I read this blog post by Scott Adams (i.e. Dilbert) and while I understood his intentions, I found his methodology completely inappropriate. He immediately understands and acknowledges that rape is a horrendous crime, the ultimate fault for which lies with the perpetrator. But then, what are we to do with that information? I believe Adams falls into the philosophical trap and same way of thinking that many people, men and women, often find themselves in. To wit, they try to explain something—that clearly they have never experienced—to another person using the experiences that they have had and that they imagine are close to what they are describing or talking about.
It can’t be done or at least it can’t be done well enough to make sense.
That said, people who are all up in arms over his apparent lack of empathy and good sense should take a page from the feminist movement in understanding the context of Adam’s views. To make sense of why we observe so few women in math and the hard sciences, for example, we don’t try to explain these variations through differences in intelligence. No, to understand, diagnose, and fix the problem, we have to be aware of what societal structures might push boys towards math and women away from it. I’m reminded of the views of the American Medical Association (AMA) on pedophilia today as an illustrative example of how we can actually do the most good by acknowledging certain immoral urges people might have (be they against unwilling children or adults). My opinion is that Adam’s fully understands and in fact, argues that rape of any variety is wrong. What, then, is so wrong with trying to understand it’s underlying causes and eradicate them so that fewer people have those urges in the first place?
But this seems to me like what Adam’s is saying—but saying it really (REALLY) badly. That acknowledging that men have an urge towards violence, or that men in general have a tendency for rape (which statistically they do), or that pedophiles have a lust for children does not, by any token, exonerate any of these three groups for acting on that urge. What societal institutions might exacerbate the tendency to rape? What can we do to prevent it? These seem like far more helpful questions (questions that it seemed to me that Adam’s was attempting, perhaps extremely poorly, to answer).
In any case, when anyone tries to explain something that they don’t have direct experience with, they tend to minimize and maximize aspects of the subject matter without realizing they are doing so simply because they don’t have direct knowledge of what they are talking about. They are extrapolating which is OK if you have a large data set to derive from but falls completely on its face when you have a very small data set…namely, you, to rely on.
Which kind of reinforces what I have said before…people who do not know what they are talking about should either weave that notice into the conversation (prefaces such as “in my opinion” or “I believe but don’t know for sure” for example) or just shut the fuck up.
Adams should have just shut the fuck up 😉