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Richard Dawkins joins calls for apology for gay mathematician Alan Turing

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  1. Good luck getting this poor execuse of a government to apologise for anything!

    They always think they do what’s “right”, and tell you repeatedly too.

    Blair didn’t even apologise for slavery. The most Turing will get will be a statement of “regret” and some spin about “advances” made for gays since his imprisonment and suicide.

  2. Should we not be asking for an apology for all those affected by the pre 1967 laws? Some of them must still be alive after all. Why just Mr Turing, he certainly suffered greatly but so many others did too.

    It’s time all those charged under our regressive past laws receive the pardon they deserve.

  3. Jae makes a very sensible point.

  4. And by the way – why has Richard Dawkins never been considered so far for a Stonewall award? Through his writings on Science he contributes immensely to greater understanding of morality; his books are sharp lessons in how to think, too: he shows the importance of building beliefs on evidence and reason, adn equally, what we mean by ‘evidence’. He provides a wealth of intellectual ammunition with which to shoot down the anti-gay case. (I can almost feel an opinion piece coming on….)

  5. I’ve signed. As I have previously said on this site, the guy deserves a postumous Knighthood!

  6. Jean-Paul Bentham 19 Aug 2009, 1:49pm

    Go for it, Adrian. It’s just a question of writing it down…

  7. Robert, ex-pat Brit 19 Aug 2009, 1:59pm

    Well done, Prof. Hawkins, its good to see someone with balls speaking out, long overdue. Expect precious nothing from either party, they’d rather reward ignorance by giving knighthoods to football players who contribute nothing to benefit society.

  8. Having met Prof.Dawkins on a few occasions, I don’t always agree with him on everything, I’ve had to try and seperate his valid points from those which might be ego-driven, but on this occasion, I’m very please to hear of his support.

  9. “After the war, when Turing’s role was no longer top-secret, he should have been knighted and fêted as a saviour of his nation. Instead, this gentle, stammering, eccentric genius was destroyed, for a ‘crime’, committed in private, which harmed nobody.”

    That paragraph expresses the situation well. A very sad story. Alan Turing should get an apology. But I do agree with Jae that many other people should be in line for an apology too.

  10. Jean-Paul Bentham 19 Aug 2009, 3:08pm

    If the Equality Bill should pass, wouldn’t we have a better chance at seeing to it that members of the Rainbow committee receive the recognition they deserve?

    Otherwise, I’m afraid Verde (1) is just being realistic. Go ahead and prove me wrong…Please!

  11. Maybe the Prime Minister can apologise for things which are his fault (record public debt, crappy public services, no police on the streets, illegal wars, not arming troops when he sends them to war……couldn’t we go on) rather than things he had nothing to do with.

    This is as ridiculous and cynical as Tony Blair “apologising” for the Irish Potato Famine and the slave trade.

    I will never cease to be amazed at how cynical politicians will be – let’s apologise for this and the gays will vote Labour. Don’t fall for it boys

  12. Compensation should be paid to Turing’s family for the assault the state committed against Alan’s body by administering female hormones to castrate him.

    Any person who had the same inhumane treatment because they where gay should be compensated by the state.

  13. Will the Scouser 19 Aug 2009, 5:51pm

    I agree with Julian: Gordon Brown can’t really give a meaningful apology for something that happened when he was no more than a child and wouldn’t even have known what homosexuality – or any other kind of sexuality – meant.

    Those who COULD and SHOULD meaningfully apologise are those callous MPs, ex-MPs and other “morality” campaigners (and there must be some of them still alive) who fought tooth and nail to prevent the 1967 reform.

  14. Robert, ex-pat Brit 19 Aug 2009, 6:14pm

    Will, and lets not forget to mention that those callous MPS, ex-MPS and other “morality” campaigners included many tories too, not just labour. Are any of us naive enough to believe that even David Cameron would be taking the lead to offer an apology? Its all very well beating up on Brown, but please, if Cameron and the tories are so pro-gay, why don’t they lead the charge to prove it? The same party that gave us Section 28 and many in that party would bring it back if they could. Cameron was once a staunch supporter of it. Leopards don’t change their spots to easily except if its for political expediency, no matter which side they’re on.

  15. Ah, Richard Dawkins- a voice of sanity-no surprise there.

  16. Simon Murphy 19 Aug 2009, 8:50pm

    No 11: Julian: You say: “This is as ridiculous and cynical as Tony Blair “apologising” for the Irish Potato Famine and the slave trade.”

    Well Tony Blair expressed ‘regret’ for those things. He didn’t apologise. Apparently an apology would leave the government liable for compensation.

    I reckon the same reasoning would be used in Turing’s case and in the case of all other people convicted for being gay.

  17. Jean-Paul Bentham 19 Aug 2009, 9:17pm

    I can vouch for that.

    As an Acadian whose ancestors were deported from Nova Scotia by the British Armed Forces in the New World in 1755, I know of a number of high strung Political Science students who insist that the Monarchy owes the Acadians an apology, but it ain’t in the works, not only because of what you say, that it would leave the British open for compensations, but also because it has been proven beyond any doubt that the Monarchy or the British Board of Trade was not even remotely aware of the deportation of the Acadians at the time.

    The decision to deport an entire population of Acadians was taken unilaterally by an upstart general, a guy called Lawrence, who ended up throwing himself on his own sword (poor baby) when it dawned on him how barbaric he had become.

    Most Acadians today are content to receive a compassionate word from the Queen. It really does mean a great deal, more than you can imagine, and the ‘royal regret’ should not be trivialized…in my opinion, of course.

  18. For once I agree with Simon Murphy, one cannot go apologising for a nations past actions, otherwise we would have Italy having to pay compensation for the Roman invasion of Britain. One has to draw a line in the sand, and admit regret, but not sanction it’s reasoning.

    That said, Alan Turing deserves the recognition that has been ignored him for so long, and even the simple publicity of his massive contributions to computer science will allow people to draw their own conclusions regarding his private life.

  19. I’m not sure what good these public apologies do – it’s pretty cold comfort for poor Turing, dead over 50 years, as are (no doubt) most of those involved in his imprisonment.

    On the other hand, at least the petition will give his achievements – and, now that it’s widely acknowledged, his gayness – some publicity, and that can only be a good thing.

  20. I think in the case of a single innocent person who has not been dead that long and who gave this country a means to defeat the Nazi’s is a special case for an apology from the Govt on the issue of why he was punished. That does not mean,as previously said, we don’t need to draw a line on general apologies for historical events we now find repugnant and unacceptable; human history is littered with such events and sadly no one country holds the monopoly.

  21. But Vince – that wouldn’t really work. It is understandable that the government doesn’t want to pay compensation for events long ago. However gay men who were jailed or convicted for being gay are still alive – possibly in their thousands. An apology for Turing would be even less likely seeing as there are many victims of government homophobia who are still alive – unlike slavery or the Irish Famine. I think the government would be worried about opening the floodgates for legal action.

  22. Jean-Paul Bentham 20 Aug 2009, 3:22pm

    It’s a corker, and I am enjoying this intelligent debate.

    Once the Equality Bill is passed, I suggest we bring this up again and do something very special to validate Turing, e.g. a posthumous Knighthood = a royal apology in a civilized way. no?

  23. Wot..?
    No RealityCheck?
    No Tigal-Splatherer?
    Just intelligent debate…?

    I am dis-cumknockerated…!

    I well remember those days, the 1950’s and the sheer panic I felt as a teenager at the slow realisation as I read my dad’s papers that ‘that’ orientation was ‘me’ and that that was where I was heading.

    I do not remember Turing or his case but I do remember reading avidly about someone called Vassall; it all seemed so ‘heinous’ this ‘homosexuality’ “crime” but even as a kid I could not understand how it could be a crime.
    To be a criminal, I thought in my juvenile head, you had to ‘do’ something; you had to ‘lift something’ (no comments about ‘shirt-tails’, please, any bigots out there reading this…heard ’em all B4; ta!..)
    You had to murder someone.
    But here was something, this ‘homosexuality’ and it was a crime just to ‘be’ that; it was a crime to want to touch another man even if that other man also wanted what you wanted.
    I was, became, increasingly desperate, as the teen-age years sped on, to get myself away from any situation where I might be with other boys/men and ‘do’ something and end up in the same place as these other criminals namely the front page of the News of the World to the unending ignominy of my mam….(I thought in those far off days.)
    So I went into the Church.
    The rest is history explained ‘ad nauseam’ on these pages preeve.

    But I read on another page and I think it was by EAGLE ASHCROFT (an American?) a comment to the effect that the Church was a way of laundering one’s orientation.
    I long since had already come to that conclusion myself, especially with regard to the Roman Catholic Church with its celibacy rule for its religious (priests, nuns, lay clerics)

    The celibacy rule, at a stroke, fends off any query as to “Why are you not 35.?”
    There can be no question as to why; the answer is the celibacy rule….a tailor-made excuse/legitimisation and bolt-hole.


  24. No, Keith. The celibacy rule for the clergy was imposed by the Church in a different age when the primary concern of senior clerics was to prevent positions in the Church from being passed on from any person to that person’s heir in an automatic fashion – to prevent the priesthood from becoming the heritable spiritual domain of the aristocracy.

    All that said, however, I do think that we gay people should be proud of Alan Turing for he gives the lie to those who view us as shallow, meaningless and trivial. He was the foremost mathematician of his generation and his sterling work at Bletchley in breaking the Enigma code and in inventing the computer immeasurably helped to win World War II for the Allies.

    Personally, but I’m prepared to be persuaded otherwise, I don’t think that an apology for the treatment meted out to Mr. Turing has any value today. I would prefer an honouring of his name and memory and a posthumous award for his faithful service to our country in its hour of need.

    Perhaps we should campaign for the Queen to award him a posthumous Garter decoration – or some such equivalent high honour. Certainly, some acknowledgement of him and his talent is needed to be expressed by the establishment. However, I’m just not sure that an apology is appropriate given the fact that the generation that castigated him is now largely defunct or dead. For me a posthumous honour would be better and would seem (again, perhaps, only for me) a more fitting tribute to a great man and a great intelligence.

    Apologies, no matter how they are couched, are vapid and evanescent whereas honours conferred record a man in the roles of his country and acknowledge his achievements and talents. I, personally, would prefer him, Alan Turing, to be honoured for his contributions to our society rather than having his memory apologised to and his contributions then forgotten.

    That’s just my opinion so do, please, feel free to disagree with me.

  25. I agree with Jean Paul Bentham at 22. A posthumous award would be better than an apology for it would validate his actions, his loyalty, his learning and his intelligence – not to mention his suffering and his rejection by his peers.

  26. Dave North 23 Aug 2009, 7:28am

    John M.J

    As much as I agree with your statement, unfortunately a large majority in this sorry country of ours would not even know who the man was.

    A reasonable percentile would most likely ask, which “Big Brother” was he in or which “Soap”.

    Indeed, for the sake of future generations a VERY public apology by whichever of these men that destroyed this individual with their hypocritical christian crap should be announced and screamed from the rooftops.

    Being a realist, it wont happen.

    The type of kids that used to make my childhood bad are now in government.

  27. You have a point, Mr. North, you have a point! But simply because the undereducated and ignorant don’t know who Mr. Turing is and what he did for us doesn’t mean that he should not be honoured in some way, does it, as well, if we feel that we have to, apologised to?

    But I do agree with you just a little bit! Perhaps his memory should be apologised to as well, and honoured. Perhaps now, in these opening years of a new century, our country, our establishment, should make amends for the errors of the past.

    Then again, perhaps we shouldn’t apologise for what was normal way back then but simply acknowledge that our ancesors were wrong and that we acknowledge greatness in retrospect. I find this issue very confusing for I am torn in two directions. I can quite see tha Mr. Turing was judged by the mores of his time without supporting, from my modern viewpoint, such mores and such viewpoints.

    Despite the obvious sincerity of your comment I stick to my idea that Mr. Turing should be honoured rather than apologised to.

  28. Dawkins is using Turing as a convenient bandwagon for his usual anti-religion mantra. I don’t think he really gives a stuff about Turing, or anyone else.

  29. Don’t be so cynical Rose. Dawkins loves science, and is merely angry at a fellow man of science being hounded for being gay.

  30. it’s not cynicism! I’ve met the man!!! But I DO think Turing should not only be given an apology – albeit WAY too late – but whatever honour can be given to him. I’ve already signed the petition.

  31. Here we go again, the usual ignorant and conceited mantras bleated about against non-believers based on no evidence….

  32. anne in canada 24 Aug 2009, 6:17pm

    I studied Computing Science…learned about the tragic fate of Dr. Turing from a professor who had been taught by him. Turing’s story opened my straight eyes to the horrible persecution gay men and women have experienced as a result of religious zealots defining morality.
    I agree with jae–The question of apology and knighthood for Turing are distinct. An apology is due on both sides of the Atlantic to all those people who have been persecuted. Turing should receive a posthumous knighthood for his invaluable contribution to the war effort. Where can Canadians sign up to help push both these causes? (PS I’m ashamed to admit but under our current neanderthal government, there is only grudging acceptance of LGBT people; on the other hand there is only grudging acceptance of the gov’t by most Canadians!

  33. Jean-Paul Bentham 25 Aug 2009, 1:32am

    As a Canadian proud of my Acadian roots, the fact that an Acadians now have equal opportunity in this country means more to me than any royal apology for something that does not remotely concern this Monarchy. For example, Acadians now have their own University which has transformed our lives, present and future, and all for the betterment of Canada. These are not just noble thoughts. We have actually had an Acadian Governor-General, and at this very moment, the Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick, home of the Acadians, is himself a highly intelligent and artistic Acadian, the accomplished poet and writer, Herménégilde Chiasson. These honors are much more meaningful to me than an apology from the Queen.

    Being recognized for an outstanding contribution to the unfolding of our Democracies represents not only an apology, but also a place in history.

    And yes, the Canadian Government does need a blood transfusion, and the sooner, the better. But, we gays are much better off now than when I was growing up, and the whole thing was made possible by the democratic process.

  34. Better than an apology or a knighthood would be a statue on that empty plinth in Trafalgar Square – a site where traditionally military heroes have been honoured. A statue of Turing would not just be a tribute to him but also to the changed attitudes towards homosexuality of society in general and the military in particular. Plus it would piss-off a great number of traditionalists, I imagine….

  35. “pre 1967 laws?”

    Turing was convicted for “gross indecency” with a 19 year old, so he would still have been convicted under the same law up until 1994, when the age of consent in Britain was lowered to 18. In fact he probably would have had a considerably more severe sentence AFTER 1967, since the penalties for sex with men under the age of 21 were then increased, and many more such cases were prosecuted.

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