Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Commentary on and links to religion or atheism in the media
Rob611
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by Rob611 » Sun Jul 31, 2011 6:09 pm

I'm talking about ANY injustice. Dawkins' argument focused on the idea that whatever you are complaining about, you shouldn't because others have it worse. This argument doesn't hold up well when you think of all the things you could justify/ignore using it.

The guy in question asked the girl back to his room to hear more of her drivel. You can argue that's harmless, but it's pretty obvious that wasn't what he had in mind. And even if it was, it isn't an appropriate place to invite a colleague or peer to hold an intellectual discussion. Again think of the context. If I asked you to list 3 things people commonly do in a hotel room, sex would more than likely make the list. There is a very definite sexual connotation in inviting a woman to your room. Had he genuinely wanted to continue listening to her ideas, he could have suggested doing so at a different time in a more appropriate location. If I attend a conference I would never invite a colleague to my room alone, even if we represent the same institution and knew each other.It's just obviously inappropriate.

As for her profession, it doesn't matter what she does for a living, at a conference academics, professionals and anyone affected by the issue has a right to be heard and treated with respect. It is only appropriate to conduct yourself in a professional manner.

All that being said this really has been blown way out of proportion.
bipedalhumanoid
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by bipedalhumanoid » Mon Aug 01, 2011 8:05 am

Rob611 wrote:I'm talking about ANY injustice. Dawkins' argument focused on the idea that whatever you are complaining about, you shouldn't because others have it worse. This argument doesn't hold up well when you think of all the things you could justify/ignore using it.
Then he clarified it and said that no, in fact he didn't believe there was ANY injustice on RW's part and as such, unless you think his clarification was dishonest, you're wrong.

Furthermore, before accusing one of Tu Quoque you have to consider the context. He was addressing a feminist activist, and through a reductio ad absurdum argument, basically said "don't we have bigger battles to fight than this?" That's no more tu quoque than my boss criticising me for working on software project A because we have more pressing concerns on software project B.

The problem with reductio ad absurdum arguments is that they are not literal by nature and it if you're not careful you can leave yourself open to interpretation... and of course your deterants will always assume the worst possible interpretation.
Rob611 wrote: The guy in question asked the girl back to his room to hear more of her drivel. You can argue that's harmless, but it's pretty obvious that wasn't what he had in mind.
Why? What information do you have the the rest of us don't have that would lead you to that conclusion? Just a suggestion, but if you find it so hard to believe that a man could respect a woman to such a degree that he would want to hear her thoughts over coffee, maybe you should reconsider your view of a woman's place in the world?
Rob611 wrote: And even if it was, it isn't an appropriate place to invite a colleague or peer to hold an intellectual discussion. Again think of the context. If I asked you to list 3 things people commonly do in a hotel room, sex would more than likely make the list. There is a very definite sexual connotation in inviting a woman to your room.
Yes, and being aware of this connotation he went out of his way to try to get her to not "take this the wrong way".
Rob611 wrote: Had he genuinely wanted to continue listening to her ideas, he could have suggested doing so at a different time in a more appropriate location. If I attend a conference I would never invite a colleague to my room alone, even if we represent the same institution and knew each other.It's just obviously inappropriate.
I guess he's the first person to ever act without first identifying the best possible course of action? You arrange the angry mob and I'll organise the fire torches!
Rob611 wrote: As for her profession, it doesn't matter what she does for a living, at a conference academics, professionals and anyone affected by the issue has a right to be heard and treated with respect. It is only appropriate to conduct yourself in a professional manner.
This wasn't a work event and unless elevator guy was on one of the panels or officially involved at the event, he wasn't her peer. And besides, RW has specifically stated that she met a number of her previous boyfriends at events like this one. So she certainly doesn't see it the way you do. Though she does contradict herself a lot.
"The fact of your own existence is the most astonishing fact you will ever have to face. Don’t you ever get used to it." - Richard Dawkins... being shrill and offensive again I suppose.
Rob611
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by Rob611 » Mon Aug 01, 2011 2:50 pm

Firstly, I never stated that Watson had suffered an injustice. I'm just disappointed with Dawkins for using such a poor argument.
I don't believe RW suffered an injustice, and clearly neither does Prof Dawkins but neither of us are in a position to dictate what should or should not make a woman feel uncomfortable.
So while it may seem absurd to me, you or Professor Dawkins to place the abuse suffered by Islamic women on the same playing field as the "harassment" suffered by this young woman, there are those who would disagree with us, so his argument becomes less absurd for the sake of effect and more offensive.(Again depending on your point of view).

On your second point, inviting someone to your room/apartment for coffee is a euphemism that's as old as dating. Whether he meant it as such or not, Ms Watson can be forgiven for interpreting it as such given the context. Simply adding the disclaimer don't take this the wrong way does not give one free reign to say whatever you like regardless of the situation. As for my views on the position of women in society I'm unclear on how you drew such a ridiculous conclusion. I repeatedly used a hypothetical colleague to describe my views on conference etiquette. A colleague can be male or female, the same rules apply.

You're suggesting I'm demonising the man in question for his mistake. I'm not. I'm just making it clear that he DID make a mistake and Ms. Watson is entitled to a reaction though I can't say I agree with the scale of it.

As for whether or not she should be regarded as his peer or vice versa I have to disagree with your interpretation.
I'm a zoologist. If I attend a conference on an animal that needs protection/management that conference will comprise of experts in the field, those who feel they may have additional insights to bring to the table,politicians, undergraduates studying the species, representatives from local councils the species inhabits, representatives of local sports groups etc who's activities may be affected by any proposed solutions and many more. Regardless of how directly you are involved with the issue, your voice is important and should be recognised and in return you should conduct yourself in an appropriate manner.
So even though this gentleman did not speak at the conference or arrange it, by attending he was participating.
If the issues discussed were of importance to him he should have given the event the credibility it deserved by conducting himself accordingly.
As for the fact that RW has met previous boyfriends at such events? If she met them at the event, it doesn't imply that their romantic association began at that time. And if it did, then yes it is very hypocritical to become outraged at someone approaching her as the gentleman in question did.
I'm not a Dawson basher. To be honest though I'm far more interested in him as an evolutionary biologist than I am as a celebrity atheist. I think the fact that he has been an inspiration to so many atheists has led to him being (dare I say it?) deified. The man is fallible, he can make mistakes. I happen to believe this was one of them, others may disagree and I respect that, but I am very passionate about maintaining the integrity of a conference as a worthwhile tool and not as a form of entertainment.
bipedalhumanoid
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by bipedalhumanoid » Sat Aug 06, 2011 6:49 pm

Rob611 wrote:Firstly, I never stated that Watson had suffered an injustice. I'm just disappointed with Dawkins for using such a poor argument.
I explained in my previous post why it is not a poor argument and didn't at any point claim your position was that she faced an injustice. I will concede however, that it can be interpreted as a poor argument by those who willfully choose to do so.
Rob611 wrote: I don't believe RW suffered an injustice, and clearly neither does Prof Dawkins but neither of us are in a position to dictate what should or should not make a woman feel uncomfortable.
Dawkins didn't at any point dictate to her what she should feel. He did however make the point that what she does feel is irrelevant (see the chewing gum analogy). Nobody is responsible for the way Watson feels but Watson herself. Just like nobody is responsible for the way Dawkins feels about chewing gum but Dawkins himself. Watson doesn't have a right to not feel uncomfortable in elevators any more than Dawkins or anyone else.
Rob611 wrote: So while it may seem absurd to me, you or Professor Dawkins to place the abuse suffered by Islamic women on the same playing field as the "harassment" suffered by this young woman, there are those who would disagree with us, so his argument becomes less absurd for the sake of effect and more offensive.(Again depending on your point of view).
Except this young woman didn't experience any harassment. She may have felt that she did, but feelings are not facts and Harassment is a legally defined term.
Rob611 wrote: On your second point, inviting someone to your room/apartment for coffee is a euphemism that's as old as dating. Whether he meant it as such or not, Ms Watson can be forgiven for interpreting it as such given the context. Simply adding the disclaimer don't take this the wrong way does not give one free reign to say whatever you like regardless of the situation.
So now Watson has a right to not hear sentences that can be vaguely interpreted as sexual propositions? The point you seem to miss is that by prefixing the sentence with "don't take this the wrong way", he was clearly aware of the euphamism and specifically designed his sentence to prevent her from interpreting it the way she did. These are not random words to be ignored so that you can claim it is a proposition! They are meaningful words that contribute to the meaning of the sentence.
Rob611 wrote:
As for the fact that RW has met previous boyfriends at such events? If she met them at the event, it doesn't imply that their romantic association began at that time.
She specifically stated it in this context and specifically said that she didn't have a problem with being propositioned at these events. He problem with EG was that he supposedly "objectified" her whe he should have "sexualised" her. Apparently that's feminism 101... according to Watson.
Rob611 wrote: I think the fact that he has been an inspiration to so many atheists has led to him being (dare I say it?) deified. The man is fallible, he can make mistakes. I happen to believe this was one of them, others may disagree and I respect that, but I am very passionate about maintaining the integrity of a conference as a worthwhile tool and not as a form of entertainment.
The supposed deification of Dawkins is also a cop out people like to use instead of making real arguments. If my arguments lack merit then rebut the arguments. The implication that Dawkins has ben deified is, dare I say, Ad Hominem fallacy.
"The fact of your own existence is the most astonishing fact you will ever have to face. Don’t you ever get used to it." - Richard Dawkins... being shrill and offensive again I suppose.
Rob611
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by Rob611 » Mon Aug 08, 2011 5:00 pm

Don't take this the wrong way but I think your blind faith in Richard Dawkins is really interesting. Would you like to come to my bedroom at 4am and we can discuss it further over coffee? :wink:
Sigmund
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by Sigmund » Tue Aug 09, 2011 11:07 am

Just a quick question that someone here might be able to answer regarding the identity of Elevator Guy.
The information provided regarding this individual has been somewhat sketchy but going through the various information online we can piece together four relevant facts.

1. He is a man (well of course!) (information from RW in initial video)
2. He is Irish (information from Jennifer Ouellette - who is a friend of RW and has not been contradicted by RW since)
3. He was intoxicated at the time of the incident (Jennifer Ouellette)
and
4. He is in his fifties (information from RW during a later interview - I think the vlog debate)

The points might be considered important in how we regard the incident - for instance, a lot of people picture a shy, introverted American guy in his twenties, making a socially inept move in a place where he wouldn't be publicly humiliated.
Instead we have a picture now of a drunk fifty-something Irish man (and we are not even sure that he was an attendee of the conference itself).
To me, at least, it sounds more threatening like that (or at least more 'creepy'!).
If there is a member of Atheist Ireland who is behaving in such a manner then perhaps this is an issue for the organization to address?
There cannot be a huge number of candidate individuals (Irish, fifty-something, male, drinker, staying at the hotel that night) so perhaps it might be relatively easy for someone involved with the conference to identify and deal with the matter (how to deal with it I am not sure but perhaps asking him to refrain from harrassment in elevators might be a start (RW has pointed out that he heard her say that she didn't want to be approached by men in such a fashion.)
At the same time I am skeptical about ALL the facts in this case so I wonder if there is some way to at least rule out some speculative theories.
Was anyone from Atheist Ireland present at the 4 AM hotel bar session who can give their interpretation of events?
Feardorcha
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by Feardorcha » Tue Aug 09, 2011 12:51 pm

If there is a member of Atheist Ireland who is behaving in such a manner then perhaps this is an issue for the organization to address?
On behalf of the AI Morality Inspectorate I can assure you that all future events of AI will be patrolled by our uniformed guardians, many of whom have undergone specialist training in Saudi Arabia.
Also, we are carrying out a series of 'interviews' of likely suspects and will be studying CCTV footage. As much of this will involve our operatives having to listen to RW's egotistical ramblings, we will be providing counselling for any Moral Guardian cadres who are traumatised.
Needless to say all future AI gatherings will be held in single-story public places with separate entrances for men and women.
Thank you for joining the forum and for your valuable contribution to protecting the moral fibre of AI.
bipedalhumanoid
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by bipedalhumanoid » Tue Aug 09, 2011 1:29 pm

*weeping*
I don't know Elevator Guy, I -- I never met Elevator Guy or had any contact with him, but --
*cries uncontrollably*
-- I'm sorry, I can't go on.
"The fact of your own existence is the most astonishing fact you will ever have to face. Don’t you ever get used to it." - Richard Dawkins... being shrill and offensive again I suppose.
Beebub
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by Beebub » Tue Aug 09, 2011 1:58 pm

Sigmund wrote: There cannot be a huge number of candidate individuals (Irish, fifty-something, male, drinker, staying at the hotel that night) so perhaps it might be relatively easy for someone involved with the conference to identify and deal with the matter
Oh for goodness sake! No wait, I can't add anything better to Feardorcha's response to this, I'll just add +1 to what he said
Sigmund wrote: (RW has pointed out that he heard her say that she didn't want to be approached by men in such a fashion.)
Except she didn't. Re-watch the video of her talk at the conference and tell me the exact time that she said the above. I'll save you the effort, she didn't. She mentioned getting death threats and threats of rape from people who disagree with her; being told to shut up, by people who normally agree with her and getting explicit and graphic e-mails from men describing what they'd like to do her and suggested that these men thought it was something she'd like. She made no referecne whatever to being chatted up at Athiest events or otherwise and to equate what elevator guy did with the issues raised in her talk by suggesting that he 'didn't get it' was way over the top. Her behavouir since hasn't showered her in glory either.
nozzferrahhtoo
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by nozzferrahhtoo » Tue Aug 09, 2011 2:12 pm

I personally doubt the person even exists at this point. And if he does, it was probably FXR so I wouldnt worry too much about it :p
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