When atheists fail at logic, science and math


It’s harsh, but true: people making pronouncements under the banner of atheism are acting as if their thinking skills are weak. Granted, It’s not really fair to have higher standards for atheists than for anyone else, but since the raison d’etre for atheism has so much to do with science and rationality, it’s worth pointing out when they are anything but. As James Lindsay eloquently puts it, Lmao “atheists”:

The statement from American Atheists that Lindsay is referring to is a response to a tweet by Richard Dawkins.

Dawkins is pointing out a discrepancy between the way the two biological variables (race and sex) are treated. It has been pointed out that Dawkins’ statement about being vilified for identifying as black may be misleading, since the person in question was also lying about the race of her parents.

And yet, the discrepancy remains: Identifying as the opposite sex is sufficient to be considered a member of that sex, while identifying as a different race is not sufficient to make you a member of that race.

If this discrepancy has a reasonable explanation, then why not address it and explain why it should be that way?

Logic

The relationship between Dawkins’ tweet and the statement is murky. Instead of an answer, we are treated to a claim about what Dawkins is implying:

Trans people are under constant attack across our country. Implying that our identities are somehow fraudulent and questioning whether we even exist dehumanizes us and helps justify this violence.

Is Dawkins “questioning whether we even exist?” How does that even work? If someone claims that I am woman, or even a head of cabbage (actual insult in Norwegian), are they denying that i exist? Quite the contrary, I would say. They are confirming my existence by addressing me, although I might disagree with the labeling. There are those who talk to non-existent people, but they tend to get psychiatric treatment.

It looks like a fundamental logical fallacy to me. Like confusing the map (the label attached to the thing) with the territory (the thing itself).

Math

Equally bad, or worse, is the fact that the numbers cited in the statement don’t add up to the conclusion.

In 2020, HRC reported a record number of fatal attacks against trans and gender non-conforming people, the majority of whom were Black and Latina trans women—those most at risk.

The “record number” is “at least 44”:

Sadly, 2020 has already seen at least 44 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means…

But the statement also mentions “the millions of trans people in this country”. If indeed there are millions, their murder rate must be is several times smaller than 44 per million. But the homicide rate for the general population is around 4–5 per 100,000, thus 40-50 per million. That means that trans people are at worst only half as likely to be murdered as most people (given that “millions” must mean at least two million).

This matches with earlier data analyzed in an article by political scientist Wilfred Reilly:

While LGBT advocates may be correct that there is some under-reporting of the transgender murder rate because not all trans individuals are “out,” the fact is that the murder rate for trans people would have to increase by 300-400 per cent to match the murder rate for the general population.

Furthermore, only about 3 percent of these murders appear to be motivated by “anti-trans bias,” animus, or hatred. Even if—improbably and appallingly—anti-trans sentiment were to double, the totals are not likely to change much.

There is one valid point in the statement from the American Atheists, though: 44 murders of trans people appears to be a record. Awful as that is, it still leaves trans people less at risk than the average.

These are not minor squabbles. If I were trans myself, I would want to know whether there is good reason to fear becoming a victim of transphobic violence. I also would not want to be represented by someone with a weak grasp of basic logic and math. Nor by someone who would choose to attack someone for asking questions instead of trying to answer them.

Note: The statement from American Atheists was published before the much-publicized decision by the American Humanist Association to revoke Dawkins’ “humanist of the year award” from 1996. So these are two different but related events, both perhaps prompted by the same tweet.

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