I know I am not supposed to blog on this any longer, especially as I just did a blog on child abuse yesterday, but I keep coming across ignorance on the topic, which distresses me. The latest is from Richard Dawkins in his much-lauded book The God Delusion. He writes in that book in a sentence of startling arrogance, “Priestly abuse of children is nowadays taken to mean sexual abuse, and I feel obliged at the outset, [of what? He is 354 pages into his book] to get the whole matter of sexual abuse into proportion and out of the way.” [By “into proportion” he obviously means the rest of us are making too big a deal out of it. What he means by “out of the way” is puzzling. Whose way does he mean?]
He then, like so many men who wish to deny the reality of child abuse, speaks of a “time of hysteria about pedophilia” [hey, lighten up feminists, they are just men who like little children] and adds the obligatory cliché of the Salem witch-hunts, as if he saw no difference between the belief in witches and the belief in child sexual abuse. [Hint: Witches don’t exist; child abuse does].
He goes on to speak of the “infamous Magdalene Asylums.” He blames lawyers for forcing the victims to “rake over the distant past” [After all, they closed in 1996, couldn’t they just shut up about it?]. He calls the abuse (which was horrific, as we know from any number of sources, including the excellent and reliable film by Peter Mullan The Magdalene Sisters), “fumbles in the vestry,” as if the predators meant no real harm. These happened so long ago, he laments, that “the alleged offender is likely to be dead and unable to present his side of the story.” There were 1,500 witnesses to abuse who testified in court. But the other side did not get to claim it was all a dreadful misunderstanding. [In all, some 30,000 women were incarcerated and abused in every possible way, but this too must be seen in perspective! – I know, enough sarcasm now].
Does it matter at all that Richard Dawkins, England’s most famous public intellectual, and the Oxford Professor for Public Understanding of Science, disseminates crass and false information about child sexual abuse? Of course it does. The book in which he makes his ludicrous statements was named “Best Book of the Year in 2008 by The Economist, Financial Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Salon, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Capital Times, Kirkus Review, and others. They did not qualify their praise (nor did any of the hundreds of reviewers) with a caveat about the nonsense he spouted about child abuse.
What is it about child abuse that drives otherwise intelligent men into drivel? How could somebody with Dawkin’s intellect not see the glaring illogic of his views? How can he so easily pronounce on something about which he clearly knows next to nothing, and to do so with such brazen pseudo-authority, completely undeserved and buttressed by nothing except a heart-stopping intellectual arrogance? That is a topic well worth pondering. For the moment, I don’t have an ans