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Asking for an apology.
August 19, 2009 8:36 PM   Subscribe

Alan Turing, one of the men responsible for computers as we know them today, was persecuted by the British government for being a homosexual.

Richard Dawkins and John Graham-Cumming want the British government to formally apologize.
posted by idiopath (209 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Must Dawkins taint everything?
posted by oddman at 8:44 PM on August 19, 2009


When I used to teach Turing's discussion of AI minds, he was one of the very few authors I gave biographical information about to my students before they read it. I told them the full story of his life, right down to the horrible, tragic end.

One of my prides as a teacher was watching their eyes go from wonder, to anger, every semester.
posted by strixus at 8:48 PM on August 19, 2009 [44 favorites]


Why just apologise about Turing? Why not the UK's previous law and policy about homosexuality? Plenty of people were caught up in it - Oscar Wilde, for example.
posted by djgh at 8:49 PM on August 19, 2009 [23 favorites]


Must Dawkins taint everything?

Yes, that horrible Richard Dawkins! How dare he taint such a righteous cause! Doesn't he know that his long background of criminal acts and tireless works to degrade the cause of human knowledge and human welfare make him unsuitable to-

Oh, wait, what?
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:50 PM on August 19, 2009 [69 favorites]


Doesn't he know that his long background of criminal acts and tireless works to degrade the cause of human knowledge and human welfare make him unsuitable to-

Doesn't he know that his tireless work openly trying to bring an end to religion hurts the cause of equality for homosexuals by making it seem like gay rights is an anti-God movement?
posted by The World Famous at 8:53 PM on August 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


Alan Turing also made valuable contributions to biology. Turing's paper The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis [PDF, 1.2 Mb]. A guide to Alan Turing and morphogenesis.
posted by wobh at 8:53 PM on August 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


I rather liked "Breaking the Code", a play about Turing's life and unfortunate ending.
posted by dylanjames at 8:57 PM on August 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ah, again the pseudo-philosopher comes to the rescue of the real genius.

And yes, an apology will surely take back the poison apple...

Ok, snark aside. I get what they are doing. But seriously - and something Obama is kind of right about - using public money and time to go through each and every wrongdoing in history is a serious waste of time. We'd be better off to invest those resources in making sure this sort of thing doesn't continue in the future.

And I find it rather appalling that for some reason Turing, just because he was a prominent philosopher, is somehow more worthy of an apology than all the other millions of gay people prosecuted under various governments - and for that matter the billions of people wrongly prosecuted for so many reasons.

Doesn't Dawkins have another airport philosophy best-seller to write? Seriously.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:08 PM on August 19, 2009 [9 favorites]


I'm fairly certain that the religious types were already making the cause of equality for homosexuals seem like an anti-God movement before Dawkins got involved.
posted by hippybear at 9:10 PM on August 19, 2009 [43 favorites]


I'm fairly certain that the religious types were already making the cause of equality for homosexuals seem like an anti-God movement before Dawkins got involved.

So the way to advance the cause is to prove the religious types right? Yeah, great idea.
posted by The World Famous at 9:12 PM on August 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Honestly, if the involvement of non-believers is somehow going to poison the gay-rights movement, then the cause is lost before it has begun. I don't see anywhere within the linked article about Dawkins where he is linking his aggressive atheism to his interest in an apology for Turing. In fact, both of the men seem to be mourning the loss of a genius years before his time and not trying to make statements about spirituality as part of gay rights or not.

Should we thrust out any and all persons who are not religious from participating in moving forward equality for all within whatever countries may be lacking in this regard? I think that is doing a terrible disservice to the movement at large, and is insulting to non-believers who have worked tirelessly to seek justice within society.
posted by hippybear at 9:16 PM on August 19, 2009 [26 favorites]


Doesn't he know that his tireless work openly trying to bring an end to religion hurts the cause of equality for homosexuals by making it seem like gay rights is an anti-God movement?

Let's play the new game that's sweeping Metafilter: CHOOSE YOUR OWN RESPONSE! Rather than receive a single response and be cheated of other responses, the new commenting technology that powers CHOOSE YOUR OWN RESPONSE allows you to receive MULTIPLE RESPONSES and choose your favorite! In today's episode, you get to choose two of the following three responses- a 100% increase in responses recieved and a whopping 300% increase in choice delivered directly to you through the power of your web browser!

Today's choices are:

a) Yes, anyone who has one unpopular opinion should avoid speaking up about other unpopular opinions! Participation in the public discourse is only for people with popular opinions and extremely mild versions of unpopular opinions!

b) You know what, you're right. Dawkins' participation or nonparticipation could make a big difference in whether or not homophobic assholes associate homosexuality with ungodliness, an association that doesn't already exist in nearly 100% of homophobic assholes' minds!

c) Haha, seriously?

Choose wisely!

Disclaimer: CHOOSE YOUR OWN RESPONSE is not played for any tangible prizes and all prizes awarded have no value- cash, moral, rhetorical, or otherwise. All responses may simply be restatements of the others. Void where prohibited. Not for oral ingestion.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:18 PM on August 19, 2009 [48 favorites]


I didn't know the background of Turing's unfair treatment until I read Cryptonomicon.
posted by bardic at 9:18 PM on August 19, 2009 [7 favorites]


To be fair, the suicidal philosopher is not exactly...ahem...ahem...an anomaly (lest us not forget Camus)...and even if it was fucked up of the British gov't to hate on Alan's sexual preferences, I truly doubt that this was the sole issue involved in his suicide.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:20 PM on August 19, 2009


Honestly, if the involvement of non-believers is somehow going to poison the gay-rights movement, then the cause is lost before it has begun.

It's not a question of "involvement." It's a question of self-appointed leadership. And describign Dawkins as merely a "non-believer" is either deliberately misleading or reveals ignorance as to who Dawkins is.

I don't see anywhere within the linked article about Dawkins where he is linking his aggressive atheism to his interest in an apology for Turing.

Yeah, he doesn't have to. He's Dawkins. He is a poster boy for aggressive evangelist atheism. A poster boy.

Should we thrust out any and all persons who are not religious from participating in moving forward equality for all within whatever countries may be lacking in this regard?

No. But that's a cute straw man.

We should not encourage the poster boy of aggression against God to appoint himself representative of gay rights. The cause of gay rights has been advanced significantly in recent years by people who have made in-roads to religious organizations and helped to change churches' minds on their own position toward homosexuals. That is real progress.

I think that is doing a terrible disservice to the movement at large, and is insulting to non-believers who have worked tirelessly to seek justice within society.

Well, since nobody here is suggesting thrusting out any and all persons who are not reliegious from participating in moving forward equality, you don't really need to get bent out of shape about that in response to what I actually am saying.

(That said: Why is it so hard for governments to just apologize for doing bad things in the past? It's maddening.)
posted by The World Famous at 9:24 PM on August 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Pope Guilty: I like how instead of offering an interesting, nuanced perspective, you wrote...that comment. wha??? Please tell me that - of all posts - this thread won't be reduced to an argument about boolean algebra and truth.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:24 PM on August 19, 2009


The original Turing Test was written as a computer pretending to be a woman, and a man pretending to be a woman. This is not the formulation we know and use today, instead we ask computers to imitate people, and people to simply be themselves.

I wonder if people too quickly write off Turing's original AI test structure as the product of being a gay man in straight society, and miss the insight his personal experience might have brought to the table. Turing's version requires the computer to engage in deception, while the person we assume to be intelligent must simply exist.
posted by pwnguin at 9:28 PM on August 19, 2009 [14 favorites]


Why is it so hard for governments to just apologize for doing bad things in the past? It's maddening.

World Famous: with all due respect, you're joking, right? I mean, history reveals no more universal, objective (I really mean ubiquitously agreed upon) truth than the present craziness between the...um...right offering genuine arguments against health care reform and the left.

Can you imagine what would happen if Obama came out and was like, "I'm really sorry to all of the families whose children died in Iraq. That was pointless and totally fucked up. You guys really got screwed."

While true, that would be political suicide.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:28 PM on August 19, 2009


Lutoslawski: he was forced to take a hormonal "treatment" that would chemically castrate him. A known side effect of this treatment is severe depression.

They gave the guy a drug that causes depression and took away his ability to get horny, take away his job, and humiliated him publicly, I would speculate that this has more to do with his demise than some generic philosopher's tendency to suicide.
posted by idiopath at 9:28 PM on August 19, 2009 [33 favorites]


Lutoslawski: he was forced to take a hormonal "treatment" that would chemically castrate him. A known side effect of this treatment is severe depression.

They gave the guy a drug that causes depression and took away his ability to get horny, take away his job, and humiliated him publicly, I would speculate that this has more to do with his demise than some generic philosopher's tendency to suicide.


I concede, that's fair.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:30 PM on August 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


Again, I don't see anywhere in this where Dawkins is saying that he's setting out on a tour of the UK in favor of gay marriage. He's making a specific statement about how government oppression of formerly (and currently) loathed minorities can have a direct impact on the development of scientific progress, and is using the example of Turing to make his point.

We may just have to agree to disagree about this. It appears, from where I sit, that you have a specific chip on your shoulder against Dawkins. I could care less about his spiritual practices, or absence of such as the case may be. But any time someone stands up and says that someone was treated as a loathed minority and that was a bad thing, I'm glad to see them do so.

And if you take my words earlier as "getting bent out of shape", your sensitivity meter is calibrated far too high.
posted by hippybear at 9:30 PM on August 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


An official apology for arguably Britain's greatest WWII hero* is long overdue. Dawkins occasionally rubs me the wrong way... but I have to take my hat off in this instance. Other than not being a UK citizen, I don't really have an excuse for not doing this first.

*This needs to be a bumper sticker
posted by Rat Spatula at 9:31 PM on August 19, 2009 [7 favorites]


Also, it occurs to me that IBT might have been better advised to select Turing as their "NHS writes off scientists" example than the currently alive and British physicist Hawking.
posted by pwnguin at 9:34 PM on August 19, 2009


Doesn't he know that his tireless work openly trying to bring an end to religion hurts the cause of equality for homosexuals by making it seem like gay rights is an anti-God movement?

Huh. The usual complaint about Dawkins is that "vocal atheists shouldn't speak out about evolution, because they might scare off more of the fundamentalists." But I suppose there was nothing unique about "evolution" in that argument; it extends to "vocal atheists shouldn't speak out about anything controversial".

What a horrible idea.

And what a ludicrous choice of audience for you to attempt to shut up! Does it ever work? "Oh, yes, I have been spending quite a bit of time attempting to convince people that they're wrong about their entire epistemology, the meaining of life, and many of their most fundamental beliefs, but I'll happily be silent about that 'science is right' and 'bigotry is wrong' stuff!"
posted by roystgnr at 9:37 PM on August 19, 2009 [13 favorites]


I concede, that's fair.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:30 PM on August 19


Now that you've admitted you haven't even read the links, can you kindly leave this thread to people who have a genuine interest in it? Thanks in advance!
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:41 PM on August 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


Doesn't Dawkins have another airport philosophy best-seller to write? Seriously.

Much, much worse things people could be reading in airports:

- Dan Brown
- Glenn Beck
- Some, I dunno, astrology book probably
- Dianetics
- The Bible
posted by fleetmouse at 9:41 PM on August 19, 2009 [10 favorites]


Huh. The usual complaint about Dawkins is that "vocal atheists shouldn't speak out about evolution, because they might scare off more of the fundamentalists." But I suppose there was nothing unique about "evolution" in that argument; it extends to "vocal atheists shouldn't speak out about anything controversial".

Not at all. Vocal atheists should speak out about whatever they want to speak out about. But when the most high-profile, evangelizing atheist in the world speaks out about something that religious people are just starting to warm up to, I think it is pretty close to undisputable that that particular atheist could, conceivably, be hurting the cause.
posted by The World Famous at 9:42 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


So the way to advance the cause is to prove the religious types right?

Religious types would have little difficulty martyring themselves with or without Dawkins' help. Saying that Richard Dawkins is hurting civil rights by getting involved is disingenuous and unhelpful.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:43 PM on August 19, 2009 [8 favorites]


Pope Guilty: I like how instead of offering an interesting, nuanced perspective

There is no "interesting, nuanced perspective" on the matter that has validity. Telling people who are right about something to shut the fuck up simply because you don't like them is an asshole move, end of story, full stop. Not every issue and position is improved with the addition of nuance and the middle ground is not always the correct position.

And if you believe that the answer is always in the middle, I would like to know exactly how much rape you believe we should have. After all, "no rape whatsoever" is an extremist position, way out on the edge of the range of possible positions about how much rape there should be!
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:44 PM on August 19, 2009 [24 favorites]


To whom does Richard Dawkins, that notorious materialist, believe the apology ought to be addressed?
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:44 PM on August 19, 2009 [19 favorites]


Telling people who are right about something to shut the fuck up simply because you don't like them is an asshole move, end of story, full stop.

I agree. Did somebody do that?
posted by The World Famous at 9:46 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


To whom does Richard Dawkins, that notorious materialist, believe the apology ought to be addressed?

And who should give it? Winston Churchill?
posted by neuron at 9:50 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I may attempt to nudge my own thread slightly, Dawkins may be a more notable public personality, but Graham-Cumming was the guy who originally started the petition.

I found one thing in particular interesting in his initial call for the apology: he admits to homophobic tendancies. Not that he hates gays, but homosexuality grosses him out, and he feels uneasy with the concept of gay adoption on a gut level. I find it notable to see that kind of stereotypical straight guy overlooking his prejudices and leading a gay rights campaign.

On preview, Joe in Australia: in his channel 4 interview linked on his homepage, Dawkins says that the British government should apologize for the way this great man of science was treated, because he could have done so much more for society if he lived longer, and he is asking for the apology to come in the form of an endowment for Bletchey park, the late Mr. Turings former workplace.
posted by idiopath at 9:51 PM on August 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


*make that Bletchley Park
posted by idiopath at 9:53 PM on August 19, 2009


Must Dawkins taint everything?

Assuming it's kept in a presentable state, I'm sure Mr Turing would have been delighted by Mr Dawkins' taint. Much nicer to chow down on than a poisoned apple, at any rate.
posted by eatyourcellphone at 9:54 PM on August 19, 2009 [7 favorites]


Did somebody do that?

You're implying that Dawkins should silence his views about civil rights, because of your claim that he hurts our cause. Come on, now.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:55 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I were an aggrieved party looking on from the afterlife, I'd probably prefer that the government stop being shitty to people who are alive than apologize to those who are dead. I'd probably also realize there's not a snoball's chance in hell of that happening, so I'd take the apology for what it's worth and go shag an angel... or something.

See: Canada's apology to the indians, and all the child raping it undid.
posted by klanawa at 9:56 PM on August 19, 2009


Despite my antipathy for Dawkins, I don't buy the criticism that he's hurting the cause - I doubt his involvement will seriously sway anybody one way or another.

I agree with djgh that it's goofy to push for a specific apology to Turing, rather than a blanket apology to all persecuted homosexuals.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:58 PM on August 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


We should not encourage the poster boy of aggression against God to appoint himself representative of gay rights.

Sorry, but what are you talking about?

Someone speaking up in favor of something, even passionately, does not make them a "self-appointed leader" of whatever movement they're an ally of. That is your interpretation, and it does not square with reality.
posted by rtha at 10:02 PM on August 19, 2009 [12 favorites]


The British government should apologize to ME for the horrible accommodations at Gatwick during all those layovers.

I mean, can a gay man get a decent place to relax, please?

(Oh, and the Turing thing too, thx.)
posted by darkstar at 10:18 PM on August 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


PEOPLE WHO AGREE WITH ME ABOUT ONE THING, BUT NOT ABOUT OTHER THINGS NEED TO SHUT UP, BECAUSE OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT ALIENATE A THIRD GROUP WHO DISAGREES ON THE FIRST THING BECAUSE IF THEY FOUND OUT THERE WERE PEOPLE WHO DISAGREED WITH THEM ON TWO OR MORE THINGS IT WOULD JUST BLOW THEIR MINDS, AND MY THING IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING OUT THERE!!

Also Mo-oom!! Stop embarrassing me!
posted by delmoi at 10:21 PM on August 19, 2009 [11 favorites]


PEOPLE WHO AGREE WITH ME ABOUT ONE THING, BUT NOT ABOUT OTHER THINGS NEED TO SHUT UP, BECAUSE OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT ALIENATE A THIRD GROUP WHO DISAGREES ON THE FIRST THING

I take it the assumption here is that all religious people are anti-gay-rights, then? Or are you just being dramatic? As I said above, the gay rights movement has made significant progress with religious people in the last few years. But I guess if someone is both adamantly anti-religion and pro-gay-rights, it might make sense for them not to care if religious people perceive the gay rights movement as being anti-religion.

I don't love that people seem to be ignoring the point that I actually have made and instead replacing it with an extreme point that I did not make or even imply but that they chose to infer. I suspect that if it was not Dawkins, but instead was someone who you all hate with a white-hot passion, you wouldn't be so histrionic in trying to shout down my actual, reasonable, point.
posted by The World Famous at 10:31 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


God botherers have a problem with Dawkins? What's that got to do with Dawkins involvement with this petition? Cause they'd totally approve, except, darn, it's DAWKINS!!!!!!!ONE!!UNO!!!

Dawkins position is not just all about "gay" - it's about hated minorities. Why Dawkins? Because he has a special angle - in his view, it hurts science. And as such his involvement is totally not arbitrary. He opposes the religious world view, because - among other reasons - such a view hurts the progress of science. He opposes the persecution of minorities, because - among other reasons - it hurts the progress of science. Gays were (and often still are) a persecuted minority - and Alan Turing was a very prominent example of that. That hurts science. Dawkins is passionate about the welfare of science. See a pattern yet?

It is utterly appropriate for Dawkins to be involved in this. He has every right to do so, and he's not jumping on any bandwagon, and he's not hijacking any cause. He is being quite consistent.

You don't like his efforts? What have you done for the cause? You think there's a better way - go to it, make yourself useful.
posted by VikingSword at 10:36 PM on August 19, 2009 [12 favorites]


(Which is not to imply that I hate Dawkins with a white-hot passion. I don't.)
posted by The World Famous at 10:37 PM on August 19, 2009


I don't love that people seem to be ignoring the point that I actually have made and instead replacing it with an extreme point that I did not make or even imply but that they chose to infer.

Look at what you fucking wrote:
Doesn't he know that his tireless work openly trying to bring an end to religion hurts the cause of equality for homosexuals by making it seem like gay rights is an anti-God movement?
This has no possible or potential meanings other than "Dawkins should not advocate for gay rights because his associating with the gay rights movement will taint the movement in the eyes of the religious." I don't know what you meant to say, but what you typed is on view for everyone to read.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:38 PM on August 19, 2009 [11 favorites]


What is your point?

Should the actual leaders of the gay rights movements (in the UK? The US? Everywhere?) tell Dawkins to sit down and stop talking in favor of gay rights, because he might offend people?

Should the actual leaders of the gay rights movements tell religious allies "Sorry about that guy saying he's in favor of gay rights; we know he's said things that offend you and we're sorry he's in favor of this thing all of us are in favor of."
posted by rtha at 10:42 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Apologies for some! Miniature British flags for others!
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:46 PM on August 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


It is utterly appropriate for Dawkins to be involved in this.

I did not say it is inappropriate.

He has every right to do so

I said nothing to the contrary.

You don't like his efforts?

I'm not bothered by them. I realize that the gay rights movement is not anti-God.

Gays were (and often still are) a persecuted minority - and Alan Turing was a very prominent example of that. That hurts science. Dawkins is passionate about the welfare of science. See a pattern yet?

I do. See above.

This has no possible or potential meanings other than "Dawkins should not advocate for gay rights because his associating with the gay rights movement will taint the movement in the eyes of the religious."

It has its actual meaning, which is not that he "should not advocate for gay rights," but is that his vocal advocacy in this instance is, likely, harmful to the cause. What he should or should not do is his choice. Unless you reject the notion that it is possible for someone's advocacy of a cause to hurt that cause because of their public persona, I don't see how you can be so adamantly in disagreement about this.

I don't know what you meant to say, but what you typed is on view for everyone to read.

What I meant to say is what I said. And the fact that you have to restate it differently to make it say what you are pretending it meant is telling.

Should the actual leaders of the gay rights movements (in the UK? The US? Everywhere?) tell Dawkins to sit down and stop talking in favor of gay rights, because he might offend people?

If I were them, I would, yes. Just like, if I were Obama during the election, I would have told Jeremiah Wright to shut up.

Should the actual leaders of the gay rights movements tell religious allies "Sorry about that guy saying he's in favor of gay rights; we know he's said things that offend you and we're sorry he's in favor of this thing all of us are in favor of."

That's a good idea, too, yes.
posted by The World Famous at 10:48 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I suspect that if it was not Dawkins, but instead was someone who you all hate with a white-hot passion, you wouldn't be so histrionic in trying to shout down my actual, reasonable, point.

Ayn Rand on Homosexuality: "I do not approve of such practices or regard them as necessarily moral, but it is improper for the law to interfere with a relationship between consenting adults."
posted by benzenedream at 10:51 PM on August 19, 2009


I did not say it is inappropriate.

What exactly are you saying? Why are you coy about your point. Just say it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:56 PM on August 19, 2009


What exactly are you saying? Why are you coy about your point. Just say it.

Seriously?
posted by The World Famous at 10:58 PM on August 19, 2009


Seriously! You consistently challenge every interpretation of your words. If you're trying hard not to be ambiguous, you're not doing a great job.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:59 PM on August 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Can I flag this whole thread as a derail?
posted by klangklangston at 11:00 PM on August 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


Seriously! You consistently challenge every interpretation of your words. If you're trying hard not to be ambiguous, you're not doing a great job.

I'm saying that Dawkins' high-profile advocacy hurts the cause. That's all.
posted by The World Famous at 11:01 PM on August 19, 2009


And I'm also saying that the British government should just apologize, give the funding, and get on with progress.
posted by The World Famous at 11:02 PM on August 19, 2009


If the supposed "friendly leaning" religious folk would suddenly turn to enemies, because they learned Dawkins-The-Devil is advocating such an outrageous position as apologizing for persecuting an innocent man to his death, then I suggest you are overestimating how friendly they are. If your support for basic human rights is so fragile, that this will push you over the edge into enemy territory, your "support" is not worth wasting a puff of air on. Gay people are people - with all the flaws and all the glory of any human being - or do you need them to be saints, to accede to their basic right? And never even mind the gay people themselves being saints - all their supporters need to be saints too in exactly the ways you deem saintly. This is beyond absurd, and I'm not going to waste any more time on this dining table.
posted by VikingSword at 11:09 PM on August 19, 2009 [8 favorites]


If you can't beat 'em: Dawkins is a grandstanding asshole who tends to make Atheism all about Dawkins, and promotes some pretty shitty rhetoric toward religious people.

The concerns that I think the World Famous is having are twofold, that Dawkins will use this Turing petition to promote his own agenda, and that religious folks who favor gay rights will be disadvantaged by having Dawkins as part of the conversation, since he's a huge distraction.

Some things that're forgotten frequently, especially here, are that religious people, especially Christians, are an essential demographic in policy debates, and that religious people aren't all of one mind about homosexuality. The Anglicans, of particular note in England, are fairly liberal regarding gays (supporting gay marriage, gay priests, and currently trying to allow gay priests to marry since there's some theoretical celibacy for gay Anglicans priests right now).

Which means that, especially as atheists lack the political punch of Christians, it makes sense as a tactical decision to want to limit Dawkins' involvement, just like how if you want to do something good for the black community that depends on the goodwill of Jews, limiting Louis Farrakhan's involvement is a wise tactical decision.
posted by klangklangston at 11:10 PM on August 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


just like how if you want to do something good for the black community that depends on the goodwill of Jews, limiting Louis Farrakhan's involvement is a wise tactical decision.

Richard Dawkins is no racist, and does not incite people to violence. He may be abrasive, but that's not a crime (yet). I don't think your comparison between Dawkins and Farrakhan is valid. In fact, I find it rather offensive.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:12 PM on August 19, 2009 [12 favorites]


I mean, that's not even the same ballpark. Jesus.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:15 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think your comparison between Dawkins and Farrakhan is valid.

I don't think you understood the comparison.
posted by The World Famous at 11:26 PM on August 19, 2009


I don't think you understood the comparison.

I think I understood it fine.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:35 PM on August 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


I wanna join the campaign for the LAPD's apology to George Michaels. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go was a work of genius too.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:36 PM on August 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Anyway, the British government should apologize, not just for Turing, but for everyone they mistreated. As for the funding, that makes it a more complicated political issue, but there's no good reason why they can't apologize first and fight over funding later. There are a lot of people, governments, and groups that should join the British government in apologizing for mistreating homosexuals, as well. If I were a British citizen, I would sign that petition in a heartbeat (and I hate petitions).
posted by The World Famous at 11:40 PM on August 19, 2009


Hey, if more religious people had taken up Turing's cause, Dawkins' involvement would be a minor footnote. It's a testament to the separation of religion and morality.
posted by mullingitover at 11:41 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


And if you believe that the answer is always in the middle, I would like to know exactly how much rape you believe we should have. After all, "no rape whatsoever" is an extremist position, way out on the edge of the range of possible positions about how much rape there should be!

God I hope you're not insane enough to believe that the opposite of two extremes is the median.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:43 PM on August 19, 2009


Much, much worse things people could be reading in airports:

ah yes...he's better than Glenn Beck. That gives him credibility.

Wait what?
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:47 PM on August 19, 2009



God I hope you're not insane enough to believe that the opposite of two extremes is the median.

Sorry, I think I meant dense, instead of insane. Well, both actually.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:48 PM on August 19, 2009


Doesn't Dawkins have another airport philosophy best-seller to write? Seriously.

Aw, c'mon. I'm seriously considering inviting you to get fucked. But I'm too polite for that. Just saying. If I were someone else.

(See how you can't actually pin me down to telling you to get fucked there? Clever, no?)
posted by sourwookie at 11:51 PM on August 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


"I don't think your comparison between Dawkins and Farrakhan is valid. In fact, I find it rather offensive."

Hey, how about that? I mean, to hear Farrakhan tell it, his words have generally been misrepresented to give a false impression of anti-Semitism, in large part because of his anti-Zionism. But don't worry, I'm sure supporters of Farrakhan would find it just as offensive. (And no, I think you did still miss the point.)

"And if you believe that the answer is always in the middle, I would like to know exactly how much rape you believe we should have. After all, "no rape whatsoever" is an extremist position, way out on the edge of the range of possible positions about how much rape there should be!"

Because I'm not a giant goddamn moron, I think we should have some rape. We should have some rape because the consequences of preventing all possible rape would be so onerous as to be untenable. Does that mean I think rape is good? Not unless you're a dishonest asshole trying to shoehorn an emotional argument through when you can win by logic. For future reference, one of those "Hey, it's a disingenuous asshole!" moves is to use "rape" as your default "super extra bad thing." Some less inflammatory options that still work: murder, theft, arson, dog-fighting and delinquent library borrowing.
posted by klangklangston at 11:53 PM on August 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


Now that you've admitted you haven't even read the links, can you kindly leave this thread to people who have a genuine interest in it? Thanks in advance!

Sorry, man, I was too busy reading the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus in another window and, given that it's been awhile since I last read through the complete biographies of all philosophers ever since the beginning of time , I happened to miss this bit. And you're right, I should probably stick to the general mefi philosophy of sticking by an opinion no matter what anyone else says to the contrary....I mean, isn't that the way truly genuine, interesting threads are made? Seriously, I totally agree with you, profound and deep truths are derived from that old dialectic of 'fuck you!' No! 'Fuck you!' No! 'Fuck...'

Grow up.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:01 AM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


delinquent library borrowing

Even mentioning that hurts the cause.
posted by The World Famous at 12:02 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


We should have some rape because the consequences of preventing all possible rape would be so onerous as to be untenable.

Okay then, how much slavery? How much genocide? For the Christians in the room, how many people should go to hell?
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:07 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good god. I feel like that Native American (actually Italian) in the 1970s PSA, where he's shedding a tear...only it's not a field of trash I'm looking at, but the smoldering debris and shambles of this thread.

If you're going to sodomize the thread like this, at least give us all a reach-around and link to some puppies or something.
posted by darkstar at 12:09 AM on August 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


This could hgave been interesting - and the post was - but some of you fuckheads ought to be ashamed of yourselves. Get your on Dawkins-hate-blog, arseholes.
posted by rodgerd at 12:09 AM on August 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


Sorry, man, I was too busy reading the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus in another window

...and we have our flame-out seed, Ladies and Gentlemen!
posted by sourwookie at 12:09 AM on August 20, 2009


somebody here (starts with an "L") is goddamned determined that everyone knows he (she, it, whatever) reads philosophy.
posted by klanawa at 12:10 AM on August 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


As to why Turing? Well, he's an actual war hero. And he was totally unjustly treated. The latter ought to be more important than the former, but it isn't, sadly.

There are precious few people who can resonably be considered to have done as much to protect Britain and overthrow Hitler as Turing. The grotesque nature of the injustice done him is obvious enough that many people who might have an automatic, knee-jerk opposition to any more broad apology would be swayed to see why it is deserved. From there it's a lot easier to spread out to a broader revisiting of wrongdoing - like, say, opening the concentration camps and then reimprisoning the people with pink triangles.
posted by rodgerd at 12:17 AM on August 20, 2009


This could hgave been interesting - and the post was - but some of you fuckheads ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

Nothing's stopping you from contributing to the interesting thread that you think could have been. What do you have to say?
posted by The World Famous at 12:18 AM on August 20, 2009


Anyway, the British government should apologize, not just for Turing, but for everyone they mistreated.

Exactly what I said in COMMENT NUMBER FUCKING EIGHT! And this would have been an interesting and worthwhile debate. [sigh]
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:18 AM on August 20, 2009


Okay then, how much slavery? How much genocide? For the Christians in the room, how many people should go to hell?

Arguing with you would be like arguing with a dining room table.

Sorry, I really it would be like arguing with just a 2x4.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:21 AM on August 20, 2009


(And no, I think you did still miss the point.)

No, I got your point fine. Your argument was that Richard Dawkins would be better off not supporting a gay civil rights group because of his brusque personality, as much as Farrakhan would be bad for a group that works with support from the Jewish community, because of his bigotry and his incitement to violence.

With respect, that's an awfully weak argument. Those two people's offenses don't compare at all. Even if Dawkins might rub a few insecure religious people the wrong way, he's not going around calling Hitler a great man.

It's a shitty comparison. Just awful.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:21 AM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Get your on Dawkins-hate-blog, arseholes.

No kidding.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:22 AM on August 20, 2009


Even if Dawkins might rub a few insecure religious people the wrong way, he's not going around calling Hitler a great man.

Dawkins doesn't "rub a few insecure religious people the wrong way."
posted by The World Famous at 12:25 AM on August 20, 2009


somebody here (starts with an "L") is goddamned determined that everyone knows he (she, it, whatever) reads philosophy.

Somebody(ies) here are goddamned determined that everyone know he (she, it, them, whatever) doesn't read anything at all.

Oh, and you have a grammar error there, tiger (wink). And you have no idea what sarcasm is.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:26 AM on August 20, 2009


Would now be an appropriate moment to note that every time I listen to Sarah Palin talking, I feel like I'm taking a Turing test?

Paging Dr. Goldfoot...!
posted by darkstar at 12:28 AM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Dawkins doesn't "rub a few insecure religious people the wrong way."

Your objections are really cryptic. Almost purposefully so.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:32 AM on August 20, 2009


To play with your last card first—that's a bit like asking how many people should be in prison. I mean, any Christian will give you the answer that no one should go to Hell. If you've missed that lesson, well, let's just say that it doesn't seem that you Sunday School was accredited by any recognized theology (other problems you may be having: mainline Christianity doesn't believe Jesus was a twelve-foot undead lizard that ate people, also God is love). However, the laws that God has dictated require certain behaviors in order to be legal. It's not just the Christians—pretty much every religion believes this. You may also have missed that at Sunday School, or in comparative religions 101. At the most liberal, that's conceived as Heaven being a magical plane of existence where you feel the full joy of God's love all the time for eternity. Baha'is are pretty explicit about that, with (if I recall correctly) a gradation based on how "good" you were. That's also pretty much the simplest explanation, and the one most stripped of mumbo-jumbo. It's fine if you don't believe it—I don't really myself, but I at least know it's there. So, you follow the rules (which change from group to group—not everyone has to hand out Chick tracts and lick iguana eyes to see their mystic souls) and you get the reward of constantly being in God's light. If you don't follow the rules, well, then, you don't get that, and different sects disagree on whether that means just an eternity absent that love, a slow-roasting on hickory sticks, or just a do-over in the body of someone exactly like you but a little shorter and clumsier—it really depends on how magical the people were when they codified their mumbo-jumbo, and how much time they've had to jigger it around and make it more or less crazified.

As to your first two, well, slavery's bad… because it deprives people of economic freedom? Personal freedom? I mean, I think that I can tolerate a bit of domestic slavery—because, again, enforcement is onerous—and quite a bit more wage slavery, but I think we should probably do something about outright owning of black people, you know, if we haven't gotten around to that. I mean, I'm really just taking a wishy-washy position so that you can turn to your friends and say, man, I totally hate the American institution of slavery as it existed primarily in the 1800s up to the end of the Civil War way more than this guy! Then you can do all those fancy high five maneuvers you've practiced with your buds.

How much genocide? Well, globally, not a tremendous amount, but it's not my top priority. I mean, I think that Bush should have ignored Iraq despite the arguable genocide of the Kurds—you were all for Bush's intervention to stop that, weren't you?—and invaded the Sudan instead, in part because it would have been more efficacious to do so. After that, well, I was for the intervention in Bosnia, I generally support putting more pressure on China regarding their treatment of ethnic minorities, and I think that while it may not technically be genocide, the Israeli treatment of Palestinians at least raises serious ethical problems regarding our complicity. Oh, and we probably should have sent troops to Rwanda too. Regarding other genocides, well, I'm not sure there's a lot we can do regarding, say, ethnic subgroups in Burma, and if Obama asked, I'd say that the Mexican government's treatment of indigenous people in Oaxaca is a low-level war and should be addressed through tough diplomacy. All in all though, I don't think we should start any new genocides until we get the indigenous Americans all killed off here in the states. Then maybe we can start on Canada.
posted by klangklangston at 12:33 AM on August 20, 2009


It's pretty clear that "The World Famous" is against people having opinions at all, given how frantically he's backpedalling when he realized that most other people thinks that his stated opinion makes him look like a big fucking moron.
posted by effbot at 12:33 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Of course Dawkins is involved here, since it's the Paulist sect of Christianity that's mostly responsible for the hatred of gays.

It's a religious problem to begin with. His advocacy seems entirely appropriate.

And yes, of course the British government should apologize. Duh.
posted by Malor at 12:36 AM on August 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


Dawkins doesn't "rub a few insecure religious people the wrong way."

Your objections are really cryptic. Almost purposefully so.


I'm sorry. What I meant was: To say that Dawkins "might rub a few insecure religious people the wrong way" is dishonest and completely stupid, and is a jerky rhetorical device that you employed in a clear attempt to cloud the issues and mischaracterize reality. You're either being stupid, being a jerk, or both. I pick both, because I suspect that you know Dawkins' work well enough to know that that characterization is nonsense. I thought that you would understand the meaning of my comment, since your intent seemed obvious enough to me that I assumed you would understand that I was calling you out. Either you really are completely stupid and don't understand what I'm saying or you're being an ass on purpose. Clear enough for you?

It's pretty clear that "The World Famous" is against people having opinions at all, given how frantically he's backpedalling when he realized that most other people thinks that his stated opinion makes him look like a big fucking moron.

My opinion, as stated repeatedly, is that Dawkins' high profile involvement in the gay rights movement is harmful to the movement, because of his ongoing and high-profile efforts to mock and bring down religion. I stand by that position. If you don't understand that that is my position after reading what I and klangklangston have written, that's your problem. I am not against people having opinions. I am against people hurting good causes by bringing the baggage of their other causes into them.

If I look like a moron to you, there's nothing I can do about that.
posted by The World Famous at 12:42 AM on August 20, 2009


Well, the last thing I'll say is that if the British gov't ends up formally apologizing to Turing, then Blazecock Pileon must formally apologize for being an equally illogical and hating-for-no-reason(s)(ing) entity as well.

I'll get Dawkins to start another petition, if he's not to busy trying to write something more interesting then Glenn Beck.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:42 AM on August 20, 2009


"With respect, that's an awfully weak argument. Those two people's offenses don't compare at all. Even if Dawkins might rub a few insecure religious people the wrong way, he's not going around calling Hitler a great man."

Farrakhan said that Hitler was great at leading the German people to a resurgence, something that reasonable people can differ upon, while also condemning the Holocaust. This was in response to the Anti-Defamation League comparing Farrakhan to Hitler, and Farrakhan said that the only thing they had in common was a desire to raise their people up.

Dawkins didn't shy away from implying that Islam caused 9/11, and who holds that religious faith is literally dangerous to humanity, a position deeply insulting to a huge number of faithful.
posted by klangklangston at 12:44 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, klangklangston, tell that to Turing, who I think would have a rather different opinion of Christianity than the faithful.
posted by Malor at 12:46 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Alan Turing needs to get in line. There's a whole bunch of stuff the Brits need to apologise to, including:

- The whole of the Caribbean, and all Afro Caribbeans.
- Any minority that lives or is living in the UK.
- The Scots, Irish & Welsh.
- The whole of the Middle East.
- Most of Africa.
- The indigenous peoples of America. (Sorry for sending the crazies over dude)
- The indigenous peoples of Australia, New Zealand and (probably) many more places.
- The Chinese.
- France.
- Catholics.
- Protestants.
- Muslims.
- The Greeks.
- Every gay person born before 1960.
- And the Jews. We should be really, really sorry about the whole concentration camp / attempted genocide thing.
- And yes - Alan Turing.
posted by seanyboy at 12:49 AM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


There's a load I missed - I'm sure. The Gurkhas (for example).
posted by seanyboy at 12:50 AM on August 20, 2009


I pick both, because I suspect that you know Dawkins' work well enough to know that that characterization is nonsense.

I'm not going to try to squeeze blood out of a stone to try to get you to explain yourself. Nor am I going to waste any time defending Dawkins, because he's done a perfectly fine job explaining his rational views to anyone who isn't thick as two planks.

For you to argue that he shouldn't express support for GLBT civil rights, only because he has a world view you don't personally like, is intellectually dishonest. Religious nutballs will continue to attack gays and lesbians with or without Dawkins' support.

If you don't like the guy, just GYOFB already.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:51 AM on August 20, 2009 [6 favorites]


Buy me a ticket to England and a shovel and I'll say it to his face.
posted by klangklangston at 12:52 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, I was flagging the hell out of this and trying to move on, but I've changed my mind. Someone preserve this thread for posterity. There's a crucified Richard Dawkins doll in a jar of piss here.
posted by crataegus at 12:53 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually - I take it back. I'm not apologising to France. I think we're pretty even on that one.
posted by seanyboy at 12:56 AM on August 20, 2009


"For you to argue that he shouldn't express support for GLBT civil rights, only because he has a world view you don't personally like, is intellectually dishonest. Religious nutballs will continue to attack gays and lesbians with or without Dawkins' support."

I don't see that as what's happening. The danger of encouraging Dawkins to take any public position is evidenced in this thread—I bet there are more mentions of Dawkins in here than of Turing. He's human troll bait, and I say this with a hook in my lip!
posted by klangklangston at 12:57 AM on August 20, 2009


Dawkins should put himself in a sealed box, then. How dare he hold an opinion, even if holding an opinion hasn't been demonstrated to have hurt anyone. We should all be so lucky to live in a hermetically sealed environment, free of the burden of having our views challenged, or to be troubled with challenging others' views. Better that we place him in an isolation chamber before he destroys gay civil rights WITH THE POWER OF HIS MIND.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:01 AM on August 20, 2009


I'm not going to try to squeeze blood out of a stone to try to get you to explain yourself.

My mistake.

For you to argue that he shouldn't express support for GLBT civil rights, only because he has a world view you don't personally like, is intellectually dishonest.

Oh for crying out loud. I have not argued that, and I have never said that I don't personally like his worldview.

because he's done a perfectly fine job explaining his rational views to anyone who isn't thick as two planks.

I agree 100% with every single word of this statement. 100%.

If you don't like the guy, just GYOFB already.

I do not dislike Dawkins. I think his high-profile involvement in the gay rights movement hurts the cause. I suspect that he and I would get along quite well, though. And I think he's a very good writer and that his views are completely rational and well-thought-out, though I do disagree with some of them.
posted by The World Famous at 1:01 AM on August 20, 2009


My opinion, as stated repeatedly, is that Dawkins' high profile involvement in the gay rights movement is harmful to the movement, because of his ongoing and high-profile efforts to mock and bring down religion. I stand by that position. If you don't understand that that is my position after reading what I and klangklangston have written, that's your problem. I am not against people having opinions. I am against people hurting good causes by bringing the baggage of their other causes into them.

The problem here is that earlier you were making this huge deal, after making a number of very ambiguous statements, that how, hey guys, I don't think Dawkins should shut up, but he's hurting the Gay Rights cause! But I'm not saying his involvement is inappropriate!. It seemed more than likely to many that you're trying to make a point without being able to be pinned down making it. And here in this paragraph I've quoted, you make it very clear that you're against "people" "hurting good causes by bringing the baggage of their other causes into them."

But we're supposed to believe or pretend you don't feel that way about Dawkins?
posted by floam at 1:10 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


The World Famous,

"What? Richard Dawkins is mixed up in this? Well, screw Alan Turing then, I'm glad he killed himself."

What percentage of the British public do you think will actually react this way? 30%? 10%? 5%? 1%?

What percentage do you think would need to react this way such that it would be the case that Dawkins has "hurt the cause"?
posted by Space Coyote at 1:12 AM on August 20, 2009


Also. How do you feel about "flamboyant" gays? Colorful loud parades many homophobes find abrasive? Are you against these people too? How far should we go to accommodate homophobes?

I find this whole basic premise appalling. Black slaves didn't get where they were today by keeping their heads down and "making inroads". And I wouldn't be harping on you so much here, but it's very obvious to me that you really do find such involvement "inappropriate" and are "against" it.
posted by floam at 1:17 AM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


LONDON, 20 August -- The mathematician Alan Turing was awarded an official apology yesterday, in a brief ceremony attended by leading politicians and religious leaders. The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, laid a wreath at Turing's grave, while the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Richard Dawkins, read a brief homily declaring that Turing was formally 'pardoned and absolved'. Yesterday's ceremony was the first step in an official process of canonization which could eventually see Turing's body reburied alongside other famous scientists, including Charles Darwin, in the Pantheon (formerly Westminster Abbey) in London.

The preparations for yesterday's ceremony have been marked by controversy, with some secular groups describing it as 'superstition' and 'mumbo-jumbo'. Interviewed on BBC News, the chairman of the National Secular Society, Dr Rowan Williams, said: 'Frankly, I don't see the point of it all. Turing's dead, after all, so what difference can an apology make? Why can't we just celebrate him for his achievements?' Protesters at the ceremony unveiled banners reading 'Let Turing Rest In Peace' and 'No to Ancestor-Worship' before being dragged away by police.

Speaking last night, the Archbishop defended the ceremony, saying he was 'saddened' that 'a small minority of extremists' had chosen to disrupt 'what was for me a deeply spiritual occasion'. In a statement issued through his official spokesman, P.Z. Myers, he argued that although Turing was dead, 'in a very real sense he lives today in all our hearts'. Yesterday's ceremony, he added, was 'a beautiful piece of symbolism' and 'an expression of universal values'.

Alan Turing was unavailable for comment.
posted by verstegan at 1:18 AM on August 20, 2009 [16 favorites]


And this would have been an interesting and worthwhile debate. [sigh]
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:18 AM on August 20 [+] [!]


Dream the fuck on.

Turing now needs an apology for this thread. (sorry buddy.)
posted by mek at 1:21 AM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's already been pointed out that this proposition is inhumane, in seeking an apology for just one victim of homophobic persecution. Dawkins does have a self-defeating habit of reducing science to being merely religion's like-for-like replacement, complete with martyrs, prophets and all. That's the problem with ironical controversialism. But the culprit here is obviously not religion, but state paranoia, so perhaps we should just chalk this one up to not having thought about it properly: a nicely humanistic explanation that all rational and disinterested folks should be able to get behind.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 1:39 AM on August 20, 2009


"Yeah, he doesn't have to. He's Dawkins. He is a poster boy for aggressive evangelist atheism. A poster boy."
Dawkins profile in the USA may be much more heavily based off The God Delusion and related work than it is in the UK, where he's been a widely recognised scientist for a long time before that book was published. With respect to all the people who think he's "human troll bait" or whatever, his involvement in a British matter needs to be taken with regards to his British media profile, which while heavily skewed by The God Delusion is not completely congruent with his American profile.
posted by edd at 2:05 AM on August 20, 2009 [8 favorites]


The problem here is that earlier you were making this huge deal, after making a number of very ambiguous statements, that how, hey guys, I don't think Dawkins should shut up, but he's hurting the Gay Rights cause! But I'm not saying his involvement is inappropriate!.

I have not made a big deal about anything. When people accused me of saying things that I did not say, I pointed out that I did not say the things that they claimed.

It seemed more than likely to many that you're trying to make a point without being able to be pinned down making it.

I have made the point directly and repeatedly. If there are people who for some reason skipped my direct and concise repeated statement of that point, there's nothing I can do about that. I will not be pinned down as having made some point other than the one that I have made, though. Why would I?

"What? Richard Dawkins is mixed up in this? Well, screw Alan Turing then, I'm glad he killed himself."

What percentage of the British public do you think will actually react this way? 30%? 10%? 5%? 1%?


Probably less than 1%. But I don't live in Britain, so I don't really have my finger on the pulse of British public opinion. But then I didn't say that the harm in Dawkins' high-profile involvement was that people would say that, did I?

What percentage do you think would need to react this way such that it would be the case that Dawkins has "hurt the cause"?

The cause could be hurt even if no one reacts that way. If you didn't pick up on that, then I'm afraid there's nothing more I can do to help you understand. I think klangklangston explained it much better than I have, so I will just refer you to his explanation above. If you still don't get it after reading that, then you're just not going to get it.

Also. How do you feel about "flamboyant" gays? Colorful loud parades many homophobes find abrasive? Are you against these people too? How far should we go to accommodate homophobes?

I'm not against anyone.

I find this whole basic premise appalling. Black slaves didn't get where they were today by keeping their heads down and "making inroads". And I wouldn't be harping on you so much here, but it's very obvious to me that you really do find such involvement "inappropriate" and are "against" it.

Some people think that Farrakhan's tactics are harmful to civil rights moving forward, and other people think that, even if he's offensive, it has benefits. Some people can reasonably think that Dawkins playing a high-profile role in the fight for gay rights hurts the cause, while other people can reasonably take the position that, even if he is offensive and alienates people who might otherwise be sympathetic, that it's worth it just to have him there. That's fine.

It's even fine that you find my opinion "appalling." I'm sorry you're appalled. Surely, though, you can understand how religious organizations that might be on the fence on the gay rights issue (and there are many) might be less inclined to stand along side someone who openly makes a living speaking out against God than they would be to stand along side, say, pretty much anyone else, can't you? If, for example, getting some high-profile religious organizations to support the effort to have Britain apologize to Turing would help politically (I don't know if it would or not), would it not be wise to send someone other than Dawkins as an emissary to persuade them?
posted by The World Famous at 2:11 AM on August 20, 2009


Turing was a genius. And while all the wrongly persecuted should receive apologies, some funds for Bletchley Park would be a fitting tribute to the man who basically saved Britain in WW2.

I went to Bletchley Park a few months ago. It's falling apart. The place was abandoned after the war and has fallen into terrible disrepair. It's still open to the public, and operates solely on donations, as far as I can tell.

Bletchley Park houses a few museums, including the National Museum of Computing. It's a very worthy cause- and considering how much money Britain spends on historic sites, Bletchley Park's decrepitude is an absolute travesty.

Something like this thread.
posted by Monsters at 2:19 AM on August 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


Surely, though, you can understand how religious organizations that might be on the fence on the gay rights issue (and there are many) might be less inclined to stand along side someone who openly makes a living speaking out against God than they would be to stand along side, say, pretty much anyone else, can't you?

Well, standing along side is quite different than what's occurred here. He's not becoming a major voice when it comes to gay rights. This is quite a small deal, and I don't think it's worth even considering if it will affect major churches in the US. Would you feel any different if instead of Dawkins, this was an outspoken Hindu? They may also aggressively push the lack of an existence of such an on-the-fence believers' God. Dawkins just goes one further.
posted by floam at 2:21 AM on August 20, 2009


I would like to ease the tension in this thread by telling my Manchester Joke:

Guy 1: "Well, he got his way in the end, didn't he...?"
Guy 2: "Who?"
Guy 1: "Alan Turing."

Badoom, and if you will allow me to make so bold, crash!
posted by Jofus at 2:26 AM on August 20, 2009


Gay people are people - with all the flaws and all the glory of any human being - or do you need them to be saints, to accede to their basic right?

Exactly.

I see some similarities between the "keep Dawkins out of gay rights crowd" and those religious folks who explain that they don't hate homosexuals, just homosexual acts. That is, the types that can grudgingly accept gays, but only if the gays are saints -- or if not saints, then at least non-threateningly non-sexual, neutered for the bigots' comfort.

You know, the delightful people who tell you they don't hate gays, in fact they just love Brucie their fabulously camp hair-dresser -- as long as said Brucie never tries to get uppity and do things that only "real people" are allowed to do, like publicly acknowledge his sexuality or, god forbid, get married.

We saw a lot of that in Prop 8: the waitress who didn't understand why all her wonderful gay customers could object to -- even oh no! get angry over -- her funding a campaign to deny them rights.

This seems to me to be pretty standard bigot move: as long as "those people" keep in "their place", we can grudgingly allow them their flaws, even pretend to "support" them.

As long as the blacks make haste to call us "sir", sing in their minstrel shows, don't get uppity and don't move next door, we'll agree that lynching is cruel and excessive. As long as gays are amusingly camp, publicly sexless swishes, and stay in the Castro, and don't try to adopt or get married (those things are reserved for "real" people), we'll unenthusiastically agree that killing Matthew Shepard was, you know, a "bad thing to do, (though sotto voce I heard that that fag provoked it by coming on to his killers)".

And then in this thread, we have another sort of bigot, the kind who "don't hate atheists (why bother, they're going to Hell anyway!)" as long as those atheists keep quiet and don't get militant and uppity -- like that horrid, out-of-the-closet, uppity, disrespectful Richard Dawkins!

Bigots, religious or not, believe in the Great Chain of Being, and believe that they're at the top of it, allowed to move in next door anywhere, to publicly express their sexuality by announcing the Banns and getting married in front of the community and with its sanction, and to express their opinion on anything. "Lesser" people, lower down the Chain, can't be allowed that full range of action and expression -- that would be bad for the community, it would upset the "natural order" of things.

If we allow "them" to arrogate themselves to full personhood, those uppity "others" might get the idea they're as good as us! Keep the blacks in their ghettos, keep the gays from marrying, and keep the atheists quiet! Shut that Dawkins up!
posted by orthogonality at 2:41 AM on August 20, 2009 [31 favorites]


Turing basically saved Britain in WW2?

I thought the Americans did that.
posted by the cuban at 3:16 AM on August 20, 2009


We should be ashamed of ourselves for this thread. We're talking about one of the intellectual giants of the 20th century here who was hounded to his death by his own government and we're yammering on about Dawkins? This is the best conversation we could have on this topic? Really?

Fuck.

idiopath: great post.
posted by Skorgu at 3:24 AM on August 20, 2009 [12 favorites]


I think there is a level at which The World Famous is being misinterpreted.

Imagine I am standing in a field holding a cinderblock over one foot. I'm flexing my fingers and looking rather bored with the whole exercise. My attention span is notoriously short. I might, at any moment, simply forget to hold onto the block.

The World Famous: If you let go of that cinderblock, your foot may shortly be in great pain.

Many seem to interpret this as "That guy is saying you have to hold onto rocks."

No. He's pointing out that, here, in this specific instance, consequences may exist that you would not like. He's not attempting to make a broad statement about holding onto rocks, nor he is trying to curtail my rock-releasing freedom, making a play for my rights to drop stones, or introducing legislation forcing me to clutch cinderblocks.

He's suggesting a possible consequence, not using the dreadful OUGHT.

The sensible part of the discussion might revolve around questioning whether letting go of the cinderblock would cause my foot to be in great pain. Do we know that cinderblocks are affected by gravity? What if I have a prosthetic limb? Is the cinderblock directly over my foot, or is it off a bit? Am I wearing a sturdy, steel-toed workboot with a firm shank?

To bring it back to this topic, the questions would be, now that we have hypothesized a potential source of harm, 1) is there a realistic chance, supported by a predictable mechanism that Dawkins involvement might cause any harm, and 2) if we could have two worldlines, one with Dawkins' involvement with this cause and one without, would the harm (if such could be measured) outweigh the benefit from having someone like Dawkins promoting it?

Only after that would one reasonably begin to discuss what we "ought" to do about that Dawkins runnin' his mouth with seditious talk, scarin' the children, etc; The World Famous seems to stop short of that.

The THAT MEANS YOU'RE SAYING HE SHOULDN'T SAY THIS bits seem to come along only if you're someone who believes in limiting speech because of its potential consequences.
posted by adipocere at 3:34 AM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dawkins is a highly respected public intellectual in the U.K. and a professor at Oxford university. You'll observe that the petition is directed solely at U.K. citizens. So nobody cares what some American religious fanatics think about Dawkins. His opinion about Bush's lapdog Tony Blair seems perfectly respectable, btw.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:44 AM on August 20, 2009 [12 favorites]


WOw this thread s now completly un-readable.

I find it sad, because Turing is one of the few world class intellectuals that Britain produced in the 20th century. Moreover, he would still be alive (83) now, having sent years promoting and popularising British computing. Not discounting the undoubted contributions he could still be making in applied mathematics, logic and philosophy.

And lets not just think that he was 'hounded', they forced the guy to have a chemical castration for ****'s sake. And he was a war hero! It is a horrible, depressing event. I know these oppolgies are controversial, but actually the way that its phrased for 'the consequences of prejudice', I find very appropriate.
posted by munchbunch at 4:07 AM on August 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


This seems to me to be pretty standard bigot move: as long as "those people" keep in "their place", we can grudgingly allow them their flaws, even pretend to "support" them.

In other words, "separate but equal".
posted by acb at 4:10 AM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'll also remind people that Dawkins' The Selfish Gene has been a major influence encouraging young people into entering biology, especially the mathematically gifted people needed by epidemiology and biotech.

I don't think you can say that Stephen Jay Gould influenced this exceedingly valuable group nearly so effectively. So I'm pretty sure any objective assessment of Dawkins contribution to humanity will be quite impressive, despite his time being mostly wasted discrediting priests & morons.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:14 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


But I agree with munchbunch! Admins should just move every off-topic post here over to metatalk, replacing oddman's with the link to that metatalk thread. Alan Turing was a god.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:18 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Having watched both U-571 and Enigma, I'm confused as to why all you Brits are getting so uptight about a man who (unlike Tom Jericho) wasn't even at Bletchley Park and who helped do a little bit of work on a Cryptography Machine that was ultimately captured by us Americans.

YOU SHOULD THANK US. AND SAY NO TO THE GAY CONSPIRICIST HISTORY CHANGERS.
posted by seanyboy at 4:33 AM on August 20, 2009


And everyone forgets his contribution to cycling. He invented the Turing Bike, which could theoretically take you anywhere, but you couldn't be sure it would stop.
posted by eriko at 4:38 AM on August 20, 2009 [9 favorites]


You're all honestly telling me that we couldn't even get ten comments into a thread before it got derailed?

Was I really the only one who thought oddman was making a joke?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:46 AM on August 20, 2009


Turing is one of the few world class intellectuals that Britain produced in the 20th century.

That isnt true.
posted by the cuban at 5:07 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think it's interesting that The World Famous is worried about religious-minded people being scared away from a pro-gay cause, but not glad about the scientifically-minded people being attracted to it because of the famous figurehead.
/derail


The story of Turing has always fascinated me - I had wondered before why two of the opposing powers in WWII would both treat homosexuals as despicable, as people who had something wrong with them.

One thing governments should apologize for is the pseudo-scientific reasoning trotted out as justification for such treatment; we all know that the Nazis and their ideas of the innate superiority of the (heterosexual, of course) Aryan race were wrong, but what about the British mindset? What were their reasons, and why shouldn't they spell out in public what caused them to change their minds, and where they stand now?
I'm not trolling here, but governments are, after all, responsible for making the laws under which we live - why shouldn't we be able to call them out and make them justify their positions?
posted by PontifexPrimus at 5:17 AM on August 20, 2009


Alan Turing also made valuable contributions to biology. Turing's paper The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis [PDF, 1.2 Mb]. A guide to Alan Turing and morphogenesis.

Beat me to the post! I just read of this in Sean Carroll's Endless Forms Most Beautiful. Genius stuff.
posted by inoculatedcities at 5:21 AM on August 20, 2009


I find it sad, because Turing is one of the few world class intellectuals that Britain Humanity produced in the 20th century.

FTFY.

Of all the terrible things the British government did in the past 100 years, the death of Touring ranks near the top in terms of pure, unmitigated evil and reeking ingratitude, and in the scope of its impact, depriving Humanity of a dynamic and productive genius cut from the same mold as Newton. Fuck Einstein - as much as I love the guy, he was a very small second-fiddle to Turing in terms of impact to everyday lives of people all over the globe. Turing was the mathematical and scientific genius of the 20th century, and they castrated and killed him for falling in love with the wrong people.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:21 AM on August 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


PEOPLE WHO AGREE WITH ME ABOUT ONE THING, BUT NOT ABOUT OTHER THINGS NEED TO SHUT UP, BECAUSE OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT ALIENATE A THIRD GROUP WHO DISAGREES ON THE FIRST THING
I take it the assumption here is that all religious people are anti-gay-rights, then? Or are you just being dramatic?

-- The World Famous
The "Third group" in my example would be people who are religious and anti-gay rights. Obviously there are religious people, who don't fall into that group, and they don't fall into it then they aren't really relevant to the example.
If the supposed "friendly leaning" religious folk would suddenly turn to enemies, because they learned Dawkins-The-Devil is advocating such an outrageous position as apologizing for persecuting an innocent man to his death, then I suggest you are overestimating how friendly they are. If your support for basic human rights is so fragile, that this will push you over the edge into enemy territory, your "support" is not worth wasting a puff of air on.
-- VikingSword
Yes, the "We can't offend the weak supporters!" argument is always stupid. The other side is always going to do everything it can to push their buttons and break their support no matter what they do. In the Atheism example, if one million atheists are nice and polite to religious people, the anti-atheists will always hold up the example of the single really annoying one. If there are a million polite pro-gay activists, gay rights opponents will always highlight the most abrasive one.

---

Anyway, back to the point of this thread, I wonder if the people who actually persecuted Turing even knew what he had done, since it was all classified stuff at the time.
posted by delmoi at 5:23 AM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


It is also worth mentioning that Turing invented the modern computer so that he could break the Nazi Enigma code, which in turn allowed us to win the battle of the Atlantic.

Yes, that's right, this man who founded the field of computer science and saved the free world from the Nazis was later persecuted for being gay. British authorities basically forced him to undergo chemical castration, and he wound up so depressed that he killed himself.

Good job, UK Government of the 50s. Way to treat a hero.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:48 AM on August 20, 2009


Can't we all agree? Richard Dawkins on Hogans Heroes: good. Richard Dawkins as host of Family Feud? Not so good.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:00 AM on August 20, 2009


It isn't beyond the pale that the people persecuting him knew that he was providing a service to his country. In the United States, aren't we kicking gay translators out of the military, even though we're desperately short of translators for our latest "war effort"?

Remember, kids, homosexuality is such an abomination that even ultimately self-destructive consequences must be completely ignored in our valiant campaign to stop the gayness!
posted by adipocere at 6:19 AM on August 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


I apologize unreservedly for everything I've done and will do that future generations will think is wrong.
posted by MarshallPoe at 6:20 AM on August 20, 2009


Turing was the mathematical and scientific genius of the 20th century

Ok, I'll play devil's advocate here.

Turing was not a lone genius, generating unique, unrepeatable insights - rather, computation was simply an idea whose time had come. The bombe (tellingly, the Turing–Welchman bombe in Wikipedia) built upon the Polish bomba machines. Other people were floating around at the time (and before) who arrived at many of the same conclusions Turing did (I'm thinking of von Neumann and Konrad Zuse, but you can include many of the early pioneers).

Turing's modern reputation owes much to Andrew Hodges' 1983 biography. If there was a similarly compelling biography of von Neumann... well, the von Neumann architecture, a practical design, has had a bigger impact on the development of modern computers than the Turing machine, a theoretical construct.
posted by Leon at 6:24 AM on August 20, 2009


Meta. Should have done it sooner.
posted by idiopath at 6:31 AM on August 20, 2009


If Dawkins is helping some pro-gay-marriage types to understand that there is no god, well, that's OK with me.
posted by Cookiebastard at 6:36 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dawkins is a grandstanding asshole who tends to make Atheism all about Dawkins

Huh? Examples, please.
posted by grubi at 6:48 AM on August 20, 2009


I learned about Alan Turing when I was taking a computer architecture class some 24 years ago. There was a discussion regarding some of the tricks you could use in writing assembly language and Turing was brought up as an example of someone who wrote self-modifying code. I felt a certain kinship because in isolation, I had invented that on my own when I was 13. Then when I started hitting his real work, it was clear that the kinship was not on the intellectual level. Self-modifying code is a tool you use when you can't have reasonable tools to start with. I'm nowhere near his league, even with his shoulders to stand on.
posted by plinth at 6:56 AM on August 20, 2009


Application for grant money
HYPOTHESIS: "Richard Dawkins' high-profile advocacy hurts the anti-gay discrimination cause."
METHODOLOGY: No evidence offered. No experimental approach outlined. When pressed, the applicant replied "I'm just sayin', is all."
RECOMMENDATION: Nil funding.
posted by Ritchie at 6:57 AM on August 20, 2009 [6 favorites]


I find it sad, because Turing is one of the few world class intellectuals that Britain produced in the 20th century. Moreover, he would still be alive (83) now

He'd have been closer to 100 if he was still alive today. He was born in 1912.
posted by dng at 6:59 AM on August 20, 2009


BTW - The probable reason that Dawkins is getting involved in this is because he's currently working on a documentary about Turing. Y'all over thinking this. Nobody cares that Dawkins can have two separate opinions about two separate things.
posted by seanyboy at 7:04 AM on August 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wow. Talk about a perfectly good thread ruined by someone trying to grandstand their unpopular opinion. Did anyone have their opinions changed during all that?
posted by hippybear at 7:05 AM on August 20, 2009


Fun fact about Alan Turing: he had a personal best for the marathon of 2 hours 46 minutes, which was pretty close to Olympic standard for the time. Sometimes, when he had to attend a meeting in London, he'd run the 40+ miles from Bletchley Park.
posted by flashboy at 7:22 AM on August 20, 2009 [13 favorites]


von Neumann architecture, a practical design, has had a bigger impact on the development of modern computers than the Turing machine, a theoretical construct

Actually, Claude Shannon was the guy everyone should be thanking. His A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits basically gave the world the modern-day computer. Not theoretically, but actually. He was the guy who showed how all boolean logic systems could be implemented electronically.

Not surprisingly, he and Turing were best friends when Turing came to the States to help with decryption during the war.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:30 AM on August 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


Turning away your allies because some other people find them distasteful for an unrelated and perfectly legitimate opinion is some callow-ass bullshit.

Good to see the cowards self-identify in this thread at least.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:31 AM on August 20, 2009


hippybear: yeah, but not about Turing or Dawkins
posted by jtron at 7:31 AM on August 20, 2009


Jesus H. Motherfucking Christ on a nuclear-powered pogo stick. I'm glad I missed this one.

The World Famous, you've complained many times in this thread that people are deliberately ignoring your points, replacing them with strawmen, etc.

But I see the same thing everyone else sees: you made a brash, unsupportable statement; people called you out; and you've spilt about ten thousand words trying to maintain your point so you can keep the haughty high ground, and to disclaim any accountability for the exact same point so you don't have to answer any objections to it. It's kinda weird.

If I'm totally mistaken about that, then at the very least you need to work on your communication skills—because I'm having a hell of a time seeing anything else in your words, and it sounds like a lot of others are in the same boat. Maybe we are all too petty and stupid to appreciate your genius—or maybe you just don't know what you're talking about and/or don't know how to communicate your point intelligibly.

Just something to consider.
posted by ixohoxi at 7:38 AM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is the best Nerd Thunderdome we've had in weeks.
posted by DWRoelands at 7:41 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


flashboy, that is just about the best thing I've heard in a bit. Thanks for sharing that. :D
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:44 AM on August 20, 2009


If the argument really is that certain people-of-faith would support gay rights if it wasn't for that dreadful Dawkins fellow sharing the same opinion, words fail me.

As others have said, the anti-homosexual agenda is at core a religious one. It is therefore hardly surprising that a vocal atheist would also raise his voice in defence of gay rights.

And placating the religious right always works so well!

One of the consequences of these recurrent Metafilter-religion threads is that I'm becoming less and less sympathetic to the religious viewpoints. As a lapsed xian I used to be profoundly sympathetic, but being continually scolded for stepping on the toes of the religious sensitivities of people who believe in various kinds of magick on account of something written down in a book by someone a whiles ago is turning me right off.

Increasingly I think Dawkins is right, based not on his arguments, but those of the faithful.
posted by unSane at 7:47 AM on August 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm saying that Dawkins' high-profile advocacy hurts the cause. That's all.

From where I'm sitting, the only one in this entire thread who is discussing Dawkin's "high-profile advocacy" in the first place is you. The rest of us seem more than happy to set Dawkin's "High-profile advocacy" aside for the sake of discussing the cause itself alone.

So from where I'm sitting, you're the only one being distracted by Dawkin's "high-profile advocacy", and the rest of us were well on our way to having a productive discussion about the cause before you talked about Dawkin's "high-profile advocacy".

...Which actually tells me that you've had a greater impact on derailing a discussion about whether Turing should be forgiven than Dawkins did, because he hasn't said jack-squat in here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:47 AM on August 20, 2009 [8 favorites]


Hey everybody, you've probably already heard this (and it's almost certainly just an urban legend), but do you remember the original Apple logo? Yeah, the rainbow apple with a bite taken out of it? Some people say that's a Turing reference. You know, what with the rainbows and the gays and the poisoned apple and all.

Yeah. Urban legend. But a pleasantly nerdy one.
posted by ixohoxi at 7:54 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually the original Apple logo was something more classical. I can't speak to the Turing rumors for the rainbow one, but it's an interesting idea.
posted by echo target at 7:59 AM on August 20, 2009


ixohoxi: it's a great story, but probably untrue. Apple computer was established in 1976 and incorporated in 1977, and the gay pride flag was designed in 1978. So either Apple waited over a year to design a logo until the original pride flag had been created, or else it simply didn't happen that way.

Still, it's a good story.
posted by hippybear at 8:00 AM on August 20, 2009


Wow. Talk about a perfectly good thread ruined by someone trying to grandstand their unpopular opinion. Did anyone have their opinions changed during all that?

posted by now i'm piste at 8:01 AM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well, this has certainly been a disaster. To get the obvious falsehoods out of the way here. While Dawkins is certainly the most visible atheist intellectual at this time, I'd be hard pressed to call him a "leader" as he does not appear to run either the British Humanist Association or the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

He's not appointing himself a leader of a cause that he admits to being reluctant to embrace, he's endorsing a single-issue petition based on government recognition of a prior injustice. Clinton and Obama have publicly endorsed some gay-rights measures, but we don't call them gay-rights leaders for it.

And, of course, we are talking about the UK here, in which neither public atheism nor fundamental civil rights for LGBT people are quite as controversial as they are in the states. To argue that Dawkins should not comment on the politics of his own country because it might offend people in the United States demonstrates a profound jingoism, and I've not heard strong arguments that his involvement hurts this particular cause in a country that already has same-sex unions.

We should not encourage the poster boy of aggression against God to appoint himself representative of gay rights.

Except that he didn't. Dawkins is not Joe Solomonese, Harvey Milk, Barney Frank, Ellen Degeneres, or Sandy Tsao. He's commenting as a straight man and a scientist. And while he's an outspoken atheist, he's also an outspoken advocate for science education and inquiry.

And personally, I really doubt that many people in the religious left and middle are going to be swayed by a statement by Richard Dawkins. Many of them are comfortable with religious pluralism, and know that atheists and humanists have different opinions regarding gay rights.

I feel I must put forth that I'm not a Dawkins fan and I find his critiques of religion to be flawed, because he's too strongly wed to his bullshit theory of psychology. But I find the level of venom towards him to be extreme and unwarranted.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:02 AM on August 20, 2009


re: Apple and Gay Rights. Of course, didn't the 70s have rainbows on everything? Rainbow icees. Rainbow suspenders on Mork. Rainbows on Pink Floyd album covers.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:10 AM on August 20, 2009


I wonder if people too quickly write off Turing's original AI test structure as the product of being a gay man in straight society, and miss the insight his personal experience might have brought to the table.

Well, I am reading my way down this thread but all I can say here is -- huh? Otherwise, what monsters said.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:15 AM on August 20, 2009


*blink*

It's happened again -- was I also the only one who thought ixohoxi was kidding?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:15 AM on August 20, 2009


I almost linked to this article in the post, but the framing seemed a bit offensive. Yeah, go ahead and pardon him, let him off the hook for being gay, since he was such an upstanding fellow otherwise.
posted by idiopath at 8:21 AM on August 20, 2009


Huh? I wasn't kidding; the Turing/Apple thing is an actual rumor. (Actual rumor—heh. You know what I mean.)

I don't believe it, but it's clever enough that it's fun to imagine, for a moment, that it is true.
posted by ixohoxi at 8:25 AM on August 20, 2009


ixohoxi: you [The World Famous] need to work on your communication skills

I think The World Famous was incredibly clear, fwiw. He's saying that the slowly growing acceptance of homosexuality in religious circles will be hampered by a very notable atheist and anti-religion campaigner taking up the cause of gay rights. I can't see how that is hard to understand. When someone who is an ideological enemy (as Dawkins is to religious people) argues for a given cause, that cause is less likely to be embraced by those at odds with that person. Duh.

And since almost all anti-gay sentiment and political action comes from the religious community, which means the real battle for gay rights is in the hearts and minds of religious people, it seems to me to be a relevant observation.

This is not of course to say that the cause is lost because Dawkins has jumped into the fray, or that everyone who doesn't believe in God should excuse themselves from the discussion; it's just an observation that humans, in general, are more likely to be persuaded on any given topic by someone they consider an ally and not an enemy.

I also can't see how Blazecock Pileon's continued misrepresentation of The World Famous' position, and his misdirection and strawman-filled rants, can be seen as anything but trolling. Well, I take that back; it could just be stupidity. (Seriously, BP, your reaction to the Farrakhan comparison is mind blowing; you might as well object to it because Dawkins is white and Farrakhan is black, they're not anything alike! The point is that extremists can have a negative effect on the causes they advocate for, because they alienate people who might otherwise be persuaded.)
posted by ericost at 8:30 AM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


The original Turing Test was written as a computer pretending to be a woman, and a man pretending to be a woman

he had a personal best for the marathon of 2 hours 46 minutes

Too soon for a Caster Semenya joke?
posted by joe lisboa at 8:32 AM on August 20, 2009


ericost: Meh. I disagree, but I'm not interested in continuing that conversation—if there was something to be achieved by having it here and in this context, I think it would have been achieved by now. This is a train wreck of a thread and it should die.

Dawkins is peripheral to the post anyway. I don't understand why he stirs up such resentment—even in circles which are otherwise happy to condemn religious fundamentalism, such as MetaFilter.

And I'm not interested in having that conversation, either :)
posted by ixohoxi at 8:35 AM on August 20, 2009


You know who else needs to shut up about gay rights? Homosexuals, that's who. Religious men like me can't stand those dirty shirt-lifting, fudge-packing bastards, with their sticking each others hot throbbing cocks in their tight, lubed-up man-holes.

Religious people would be happy to support gay marriage if it wasn't for all those muscular, hard-bodied men that I see, going into that sinful club across the street which is so dark that it's probably possible for a man to go in there anonymously and pick up another man -- a young man of, say, 19 or so -- and without anyone you know seeing you, and without either exchanging a word, those two men could be locked in a passionate embrace, kissing and rubbing and sucking and fucking and exchanging precious bodily fluids. The kind of fluids that our Lord said a man must only exchange with a woman after marriage for the purposes of procreation, but which taste so, so good when a 6'5" leatherman is delivering them down the back of one's throat, and you struggle, but there's no possible way that you can resist because he's so much stronger than you are. *cough*

*takes cold shower*

Anyway, if all those dirty motherfuckers would just shut up about gay rights, then maybe I'd be able to finally banish these compulsive fantasies that I've been having, and someone could cure their sins and make them whole, and um.. that's all I've got, really.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:35 AM on August 20, 2009 [9 favorites]


I think The World Famous was incredibly clear, fwiw. He's saying that the slowly growing acceptance of homosexuality in religious circles will be hampered by a very notable atheist and anti-religion campaigner taking up the cause of gay rights. I can't see how that is hard to understand.

Oh, we all understood what The World Famous was saying, alright.

We just all disagreed that it was enough of a problem to worry about.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:38 AM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Pete, I've wondered along similar lines: Why Do All These Homosexuals Keep Sucking My Cock?
posted by ixohoxi at 8:40 AM on August 20, 2009


In the United States, aren't we kicking gay translators out of the military, even though we're desperately short of translators for our latest "war effort"?

Ugh, and don't get me started on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Way to treat the people who are willing to give their lives for their country. Way to go America, way to go.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:44 AM on August 20, 2009


This is the best Nerd Thunderdome we've had in weeks.

Yeah, since the science fiction/racism one. I had to have a drawstring installed in my rectum after that.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:51 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why he stirs up such resentment—even in circles which are otherwise happy to condemn religious fundamentalism, such as MetaFilter.

Well, for one thing, Dawkins doesn't agree with the general liberal line that a person's religious beliefs affect only that person and are therefore exempt from criticism or serious scrutiny; as such he offends not only the religious but those who hold that (fairly popular) viewpoint. There's also the fact that he's a very high-profile person who is unapologetic about his beliefs, and you can score easy "I'm so reasonable! I'm one of the good ones!" points with religious people by slagging him off- said points being something that liberals have been very concerned with scoring ever since the conservatives started insisting that religion is a conservatives-only club.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:52 AM on August 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


- The Bible
posted by fleetmouse at 9:41 PM on August 19 [8 favorites +] [!]


One of the worst side effects of the fervent, over-loud extreme religious right is the broad-brush painting of everyone else who chooses to believe in the existence of God. Please reconsider your opinion here, as it does nothing to improve the relationships we have with one another.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 8:55 AM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


PeterMcDermott, Sir Norman Fry would agree.
posted by ob at 8:56 AM on August 20, 2009


benzenedream: "Ayn Rand on Homosexuality: "I do not approve of such practices or regard them as necessarily moral, but it is improper for the law to interfere with a relationship between consenting adults.""

Interesting.

If anything, I think it's worth bringing up people and perspectives like that more often rather than less, just to show that lots of people with widely varying political/social/economic philosophies can nonetheless see fit to stay out of the bedrooms of others.

Also, although some may not consider Rand's view to be exactly optimal, there are a lot of heterosexual people who are never, ever going to be entirely OK and unsquicked-out by the idea of homosexuality, at least not in the foreseeable future. That sort of grudging acceptance—'I don't quite like it and it's not my cup of tea, but I don't think it's the government's business one way or the other'—would be a big step forward.

Statements like Rand's, while they may appear (and to a certain extent, are) wishy-washy, allow people to disconnect their feelings on what official government policy should be from their personal feelings on various sexual practices. Showing people that it's okay to support nondiscrimination while maybe not being totally down with guy-on-guy buttsecks (that being the behavior in particular that engenders the most revulsion; female homosexuality doesn't seem to do it quite so much for whatever reason) takes away a powerful weapon from the anti-gay crowd.

Plus, it lets you point out that the anti-gay position is more extreme than Ayn Rand, which is really saying something.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:14 AM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


This might be inflamitory, I apoligize if it is.

i kind of see Dawkins like Jesse Jackson. Both have done some good/great things, both have a lot of detractors and both seem to be attention whores which rub a lot of people the wrong way, which sometimes get in the way of whatever message they are trying to spread.
posted by edgeways at 9:21 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


For fuck's sake I wake up in the morning to read a nice thread about Alan Turing, and all I get is a bunch of people arguing about Richard Dawkins. Go away.

To make it up, here's a photo of a happy nude Alan Turing. Or at least, it claimed to be on the CS professor's Turing tribute website I copied it from over 10 years ago. I've got no record of where I got it now, sadly.
posted by Nelson at 9:25 AM on August 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


OK I opened the Dawkins derail meta thread that I linked above hoping that it would help other discussion get some breathing room, but it seems there is nothing to talk about here other than Dawkins.

In the future, if I wanted to post about something that Dawkins was prominently involved in, would it be OK to just start the meta flamewar thread first then link to it in the fpp pre-emptively? I don't see how else we could have an intelligent discussion about anything Dawkins gets involved in.
posted by idiopath at 9:28 AM on August 20, 2009


ericost: The World Famous's point is clear. However it relies on fundamentally false claims about the relationship between Dawkins and the Turing-apology movement, and overly-simplistic claims about people's political attitudes and how they are shaped. The driving forces of the gay-rights movement within religious congregations are increasing numbers of gays and lesbians living openly out of the closet, and grass-roots awareness and activism groups within religious congregations. Attitudes in regards to LGBT people are complex, deeply personal, and are unlikely to be significantly swayed just to be contrary to a hated celebrity.

The whole point is the Turing (and perhaps many others) had their lives and careers cut short due to historic prejudice by the U.K. government. Recognizing the wrongness of those actions and being willing to address existing bias is what's critically necessary here.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:49 AM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


I am deeply bothered by the idea of formal state apologies.

They strike me as an extremely convenient fiction for both politicians and activists, yet they change nothing and right no wrongs. Politicians can use them to boost support among this or that constituency extremely cheaply while making no substantive policy or legislative changes. Armchair activists can burn energy fighting for a bunch of essentially empty words in a resolution or speech which may or may not make it to the status of a soundbite depending on how slow the news is that day. On the following day nothing will have changed.

If people want to campaign for the British government to apologise to Turing, it's meaningless unless it is a campaigning tool used as an addendum to something specific, tangible and of lasting value, such as erecting a statue to him on the fourth plinth of Trafalgar Square, funding Bletchley Park as a museum and educational resource centre, or finally legalising gay marriage. Or all three.
posted by motty at 10:11 AM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm of mixed feelings on state apologies.

For one thing, they do nothing to undo the wrongs of the past, most if not all of the people who actually owe or are owed apologies are long dead, and they're kind of a waste of taxpayers' money and legislators' time and energy.

On the other hand, maybe they aren't apologies per se, and maybe they're not for the dead. Think of them as an acknowledgment that the thing happened, that it was bad, and that the entity making the acknowledgment must remain vigilant to ensure that it doesn't happen again—a reaffirmation of principles, lest we forget the lessons of the past.

Those who scoff, saying "yeah, right—that'll make everything better", are missing the point. It's not supposed to make everything better, and no one has claimed that it will. But acknowledging one's country's mistakes seems better to me than sticking one's head in the sand and pretending they never happened.

On the third hand, I don't really want my government spending all its time apologizing for everything uncool that's ever happened under my flag. An official acknowledgment of American slavery is entirely appropriate, for example—but if Congress is expected to revisit the issue and re-apologize every couple of years, then it's starting to interfere with more important and productive activity.

On the fourth hand, why should it be the government which apologizes? Slavery and institutionalized homophobia were hardly limited to government agencies; they were ingrained in the cultures of the time. The government's policies were reflections of the general social consensus. Maybe everyone should apologize.
posted by ixohoxi at 10:40 AM on August 20, 2009


I have to admit I lost track but are people still totally missing the point of The World Famous?
Here's the thing if I'm going out in public to advocate for gay rights, and a well known ant-Semite gets up on the stage with me to also advocate for gay rights I'm going to want him to get off the stage. Because while he might not in that appearance be shouting "those stupid Jews", his reputation proceeds him. Just because he is on my side in this issue, doesn't mean I want him representing along side me.

Except Dawkins does't just shit on Judaism, he shits on all religions. He isn't just someone who doesn't believe in a god. He is a guy who thinks you're an idiot if you do believe in a god, AAMOF if you believe in a god you're part of the problem with this world. He's not much of a middle ground kind of man, he has even addressed Christians who are scientists and totally accept evolution because of it's undeniably within the world of science and called them foolish. As if the only way to accept evolution, the only way to think and behave in a rational way is to forsake any concept of a god.

See how he might not be a helpful voice in this, even if he is correct in this case?
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:42 AM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


The World Famous is a fellow American, and is imagining what the response to Dawkins lending his name to this will be *based on America's bat-shit looney-tunes religiosity and knowledge of Richard Dawkins*; in America, Dawkins is A GOD-HATER WHO WILL EAT YOUR CHILDREN... except to those Americans who have some small measure of intelligence and ability to think critically. (Or those Americans who have never heard of the guy.)

An American yammering on about whether Englishman Richard Dawkins should take part in a British campaign to get the British government to apologize to an Englishman who did Englishy things during WWII, in England, was probably where this thread went to hell. Especially since England has a significantly more atheist population than America.

So, on behalf of the Americans on the Blue, I hereby issue a formal apology to the Brits. And the gays. And the dead.

And just like anything the British government might do at this point, this formal apology comes way, way too late.

(I saw Sir Derek Jacobi play Alan Turing in Breaking the Code on Broadway. It was good. The guy who plays Dr. Wilson on House and the guy who played Chief O'Brien on Star Trek were in it.)
posted by tzikeh at 11:09 AM on August 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


ixohoxi: On the fourth hand, why should it be the government which apologizes? Slavery and institutionalized homophobia were hardly limited to government agencies; they were ingrained in the cultures of the time. The government's policies were reflections of the general social consensus. Maybe everyone should apologize.

The rationale is that it was specifically the government's prosecution of Turing that led the decline of his mental health and suicide. While certainly there was widespread homophobia in the 1950s, the government holds the smoking gun in this case.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:17 AM on August 20, 2009


Civil_Disobedient: "Actually, Claude Shannon was the guy everyone should be thanking. "

Indeed, it is possible to overstate Turing's accomplishments. A fine mathematician yes, but not working in isolation. Much of the work done during the war was classified, after all. You can learn about some of it here; and Shannon's thesis was actually classified for some time.

On the other hand, von Neuman architecture is responsible for a large percentage of security flaws: when you have no distinction between data and code, it's no surprise that people might mix code with data they provide, and not in the fun you-got-peanut-butter-in-my-chocolate way. We're slowly erasing it with NX bits and minimizing impact of it with virtualization, but it's probably necessary at some levels to treat them identically (compliers, assemblers etc).
posted by pwnguin at 11:34 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


To whom does Richard Dawkins, that notorious materialist, believe the apology ought to be addressed?
How about apologising to his (probably numerous) living relatives, trite boy?
posted by genghis at 11:38 AM on August 20, 2009


Guy_Inamonkeysuit: "Well, I am reading my way down this thread but all I can say here is -- huh? Otherwise, what monsters said."

I posted that tired and without sufficient meditation, but the part you quoted I stand by. The Turing test as it's applied today is whether a computer can blend in with humans in some way, typically chat rooms. Modern "Turing Tests" don't require humans to lie, only computers. I think people thought it was sexist and strange, excused it and invented this slightly different system.

And I stand by this, in light of recent findings suggesting that lying carries an detectable "cognitive load".

Basically, not only are we training computers to blend in with humanity, we're also training them to be better liars than we are. Evil robot apocalypse is closer than you think!
posted by pwnguin at 11:45 AM on August 20, 2009


he is asking for the apology to come in the form of an endowment for Bletchey park, the late Mr. Turings former workplace

I do hope this happens. I didn't get a chance to see much when I visited England, but I did save my pennies to visit Bletchley Park and I was saddened by its poor condition. I ended up spending more than I had planned in the giftshop because I felt so bad for them.

I do wonder how Alan Turing is portrayed in British textbooks. Does anyone know? Do they discuss his homosexuality and the reason he died? If nothing else, I think the official apology might open the way for a more complete presentation of his life in schools if it isn't explained already.
posted by Mouse Army at 11:47 AM on August 20, 2009


>I have to admit I lost track but are people still totally missing the point of The World Famous?

Yes.

(Can we please make it a rule that no one is allowed to bitch about Dawkins unless they've actually read his books and heard his case?)

Dawkins doesn't attack people; he attacks ideas. I doubt very much that he regards (everyday, non-suicide-bombing) religious people as evil and contemptible; rather, he regards them as human beings who have unfortunately fallen victim to a rather virulent and insidious social meme.

Dawkins doesn't casually and gratuitously "shit" on religion; he makes a nuanced, 460-page argument (in The God Delusion—not to mention his other books and his innumerable speaking engagements) which examines the issue from may different angles, considers many of the counterarguments, and concludes that whatever benefits religion offers are not worth its costs. He doesn't advocate any kind of discrimination or violence, and he doesn't make anything resembling a claim that religious people are lesser than the non-religious. He merely makes the argument that people would be better off without religion, and should cast it off of their own free will, for their own benefit.

If that makes him comparable to an anti-Semite in your view, okay, but I still don't understand what your point is. He's not "on the stage with" you; he's on his own damn stage, and he can put on whatever kind of show he likes.

Will some people have greater reservations about gay rights because Dawkins supports them? I have a really hard time believing that anyone whose views are so powerfully and negatively swayed by Dawkins' endorsement would be sympthetic to gay rights in the first place. That's not exactly an enlightened or sophisticated way to arrive at your policy positions. Surely anyone who has two brain cells to rub together understands that people can be right about one thing and wrong about another, at the same time. And surely anyone who can be persuaded by reason in the first place would respond to the content of the argument, not their prejudices about the person making it.

After all, Hitler (THERE, I GODWINNED IT) was enthusiastic in his opposition to smoking. I don't therefore oppose non-smoking campaigns. Because that would be retarded of me.
posted by ixohoxi at 12:09 PM on August 20, 2009 [11 favorites]


I'm still trying to figure out how Dawkins "tends to make Atheism all about Dawkins." I own a couple of his books, read the transcripts of some of his speeches, even watched a few interviews he's conducted... and it seems more like someone has taken a personal distaste of one man who asserts his position and turned it into HE IS A MASSIVE EGOTIST. Methinks someone's confused Dawkins with Nader.

So... any light on this claim would be appreciated.
posted by grubi at 12:26 PM on August 20, 2009


Methinks someone's confused Dawkins with Nader.

You know, that would explain a lot...
posted by darkstar at 12:39 PM on August 20, 2009


[few comments removed - calling out people who are not in the thread considered harmful, and there is a metatalk thread already, thanks]
posted by jessamyn at 12:52 PM on August 20, 2009


Blazecock Pileon: Hah! If you want trolling, click on who favorited your comment.

I can't begin to describe how awesome it is that you are actually holding the list of people that agree with my comment against me in this argument, on this topic.

Blazecock Pileon: You understand that this equivalence only works, logically, if Dawkins views and actions are as controversial as Farrakhan's, right?

No one is treating the comparison like an equivalence but you.

Comparisons of the type klangklangston made (sorry for the earlier mis-attribution) are commonly made to shed light on a topic by drawing an analogy to something more familiar or obvious. The Farrakhan comparison was thus made, not to "equate" the controversy the two men create, but to try to make clear the type of negative effect Dawkins could have on the cause he is arguing.

This is why I think you're trolling, because I'm describing a common rhetorical device as if you're a 7 yr old and unaware of the normal flow of adult conversation.

Using a comparison: "Fish need water to 'breath', much like humans need air to breath."

Insane response: "You understand that equivalence only works if people have gills, right?"

Bonus meta-insane response to the above example: "Fish have nothing to do with civil rights!"
posted by ericost at 3:39 PM on August 20, 2009


Turing was not a lone genius, generating unique, unrepeatable insights

That's true of almost all scientific geniuses, of course - Newton is probably the best example of that. Hell, it's true in most fields of endeavour - where would Bob Dylan be without Woodie Guthrie? - but while it's likey Turing's work would have been replicated by independent invention, he was the one that actually came up with it; moreover, under war conditions, his work was stuff you wouldn't really want to wait for someone else to develop.
posted by rodgerd at 3:39 PM on August 20, 2009


I'm describing a common rhetorical device as if you're a 7 yr old and unaware of the normal flow of adult conversation.

Backpedalling, such as that done with equating Dawkins with Farrakhan, is certainly a common rhetorical device, I'll grant you that. You can save your childish 7 yr old stuff for Metatalk, thanks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:44 PM on August 20, 2009


Yes, because comparing the head of one of the largest religious groups and civil rights organizations in the United States to an Oxford Professor and public intellectual speaking his mind is a great analogy.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:31 PM on August 20, 2009


Well, not one of the largest anymore.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:32 PM on August 20, 2009


I will always hold Dawkins in high regard for his original writings on the idea of a meme which I read way back when The Selfish Gene first came out. His anti-religious stance which I learned about much later was icing on the cake. I believe one flows from the other. Recognizing just how dangerous and damaging organized religion can be begins with the recognition that religious beliefs are, after all, just another set of memes.
posted by telstar at 6:15 PM on August 20, 2009


Sometimes a high profile historical story like this works better in helping people to identify with those who were, and still are, being persecuted. A formal government apology in Alan Turing's case could actually be a worthwhile thing, if used to highlight the senseless and wicked waste of lives caused by the idiots who want to 'cure' gay people. These people are still out there, and with recent splits in the Anglican communion, a faction who still support pushing quack cures for homosexuality has actually achieved some prominence in the Church of England - Anglican Mainstream. Several bishops support them and the Archbishop of Canterbury has gone out of his way to accommodate their conservative anti-gay supporters. These people hosted an anti-gay conference in London recently where they brought across one of the worst of the American charlatans who claims results in curing homosexuality. They also attack other Christians for not being hostile enough, in their opinion, to gay people.

So it is, sadly a live issue. Even though they don't try the hormone nonsense anymore, these groups are still capable of driving gay people who fall into their hands to depression, damage and death. It's a serious matter. A government condemnation of the evil and stupidity of trying to 'cure' gay people, using this case as an example, could be a valuable way of helping to marginalise those very very deluded people in the established church.
posted by Flitcraft at 7:06 PM on August 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


When I used to teach Turing's discussion of AI minds, he was one of the very few authors I gave biographical information about to my students before they read it. I told them the full story of his life, right down to the horrible, tragic end.

One of my prides as a teacher was watching their eyes go from wonder, to anger, every semester.


Alan Turing is a very interesting, important and tragic historical figure. If you are unfamiliar with him and you've waded through this thread enough to pick out some of the interesting parts, you've at least gleaned that he was an important figure both in the development of computation as well as important to the Allied struggle in World War II (Turing worked on breaking the codes of the German Enigma machine which was used to transmit wireless instructions securely. This effort "helped The Allies defeat Nazi Germany two years earlier than they would without it, saving countless lives, and making it one of the most successful intelligence operations in history."). These two facts are related: one could argue that the first computer was created at Bletchley Park. Turing is also very important in the field of artificial intelligence, where his Turing Test is considered a possible criteria for whether or not AI has been implemented truly successfully. In fact, there is now an annual competition which uses the Turing Test to evaluate the state of the art for how well a computer resembles a human.

Sadly, Turing was prosecuted by the British authorities when a homosexual relationship was exposed by a burglary investigation. He was forced to choose between going to prison and chemical castration, which evidently also produced the side effect in Turing of developing breasts. This most likely led to depression and his later suicide, although some disputed the circumstances surrounding his death.

In any case, it's certainly tragic that such a brilliant mind and someone so important in the development of perhaps the most revolutionary advance in human history as well as the defeat of the Nazis in World War II should have been treated so poorly and died with his spirit so darkened. Whenever I think about this it makes me want to cry, and it reminds me of all the pain and suffering GLBT folks have experienced throughout history, and how unjust this treatment is. For this reason I feel that government of the U.K. apologizing for the treatment of Alan Turing and honoring his memory--whether it is politically convenient for some or not--would be a useful and important event. He, and all GLBT folks who have suffered dreadfully because of prejudice, deserve this at least.

Sorry if I got any of the facts wrong, please correct me if so.
posted by dubitable at 7:44 PM on August 20, 2009 [5 favorites]


Now that I have time to think about it, government acknowledgments and apologies are part of the way we define history. Governments love to create monuments for their successes and disasters, but they are often reluctant to take credit for their mistakes. Take for example, the Irish Government's investigation into its own role in systematic abuse within labor schools, vs. Japan's reluctance to discuss wartime atrocities in China. Posthumous apologies and honors serve as markers of social change. They move the events from "alternative" to "official" history.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:43 PM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Kirkjobsluder: we are talking about the UK here, in which neither public atheism nor fundamental civil rights for LGBT people are quite as controversial as they are in the states.

Guesstimates based on various Wikipeda-cited polls:

Declared Atheists/Agnostics: ~2%(USA) ~50%(UK)
Believe in some type of god: >90%(USA) ~40%(UK)
Support for gay marriage: ~45%(USA) 60%(UK)
posted by benzenedream at 1:09 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


benzenedream, where are you getting those numbers?

This chart shows that 38% of people in the UK hold a "belief in a god"; 40% have a "belief in a spirit or life force"; and only 20% have a "belief in neither a spirit, god or life force".

This other chart says that about 46% of Britons answered "no" to the question "Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?", but that's not at all the same thing as being a declared atheist or agnostic. You don't have to belong to a particular religion to believe that some kind of god exists.
posted by ixohoxi at 9:49 AM on August 21, 2009


The 50% number is taken from here: "In the United Kingdom, a poll in 2004 by the BBC put the number of people who do not believe in a God to be 50%" but that looks to be bogus. The probable source 2004 BBC poll has a confusing graph on the front page but a more detailed graph shows non-believers in God at ~ 35%. I stand corrected for my sloppy wikiperia stats.

I didn't use the Eurobarometer poll results since I think the questions are poorly worded. Dawkins himself might profess to believe in a "life force", and so might I, even though I'm a materialist. I think you would get a lot of overlap with agnostics who don't believe in a single entity controlling the whole of existence, but admit to a trancendentalist view that could be termed "belief in a life force".

In any case, the declared number of atheists is at least an order of magnitude higher in the UK than US, which makes it much more likely that the average Briton has an atheist for a neighbor and does not recoil in horror from them.
posted by benzenedream at 4:30 PM on August 21, 2009


and stand corrected for my sloppy wikiperia wikipedia spelling.
posted by benzenedream at 4:38 PM on August 21, 2009


BBC News: Thousands call for Turing apology -- "Writer Ian McEwan is among thousands of people calling for a government apology to World War II code breaker Alan Turing."
posted by ericb at 3:44 PM on August 31, 2009


So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better.
posted by cillit bang at 3:41 PM on September 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


That is excellent news. It was a moving statement. Is there any news about the proposed endowment for Bletchley Park?
posted by idiopath at 4:05 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Chemical castration....and all he gets is an apology. All I can say is that requires more than just an apology
posted by puanaok at 3:25 PM on September 11, 2009


The endowment looks dead.

However, did you know that you can get married at Bletchley Park?
posted by benzenedream at 12:10 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


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