How not to teach logic.

A case in point, from Richard Dawkins:

Richard Dawkins has said “date rape is bad” and “stranger rape at knifepoint is worse” and contrasted “mild” paedophilia with “violent” paedophilia on Twitter. The writer, known for his atheism and books including The God Delusion, emphasised he was not approving anything but giving examples of a “syllogism” – logical argument where the comparisons do not imply any endorsement of either.

12 thoughts on “How not to teach logic.

  1. This was in the context of syllogistic reasoning, so he has said. I assume he was offering evidence in support of the statement “some people who speak ignorantly about rape are not right-wing Christian fundamentalists.”

  2. His statement is at RichardDawkins.net. He is whining (whinging?) that some people are so emotionally involved that they cannot even discuss a subject. He forgets that we are human and have an emotional component.

  3. Nor apparently can he understand what’s wrong with using horrible experiences of the much less powerful as examples for logic.

  4. But he wasn’t speaking ignorantly about rape, was he? Nor was he (later) whinging — that’s a word that feminists should be particularly careful of, since it’s commonly used as a gendered put-down.

  5. Sad wink, “that’s a word that feminists should be particularly careful of, since it’s commonly used as a gendered put-down”. I don’t really get this. I think that the fact that the word is used dismissively might be a reason for feminists to avoid it, but I don’t think there’s any specific association with gender. For example, complaints from students of all sorts are often referred to as whinging, at least from an unsympathetic prof.

  6. To be honest, I was just going on my own impressions — but Google bears me out!

    “he whinged” About 7,440 results (0.35 seconds)
    “she whinged” About 15,000 results (0.37 seconds)

    And similarly,

    “he whined” About 728,000 results (0.15 seconds)
    “she whined” About 1,570,000 results (0.15 seconds)

    By contrast, “he said” gets 111 million hits while “she said” gets 53 million, so the web does report men’s speech about twice as much as women’s. Women out-‘whinge’ men, according to the web, by about a factor of four (compared to what you’d expect if ‘whinge’ were ungendered, as ‘say’ is).

  7. I think I’ve seen “whining” used as a gendered putdown, though nowhere near as often as something like “nagging.” And when I see people call out terms like this, I’ve seen plenty of people flag “nagging” but I’ve never seen anyone flag “whining”. For whatever that’s worth.

    But it still seems pretty clear that Dawkins was speaking ignorantly about rape. I understand that he claimed to be making a “logical point” and as a trained philosopher I certainly understand the point he was making, but I don’t think it’s an accident that he ordered “date rape” and “stranger rape” in the way that he in fact ordered them.

  8. Sad wink, interesting! I think of “whinging” as relatively common in the Uk, I associate with a dismissive response to children and univ students.

    I don’t hear it as gendered at all, but it certainly seems possible that it plays a parts in attempts to infantilize women’s complaints.

    I tried google-uk, but I didn’t get numbers. I suppose that could be my ipad.

  9. Ah, excellent idea checking Google UK. It does give numbers when I search with my computer.

    “she whinged” About 15,000 results (0.34 seconds)
    “he whinged” About 32,300 results (0.40 seconds)
    “she whined” About 1,560,000 results (0.12 seconds)
    “he whined” About 719,000 results (0.27 seconds)

    So in the UK, Google gives no evidence of genderedness of ‘whinge’! (The 2:1 he:she ratio is just the ratio of quotation of men to quotation of women on the web.) That’s particularly interesting because I think of ‘whinge’ as a British expression more than an American one. (Notice that ‘whined’ is just as gendered in the UK, though.)
    I don’t know exactly what the difference is between Google.UK and Google.com, but presumably the former is more reflective of British usage.

  10. Matt Drabek, the evidence suggests that you are mistaken in your impressions about ‘nagged’; it is not as gendered as ‘whin(g)ed’:

    “she nagged” About 40,500 results (0.33 seconds)
    “he nagged” About 66,100 results (0.43 seconds)

    Your impression about Dawkins’ choice of order may be right, but it’s just speculation.

  11. The evidence you provided is hardly conclusive. Here’s another set of Google searches:

    “husband nagged” About 5,710 results (0.32 seconds)
    “wife nagged” About 26,500 results (0.23 seconds)

  12. No, it’s not conclusive, which is why I said it’s evidence rather than conclusive evidence.

    However, your test is problematic, since ‘nagged’ in “wife nagged” could be a preterite or a participle; if it’s a participle then likely a man is doing the nagging. E.g., “Here is the story of a wife nagged nearly to death.”

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