunk people, so be it.

    I agree, though, the tweet is no reason to cancel his talk.

    • Posted September 28, 2020 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      Well, I don’t think Richard meant it that way. It is true that there are things people can do to keep their risk of being assaulted low (stay out of some areas, etc), and saying that by no means implies that someone who gets raped is responsible for her attack. Of course people should be free of risk, but that’s not the way it is in this world, and if there are things you can tell people to reduce their risk of being victims, why not tell them? But because that advice could be conflated with blaming the victim, I wouldn’t tender it, even if it was useful.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted September 28, 2020 at 9:57 am | Permalink

        It is maybe one of the best examples of why twitter is not a place to be. Even Richard Dawkins can say something close to stupid so I know I have no business there.

        • Posted September 28, 2020 at 10:05 am | Permalink

          Richard Dawkins is the master of failing to understand that nuance doesn’t transmit well over Twitter. It happens frequently that he will say things on Twitter that are perfectly reasonable when you think about it. The trouble is that the Twitterati don’t think.

          • Posted September 28, 2020 at 10:43 am | Permalink

            The solution to which is going to have to be – it seems to me – to stop caring about or responding to what the Twitterati “think”. Just because they infer something doesn’t mean it was implied, and often the evil is in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps we should replace the concept of the Rorschach Test with the Tweet Test.

      • eric
        Posted September 28, 2020 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        if there are things you can tell people to reduce their risk of being victims, why not tell them?

        The problem is that he’s flipping his analogy around specifically in the case of women going out, which does appear to be sexist (though I assume not intentionally so).

        Consider that the REAL analogy to “If you want to drive, don’t get drunk” would be if he had said “Men, if you want to ask a woman out, don’t get drunk.” But he doesn’t say that. What his advice is, is something more akin to “if you’re a woman, don’t drink and walk on the sidewalk, because some drunk driver might swerve and hit you and the police might not believe your testimony that you were walking on the sidewalk instead of the road.” That statement might be true in a risk sense, but it’s pretty poor advice because it puts the onus on the wrong person to behave.

        • Brujo Feo
          Posted September 28, 2020 at 11:42 am | Permalink

          eric: Again, I think that may misunderstand the law. Not quite sure about Britain or Ireland, but at least on this side of the pond, consent has to be positive, and at a certain point, a person is considered incapable of giving consent.

          That’s not “putting the onus on the wrong person to behave.”

          • eric
            Posted September 28, 2020 at 11:51 am | Permalink

            at a certain point, a person is considered incapable of giving consent

            That’s a good legal thing. Unfortunately, as I mention below in my response to you, I think Dawkins is missing much more common/likely scenario where a person is still capable of giving consent, says they didn’t give consent, but due to sexism the jury equates “woman went drinking” means “woman gave consent.”

        • EdwardM
          Posted September 28, 2020 at 11:43 am | Permalink

          He is not saying any of this. He made a poorly worded comment about the quality of testimony from someone who admits they were drunk. In cases where testimony is the only available evidence, the sobriety of the witness matters. That was what he was saying.

          His comments are being willfully distorted. He should have known they would be.

          • eric
            Posted September 28, 2020 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

            I don’t think I’m willfully distorting his comment. His analogy is pretty clear, and it really does reverse the responsibility between the actors in the two cases; in the driving case, he tells the driver not to drink. But when it comes to women going out, he switches to telling the pedestrian-equivalent not to drink.

            Don’t you see that?

            • EdwardM
              Posted September 28, 2020 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

              I’m sorry eric, if all we had was his first tweet you’d have a point. But irrespective of how badly he worded that tweet we now know from him what he meant. To continue to claim he meant that women are to blame for their rapes if they drink is to willfully misrepresent him.

              • sugould
                Posted September 28, 2020 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

                +1

              • eric
                Posted September 28, 2020 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

                We know he meant that it’s difficult to prosecute a rapist based on the testimony of a drunk woman.

                We also know that when it comes to drunk driving, he thinks it’s important to tell drivers not to misbehave, but when it comes to sexual assault, he thinks it’s important to tell women to be prepared for male misbehavior.

                To be fair, I don’t really think this is all about Dawkins. I suspect a lot of us unconsciously think the same way and he’s more of an example of our culture rather than being particularly sexist. But we really should be treating sexual assault like drunk driving or many other crimes and constantly pushing the message that people shouldn’t do the crime. To constantly push the message that people should guard against being victims is to imply that this is not a social ill we can fix, we just have to live with it, and I think that attitude reflects a bit of subtle ‘boys will be boys’ type of sexism. What I think would be a much more long-term effective sort of messaging would be if all of us men, when weighing in on this subject, pushed the “guys, don’t sexually harass or assault women” as our regular, day-to-day message, and saved the “women, be on guard” message for occasions like New Years or celebrations where we know people are especially likely to get drunk and stupid. Y’now, exactly as we do with drunk driving.

              • sugould
                Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:32 am | Permalink

                +1

              • flayman
                Posted September 29, 2020 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

                If you go swimming in the ocean and are attacked by a shark, it’s not your fault (and not really the shark’s either). It you go for a night out and are then sexually assaulted, it is similarly not your fault. You are swimming where there may be sharks, and in this case it is the shark’s fault. But in either situation there are things you can do to minimize the risk.

                It’s okay to go out and get very drunk, but it does render people vulnerable, especially women. Dawkins’ point is a shade different. It may be more difficult to get justice if you were too drunk to remember much of the encounter.

                Ignoring that distinction for a moment, it is wise to take precautions when in compromising situations. While this is very good advice, better advice is given to males who should be made to understand that they might be at RISK of raping someone due to their own impaired judgement. And that is no excuse whatsoever. The suggestion that a man might commit rape unintentionally may seem outrageous, but it seems to be a thing.

                A few years ago I watched the film The 40-Year-Old Virgin again. It’s a very funny film that I’ve enjoyed. But I was uncomfortable when it came to the scene where Elizabeth Banks is very drunk in her hot tub and Steve Carrell doesn’t fancy it. Seth Rogan basically asks “Do you mind if I have a go?” What he’s about to do is take advantage of a woman who is too drunk to consent. That’s rape or at least sexual assault. Unless she later decides it wasn’t. People need to be told this. Our pop culture is reinforcing bad behavior.

          • Michael Waterhouse
            Posted September 28, 2020 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

            Yes, his comments are being willfully distorted.

    • Jonathan Dore
      Posted September 28, 2020 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      The important qualifier is at the end: “if there’s no other evidence”. If the rape was reported in time for physical evidence to be taken, signs of bruising/restraint noted and so on, then being drunk or not needn’t matter. It’s when an accusation is made long after, and in the absence of physical evidence devolves into a straightforward conflict of interpretation between accuser and accused, that it becomes relevant how reliable a person’s memory of the event is likely to be, and what factors might affect that reliability. The fact it took 530 characters just to spell out that qualifier is a good reason why Twitter is not the medium in which to do it (or anything else worthwhile).

    • Veroxitatis
      Posted September 28, 2020 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      I expect most legal systems do consider evidence provided by drunk persons ( certainly the legal systems of the UK do ). The issue, of course, is to determine what weight to attach to such evidence.

    • Brujo Feo
      Posted September 28, 2020 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      Eric: “…and if that means the law needs to seriously consider the testimony of drunk people…”

      OK, putting on the lawyer hat here for a moment. I think that you misunderstand; if the testimony is “I was too drunk to remember,” then, by definition, that was NOT TESTIMONY.

      Put aside the incendiary issues of BAL and of rape for a moment. Prosecutor asks victim:

      “Did Bob steal your car”?

      Answer: “I don’t remember.”

      In that instance, there IS NO TESTIMONY for the “law…to consider.” “Seriously” or otherwise. So Dawkins is wrong, in a sense, when he says that “”‘I was too drunk to remember’ is unlikely to convince,’ if there is no other evidence.” No; that “testimony” CANNOT convince, and the accused would be entitled to a directed verdict of not guilty. If there WERE other evidence, then it would be that other evidence that would do the convincing. The so-called “testimony” would be completely irrelevant.

      • eric
        Posted September 28, 2020 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        I am moving away from original topic of the Dawkins quote now into a more general discussion of sexual assault, but with that in mind…I don’t think the problem is women getting black-out drunk on their own (i.e. not involving being slipped drugs) and then reporting assault. That’s going to be an extremely small subset of cases, I think. The problem is women (and prosecutors) thinking a jury will associate ‘I was out drinking’ with ‘I’m a slut who decided to punish this guy afterwards for our voluntary sex.’ Yes, I’m sure some jurists will make that association. But the advice people should be giving is not ‘women, don’t drink because that will make it harder to convict,’ it’s ‘all you potential jurists, don’t assume a woman drinking means she had voluntary sex; that’s sexist.’

        • Brujo Feo
          Posted September 28, 2020 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

          I see nothing to quarrel with in this further analysis.

        • EdwardM
          Posted September 28, 2020 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

          Actually as a juror you should be told that witness perceptions of events is impaired when they’ve been drinking. Jurors are tasked with weighing the credibility of witness statements. If the statement comes from someone who admits they were drunk at the time, that fact impacts the credibility of their testimony.

          This is supposed to be about justice, is it not? It may seem unfair to put the onus on a witness who might also be a victim but justice demands it.

          • veroxitatis
            Posted September 28, 2020 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

            +1

          • eric
            Posted September 28, 2020 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

            Giving consent (or not) is not like mishearing what someone said. Yes, your senses are impaired when you drink. However if you don’t give consent, then it really doesn’t matter if you’re slurring your words, can’t balance on one foot, or showing other signs of drunkenness, does it?

            In fact, I think a pretty good case should be made for the jury erring the other way. I.e. the standard of what counts as informed consent should get higher as the presumed victim gets more drunk, not lower. The accused should need to show stronger evidence that they got informed consent with an inebriated person, not weaker. This is the ‘drunk person walks into a tattoo parlor’ scenario; saying “your honor, the plaintiff was drunk, don’t listen to their protest” makes the accused more culpable for their decision to take advantage of the person, not less.

    • Posted September 28, 2020 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

      If I decide not to walk down the streets of Tehran without a chador and a hijab, or I warn other women not to do so, does that mean I agree mullas have the “right” to beat and arrest me?
      If I check and lock my doors at night (and I do), does that mean I think if I skip one or forget, someone has the right to break in?
      Come on.
      I don’t get drunk (well, I’m too old for that anyway) around people I do not trust. That is placing my fate in other people’s hands.

    • savage
      Posted September 28, 2020 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

      Remind me of the police officer who triggered the slut walk with a similar suggestion.

  5. DrBrydon
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Being replaced by the Teletubbies?

    • C.
      Posted September 28, 2020 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      No, they are probably considered “fat shaming”. Better change their name to Telepersonsofgirth.

  6. Kelvin Britton
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    I simply want to thank Richard for making me uncomfortable (academically) as a Zoology undergraduate at Oxford in the 1970s. Thanks to this lack of comfort, I not only gained a First, but began my ongoing deep questioning of received wisdom! It is the job of academics both to think for themselves, and to make others do likewise. Thank you so much, Richard, and Jerry for this blog.

  7. V
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    It saddens me that a representative of any part of a great university such as Trinity and a representative of a people ( the Irish) famed for their literacy and curiosity and who kept alive the flames of history and civilisation throughout the Dark Ages in Europe, should exhibit such uncharacteristic narrowness of thought.

  8. A C Harper
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    My suspicion is that the ‘evidence’ provided is a smokescreen. There are some people who still believe that individuals are born as Blank Slates and only need education by the state to become productive members of society.

    People like Dawkins and Pinker show that the idea of individuals as Blank Slates cannot be true, and therefore people cannot be ‘perfected’ – not that we shouldn’t do our best, of course.

    It’s not really that some might feel uncomfortable, but that some might have their cherished delusions undermined. The “universal solvent” of natural selection perhaps.

  9. Posted September 28, 2020 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    “It would have helped had O’Donnell specified which tweets or views made Dawkins an unacceptable speaker.”

    I’m sure O’Donnell justifies leaving out the details because she didn’t want to create even more pain among her audience. In her statement she even apologizes for the pain they’ve supposedly suffered at the mere suggestion that Dawkins had been invited to speak. Amazing she didn’t refer to him as “atheist who shall go nameless” in order to further avoid causing pain.

  10. Posted September 28, 2020 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    In my estimation, the Hist is history.

  11. JB
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Haidt and Lukianoff’s book, “The Coddling of the American Mind” should be compulsory reading these days. Seeking protection from ideas you may not like isn’t doing you any favor. Sigh…

    • rickflick
      Posted September 28, 2020 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      Yes, it would be a good idea, but remember it might make the students uncomfortable. Can’t have that.

  12. Jon Gallant
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    I am in the midst of reading assorted essays by Richard Dawkins in “Science In the Soul”.
    Although his donnish tone is sometimes a little off-putting, it is a really good read, full of ideas and surprising insights. As for the comfort level of Trinity College, I once narrowly saved it from great discomfort. I wrote a letter back to a colleague there and asked a departmental secretary to send it to him (back in the days when that was done). The secretary, none too cosmopolitan, put the letter in an envelope and addressed it to:
    “Dr. X, Biology Department, Dublin, England”.
    Luckily, I retrieved the envelope from the outgoing mail bin and corrected the address.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted September 28, 2020 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      “Although his donnish tone is sometimes a little off-putting’, I think that that is the crux. It is hard to argue with Dawkins, you will generally come second best, but he is disliked because of his perceived smugness and triumphant arrogance. That little smile of superiority. I think perception is much more important than what he actually says that makes him disliked by these small minds.
      I might, of course be wrong though.

      • Posted September 28, 2020 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

        The upper class accent doesn’t help.

        • veroxitatis
          Posted September 28, 2020 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

          It’s hardly an upper class accent, simply RP.

      • EdwardM
        Posted September 28, 2020 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        I dunno. I suspect most of the people who dislike him have never heard him speak. Many probably don’t even know what he looks like.

        Are you sure this not your own perception of him?

    • rickflick
      Posted September 28, 2020 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      You’ve made me wonder how many students will now rush out and read some of Dawkins’ books. They’ll want to know what all the fuss is about. Maybe many more will become “uncomfortable” than if he’d been allowed to come. That would be a good thing.

  13. Richard Sanderson🤴
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    “Because Dawkins’s past statements on Islam and sexual assault might cause “discomfort” to the students.”

    And to think they bristle when we call them “snowflakes”.

    Don’t want to be called a “snowflake”? Then don’t act like one.

  14. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    I find it repugnant that the an address by so esteemed a fellow as Dawkins should be cancelled on such tenuous grounds.

    But the chap should be a bit more careful about dribbling so much salad (or whatever that may be) on his necktie if he wishes to make a good show at old Trinity. 🙂

    • Posted September 28, 2020 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      Dawkins wears cool neckties, many hand-painted. Is that a ginkgo leaf?

      • Kelvin Britton
        Posted September 28, 2020 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

        Leaf insects, Phyllium sp

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 28, 2020 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        Know who else wore hand-painted ties, with his bespoke Brioni suits? I had a couple of ’em, too, back in the day.

        • Posted September 28, 2020 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

          Ha! Nice clickbait. I just had to click.

        • Posted September 28, 2020 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

          The Teflon Don. Nothing stuck, until it did.

          You know if tRump wins after all this, he will be the new Teflon Don. If he isn’t already.

          • Posted September 28, 2020 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

            You were his mouthpiece at some point, weren’t you?

            • EdwardM
              Posted September 28, 2020 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

              Wow. Really, Ken?

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted September 28, 2020 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

                I was one of the lawyers on his defense team at the last trial.

  15. Tim J Reichert
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Colleges and universities are in the early stages of unwittingly cancelling themselves. All of the information they sell is available for free online in print, video and audio format.
    But of course if you are a corporation looking for obedient drones, the best place to find them is still university.

  16. Posted September 28, 2020 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    So being anti-religion and saying that flawed testimony is “bad?” Wtf is really going on?

  17. C.
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    It is quite a shame that they rescinded the invite. I had the pleasure of attending a talk by Dawkins on one of his book tours and he was quite wonderful. Trinity college Dublin ought to feel uncomfortable with taking this opportunity away from its students.

    On a side note, everyone within a certain age group needs a good talking to about taking any mind altering substances in a public setting. In my early 20’s I went drinking with a coworker. After splitting 5 pitchers of beer and 5 or so shots, I found myself back at home (somehow. I didn’t drive, that’s for sure) being dumped on my bed face down. Next I felt hands on my butt. I was too drunk to say or do anything. I lie there thinking “oh god, he’s going to rape me”… I though this because I’d only recently found out he was an ex-con. Lucky for me he only stole my wallet and used my car to drive around doing who knows what. I did get my wallet back, minus all the cash I had, $40, and my car, and never did that again. Lesson learned. Not sure I ever saw him again either. Certainly never went back to that bar.
    So I’d only fault Dawkins slightly, as I think every young adult, not just women, need the advice.

  18. rickflick
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    “…might cause “discomfort” to the students.”

    When have we heard that before!

  19. KD
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Does Dawkins ever pine for the bad old days of English post-war piety when you could engage in a civil public debate on matters of importance?

  20. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    If you had to make a graded list of lack of merit for reasons to ‘disinvite’ a speaker (a bad idea in itself), ‘possibly causing discomfort’ should be right there at the top.

  21. revelator60
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    What a comedown in the mission of the university: from making students think to making sure they’re comfortable.

    Perhaps Trinity College could let Dawkins appear if it installed fainting couches for the students?

    After all, we are living in a new Victorian age.

  22. Posted September 28, 2020 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    I had to check if I accidentally opened an old article. Let’s try to wring something out of this affair.

    It is typical that the offending material quickly disappears behind the judgment of the woke: how they feel about it becomes far more important than the factual matter: “this is x-ist” is more important than showing what exactly x refers to. Or they reach peak of abstraction by calling it “problematic” to a degree that a person becomes unmentionable. The person just did something — we can’t speak of this — and now they are beyond the pale; don’t ask, and don’t question the procedure with “concern trolling” and just listen and believe. Even when you know the inciting incident, like Matt Taylor’s bowling shirt, it is typically left to Outrage Rorschach what exactly is offensive in what way.

    Here lies one chief reason why the woke are considered authoritarians. There is some special person that is allowed to hear and see, but everyone else must accept their verdict, which cannot be discussed, as there is also nothing to discuss, since they usually avoid explaining what it is, exactly, that is such problematic. Or, it is declared offensive, that’s the new fact, and you must work out how exactly. You cannot possibly be entrusted to read or listen for yourself and make up your own mind.

    I find it important to see this as part of a big picture, and not as just another incident. The patterns of wokeness (however named) are consistent and should be describable as a particular ideology.

    Ostensibly, the omissions are about protecting vulnerable people from triggering material, or to prevent the spread of harmful content more generally. The woke think it can be violence to see or hear certain things. But there are a couple of problems with this:

    (1) They say statements can be harmful and trigger someone, and they must be protected. The evidence for this is scarce. If interest groups ever played a role in any debate at all, it was miniscule. Woke are concerned on behalf of others, with some white women, typically, and Very Online People being always the loudest.

    (2) Simultaneously, they spread “harmful content” flagged with “trigger warning” or “content warning” when convenient. It is therefore possible to consider such material in a “safe” way according to their rules. Interestingly, the function of such warning is that of a tag or label, to clearly condemn and index the material, not to actually discuss it. It remains vague what exactly is wrong with it.

    (3) The attempt to protect some unspecified group by this form of censorship is not proportional. If you even find a single person who is affected by this, it‘s unclear why they can‘t ignore this event. Or why they couldn’t be informed with a “trigger warning” that is otherwise deemed useful.

    (4) The strategy to avoid harm by digging up ancient tweets also makes no sense together with the other assertions.

    I don’t buy this reasoning. They are transparently dishonest and mendacious where Occam’s Razor removes Hanlon’s.

    • flayman
      Posted September 29, 2020 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      It is nothing if not an actual true religion. The white woke are the worst. They carry on with the zeal of the converted. Self-flagellation and holier-than-though finger wagging is what we now call virtue signaling. These people should be given their own island.

  23. sugould
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Tweet occasionally and even a smart person like Dawkins will have to try to explain himself on something questionable that he tweeted.

    ‘Tweet all the time and a con artist President will lie or type gibberish and not have to explain a damn thing.

    Trump’s tweets are even seen as “endearing” or “creative” or as “sticking it to someone/somehow.” (I never really understood that part.)

    So I can ignore some slip-ups from Dawkins.

  24. phoffman56
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I would suggest that the faculty members of the History Department there invite Dawkins to speak on approximately the same date and topic as was his aborted speech to that student organization. In fact, to do so seems almost a duty of their teaching jobs.

    And send a special invitation to Ms. O’Donnell, as well as to the former person whom she succeeded. They could sit together in special seats. If one were empty, ….

    • phoffman56
      Posted September 28, 2020 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      They could even organize a little 3-way debate/discussion on the stage afterwards. Then Ms. O’Donnell would have every opportunity to back up what seems a very stupid and anti-educational position–or else, if she failed to show up, be seen as a shallow-minded chickenshit.

      Sorry, real chickens.

      Defending the penchant in parts of Islam for daughter-murder might be interesting to hear.

      Might I lose tenure at that famous educational institution, where Hamilton discovered the quaternions, had I said the above there as a ‘permanent’ faculty member? Was James Joyce a student there?

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted September 28, 2020 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

        No, he went to University College.

  25. KD
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Cancel culture and political correctness are favorite themes of the “right”, but much of the erosion in higher education is a result of the conversion of higher education from a public good to a private monopoly (subsidized by the tax payers).

    If you are paying $60K for a year of college, then why should you have to experience bad grades or cognitive dissonance or ideas you don’t like? The customer is always right.

    In contrast, under the old model, education was a public good, and getting an education was a privilege that was earned, and one could expect bad grades, reversals, cognitive dissonance and exposure to ideas you weren’t keen on.

    I don’t see any reform unless the old public good model is restored and the neoliberal corporate university is abolished.

    • Veroxitatis
      Posted September 28, 2020 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

      Notwithstanding that there are no tuition fees at Scottish universities this sort of rot is becoming ubiquitous.

      • KD
        Posted September 29, 2020 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        I was under the impression that Tony Blear (sic) “reformed” the UK university system to make it a slightly less expensive rip-off modeled on the Yanks, so they could soak up tuition from the second-tier foreign students who couldn’t get in or couldn’t pay for Harvard.

  26. Jon Gallant
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Ms. O’Donnell’s anxious concern to protect the students’ “comfort” tells us that Haidt and Lukianoff titled “The Coddling of the American Mind” a little too narrowly. Or else, they were correct about American and we are seeing more of the rather weird international craze for imitating the USA, from pop music and jeans to woke absurdities.

    Or maybe there is a different explanation. Ms. O’Donnell may be particularly concerned with the comfort level of Islamic true believers because of what has happened, in Paris and elsewhere, to people who make them the least bit uncomfortable.

    • revelator60
      Posted September 28, 2020 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      Thanks to having a common language and the internet, the intelligentsia of Ireland and the UK have become intellectual satellites of the US. Their academics parrot whatever the American academics are crazy about. Broad conformity to elite practice has always been sadly common to academia, and while I had hoped non-American anglophone countries would push back against American excess, this has yet to happen.

  27. Richard Sanderson🤴
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    I wonder how many of these would not have had an invitation, or had their invitation rescinded…

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/College_Historical_Society#Notable_speakers

  28. Posted September 28, 2020 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Oh, for heaven’s sake. I wouldn’t be friends with anyone who was a sexist pig. Richard is extremely liberal, a very gentle person, opinionated, but reasonable. (He’s a much nicer person than I am.) Nuance (and personal responsibility) is dead.

  29. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted September 28, 2020 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Boooo! Hist!

  30. Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:07 am | Permalink

    Ohhhh my head hurt. What kind of donkey town is “the hist” anyway? Screw ’em.

    He’s going to be hopping mad. In an interview a few years ago talking about his stroke Prof Dawkins mentioned he thought a contributing factor was his cancellation from giving a talk at Berkley, a university he taught at decades ago and still had a soft spot for.

    His tweet was obtuse and badly worded but memory incapacitation (by, say, alcohol induced anterograde amnesia – blackouts) has been used by defense attorneys to attack a victim’s testimony in court. (not by me)

    D.A., J.D., NYC
    (fmr defense attorney)

    • Posted September 29, 2020 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      Actually, I think he said, “One would think this was a contributing factor but it wasn’t.” But of course Amanda Marcotte jumped on that.

      • merilee
        Posted September 29, 2020 at 9:51 am | Permalink

        Um Berkeley has one more “e”.

        • Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

          Um, I didn’t mention Berkeley, champ.

          • merilee
            Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

            It was whoever you were reponding to. Couldn’t find a reply link there. Champ??

            • Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

              Oh, I see. Well, we can’t say “Chief” anymore! 😛

              • merilee
                Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

                Oh, is Chief anti-Native American?

              • Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

                I think so. Or cultural appropriation. I don’t even know anymore.

              • merilee
                Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

                When my daughter was 12 or so she used to (impudently) salute me and call me chief or boss. Fortunately at 33 she’s not as apt to do that.

  31. Hunt
    Posted September 29, 2020 at 4:42 am | Permalink

    This really does seem like deja vu all over again. Hasn’t this happened to Dawkins on one or more occasions in the past? I seem to recall one episode (I think right before he had a stroke) where he was disinvited, then reinvited after organizers decided they had jumped the gun a bit by listening to the outrage squad. Unfortunately he had to skip it due to health.

  32. flayman
    Posted September 29, 2020 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    “Every idea is an incitement. It offers itself for belief and if believed it is acted on unless some other belief outweighs it or some failure of energy stifles the movement at its birth. The only difference between the expression of an opinion and an incitement in the narrower sense is the speaker’s enthusiasm for the result. Eloquence may set fire to reason…

    If in the long run the beliefs expressed in [exhibit A] are destined to be accepted by the dominant forces of the community, the only meaning of free speech is that they should be given their chance and have their way.”

    -Oliver Wendell Holmes, Gitlow v. People of New York (1925)

    The irony is that Dawkins has no particular enthusiasm for his offending tweet. It was a throwaway remark. For this and some remarks he’s on the record for about Islam which are probably true, he will forever be branded a bigot and unbookable.

    • sugould
      Posted September 29, 2020 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

      Dawkins will not be “unbookable,” as he has way too much to offer. What do the woke have to offer of value? Righteous bulling is still bullying.

      We all have to learn to stand up to bullies, woke or otherwise. Because you can never really please them, and whatever you give them will not be enough.

      • flayman
        Posted September 30, 2020 at 3:16 am | Permalink

        Yes, but who has the courage to stand up to them? J. K. Rowling does, but it does her no good. It’s a double edged sword. If you ignore them they say you’re a coward. If you do defend yourself, that’s just more evidence of guilt. If you defend someone else, then you’re also guilty. The only acceptable response is to agree and apologize. There’s no avenue of appeal. I wish sensible people would collectively push back on this nonsense, because what’s happening now is not enough.

        • sugould
          Posted September 30, 2020 at 9:21 am | Permalink

          “The only acceptable response is to agree and apologize.” And— if acceptable, and often it is not, they have to beat it out of the victim— they move on to the next target.

          There may not enough “sensible people” now for a pushback, but I’m betting the WokeMobbers believe their own PR, and that those not saying anything somehow support them. It’s much more likely those silent are thinking ‘Please don’t pick on me.’

          Sensible people have to stand up to bullying behavior. Because I completely agree that “what’s happening now is not enough.”

          • flayman
            Posted September 30, 2020 at 9:36 am | Permalink

            I’ve tried to convince my college aged daughter that the woke crowd are bullies as you say. That a lot of trans activists are trying to blur the gender lines in demanding “inclusive” language and that feminists of the previous (and even among the current) generation don’t like it. That these crusaders have no sense of proportionality and don’t care if they ruin people’s lives because on the road to Utopia Equalita the ends justify the means. What are a handful of “powerful” straight white cis-gendered men and women in the grander scheme? She’s having none of it and tells me that I probably shouldn’t speak. It’s alarming to say the least. This is similar to how I treat my own father, who is like many working class dads of a certain age. It makes me wonder what I’m wrong about there.

            • sugould
              Posted October 1, 2020 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

              In 2020, where technology/the media hold sway over all, I’m just grateful that I’m old, and not expected to “get it.” Or even do much of anything about it.

              In 1975 only Howard Beale said “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” This year, it’s most everyone, and you’re trying to raise a young adult in it.

              I wish you, and your daughter, well in navigating through it.

              • flayman
                Posted October 1, 2020 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

                Well I sincerely thank you for your kind thoughts. The younger one (not because she’s younger, just because she’s not certain about quite so much) is a bit easier to reason with fortunately. 🙂


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