Dawkins Tries Again

First we had Dawkins trying to suppress the allegations against Michael Shermer by exerting his influence behind the scenes. Then we had him try to suggest that date rape isn’t so bad. Then we had him try to suggest that people who have been plied with alcohol by others remain responsible for…something (terrible analogy) and that feminists don’t respect women if they believe it’s possible to victimize them. Today, we have these:

As I pointed out to Dawkins on Twitter this morning, we have significantly more evidence against Shermer than that.* As I promised him, here is an enumerated list.

  1. We have Alison Smith’s original statement that she was raped.

We have the parts of the night that she does remember that tell us she didn’t want to have sex with him.

  1. We have the fact that she left the party without Shermer.
  2. We have the fact that she was supposed to be walked back to her room, not Shermer’s.

We have statements from others that lend credence to her story.

  1. We have a witness who confirms this was not consensual, that Smith was distraught immediately after the incident.
  2. We have confirmation from another skeptic that Smith was distraught that night and that other women have come to him with similar stories over a period of years. (This is currently in a private forum but I’ll make it available to Dawkins if he has any interest in looking at it.)
  3. We have Smith’s statement that other women have come to her with similar stories.
  4. We have a JREF forum poster telling Smith (Remie V.) that a woman has come to him with the same story. I’m working to confirm whether the woman was Smith, but it appears likely on its face that, if he knew her well enough to hear her story, he would know her JREF forum handle. (ETA: The poster confirmed that the woman whose story he heard was not Smith.)
  5. We have a witness who confirms part of Shermer’s M.O., that he has been known to get women drunk while displaying interest in them.

We have other reports of nonconsensual sexual behavior aimed at women by Shermer.

  1. We have Pamela Gay’s statement that Shermer tried to grab her breasts.
  2. We have two people confirming that D.J. Grothe told them he witnessed and intervened in Shermer’s attempt. We have also been told that Grothe repeated this in a court case and on two recordings.
  3. We have Pamela Gay’s statement that other women have come to her with similar stories.
  4. We have Ashley Miller’s statement that Shermer was rubbing his crotch for several minutes while talking to her after selling her a book.

We have inconsistencies in Shermer’s various stories told to different people over time.

  1. We have him suggesting in the email he sent to a TAM organizer that he didn’t have sex with Smith but saying in his  current statement that he did.
  2. We have him saying in the email and statement that he was at least relatively sober the evening in question but telling James Randi that alcohol was to blame for his “bad boy” behavior.
  3. We have him saying in his statement that he’s remained silent on the matter “because I find the entire matter unseemly and suitable for tabloid trash”, but in fact, he mockingly tweeted about the allegations last September. (ETA: Oh, yeah. Also his statement to Ian Murphy and his statement for his fundraiser and his discussion with John Loftus. Thanks to Jason for reminding me how silent Shermer was.)

Finally:

  1. We have the continuing insistence of Shermer’s friend and colleague on trying to attack the parts of Smith’s story that are directly contradicted by Shermer’s. That Dawkins keeps poking at the fact that Smith was drunk strongly suggests he doesn’t believe Shermer’s statement in which Shermer said they were both sober.

Does all that conclusively prove that Shermer raped Smith? No, but not even a confession would be conclusive proof. That’s not how proof works.

What this does say is that we’re not reliant on some hole in Alison Smith’s memory.** We have quite a bit of information about that night, about Shermer’s behavior toward women, and about the credibility of his words regarding the incident.

It says, in fact, that Dawkins is once again swinging at irrelevancies and obscuring what we know about these accusations in the process.

*Of course, the fact that she was drunk enough to have gaps in her memory is, on its own, evidence of sexual assault under both UK and U.S. law.

**It’s worth noting in passing that this is not particularly uncommon in incidents that nonetheless end up being described as he said-she said.

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Dawkins Tries Again

33 thoughts on “Dawkins Tries Again

  1. 1

    Could someone, anyone please tell Dr. Dawkins to shut the hell up about “evidence” and “courtrooms” and “prosecution”. This isn’t a trial. It is a group of victims detailing events to try and keep more women from becoming victims. It’s what’s gone on in whispers for years as women tried to protect other women via word of mouth and back channels. It’s things that came out in women’s blogs and feminist’s blogs (whether they were women or not) and now that a male journalist has said the same thing in a venue other than a blog, it suddenly has your attention. Funny how that works, eh?

    For all your pontificating on how little the defenders of those victims can know, you’re in exactly the same boat. You only know what Michael Shermer has told you or has posted publicly. To steal the MRAs favorite phrase, “Were you there?”

    Also Dr. Dawkins, you may not have run across it before, but I refer you to “The First Rule of Holes”–that would be the advice to stop digging. You, sir, have bought the biggest backhoe available and seem to be destined to pop out of the other side of the world any minute now. See also the corollary: “A closed mouth gathers no feet.”

    Gah! Between Dawkins and Harris this week, I want to throw something. Oh, dear. My estrogen must be vibing again.

  2. 2

    Whenever someone asks my husband whether he knows what the first rule of holes is, he says, “Keep digging until you’re so far down they can’t see you anymore?” Maybe Dawkins is trying that one.

  3. 4

    Yes, one should not accuse someone of a crime without any evidence. Let me be the first to say, ‘Duh’ to that miraculous insight from the professor.

    Of course that isn’t what is happening to Shermer but Dawkins just juxtaposes the concepts here so he can express his misogynist views and hatred whilst leaving himself a little ‘you misunderstood me’ get of jail card.

  4. 6

    Dawkins is unwilling to make a “judgement” about Shermer based on “no evidence”….but very willing to make the opposite judgement about Miller – and the rest of the people bringing up issues and inconsistencies. The only “evidence” he sees is that which makes his friend Shermer “not a liar” Obviously – He judges his accusers to be liars.

    There is no “innocent until proven”….because in his mind they must be as his friend cannot possibly be a rapist.

    Or he knows he’s lying and is defending him anyway.

    Either way his judicious “disinterest” is not at all plausible.

  5. 9

    I’m so saddened by what has happened to Dawkins over recent years; by his repeated mouthing off on issues where his voice is disproportionate to his insight.

    Not that it’s just him, of course; there seems to be some rule that people who acquire a sufficient following in an area where opinion is highly polarized end up very publicly overcommitting to ill-thought-out ideas in areas clearly outside their domains of expertise (it seems to be related to William Connolley’s insightful concept of intellectuals, esp. scientists, ‘going emeritus’, but it’s very much more widespread).

    I have (obviously) no insight into the Shermer affair, so I’m not going to comment on it – but if I did, my voice would be given equal weight with my insight (ie none). When Dawkins speaks, people listen and judge; they judge him, which is fine, but they also give credence to what he says regardless of whether or not he actually deserves the authority.

    He’s earned his chops in the creation/evolution debate, obviously. But this sexual politics his input is not in balance with his impact factor and but it’s bloody irresponsible of him to shove his oar in. In this case even more so: all he has to offer is testimony of Shermer’s personality as experienced by an older man in a professional relationship. Clearly he knows Shermer well within that limited context, he likes him, and I’m sure that he just cannot bring himself to believe that his judgement has been so wrong (cognitive dissonance really sucks). But ffs he should be able to see that he has no privileged insight into Shermer as he interacts with women, either generally or in this specific case.

    (Loosely analogous: my wife and I were recently asked to give evidence in a friend’s divorce case. We refused because although we liked this friend and had never seen any sign of the kinds of acts they had been accused of, we had never been in a position to see how that person behaved in that context. We wanted to help from a sense of loyalty, but felt it would be ‘dishonest’ in much the same way it is dishonest of Dawkins to weigh in here.)

  6. 12

    I tend to think our biggest obstacle is the proportion of people that think buying a woman five drinks (or four) and then “seizing the opportunity” is normal. Anyone who has ever done this, even decades ago, is going to fight like hell against the idea that this is terrible criminal behavior.

    (For clarity, I am a long-married fifty-something with a teetotaller husband, this is not my personal MO. Nor would I be friends with anyone who did it. I think it’s currently ingrained as part of our “spit in the eye of consent” culture.)

  7. 13

    It’s time to acknowledge that Dawkins isn’t excusing rape; he’s promoting rape. His latest bleatings amount to an instruction manual teaching rapists how to rape. Dawkins is a particularly awful human being and no one should be allowed to pretend otherwise without being berated for their cluelessness and utter lack of empathy.

  8. 14

    Michael Shermer is also completely irrelevant to the utter horribleness and fractural wrongness of those tweets.
    Somebody who can’t remember things is simply too drunk to give consent anyway. It does not matter if they said “yes” and just can’t remember anymore. That’s not some horrible feminist conspiracy to jail poor men because women can’t keep their legs closed, it’s fucking law (and also irrelevant of sex and gender).

  9. 16

    The opening post has a good list of many pieces of evidence/testimony. But it leaves out what Alison Smith herself says in Mark Oppenheimer’s article:

    After we spoke, Alison Smith told me in an email that she had discussed Shermer’s behavior with leaders of Randi’s foundation, and Shermer kept getting invited to TAM anyway. That’s why she decided that she had to be more public about Shermer.

    If she had to do it over again, Smith said, she would not use the word “rape” because “that seems to get people’s backs up immediately. If people prefer to use the term ‘creep,’ that’s fine. I’m telling my story, not giving testimony in court.” But she doesn’t regret speaking out. “It was intensely frustrating,” Smith said, to “watch other women walk straight into the same situation. I have no idea if anyone else was deceived in this way, and actually had a, for lack of a better term, I’m going to call it a ‘sexual incident,’ with him after that, but I do know that attendees were blissfully ignorant.”

    What? She’s changing the rape allegation to a creep allegation? Creepy is creepy, and may by itself be grounds for ostracizing Shermer, but “rape” isn’t one of those things you can throw out casually and then take back upon further consideration.

  10. 17

    croizat @ 17

    What? She’s changing the rape allegation to a creep allegation? Creepy is creepy, and may by itself be grounds for ostracizing Shermer, but “rape” isn’t one of those things you can throw out casually and then take back upon further consideration.

    That thing that just flew by your head? Was the point. It doesn’t matter if she calls it “rape” or “creepy” or “Great Aunty Enid”. The label she applies to it doesn’t change what happened. And the fact that she’s talking about feeling pressure not to call it rape even though that’s what it is. is exactly the problem. People want her to call it anything but rape so they can keep pretending that plying women with drinks until they’re too incapacitated to even know what’s going on is just how hooking up works.

  11. 18

    It’s strange (only not at all, of course) that noöne has yet attacked James Randi for spreading malicious rumours and gossip. Or being old and senile.

  12. 20

    What? She’s changing the rape allegation to a creep allegation?

    she’s doing no such thing. read again: she’s saying she wished she hadn’t used the word, because it causes people extreme reactance. This is true; we have plenty of studies showing e.g. that rapists will admit to raping someone, so long as you don’t say the word “rape”.

  13. 22

    When Dawkins said that people who disagreed with him were being emotional therefore not rational regarding his ideas of bad and worse forms of rape/child abuse, what he was in effect saying was people should approach these issues more like a sociopath. There are tests for sociopathy/psychopathy where words are flashed on a screen to gauge the reaction of test subjects to emotionally-charged words such as murder or war or torture vs. words like chair or door or coffee cup. A sociopath has the same response to neutral words as they do to emotionally-charged words – flat affect, no change in heart rate or blood pressure, no emotional reaction at all
    Dawkins seems to mistakenly believe empathy clouds logic and rational thinking, and is contemptuous towards anyone who would suggest that he might try having some effing compassion for rape survivors.

  14. 23

    This is true; we have plenty of studies showing e.g. that rapists will admit to raping someone, so long as you don’t say the word “rape”.

    Not only the rapists, but the victims, too.
    They will say “yes” to a question that asks whether something that’s a textbook definition of rape happened to them, and “no” to the question if they’ve been raped.

  15. 24

    Stephanie, I offer you my sincere thanks for following this story for so long and in such detail. It’s exhausting and disheartening and INFURIATING for me to read, so it must have been ten times worse to write & research.

  16. 27

    [email protected]:

    I tend to think our biggest obstacle is the proportion of people that think buying a woman five drinks (or four) and then “seizing the opportunity” is normal. Anyone who has ever done this, even decades ago, is going to fight like hell against the idea that this is terrible criminal behavior.

    I don’t usually think of myself as being naive, but I am surprised by how firmly so many people want to defend Shermer against the suggestion that he did anything remotely wrong in a moral sense, let alone a legal one. I had assumed that a lot of people were resisting the use of the term rape, and were uncomfortable with the idea of criminal prosecutions in such situations, but that there was at least a baseline agreement that such behavior is shitty.

    I mean, even in the “old days” before people talked about date rape or acquaintance rape, wasn’t there still the notion that “taking advantage” was wrong and something only sleazy guys did?

  17. 29

    It’s strange (only not at all, of course) that noöne has yet attacked James Randi for spreading malicious rumours and gossip. Or being old and senile.

    Shermer thread, pharyngula.

    “boys will be boys”

    no, he did not go unnoticed.

  18. 33

    FWIW, the list of evidence here leaves out quite a *lot* of the other witnesses who have described sexual assault or harassment by Shermer. Including Dallas Haugh.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2014/09/12/timeline-of-harassment-and-sexual-assault-allegations-against-michael-shermer/

    Even if Dawkins wants to discount the anonymous allegations — and apparently there are a *minimum of five*, probably more — Dallas Haugh was perfectly willing to give *his* name when accusing Shermer of rape.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/08/13/do-you-know-the-person-behind-the-tumblr-creative-pooping-who-goes-by-the-name-dallas-haugh/comment-page-1/#comment-671302

    Seriously, does Dawkins not realize that this is overwhelming evidence? AFAIK, nobody’s reported Dawkins actually harassing or assaulting women himself — why is he defending Schemer?

    Maybe the evidence that Shermer rapes men as well as women might wake Dawkins up to reality. :sigh:

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