Richard Dawkins is a smart man; his contributions to the biological sciences are many. Too bad his expertise in biology doesn’t preclude him from making foolish and offensive claims about rape.
Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that's an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think.— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) July 29, 2014
How can a world-renowned scholar and thinker who has written many well-respected books and is the recipient of five major scientific awards be so wrong about such an important topic?
By missing the point: Dawkins is arguing about logic. Just because he said that stranger rape is worse, he insists, doesn’t mean he thinks date rape is acceptable. Defining one thing as “bad” and another thing as “worse” is not an endorsement of the former.
This point was a more direct example of a statement posed in an earlier tweet:
X is bad. Y is worse. If you think that's an endorsement of X, go away and don't come back until you've learned how to think logically.— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) July 29, 2014
As he said in a blog post written after the tweet, “Both are bad. I wasn’t making a point about which of the two was worse. I was merely asserting that to express an opinion one way or the other is not tantamount to approving the lesser evil.”
That’s not what's important. Nobody is under the delusion that Richard Dawkins approves of date rape. As he says himself, you can reverse the two categories and still arrive at the same conclusion:
If you prefer to think date rape is worse than knifepoint, simply reverse my syllogism. To say Y is worse than X is not an endorsement of Y.— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) July 29, 2014
What he misses entirely is the broader point. For him, the situation is purely academic. But rape is a highly subjective experience; nobody’s story is the same, so attempting to define categories such as “bad” or “worse” is pointless -- every victim sees it differently. We shouldn’t be quantifying rape, and doing so invokes other dangerous and harmful arguments.
Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan puts it best:
“...[S]peaking in absolutes about [rape] is, to use an academic phrase, fucking asinine. Saying with laughable certainty that rape can be neatly categorized and quantified in terms of "bad," and that certain categories always affect victims more profoundly than other categories is about as logical as definitively ranking other sensory and emotional experiences.”
Unsurprisingly, the tweet caused a firestorm.
@RichardDawkins erm. no they are both just as bad.— [REDACTED] (@r3d4ct3d) July 29, 2014
@RichardDawkins Again, rape is a legal term, there are no degrees - I think you need to be more careful in your terminology, Richard.— The OSC (@OSCP__1) July 29, 2014
I'm glad @RichardDawkins is here to tell us objectively & comparatively how bad our rapes were. Go away and learn compassion.— Sabine the NPC (@ThatSabineGirl) July 29, 2014
@RichardDawkins bro logic. rape is rape. your categorising does not have a relation to the victim's ability to cope after the rape.— Claire Manes (@intensetweeting) July 29, 2014
@RichardDawkins just fuck off forever you fetid pissweasel— Captain Frantastic (@CptFrantastic) July 29, 2014
@RichardDawkins there are no varying degrees separating any of the evil things you're trying to quantify. Evil is evil...stop it.— Naked Mideon (@8bitanimal) July 29, 2014
@RichardDawkins 'Well at least I was only raped by my date, not a stranger! Could've been worse!' No.— Laura Blair (@heartsofsand) July 29, 2014
The Dawkins index, or how many people can you insult with a single tweet #AlternateScienceMetrics— Jon Tennant (@Protohedgehog) July 30, 2014
Given Dawkins’ history of controversial tweets -- including one about Muslims and the Nobel Prize, and another, in the same vein as the rape tweet, about pedophilia -- it’s unlikely he’ll stop his commentary anytime soon.
Until he does, however, neuroscientist Dean Burnett has come up with a genius (and highly logical) way to handle it: