What’s that? Oh, it’s the underside of the bus

I haven’t said anything here about the stroke Richard Dawkins suffered last weekend, because I figured any sympathy I expressed would sound fake. The reality is that I never wished illness or disability on him, and I’m sorry that it’s happened to him. It’s much the same with Scalia – I was and am ecstatic that he’s not on the court any more, but I would have been fine with retirement as opposed to death. I would have been ecstatic if Dawkins had decided to stop jeering at feminism and Muslim schoolboys on Twitter, and to be a better person instead. I would much have preferred that. But that’s not what happened.

Matthew Facciani at Patheos quotes from a recording Dawkins made yesterday to tell people how he’s doing.

The doctors asked if I had been suffering from stress, and I had to say yes I had, and they keep advising me not to get involved in…controversy. And I had to tell then that not getting involved in controversy, that controvery is not one of those things I can. I told them I had been distressed, that on the 28th of January, I was disinvited from conference to which I had previously been asked, this upset me very much. I’m used to getting hate from religionists, from creationists, but when I get hate from my own people, from left, liberal feminists and so on, that actually hurt me.

So he’s sort of kind of blaming us for his stroke.*

Well, I understand how he feels. It certainly occurred to me often last summer that my (cough) irritation with various people who say harsh things about me could make my brain explode. I’ve also seen plenty of people hoping exactly that would happen, and predicting it would. (Thus I have a duty to breathe deeply and think beautiful thoughts, so that I can thwart them.) But it has also often occurred to me that my irritation at a vast range of other things could make my brain explode. I’m a highly irritable person. Dying of fury seems very likely to be my fate. I think sometimes about deciding to stop being that kind of person, and dismiss the thought almost before it forms. Can’t do it. The irritability is all tangled up with caring about things, and I have no interest in ceasing to care about things.

And the same applies to Dawkins, doesn’t it. Temperamentally I could be his twin. He cares about things, and the caring often leads to irritation. It’s no good pretending he’s not irritable. I was going to say he must realize that about himself just as I realize it about myself, but then I remembered that in his Twitter profile he says he pokes “good-humoured fun” at believers…so maybe he doesn’t.

These days one of the things he gets the most irritable about is his own warped idea of what feminists are like. The result is that he tweets to his 1.36 million followers that particular feminists should be mocked, “the more the merrier.” That’s a bad, unkind thing for him to do. That’s what I said here a week or two ago, thus perhaps being one of the feminists he had in mind when he sort of blamed feminists for upsetting him into a stroke.

I’m sorry the stroke happened, but I don’t think the blame rests with feminists.

In other news, the NECSS executive committee put out a statement this afternoon:

We wish to apologize to Professor Dawkins for our handling of his disinvitation to NECSS 2016. Our actions were not professional, and we should have contacted him directly to express our concerns before acting unilaterally. We have sent Professor Dawkins a private communication expressing this as well. This apology also extends to all NECSS speakers, our attendees, and to the broader skeptical movement.

We wish to use this incident as an opportunity to have a frank and open discussion of the deeper issues implicated here, which are causing conflict both within the skeptical community and within society as a whole. NECSS 2016 will therefore feature a panel discussion addressing these topics. There is room for a range of reasonable opinions on these issues and our conversation will reflect that diversity. We have asked Professor Dawkins to participate in this discussion at NECSS 2016 in addition to his prior scheduled talk, and we hope he will accept our invitation.

This statement and our discussions with Professor Dawkins were initiated prior to learning of his recent illness. All of NECSS wishes Professor Dawkins a speedy and full recovery.

So that’s women thrown under the bus again.

I too wish Dawkins a speedy and full recovery, but I also want him to stop trashing feminism and feminists. That hasn’t changed.

*Updating to add: Richard strongly objects to this accusation, pointing out that I didn’t quote the next part, where he says it was not that upset that preceded his stroke, but rather the good news that NECSS had apologized and reinvited him to their conference.

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