Vice rejects the D

Apparently Vice is so mad at Richard Dawkins they want him excommunicated from… Sorry… ‘disowned’ by the atheist movement. Silly me, I’ve been critical of Dawkins for years, but never realized we owned him.

What has he done now??

Did he threaten someone? No.
Did he stalk someone? No.
Did he insult someone? Nope.
Did he violently assault… No.

He defended the legal concept of the presumption of innocence.
How do they defend attacking such a fundamental human right… Well… with crime statistics. Now setting aside the inherent fallibility of estimating crimes based on unproven or even ‘unreported’ claims, the PoI is not some archaic legal meme, if 3 out of every hundred people accused of any serious crime are innocent and end up in jail, that equates to hundreds or even thousands of real peoples lives ruined.

Without the PoI, we end up with vigilante and mob style justice. Our system is far from perfect, but this fundamental right protects us all from persecution.

Taking accusations of criminal behaviour seriously means we suspend judging someone until the facts can speak. This of course includes accusing someone of lying, but there is a difference between asking a skeptical question and making an accusation.

Sometimes the rage of emotions can make that distinction hard to see, but it is an important one, we ignore at our peril.

And now, such better drama from the Bard:

“Ha, banishment! be merciful, say ‘death;’
For exile hath more terror in his look,
Much more than death: do not say ‘banishment.'”

7 thoughts on “Vice rejects the D

  1. It’s bizarre how people take things like Vice and Huffington Post seriously.

    But then, people also watch The View. So yeah. Humans. 🙁

    • I think Vice publishes some pretty remarkable journalism, actually (the Huffington Post, not so much). But if you don’t like Vice, the Guardian is on the bandwagon too.

      It’s a pretty wretched bandwagon, of course. Dawkins is far from infallible, and sometimes he comes out with things that are intemperate or poorly reasoned, but he’s a brilliant thinker and communicator. His willingness to take risks and embrace controversy, on Twitter or elsewhere, is part of what makes him so valuable. And the idea of atheism as a single movement with carefully policed boundaries, the kind of entity that could plausibly reject or disown someone, is ludicrous. Cats, as far as I know, still don’t like being herded.

  2. There’s a perpetual outrage machine that seemingly can’t help but jump on anything Dawkins says.

  3. “never realized we owned him”

    Can we own the Bard? I feel confident he was an atheist.

    • Bah! Humanist of a sort…maybe… But one of the great villains of Shakespeare was a bastard with naturalistic pretensions, so atheist bard, nah.. I doubt it. I tend to see him as a less mean and nasty version of Voltaire.

  4. I don’t think, philosophically speaking, anything can be disowned per se.

    I think the context here is more in the vein of ostracize.

  5. I’ve been wondering recently where these purported statistics about the prevalence of false rape accusations come from and what sort of methodology one would use to arrive at such conclusions. The researchers who produce them must have access to some sort of ‘truth knowing machine’ that the rest of us–including the criminal justice system–don’t have. Many cases come down to one persons word against another with little or no corroborating or exculpatory evidence. So the “truth” can only be surmised by assessing credibility and is not known definitively.

    My understanding is that the commonly cited 2-3% statistic come from prosecution services of one jurisdiction or another (which have their own biases) and only include those allegations that are clearly and demonstrably false. The cases where ‘we’ll just never know with certainty what happened’ aren’t included in the stat. There are other studies (with the own deeply problematic methodological flaws) that call into question those numbers. Who knows what the actual number is. I’m fairly confident that the number is higher than 2-3% but at the same time its also likely to be much much lower than the inverse of the conviction rate.

    In any event I think it would be a mistake for society to abandon the presumption of innocence and proceed on the basis that every allegation of sexual assault is prima facie true.

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