Friday, August 22, 2014

Disembodied Intellect

Oh, Dawkins, Dawkins, Dawkins... you've done it again. Richard Dawkins' latest controversial tweet, covered by Amanda Marcotte, concerned a hypothetical case of aborting a fetus with Down Syndrome:

Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.

My personal take on this ethical dilemma is that the decision is entirely the pregnant woman's to make, but the assertion that giving birth to a child with Down Syndrome is immoral squicks me out. For the record, I know a guy with Down Syndrome and he is a great guy- his mother has had to make sacrifices and concessions to raise him, but she's a productive member of society and so is he. I can't imagine her taking Richard Dawkins' comment in stride, nor should she.

Dawkins' principle flaw is that he's a disembodied intellect- while he is a brilliant thinker, his "EQ" is very low, and he often makes statements which may be logically correct, but seem to come from a complete lack of empathy.

Make an issue about sexual harassment? Sheesh, you don't have to deal with genital mutilation! You were sexually abused as a child? That's not so bad in some cases. You were raped by an acquaintance? Hey, that's not as bad as a violent sexual assault. In all of these cases, Dawkins, a man brought up in the bubble of upper-class white male privilege, thinks he's making a logical point, but all of these issues are emotionally charged... there's no way to coldly approach the subjects.

I've heard Richard Dawkins lecture, and he is a witty, urban, informative speaker. He needs to be a better listener, though, if he is to avoid making gaffes when making off-the-cuff remarks about touchy subjects... and for Darwin's sake, the dude has to stay off Twitter.
As a straight, white, middle-class male, I would advise Dr Dawkins to use his ears more often, his fast fingers less frequently.

In the "Pandagon" comment thread, there's a commentor who is lambasting Dawkins' critics in a hilariously cack-handed fashion... here's some real word salad from a guy who has vague memories of the original Star Trek and fancies himself a Vulcan:


Amanda, please leave this man alone. He is one of our greatest scientific and logical thinkers. Your last article seemed to simultaneously say he was wrong and offensive while the article you were responding to suggested that people should not be so emotional and reactive, but that facts and logic should dominate conversation. Your response was, in my memory, somewhat to argue that "we are all emotional beings who can be expected to respond and utilize our emotions in finding answers to questions we have both personally and as a culture and race." This was reasonable, but can't you understand that it is the emotions we carry with us are tools in the utility of evolution and not necessarily so important in the modern world. Is it not possible that the end result of evolution is to separate us from the individualistic chains binding us to our own emotions. Being controlled by our own emotions. Isn't is possible that humanity will only achieve it's pinnacle when we become pure logic. Aren't emotions a vestige of a world in which we are all trying to survive in a random world?


T'Putz isn't exactly winning over the other members of the commentariat:

As I have dubbed him. An over ASSuming ASSholier than thou poster.

Some snarky bastard had a theory about this:

His problem is that he's been practicing the "Vulcan Mind Meld" on the wrong end of the aliens he's encountered.

Hey, speaking about Vulcans and all that, Arlene Martel, who played Spock's betrothed in the famed "Amok Time" episode of Star Trek, died over a week ago. I wish I'd put up a post about her... she had a whole lot of television credits to her... uh... credit, but she had a knack for being able to appear completely different in each appearance- her website notes that she was nicknamed "The Chameleon" because of this ability. Here's a brief clip of her most celebrated role, as the one individual who was able to beat Spock in a battle of wits:





I bet T'Pring could have set Dawkins straight.

13 comments:

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

At least he isn't a Romulan...
~

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Or even worse, a Romneyan.

mikey said...

I honestly don't understand the Dawkins freakout. He's not addressing a real world situation, he's speaking in terms of a general philosophical worldview. A actually tend to agree with him - the fact that modern technology gives us options we never had before DOES require a re-examination of the ethics of many decisions we now can make. It isn't Dawkins that is being unethical or lacking empathy - it's the fact the option exists in the first place.

Obviously, no matter what Dawkins says, people are going to make their own decisions - it's not like his pronouncement carries the force of law. So lambasting him for discussing the ethics around the option to abort a badly defective fetus is really no different than the fundamentalist christianists who lambaste him for questioning the existence of god...

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I'm not sure if there is a dog, mikey.
~

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Obviously, no matter what Dawkins says, people are going to make their own decisions - it's not like his pronouncement carries the force of law. So lambasting him for discussing the ethics around the option to abort a badly defective fetus is really no different than the fundamentalist christianists who lambaste him for questioning the existence of god...

I think the problem is his "shaming" of women who would choose to carry a fetus diagnosed with Down syndrome to term- there are plenty of individuals with DS that live happy, productive lives and are valued members of their communities. I think the problem is that Dawkins is coming across as utterly callous. He needs to improve his ability to make non-awful extemporaneous statements.

I'm not sure if there is a dog, mikey.

Theda is a figment of your imagination?

mikey said...

Mr. Bastard, I seem to have totally missed the 'shaming' included in a statement about a technologically enabled biological decision making process. Now, you may certainly not agree that the ability to detect abnormal fetuses should lead to a decision that in some cases it would be unethical (I really don't like the word immoral, so I'd question that word choice, but it's still valid) NOT to abort. You might agree but place the threshold for abortion somewhere else on the scale.

But again - this is taking a position on a large bio-ethical issue - there's no 'shaming' there. Unless you also believe he's shaming christians for their ridiculous mythological beliefs...

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

FWIW, both World O'Crap and This Day In Science Fiction did posts about the Arlene.

Jules said...

What if you knew your fetus was going to be a hyper-privileged git who would start out smart enough but eventually age into an irritating creep who went around reducing complex topics into moronically simplistic terms so he could scoff?

The Imperfect Fetus Debate is the kind of thing that high school kids get off on. Dawkins is either past it or straight up trolling.

mikey said...

SRSLY? We should just shut up and not try to think it through?

That seems...kind of like a really bad way to do policy...

mikey said...

I'd be interested in your take on what other topics are off limits for consideration...

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Now, you may certainly not agree that the ability to detect abnormal fetuses should lead to a decision that in some cases it would be unethical (I really don't like the word immoral, so I'd question that word choice, but it's still valid) NOT to abort. You might agree but place the threshold for abortion somewhere else on the scale.

For me, it was the wording of it- people can live productive, happy lives with Down Syndrome. By characterizing the choice to bring a DS fetus to term as immoral, Dawkins is making light of a woman's choice in the matter. Leave that bullshit to the theocrats.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

FWIW, both World O'Crap and This Day In Science Fiction did posts about the Arlene.

I can imagine they did- even if she just acted in Amok Time and Demon with a Glass Hand, her place in the SF pantheon would be secure.

What if you knew your fetus was going to be a hyper-privileged git who would start out smart enough but eventually age into an irritating creep who went around reducing complex topics into moronically simplistic terms so he could scoff?

Is there an in utero test for that?

Jules said...

I'm not sure how a test for Dawkin Syndrome would work. I guess you could read an account of rape to a fetus and see if it sneers.