So, I’ve been thinking about the nature of “truth” recently, and that led to me thinking about the scientific method, and how it enables to learn more about what the truth is. And that got me thinking about what science is in a more general sense. This led me to the conclusion that for most people modern science has more in common with religion than the scientific method. Now I’m aware that some would argue the scientific method means that science isn’t a religion, but actually that just makes it a bad religion. Now science as a religion isn’t an original idea, but I’m going to go through my thinking on this anyway.
So lets start off by saying I am a white, heterosexual, middle class, male. I have seen lots of comments on the internet about Social Justice Warriors (SJWs for short), and I gather that, based upon what I have seen, I should be worried for my very existence, as these SJWs are apparently out to rid the world of my kind, that is to say white middle class cis gendered (yes I know that "cis gendered" is a label for non trans gendered people, and some see it as an insult, but I am what I am, and I have no better label to use) heterosexual able bodied men. But I have very few examples I can point to of any of these SJWs that really concern me, or indeed that I disagree with in any significant way.
Before we go any further I should probably explain what triggered this particular rant. Recently a person at Google has been sacked for breach of Google's internal policies, a situation that has come to light because the breach was an article they authored about how diversity polices may be harmful, and then circulated within Google, and which promptly leaked. Now I have seen a version of this article, and I shall discuss my thoughts on it later, but what worries me now is the "debate" about the actions taken by Google, and I have already seen some very negative comments. There appear to be two basic sides to this debate, those who say the article was damaging, and wrong, and so Google did the right thing, and those that say Google has damaged itself by shutting down dissenting internal opinions (something the article points out is a risk of Google's current internal culture) and has also trampled this person's free speech rights. My concern is that these are the voices that are going to be screaming about SJWs in the not to distant future. So I thought I'd have a rant about the stupidity of this position from the viewpoint of a SJWs typical "victim".
So, Richard Dawkins has courted controversy on twitter, this tweet
Should I have used the sensitive subject of rape to illustrate a logical point? My answer is here http://t.co/tSPlTEbXwB
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) July 30, 2014
links to a blog of his about the controversy, and this post is an attempt by me to respond.
First off, Richard Dawkins, in his blog discusses the idea that all topics, no matter how sensitive, or controversial, should be open to rational, dispassionate, debate. Now on this point I agree, rational debate is important, and on particularly emotional subjects the only way to have meaningful debate is to do so dispassionately. However, that said, the thing about sensitive topics is that they are, well, sensitive and that means they need to be handled sensitively. That is where me and Richard Dawkins appear to differ. The tweets that started this controversy are discussed in the blog linked above (you really should read what he's done in his own words to understand the point I am trying to make) but they were about one evil being worse than a different, but related, evil. That is not the issue, the problem is that Richard Dawkins is a prominent man, who attracts a lot of media attention, went onto a very open, and public forum and raised the subject of rape, in an insensitive manner without (or possibly worse, with) considering the impact it would have on those who have suffered, and been traumatised by, rape. Now if I were to go into a busy town centre and yell "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." (a direct quote from the blog) what do you think would be my fate? I would probably be arrested for causing a breach of the peace, and possibly confronted violently by people upset by my choice of topic, and choice of method of airing that topic (hopefully I would be arrested before suffering serious harm). And this is the point I want to make. Open, rational, dispassionate, debate of sensitive topics needs to be done in a way that allows those who would be traumatised by the subject to refrain from taking part. Yelling about it in a crowded space is just wrong, getting upset with people made angry by your forcing them to face an emotionally loaded, potentially traumatic, subject is just silly, and Richard Dawkins, in posting that on twitter has essentially done the internet equivalent of walking into a crowded space and yelled at the top of his lungs about a massively emotional subject. Being a renowned evolutionary biologist, and self appointed spokesman for atheism, does not entitle you to be a massive dick!
So, I have seen on twitter that OK Cupid, the online dating website, has decided to block users of firefox because the Mozilla foundation have appointed Brendan Eich as their new CEO.
As I understand it the issue arises because Mr Eich supported a legal campaign in the state of California to prevent Gay marriage becoming legal.
Now I don't wish to say that the people at OK cupid do not have the right to do this (it is their site after all), and nor do I wish to condone Mr Eich's position on gay marriage, but this action still gives me an uneasy feeling.
I'm not sure why, but I feel this is part of a worrying trend, not in the gay rights movement as such, that just happens to be the issue at hand this time, but within many movements around issues of morality. The idea that there is a right opinion, and anything that opposes this needs to be crushed, and more to the point that the fact that the activists involved seem to think that they have an absolute right to enforce this. This strikes me as a decidedly un-tolerant trend. Like the no-more page 3 movement (which has also been brought to my attention today on twitter) the trend apears to be for people to want others to think like them, and anything less is unacceptable, if you don't agree, you shouldn't be allowed to disagree.
I dislike this trend, why can't we accept that some times people disagree with us? As long as no-one is imposing their views upon us what is wrong with allowing them their own opinion? (and yes I recognise that the actions that OK cupid are reacting too were a case of someone trying to impose his views on the laws of California, but he failed)