The Friendly Atheist is not so friendly, damns Richard Dawkins as “transphobic” for comparing transexualism with transracialism

April 13, 2021 • 10:45 am

The Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta, isn’t being very friendly, nor charitable, to Richard Dawkins. This is based on a tweet that Dawkins made comparing “trans-racialism”—as in the case of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who pretended she was black—with transsexualism. Hemant has thus deemed Richard “transphobic” and implicitly demanded that he be removed from the board of directors of the Center For Inquiry (CFI; the Richard Dawkins Foundation is now part of CFI).

Hemant’s headline is misleading and clickbaity, and, more important, he doesn’t reproduce or correct Dawkins’s own explanation issued yesterday. Click on the screenshot below.

Hemant is greatly exercised by Dawkins’s first tweet below.

Now nobody ever claimed that Richard was great in getting his points across in a tweet, which is why he often has to issue subsequent tweets, like the second one above.

Let’s “unpack” the first tweet.  First, many of us know the story of Rachel Dolezal, who pretended for several years that she was black, rising to positions of authority in the Spokane, Washington NAACP. She had felt she was black for many years, attended a historically black college, and then simply told people she was black, adopted a black persona as well as darkening her skin, and was an activist in antiracist causes. Her parents (who had adopted several black children) eventually “outed” Dolezal, and she was fired from her position and has been widely shamed.

I’ve always felt some sympathy for Dolezal because her narrative, at least, does parallel that of transsexual people. I don’t think she was lying to gain anything (indeed, if you assume a black identity, Critical Race Theory tells you that you’re losing your privilege and will be oppressed). Rather, as best I can see, she actually felt that she was more black than white. That’s confirmed by an article in the Guardian, which says this:

As she wipes away the tears, it’s hard not to think that she deserved a little of the humanity she has shown to others. Yet behind the pain is a determination not to be forced from the identity she has embraced.

“I really feel it hasn’t affected it at all because I wasn’t identifying as black in order to make people happy or make people upset or whatever. I wasn’t seeking fame. I was being me,” she says. “Of course, it’s affected me in really practical ways of not having a job. It’s really difficult to navigate public spaces. It’s been incredibly hard for my kids. There have been some real experiences, but one of them is not how I identify changing.”

Far from it. Her answer to her critics is to name her unborn son after Langston Hughes, the African American poet and leader of the Harlem Renaissance.

Yes, race is not sex, but there are parallels between Dolezal’s “race dysphoria” and the “gender dysphoria” of transexual people. In both cases you have a cognitive dissonance that causes psychological pain. In both cases you don’t have a choice about how you feel. The source of the dysphoria may have different origins, like hormonal causes for transsexuals and cultural dissonance in transracialism, but in both cases it manifests itself (if you believe Dolezal, which I do) as profound dissatisfaction with your persona and a desire to assume another identity. To do that when you’re white, you have to lie about being black, for you can’t get surgery or hormone treatment to assume another racial identity. But have some charity: it’s not “pretense” or a “lie” in the usual sense: you’re dong what you must to resolve the psychological pain you feel for feeling a identity different from what biology has vouchsafed you.

The parallel between transgenderism and transracialism was the subject of a big fracas a while back, when in 2017 feminist philosopher Rebecca Tuvel from Rhodes College published an article in Hypatia (“a journal of feminist philosophy”) called “In defense of transracialism“, noting the parallels between transracialists like Dolezal and transsexuals.  Tuvel was excoriated, just as Mehta has excoriated Dawkins, for being transphobic.  But Tuvel’s article was a philosophical one, as she wasn’t even sure that Dolezal’s “transition” was genuine. And Tuvel did say this:

You can read about the article and the upshot here and here. Tuvel was immediately demonized, the journal apologized, vowed to tighten up its review standards, and then the journal’s editor and eight associate editors resigned. But the article is still up, and that is excellent. Such discussion is valuable and should not be suppressed.

What irked people about Tuvel’s piece is that it seemed to them that, despite the parallels, it’s fine to want to change your gender but not at all okay to want to change your race. To me this is a distinction without much of a difference, and the reasons people want to make it a difference speaks powerfully about the hegemony of race above all traits. It’s simply not okay to assume the identity of a black person when you’re born white, even though you’re giving up “privilege”. (It is, however, apparently okay to make the opposite racial transition: the familiar “passing for white”, even though that isn’t based on dysphoria but an attempt to gain social and economic advantage).  Many of us have defended Tuvel’s article, including Russell Blackford and other philosophers.

Hemant, however, doesn’t even mention Tuvel’s article. Instead, he vilifies Dolezal for lying and calls Dawkins a “transphobe”:

In 2015, Dolezal became the subject of controversy when it became public knowledge that her parents were both white. That alone wouldn’t be an issue except that, until that point, she had flat-out lied in public about having a Black parent. She passed herself off, on paper, as Black. She already benefitted from the privilege of being white, but decided it wasn’t enough. When confronted about it, she said she self-identified as Black… and it’s that comment that has made her infamous.

She wasn’t simply vilified for identifying as Black (whatever that means) so much as lying about it to gain some kind of edge in her professional career.

Trans people, on the other hand, aren’t changing genders just for the hell of it. They sure aren’t doing it because it gives them some kind of advantage in society. More to the point: They don’t “choose to identify” as the other gender as if it’s some kind of light switch; they are the other gender. If they undergo surgery or take hormones or request a change on their driver’s license, it’s to correct a mistake, not because they wanted to be another gender on a whim.

So back to Dawkins. He’s comparing a liar, whose lie he passes off as genuine, to trans people, whose truths he dismisses. He’s comparing race to gender, as if they’re the same thing, in a way that allows bigots (including right-wing Christians) to use his words as a weapon against trans people. He also defines trans women as “men [who] choose to identify as women” (and vice versa) when that’s not the case at all.

It’s not merely a question. There’s nothing to “discuss.” It’s transphobic rhetoric — red meat for conservatives — that someone who supposedly values reason should know better than to promote. It’s as if he watched the whole J.K. Rowling debacle and thought I want to get in on that.

This is uncharacteristically unempathic of Hemant, toward both Dawkins and Dolezal.  I don’t think Dolezal was changing racial identity “for the hell of it”; I think she felt she was born in the wrong race and wanted to do something about it. It was not a “whim” or a “light switch.”

And Dawkins did not, as Hemant claims, “deny the basic humanity of transgender people”. Granted, Richard could have used some better language when he said that “some men choose to identify as women”. Though that’s literally true, the word “choice” implies a frivolous decision rather than a psychological imperative. (We have no “free choice” in such matters anyway.) And Richard could have been a tad more sensitive when saying “you will be vilified if you deny that [transexual people] are literally are what they identify as.”  Yes, he’s correct in that statement, but there are nuances here, as we’ve discussed several times on this website. In most ways transssexual people can be regarded as members of the gender they assume, but not in every single way.

At any rate, the idea that Dawkins is denying the humanity of trans people is defused by his “clarifying” tweet, and even without that I don’t see where anyone’s “humanity” was denied. I see a bit of an awkward tweet and a wokeish overreaction by Hemant.

Indeed, Hemant gets so worked up in his post that he almost demands that CFI get rid of Dawkins as a board member (his emphasis):

Here’s a more pressing question: What is the Center for Inquiry going to do about this?

When Donald Trump banned trans people from the military, CFI’s president denounced it by saying “We stand proudly with the transgender community as an ally in the fight for equal treatment.”

Well, the foundation that Dawkins began is now a division of CFI. Dawkins is on CFI’s Board of Directors. In the past, when one of CFI’s affiliates posted a transphobic comment online, the organization acted quickly to take it down and reiterate its support for the trans community.

So what will they do now? Do they stand with Dawkins, who mischaracterizes trans people and suggests that those who reject trans identities are unfairly maligned, or do they stand with trans people?

At this point, they don’t have the luxury of choosing both.

The next-to-last paragraph is a gross mischaracterization of Dawkins’s argument, I think. It is true that people who raise arguments against the acceptance of say, transsexual women as completely identical to biological women are unfairly maligned (viz., J. K. Rowling), and the “unfortunate” word “choice”, which is technically accurate, should be interpreted charitably, not as an attempt to denigrate transsexual people.

These days, a more charitable attitude is needed by many of us, but especially by the censorious Left, which seems gleefully eager to pounce on awkward tweets or even purely innocuous statements and deeds (i.e., wearing Hawaiian shirts!), and then damning the transgressors for good. This kind of reaction will not produce social progress. And it’s sad to see that Hemant, at least in this case, has joined the ranks of the Unempathic Offended.

h/t: Barry

63 thoughts on “The Friendly Atheist is not so friendly, damns Richard Dawkins as “transphobic” for comparing transexualism with transracialism

    1. There you go. Coincidentally, if there ever was a crime commited by Dawkins, it’s the song from that video.

      He also wore jeans on stage at Wembley during that Nightwish gig. Now jeans are mostly made of cotton which clearly links him to slavery. As a white British male he already carried the weight of colonialism on his shoulders, but that’s just too much. He clearly denies the basic humanity of human people.

      1. “Coincidentally, if there ever was a crime commited by Dawkins, it’s the song from that video.”

        Could be. Assuming he was actually playing the instrument at the end, does he get any brownie points for that?

        Perhaps instead he should have played CardiB’s “Wap,” one of the crowning achievements of American civilization. Some several podcast episodes ago Mehta gave conservatives and their ilk grief for having a problem with “Wap.” His female podcast partner gave the translation of “Wap,” but I think I detected that she had to grit her teeth to do so.

        I haven’t listened since that episode. I find him a hard sonic slog. I wonder if he has declared for the record his position on sex as a “social construct.” I would listen to him one more time in a debate between “The Friendly Atheist” and “The Thinking Atheist.”

        1. If I was Seth (Thinking Atheist), I would be keeping an eye over my shoulder for when the woke-whippers demand he reveal his thoughts on gender/sex. As far as I can tell, he tends to stay clear of the issue, but we all know the cult will hunt down those who try to just keep their heads down.

          Those demands could even could from his chums and newly promoted witchfinder-generals Hemant Mehta or Matt Dillahunty.

          This reminds me, what are the views of Aron Ra? Wonder if he has gone down the anti-science drain yet? Or is he just ‘keeping his head down’ and focusing on the easy, comfortable arena of debunking flat-earthers and evolution deniers?

      2. oh thank you for that video, I hadn’t seen it. The world needs to be more like that: more trippy, more Dawky I say!

  1. I left that guy a few months ago when I realized how Wokeism has essentially made this ‘atheist activist’ a useful idiot. And considering that another major atheist podcast such as The Scathing Atheist still directly takes articles from him as a major source, that says alot about atheism podcasting nowadays.

    I also read Matt Dillahunty’s tweet being on the “Dawkins is transphobic” bandwagon. It’s sad.

    1. I realized this earlier. Years ago I was a reader there, but the place gradually turned more and more toxic. He drawn in a certain audience (the kind that loves to judge above all else) with some of his posts, then started to preach to them.

    2. I’ll need to check of Matt’s take… he’s been going down a rabbit hole too recently. I’m seriously considering abandoning the Atheist Experience podcast, in large part because of Dillahunty’s repeatedly bad takes and behavior.

      1. I have recently ditched AE, not only because Dillahunty called Dawkins something like an irrelevant old fool who should retire merely for recommending a book on Twitter, but I had enough of Matt triumphantly shouting “Bye, bitch!” before hanging up on a caller.

  2. One would think we have enough real problems to occupy us without making a big deal out of a (mostly) misunderstood tweet.

    1. Hemant moaned at Dawkins for criticising “wokeness” a few months ago, arguing that the Pandemic is way more important to be concentrating on that. You know, a “Dear Muslima” type argument from Hemant.

      Naturally, lots of people dunked on Hemant for concentrating on various “woke” issues, and pumping out hundreds of blog posts on Ark Encounter….while he was lecturing others for talking about ‘non-important’ issues while there is a Pandemic.

      Hemant has fallen so far, it is difficult to fathom.

  3. I saw a tweet, I can’t remember who by, which made an interesting point (which I’m not necessarily endorsing, I hasten to add): that transracialism, or whatever you want to call it, is arguably more plausible than transgenderism, since ‘race’ is a pretty fluid thing genetically and biologically and human ‘races’ haven’t been around for very long, evolutionarily speaking, while biological sex has been around evolutionarily for, what, maybe a billion years? Again, I don’t know if that’s all that convincing (hormonal effects on sex/gender identity don’t really have an analogue in race, and I think brain structure evidence shows trans people have more similarities to the gender they identify as than the one they were born into) but it’s an interesting angle- evolutionary thinking is always interesting!

    1. There’s also trans-species-ism, which I was made acquainted with when I visited Mississippi State a few years ago. Some students feel they have the spirits of animals like deer or horses, and even wear tails and horns to class. The professors are told they have to abide by this identity and get special training in that.

      1. Oh zeez. Such performance art would have not been acceptable in any of my prior classes. I need to go back to school. I would have so much fun with that.

      2. I wonder whether a trans-species student who identifies as a mosquito female would be allowed to go to class and sting everybody.

      3. Wouldn’t trans-species-ism mean that the person live exclusively as that particular animal? Meaning that they certainly would not be going to classes, wearing clothes, or anything that humans do that “their” animal normally does not?

        It seems like what you describe might be instead therianthropy. “Therianthropy is the belief that one is at least part non-human animal” Here is one paper on that subject:

    2. “hormonal effects on sex / gender identity don’t really have an analogue in race”

      You are right. That is the exact point that breaks the interesting analogy posed by Dawkins. Biological sex has a cerebral facet (the sexual identity etched by hormones in the brain architecture of the fetus) that does not exist in the case of race.

      For example, a trans woman was born with a male gonadal sex, but is female because her brain sexual identity is female. However, in the case of race, the only biological facet that exists is the race with which the person was born.

      1. No, the analogy is not broken. Whatever the cause, be it hormones or culture, there is a change in brain architecture that makes transsexual people feel that they’re of the wrong gender, and transracial people that they’re of the wrong race. Your mistake is in thinking that there is some fundamental difference between hormones (or whatever influences sex dysphoria) and experience or learning, which influences racial dysphoria. The change in neurons is equally “biological” in both cases, and doesn’t devalue a strong feeling of transracialism one bit.

        1. The following thought (and immoral) experiment demonstrates the abysmal difference between sexual identity and racial identity: A white baby blind from birth can be brought up to believe he is black and he will probably be unable to discover the deception, because racial instincts do not exist. On the other hand, if you make him believe that he is a girl, it is practically certain that in a few years, guided by his sexual instincts (his innate cis-masculine sexual identity), he will discover the deception.

          1. Umm. . . placed in a cultural milieu, that baby would quickly find out that he is not black. And cultural influences can alter your neurons in a way that can influence your identity, as might have happened with Rachel Dolezal. In both cases there are neurological influences on your behavior.

            Sorry, but all your attempts to show that Rachel Dolezal could not have had a drive to identify as a black person have failed. Pointing out stuff like the above does not advance your case.

  4. The proponents of the various flavors of wokeism aren’t helping their cause by trying to bully people into conformity. It only suggests that honest argument won’t win.

  5. My personal reaction (which I’ll edit here for taste and standards) to this would be to say to this supposedly friendly atheist, “Go f*ck yourself with a fist full of thistles.” What a loser.

    1. ” . . . fist full of thistles.”

      Definitely worse than the down of thistles (I imagine).

      “Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers,
      Such skill at sewing shirts our shy young sister Susie shows,
      Some soldier send epistles
      Say they’d sooner sleep in thistles
      Than the saucy soft-shorn (?) shirts for soldiers sister Susie sews.”

  6. I think Dawkins’ Dolezal analogy was ham-handed too, for pretty much the reason Hemant states: I see her rejection as being due to her lying to her organization, not identifying as black. In contrast, take the issue of trans women in women’s sports, they’re being up front about being trans women. The issue is a completely different one; how to balance fair treatment of the trans individual against the fair treatment of the cis women competitors. That issue simply has no analogy in the Dolezal case.

    I do agree that the far left has overreacted towards (i.e. unfairly vilified) folks who have pointed out that sex differences remain even for cis- and trans people of the same gender. But I’m not hugely sympathetic for Dawkins in this case. His tweet doesn’t rise to the level of Rowling’s fairly measured and substantive treatment of the issue. It’s a fair point to say she was unfairly vilified for her position, given the thought she put into it and the measured tone she adopted. But here Dawkins simply made a rather insensitive, off-the-cuff, few-liner remark. I don’t see a whole lot of value in saying criticism of it is unfair because there’s a relevant point hidden in the subtext. There might be. If so, it was still a bad tweet, and critiquing it as a bad and insensitive tweet is, IMO, legit. Dawkins is excellent at long-form science writing. But he seems inept or at least socially insensitive when it comes to short-form tweeting.

    1. The tweet wasn’t even an analogy. “Discuss” means, let’s ask the question, is it a good or bad analogy? Very frustrating to watch people leap over the actual point of the tweet and put words in mouths.

      1. IMO Dawkins very clearly wants to discuss why the left took contrasting positions on Dolezal’s case (vilified someone who presented as other) and trans issues (vilifying people who critique some aspect of presenting as other). He believes his analogy is apt, he believes it shows inconsistent application of principles, and he wants to discuss that inconsistent application of princples. He is absolutely not, IMO, seeking feedback on whether he’s developed an apt analogy or not. I see that as both a bit naive, and perhaps not giving Dawkins’ enough credit, because I think it downplays the substantive issue that he wants to discuss – i.e. (perceived) liberal inconsistencies in treating race and gender issues.

        Now as I said above, I think his analogy is inapt. But I “see where he’s going” with it, and I’m willing to accept that he’s after much bigger game than just “hey internet, d’you think this is a good analogy?”

    2. Not all trans women are up front about being trans. Fallon Fox didn’t mention that she was trans until she had broken a few faces.
      Others don’t want any notion of whether they are trans or not to be a factor, or for that to be known.

    3. “In contrast, take the issue of trans women in women’s sports, they’re being up front about being trans women.”

      But if you construe it that way, as Mehta does, they are by the same token lying up until they come out as trans. (I don’t believe this, the woke Americans effectively say this).

      This conception of woke Americans is a weird syncretism that combines arguments rooted in social constructionism with intersex biology to craft a case, but it’s incoherent and leads to such problems.

      The censorious attitude and their bullying prevent them from hearing viable (progressive and compassionate) alternatives, and of course who wanted to argue about this with Mehta or Dillahunty.

  7. I don’t find Dawlins’ tweet to be “ham-handed” in the first place. “Discuss” points out an interesting and important conversation to be had re trans-gender vs. trans-racial. It doesn’t mean you take a particular position in that discussion.

  8. It’s almost touching to see how Dawkins, despite years of misjudging the kind of forum that Twitter is, nevertheless gamely continues to throw out debating questions as if he were tossing ideas around with colleagues in a university common room. He pays the twitterati the compliment of believing them to be better than they wearyingly show themselves to be.

    1. No Pushback? Atheists United, around 38 years old, now has the Executive Director calling people who support (or sympathize with) Dawkins, assholes.No argument. Just name calling!

  9. Poor Richard, born with a well-shod foot in his tweets. I may have said this before, but anyone who, by training and temperament, tends to think and write in subordinate clauses and qualifying appositive phrases probably should stay the eff off Twitter.

    Still, this foofaraw seems to have the scent of cheap shot against him.

  10. After reading this post and the comments, I went to read the Tuvel article. It’s quite thoughtful and well written, some of the clearest and least jargony philosophy I’ve ever read (admittedly that’s not much). Her vilification was totally unjustified. And her points about the reasonableness of transracialism seem to have gone unanswered.

    Tuvel ends her article with a quotation from Sally Haslanger, which rang a bell for me:

    ‘Haslanger writes, “rather than worrying, ‘what is gender, really?’ or ‘what is race, really?’ I think we should begin by asking (both in the theoretical and political sense) what, if anything, we want them to be”’

    That seems a more charitable and empathetic view than Dawkins’ critics advocate.

    1. Yes, I read Tuvel’s article too when it came out, and was impressed by it and also appalled at the opposition to a useful exercise in philosophy. I recommend it highly. It’s amazing that the article wasn’t taken down.

  11. The advantage of a tweet should be that it is short enough to read it carefully (maybe even twice?) before deciding what it actually said. It is amusing to scan the responses to the two tweets; the response to the first is often “transphobe!” and the response to the second “coward!”. It appears that neither wing took the time to read before responding.

    There seems to be no middle ground in this discussion. Anyone who points out that some women have a legitimate discomfort at the idea of being in a vulnerable situation with an obvious male, and that feminine males have a legitimate fear of male violence, will be attacked from both sides.

  12. I’ve always felt some sympathy for Dolezal …

    As have I. And, although the younger and woker treated her like evil incarnate, it seemed to me that, initially at least, older black folk — the ones who well remember when “passing” was strictly a one-way route for escaping hypodescent — viewed her without resentment, even seeing her attempt to move in the other direction as a sign of progress of sorts.

  13. I can’t be bothered much with Friendly Atheist these days. It’s not really an atheist blog so much as a stream of news stories, with little more than the facts. There are loads of comments, but few more than one-liners. Mehta doesn’t engage in the comments, which the better Patheos non-religious bloggers do. As this article shows, Mehta seldom looks beyond the ‘woke’ because, presumably, he thinks all atheists think the same way.

    1. Many of the posts consist of, “Pastor you never heard of in a town you never heard of, told his congregation of 20, something ridiculous/terrible about science, or liberals, or minorities.” Or they’re, “Mentally I’ll person did/said something terrible and invoked Jesus.”
      Unfortunately a favorite gay blog I frequent lifts a lot of these from The Friendly Atheist.

  14. My heritage is predominantly from the Baltic … Baltic may well derive from the word for white (there is some debate). The majority of the remainder is likely Russian (white Russian), but apparently I have a hint of Ashkenazi in me too. My education and upbringing was English, my first language was not English, I have lived in Africa, and now spent more time in Canada than anywhere else. I find it strange to identify as a particular race or nationality. I feel like a citizen of the world.

    I am well aware my ancestors left Africa, probably sixty thousand years ago, and before that my ancestry gets all a bit fishy.

    So I have a bit of sympathy for Dolezal and students who think they have animal spirits. I personally relate to stardust.

  15. Are there STILL sensible and reasonable people who actually take any notice of Hemant Mehta, these days? He’s gone the same way as so many other pseudo-rational people, and joined the cult of anti-science wokism. The regular commentator at Friendly Atheist are gullible and aggressive Pharyngula rejects. Matt Dillahunty is even worse.

    People need to tell these jokers to shut up, wind their necks in, and jog on. What on earth Dawkins is doing offering an “explanation” and “I didn’t mean to offend” boilerplate reply, I don’t know. You don’t give the woke anything at all, certainly not throwing chum in the water.

    Oh, and Ophelia Benson is angry that Dawkins half-apologised. But she demanded Dawkins to the grovelling years ago, when she was upset that he wasn’t part of her FTB feminist Rebecca Watson goddess cult. She needs to pipe down as well.

    1. Mehta was also a contestant on Jeopardy a year ago….and half-assed after a single game though that’s not unique among Jeopardy first-timer contestants. It was his mid-show dialogue with Trebek that was very cringeworthy.

  16. Dawkins’ first tweet was clumsily worded. Surely that shouldn’t be a hanging offence, especially in the light of his later clarification? But given the times we live in, who knows…

    I’m not sure what I make of the Dolezal case; yes, she relinquished her apparent white privilege, but that seemed to be an advantageous trade-off for the greater credibility of the capital B black identity she gained in the circles she moved in? If we actually stopped paying attention to skin colour, as I genuinely believe many of us already have, thereby putting professional so-called “anti-racists” like DiAngelo out of a job, it would cease to matter, of course.

  17. Does no one spare a care for us of the trans-species community? Long ago, I realized that my genome as a member of H. sapiens was some kind of accounting error; in my innermost soul, I
    felt really more comfortable as a shrubbery (perhaps a Rhododendron or a Winter Creeper) than as a Hominid. And perhaps these two are not entirely exclusive. The great sci-fi author Olaf Stapledon described a species on some distant world that spent part of its time as animal and part as vegetable. I believe the narrator came down heavily on the side of the vegetable identity.

  18. This is not a surprise to me. It’s probably more than 5 years now that I’ve had my own unpleasant interaction with Hemant Mehta in his comment section (or in the best case scenario someone that pretended to be him). He is prone to personal attacks instead of attacking your arguments and he’ll go as far as stalking you online and scouring the internet until he finds something “damning” to attack you with.

    Even if the person I interacted with was not the real Hemant Mehta, this individual was a regular in his comment section, making numerous claims of being Hemant Mehta. So at the very least, they must have had some approval to behave like this from “The Friendly Atheist”.

    As far as I’m concerned, Hemant Mehta is nothing more than a snake in sheep’s clothing. He’s a toxic element that I imagine is a remnant of the Atheism+ disaster.

      1. That’s just my view. I have no issue with you or anyone else still giving him the benefit of the doubt, but for me personally, my experience at that time was so shocking, that I can’t do that.

        I can understand him going after a public figure, whether it’s Dawkins or whoever else. But I’m a literal nobody. And yet Mehta found it appropriate to track my YouTube account and check who I subscribe to on there so he can attack me with it. I’ve interacted over the years with all kinds of trolls and bad actors, but I’ve never had something like this happen to me until then or ever since. I’m just glad I already had deleted my Facebook account at that time.

        That was the day I stopped reading his blog, and I can’t say I missed it either.

  19. Ugh – I used to like Mehta’s atheist stuff – not so sure now as this leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
    So uncharitable! So harsh. Demands to have him thrown off the board of the place he helped make famous (and is partly responsible for my own financial support for CFI).

    As for giving aid and comfort to Christian fundies, I doubt R.D. is their first choice in ammunition. hehehe
    Go Dawky!

    I must disagree with PCC (E) that this is just a cultural phase that is retractable – it gets crazier by the day and I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.

    1. It seemed to be the election of Trump that woke-whipped Hemant.

      I was horrified by Trump as much as anybody, yet I don’t understand how seemingly rational people can throw science and liberal values under the bus at the tip of a hat, because of Trump.

      His site is now a trash-fire.

  20. Being uncharitable has been part of internet culture since its early days, and it has only increased since the rise of wokeness. Being uncharitable stirs outrage which in turn attracts more attention. It is probably not a conscious strategy on the part of most — it’s just an angle that gets rewarded and consequently repeated.

    I’m reminded of Nick Cave’s essay on mercy, which was mentioned here last year.

  21. Certain topics are a minefield by now, and most people don’t go near them. It’s great that Dawkins doesn’t care. It’s one his best qualities.

    The Woke aren’t effective advocates with their performative hate and their narcisstic moral prancing. It’s even more irritating when they are from the USA, a country with one of the worst social justice of all developed nations.

    The trouble with irresponsible hate preachers like Hemant Mehta or the other notable American atheists and humanists who echoed his sentiment like Matt Dillahunty, is that they are too ignorant to see the hate they keep injecting. They tell their audience that Dawkins was coming for “basic human rights” even when it’s them who keep injecting that into the conversation (much like Fox News fear mongers, who turn topics into “they are coming for your guns/jobs”). Dawkins’ topic was about the “discourse around identifying in a way that does not match apparent categories”.

    But that’s not all Mehta et al are saying. It gets worse. He says Dolezal is a liar who took advantage of passing as black. This creates a narrative of authentic selves on one side, and grifters on the other who abuse identity to gain privileges and advantages. This is how Mehta sets it up. In their ideology, trans people have a “truth” — Mehta uses the word “truth” exactly once and in this context — and Dolezal doesn’t.

    The “basic human rights” Mehta brings up are a condition of this “truth” which is some biological substrate or material reason. No such “truth”, no human rights, or compassion, he implies (it’s just lying then). Now that the science isn’t settled yet, this “truth” of trans people needs religious protection as in their ideology it carries all the weight. He and the bunch of other American atheists and humanists can’t imagine different conceptions, for example one that is just generally compassionate and accepting and which does not hinge on a biological “proof” or “truth” for their predicament. There are many more outlooks on such matters, as feminism and queer theorists have grappled with this for decades. See here for one overview.

    But it’s even more pernicious. According to Mehta, Dillahunty et al, trans people have an authentic self which was always there. That’s why he gets outraged by Dawkins’ choice of words, to “choose to identify” and calls that transphobic. Dawkins is allegedly “dismissive” of that authentic “truth”.

    However, in reality, Cathlyn Jenner made olympic career as a man, thus identified as a man, and as that, in 2015 came out trans and then identified as a woman. “I happened to be the right guy, at that right place, at that right time” Jenner said back then. Not too long ago this change to identify as another sex than “assigned at birth”, perhaps with a name change, was the ordinary definition of “trans”, compared to “cis” gendered who don’t pass through such a watershed moment of change. “To identify” means to put into a category, and Jenner did identify as a man, then as a woman. Now Metha et al inform us that’s actually hate speech, because it rubs against their “truth” idea.

    But see where this leads. If trans people have a “truth” and again, I’m quoting Mehta, it follows that trans people are liars and grifters up until they reveal that “truth” to everyone. To Mehta et al Jenner was lying as she took advantage of male privilege up until 2015.

    I doubt that they truly mean it that way, even if this is what they propagate. I close with the charitable interpretation: we should not expect too much of outrage merchants like Mehta, Dillahunty et al.

  22. Heheheheh. Indeed, if people can change something as fundamental as their gender (which is printed into every chromosome in their bodies) because they “believe/feel” that they’re really-really of a different gender, then why not something as minor as race, which is only a matter of minor characteristics such as skin color and eye shape. So why isn’t it as properly “woke” to be trans-racial as trans-gender? The Wokey-Dokes don’t seem to like that comparison, for some reason. They’ll even go so far as sneering at “choice”, which is what they fall back on when defending abortion rights. Well, the only answer is that the Woke crowd are a bunch of hypocrites who have no rational grounds for their political preferences.

    –Leslie <

    1. Leslie, there are some identity statements whose truth depends on what the person “feels” and others that do not. For example, homosexual identity requires feeling sexual attraction towards people of one’s gender, while measuring six feet does not require feeling anything in particular.

      Race is analogous to height, not gender; gender is analogous to sexual orientation, not height.

      By the way, have you ever heard of CAIS women? They are intersex women who despite having male (XY) chromosomes have female gender (brain sex) and female genitalia. Chromosomes do not always have the last word in sexual matters.

      1. Sorry, but I don’t know how you can claim so definitively that feeling you’re black when you’re white is somehow analogous to feeling six feet tall when you are six feet tall (or even when you’re not). Your analogy seems to me fallacious.

        If I were you, I’d just stop trying to say that having gender dysphoria is somehow, at the neuronal level, fundametally different from having race dysphoria. The causes may differ, but the effect on the brain–the feeling of dysphoria–may be similar.

        In other words, I’d suggest you knock it off, because I’ve told you about this fallacy at least twice before.

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