Fruit bats and sexual harassment: addition

This post is not about bat-on-bat harassment.  It isn’t really exactly about sexual harassment.  Rather, it’s about a very messy and unclear situation at the University College Cork (Ireland) that surrounds a complaint of sexual harassment.

A male professor showed a female  professor an article about bat fellatio (which we commented on here).   She complained to human resources, and he was censured and is subject to two years of monitoring.  The web is full of discussions of the incident, which almost entirely see it in terms of a violation of the right to free speech (though not all do).  So presented, the assumption seems to be that he easily could have been just very interested in evolution and sexuality, and she was probably nasty or unstable.  And, of course, it is very worrying if one result of all this is that discussions of the sex life of other species are now seen as dangerous to one’s career.

One thing to wonder about here is whether people who are making the assumption of his blamelessness have had much experience in the varieties of sexual harassment.   There are  people who talk altogether too much about  gender characteristics and sexuality; they are at least creepy.  I can think of two recent cases in my academic  environment: one was sadly disturbed, I thought.  It was as though he lacked a “shut off” mechanism that keeps most of us from sharing too much information about our inner lives.  After a particularly revolting grad class on Louis Caroll, sex with children and semen, the women in the class complained, but I doubt  much was done.  The other person was different and in a  powerful position.  The constant foregrounding of one’s “charm and jewelry” was part of an ongoing power play.  I did complain, to no good effect, and I certainly got a very negative scolding from someone in authority.

Still, for all we know, maybe the “he” in this story thought it was just a fun article.  Perhaps it was all just a gigantic misunderstanding.   

One thing we learn here is once again the perils of complaining about sexual harassment.  You may face the judgment of “peers” who are pretty clueless, though not hesitant to judge you negatively.   This is not to say that the man in question was harasser.   It is to say the facts we know do not settle the issue.

(Thanks to KC and Mr. Jender.)

Here by the way is her account:  http://felidware.com/DylanEvans/c1.jpg
http://felidware.com/DylanEvans/c2.jpg

It is one document split into two pieces.

Addition:  having read her account, I have to say it is very believable.  I’d be really interested in hearing whether others have had this sort of (alleged) experience.

34 thoughts on “Fruit bats and sexual harassment: addition

  1. I think you’re right that the serious worry comes at the higher level. It’s entirely possible, on the facts we know, that it was all in innocent good-naturedness, but it really is worrying that the default position for so many people is tipped so heavily in one direction from the get-go.

  2. Thanks, Brandon. I tried to present it neutrally, but honestly from my experience, the plausibility goes with her. That’s before I read her account, which describes experiences fairly close to a series I had.

    I don’t know how easily someone who hasn’t had this sort of experience can understand it and its effects. I remember that the second person I described above lit onto a graduate student of mine, and started talking to him about sex. His remarks included ones like “Your girl friend is just the sort of woman I want; if I weren’t married, I’d be really interested in her.” And, “Are you getting any? I hope you are.” (Imagine this coming from a dean, who is also a very distinguish academic.)

    My student found it very threatening.

    The situation was really intolerable, and I put an immense effort into changing it, which did happen.

  3. In a sense, I think it’s analogous to the sort of problem that the gendered conference campaign is supposed to address: yes, in any particular case, it’s possible that it was just a fluke that out of ten speakers all were male; no doubt such things do happen on occasion. But if we treat that as a reason to presume that it was always just a fluke unless there’s obvious and definitive evidence to the contrary, we’re committing ourselves to saying that, for practical purposes, it’s almost always a fluke. And that’s actually rather absurd. And so here: certainly, it’s the case that there can be just plain misunderstandings and people can overreact; but if the default is always, “Oh, she’s just overreacting” then the default is that people making sexual harrassment charges are almost always overreacting. And this is just as absurd, if not more so, because, as you say, it’s not as if one can’t find real cases that fit this pattern.

    Actually, I rather suspect you could find this same basic pattern elsewhere as well, in which case it’s good to bring it out in the open, since I suspect a lot of problems of both culture and system hide under the cover of the possibility that something might be innocent in some cases. And if so, then it provides a serious problem to think through for the reason you note, namely, that it’s not immediately obvious how to convey to people the problems with this when they haven’t experienced it themselves.

    Reading some of the comments around the web on this event, I’m struck by how many people seem to think of academic freedom, particularly as pertaining to speech, to be a license for doing and saying what one pleases, rather than being a right that subserves teaching, research, and professional activity; there’s something going wrong when it’s being used as an excuse for saying that unprofessional behavior is OK.

  4. Brandon, nice thoughts; I’m wondering if you are locating a fallacy we haven’t notice. “Innocent until proven guilty” sounds good, but that shouldn’t mean – should it? – that the testimony to the contrary is to be regarded as specious until it’s proven right. I can’t quite see how to characterize the “fallacy of the default” as we might call it. It might be something like, “given someone is innocent until proven guilty, all charges against them are to be initially dismissed as worthless as long as most of us are not familiar with the misdeeds in question.” Where “most of us” refers to members of the majority culture.

    Apparently, guys generally don’t get sexually harassed by people unexpectedly coming in, sitting next to them, and saying that they want you to read an article about fellatio among fruit bats and discuss it with them. And I suppose that without the history she alleges it would be odd to go to complain about just that. But I can too easily imagine a very unpleasant scenario in which he was being very creepy.

    Funnily enough, bonobos are our nearest relatives who have been ‘discovered’ practicing oral sex, and the disturbed person whom I mentioned in the post was a great fan of bonobos. I know far more about bonobo sex that I wanted to.

    Surely, the person filing the complaint and I are not the only ones subjected to unwanted discussions about animal sex! But in any cases, those defending him seem quite unaware of this dimension of academic life.

  5. I have no idea what to say about the case itself. Given the evidence, I can imagine either its being a situation where the guy was being deliberately creepy, or a situation where it was just a big misunderstanding, or something weirdly in between. I agree completely with jj’s assessment of the Internet reaction.

    I’ve never experienced any serious sexual harassment from colleagues. As an undergrad I was hit on by a famous professor (in his sixties!) after his colloquium talk, but I didn’t completely understand what was going on at the time, and it was kind of a one-off event because he went home and forgot I existed. I have had a few people overstep my boundaries in a clueless way, but they stopped when I told them to. Neither of those things seems like the traumatic, persistent harassment that makes people want to leave their jobs.

    I’ve been thinking a bit about the importance of cultivating a social environment where people are able to tell each other “your behavior is making me uncomfortable”. (Mostly prompted by a couple of completely non-sexual incidents of social cluelessness I’ve observed recently. It seems like there are a lot of informal factors in sexual harassment in play before any legal body gets involved. Like: are people who complain taken seriously, or told to buzz of and get a sense of humor? Are people willing to be assertive about saying “the way you’re behaving is not helpful; please behave differently”? I don’t want to discount the importance of sexual harassment policy, but the informal stuff is really interesting too.

  6. Rachel, you are raising some important issues. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to address them generally, or even if that’s wise or possible.

    One huge factor is whether there’s some power or seniority difference. Something like, “I’m don’t really want to discuss this sort of thing” may be pretty harmless when you are dealing with an equal; it might be much less so in other circumstances.

    Here again I’d love to hear about others’ experiences.

  7. WHat happens if you DO fancy a colleague – many people start relationships at work – should that be banned in case someone gets offended – what if a young female student wants to do an older professor?

  8. Anon 10:34:

    That’s fine, but the pursuit should end as soon as the other party makes it clear that there’s no interest, or that interest is unwelcome. This is no different from any other situation. It is up to the person pursued, of course, to make that abundantly clear.

  9. One reason I tend to believe reports like this, and tend not to take issues like anon’s very seriously, is that I know lots of people who do flirt and discuss and joke about off-color topics, and they never get accused of harassment. Of course, they pay attention to how those around them react, and at least moderate their comments and possibly apologize (sincerely!) if it’s obvious that they’re causing offense. There are occasional misunderstandings, but for the most part people of good will can navigate these things, and can tell the difference between a misunderstanding and a situation where there isn’t actually good will, where somebody’s genuinely being a harasser (and of course I know of cases of that as well).

  10. After reading the complainant’s account of the background to her complaint, and Rachel’s comments, I’m struck by how much context and history play into this case, and I’m wondering whether or not this is a feature of workplace harrassement that is worth unpicking.

    It’s obvious that she was made uncomfortable by her male colleague’s behaviour from the very beginning of their relationship, but it took a sort of build-up, and agglomeration of inappropriate or socially clueless behaviour to push it over to the point where she felt she needed help from the establishment to deal with it. So from her point of view we are talking about something that exists in time as well as in personal space and the content of his comments.

    But a lot of the online pushback is about taking the complaint *out* of its time-dimentional context: “it’s just one article, get a grip”, “she’s too quick to take offence” etc. The gradual build-up of one person’s opinion/judgement of another person seems not to be valid here; harrassement is seen as needing to be binary and clear cut, like a criminal offense, where the discussion of the guilt of the alleged criminal is about a handful of simple, veryifiable facts (they broke the car window with a half brick: yes/no).

    Of course the Catch-22 for the complainant is that if she’d raised the alarm much earlier in the relationship (before, in fact, she had gotten to the point where she was feeling harrassed), she’d have been accused of exactly the same things: jumping to conclusions, judging him too quickly etc. But I think that that aspect of things is just plain old misogyny (there is no “right” way for a woman to assert her boundaries, after all), whereas the cumulative, time-dependent element in cases of work base sexual harrassement can be stated as universal and gender neutral, and probably apply to bullying as well.

  11. Aaron B: I agree, but I guess I think you need to be careful. There may well be someone who goes back to his friends and recounts your ‘dirty talk.’ As a way of setting you up in case he needs to discredit you.

    Marina, perhaps this is your point: the seriousness of sexual harassment comes with its being a process; each single event may not be that bad. But this case is being looked at in terms of a single case.

  12. I think she may have let the wrong straw break the camel’s back. Why be “hurt” or feel “disgusted”? Why the need to make an excuse about not having her glasses rather than just dismissing the guy?” As in “oh come on, get outta here, I have work to do”? While he does sound like a pest and a jerk, and maybe he had harassed her in the past, this just sounds like routine obnoxiousness that an assertive adult ought to be able to deal with. Unless he’s “the boss” or something, and there’s more to the situation than meets the eye.

  13. Jean, I’m less clear about it. i can imagine an array of approaches that would all meet the general descriptions we have. E.g., He comes in, sits beside her and says, jovially, “Here’s this article that’s creating a stir; do read it and lelt me know what you think” over to “Here’s this article on how bats prolong sexual pleasure; do read it so we can discuss fellatio.” Maybe you need to hear a smarmy voice saying the second before it really hits one as wildly inappropriate, but it seems to me it is.

    I think that in the States the one harassed is not required to try to stop the harassment on her own before she complains. If he’s clearly a person of good will and just insensitive, I think it would be great to give him a warning. If he’s being smarmy and sexually suggestive, I’m not sure I’d try. There’s little reason to think it would have much effect in that sort of case.

    What you can find indeed is that for him part of the point is to get him attention; telling him to go away can from his point of view be the start of a discussion of your relationship.

  14. JJ, Yes, all that (smarmy voice, etc) is possible, but she doesn’t tell the story that way. She provides no explanation why she was “hurt” and “disgusted” during this particular incident aside from the topic of the article. I think that’s what people like Steven Pinker and Daniel Dennett are responding to–the impression she gives in her petition that the topic itself constituted a problem. As to whether she could have told him to go away instead of saying she didn’t have her glasses–I wasn’t saying her indirectness excused him (if he really was harassing her). It’s just a curious detail.

  15. Jean, yes, I agree. She doesn’t add in anything to differentiate between his being mischievious and his being smarmy.

    Her descriptions of his behavior are curiously affectless, though some of the behavior, if it is accurately described, does seem to be over-reaching. The hugs and strokes, for example.

    I’m wondering whether other people felt alarms go off at the descriptions of his behavior.

    I thought Pinker et al reacted to his descriptions of the situation, before her version got on the web. That’s one thing that caught my attention; they didn’t seem to realize that there might be a whole other dimension.

    Still, so much is unclear.

  16. The side effect is that that article on PLOS has had an exceptionally high number of views, well over 100,000. I wonder what the authors think of all this.

  17. Now that I’ve had a chance to read more about this, I think I was hasty (#12) in making any judgment at all about Evans. I was just going by her account. It turns out an investigation did clear him of charges he harassed her before the time of the bat incident. So it’s all about that, and nothing else, from the university’s standpoint.

  18. Jean, a number of commenters have said that actually what he was given was very mild. They suggest that in making it all so public and in putting confidential documents on the web, he has done himself far more damage.

    I think that the comments I’m recalling were in the London Times higher ed supplement.

  19. If we look at the female professor’s letter objectively, we get the following claims.

    1. Dr Evans showed her an article about fellatio in fruit bats
    2. Dr Evans showed her a book about Casanova and talked about Casanova. That Dr Evans talks about gambling, and that would dress like a devil – all of which she “found disturbing”. Dr Evans’ interest in gambling and dressing like a devil have nothing to do with sexual harassment.
    3. Matters that happened outside the university, such as dinner. What happened in those situations do not constitute sexual harassment at work, unless there was a situation where it directly involved university matters.
    4. Dr Evans frequently came to the female professor’s office to talk about various matters, none of which have a sexual context. That does not constitute sexual harassment.
    5. Dr Evans misrepresented himself, and the female professor was concerned. Again, that does not constitute sexual harassment.
    6. Dr Evans used unwelcome patting, hugging, and kissing and remarks on her good looks. That may constitute sexual harassment.

    In summary, the content of her letter that might properly be taken into account regarding sexual harassment amounts to:
    Dr Evans showed her an article about fellatio in fruit bats
    Dr Evans showed her a book about Casanova and talked about Casanova.
    Dr Evans used unwelcome patting, hugging, and kissing and remarks on her good looks.

    One might expect that in a claim of sexual harassment that the writer would lay out the patting, hugging, and kissing and remarks on her good looks in detail, but what we find is that this part is glossed over, while the detail in the letter is on matters that do not pertain to sexual harassment at work.

    In summary, the letter indicates that there is a dislike of Dr Evans by the female professor, possibly a clash of personalities, and that her claim of sexual harassment is clouded by that. It is clear that any assessment of whether there was sexual harassment could not be decided on that letter. Which leaves the university investigation. And the fact is that the investigation of her claims by the university found that Dr Evans behavior prior to Nov 2nd 2009 did not amount to sexual harassment.

  20. I just wanted to give a perspective as a female academic working in Ireland, where this case has generated a huge amount of attention. Unfortunately it has been massively damaging to the very serious issue of sexual harassment in universities. The fact that the complainant was ‘outed’ and her picture published in national newspapers will make it much more difficult for women to come forward with complaints of sexual harassment.

    I’ve worked in universities in the US, the UK and now Ireland, and I have conducted research on women in higher education, so I feel I can make what might sound like a sweeping assertion and say that Irish academia is about 10-15 years behind the UK (probably 20 years behind the US) in terms of tacking gender inequalities and the predominantly patriarchal nature of system. Ireland has the ‘thickest’ glass ceiling for academic women in Europe, and about 10% of the professors are women.

    So it is a very difficult climate for academic women if they want to have a successful career. The complainant in this case, in case you didn’t realize, is a scientist in a medical faculty. She has been treated in the press however as hysterically hyper-sensitive and in need of counseling.

    I have had students seek my support in the past when they had very serious complaints of sexual harassment to make and in the end they felt it wasn’t worth the damage it would probably do to their careers. Sadly this case makes me feel as though they were right.

    Incidentally, the man in question has a PhD in philosophy. I read a chapter he wrote about human-robot sex with interest (he has posted stuff all over the web about himself). He has had the academic freedom to write about many issues but I believe with that freedom comes a responsibility to behave professionally, which most of us manage to do on a daily basis. I’m not sure in this case it is clear that he did.

  21. @jj #11: yes that is exactly my point, thank you for putting it so succinctly!

    I just want to add that while part of the complaints was not upheld, another part of it was indeed upheld – Dr Evans is emphatically _not_ being victimised despite being an innocent man, which is the spin that he put on it initially and what I think your Pinkers and Dennets were responding to. At the point when the petition was started and the whole thing went viral, we didn’t just know half of the _whole_ story (his half), we actually knew only half of his story, too. From a strictly legalistic point of view then, there are some questions about this story.

    But it’s not really a strictly legalistic story, because if it were a case of straight-up assault or something then it’d have gone to the police. It’s a more nebilous issue of relationships, workplace politics, large scale social dynamics within an organisation, behavioural norms, standards of manners and communication etc etc. And on that level things that happened before the complinat was made _are_ relevant, because they form part of the feedback loop that constrains workplace relationships (by conforming to and upholding prevailing norms).

  22. I’ve followed a couple of links, read a little bit more of the case, and gotten confused. There may or may not be additional factors which would tend to cast doubt on the accusation, and I couldn’t find any really reliable way for me to investigate those additional factors (an Irish Mail article mentioned other, entirely non-sexual conflicts between the parties in question; newspaper articles are of course unreliable, but they’re not infallibly wrong). I thus withdraw to the more cautious position that if there’s nothing to these additional factors, I’m inclined to trust the accuser’s story, while if these additional factors are present, I feel like I can’t sensibly come to any judgment about such a complicated situation at this distance.

  23. Wolfie, you obviously haven’t experience serious and prolonged sexual harassment. Your comment

    In summary, the letter indicates that there is a dislike of Dr Evans by the female professor, possibly a clash of personalities, and that her claim of sexual harassment is clouded by that.

    contains a questionable inference. It cannot be right to take complaints of sexual harassment seriously only if the victim likes the harasser.

  24. KC, thanks for sharing your valuable perspective. And yours, MarinaS, with thanks too.

    Naomi Wolf made the following comment about what she says to young women who come to her to talk about sexual harassment; it isn’t dated, but I think it is about two years old:

    I am ashamed of what I tell them: that they should indeed worry about making an accusation because what they fear is likely to come true. Not one of the women I have heard from had an outcome that was not worse for her than silence. One, I recall, was drummed out of the school by peer pressure. Many faced bureaucratic stonewalling. Some women said they lost their academic status as golden girls overnight; grants dried up, letters of recommendation were no longer forthcoming. No one was met with a coherent process that was not weighted against them. Usually, the key decision-makers in the college or university—especially if it was a private university—joined forces to, in effect, collude with the faculty member accused; to protect not him necessarily but the reputation of the university, and to keep information from surfacing in a way that could protect other women. The goal seemed to be not to provide a balanced forum, but damage control.

  25. Re JJ’s comment:
    I referred to a possible dislike of Dr Evans by the female professor, and possibly a clash of personalities.

    JJ is twisting my words when he/she says that that amounts to me saying that you cannot take a complaint of sexual harassment seriously unless the alleged victim likes the harasser. That is absurd. I am not saying that there cannot be sexual harassment involved where there is a dislike or clash of personalities. What I was saying that a claim of sexual harassment should be objective and not make a barrage of complaints against the other person that amount to a dislike. When that happens, it is impossible to judge, on the face of what is written, whether the alleged victim is complaining because she does not like the other person, or whether there is a real issue of sexual harassment. And what I said was that one would need further investigation, as is what happened – with the result that the female professor’s claim of sexual harassment prior to the fruit bat article of Nov 2nd 2009, was not upheld.

    What I find disturbing is that so many of the respondents here are willing to judge to the opposite merely on the basis of the female professor’s written words that do not present a clear cut case.

  26. Wolfie, if you think your words are being twisted, then that means they lend themselves to twisting. It is your responsibility to write in such a way as to make your meaning clear, not other people’s responsibility to make only the inferences and interpretations that are pleasant for you to have made.

    As for all this business of malicious complaints (which is what you’re actually trying to imply with all this, no twisting necessary) and “whether the alleged victim is complaining because she does not like the other person, or whether there is a real issue of sexual harassment”: she is not an alleged victim and there is no question of whether there is a real issue of sexual harrassement. The university authorities upheld one of her two complaints of sexual harrassement, which means that for all relevant intents and purposes she is a victim and he is a harrasser. To continue to question or undermine that is to put your own judgement above that of the people who are actually on the spot and charged with making the appropriate call. I see no compelling basis for you to do that from.

  27. Wolfie, I’m sorry I missed your comment; it’s hectic here preparing for the holiday.

    I think your ‘explanation’ reveals two things: one is that what you dismiss as a “barrage of complaint” could also be read by someone who has experienced sexual harassment as all relevant because they reveal a very typical pattern. The pattern is that of someone who oversteps boundaries; that the person is also not particularly honest in personal relations is another part of the pattern; lying to people to entice them is using them for one’s ends.

    Now for all that, it is possible that all she says is a confaulation, so I am not saying that this proves his guilt. We’d need to know about her character, motives, etc, if there were a legal case to be made.

    Nonetheless, you want to say that her complaints indicate dislike and so we should doubt her report of the final incident. There are various ways of discrediting victims, and this is quite a standard one. It is the sort of thing that makes sense to those who haven’t been victims of sexual harassment, but the pattern of overstepping the boundaries and the victim’s resulting dislike should not be taken to discredit the victim’s claims. That’s how harassment standardly happens. Disliking the perp should not be grounds for discounting the victim’s views.

    Notice that nothing I’ve said says she is being truthful. What I am arguing against is the idea that her descriptions throws in doubt her account.

  28. “Wolfie, if you think your words are being twisted, then that means they lend themselves to twisting. It is your responsibility to write in such a way as to make your meaning clear, not other people’s responsibility to make only the inferences and interpretations that are pleasant for you to have made.”

    I’ve rarely seen a more slippery slope. That paragraph could have a few words substituted and it would apply to Dr Evans, his victim, or anyone.

    e.g Victim, if you think your actions are being twisted, then that means they lend themselves to twisting. It is your responsibility to act in such a way as to make your meaning clear, not other people’s responsibility to make only the inferences and interpretations that are pleasant for you to have made.

    I agree “as soon as the other party makes it clear,” appropriate response should occur. Regrettably the only difference between words an actions is the latter speaks louder. Both are ambiguous and subject to individual interpretation.

    Not having one’s glasses is not making something clear.

  29. Marina:If you can find anywhere in what I have said that I question or am trying to undermine the unviersity’s findings regarding the fruit bat atricle, please point it out.

    JJ: Dr Evans may have overstepped the common boundaries of social interaction. But it is very worrying that there is the conception that a claim of inappropriate/unwelcome social interaction by someone, that is not sexual in nature, is relevant to a claim of sexual harassment. That is a very slippery slope that I would hope we would not go down – God forbid that we get to the point where a series of interactions that display social ineptitude becomes the backbone for a claim of sexual harassment.

    Finally, haven’t we all reached the point where we should agree that we should not pass definitive judgments on either party simply on the basis of a few letters?

  30. I think we clearly do not have enough in what’s on the web to tell much of anything about the facts.

  31. Dorothy Bishop has an interesting take on the online petition to support Evans, analysing the kinds of comments made by signatories, at http://deevybee.blogspot.com/2010/05/academic-mobbing-in-cyberspace.html

    She says,
    “A large number of academics were persuaded to sign a petition in support of Dylan Evans, purely on the basis of information on a blog written by Evans. Although a few of those signing the petition expressed themselves in terms of mild concern, and hedged their comments with qualifiers about needing more evidence, the majority appeared certain of their ground, and expressed outrage at an abuse of academic freedom. Furthermore, some 14-20% heaped personal abuse on the President of UCC and/or the complainant, for their perceived bigotry, prudery and unscientific attitude. Reading the comments at times reminds one of cases where a pedophile is ‘outed’ by the media and attacked by a mob.”
    and points out,
    “…the motivations for most signatories were ones that all good academics would support: freedom of speech, scientific knowledge unimpeded by political correctness, and fairness. However, for some signatories there appeared to be another argument they were all too willing to endorse, that someone who complains of sexual harrassment must be a hysterical prude. The failure to consider that there might be another side to this story is worrying…”

    Incidentally, as far as she could tell from their names, a large majority of the signatories were male (though she points out that for all she knows that could be true of all online petitions) but where comments had been left those from women didn’t differ much from the comments of men.

  32. Heg, thanks! She gives a very useful analysis.

    I’m reading Dan Simons’ The Invisible Gorilla right now, and it is a very vivid reminder of how it is to see all the relevant aspects of a situation – where ‘seeing’ extends metaphorically beyond literal sight.

  33. “What I find disturbing is that so many of the respondents here are willing to judge to the opposite merely on the basis of the female professor’s written words that do not present a clear cut case.”

    Wolfie,

    Would you distinguish between “willing to judge to the opposite” and “willing to suspend judgment either way”? And would you distinguish between making a probabilistic judgment (90% if the times one distinguished side is telling the truth, to that side is likely telling the one telling the truth now), and a normative judgment (“I believe the other party is a a lying [expletive]”)?

  34. Largo: I am quite capable of distinguishing the difference between passing a judgement and suspending judgement.

    Largo’s idea of a ‘probabilistic judgement’ seems to be simply a measure of the probability that in one situation a person is telling the truth, based on previous statements of that person. That is absurdly simplistic. The reasons for not telling the truth depend on the circumstances surrounding the statement. This isn’t a case where you can make any sort of prediction based on whether a person may have told the truth in previous statements. In any event, we don’t have any such evidence in this case.

    In relation to this case, a normative judgement is a judgement made without sufficient evidence to support it; it is an irrational belief which can arise from the prejudices and life values of the person making it.

    In summary, making what Largo calls a ‘probabilistic judgement’ is no different to making what Largo calls a ‘normative judgement’, since in both cases, the judgment is made without having full access to sufficient fact to support it.

    And as I said before, can’t we agree that we should not pass definitive judgments on either party simply on the basis of a few letters?

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