Richard Dawkins Upsets the Trans Lobby

In one of his many sneering one-sided attacks upon Richard Dawkins, self-styled Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta previously complained that it was “sad” and “ridiculous” for Dawkins to be concerned about what the latter described as the “bossy intolerant Thought-Police of the Woke left”. After all, “people were struggling to make ends meet in the midst of a deadly pandemic” and the capture of institutions and governments by divisive authoritarian dogma was hardly the most pressing concern of the day, according Mehta.

It seems however that this zero-sum responsibility for addressing only the most urgent and consequential issues of our time is reserved for others, whilst Mehta bravely focuses his energies on mockery of fundamentalist Christians and attacks upon other atheists who fail to confine themselves safely within his parameters of acceptable sceptism.

Earlier this year Mehta accused Dawkins of “denying the basic humanity of trans people” for asking an academic question about conceptual differences between transgenderism and transracialism. His latest anti-Dawkins volley has come about for similarly absurd reasons, namely that Dawkins had the temerity to give an entirely reasonable response to a question about trans women in a recent interview with the Sunday Times.

In reference to the late historian Jan Morris who transitioned from man to woman in 1972, Dawkins said the following:

“She felt herself trapped in a man’s body. I think that’s a real phenomenon. I have sympathy. But when trans people insist that you say she is a woman, you redefine something. If you define a woman as a human with an XX karyotype, then she’s not a woman. If you define a woman as someone who identifies as a woman, feels they are a woman and has maybe had an operation, then by that definition she is a woman. From a scientific point of view, she’s not a woman. From a personal point of view, she is.”

Anyone interested in understanding what Mehta finds so odious about this remark, and thereby maybe clarifying their own potential confusion on this topic in the process, will be left wanting since Mehta goes on to outright refuse to explain his objections.

“I don’t need to rehash the problem with his statement here because it’s been done so many times already” he declares without so much as offering a link to this wealth of rebuttal material.

Instead, Mehta offers his own interpretation of Dawkins:

“Dawkins thinks trans people are, at their core, lying. He doesn’t accept them.”

One would think this reading might call for further explanation being that the referenced quote shows Dawkins explicitly accepting that trans women are women from a personal point of view and expressing sympathy for their dysmorphia. But again, Mehta has decided instead to leave the reasons behind his conclusions, and the logic he used to reach them, glaringly absent.

This is a frustrating and recurring theme among the woke intelligentsia – no more so than on this topic. We are never told how exactly Dawkins is rejecting trans people or denying their basic humanity. We are never told how acknowledging biological facts indicates a desire to erase the existence of trans people. More fundamentally, we are never told how commonplace and universally understood terms like “woman” and “female” are now being defined in the context of claims that biological males can be them. The demand is simply that ostensibly outlandish and counter-intuitive claims be accepted on faith with no questions asked.

“Educate yourself” is invariably the response, and in practical terms is not dissimilar to the rebuttal of religious apologists who offer “just look around you” as proof of an intelligent designer. Perhaps that’s no mistake. Many commentators have remarked on the parallels between woke ideology and organised religion, including Dawkins himself in the Times article in question:

“Dawkins senses something he doesn’t like: a quasi-religious faith that cannot be opposed. Or as he puts it: “Denying reality and it’s a heresy to do anything other than that.”

One of the most recognisable examples of this to my mind, is the attribution of any divergent viewpoint to an irrational hatred. “You hate God” is something of a stock response of Christian ideologues who refuse to acknowledge that atheists could possibly have considered and logical objections to their premise. The stock responses from the woke similarly reduce every alternate viewpoint to an ethical and intellectual shortcoming – a bigotry, a phobia, or some other hateful failure of mind.

Dawkins is no stranger to this lazy and obnoxious tactic as a response to his comments. His concern for the plight of women in Islamic societies, for example, is invariably painted as hatred of Muslims. Similarly, his philosophical approach to the abortion question has been preposterously characterised as a hatred of people with Down Syndrome.

This is now the standard response, reflexively extended to anyone who takes a position that diverges from the accepted Social Justice dogma. Objections to the policy demands of the BLM movement or the tenets of Critical Race Theory are likewise deemed to stem from racism towards black people. It is therefore no surprise that anyone expressing a concern for the rights of women to be afforded spaces free from the presence of males, can expect to have their views painted as hatred of trans people. Ironically for a movement so wedded to the concept of respecting self-identification, it seems pretty blasé about applying all sorts of false, defamatory, and vulgar epithets to others.

Yet Mehta deduces that Dawkins’ concerns about this left-wing lurch into illiberalism, and its willingness to employ smear campaigns as a strategy, amount to nothing more than a fear of their arguments. “That’s because he knows we’re more likely to have a good point. Calling out someone’s bigotry doesn’t create Trump supporters” announces Mehta in a rebuttal which misses the point in quite spectacular fashion.

It’s not “calling out bigotry” that people object to – it’s the calling out of non-existent bigotry. It’s accusations of bigotry being misapplied. It’s the denial among people who should be natural political allies that there can ever be reasonable and thoughtful differences of opinion on topics of this nature. It’s the abandonment of calm and sensible dialogue in favour of slander and threats or the kind of horrific sexualised abuse that tends to greet females who feel they deserve a say in who they share their intimate spaces with. It’s the cancellation of dissenters and it’s the physical assaults carried out upon people who object.

If Mehta doesn’t think this intolerance leads to ordinarily left-wing liberals increasingly distancing themselves from the left to precisely the degree that the left continues to adopt this hysterical and dangerous behaviour, I dare say he’s drastically overestimated the popularity of his ideology among the American public.

According to Mehta, if Dawkins – and presumably others like him – are “worried about getting criticised by liberals” they should simply “stop saying idiotic things worthy of that criticism.” However, in his reluctance to explain why Dawkins’ comments were “idiotic” and “worthy of criticism” in the first place, Mehta appears to reveal the game he’s playing. This is not an attempt to educate or elucidate. It’s not an effort to persuade others. It’s yet another tiresome exercise in attacking his favourite target whilst advertising his own righteousness. And it’s been conducted on the basis that Dawkins has expressed a view that many liberals, and much of wider society hold on this topic.

If this view is wrong, and if one of the most recognisable and celebrated contemporary biologists is fundamentally wrong about biology, then that needs a solid and detailed rebuttal, not an unsupported diatribe and a demand for unquestioning submission. But then that might entail some actual effort – not to mention the possibility of failure.

Far from the hate-filled transphobes of Hemant’s imagination, intelligent people who align with Dawkins’ on this subject generally have no issue addressing trans people by their preferred appellations. They tend to have no problem acknowledging their identities or accepting their right to hold them. They will invariably sympathise with the predicament trans people face in a society structured around gender binaries. They will treat them with compassion and kindness, and they will insist on the protection of their rights as they would for those of any other citizen. But the protection of rights and the ethical treatment of other human beings does not necessitate that people be compelled to recite falsehoods as facts.

Yet that is precisely the demand Mehta and his ilk are making. Compassion, empathy and kindness towards trans people are clearly not enough – people must adopt and espouse as gospel, precepts that they know to be untrue.

Mehta is well within his rights to identify that as a liberal position if he so chooses – but that doesn’t make it one and I refuse to refer to it as such.

3 thoughts on “Richard Dawkins Upsets the Trans Lobby

  1. I’m still trying to work out how, when, and why Hemant Mehta got infected with such an anti-skeptic worldview. Was he always such a hack and a fraud? I sense it could be a mixture of things: election of Trump (this event seemed to screw up the minds of countless so-called skeptics); pressure from far left extremists to conform to their view, amid threats of accusations of being a “Nazi”, “fascist”, etc.; his Jeopardy appearance(s); financial motives…?

    Anyway, I enjoyed the line about how Hemant believes he can lecture people who don’t fall “within his parameters of acceptable skeptism”, since he operates completely outside of skepticism, these days. It was also amusing to see that tweet about him moaning at Dawkins during a “deadly pandemic”, which is something of a “dear Muslima” from him. At the same time he tweeted that, he was writing about Ark Encounter several times a week. And still does!

    Oh, and Hemant’s FA site increasingly resembles Pharyngula, with a regular horde of unquestioning TRA/CRT cultists residing in the comments there.

    Hemant’s descent has been one of the sadder and alarming cases of once reasonable liberal/skeptic voices throwing the towel in and taking up the New Religion.

  2. I used to be a fan of Hemant Mehta, but yes he seems to have abandoned skepticism, so I don’t visit his blog or follow him anymore. He’s a smart guy, does he really believe this nonsense, or is he just scared of being canceled, threatened, and ostracised by his tribe, going along with the crowd for an easy life? I often wonder how the “Athiest/Skeptical Community” got captured. Matt Dillahunty was a surprise as well., I’ve been watching ACA shows for many years, but no longer.

  3. A fine piece, well said. Logical and reasonable throughout and calmly dissecting the irrational ‘arguments’ of one whom we previously assumed to be rational.

    Thank you.

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