Center for Inquiry Merges with Richard Dawkins & His Twitter Account

Good news for those of you who were worried that Richard Dawkins had flushed all his credibility as a rational person down the toilet by telling the mothers of people with Downs Syndrome that they’re immoral for not having an abortion, setting a mob on a 14-year old Muslim boy, and ranking rapes by how bad he thinks they are: Center for Inquiry has merged with his foundation and added him to its Board of Directors!

This is very exciting news for me, because it means I no longer need to wonder whether I’ll ever be invited back to a CFI event again. No! The answer is no.

Speaking of Richard Dawkins refusing to allow me to be invited to events where he is speaking, for the many years I performed at the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism (NECSS), which began as a live show on my former podcast, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, the organizers could never quite convince Dawkins to attend. Well, I quit SGU and now NECSS has announced that the first conference they’ve planned since my exit will feature Richard Dawkins as the keynote.

In conclusion, the skeptic/atheist sphere is an embarrassing shitshow and the organizations will continue polishing Richard Dawkins’ knob until he dies, at which point he will be sainted and his image will be put on candles and prayed to in times when logic is needed.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Okay, I haven’t attended any skeptic conferences, BUT! Having Dawkins at one is definitely a big flag to stay the hell away from one. I’d really hoped that the community would be pulling away from him over his crap from the last, what, 6 years or so?

  2. Parts of the community have been backing slowly away from Dawkins for quite awhile now. Unfortunately it hasn’t been the big parts. The big parts of the movement still have too much fucking stardust in their eyes.

  3. To be very briefly fair to him, I seem to remember the “immoral not to abort” thing was in response to a direct question to him, so it’s not like he was hunting down women who had given birth to kids with Downs Syndrome and telling them, without invitation, that they were immoral. I mean, sure, it’s still a pretty bizarre and heartless stance to take, but it’s not quite as bad as you make it sound.

    By the way, it’s long been my own stance that I would refuse to share a venue with Dawkins, so he’s not the only one who can play that game. True, I’m not playing it particularly well at the moment, since nobody wants to invite me to speak at their events, nor have they even heard of me, but I’m still pretty sure he’s feeling the sting.
    I’m certainly not overcome with the desire to attend any event that has his name on the fliers.

    1. It’s a deeply immoral position to hold, and a pretty common one. Many people agree with Dawkins that people with developmental disabilities do not deserve to be alive. It’s not just a heartless stance, it’s a common and oppressive one that deserves criticism.

      1. Yeah, I agree, but he still didn’t make the comment completely out of nowhere as a pronouncement that women everywhere should be taking heed of.

      2. I guess the moral position that’s easy to see regarding birth is that it’s immoral to purposefully bring into the world any child you’re not capable or willing to take care of and provide the needs for. So the moral options would be abortion/adoption vs giving birth to a child and failing it as a parent, leading to a life of misery for that child. But then that’s a general principle not especially relevant to the topic of Down’s syndrome.

  4. Maybe if people start seeing him sundowning in person rather than just reading the tweets they will realize what a goddamn loon he is.

  5. I like a number of his books and I’m glad that atheism isn’t a religion and doesn’t need any flawless messiahs. This way, I can continue to enjoy all of the clever things Dawkins has written without having to try to defend or rationalise away all of the increasingly fucked up, shitty things he’s been saying.

    I’ll simply accept that somebody can be simultaneously clever and stupid.

    Of course, with Dawkins it isn’t all that simultaneous. His cleverness is largely in the past, and the stupidness is increasingly dominating.

    It’s almost like The Force but instead of Light Side vs Dark Side, we have Clever Side vs Daft Side – Do Not Underestimate The Power of The Daft Side!

    And now I’m going to have nightmares about Darth Dick revealing that he’s my father and cutting my hand off with his logic-sabre. Waugh!

  6. Rebecca has been my ‘litmus test’ on who is a ‘decent human being’ for some time now. The dichotomy between clear thinking in one field and other biases in another is certainly worrying. Any ideas on why it is so?

    Aside – Just listened to Astronomy Cast (podcast) where Dr Pamela Gay recounts her (and other females) life in academia. Not very pretty!

  7. I’m not sure why anyone would want Dawkins as a speaker. It’s been years since he did anything relevant and he has instead spent that time acting like a complete jackass.

      1. I guess I just expected my skeptical organizations to actually care about skeptical issues. Silly me. Maybe they’ll invite Ken Ham next. That’ll bring in a new audience.

  8. Not that this is super critical, but lists him as a featured speaker and Wiseman is the keynote.

    Also wasn’t the NECSS on the “religion isn’t a valid target for skepticism” side of the whole atheism/skepticism thing a while back? Or did everyone forget about that once feminism became a topic of conversation?

  9. I thought Richard Wiseman was going to be the keynote. Fuck!

    I’m really disappointed that the SGU crew doesn’t seem to get it. Sure to a certain point the skeptical/atheist message matters more than the human being, but when the human in question is such a raging asshole we need to stop allowing him these moments of adoration.

  10. So the NECSS is another atheist organization that supports Dawkins’ blacklisting of Rebecca? Does this mean Rebecca has also been blacklisted from future episodes of the SGU? Have the members of the SGU who have daughters already taught them that in order to remain welcome in the skeptical/atheist “community” that they must never discuss issues of harassment?

    1. NECSS is a conference cosponsored by New England Skeptical Society (NESS) and New York Skeptics so I’m not sure how much the Novellas actually have to do with planning it.

      So while the Novellas basically are NESS I wouldn’t assume that this was a tacit endorsement by them for many reasons but the main reason being, I don’t know that it was and believing something without evidence is very unskeptical.

      I am disturbed by the bowing and scraping that goes on around Dawkins (as well as Harris, Penn, Shermer, etc.) in the community and wish that conferences would stop inviting them to bloviate but I can understand why they do. I would hope that the Novella’s had little to actually do with his selection and put forward objections when they found out, but I don’t know and until I do I won’t condemn them.

      Not that it would matter, I haven’t listened to the SGU for a bit now because I had to decide on what got moved from my schedule. I feel the show was flat after Rebecca left and while it got better once Cara Santa Maria joined them it wasn’t good enough to push out the far more fun Read it and Weep.

      1. SGU recently did a nauseating, starstruck, soft-ball interview with Michael Shermer…

        I’m betting that thought inviting RD was a brilliant idea. Does make me wonder about Rebecca’s relationship with the SGU at this point, though…

  11. Although I’m curious what the SGU hosts think about this, I’m not sure we should interpret the options as either no dawkins at any event that the NESS is involved in or the SGU supporting dawkins in blacklisting Rebecca.

  12. I sent an email to complain about the SGU’s Shermer interview. Dr. Novella responded that, “While we strongly condemn any sexist behavior, we also strongly support the principle of innocent until proven guilty, and do not want to participate in any witch hunts (which is what you get when you equate accusation with guilt).” I appreciated very much Steve’s amazingly fast response to my feedback, but was disappointed, to say the least, in its content. At least he didn’t claim that Shermer’s many accusers were “hysterical.” So, um, yay?

    1. As disappointed as I am with this response, especially the weasel words (witch hunt, seriously?) I can’t say as I am too surprised.

      I strongly believe that the Novellas and Evan are in the side of equality and all but with out Rebecca around to keep up the constant reminders it’s easy to fall back on bad habits.

      Only a couple of shows after Rebecca left Steve used rape as a metaphor. Very disappointed.

    2. I’d been willing to just skip past that interview (wouldn’t be the first time with SGU) and continue listening to the podcast until I read this, but to see this weaselly, disingenuous, fallacious argument from a guy as smart as Steven Novella is beyond the pale.

      “Innocent until proven guilty” is a standard for criminal courts, not for individual people, not for scientists, not even for all court cases. We hold criminal courts to a different standard because they’re limited in the kinds of verdicts they can render (“innocent” typically not being an actual option, because the court is not equipped to prove a negative), and because courts have a large degree of power over the individuals under investigation, and a false positive would potentially mean the punishment of an innocent person while a guilty person goes free and the investigation is closed. We don’t apply the same standard in science, because investigations are always ongoing, and there are independent people always checking the work (and typically a number of safeguards in between “false positive” and “grievous harm to an individual”). We don’t apply the same standard to individuals forming opinions, because we have no legally-protected power to infringe upon the rights of the accused. If I wrongly believe that Craig Smith is a habitual drunk driver, the worst I can legally do is harm his reputation. We don’t even hold police to this standard; how could you proceed with an investigation if you believed everyone to be equally innocent until proven guilty?

      Skepticism as it functions would not operate if we all held consistently to the standard of criminal courts. Skeptics like Steven Novella feel perfectly comfortable saying that Sylvia Browne likely knowingly deceived the people who came to her for readings, or that Dr. Oz spreads harmful pseudoscience under the guise of real medicine, even though (to my knowledge) neither claim has been evaluated by any court. I don’t recall the skeptical community withholding judgment on the constitutionality of Intelligent Design in public schools until the rendering of the Kitzmiller v. Dover verdict. Skeptics routinely base opinions on things like prior plausibility and the preponderance of evidence, which I seem to recall are the foundations of Science-Based Medicine.

      So as a skeptic and a private citizen, I’m perfectly free to form the opinion, based on the preponderance of the evidence, that Sylvia Browne was a fraud and Dr. Oz is a quack. I’m perfectly free even to form the opinion that O.J. Simpson and George Zimmerman are murderers, despite court decisions to the contrary. And even if I didn’t go that far, even if I decided to withhold judgment, I could still determine that, based on their histories, maybe Zimmerman and Simpson wouldn’t be great guests to have on a show to talk authoritatively on peaceful conflict resolution and safe handling of deadly weapons.

      Similarly, even if I didn’t decide based on the witness statements, the widely-acknowledged patterns of sexist and inappropriate behavior, the commonality of rape, the infinitesimally small number of false accusations, the high personal cost of victims coming forward, and the three contradictory stories told by Shermer about that night, that he was likely a rapist, I’d probably refrain from having him on my popular podcast as an uncontested authority on morality.

      1. Hrm. Agree. Particularly that they don’t need criminal court level evidence to address the moral failings of people that aren’t in the skeptical community.

    3. The email exchange has continued for several days. Steve’s first response was disappointing to say the least, but I get the impression that he’s listening and will do better in the future. In the relatively lengthy exchanges, after the first unfortunate response, I never felt that he condescended. If I ever return to organized skepticism, which I doubt will happen, it will be, in part, because of people like him.

      Somehow when listening to the Shermer interview the first time, I missed that the interview took place at TAM. There is exactly one person who has ever been a co-host of SGU who would have objected to that ill-advised interview. Fortunate for Shermer, who was hawking his book on science and MORALITY, she was harassed out of TAM years ago. It’s the feminists who are becoming more and more marginalized, not the sexists, harassers, or the sexual predators. I half wish I could share Steve’s optimism, but the evidence I see is against it.

      And speaking of asshole sexists, my first emotion on seeing Dawkins’ tweet today falsely claiming that feminists and Islamists share the same ideology, was, of course, rage. Second, I thought, “Wait, you left organized skepticism/atheism FOR EXACTLY THIS REASON. Smart decision. Yay, me!”

  13. NECSS just sent out an email saying that they had removed Dawkins. I haven’t gone to a skeptical con since the second NECSS (went to the first two, kind of dropped out of the movement afterwards), but I just might now.

    1. Huh, I must be psychic – I guessed the cause of the withdrawal perfectly. Is the Randi challenge still going?

      Who wants to bet there’ll be tweets about censorship from Dawkins in the near future?

    2. Dawkins’ claims of censorship happened immediately. He has refused to apologize, and has said that the woman who was especially targeted in the video is “vile,” “perhaps mentally ill,” and likely lying about her evidence of rape/death threats. This is the guy who is now the de facto head of the Center for Inquiry. There is little room to doubt that post-merger CFI is an anti-feminist, pro-harassment organization.

      Even though the video was *heavily* edited, I didn’t see anything vile about the woman. And you’d have to ask Dawkins about symptoms of mental illness that he thinks she displayed.

  14. Sorry, I was talking about two different videos above. The first paragraph refers to Dawkins’ “irreverent joke” video. The second refers to a video made by MRAs, that targeted a single woman arguing with them in public.

  15. “setting a mob on a 14-year old Muslim boy”

    If that doesn’t epitomize hyperbole. One can take issue with his comparison, but the insinuation in this statement is that somehow the “mob” is acting under some sort of control of Dawkins is absurd.

    Painting Dawkins’ logic as reactionary and emotional by using reactionary and emotional logic is nonsense.

    1. I grant you, he didn’t literally tell a mob of people “get that boy”. However, surely he couldn’t have been unaware of the effect his comments would have, could he?

      He’s been a public figure for decades. He’s got a twitter following of over a million. He ought to know that when he starts to spin conspiracy theories about people, that has certain entirely foreseeable consequences, and he needs to take responsibility for that.

      Intentionally or not, his actions had the effect of targeting a young boy who had done nothing wrong. I’m afraid I don’t see any major problem with the comment you criticize.

    2. Let me give an example. When anti-choicers talk about “child-killers”, they’re responsible for the consequences of that.

      They don’t have to say “Mr. X, go kill Dr. Y”. They know that if they just throw out the “child-killer” idea often enough, sooner or later some Mr. X will take it upon themselves to kill Dr. Y.

      And when that happens and they claim to be shocked and dismayed, are any of us fooled? Do any of us doubt for a second that this was the result they always wanted? If they’re as sorry as they claim, why do they keep doing it?

      You don’t have to use the specific words to get the specific effect. All you need is a large audience ready to infer the implied conclusion.

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