News Ian O'Doherty

Wednesday 17 September 2014

What Richard did, didn't end well

Published 31/07/2014 | 02:30

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Professor Richard Dawkins
Ally McBeal

One of the most frequent accusations levelled against atheists is their apparent elevation of Richard Dawkins to the role of some sort of strange, counter-intuitive God head.

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In fact, there are times you'd be forgiven for thinking that the Pope of Unbelief has some sort of infallibility clause written into his contract - if you listened to his many critics, that is.

That's either a deliberate misunderstanding of the whole point of atheism, or simply an example of how some people seem to assume that every belief system, even the ones based on non-belief, need a figurehead.

So, it's never a surprise when Dawkins's infamous arrogance is dragged into the mix as comprehensive proof that anyone who doesn't believe in fairy stories must automatically be a tedious, didactic bore.

Of course, a more rational excuse for this perceived arrogance lies in the fact that he is, after all, an Oxford don - and they're hardly a breed renowned for their humility and modesty. So if you're going to blame anything for his manner, then his academic home would surely provide a more logical explanation.

But regardless of whether you think he is, indeed, the most important thinker in atheism (he'd be lucky to be placed in the top three, in reality) or simply a stuffy academic bore, with a habit of coming out with remarkably odd sound bites, he has spent the last two days receiving the kind of hysterical internet kicking that is normally reserved for people who have been caught being cruel to a cat on YouTube.

His assertion (while talking about that increasingly rare commodity, logic) that 'date-rape' is not as bad as being raped at knife point by a stranger was followed up by his claim that "mild paedophilia is bad; violent paedophilia is worse". But that seemed to further fuel the fires of indignant outrage, and prompted the usual demands that he be hanged, drawn and quartered on a live feed on Mumsnet.com.

Dawkins followed both claims with the qualification that: "If you think that is an endorsement of 'mild' rape/paedophilia, go away and learn how to think." But of course, this was either ignored by the electronic lynch mob, or used as a further stick to beat him with.

In fact, his suggestion that people should "learn how to think" was probably the most incendiary claim he made. Because we live in an age when so many people don't like to think. They prefer to feel instead. And that will make morons of us all.

The simple, logical fact is that Dawkins was, of course, right. But anybody, particularly a man, who tries to even point out the obvious is liable to place themselves in the cross hairs of militant idiots, who think that stating that one thing is demonstrably worse than the other thing is an endorsement of the slightly less-bad thing.

It would be easy to repeat the mantra that all rape is on the same scale of severity. But that is simply not the case, nor is it the case with any other crime. That is why sentencing guidelines take into account the severity of the offence.

For example, if you say that assaulting someone with a deadly weapon is bad, but murdering them with a deadly weapon is worse, does that mean you are condoning assault with a deadly weapon? Have people really become so bovine that they are prepared to ignore the obvious, simply because it doesn't tally with their world view; a world view which seems designed to ensure they are never on the wrong side of popular, unthinking opinion?

But then I would say that, wouldn't I? After all, I'm a man and as we all know from today's Millie Tants, we're all secret rapists anyway.

 

Well, he needed the break

You may have seen the strange case of swindler Conor Brannigan, who was sentenced to two years (one suspended) for defrauding the man who was due to become his brother-in-law.

During the trial, it emerged that our hero was married with three kids, but was also engaged to two other women, as well as having a girlfriend and a kid with a woman in Poland.

When the Alfie-esque antics of this priapic popinjay were revealed, he admitted to Gardai that: "I don't know what I was doing, I was living four separate lives."

This is the kind of almost heroic stupidity that deserves recognition. After all, one relationship is usually enough to wreck most men's heads - to engage in so many at the same time must be incredibly stressful and not a little draining. After all, that's a lot of bins to have to put out.

Maybe he can use the time inside as an opportunity for some reflection and a chance for some peace and quiet?

Frankly, upon reading about his increasingly elaborate and farcical lie, the thought struck me - maybe he's looking forward to some much-needed me-time.

Don't be surprised if he becomes the first convict to ever appeal against the leniency of his sentence.

 

I blame Ally McBeal

Of all the appalling inventions man has come up with, the idea of 'gender-open' bathrooms must be one of the worst.

Now it emerges that more colleges in America - where all the daftest ideas seem to come from - have introduced non-segregated toilets.

Stonewall, the gay rights lobby group, has welcomed the news, saying that: "Certain people feel threatened in single-sex bathrooms, based on their presumed sexual orientation rather than gender identity."

Say what?

Maybe I really am getting fusty and grumbly in my rapidly approaching dotage, but I thought that when someone goes to the jacks they are... going to the jacks.

What I didn't think was... I must presume that person's sexual identity rather than their gender identity.

Of course, most of us still live in that blithely innocent world where we assume going to the toilet is a simple function and not an act of heroic gender/sexual identity politics.

Anyway, the idea will never catch on in Ireland.

I know for a fact that neither me, nor any of my friends, would ever welcome women into the men's loo in my local.

After all, that's the only place us men get to stand together in peace and talk about the fairer sex as we do our make up.

Bet ye didn't know that, girls...

Ian O'Doherty

Irish Independent

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