Watson vs. Dawkins: follow-up thoughts

I would like to get back on a few things I may have said in my previous post, or in the comments to that post. I had some time to think about it and discuss, and there is something that only very few people seem to understand about this story, and even fewer people have been phrasing it explicitly.

Note that I erased the original post, because the discussion on it was leading nowhere. Way too many people saw only the original post, without looking at this one. I don’t want my blog to become popular for this.

I had a very insightful exchange with one of my friends about this controversy, and I think we touched on a very important subtlety that underpins the whole situation. In order to understand this point, the first thing I would like you to do is go back to the original message by Rebecca that sparked the whole situation.

She is basically inviting guys to improve their etiquette when introducing themselves to girls. She doesn’t say that the guy was morally wrong in his action, just that with the context and everything, it was creepy. So when she say “don’t do that”, she introduces a line of conduct, not a pathway on how to be a moral human being. A better etiquette on our part is a very reasonable way of asking for equality I think.

Apparently, Richard Dawkins didn’t think she was referring to etiquette. He probably thought that Rebecca was introducing a moral imperative, so in his first reply, the letter to Muslima (which is a common way of referring to a Muslim women as far as I understand), he points out actions that really are morally wrong, and that the situation she has been in is nothing in comparison. I still think his reply was way too snarky, but the point he was making was right. Only, it wasn’t the correct response to make to Rebecca, since she was referring to etiquette and not morality.

So, the whole misunderstanding comes from people thinking that Rebecca was making a moral statement, while she was talking about etiquette. Even a lot of people taking her side thought she was talking about morality. I think even she might have been confused about it, and like I said, Dawkins too. They were both arguing different points, and they thought they were talking about the same thing.

At this point, I first personally apologize for recommending not to buy Dawkins’ books. I also apologize for indirectly implying that people who didn’t get it are not decent human beings. Now, it is Richard’s turn, for making his remarks unnecessarily condescending. It is also Rebecca’s turn, for misinterpreting Richard’s misunderstanding as showing privilege. So please Rebecca and Richard, you can come back with grace from this.

Those are my final words on the topic.

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1 Response to Watson vs. Dawkins: follow-up thoughts

  1. Sara says:

    It is a clear, fair and good conclusion.

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