Richard Dawkins Gets Canceled

Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and a self-proclaimed “militant atheist”, asked a question on Twitter for purely academical purposes (paraphrased): if a man can identify as a woman and a woman can identify as a man, can a white person identify as a black? Good question, eh? I can’t locate that tweet on Twitter anymore, but screenshots exist. Internet never forgets. Guess what happens? He gets canceled as a racist transphobe. American Humanist Society revokes an award given to him in 1996. I’m trying to wrap my head around this story.

21 thoughts on “Richard Dawkins Gets Canceled

    • I don’t think that, as a biologist, he believes that people can change biological reality by an act of faith. He was just asking for trouble. I don’t have a problem with acts of faith as long as people recognize them as such and do not insist that their beliefs are literally factually true.

      • There are a few things I don’t understand in this. The first is that it seems like a very basic semantic discussion where people seem unwilling to agree on basic parameters. If we separate biological sex at birth from psychological interpretation of sex, then there’s no more argument – I think.

        • Exactly. Failure to separate physiology from psychology is the root cause of all the anxiety around transgenderism. In some specific situations physiology matters (e.g. medicine or sports), otherwise, physiology does not matter. I don’t see why men can’t wear skirts and high heels and be referred to as “she” if they prefer so. But, perhaps, it doesn’t make much sense for trans women to take a breastfeeding class and I can see why cis girls consider it unfair to compete with trans girls in track or weightlifting. Do you agree?

          In the same line of thought, I don’t see a problem when people identify with a culture even if they were not born in it. Why can’t a black person enjoy “white privileges”: go to college, have a successful career, buy a house in a “white” neighborhood, play golf or go to classical music concerts?

          • Yes, in broad terms I agree. I think the sports question merits a bit of technical analysis. For example if a trans person is the leader in a professional sport, like if Federer and Nadal were trans, then the biological gender issue is probably at play. But I imagine if we’re talking about amateur or school sports it probably rarely rises to the level of being important.
            And in regards to culture I agree 100%. I don’t see any problem with people adopting different cultures. Ethno-cultural identities are constructs, so by their very nature we should get to choose and adapt.

          • Yes. Sports question merits technical analysis. A few points.

            First, it’s not unfair if trans males compete with cis males. It’s only unfair when biological men compete with biological women. Biological males have physical advantage over biological females. So, if a trans male beats a biological male in sports – that’s totally cool. The issue exists only when biological males compete in female sports. I see no issue if Federer or Nadal were trans. I see an issue with Laurel Hubbard aiming for Olympic gold in female weightlifting, however. World records in male weightlifting currently exceed female records by ~40%. Current world records in 100m sprint: men – 9.58s, women – 10.49s (nearly a second of difference!) and it holds since 1988. My son is a high school freshman. He just started running cross-country and track. He skipped kindergarten, so he is probably the youngest in the team. He is already faster than most of the girls in his school district. There are only two girls much older than him who beat him in 3000m. He says the fastest girls are about 1 minute slower than the fastest boys in 3000m. That’s huge. Girls simply don’t have a chance if they compete against boys in these events.

            Second, I disagree that school athletics do not rise to the level of being important. School athletes in the U.S. get college scholarships. For many people, it’s their best chance to get college education. Not to mention that the concept of basic fairness is important for education.

            Of course, transgender people should be able to participate in competitive sports. Creating a separate category for them might be an option, but transgender girls may disagree since they probably insist on being treated as girls for all intents and purposes. Tough.

            Do you think these opinions are transphobic?

          • What I meant by if Federer and Nadal were trans was that they’re at the top of the sport. They lead everything and win everything. So if they were trans their domination of tennis would be to the exclusion of players who were not trans.

            Would the best classification not be in terms like in boxing where they have featherweight, heavy weight etc ? I was under the impression professional sports already controlled hormone levels to limit advantages. P.S. I think there’s nothing transphobic about good faith discussions like this.

          • Exclusion works at lower levels as well, if you read the article. E.g. my son just started running track at his high school. Participation in events is limited, so only, say, 3 fastest runners get to compete at the district level. You may be a good runner, but there may be someone else 5 seconds faster than you, and he will take your place in the team.

            I’ve heard, testosterone levels are not the only thing that matters. Hormone therapy does not reverse the bone density and muscle mass that develop while growing up as a male.

            Found this article about hormone levels in women’s sports. It seems this has been controversial for decades, even before transgenderism became an issue. Turns out, they even checked chromosomes and had other femininity standards to qualify for participation in women’s sports. Even cis women are not equal in this respect, it seems. Transgenderism is a monkey wrench in the whole system. Interesting how things will work out.

            I have never been a sports fan. There is too much BS like this going on on multiple levels.

        • Your distinction between physical and psychological aspects of sex applies to race as well, doesn’t it?

          I had a conversation online recently where someone spelled “Black” with a capital “B”. I pointed out that if I spelled “White” with a capital “W” with respect to race, that would smell of white supremacy. I was advised that “Black” with capital “B” refers to Black culture rather than skin color, much like “American”. I can agree with that. But that also means that a white person (white referring to skin color) can culturally identify as Black (referring to culture), as we discussed. Correct?

          Most people have multiple cultural identities. You and me can probably name a few we belong to. Kamala Harris is the most notable recent example of this controversy.

          I think, I’m completely with Dawkins on his tweet, with a few clarifications and distinctions which people rarely bother to make.

          • Americans have very particular sensitivities to anything racial. When I was a child in America I was there for the transition from saying Black to saying African American. I think the major issue there is the world ends up having a discussion based on America’s history and sins.
            Most other countries didn’t have that 1 drop of blood rule:
            Cultural sensitivities can skew all sorts of discussions. When a cousin of mine was going deeper into a genealogy study of the family he found a neophyte convert around 1600. He thought we should keep it secret because in his traditionalist Portuguese Catholic world view the idea there was a converted Jew in the family line “tainted” the family.

          • American idea about slavery is very incorrect. Historically, slavery had little to do with race. Here is a good video about it. I once read a book about Russia by an American author. He pointed out that when Lincoln abolished slavery in the U.S., he freed ~4 million slaves. But when Alexander II abolished serfdom in 1861 in Russia, he freed 40 million serfs. Serfs were, essentially, slaves since they were considered property of the land owner, and they were of the same race and ethnicity as their owners. In Russia, abolishing serfdom is no big deal. Nobody even talks about it or considers any sort of cultural legacy of serfdom. I agree that other countries should not accept the narrative pushed by the American mainstream media. Americans shouldn’t do this either.

            Sensitivities are ridiculous. Calling blacks “African American” is strange. Elon Musk is African American. In the Soviet Union, racism was one of the stereotypes about the United States. Ironically these stereotypes created common Russian idioms “work like a negro” (meaning “work like a dog”) or “like a white man” (meaning “with comfort”, e.g. “I’ll stay in a fancy hotel like a white man”). Try saying this in the United States today. 🙂

            Here’s a great take on sensitivities which you may have seen. 🙂

          • I’ve been thinking about these things for a couple of days now – in the sense of correct categorization. Does race apply to any of the factors that also differentiate biological men and women?

          • The only commonality between race and biological sex is that both are genetic characteristics of an individual independent of how that individual feels or identifies. They can be objectively determined even on a dead body that doesn’t feel anything anymore. Just as much as both apples and oranges are fruits, have round shape, and comparable size. Otherwise, they are, you know, apples and oranges.

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