Child Abuse: a misunderstanding. w/ Polish translation

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                                               A is bad. B is worse.” How dare you defend A?

                                               Anon: epitome of several Twitter attacks. 

 

 

 

See end of article for Polish translation


In my memoir, An Appetite for Wonder, I wrote the following, about an incident at boarding school.

I would watch games of squash from the gallery, waiting for the game to end so I could slip down and practise by myself. One day – I must have been about eleven – there was a master in the gallery with me. He pulled me onto his knee and put his hand inside my shorts. He did no more than have a little feel, but it was extremely disagreeable (the cremasteric reflex is not painful, but in a skin-crawling, creepy way it is almost worse than painful) as well as embarrassing. As soon as I could wriggle off his lap, I ran to tell my friends, many of whom had had the same experience with him. I don’t think he did any of us any lasting damage, but some years later he killed himself.

This paragraph, together with a subsequent statement to the Times that I would not judge that teacher by the standards of today, has been heavily criticised. These criticisms represent a misunderstanding, which I would like to clear up.

The standards of today are conditioned by our increasing familiarity with the traumatising effect that pedophile abuse can have on children, sometimes scarring them psychologically for life. Today we read, almost daily, of adults whose childhood was blighted by an uncle perhaps, or even a parent, who would day after day, week after week, year after year, sexually abuse a vulnerable child. The child would often have no escape, would not be believed if he/she told the other parent, or told a teacher. In many cases it is only now, when the abused children have reached adulthood, that these stories are coming out. To make light of their stories, even after all these years, might in some cases re-awaken the trauma of not being believed at the time when it was all happening, and when being believed would have meant so much to the child.

Only slightly less culpable than the abusers themselves are the institutions that protected them, of which the most prominent examples are to be found in the senior hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. This is why I personally donated £10,000 of my own money towards a fund, instigated by Christopher Hitchens and me, to build the legal case for prosecuting Pope Benedict XVI for his part (when Cardinal Ratzinger) in covering up sexual abuse of children by priests. Our initiative, for which I paid 50%, the rest being raised by Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, resulted in the book  The Case of the Pope: Vatican accountability for human rights abuse, in which the distinguished barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC laid out the case for the prosecution should any jurisdiction in the world choose to take it up in the future.

Now, given the terrible, persistent and recurrent traumas suffered by other people when abused as children, week after week, year after year, what should I have said about my own thirty seconds of nastiness back in the 1950s? Should I have lied and said it was the worst thing that ever happened to me? Should I have mendaciously sought the sympathy due to a victim who had truly been damaged for the rest of his life? Should I have named the offending teacher and called down posthumous disgrace upon his head?

No, no and no. To have done so would have been to belittle and insult those many people whose lives really were blighted and cursed, perhaps by year-upon-year of abuse by a father or other person who was deeply important in their life. To have done so would have invited the justifiably indignant response: “How dare you make a fuss about the mere half minute of gagging unpleasantness that happened to you only once, and where the perpetrator was not your own father but a teacher who meant nothing special to you in your life. Stop playing the victim. Stop trying to upstage those who really were tragic victims in their own situations. Don’t cry wolf about your own bad experience, because it undermines those whose experience was – and remains – so much worse.”

That is why I made light of my own bad experience. To excuse pedophiliac assaults in general, or to make light of the horrific experiences of others, was a thousand miles from my intention.

I should have hoped that much was obvious. But I was perhaps presumptuous in the last sentence of the paragraph quoted above. I cannot know for certain that my companions’ experiences with the same teacher were are brief as mine, and theirs may have been recurrent where mine was not. That’s why I said only “I don’t think he did any of us lasting damage”. We discussed it among ourselves on many occasions, especially after his suicide, and there was indeed general agreement that his gassing himself was far more upsetting than his sexual depredations had been. If I am wrong about any particular individual; if any of my companions really was traumatised by the abuse long after it happened; if, perhaps it happened many times and amounted to more than the single disagreeable but brief fondling that I endured, I apologise.

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Wykorzystywanie seksualne dzieci i nieporozumienia wokół moich wspomnień

Autor tekstu: 

Tłumaczenie: Małgorzata Koraszewska

„A jest zły. B jest gorszy". Jak śmiesz bronić A? 
Anonim: streszczenie wielu ataków na Twitterze.
 
W moich wspomnieniach, An Appetite for Wonder, napisałem następujący akapit o incydencie w szkole z internatem:

Z galerii obserwowałem gry w squasha, czekając, by gra się skończyła, żebym mógł zejść na dół i samemu poćwiczyć. Pewnego dnia — musiałem mieć około jedenastu lat — na galerii był razem ze mną jeden z nauczycieli. Posadził mnie sobie na kolanach i włożył rękę w moje szorty. Nie zrobił niczego więcej, ale było to skrajnie nieprzyjemne (odruch mosznowy nie jest bolesny, ale w przyprawiający o gęsią skórkę i odrażający sposób jest to niemal gorsze niż ból), jak również zawstydzające. Gdy tylko udało mi się uciec z jego kolan, pobiegłem powiedzieć o tym przyjaciołom, z których wielu miało z nim takie same doświadczenia. Nie sądzę, by którykolwiek z nas doznał trwałych szkód, a kilka lat później ten nauczyciel popełnił samobójstwo.

Ten akapit wraz z późniejszą wypowiedzią dla „Timesa" gdzie dodałem, że nie sądziłbym tego nauczyciela według dzisiejszych standardów, był ostro krytykowany. Pojawiło się tu wiele nieporozumień, które chciałbym wyjaśnić.

Standardy dzisiejsze są uwarunkowane coraz lepszą znajomością traumatycznych skutków, jakie wykorzystanie seksualne może mieć na dzieci, pozostawiając czasami rany psychiczne na całe życie. Dzisiaj czytamy niemal codziennie o dorosłych, których dzieciństwo zostało zniszczone przez wujka a czasem nawet rodzica, dzień za dniem, tydzień za tygodniem, rok po roku wykorzystujących seksualnie bezbronne dziecko. Dziecko często nie ma żadnej ucieczki, nie wierzono by mu, gdyby powiedziało drugiemu z rodziców lub nauczycielowi. W wielu wypadkach dopiero teraz, kiedy wykorzystywane dzieci dorosły, te historie wychodzą na światło dzienne. Lekceważenie ich opowieści, nawet po tych wszystkich latach, może w niektórych wypadkach na nowo obudzić traumę tego, że nie dawało się im wiary w czasie, kiedy działo się to wszystko i kiedy uwierzenie dziecku tak wiele by dla niego znaczyło.

Tylko nieco mniej winne niż sami zwyrodnialcy są instytucje, które ich chroniły, a z których najbardziej znane przykłady znajdują się na szczytach hierarchii Kościoła rzymsko-katolickiego. Dlatego sam dałem 10 tysięcy funtów na fundusz założony przez Christophera Hitchensa i przeze mnie, by złożyć oskarżenie przeciwko papieżowi Benedyktowi XVI za jego udział (kiedy był kardynałem Ratzingerem) w ukrywaniu wykorzystywania seksualnego dzieci przez księży. Z tej inicjatywy, której koszty pokryłem w 50%, a resztę zebrali Christopher Hitchens i Sam Harris, powstała książka The Case of the Pope: Vatican accountability for human rights abuse, w której wybitny prawnik Geoffrey Robertson QC przedstawił dowody oskarżenia, gotowe, gdyby jakiś sąd na świecie chciał podjąć to w przyszłości.

. . .

Czytaj dalej

 

 


Written By: Richard Dawkins
continue to source article at

101 COMMENTS

  1. There may be more, but by my reckoning, this is the second time recently that an explanation has needed to be given regarding twitter posts. It may be worth revising the use of twitter because possibly a) the tweets are coming out wrongly, b) the readers miss a point, c) both, d) twitter is simply not the place for certain soundbites or e) the tweets are just plain wrong.

    • In reply to #1 by bootjangler:

      There may be more, but by my reckoning, this is the second time recently that an explanation has needed to be given regarding twitter posts. It may be worth revising the use of twitter because possibly a) the tweets are coming out wrongly, b) the readers miss a point, c) both, d) twitter is simply n…

      I agree completely. I admit when it comes to Twitter I’m a Luddite and a grumpy old man but so be it, I still think it is essentially useless for people who want to have intelligent discussions. It’s for people who want to trade dumb jokes that they think are incredibly clever, random pointless comments they think are insightful, and insults. It’s not a medium that people like Prof. Dawkins should waste their time on to begin with even though I know the prevailing wisdom is you have to use it to reach young people.

      • In reply to #6 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #1 by bootjangler:

        I agree completely. I admit when it comes to Twitter I’m a Luddite and a grumpy old man but so be it, I still think it is essentially useless for people who want to have intelligent discussions. It’s for people who want to trade dumb jokes that they think are incredibly clever, random pointless comments they think are insightful, and insults. It’s not a medium that people like Prof. Dawkins should waste their time on to begin with even though I know the prevailing wisdom is you have to use it to reach young people.

        I love twitter, and you are absolutely correct. The medium is contrary to meaningful discussion. It also promotes dishonesty and groupthink. It is brilliant for news, science, and jokes. Comedians and scientists make the best use of it, and I think Dawkins has had some really good rallies and has inspired many worthwhile trends. He’s clever, witty, and a master of prose. Where I see your point, is that politicians and the like should not use twitter for personal expression… and Dawkins’ role in society overlaps with policy makers as a celebrity and activist… but he’s also a stitch and I love having access to him. I’ve seen him take science questions.

    • I agree. I have noticed that most of the criticism laid at the Professors feet seems to stem from twitter comments. Twitter is not a place for big ideas or complicated subjects. It appears to be more geared to what you had for lunch or the shoes you wore today.

      In reply to #1 by bootjangler:

      There may be more, but by my reckoning, this is the second time recently that an explanation has needed to be given regarding twitter posts. It may be worth revising the use of twitter because possibly a) the tweets are coming out wrongly, b) the readers miss a point, c) both, d) twitter is simply n…

  2. Very well said, though honestly, you really shouldn’t have had to explain yourself this way. Some people are just too easily offended and too little inclined to use a bit of common sense.

  3. It’s a pity you need to explain. The result of a small group of big mouths who by default categorize certain types of people as guilty of whatever the group wants to be true. Fortunately they are outnumbered by reasonable people with comprehension skills and those with the ability to realize they could be mistaken and admit as much (also known as class)

  4. Many of Richard’s critics (and there are many of late) have been making the point that “wrong is wrong, period”. I read Richard as stating that there are shades of wrong (which makes his critics mad). Let me repeat a quote from the “Big Bang Theory” that I’ve posted elsewhere:

    Sheldon: “Wrong is an absolute state and not subject to gradation.”

    Stuart: “Of course it is. It’s a little wrong to say a tomato is a vegetable, it’s very wrong to say it’s a suspension bridge.”

    • In reply to #5 by mordacious1:

      Many of Richard’s critics (and there are many of late) have been making the point that “wrong is wrong, period”. I read Richard as stating that there are shades of wrong (which makes his critics mad). Let me repeat a quote from the “Big Bang Theory” that I’ve posted elsewhere:

      Sheldon: “Wrong is an…

      In the interest of critical thinking, I must point out a glaring error in your comment. Sheldon used the word wrong with the meaning “being false” and he was completely correct. There are no grades of wrong in that sense, period. It makes no sense to ask whether a statement is “more false” than other statement. (Stuart is wrong.)

      But, there is one more meaning of wrong: “morally wrong or inappropriate.” This is the sense in which Dawkins used the word in his latest tweets. There are grades of “morally wrong.” Killing thousand people is more immoral than punching a person’s face.

      All that said, I think Dawkins’ intent is never what his critics make it out to be.

      • In reply to #8 by arpitchauhan:

        In reply to #5 by mordacious1:

        Using your word “false”: Both statements are false (true), one is outrageously false (also true). I don’t want to derail this thread anymore with semantic discussions, I’m sure you got the gist of the original post.

  5. In reply to #1 by bootjangler:

    There may be more, but by my reckoning, this is the second time recently that an explanation has needed to be given regarding twitter posts. It may be worth revising the use of twitter because possibly a) the tweets are coming out wrongly, b) the readers miss a point, c) both, d) twitter is simply n…

    Give yourself a rest.

    The only reason the prof. is forced into a situation where he has to explain his tweets is because there is a small army of people out there who are desperate to see him fall flat on his face… So desperate in fact, that they will manufacture controversy from anything he has to say about any given subject.

    It’s not the Prof. who is at fault in these cases. And, he goes out of his way to clarify his statements in case any people actually fall prey to the cynical mob who wilfully misinterpret his comments, and start to believe he actually thinks the way they claim he thinks.

    That he goes to such effort is above and beyond requirement. His statements, when read without the invective thrown at them by the mob of detractors, are perfectly understandable on their own merits.

  6. the cremasteric reflex is not painful, but in a skin-crawling, creepy way it is almost worse than painful

    TMI. Nightmares for me for the next six decades. ;)

    All joking aside, Richard, I’m so sorry that being famous means you have to be infallible. I’m glad that I’m not famous. I’ve said so many things that “came out wrong” that if I were world-known I would be painted as a lunatic. Seriously.

  7. Mr. Dawkins,

    First, as a survivor of child sexual abuse, please allow me to say that I am glad to know you feel that you did not suffer from serious emotional harm from your experience. That said, there is no hierarchy of abuse and trauma, and the same kinds of experiences you detail have, for others, been a tipping point into an abyss of despair and pain. So too have others shown remarkable resilience whose experiences were significantly worse than yours.

    There are millions of people who allow their intellectual perspective to be shaped by you, either because they agree or disagree with your opinions (and it is important to stress that much of what you share with the world are opinions and hypotheses) To say that you encourage people to think for themselves does not release you from the ethical responsibility incumbent upon a figure of your stature to consider the consequences of you actions.

    I am glad that you have attempted to clarify your comments, but you are still engaging in a level of victim blaming and recrimination that is unacceptable. For these reasons your clarification and subsequent conditional apology, fall far short of the mark. You are not being asked to lie, nor to loudly declaim that what you suffered was the worst thing that happened to you. Setting up your argument this way is both disingenuous and beneath a person of your education and erudition. Further, it mischaracterizes the position of many adovocates, such as myself who take issue with the things that you have said on multiple occasions that have served to send a message that sexual abuse is not a significant issue.

    The work you have done to attack the pope is also not an expression of your empathy or support for survivors. It is, rather, a prideful declaration of your own efforts to take down someone else whom you passionately disagree with. Had you shared with the world what you do to actually provide support to survivors of sexual abuse, then you might legitimately lay claim to consideration for your compassion for other survivors. (For the record, I am agnostic and have no strong support for any institutional religion, so please don’t rpesume I am attacking you as a religious zealot.) In fact, there are horrible stories of abuse that occur in practically every religious order in the world, not just the Catholic Church. I would submit to you that attempting to attack the credibility of one leader does precious little to actually change the reality of the suffering of tens of millions of survivors of abuse. Of course, it your not you duty to do anything for those survivors, however trying to lay claim to a level of moral superiority based on what little you have done is a display of hubris that is unfortunate to see.

    Further, you have yet to acknowledge that the comments you made are based on opinion and anecdote, and do not reflect the research that has been done to begin to help us paint a clearer picture of the abuse and trauma that we are struggling to come to grips with. I have shared with you some of that work via Twitter, and will be happy to supply other papers for you to review, should you be interested. To make such sweeping statements based on your personal perspective flies in the face of everything you stand for as a man of science.

    I hope that you will read and reflect upon my comments. As a fellow survivor, I have no wish to shame or attack you with malice, and I have tried to make logical points for you to think upon. Should you wish to engage in a more substantive discussion on these issues, I would be more than happy to do so, either publicly or privately.

    Sincerely,
    Christopher M. Anderson
    Executive Director, MaleSurvivor

    • In reply to #10 by christopher.m.anderson.10:

      Mr. Dawkins,

      First, as a survivor of child sexual abuse, please allow me to say that I am glad to know you feel that you did not suffer from serious emotional harm from your experience. That said, there is no hierarchy of abuse and trauma, and the same kinds of experiences you detail have, for othe…

      Great work taking what was meant as a clarification and attempting to turn it into your soapbox. A zealot is a zealot religious or otherwise . Personally I don’t find a level of anything in the OP to be at an unacceptable level.

    • In reply to #10 by christopher.m.anderson.10:

      Further, you have yet to acknowledge that the comments you made are based on opinion and anecdote, and do not reflect the research that has been done to begin to help us paint a clearer picture of the abuse and trauma that we are struggling to come to grips with. I have shared with you some of that work via Twitter, and will be happy to supply other papers for you to review, should you be interested. To make such sweeping statements based on your personal perspective flies in the face of everything you stand for as a man of science.

      I suggest you re-read Richard’s last paragraph.

    • In reply to #10 by christopher.m.anderson.10:

      Mr. Dawkins,

      That said, there is no hierarchy of abuse and trauma

      First, I want to acknowledge that I understand how difficult it must be for a survivor to discuss these issues. I had a significant other who went through some serious abuse as a child and I know what a lasting scar it leaves on people.

      But I disagree with your statement that there is no hierarchy of abuse. If that were true then you would have to say that the trauma of one date rape (as awful and unacceptable as that is) is the equivalent of the trauma of those young women in Cleveland who were abducted and held for years. Clearly there are different kinds of trauma with different levels of severity. I think a more accurate statement and perhaps what you are getting at is that trauma is highly subjective. What might be a minor incident for Prof. Dawkins could be a major trauma for someone else. I agree with that and I don’t think Dawkins would disagree and I don’t think anything he said implies otherwise.

      • I’ll refer you to my reply to mordacious1.

        In reply to #19 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #10 by christopher.m.anderson.10:

        Mr. Dawkins,

        That said, there is no hierarchy of abuse and trauma

        First, I want to acknowledge that I understand how difficult it must be for a survivor to discuss these issues. I had a significant other who went through some serious abuse as a child…

      • In reply to #19 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #10 by christopher.m.anderson.10:

        Mr. Dawkins,

        First, I want to acknowledge that I understand how difficult it must be for a survivor to discuss these issues. I had a significant other who went through some serious abuse as a child…

        Damn well said. I’m so glad I slow the scroll for your little puppy picture. I’ve trieed articulating the same point on another thread, but you nailed it.

    • I’m not young or easily led (I regret and hope respectively) and am no particular expert in this field, either as a sufferer or perpetrator.

      But allow me some comments, however badly scientifically argued. I recognise: a) it is hard to have a contextually rich discussion in single duplex communication like this, b) very few people change their minds in argument, especially in a forum, and c) re some comments it’s not good style to personalise arguments by reference to someone’s perceived qualities, or otherwise. So what’s the sense in contributing? Well, it just feels wrong not to. I suppose this is an emotionally driven response to what I read above.

      I do, though, have high regard for rational thinking, which isn’t the same as saying I can do it well. I recall reading some of RD’s work relating to the variations in moral thinking about the partial saving (or otherwise) of numbers of lives threatened by a train coming down a railway track, with points that may be operated by the person in the moral maze position. I would have found it hard to develop that very useful model of logical argument – i.e. I’m a novice at this.

      So my comments here are probably to be criticised as somewhat emotional and not scientific. But we are all the product of our experience, and emotional as well as rational responses are part of being human, I guess.

      Here’s my take on the main point, the absoluteness (or otherwise) of abuse: doesn’t the law recognise the concept of “aggravation” with regards to some crimes, even ones some regard as absolute and not capable of gradation. Didn’t Kenneth Clarke get into difficulties with exactly this, partly brought about by his way of expressing it, perhaps, but nevertheless with some of the criticism prompted by the principle of expressing such a view at all.

      From this standpoint I’m just not comfortable with the absolute view. It doesn’t seem reasonable, and in any case I find the word “abuse” a very wide one to be asserted as not being capable of gradation, even qualified by a descriptor such as “sexual” or, perhaps, “physical”. I’m totally against, as I’m sure RD is, any form of abuse, but I can’t agree with arguments that there is no spectrum.

      On the other, subsequent point “I would not judge the teacher by the standards of today” I really am in the moral maze position, not one I feel I’m in on the first point. I’m sure RD would have a train track set of examples that would illustrate contradictions in applying today’s standards (memes?) to yesterday’s situations, but i’m just not comfortable with cases being ignored or diluted just because of the passage of time. I have an example:

      Let’s for a moment return to the absoluteness point again; many (probably 40) years after the event, I suddenly fell into the realisation that when I was 11 or 12 a lollipop man had exposed himself to me as he shepherded me across the road (White Hart Lane in Tottenham) on the way to school. It only happened once, and all I perceived was – er – a flash of flesh, and years later (having then maybe heard of such things) I realised he must have been wearing long braces and trousers with only leggings under his white waterproof. This wasn’t, I think, a “recovered memory” but a realisation or interpretation informed by more experience of our weird world!

      Now, people might argue on my behalf that I must have been affected by this. I don’t think so, and I regard this as pretty minor in my case. But he might have done this a whole lot more times (otherwise why come prepared, to coin a phrase) to a whole lot of other kids. Unlike RD’s case, it was never discussed. Not by me, because at the time I merely registered the flesh tones but not his motivation or what had really happened. And not, as far as I am aware, by others at my school.

      So – not, in my view, far along the spectrum I mention above, but I can’t believe the guy didn’t realise it was wrong. I’d regard it wrong then, as well as wrong in retrospect.

      So I find it pretty hard to support a view that says we might not pursue or punish such behaviour from the past if we discover it today.

      Some might say I have shot my own “non-absoluteness” argument down – they might say I’m regarding the act as absolute in that it’s wrong for all time. But that, so to speak, is on the y-axis of time, whereas my other argument is on the x-axis of severity.

      I need an RD to sort this out and express it properly, please! Maybe a train track with more sets of points?

      May I apologise in advance to anyone who thinks I have taken any of this lightly. I don’t mean to. I’m an optimist at heart, I have a sense of humour, I like to think of myself as intelligent – data driven, a data processor but also regard myself as not (ever) fully informed about anything. I’m an ex-mathematical physicist, so ought to be scientific. But in 140, 1400 or 14000 characters, where’s the room for research based argument?!
      In reply to #10 by christopher.m.anderson.10:

      Mr. Dawkins,

      First, as a survivor of child sexual abuse, please allow me to say that I am glad to know you feel that you did not suffer from serious emotional harm from your experience. That said, there is no hierarchy of abuse and trauma, and the same kinds of experiences you detail have, for othe…

    • In reply to #10 by christopher.m.anderson.10:

      there is no hierarchy of abuse and trauma

      Maybe not among what you’ve experienced, but the world has billions of people, and you don’t speak for them. The empirical data does, and the hierarchy is very real. Sure, all abuse is wrong, but you wouldn’t deny some theft is worse than others.

      whose experiences were significantly worse than yours

      He just said that!

      you are still engaging in a level of victim blaming

      The victims he discussed were him and his classmates, and he hasn’t blamed himself or them, or any other victims. Do you know what the verb “blame” means? Seriously, in what way did he argue what they experienced was their fault? Either give a specific example or retract your lie about him.

      You are not being asked to lie, nor to loudly declaim that what you suffered was the worst thing that happened to you. Setting up your argument this way is both disingenuous and beneath a person of your education and erudition.

      So what was he being asked to do?

      the things that you have said on multiple occasions that have served to send a message that sexual abuse is not a significant issue

      He has said only that some sexual abuse is less significant as an issue than is other sexual abuse. That much sexual abuse is a significant issue in his eyes is obvious to anyone who has read the article you’re commenting on.

      The work you have done to attack the pope is also not an expression of your empathy or support for survivors. It is, rather, a prideful declaration of your own efforts to take down someone else whom you passionately disagree with. Had you shared with the world what you do to actually provide support to survivors of sexual abuse, then you might legitimately lay claim to consideration for your compassion for other survivors.

      Are you saying every single person who wants to condemn something bad has to non-anonymously donate money to fighting it? At least he’s expressed compassion for them, which is more than you’ve done in this post. If I challenged you by your own logic, I would eagerly await your own “I did this to help them” boasting. But I won’t do that, because your logic is ridiculous. But I will accuse you of using their suffering as a means to an end, namely to launch a criticism of Richard Dawkins which, as usual for such criticisms, doesn’t even make sense.

      In fact, there are horrible stories of abuse that occur in practically every religious order in the world, not just the Catholic Church.

      So he’s not allowed to say “A is bad, B is worse”, but you’re allowed to say “A is bad, B is just as bad, so shut up about A”?

      attempting to attack the credibility of one leader does precious little to actually change the reality of the suffering of tens of millions of survivors of abuse.

      This isn’t about attacking the credibility of Joseph Ratzinger. This is about making him legally accountable for the policies he imposed on the Church, whose effects have been quite pernicious. If we can’t prosecute him, who in the RCC can we hold accountable?

      trying to lay claim to a level of moral superiority based on what little you have done is a display of hubris that is unfortunate to see.

      He doesn’t say, “I’m better than Ratzinger because I’ve helped his victims”; he says, “that Ratzinger has so many victims is deplorable”. If you can quote Professor Dawkins mentioning his own superiority, or revelling in it (despite it being nothing to be proud of), then let’s hear your evidence.

      you have yet to acknowledge that the comments you made are based on opinion and anecdote, and do not reflect the research that has been done to begin to help us paint a clearer picture of the abuse and trauma that we are struggling to come to grips with.

      He’s not guilty of that allegation; you are. There are gradations of severity of sexual abuse; the facts support him, not you. You haven’t just said something that’s unproven; you have made several empirically refutable claims in this piece, as I’ve shown above.

      I have shared with you some of that work

      You claim to have peer reviewed science that undermines the gradation hypothesis? Share your links here, then. I’m a scientist who frequently reads peer-reviewed literature, so I’m prepared to see what you have. I’m far from alone here in that.

    • Really?
      You first claim there is no hierarchy of abuse, then you talk about people who you say have had “experiences significantly worse than” Richard’s. Do you see a problem here?

      In reply to #10 by christopher.m.anderson.10:

      Mr. Dawkins,

      First, as a survivor of child sexual abuse, please allow me to say that I am glad to know you feel that you did not suffer from serious emotional harm from your experience. That said, there is no hierarchy of abuse and trauma, and the same kinds of experiences you detail have, for othe…

  8. In reply to #10 by christopher.m.anderson.10:

    Mr. Dawkins,

    First, as a survivor of child sexual abuse, please allow me to say that I am glad to know you feel that you did not suffer from serious emotional harm from your experience. That said, there is no hierarchy of abuse and trauma…

    Seriously, there is no hierarchy of abuse and trauma? So, one of your daughters comes home from school and says she has had her ass grabbed by some guy, sexual abuse and possibly traumatic. As a good father you begin to console her, but during your conversation you get a call from the police that your other daughter has been brutally raped and is in intensive care. Since there’s no hierarchy, you tell them they’ll will have to wait, your dealing with an equally disturbing sexual abuse situation with your other daughter.

    • In reply to #13 by mordacious1:

      Yes, seriously. You cannot know from the outside what the experience of abuse will do to an individual. Harm is experienced subjectively, and as I mentioned, some people – such as Mr. Dawkins – may not suffer as badly as others. Therefore attempts to categorically state that one form of abuse is significantly worse than another is neither trauma-informed, or supportive of victims. Perhaps for your own needs it is helpful to list what kinds of sexual abuse are worse than others, however for survivors I can assure you, there is no significant help that comes from it.

  9. There are certain expressions in some of the comments above this one, excluding #1, that reek of an attitude of pomposity and self importance. They are these:

    too little inclined to use a bit of common sense.

    so glaringly obvious.

    It’s a pity you need to explain.

    It is not a pity that Richard needs to explain. Explaining is exactly what Richard does with talent and skill. I only wish he had led with this material that is presented above and not tried to deal with the shallow and abrupt medium that is the stupid thing called twitter. I suppose it works out fine for common gossip and other irrelevant subjects, but for any topic of substance it apparently creates more trouble than it’s worth. I expect he dealt with his personal incident at some correct and appropriate length in his book, at least I hope this is true, but the book has not been released for very long and so there aren’t enough people in the freethinker community who could even provide an informed perspective in his defense.

    As mordacious1said above, there are shades of wrong. In fact, I think it’s an excellent and valid topic for discussion to take up on a separate thread. What is the definition of sexual perversion and what behaviors would be included in that category? Anyway, maybe Richard will write us a nice piece on that topic and we can toss it around in the comments section some day.

    Sexual abuse is an emotionally loaded topic and I for one was not surprised that it blew up in his face. I personally don’t believe that Richard is a callous jerk about these matters but he has certainly blundered into some scrapes that were absolutely avoidable. It isn’t in Richard’s best interest to appear to be a jerk, and it’s not good for the entire community to become embroiled in an accusation against him that isn’t true.

    I’ve defended Richard and his views countless times in the past seven years to anyone who starts spewing toxic crap about him. But on accusations of sexism and now on this one I want him to come out of the corner swinging. Be proactive, not defensive. This thread is a good start.

  10. Seriously, there is no hierarchy of abuse and trauma? So, one of your daughters comes home from school and says she has had her ass grabbed by some guy, sexual abuse and possibly traumatic. As a good father you begin to console her, but during your conversation you get a call from the police that your other daughter has been brutally raped and is in intensive care. Since there’s no hierarchy, you tell them they’ll will have to wait, your dealing with an equally disturbing sexual abuse situation with your other daughter.

    A rational person would allow the responses of the individual in question to dictate his or her response, rather than operating based on preconceived notions of what type of trauma is ALWAYS worse. Since you characterize the second daughter as having been “brutally raped,” I assume you are referring to not just a rape, but a rape and a beating (rape is sex without consent, period), it’s likely she will be more traumatized than the first daughter, who was sexually assaulted but not raped or beaten. However, if it became clear, as you interacted with them, that the second daughter was coping well, despite her injuries, while the first daughter was hyperventilating with distress, it would be insensitive and foolish to leave the first daughter to deal while you attended to the second.

    People respond differently to similar things. That’s what is meant when people say that there is no hierarchy of trauma. I have no problem with Dawkins stating that FOR HIM AND HIM ALONE, a moment’s groping by a teacher was far less traumatic than being taught about hell. I do have a problem with him extrapolating from his experience to suggest that being taught about hell is always, generally, or even usually more traumatic than being molested as a child. And he has suggested this repeatedly. It contradicts the available research on the effects of sexual abuse of children. I do not know if there is a similar body of work regarding the effects of religious indoctrination of children, but in my observation, though indoctrination often is quite traumatic, Dawkins is so far the only person who’s experienced both (and there are many) who claims that indoctrination was worse than sexual abuse.

    His insistence on repeating this line of argument strikes me more as being a rhetorical cudgel against religion than a genuine expression of concern about children who are indoctrinated and/or assaulted, and to me, that falls short of the moral standards I set for myself in showing consideration for the subjectivity of other people’s experiences and the standards of empirical evidence.

    But I am glad Dawkins apologized and clarified. I object mildly to his remarks about being pressured to lie about his own experiences, since the condemnation was universally about his characterizing the experiences of OTHER survivors, but that’s quibbling. I don’t understand why self-proclaimed skeptics and people who appreciate clarity and rationality would ever have a problem with someone explaining themselves more fully. Just because you understood right away doesn’t mean that not understanding right away is somehow blameworthy.

    • Sally is almost making sense! I am guessing that if you would not blame Dawkins that would be ‘victim blaming’ and that would be hypocritical in your circles.
      In reply to #22 by SallyStrange:

      Seriously, there is no hierarchy of abuse and trauma? So, one of your daughters comes home from school and says she has had her ass grabbed by some guy, sexual abuse and possibly traumatic. As a good father you begin to console her, but during your conversation you get a call from the police that yo…

    • In reply to #22 by SallyStrange:

      I do have a problem with him extrapolating from his experience to suggest that being taught about hell is always, generally, or even usually more traumatic than being molested as a child. And he has suggested this repeatedly. [...] Dawkins is so far the only person who’s experienced both (and there are many) who claims that indoctrination was worse than sexual abuse.

      This is wrong in several ways. Dawkins is not extrapolating from his own experience of being taught about hell (he was taught mild CofE religion), the original writing on this was prompted by a latter from a lady who had experienced both abuse and hell-indoctrination, and considered the latter worse (this makes your last point wrong). Further, Dawkins has not said that “always or generally or even usually” that hell-indoctrination is worse, he only suggested that in some instances it could be.

      His words were (added emphasis): “But I think it can be plausibly argued that such a deeply held belief might cause a child more long-lasting mental trauma than the temporary embarrassment of mild physical abuse. Anecdotes and plausibility arguments, however, need to be backed up by systematic research, …”

      http://www.richarddawkins.net/foundation_articles/2012/12/22/physical-versus-mental-child-abuse

  11. @ christopher.m.anderson.10

    Well, as your post was making logical points, lets analyse these point by point, firstly in your opening paragraph, you express your relief that Richard did not suffer emotional trauma, also that “So too have others shown remarkable resilience whose experiences were significantly worse than yours” but the thrust of your argument here is that there is no “Hierarchy of abuse”, I’m not absolutely sure what the meaning of this might be, but you appear to admit that there is apparently a gamut of possible outcomes, this implies that an identical act would result in different outcomes dependant on the circumstance and the nature of the individuals involved, this it seems to me suggests that one needs to arbitrate a rather complex set of variables which taken together form a continuum, rather than as you suggest, a simplistic judgment.

    Paragraph two is nothing other than a petition for dishonesty, if someone after reflection comes to a conclusion, that they did not regard an event, however unpalatable, as personally traumatic in the true meaning of the term, then that is the end of the matter, regardless of that individuals “public” profile, if asked, is he then expected to remain silent? Or to utter something which he knows on introspection to be untrue, which is it to be?

    Paragraph three, I will not be so presumptuous as to defend one who is more than able to do so himself, but I have not seen any suggestion in Richards writing that remotely comes near to “victim blaming”, I am reluctant to pen this particular phrase, but you really need to quote the written words on which you base this conclusion.

    Paragraph four, well… to be honest not sure what’s going on here? It seems incoherent; one is tempted to draw unwarranted conclusions, in relation to your personal experiences with this particular faith.

    Paragraph five, “Further, you have yet to acknowledge that the comments you made are based on opinion and anecdote”, you are aware I hope, that this whole contrived controversy, orbits passages to be found in his recent autobiography? Now, I am no literary expert, as one can judge from this effort, but my experience of the biographical genre is that it is inundated with “opinion” and positively fuelled with “anecdote”.

    Now, and there’s always a now… the use of the term “survivor”, I suggest that despite the self-elected title, used in the accepted meaning of the term, Richard is the survivor and you sir are not, this might seem a harsh thing to say, I admit that it is, but many people in life suffer trauma or are victims of circumstance or intent, it is incumbent on all of us, both as individuals and as a society to support those who have suffered, but it serves no benign purpose to attribute a perpetual label of victim to any individual, it is my humble opinion, and experience, that only when an individual shuns the mantel of victimhood do they actually become a survivor.

  12. The majority of people (both men/women/kids/others) can get over an ass grab (I’d guess it would be 99% or higher) with no long term serious emotional issues. Perhaps there are some that cannot and I would argue that their issues existed before the incident or would manifest themselves even without the incident in question. These people need therapy, not for the ass grab, but for their inability to cope with minor trauma. OTOH, most people cannot emotionally cope with a brutal rape (though I’m sure some can) without some serious support. How people can equate these two just astounds me. I googled “support groups for people who’ve had their ass grabbed”, and actually got some hits. So there’s help out there for these victims.

  13. Sally is almost making sense! I am guessing that if you would not blame Dawkins that would be ‘victim blaming’ and that would be hypocritical in your circles.

    How wonderfully encouraging! I wonder what I have to do to go from almost making sense to just making sense.

    And yes, obviously, I think victim blaming is wrong, so it would be awfully hypocritical of me to blame Dawkins for having been victimized by his teacher. Not sure what the point of saying that was, though. Your circles think victim blaming is okay or something?

    Interestingly, I have a bit of a commonality with Dawkins, in a way: I was sexually assaulted during the course of an attempted rape. I found the whole experience to be mildly traumatic. I was annoyed, somewhat alarmed and quite upset, but I didn’t change my plans for the next day or the day after that. What was REALLY traumatic was that when I told my boyfriend at the time, he victim-blamed me and said I had cheated on him and asked why I was trying to hurt him, etc., etc. And I, being young and inexperienced, believed him, and started blaming myself for getting assaulted. THAT messed me up for a few years.

    Which brings me to…

    The majority of people (both men/women/kids/others) can get over an ass grab (I’d guess it would be 99% or higher)

    Why would you guess? There is research on the subject, you know. And, given that a majority of women in most countries experience sexual harassment/assault at some point in their lives, 1% is going to add up to millions and millions of people.

    with no long term serious emotional issues.

    “Traumatic” may or may not indicate long term serious emotional issues. Are short term serious emotional issues not worrying about for some reason?

    Perhaps there are some that cannot and I would argue that their issues existed before the incident or would manifest themselves even without the incident in question.

    Entirely possible. People who have been repeatedly sexually assaulted do tend to have higher rates of PTSD and associated disorders, no big shocker there. For example, of you were raped, and then raped again, and then had your “ass grabbed” while walking down the street, that “mild” incident of “ass grabbing” might inspire a major episode of depression and flashbacks.

    These people need therapy, not for the ass grab, but for their inability to cope with minor trauma.

    Probably, but honestly, I’m not okay sneering at “inability to cope with a minor trauma.” You don’t know people’s backstories. There’s no need for negative judgment here.

    OTOH, most people cannot emotionally cope with a brutal rape (though I’m sure some can) without some serious support.

    Interestingly, studies have found that the ability to cope with a “brutal” rape (as opposed to, what, a tender rape?) is highly correlated with the victim’s ability to find sympathetic people to talk to about it in the immediate aftermath. Dawkins mentioned discussing his teacher’s advances with his classmates and meeting with some sympathy there – perhaps that’s part of why he was not so strongly affected.

    How people can equate these two just astounds me.

    They are points on the same continuum: people violating your boundaries and your body because they see you as an object, not a person. Nobody has “equated” them, or perhaps you are using the word to mean something different than I think it does.

    I googled “support groups for people who’ve had their ass grabbed”, and actually got some hits. So there’s help out there for these victims.

    I also “had my ass grabbed”–and my tits, and my ass, and my ass, and my tits–while trapped in the press of a crowd in a movie theater. There was more than one groper, but the crowd was too tightly packed for me to see who was doing it or to react effectively. That experience was far more terrifying than the assault/attempted rape I described above.

    The label “sexual assault” encompasses a whole wide realm of things, some of which are fairly innocuous, and some of which are horrifying, like the above experience. Sometimes it’s traumatic because it involves a trusted friend, or boyfriend, or relative, breaking your trust. Sometimes it’s easier to deal with because there’s support available right afterwards. Sometimes the trauma is compounded by lack of support. Sometimes it’s extra traumatizing because you got assaulted in part because your assailant thought you were gay, or they were shouting racial epithets, and so you wonder if there aren’t more bigots out there waiting to assault you, and it creates a sense of never-ending low-grade terror.

    I’ve spent more time than I meant to in detailing how context can alter the experience of being harassed, assaulted, or raped, probably in vain, since mordacious1 has made it clear that he knows better than I or anyone else what’s traumatic and what’s not, and that if I find things traumatic that he deems non-traumatic, well, it must be something wrong with me, then.

    That, of course, is a very mean thing to say, and an even worse thing to sincerely believe, but hey. I’m kind of used to it by now – this is the culture we live in. Hopefully someone else can get something from this exchange–if nothing else, an appreciation for how widely the experiences of sexual assault/rape can vary from person to person, and why it’s pointless to try to rank traumas that you haven’t experienced.

  14. SS

    A lot of what you said in you last post I agree with, perhaps we’re coming at this from two different angles. You seem to be focusing on what the victim personally feels about what has happened to them. Of course, anything that happens to you is certainly more traumatic than something that happens to someone in India.

    I’m more concerned how society should compare the two from a unbiased perspective. I’m the lone cop working the night shift in a small town. You enter and complain that your ass has been grabbed, you’re very upset, but also want me to search for the perp who you can describe. I get a call about a rape that’s happened and the suspect’s on the loose. Would you really expect me to give your situation and perp priority over the rape victim? I can tell you no cop in the country would. Not a single one. Let’s say we catch both perps…do they both get the same jail time? No, they don’t (at least I hope not).

    Some sexual assaults are worse than others. Both wrong, both should be prevented or prosecuted. You said there was a continuum…exactly, that’s the whole point. A match on one side (which hurts) and a towering inferno on the other which kills, a match may feel to you like an inferno, but it’s not.

    OK, I’m analogied out (I know, it’s not a word).

  15. I taught school through the ’60′s. I was aware of suspicious instances in communities. I was very familiar with the potential in residential schools. I was not alone in that knowledge. All authority representatives with eyes and brains and their own childhood experience were aware. I said nothing. No one said anything. There was no protocol for reporting. There was no specified duty. There was no where to go. I can remember the police detachment advising the school not to send home notices about an attempted automobile capture. For some reason, like ordinary , healthy sexual behavior, the accepted response was to ignore and pretend. I do not feel guilty but I do wish it had been different.

  16. I feel like I’ve forgotten his point. Maybe Dawkins has too.

    “Mild pedophilia” is a really weird phrase. It’s dark, twisted, sarcastic, and glib. It’s very fitting, and it’s also artistic. This makes simple explanation an error. When I first heard the phrase in the absence of ‘public outcry’, I smiled. It’s gallows humor. In that phrase, in the context it was born, is a criticism of society.

    Pearls before a planet of swine.

    • In reply to #31 by This Is Not A Meme:

      I feel like I’ve forgotten his point. Maybe Dawkins has too.

      “Mild pedophilia” is a really weird phrase. It’s dark, twisted, sarcastic, and glib. It’s very fitting, and it’s also artistic. This makes simple explanation an error. When I first heard the phrase in the absence of ‘public outcry’, I smi…

      “Mild pedophilia” is a really mundane phrase. But Gaspar Noé – no one fuses art and sexual depravity like he does. His film, I Stand Alone….marvelous! And who doesn’t love Tracey Emin?

      • In reply to #80 by Shell:

        In reply to #31 by This Is Not A Meme:

        Gaspar Noé…

        I was pissed at the person who showed me Irreversible… and then I showed it to others. I recommend warming up with a little Todd Solondz first.

  17. This discussion would be quite funny if the subject wasn’t such a serious one. I’m reminded of the Lewinsky affair when Clinton said he did not have sex with “that” woman – only fellatio – and there followed a barrage of discussions on what constitutes “sex”! It appears that Mr D has, wittingly or unwittingly, entered into a similar discussion on what constitutes child sex abuse, according to how far it has gone.

    This discussion also reminds me of the rather Talmudic, interminable discussions on such subjects as how many red hairs does it take to call a cow red. The game of splitting hairs does nothing to address the very real suffering that child sex abuse inflicted on the victims that can last throughout life and indeed renders that person dysfunctional and unable to reach their full potential. It takes much more time and energy to repair a broken adult than to create strong children from the outset.

    The amount of suffering should not be judged by the perpetrator in any case. If a burglar were to invade your house, the fact that he made off with just a toaster and not your silver collection doesn’t make it any easier to bear – you still feel violated.

    Mr D has felt it necessary to explain this “misunderstanding”, more I feel because his funding may be compromised if he is seen to be an apologist for paedophilia than for any other reason. For someone to even say these things in the mainstream media without the qualification that now appears in this “explanation”, belies either his immaturity or wilful ignorance.

    I also feel that Mr D uses this vile subject to denigrate further the religious institutions – his pet hate coming through loud and clear – within which has been found evidence of child sex abuse. He is disingenuous to cite only this example. He does mention familial child sex abuse, but appears to ignore the state sanctioned child sex abuse occurring in so-called care homes who are every bit as evil as predatory priests. It looks like even atheistic, Marxist-dominated welfare workers can have the same proclivities.

    One thing that appears to be missing from this discussion is the viewpoint of the child. A child is not equipped, either emotionally or psychologically, to “consent” to adult sex and is certainly not equipped to decide to risk his/her future physical and psychological health on the say-so and threats of a predatory paedophile. The predatory adult will say anything to excuse their behaviour. There is some discussion on whether paedophiles exhibit certain traits of psychopathy, ie the drive to control others, pathological lying, failure to admit responsibility etc. For example, a paedophile cannot have a healthy relationship with an adult because of the issue of control.

    Mr D is adamant that the “low-level” – in his mind anyway – child sex abuse incident did not affect him. Can he be absolutely sure on that? The subconscious can retain more than is comfortable to admit consciously. At the time of the incident he was in a captive situation, far away from the reassurance of parents or other family members and having to survive in that situation. Predators are very able to judge potential victims, particularly where the chosen targets may have low self-esteem. Mr D may have convinced himself all these years that it was nothing, but that could be a coping mechanism – NLP works in the same way to help survivors by “re-framing” the situation. Re-framing only serves to mask the rightness or wrongness of a situation and basically tries to fool the mind.

    Adults should not touch up children, full-stop. Predators always choose the weak and vulnerable, and especially children who are almost never ever taken seriously.

    • In reply to #35 by baglady2013:

      there followed a barrage of discussions on what constitutes “sex”! It appears that Mr D has, wittingly or unwittingly, entered into a similar discussion on what constitutes child sex abuse

      He brought up the fact that some examples are worse than others, but I’ve yet to see him or anyone involved in this discussion (here or elsewhere) construe it as a discussion on what constitutes abuse.

      The amount of suffering should not be judged by the perpetrator in any case

      Good thing the suffering Professor Dawkins experienced is being judged by him, then; the victim rather than the perpetrator.

      If a burglar were to invade your house, the fact that he made off with just a toaster and not your silver collection doesn’t make it any easier to bear

      Actually, it does; you’d feel much worse in the latter situation.

      Mr D has felt it necessary to explain this “misunderstanding”, more I feel because his funding may be compromised if he is seen to be an apologist for paedophilia than for any other reason

      He frequently explains at length things people have misunderstood about his statements, so your guessing is unwarranted. People just like to misinterpret him in any critical way they can.

      For someone to even say these things in the mainstream media without the qualification that now appears in this “explanation”, belies either his immaturity or wilful ignorance

      Have you actually read what he originally said? It already contained the qualifications you seek. He wrote this extra piece because people didn’t concede that. Perhaps you’re one of them.

      Mr D uses this vile subject to denigrate further the religious institutions – his pet hate coming through loud and clear – within which has been found evidence of child sex abuse. He is disingenuous to cite only this example. He does mention familial child sex abuse, but appears to ignore the state sanctioned child sex abuse occurring in so-called care homes who are every bit as evil as predatory priests. It looks like even atheistic, Marxist-dominated welfare workers can have the same proclivities.

      Would you rather the RCC not be criticised for its cover-up, for its threatening victims to stop them from coming forward, for moving perpetrators elsewhere to reoffend? Abuse does occur in secular (not atheist or Marxist; you’re an idiot if you don’t see the distinction) care homes, to be sure; but the RCC works much harder to cover up much more and gets much more respect, and deserves much more criticism. Besides, Professor Dawkins focuses on criticising that which is under-criticised, e.g. religion.

      One thing that appears to be missing from this discussion is the viewpoint of the child.

      He was the child; he said what he experienced. His friends were other examples of the child; he’s done his best to discuss their viewpoints, as he interpreted them from discussions with them and from knowing them personally. Read what he said!

      Mr D is adamant that the “low-level” – in his mind anyway – child sex abuse incident did not affect him. Can he be absolutely sure on that?

      I thought you said that you wanted to hear from the child’s perspective. Is the victim’s word worth trusting or not?

      Mr D may have convinced himself all these years that it was nothing, but that could be a coping mechanism

      But you can’t prove it, so trust what he said. We can’t only trust victims’ accounts when those accounts are sufficiently negative; that doesn’t make epistemic sense.

      Adults should not touch up children

      Could you have at least read the first line of this piece? A is bad, B is worse.

  18. In reply to #10 by christopher.m.anderson.10:

    Mr Anderson,

    I believe your cause is a right one, and I wish you strength and success in your work. Please realize that I wish to be on your side and understand the way you think about this matter.

    This said, I cannot fathom how you can find this clarification by Richard Dawkins anything but fair, honest and positive. I have to say I am deeply frustrated with the difference we have in logic and ways we interpret written text, the sincere intentions of the writer and in this case, even his freedom to express his childhood memories in his autobiography. I wish to find common ground here, but my frustration arises from the fact that I find it hard to understand the conflict you have with Richard Dawkins.

    These parts are where you completely lose me:

    you are still engaging in a level of victim blaming and recrimination that is unacceptable. For these reasons your clarification and subsequent conditional apology, fall far short of the mark.

    This one is a real puzzle for me. How on earth did he blame any victim or recriminate anyone? You must have a definition of these words that I am not aware of. I honestly do not wish to engage in victim blaming myself, so I would really like to know what you understand by these words, since it is so different from mine.

    Also, I can’t understand how much clearer an apology do you need? I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen, let alone received a more honest apology than this. Sorry, but it strikes me that you are not really looking for an apology, you are looking for him to grovel. That is not a reasonable expectation.

    you have said on multiple occasions that have served to send a message that sexual abuse is not a significant issue.

    Again, did he not just clarify that he thinks it is a serious issue? And did he not also clarify that if you have previously gotten such an impression, it is a thousand miles from his intention. What more can you possibly want?

    To make such sweeping statements based on your personal perspective flies in the face of everything you stand for as a man of science.

    As Richard Dawkins so clearly clarified above, he wrote about this incident in his autobiography. He told us about a personal unpleasant childhood memory. Is he not allowed to say how he personally felt about it? Do you really think he has to consider himself some kind of a super-human teacher or a worshiped role model — and omit certain episodes from his life, because some people automatically misunderstand it as a sweeping statement?

    That said, there is no hierarchy of abuse and trauma,

    Oh yes there is. This is apparently the thing where we simply disagree. Subjectively, the same incident that is a minor discomfort to one person, may cause another to be seriously traumatized psychologically. But we cannot see immoral acts, offenses and crimes only from a psychological point of view. Objectively, these things are often real crimes, for which there must be real punishments. You cannot seriously think an uninvited ass-grab (which I also have experienced and condemned in every occasion) should be punished the same way as raping a child to death (for which I might be willing to consider a death sentence)?

    and the same kinds of experiences you detail have, for others, been a tipping point into an abyss of despair and pain.

    I heartily accept this, as this makes me sort of understand your previous sentence. But didn’t Dawkins just clarify that some of his schoolmates may have experienced a similar incident differently? To his knowledge, their feelings about it were similar to his. But in case he is mistaken, he sincerely apologizes to them. Again, what more can you possibly want in a way of an apology?

    Trying to be brief, I hope I haven’t quoted you out of context.

  19. “Blame the victim” is a powerful meme. People are spewing it randomly because it is commonly associated with this topic. That’s what we’re seeing, random use of tactical memes even though they have nothing to do with what Dawkins said. People are not thinking. They are just reacting.

    To quote the famous atheist known fondly as the Buddha, “beware of one who lies, for they are capable of anything.” Voltaire said,”as long as people believe in absurdities they will commit atrocities.” If people can bullshit themselves, depart from reality, they are not limited by anything. People who are inventing charges against Dawkins are the very reason we can’t have nice things.

  20. I am glad to here Mr dawkins has donated money to supporting the bringing the corrupt hierachy of the roman catholic church to justice for the crimes of sexually abousing children and the continued cover up of such crimes.I am a professing Christian who does’nt consider myself tied to any denomination. i think it is important to state my belief that roman catholisism has NOTHING TO DO WITH REAL CHRISTIANITY.

  21. What is “real christianity”? Unfortunately, it seems a little trite and disingenuous to state that they are not tied to a denomination and then critique someone who does. In the end it’s all based on the same base of unfounded beliefs, served with a different sauce.

  22. LaurieB comment 15

    What is the definition of sexual perversion and what behaviors would be included in that category?

    I think that is the easiest question in the world to answer. Consent. What two or more consenting adults get up to, from the stuff most of us enjoy thru to the stuff that would make most of us think yeugh is not sexual perversion it is personal sexual taste.

    Bring in any element of force or coercion using things like size or unequal power relationships or age differences that lead to one having more control for whatever reason or name calling and bullying and you have sexual perversion carried out by a pervert. Easy.

    Yes different degrees of sexual perversion, the leering bloke wittering on about nice tits is just a creepy, sleazy pervert compared to the rapist. But an unpleasant pervert non the less. And the levels of harm are very different, nobody would disagree with that, but it is harm non the less. And allowing any of it to go unchallenged is perhaps saying its just a little bit ok when it isn’t.

    I guess there is a difference between the horrors of the slave trade and casual racism, but nobody would dream of telling the victim of casual racism to get over themselves just cos they’re not being beaten or dying in a cotton field. So I’m still uncomfortable with this.

  23. Even with Prof. Dawkin’s acrobatic apologetics, I still cannot accept the finer distinctions of what he is saying. If what he said had come from a cleric, we all know how that would have gone down — howling, spitting mad indignation from most of his defenders here. It would have been seen as yet another example of the moral bankruptcy of religious institutions. And rightly so. There is a slippery slope from fondling to outright rape. And there are the basic legal considerations. Does not the age of consent apply here as well? Perhaps Dawkins at age 72 can now look back at this episode and write it off as no dig deal, but if it were to happen today I can assure you no one would trivialize it.

    I am a lifelong atheist and value my first edition of the God Delusion. I have nothing but admiration for Dawkin’s clarity of thought on science and religion. But, his muddled defense of what can only be called gateway pedophilia leaves me uneasy, to say the least.

    And, perhaps just as important, it gives his harshest opponents plenty of ammunition by which to blast the entire atheist community. They already say we have no moral compass. They will now rush to use the battle cry that Dawkins condones pedophilia. I resent being placed in the position of defending his statement or parsing his words.

    • In reply to #42 by Scrivener:

      Does not the age of consent apply here as well?

      Obviously!

      … but if it were to happen today I can assure you no one would trivialize it.

      And nor would Dawkins. From the article: “… condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today”.

      his muddled defense of what can only be called gateway pedophilia

      Nothing that he has said is a “defense” of it!

      They will now rush to use the battle cry that Dawkins condones pedophilia.

      Then perhaps it would help if you didn’t join in the false claims that he has “condoned” or “defended” it? What he said was this: today people are well aware of the damage that sexual abuse causes, and thus any culprit should be strongly condemned. Given, though, that in the past such people might have been less aware of the damage they were doing, one might not condemn them quite so harshly.

  24. Two arguments I’ve seen before but not on this thread are (1) if a cleric said it we’d criticise them and (2) this’ll make us all look bad. Let’s nip them in the bud right now. I can point any theists who fall for what (2) fears they’ll fall for to the fact that atheists vary, so I don’t care. As for (1), if the wording was exactly the same, I’d have to disagree with you. If, however, this cleric was defending a cover-up of what a colleague of his did, as opposed to not being too bothered about something that happened to him as a child, then that’d be different, but also therefore irrelevant to the Dawkins issue.

  25. In reply to #41 by PG:

    And the levels of harm are very different, nobody would disagree with that

    Amazingly, some people on here did. Not exactly regular posters, of course.

    allowing any of it to go unchallenged is perhaps saying its just a little bit ok when it isn’t

    Professor Dawkins isn’t saying it’s “a little bit OK”, nor was he doing so as a child when he didn’t call the police in.

    I guess there is a difference between the horrors of the slave trade and casual racism, but nobody would dream of telling the victim of casual racism to get over themselves just cos they’re not being beaten or dying in a cotton field. So I’m still uncomfortable with this.

    The difference is you’re comparing forms of racism from different eras, rather than forms of sexual abuse from the same era.

  26. On twitter, there is no principle of charity. Dawkins said one thing people wanted to hear another.

    Richard, stick to linking your articles from twitter, as I have also discovered the hard way doing nuanced arguments in 140 characters is a sure way to get the pitchforks out.

  27. Various replies here seem to be coming down to:

    1) Twitter was wrong to use initially.
    2) Article should have preceded Twitter.
    3) There are degrees of child abuse.
    4) There are not degrees of child abuse.
    5) People are “stupid” if they cannot understand Prof Dawkins.
    6) Dawkins was right.
    7) Dawkins was wrong.
    And it seems to me that the vast majority of replies are from Dawkins fans, rather than the people who prefer a short attack on Twitter.
    It can only be left to Prof Dawkins to read through all of this and ignore or agree.

  28. And what of the child who was abused only one time, and yet was traumatized? Dawkins is in effect saying that his peers could only have been traumatized if the abuse was worse than what he experienced…so, yes, he is saying that he can proclaim whether a child has been significantly abused enough to be traumatized, with no input from that child.

    It’s one thing to say “I was molested, but do not feel I was traumatized.” I even agree that we often TELL children and adults to be traumatized rather than allow them to determine their own feelings, and that this is entirely wrong-headed. But Dawkins is going further and saying that his classmates were not traumatized UNLESS the abuse was reoccurring or different from what he himself experienced. It does not seem to occur to him that a classmate could have had exactly the same experience and yet emerged with different feelings.

    We can objectively say that being raped violently is worse than being felt-up by a teacher. Emotions are not objective. They are entirely subjective, and one does not get to determine for another person if pain has been inflicted. Dawkins is not saying here that violent rape is worse than being molested. He is saying that being molested “one time” is not traumatizing, and he simply has no right to make that statement. You CAN’T put suffering on a hierarchy and dismiss the lower scales as insignificant. There is ALWAYS someone who has suffered worse, but that does not make suffering acceptable.

    I’m glad Dawkins was not traumatized by this single occurrence of sexual abuse. But I WAS traumatized by my similar experience, and he does not have the right or the power to speak for me. It’s amusing that in this post he denies doing just that, yet blatantly says that his classmates would only have possibly experienced trauma if the experience were extended.

  29. In reply to #42 by Scrivener:

    If what he said had come from a cleric, we all know how that would have gone down — howling, spitting mad indignation from most of his defenders here.

    False. The church has always done the opposite, equating all wrongs as equal. That’s a major church doctrine, and I assert a factor in enabling their sexual abuse against children.

    But, his muddled defense of what can only be called gateway pedophilia leaves me uneasy, to say the least.

    “can only be called gateway pedophilia”? With sympathy, I question your sanity when discussing this issue. That statement bears no connection with reality, is monstrous and immoral, and makes a mockery of efforts to combat the societal plague of sexual-assault against children. That is not sane. It’s one of the least accurate and most vicious statements I’ve seen.

    • In reply to #50 by This Is Not A Meme:

      In reply to #42 by Scrivener:

      False. The church has always done the opposite, equating all wrongs as equal. That’s a major church doctrine, and I…

      Not sure about this claim. Catholicism differs from Protestantism in many ways, but one way the RCC differs from others is precisely the categorization of wrongs into two classes: venial and mortal. So called venial sins “damage” the God/human relationship whereas mortal sins sever the relationship. Consequences for venial sins are dealt with in Purgatory while consequences for unrepentant mortal sins define the devil’s job description. :-j

      Mike

      • In reply to #56 by Sample:

        In reply to #50 by This Is Not A Meme:

        Not sure about this claim. Catholicism differs from Protestantism in many ways, but one way the RCC differs from others is precisely the categorization of wrongs into two classes: venial and mortal….

        Very true, thank you. I stand corrected, but it may support my larger point. The Vatican has placed sexual sins in the mortal category, along with murder. Homosexuality, pedophilia, and pre-marital sex are equal. Pardon this reference without citation, I recall becoming outraged and yelling at the TV when a robed Catholic official discussed the pedophilia scandals in terms of people being upset that priests are breaking their vows of celibacy. That’s just horrid. I realize such a person believes in flying magic men, but that equivalence really made him seem like he’s on another plant.

        • In reply to #81 by This Is Not A Meme:

          In reply to #50 by This Is Not A Meme:
          but it may support my larger point…

          It does. Mortal sins require three things: grave offense, full knowledge, full consent. As such, purposely missing an hour of Mass is on par with murder. Madness.

          Mike

  30. What Dawkins said is a common caveat. It’s a cliche of people discussing their milder experiences. It shows respect to victims and informs the audience. It’s outrageous that people are trying to say how he should discuss his experience.

    This is a great conversation that needs to be had, and Dawkins brought it about. I hope he doesn’t hold back on twitter one character… every sperm is sacred!

  31. As far as I’m concerned no apology or even explanation is necessary. I’m getting pretty tired of the nit picking and just ad hominem attacks that Dr. Dawkins has had to endure. Do we really need to analyze and look for errors in every single thing he writes. Richard Dawkins does more for this movement before breakfast than the rest of do in our lifetimes. Perhaps those who seem to find fault with everything should consider getting a life !

  32. ah herd Dawkins thinks we were intelligently designed by aliens, is becoming a deist, can’t explain bananas, and advocates pedophilia.

    I’d like to assemble all the manufactured falsehoods told about him into a fictional character named Dichard Rawkins. I bet the few things I listed are just the tip of the iceberg. I also wonder how many Xian zealots and generic trolls jump on these opportunities to knowingly spread disinformation. Dawkins is speaking on a sensitive topic, and I’m sure the bulk of ignorant responses are sincere, but many are just playing games. I’ve seen these flair ups crash on this site before, many posts seemingly by theists who are pretending to be members of the atheist community (can’t fake the funk). Has anyone else had this suspicion from recent posts?

    • In reply to #53 by This Is Not A Meme:

      …I’ve seen these flair ups crash on this site before, many posts seemingly by theists who are pretending to be members of the atheist community (can’t fake the funk). Has anyone else had this suspicion from recent posts?

      Yes. There have been many. They’re often easy enough to identify because the writer will make a big thing of admiring Richard Dawkins (“I read his book…”) or telling us how they have a Ph.D in biology and physics before demonstrating that they don’t by trotting out some hackneyed creationist argument (“but I just don’t see how something could have come from nothing…” or “I don’t know how something as perfect as a banana could have come about by chance”).

      The redeeming feature is that these often develop into interesting discussions, but the OP never returns to take part.

      • In reply to #55 by Pabmusic:

        In reply to #53 by This Is Not A Meme:

        …I’ve seen these flair ups crash on this site before, many posts seemingly by theists who are pretending to be members of the atheist community (can’t fake the funk). Has anyone else had this suspicion from recent posts?

        Yes. There have been many. They’re…

        Or…….that explains the ‘how’ but I want to know the ‘why’. Another ploy.

    • In reply to #53 by This Is Not A Meme:

      I’ve seen these flair ups crash on this site before, many posts seemingly by theists who are pretending to be members of the atheist community (can’t fake the funk). Has anyone else had this suspicion from recent posts?…

      Too right!

      I’ve been lurking since Steve Zara was a boy and took a break from the old site after similar turmoil erased his hair.

      Respect!

  33. I don’t care about the mindless, clueless criticisms from the religites, that’s to be expected and it’s fun watching them make fools of themselves. Also, legitimate criticism from atheists/skeptics is certainly welcomed. Richard is certainly capable of both arguing his point, clarifying his position and changing his mind when the counter-argument is persuasive. What is annoying is the cannibalism from within the movement. People with an agenda that want to tear other skeptics down to either promote an agenda or further their own positions in the skeptic community. This has been going on for a while now and it seems if you reach a certain level of prominence, you’re attacked for the smallest tweet or even refilling a wine glass. I’ve taken issue with Richard in the past and he has taken the time to explain his point and to listen to my side. Some would say that I’m on the losing end of these discussions, I say I’m winning. Learning is winning.

  34. mordacious1 -

    from a unbiased perspective

    I think your main errors are: a.) thinking that such a perspective exists and b.) assuming that if it did, it would be at all useful in determining how to interact with victims of sexual trauma.

    You might want to reach for such a perspective if you were sitting on a jury trying to decide the fate of an accused child rapist or molester. Otherwise, I’m not seeing any utility there.

    • Borrowing this: Is FGM worse than male circumcision? Or are they equal?

      In reply to #59 by SallyStrange:

      mordacious1 -

      from a unbiased perspective

      I think your main errors are: a.) thinking that such a perspective exists and b.) assuming that if it did, it would be at all useful in determining how to interact with victims of sexual trauma.

      You might want to reach for such a perspective if you were s…

  35. This is wrong in several ways. Dawkins is not extrapolating from his own experience of being taught about hell (he was taught mild CofE religion), the original writing on this was prompted by a latter from a lady who had experienced both abuse and hell-indoctrination, and considered the latter worse (this makes your last point wrong). Further, Dawkins has not said that “always or generally or even usually” that hell-indoctrination is worse, he only suggested that in some instances it could be.

    His words were (added emphasis): “But I think it can be plausibly argued that such a deeply held belief might cause a child more long-lasting mental trauma than the temporary embarrassment of mild physical abuse. Anecdotes and plausibility arguments, however, need to be backed up by systematic research, …”

    http://www.richarddawkins.net/foundation_articles/2012/12/22/physical-versus-mental-child-abuse

    Well, thank you for correcting my infallible memory. I remember reading his assertion several years ago in The God Delusion. I thought little of it at the time. His repetition of the assertion, without the mention that he was going off someone else’s comparison of being indoctrinated vs. being sexually assaulted, that led me to believe that he was speaking from his own experience.

    I hereby amend my statement: the third party from whom Dawkins had the story about indoctrination being more traumatic than sexual abuse is the only instance I’ve heard of a person who has experienced both deeming the former as more traumatic.

    In either case, I don’t see much compassion from Dawkins towards children who’ve been exposed to either or both types of abuse. As time goes on, and he repeats this assertion again and again, it looks more to me like the victims of either indoctrination or sexual abuse matter to Dawkins more as rhetorical cudgels against religion than as human beings. He doesn’t appear to care much about hurting them. Yes, he issued this apology, and it is heartening to see that he is at least somewhat concerned about the criticism he’s getting, but it would have been more convincing had he demonstrated an accurate assessment of the grievances against him.

  36. Argh. “Infallible” should be “fallible.”

    Another thing:

    You said there was a continuum…exactly, that’s the whole point. A match on one side (which hurts) and a towering inferno on the other which kills, a match may feel to you like an inferno, but it’s not.

    Sure. Let’s analogy.

    A teacher stubbed his cigarette out on Dawkins’ skin.

    It’s quite common. Lots of teachers do it to lots of kids. Or burn them with lighters or matches. Light their hair or clothes on fire, then put it out real quick, just to scare the kid. Every once in a while, they’ll throw a kid on a bonfire and the kid ends up in the hospital with severe burns.

    We have a culture that turns a blind eye to the deliberate torture of people, the more vulnerable the better, with fire.

    Dawkins’ contribution is to talk about how little he was hurt by being burned, and actually, it is plausible that being taught about hell could be worse.

  37. But Dawkins is going further and saying that his classmates were not traumatized UNLESS the abuse was reoccurring or different from what he himself experienced. It does not seem to occur to him that a classmate could have had exactly the same experience and yet emerged with different feelings.

    There’s no point me mentioning which numbskull just said this (Ctrl+F it) because it’s a common myth about this incident that needs to be debunked. Anyone caught repeating this is recycling a debunked point: Dawkins said “I don’t think” they were affected differently from himself when experiencing the same thing. He did not say they weren;t; he formed an informed inference, based on extensive discussions with them, plus his knowledge of people’s personalities. He’s also explicitly invited being corrected on that point by any of the affected individuals.

    • No, Jos, Dawkins said this:

      ‘I cannot know for certain that my companions’ experiences with the same teacher were are brief as mine, and theirs may have been recurrent where mine was not. That’s why I said only “I don’t think he did any of us lasting damage”.’

      He’s clearly saying that he did not think the teacher did lasting damage because he was operating under the belief that his peers had the exact same experience he did. He admits to the possibility that they may have had a different experience…but he does NOT admit that they may have had the same experience, yet emerged with damage. He repeatedly says that the classmates may have been traumatized only if the experience was reoccurring or greater than his own.

      He also says that dismissing the trauma of a one-time experience is a ‘justifiably indignant response’. So yet again there he is dismissing the idea that a one-time, brief experience could cause real harm that an individual could be legitimately traumatized by.

      This is beyond making a ‘hierarchy’ of molestation. It’s making a hierarchy in which some forms of it don’t even rate. And he is NOT simply talking about his own experience, because again he is clearly saying his classmates may possibly be damaged only IF their experiences were not the same as his own. Therefore any classmate who had the SAME experience is not damaged per Dawkins, and he simply does not have the right to make that statement.

      • In reply to #64 by bbkazier:

        No, Jos, Dawkins said this (quotes Dawkins)… He’s clearly saying that he did not think the teacher did lasting damage because he was operating under the belief that his peers had the exact same experience he did. He admits to the possibility that they may have had a different experience…but he does NOT admit that they may have had the same experience, yet emerged with damage. He repeatedly says that the classmates may have been traumatized only if the experience was reoccurring or greater than his own.

        Firstly, you can’t prove Dawkins didn’t say X by quoting an occasion he said Y. Read the original; Ctrl+F “and I don’t think”. Secondly, he said their experiences could be worse if Z, not only if Z. Literally the only use of “only” you’ve tracked down has a different meaning. Thirdly, going back to “and I don’t think”, that discussed whether people who had the same experience as him were differently affected, and he suspects not, but he never denied that they may have done so.

        He also says that dismissing the trauma of a one-time experience is a ‘justifiably indignant response’. So yet again there he is dismissing the idea that a one-time, brief experience could cause real harm that an individual could be legitimately traumatized by.

        Way to quote out of context. The reasons he gave for why the response would be justifiably indignant are more detailed than just “it only happened once”. He pointed out that, given that his own experience was a one-off and the perpetrator was someone he didn’t care much about and by his own admission it was far less serious than many other experiences, an indignant response to him exaggerating its nature relative to those of other experiences would be justified. He did not say rolling your eyes at anyone complaining about one experience is justified.

        This is beyond making a ‘hierarchy’ of molestation. It’s making a hierarchy in which some forms of it don’t even rate.

        So you think he was lying when he said he recognised that A is bad while B is worse. Prove there are some forms of molestation he thinks are actually OK, or stop pretending otherwise. What else could “don’t even rate” mean?

        And he is NOT simply talking about his own experience, because again he is clearly saying his classmates may possibly be damaged only IF their experiences were not the same as his own. Therefore any classmate who had the SAME experience is not damaged per Dawkins, and he simply does not have the right to make that statement.

        You made the same point twice in one post, but I’m not debunking it twice.

        • -Firstly, you can’t prove Dawkins didn’t say X by quoting an occasion he said Y.

          Perhaps, but since he never did say X, I can make a good guess. At no point in the post does Dawkins ever say that his peers could have shared the experience, yet had a different response. And since he DOES state that he will admit they might have had trauma if their experiences were more extended…I have difficulty believing the exclusion was accidental.

          • Read the original; Ctrl+F “and I don’t think”.

          Yes, let’s, with particular attention paid to the preceding statement. In it’s entirety: I cannot know for certain that my companions’ experiences with the same teacher were are brief as mine, and theirs may have been recurrent where mine was not. That’s why I said only “I don’t think he did any of us lasting damage”.

          “That’s why I said only “I don’t think he did any of us lasting damage.” The preceding statement answers the why…because he could not say if the experiences were the same or not. If the same, then no lasting damage was done. If not, then there is some possibility for damage. There is no room in that statement for same experience/different damage. He is DIRECTLY stating that he made an assumption about the experience and now realizes that assumption may have been incorrect…rather than realizing his assumption may or may not have been correct, but that this is irrelevant to the matter of assigning trauma points to another person without their knowledge.

          • “and I don’t think”, that discussed whether people who had the same experience as him were differently affected, and he suspects not, but he never denied that they may have done so.

          That’s not what “I don’t think’ is referencing, as the above proves. Talk about taking things out of context, hmmm? You have to look at that statement with the preceding line, which makes it very clear what Dawkins is referring to.

          -Way to quote out of context. The reasons he gave for why the response would be justifiably indignant are more detailed than just “it only happened once”. He pointed out that, given that his own experience was a one-off and the perpetrator was someone he didn’t care much about and by his own admission it was far less serious than many other experiences, an indignant response to him exaggerating its nature relative to those of other experiences would be justified.

          Who gets to decide if a victim is exaggerating their trauma? No one is asking Dawkins to exaggerate his own feelings- he gets to own how he felt, even if he didn’t feel much of anything at all. But going along with the idea that someone who was victimized ‘only once’ for a ‘brief period’ by a ‘stranger’ must be exaggerating if they claimed trauma, and that a harsh response would be ‘justifiably indignant’ …it sure as hell reads like Dawkins is siding with the eye-rollers, instead of with the victims who, just like him, get to own their own response. Even if that response is beyond what Dawkins considers justified for that level of abuse. Where is that room in that statement for the victim who was traumatized more than Dawkins was? Would he agree that they are making too much of things?

          Note also that he is saying being molested by a stranger is less traumatizing than being molested by a parent. That’s another statement he doesn’t get to make. It was less traumatizing FOR HIM, and that’s all he can say on the matter. Again he is trying to write a hierarchy of which is worse when there are far too many variables.

          • So you think he was lying when he said he recognised that A is bad while B is worse. Prove there are some forms of molestation he thinks are actually OK, or stop pretending otherwise. What else could “don’t even rate” mean?

          Since he never states at any point that A (his experience) could have been traumatizing….

          • In reply to #72 by bbkazier:

            Dawkins is being accused here of something of which almost no-one is guilty, so we’d better have good reason for it. When X can differ from Y for at least two reasons and a person who had reason to doubt a difference in one respect explains that as their reason for not expecting Y to differ from X in a specific direction, does that give us reason to think said person doesn’t concede the other reason for differences is ever real, despite most people recognizing that truth? Your analysis insists on this, but I don’t buy into it. Even if such reading between the lines generally has a foot in reality, the best you can say is that such denial would make the observed behaviour more likely and, by Bayes’s theorem, the observed behaviour makes such denial more likely; but it’s unlikely to begin with. So spare me your “difficulty believing” something; it’s an argument from personal incredulity.

            Talk about taking things out of context, hmmm? You have to look at that statement with the preceding line, which makes it very clear what Dawkins is referring to.

            I wasn’t taking things out of context; I wanted you to see that line in its context in his first place, not his latest one. It’s true that in the latter you find fodder for the inference you keep attempting, but which I’ve critiqued in the above paragraph. Dawkins didn’t make every point twice, but between the two texts he’s proven himself to have a position very unlike the one you allege.

            The rest of my disagreement with what you go on to say concerns your conflating what you imagine was the subject of discussion (trauma) with what actually was. I’ll distinguish between objective details (what historically happened) and subjective details (how it made the victim feel). They’re each important questions in their own way, but trauma is a subjective detail, and Dawkins’s words focused on objective details.

            Who gets to decide if a victim is exaggerating their trauma?

            It wasn’t the trauma I was referring to; it was the nature of the mistreatment as compared with what else happens to people. However victims may feel, it’s common to want people to keep some perspective. To take a different example, the plights of “the poor” in the West are as naught compared with those of the poor in certain African territories, a point of which they occasionally need reminding, because they don’t have the same subjective reactions to their objective situation that certain other people would have. (Ours is a lot for which some would be grateful, whereas others would be less bothered than us, or more.) This isn’t to enable a slippery slope by which one economy can be dragged down to the level of another; this isn’t an attempt to trivialise either the objective or subjective details of what is being endured; but it is to recognise the quantitative reality. As I’ve said before, we don’t need to make the “be honest or be cautious” choice you seem to fear is necessary.

            But going along with the idea that someone who was victimized ‘only once’ for a ‘brief period’ by a ‘stranger’ must be exaggerating if they claimed trauma, and that a harsh response would be ‘justifiably indignant’ …it sure as hell reads like Dawkins is siding with the eye-rollers, instead of with the victims who, just like him, get to own their own response

            Again, it’s not the trauma itself that’s the issue here. Look at the wording of the indignant response he imagined. It references only the objective details.

            Would he agree that they are making too much of things?

            Whatever a person’s subjective experiences, there are times when you can’t sympathise with the combination of a person’s objective trials and their audible complaints that you are faced with. If Professor Dawkins had taken a “woe is me” attitude to how things turned out for him, there are a number of reasons he mentioned for which people would react negatively to it, none of which assesses the subjectivity side of the equation.

            he is saying being molested by a stranger is less traumatizing than being molested by a parent

            Read his words; he refers neither to trauma nor to anything subjective. “How dare you make a fuss about [a situation with these objective details],” begins the imagined critic. “Don’t cry wolf about your own bad experience, because it undermines those whose experience was – and remains – so much worse.” Worse how? Well, in objective details; that’s the only kind that’s commensurable.

  38. In reply to #53 by This Is Not A Meme:

    ah herd Dawkins thinks we were intelligently designed by aliens, is becoming a deist, can’t explain bananas, and advocates pedophilia.

    I’d like to assemble all the manufactured falsehoods told about him into a fictional character named Dichard Rawkins. I bet the few things I listed are just the tip…

    Some users certainly seem determined to demonize any discussion on ethics Dawkins has.

  39. Some people only hear what they want to hear, they interpret and construct meaning (some of which is quite spurious) rather than see it from the intention and experience of the writer. It is all too common even when the writer has the room to express themselves and much worse when you have to work within a limit of 140 characters.

  40. Jos Gibbons comment 44
    And the levels of harm are very different, nobody would disagree with that

    Amazingly, some people on here did. Not exactly regular posters, of course.

    allowing any of it to go unchallenged is perhaps saying its just a little bit ok when it isn’t

    Professor Dawkins isn’t saying it’s “a little bit OK”, nor was he doing so as a child when he didn’t call the police in.

    Actually what I was trying to do was pull this away from the spurious some abuse worse than others debate and point out that the real issue is maybe we can survive an ass grab and the sick feeing better than rape but why the f@@@ should we have to! Just cos A is way worse than B does not make B ever ok. And let B go unoticed and you are having to chose somewhere along that continuum to draw a line. Its only a grope so such and such is worse, then such and such is not a as bad as and so on. Heard it so many times date rape not as bad as violent rape. It is the argument of the religious right usually.

    I guess there is a difference between the horrors of the slave trade and casual racism, but nobody would dream of telling the victim of casual racism to get over themselves just cos they’re not being beaten or dying in a cotton field. So I’m still uncomfortable with this.

    The difference is you’re comparing forms of racism from different eras, rather than forms of sexual abuse from the same era.

    Ok the difference between casual racism in the work place and a good old beating by the latter day Klu Klux Klan. The point remains the same. Allow one and you are on a path to the other.

    Things have improved remarkably for children and adults since we started recognising that even so called harmless gropes are not harmless. And not just in the avoidance of those gropes but in moving towards a recognition of the feelings of others and greater rights overall. So we should continue to remember that instead of talking about hierachys of harm. Yes rape is worse but allow casual gropes and then you move just bit higher up that hierachy.

    • In reply to #69 by PG:

      what I was trying to do was pull this away from the spurious some abuse worse than others debate and point out… Just cos A is way worse than B does not make B ever ok

      Dawkins said “A is bad, B is worse”. Let’s change that to B/A since you’ve swapped the letters round. Anyway, you can’t construe that as “B is OK”; he just said it wasn’t. So the only spurious thing here is you pretending, as you ask to change the subject (which is fine, as there’s a lot to discuss here), that Dawkins took a position that he didn’t. You should not take changing the subject as an opportunity to do that.

      And let B go unoticed and you are having to chose [sic] somewhere along that continuum to draw a line

      Only people who say one end is OK draw a line; Dawkins explicitly said it’s all bad. But if he as a child chose not to report the teacher, who are we to say he should have done it? I say let the victim decide what actions available to them to take. You’ll notice Dawkins never tried to dissuade a different victim from any course of action.

      Ok the difference between casual racism in the work place and a good old beating by the latter day Klu Klux Klan. The point remains the same. Allow one and you are on a path to the other

      Firstly, he’s not allowing it; not only does he condemn it (at least in modern times when the harm it causes is well-understood), but he wants it prosecuted if it happens today. Secondly, you can worry about slippery slopes while still being honest about the fact different parts of the slope are in fact quantitatively different. It’s called the slippery slope fallacy for a reason.

      Things have improved remarkably for children and adults since we started recognising that even so called harmless gropes are not harmless.

      Are you telling Dawkins that he’s misconstrued one of his own experiences? You would never think to imply a victim had exaggerated an experience’s import. Either they’re reliable witnesses to what happened to themselves or they’re not.

      So we should continue to remember that instead of talking about hierachys [sic] of harm. Yes rape is worse but allow casual gropes and then you move just bit higher up that hierachy.

      Again, we don’t need to make the either/or choice you think we do. We can take steps to stop motion down a slippery slope, but we can also be factually accurate in how we describe each end of it. If several of my friends and I each had £5 stolen from our wallets, I wouldn’t be demonised if I pointed out that none of us had been as harmed as people who have their cars stolen, no matter how many people felt the need to warn us about slippery slopes. That’s because a modern ethical analysis can be nuanced; it can give us the best of both approaches.

  41. A calm, reasoned debate on this issue cannot be held in a public forum. Child abuse is one of the few remaining areas where there is a clear narrative of “Good” v “Evil”. Anyone who deviates from the narrative is condemned by the media as being on the “Evil” side.

    • In reply to #71 by paulmcuk:

      A calm, reasoned debate on this issue cannot be held in a public forum. Child abuse is one of the few remaining areas where there is a clear narrative of “Good” v “Evil”. Anyone who deviates from the narrative is condemned by the media as being on the “Evil” side.

      Or when the narrative is unelborate and too watery.

  42. Pedophilia is harmless and shouldn’t be compared at all to rape or murder. Science has proven time and time again that no harm comes from consensual child-adult sex and that the relationships are even beneficial.

    http://www.ipt-forensics.com/journal/volume16/j16_2.htm

    http://www.ipt-forensics.com/journal/volume5/j5_3_br1.htm

    http://www.hawaii.edu/PCSS/biblio/articles/2000to2004/2004-sexual-behavior-in-pre-contact-hawaii.html

    I’d also recommend everybody read a book called The Trauma Myth. Harm only comes from less than 4% of child-adult sexual relations and almost all of those were non-consensual.

  43. I have copied comments from another topic here:

    In reply to #67 by Shell:

    In reply to #59 by Cartomancer:

    I do think Richard suffers a certain (perhaps inevitable) lack of perspective on social issues thanks to his background and upbringing.

    A suggestion would be then, for him to refrain from publicly defining and categorizing social issues.

    I highly agree. Over the past week this incident has grown beyond his original comment. Yes he is technically, perhaps legally correct, but focusing on the technicalities and offering a “hierarchy of reprehensible actions,” (de ja vu from the ‘Dear Muslima incident) he overlooks the emotionally charged nature surrounding social issues – namely sexual abuse of children. When people read his words, they are thinking of possible situations in which a child reacted strongly to a “technically” minor incident. Every child and person’s experience is unique and different. Most people consider any sexual act against children unacceptable. To tread in these socially dangerous waters by making a bold comment requires a certain level of sensitivity and ability to communicate with compassion and tact. It is best to say “This is my personal experience; I do not speak for everyone else. Their experience is their own.” Words need to be chosen wisely and free of any comparison.

    n reply to #81 by This Is Not A Meme:

    The virtue of distinguishing different types of horror is seen in date-rape. Some ignorant fucks(sic) might say ‘rape is rape’, but by distinguishing date-rape we understand more sociological factors and causes, which allow us to confront the problem more effectively.

    Just recognize that this is a separate issue from the psychological impact of any victim. Each person experiences trauma in their own way. To tactfully distinguish legal and sociological definitions from the personal experience and psychological impact, one needs to be careful not to imply/conflate the technicalities with individual experiences. Avoiding any comparison and expressing consideration and compassion to any victim is paramount. Expressing oneself with a sense of humanity takes well developed interpersonal skills. Unless a person is highly skilled in these areas, it’s best to be aware that any comment can be viewed as insensitive, awkward, or worthy of challenge.

  44. I actually came across a blog post with a fairly accusatory title calling Richard Dawkins a child rape apologist. Basically it was a summary of the Times article taken out of context with links to other articles that have about as much credibility as the author of Leviticus. Perhaps the people who took issue with his words were genuinely upset, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t just one of 1000’s of the deliberate, out of context or just completely made up claims to try and damage his name. I agree with the twitter point made earlier. If you’re going to discuss, defend or elaborate on something like this, just put a link to your statement with a simple and clear title. Twitter is not the place for topics that are best discussed with compassion and sincerity.

    Also there were over 150+ comments in response to the post (80 in queue before I got to the bottom of the post) most calling this guy out on his FOX news quality report and defending Dawkins.

  45. This is Not a Meme:

    ah herd Dawkins thinks we were intelligently designed by aliens, is becoming a deist, can’t explain bananas, and advocates pedophilia.

    Oh and don’t forget, he is descended from a slave owner !

  46. As usual, though this apology was unfortunately not 100% expected, Richard Dawkins has presented his case honestly and with some detail – but no excuses.

    I thank him for that, since the Twitter comment rang with a horrid, dull clang of unfeeling and – despite the expected knee-jerk (and just plain jerk) defense of someone more than qualified to explain or even defend himself – needed qualification. Atheism isn’t like religion at all, and we need no popes or archbishops, or leaders who require followers – or soldiers – at all. He does generally (one incident only has come to my ears) not have the idiocy of seeing himself as more than another human being, knowledgeable about some things and reasonable about others. And always, given enough words to work with, articulate.

    Twitter is a form that I now really despise and never use in any form. Everything awful about Web comment sections is concentrated there, and for opinions it has no positive effect at all. I consider that to be the main problem in this case, as it was with Tweets about Islam previously.

    Still, it’s beyond important to recognize and honestly own up to having been too quick-tempered and, to my mind, frankly, stupidly self-centered. I save my respect for honest people, only, however tricky honesty may be.

    As for those who wave this away as being a case of over-sensitivity on the part of some pearl-clutchers: I do not clutch pearls easily, and in fact rarely wear such. P.Z Myers doesn’t either. It’s you apologists who are clearly in the wrong here.

    My reason and kindness prevail.

  47. So it goes like this: 1. bad things happen to people 2. sometimes other people don’t take it seriously. People can sometimes display very little talent or inclination to understand others, and it is difficult to bear being disbelieved, (deliberately) misunderstood or minimised.

    So to prevent this ever happening again – in your imagination if nowhere else – you try to paper over the cracks with some kind of linguistic dictat that no-one should ever again be allowed to suggest that some things are worse than others (translated as “a hierarchy or abuse”). Anyone who does so being unspeakable.

    Unfortunately this is not actually true so you end up in these endless, boring and Jesuitical arguments, convinced that anyone who disagrees with you misunderstands, (deliberately) disbelieves or is minimising.

    An understandable misunderstanding and, or course, quite unbreakable illogic.

  48. The Professor’s deeming this article necessary, and to a far lesser extent the inflamed “offence” it seeks to quell, are both signs of the times. Whilst the waste of Prf. Dawkins’ time doesn’t sit well, I do take heart in the progression toward universal decency that both the aforementioned arise from.

    My uncles are all of the same vintage as the Professor. One I remember joking, (having attended a Catholic school with a shady record indeed) that so many of his classmates had been “interfered with” and he had not, that his punch line was akin to “I must have been the ugly kid!”

    This epitomises the generational differences unbeknownst to the under 50′s, that Professor Dawkins has had to waste his time painstakingly explaining.

    TJ McNamara

  49. From Richatd’s post above:

    “Only slightly less culpable than the abusers themselves are the institutions that protected them, of which the most prominent examples are to be found in the senior hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. This is why I personally donated £10,000 of my own money towards a fund, instigated by Christopher Hitchens and me, to build the legal case for prosecuting Pope Benedict XVI for his part (when Cardinal Ratzinger) in covering up sexual abuse of children by priests. Our initiative, for which I paid 50%, the rest being raised by Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, resulted in the book The Case of the Pope: Vatican accountability for human rights abuse, in which the distinguished barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC laid out the case for the prosecution should any jurisdiction in the world choose to take it up in the future.”

    Then this one:

    This paragraph, together with a subsequent statement to the Times that I would not judge that teacher by the standards of today, has been heavily criticised. These criticisms represent a misunderstanding, which I would like to clear up.

    Ok, pedophilia in England schools and the pedophilia in the catholic church is different how? Children and adolescents both sexually violated/abused etc. by men in positions of authority – one an institution for education the other and institution for religion. Both institutions employed educated adults – adults who were aware of the vulnerability of their victims.

    Because pedophilia was considered somewhat of a sport in England (I am now understanding this) it seems to change the perspective of pedophilia and wrongdoing by the perpetrators and the accountability of one institution? (There is no way I can believe that the directors of these schools were not aware of what was going on, but of course I don’t know.)

    The legal case introduced for covering up abuse against children for acts committed 20- 60 years ago is not conflicting with Richard’s view that abuse form long ago can not be held to the same standards of today? If nothing else his statements are incongruous. That’s why I was questioning the logic behind Richard sharing his experience and the non-impact of that experience in his book and in a recent interview, when the one issue he is fighting against is no different than the issue he has written off as the norm of the times.

    • In reply to #91 by Shell:

      From Richatd’s post above:

      Ok, pedophilia in England schools and the pedophilia in the catholic church is different how?[...]

      That’s why I was questioning the logic behind Richard sharing his experience and the non-impact of that experience in his book and in a recent interview, when the one issue he is fighting against is no different than the issue he has written off as the norm of the times.

      Good point, though based on false information. In the God Delusion he discussed a woman who was fondled by a priest, and how (in her words) that was not as harmful to her as the Hell doctrine. Within the ranks of the RCC, Dawkins has distinguished that some forms of sexual abuse are more extreme than others. He has been entirely consistent about this.

      Just to make a point, not at all related to your post, if I were to apply the same level of sophistry many apply to Dawkins, I would say you are condoning the RCC’s practice of pedophilia. That’s how twisted the arguments against him are. I’m grateful for your yours. Not everyone critical of Dawkins on this point is a nutter. It’s a needed discussion in society, and is testing our ability to stay cool.

      • In reply to #94 by This Is Not A Meme:

        In reply to #91 by Shell:

        Good point, though based on false information. In the God Delusion he discussed a woman who was fondled by a priest, and how (in her words) that was not as harmful to her as the Hell doctrine.

        Gak. Not another pedophilia comparison. How about we hear from someone who was hiking in the Canadian Rockies and was attacked by a bear and had her arms ripped off. She can then say, “I was mauled almost to death by a grizzly bear, but that was nothing compared to that Hell doctrine that was shoved down my throat when I was a child!”

        Within the ranks of the RCC, Dawkins has distinguished that some forms of sexual abuse are more extreme than others. He has been entirely consistent about this.

        In snippet and sound byte fashion. At least that’s all I’ve encountered.

        Just to make a point, not at all related to your post, if I were to apply the same level of sophistry many apply to Dawkins, I would say you are condoning the RCC’s practice of pedophilia.

        Oh I know.

        That’s how twisted the arguments against him are. I’m grateful for your yours. Not everyone critical of Dawkins on this point is a nutter. It’s a needed discussion in society, and is testing our ability to stay cool.

        Agree the discussion is needed. Perhaps the drive-by method in which this topic was presented can be avoided next time.

  50. I posted this a couple of hours ago, but has not shown up so I’m posting again:

    My problem with Richard’s comment was not that he was minimizing the seriousness and potential harm of childhood sexual abuse. It was clear that he was speaking from his own experience and the fact that none of the boys he shared the info with seemed like they were harmed by it at the time.

    No, my problem is Richard’s use of moral relativism to excuse the behaviors of a kiddie-diddler in the 1950s. This is the same justification that Bible thumpers give for the bad behavior of the Israelites and early Christians – they didn’t have the same moral codes that we do today. That ignorance, no matter how widespread it was, does not mean that rape, murder, and genocide was not morally reprehensible. It was, but the majority of people at that time were too unenlightened to see it that way. I have no problem with condemning them for their inhuman behavior. Examples of this sort of thing abound. There was a time when racism was the unquestioned, accepted norm. It was still wrong! Slavery was once ubiquitous and even codified in many “holy books,” but it was always wrong no matter the ignorance of humans hundreds to thousands of years ago – it was and is always reprehensible for one human being to own another. This, of course, plays out in the modern world as well. Just because female genital mutilation, keeping women from learning by throwing battery acid in their faces, not allowing women to go out in public unless wearing a tent and being accompanied by a male family member (even if it’s just a young boy), women suffering beatings from their husbands because Islamic law calls for it, honor killing, teaching boys nothing but rote memorization of the Quran (which is useless information for dealing with the real world, except for the parts where it’s just bad information), and so on. If I’m not mistaken, Richard has criticized most of these practices and more. Muslims engage in these behaviors for the same reasons people in the past did morally reprehensible things – they are ignorant and have only their holy book and a few self appointed leaders to guide their behavior. They are not separated from us by time, but rather by the isolationism of their governments and the brainwashing they suffer every waking moment. Can we judge them by “Western” standards of right and wrong? Yes! And the same is true for the morally reprehensible behavior of those who lived 60 years ago who engaged in sexual assault, those 200 years ago who kept slaves, and those from any area who followed through with monstrous deeds because they believed were commended by their god or for any other reasons reasons. These behaviors are wrong now and they were just as wrong then. The behavior of extremist Muslims in Muslim countries are wrong in the West and just as wrong in those Muslim countries. Anything else is cultural relativism, which allows those in the past or in other cultures to shoulder none of the blame for their abhorrent behavior. I could be mistaken, but I’ve always read Dawkins as being against moral relativism

  51. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately – time will tell) Richard, I think that this might be the comment above other comments that will start your steady decline and downfall as a revered intellectual, not just in matters of atheism and religion, but in your own field of expertise and it will intrude into all areas of your life. You have agressively gone after Christians, all kinds of religions and even muslims (braver/more foolish than most people that despise belief in God) but when you, in effect, condone what some have termed as “mild paedophilia” you have taken on the most formidable force yet – parents. Good or bad parents – most of us are fiercely protective of our children and these comments will come to haunt you. The fact that you still remember this incident with such disgust even now:
    “…but it was extremely disagreeable (the cremasteric reflex is not painful, but in a skin-crawling, creepy way it is almost worse than painful) as well as embarrassing.” betrays the fact that this has, indeed, left you with lasting damage and your fellow pupils that suffered the same abuse. Why not own up to this and not try and brush it aside as if it were somewhat trivial? Why would you even add this to your memoirs otherwise (unless you deliberately wish to cause controversy or perhaps need to get this out into the open for your own sake? And why did your editor etc. not advise you to consider taking these comments out or formulating them differently with more sensitivity?) Here is the big question: If this is seen as harmless, or next to harmless – where do we draw the line? As any desire or “addiction” that goes unchecked tends to worsen by degrees, how would you know that the person that abused you and the other boys/children had not done worse or was getting ready to? We cannot afford even the slightest case of paedophilia to go without being dealt with. In your case, maybe the man that committed suicide (so he obviously felt great remorse and the weight of wrong of what he had done so, even if for his sake, do not belittle the transgression) could have been helped (and many children too) if someone had said something earlier? This said, my heart goes out to you as an 11-year old boy suffering at the hands of someone who should have protected and guided you and knowing, instinctively, that what was being done to you was so wrong. You have carried this with you into your old-er age and will possibly do so until you die. Perhaps the most perverse thing of all when it comes to abuse is that the victim so often tries to protect his agressor and shield the one that has caused such harm and trauma from conviction and rightful reprimand and punishment. Many deeds committed in darkness do not get revealed until the person who did such things is dead because the victim finally feels safe. Do not wait with telling others about abuse. Do not protect the offender from justice so that he/she might have an opportunity to face up to their crime and amend their ways before it is too late for them and all their past and future victims. Sincerely yours,

    • In reply to #98 by Toby Dawson:

      Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately – time will tell) Richard, I think that this might be the comment above other comments that will start your steady decline and downfall as a revered intellectual, not just in matters of atheism and religion, but in your own field of expertise and it will intrude…

      Ah, here we go. Another ‘drive-by’ attack on Richard Dawkins, masquerading as intelligent engagement in a discussion of childhood sexual abuse. Let’s see if Mr. Dawson returns to engage the subject in any meaningful way, or if this was just a snatched opportunity to hurl insults. No point in addressing any of Mr. Dawson’s points; he has none. This is simply one of those flaming sacks of feces that delinquents leave on your doorstep.

      • In reply to #99 by justinesaracen:

        In reply to #98 by Toby Dawson:

        Ah, here we go. Another ‘drive-by’ attack on Richard Dawkins, masquerading as intelligent engagement in a discussion of childhood sexual abuse. Let’s see if Mr. Dawson returns to engage the subject in any meaningful way, or if this was just a snatched opportunity to hurl insults. No point in addressing any of Mr. Dawson’s points; he has none. This is simply one of those flaming sacks of feces that delinquents leave on your doorstep.

        …and obviously a Muslim, which is funny because Mohammed (phuh) was a pedophile, a filthy, murderous, child fucking pedophile.

  52. This can be an overly hysterical topic. Loads of kids have been ‘groped’ for a few seconds by a teacher/uncle/parent/friend’s big brother etc, without thinking anything of it at all. World of difference between this and real forced abuse.

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