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Richard Dawkins AHA Award Withdrawn

 
Cheshire Cat
 
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21 April 2021 16:17
 

The American Humanist Association (AHA), has withdrawn the 1996 Humanist of the Year award it gave to scientist Richard Dawkins in 1996.

Regrettably, Richard Dawkins has over the past several years accumulated a history of making statements that use the guise of scientific discourse to demean marginalized groups, an approach antithetical to humanist values. His latest statement implies that the identities of transgender individuals are fraudulent, while also simultaneously attacking Black identity as one that can be assumed when convenient. His subsequent attempts at clarification are inadequate and convey neither sensitivity nor sincerity.

https://tinyurl.com/yhxfemue

I’ve attached a screen shot of Dawkins original Tweet below.

Is Dawkins a transphobic hate monger, or someone pointing out a hypocritical double standard?

Was the AHA justified in receding the award they had given to him?

Discuss.

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Antisocialdarwinist
 
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21 April 2021 17:48
 

This comparison has been around since 2015, when Dolezal first came under scrutiny. Dawkins isn’t the first to suggest it’s hypocritical to vilify her while giving transgender people a pass. I don’t remember what the counterargument was anymore. I don’t recall being convinced by it. Why is assuming a racial identity wrong, but assuming a gender identity not? Without arguing that either is right or wrong or good or bad, why should they be treated differently? Does it depend on the racial identity being assumed? Was Dolezal’s mistake not that she assumed a racial identity, but that the racial identity she assumed was black?

 

 

 

 
 
weird buffalo
 
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21 April 2021 21:34
 

It wasn’t that Dolezal wanted to identify as black that got her in trouble.  It was the lying.

She took a scholarship at Howard University.  A scholarship intended to help a community of historically underprivileged people. White students can attend HBCUs, but the scholarships are intended to address historical and community-wide issues.

She’s a plagiarist, having copied the works of others without citation or credit.  Borrowing from, referencing, or even imitating art isn’t a bad thing in itself, but especially in the academic community it is important to cite those influences.

There’s mildly compelling evidence that she’s fabricated stories of being targeted for harassment.  For example, she claimed to receive a threatening package in the mail.  A package with no postmarks, barcodes, or any other indication it was handled by a mail-carrier of any sort.  She received it through a locked mailbox, to which only she and the mail carrier had keys.

She’s lied about who her parents were.

If all she had ever done was just identify as black, and she had been completely legit in the other areas of her life… it’s unlikely anything would have happened to her.  She didn’t tell the truth though, and routinely invented false stories about herself in order to obtain the recognition she desired.

 
Jefe
 
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22 April 2021 09:01
 

Dawkins has never been very good at twitter.  He seems to be much better at book writing.
Given that some past award winners have even worse and more toxic views that they espouse, I’d say there’s a touch of current-ness/hypocrisy at play here. 
If Dawkins ‘deserves’ to have his award stripped, so, too, to the anti-semitist-conspiracy-peddler and eugenicist awardees deserve to have theirs removed.

After all, that would be consistent too, wouldn’t it?

 
 
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22 April 2021 11:21
 
Jefe - 22 April 2021 09:01 AM

Dawkins has never been very good at twitter.  He seems to be much better at book writing.
Given that some past award winners have even worse and more toxic views that they espouse, I’d say there’s a touch of current-ness/hypocrisy at play here. 
If Dawkins ‘deserves’ to have his award stripped, so, too, to the anti-semitist-conspiracy-peddler and eugenicist awardees deserve to have theirs removed.

After all, that would be consistent too, wouldn’t it?

Possibly also representative of the danger of elevating the person as an ideal, and not the ideas that they champion.

 
Jefe
 
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22 April 2021 12:53
 
weird buffalo - 22 April 2021 11:21 AM
Jefe - 22 April 2021 09:01 AM

Dawkins has never been very good at twitter.  He seems to be much better at book writing.
Given that some past award winners have even worse and more toxic views that they espouse, I’d say there’s a touch of current-ness/hypocrisy at play here. 
If Dawkins ‘deserves’ to have his award stripped, so, too, to the anti-semitist-conspiracy-peddler and eugenicist awardees deserve to have theirs removed.

After all, that would be consistent too, wouldn’t it?

Possibly also representative of the danger of elevating the person as an ideal, and not the ideas that they champion.

Very much so.  People are people, flawed, with warts and makers-of-mistakes, all.

 
 
Cheshire Cat
 
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22 April 2021 16:20
 

As Jefe mentioned, Twitter was not a good choice for Dawkins to use to discuss a somewhat complicated issue. It was too easy to take his simplified topic and run it through the prism of political correctness, then labeling it in the harshest judgmental terms.

“His latest statement implies that the identities of transgender individuals are fraudulent”

Fraudulent is a strong word. A person’s “sex” denotes a biological state, whereas “gender” is about a psychological state. A man who surgically and hormonally alters his body is not a woman. But internally he may feel he is one.

It might have been more fair for the AHA to say Dawkins thinks transgender individuals are different — not quite men, and not quite women either; fitting into a category of their own — trans. If Dawkins had said as much somehow in his Tweet, would he still have been reprimanded by the AHA? I don’t mind calling the newly-minted Caitlyn Jenner a trans-woman, but I would balk at calling her a woman. Does this make me transphobic?

“...while also simultaneously attacking Black identity as one that can be assumed when convenient.”

Was Dawkins really attacking Black identity? I don’t think so. In his first sentence of the Tweet, he is merely stating what more or less happened to Dolezl, not making any judgments. Others had already made their opinions about Dolezl known, publicly disapproving and condemning her charade. If anything, the implication is that it is wrong for white people to masquerade as black people. Surely the AHA must have realized this, yet decided to taint Dawkins with the odor of being a racist anyway. They were being disingenuous in my opinion.

 
 
weird buffalo
 
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23 April 2021 11:03
 

Transwomen are women.  Transmen are men.

The best analogy is adoptive parents.  Adoptive parents are parents.  They are not biologically parents, but within our culture the perform the full spectrum of roles normally associated with parenthood.

If you were meeting a transwoman at a restaurant, and she obviously presented as a woman and was difficult to identify as being trans, would you tell the waiter…
“I’m meeting a man.”
or
“I’m meeting a woman.”

The obvious answer is the latter.  We don’t do DNA scans on people we meet.  We typically don’t get out a magnifying glass, ask them to drop their pants to let us closely inspect their genitals in order to verify their biological sex.  We treat people based on how they dress, act, and present.  This is gender.  What gets defined within a gender changes by time and space.  A 13th century British man and a 20th century Japanese man don’t dress the same way, have the same interests, or are expected to act in identical manners.  Their roles in society may be similar, but the specifics of those roles can also be extremely different.  Yes, biological sex doesn’t change, but the concept of what gender is constantly changes.  Many societies have had 3rd genders for centuries.

I’m also always reminded that languages other than English can be highly gendered, and those genders often don’t make any sense.  In German, the word for “girl” is gender neutral.  Even though the word is neutral, it’s still understood that he subject is female, and in sentences without using mädchen in it, the subject is given female pronouns, but complex sentences with mädchen retain the neutral pronouns throughout. The word for pencil is masculine, and the word for pen is feminine.

No one is arguing that a transwoman alters her chromosomes.  What is being argued is that the person is identifying with the cultural concept of what a woman is, and should therefore be treated as one.

Also, his framing it as a “choice” is the same language that was used for decades about lesbians and gays.  Just as that is homophobic, this is transphobic.  The people concerned do not report it as feeling like a choice to them, but rather the change makes them feel far more natural than their life in their previous gender.  This would indicate that it is far deeper than a mere “choice”.

 
Cheshire Cat
 
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23 April 2021 12:44
 

Weird, I have no problem acknowledging that gender definitions are fluid and change over time. I have no problem calling a trans-woman “she” or respecting that they are trying to live up to our cultural standards of being female. But, a trans-woman is not a woman, no matter how much they feel this to be true psychologically and emotionally. They are an altered biological male. There’s no getting around this.

I looked at the definition of “woman” in several online dictionaries. All the ones I read stated something like “An adult female human being.” So being a woman is linked to being female, and a big part of the definition of a being female is “the capacity to bear young or produce eggs.” This is of critical importance. The biological function of women is crucial for the continuation of the human race. No trans-woman will ever menstruate, or give birth. No trans-man will produce sperm and impregnate a female.

I’m willing to give trans people the cultural trappings of the gender they feel that they belong to. Why not? As Thomas Jefferson said, “It neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket.” But I will not concede that a true woman, a real woman, is female from birth and is indelibly linked to her biological function of potentially giving birth and continuing the human race.

 
 
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23 April 2021 13:21
 
Cheshire Cat - 23 April 2021 12:44 PM

Weird, I have no problem acknowledging that gender definitions are fluid and change over time. I have no problem calling a trans-woman “she” or respecting that they are trying to live up to our cultural standards of being female. But, a trans-woman is not a woman, no matter how much they feel this to be true psychologically and emotionally. They are an altered biological male. There’s no getting around this.

I looked at the definition of “woman” in several online dictionaries. All the ones I read stated something like “An adult female human being.” So being a woman is linked to being female, and a big part of the definition of a being female is “the capacity to bear young or produce eggs.” This is of critical importance. The biological function of women is crucial for the continuation of the human race. No trans-woman will ever menstruate, or give birth. No trans-man will produce sperm and impregnate a female.

I’m willing to give trans people the cultural trappings of the gender they feel that they belong to. Why not? As Thomas Jefferson said, “It neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket.” But I will not concede that a true woman, a real woman, is female from birth and is indelibly linked to her biological function of potentially giving birth and continuing the human race.

A woman who is infertile will never give birth.  A man who is infertile will never impregnate someone.  And yet they are still considered men and women in our society.  Many people with gender never produce offspring at all.  So, your claim that gender is based on the ability to reproduce is false.  I would agree that many men and women do produce offspring, but the plain fact is that not all and so therefore cannot be the defining characteristic.  Some people are even born infertile.

You also skipped over the concept that adoptive parents fulfill all the roles of parents (other than the act of procreation itself), and yet are considered parents.

Is it possible that “woman” is a category of people that includes both biological women and transwomen?  Different types of women who are defined as women for similar reasons, but have specific differences that also place them in different subcategories of “woman”?

Like all sports cars are cars, but not all cars are sports cars.

 
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25 April 2021 15:40
 
weird buffalo - 23 April 2021 01:21 PM

A woman who is infertile will never give birth.  A man who is infertile will never impregnate someone.  And yet they are still considered men and women in our society.  Many people with gender never produce offspring at all.  So, your claim that gender is based on the ability to reproduce is false.  I would agree that many men and women do produce offspring, but the plain fact is that not all and so therefore cannot be the defining characteristic.  Some people are even born infertile.

You also skipped over the concept that adoptive parents fulfill all the roles of parents (other than the act of procreation itself), and yet are considered parents.

Is it possible that “woman” is a category of people that includes both biological women and transwomen?  Different types of women who are defined as women for similar reasons, but have specific differences that also place them in different subcategories of “woman”?

Like all sports cars are cars, but not all cars are sports cars.

I’ll stick with the definition of male and female, man and woman as defined by biology: X & Y chromosomes, penises and vaginas, menstruation and ejaculation — reproduction. Whether or not a man or a woman chooses to have a child doesn’t matter; they remain a man or a woman.

Two hundred thousand years of evolution have made clear what male and a female are in the human species. Both sexes through natural selection, have selected what is sexually desirable in the opposite sex and each has modified the other. Gender reassigning surgery and hormone replacement are artificial and recent developments, not natural ones.

And there is a third category of humans who do not fit the sexual binary mold. They are part of our human family and as such have value. I place trans-men and trans-women into this third category. 

I’m not sure what you point about adoption is exactly. Adopting a child who is already here has more merit, in my opinion, than bringing your own offspring into the world. It’s a wonderful, altruistic thing to do. If you adopt a child, you are their caretaker and parent no matter what is between your legs.

 
 
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25 April 2021 17:44
 

Are adoptive parents biologically parents?

 
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25 April 2021 19:14
 
weird buffalo - 25 April 2021 05:44 PM

Are adoptive parents biologically parents?

Biological parents wouldn’t have to adopt their own children, so no.

 
 
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26 April 2021 07:23
 

And yet we still classify them as parents.  There is a super category “parents” and within that category we have two subgroups: biological parents and adoptive parents.

We all understand that the term “parent” usually implies biology, and yet we still include a non-biological version of the same thing.  Biology may be the underlying cause for the original meaning, but our society has determined that it is not the only meaning for the concept.

I’m going to go back to the restaurant example.  For some strange reason, you are meeting Valentina Sampaio at a restaurant.  You know she has an orange top on, but you can’t find her in the restaurant.  You decide to ask the waiter if they’ve seen her.  Do you say:
“I’m looking for a man in an orange top.”
or
“I’m looking for a woman in an orange top.”

 
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26 April 2021 08:26
 
Cheshire Cat - 23 April 2021 12:44 PM

...
I’m willing to give trans people the cultural trappings of the gender they feel that they belong to. Why not? As Thomas Jefferson said, “It neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket.” But I will not concede that a true woman, a real woman, is female from birth and is indelibly linked to her biological function of potentially giving birth and continuing the human race.

Cheshire Cat - 25 April 2021 03:40 PM

...
Two hundred thousand years of evolution have made clear what male and a female are in the human species. Both sexes through natural selection, have selected what is sexually desirable in the opposite sex and each has modified the other. Gender reassigning surgery and hormone replacement are artificial and recent developments, not natural ones.
...

Gender identity is in the brain, not the genitals.  Yes, gender reassignment is a recent development, but I suspect that throughout history there have been people for which their gender identity has not matched their bodies.  And yes, the human race has evolved such that the majority of us are distinct males and females.  But even if less common, if something exists in nature it cannot be considered unnatural.  “Infinite diversity in infinite combinations” (Spock).

Nonetheless, despite the many challenges to research in this area, existing empirical evidence makes it clear that there is a significant biological contribution to the development of an individual’s sexual identity and sexual orientation.
See Abstract, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6677266/

Then there’s the issue of semantics.  The words we choose.  We can acknowledge that there is a difference between the majority who are born with congruent identities and those who aren’t.  But the words “real” and “true” could have the power to hurt even if unintentionally.  Maybe we could find better words?  As with adoptions:  the adoptive parents are simply called the ‘parents’ and the biological parents are usually referred to as the ‘birth parents’, not the ‘real parents’.  A recognition of what’s most important which is not always based solely on biology.

 

 
 
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26 April 2021 09:11
 

Oh, and again… if you define a “man” as having a penis and capable of producing sperm… what is the term for someone with XY chromosomes but doesn’t have a penis?  Or someone who has a penis but is incapable of producing sperm?  Not someone who chooses to not have children, but someone who is born incapable?  Your strict reproductive definitions work within the terms of biology and reproduction, but they fail when we look at the broader cultural concept of who we do and don’t call certain genders.

This is further shown to be true when we consider that we can judge certain people as “being more masculine” or “being more feminine”.  The fact that these judgements exist at all tells us the concept of gender is not a binary, but a spectrum.  Defining it purely as XX/XY binary fails at capturing all the usages of gender within our culture.  And as previously pointed out, it completely fails to understand how gender is used in other languages as well, which again tells us that your reliance on biology to define your terms is an idea that is a recent invention and not one that has existed for thousands of years.  And then of course there’s another knock against that argument that our understanding of chromosomes only began in 1882.  For 99.999% of human history, we have understood the concept of gender without the usage of chromosomes, and so therefore you cannot both rely on history AND chromosomes to create your definition.

The concept of what male and female means is firmly attached to biology, and I would agree in the strict biological definition, male/female is adequately described by XY/XX chromosomes.  The concept of gender though changes both over time and space.  What it means to be a man in the US and China can be different.  The specific roles and norms around those people depends greatly on the culture.  Do men wear dresses and skirts?  Not in the modern US, but they certainly have in many other cultures at various points in history.  Here in the US, either non-binary people or women are more likely to wear those things, and so someone who does is likely doing so in order to conform to a gender role.  To do so is not to claim that the person is biologically female, but rather they are culturally a woman.

[ Edited: 26 April 2021 09:20 by weird buffalo]
 
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