An Atheist, a Feminist and a Misogynist Walk Into an Elevator…

Have you heard the new one about Richard Dawkins?! Gawker reported recently on a fascinating […]

David Zahl / 7.14.11

Have you heard the new one about Richard Dawkins?! Gawker reported recently on a fascinating controversy going on within the “skeptical community.” The gist is this: a renowned feminist blogger named Rebecca Watson was propositioned/asked out by a male admirer in a hotel elevator, following her presentation at a “Skepticon” (calling Michael Bay…). She rebuffed him and in her video round-up of the event spoke indignantly about the incident, labeling the guy a creep.

Well, some within the skeptical community took issue with her, defending the clueless man in question. Enter Atheist top dog Richard Dawkins, who took the opportunity to belittle her concerns, crassly contrasting them with the various third-world atrocities being perpetrated against women (female circumcision, etc). In response, Ms. Watson has asked for the skeptical community to boycott Dawkins’ books! Gawker reports (ht JZ):

There were many, many more blogs written [in support of Watson, criticizing Dawkins], and by the time the kerfluffle made it to The New Statesman, the fix was in. “Can Richard Dawkins still credibly pose as a champion of rational thinking and an evidence-based approach?” asked famed attorney David Allen Green. “In my opinion, he certainly cannot, at least not in the way he did before.”

…Have the world’s self-professed rationalists really spent the last week arguing about a proposition in an elevator?

Jesus, they have. It’s enough to make you wonder if anybody knows what the hell rationality’s all about. Not incidentally, this isn’t the first time skeptics have become so uselessly derailed. This is the movement that almost boarded up shop for a week last year while it tried to figure out if the “Skepticon” gathering had too many atheists on its speaker roster, and oughtn’t therefore be called “Atheistcon.”…

That’s skeptics. Rational about everything except themselves, self-preservation, and manners.

The point here has nothing to do with sexual politics. Some found the guy’s overtures creepy and some did not. Fine. Instead, this is a particularly rich glimpse into the radical atheist movement. Lest one think that “skeptical” is code-word for free-thinking or free-anything, the incident confirms suspicions/accusations of the genuinely merciless fundamentalism lurking beneath the surface. Absurdly so! One false move and… Let’s just say, you better not transgress, pun intended. And once the ball is rolling, no amount of justification will stymie the book burnings – certainly if anyone thinks they have reason to put confidence in the flesh, Dawkins has more.

The article also points out the irony of the situation, the irrationality being displayed by such a bunch of staunch rationalists. But the rationalist banner is more than a sham, it’s a shackle. None of us would pass the hypocrisy test. More preferable might be a system that takes human errancy as one of its fundamentals. Maybe even one that forgives it. But there I go again, being totally irrational… Good thing you can’t burn a blog!