A Case Study: Empathy vs. Intellect

A guest post by L.P. See this post for an explanation of cognitive and affective empathy.

Referring back to part 5 of my series on empathy, Edwin Rutsch, Director of the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy and Compassion invited me to participate in a video interview to be published on YouTube. I’ll explain in detail why the interview never took place since Rutsch allowed me to divulge the contents of our interactions.*

In Cognitive Empathy and Emotional Empathy in Human Behavior and Evolution, Adam Smith writes “empathic overdevelopment might be at the expense of other mental abilities,” such as an intellectual deficit. Smith acknowledges that he’s conducting exploratory theorizing, making predictions about the relationship between cognitive and affective empathy (referred to as “emotional empathy” or EE in his article) and that these predictions need testing.

Rutsch’s actions after issuing the invitation offer a case study of the trade-off between empathy and intellect. What’s more, Rutsch exhibits dishonesty, a weak sense of personal boundaries, and an unhealthy obsession with tracking down “anti-empathy” people. See his attempts to pressure Kevin D. Williamson (via petition) and Paul Bloom to interview. In the latter’s case, Rutsch divulged the contents of their email exchange (to Bloom’s discomfort) and subsequently created several YouTube videos about Bloom’s article.

Upon receiving Rutsch’s invitation to do the interview, I established that I’d only talk about my “Getting Real About Empathy” series, and Rutsch agreed. He set up a Google+ document to list topics for the video interview. As soon as I looked over this document, I knew that he had read only the recap points at the end of the posts.

Rutsch demonstrates his failure to read and understand my posts in his listing of me as an “anti-empathy” author at his site for his emergency response team to deal with. Oh, so “Empathy leads to the lack of empathy” huh Edwin? Well, alrighty then! I wonder what other nuggets of wisdom he gleaned from glancing at my posts. Perhaps 1 + 2 = 4 also Edwin? This is so precious that I’ll include an image of this, just in case the summary at his site is ever fixed. (Click to enlarge images below.)

Empathy leads to the lack of empathy

During the time that Rutsch and I communicated on the Google+ document, I urged him to read my posts and indicated that I’d cancel the interview if he didn’t demonstrate having read and understood the contents of my writing. Rutsch never did, so this became the basis for canceling the interview. In the image below, Rutsch’s words appear in green while mine appear in blue.

Edwin Rutsch copy of Google doc part 3

Rutsch was probably desperate because, the night before the interview was supposed to take place, he lied about having read my posts that night. I challenged his claim and he did not offer an explanation for how he could have read the posts without visiting this blog that night.

Rutsch lies part 1

Rutsch lies part 2

Speaking of contradictions, the following image contains Rutsch’s stance on government-mandated empathy programs. Note that just 2-3 weeks prior, in the YouTube video I referenced (my comments in red this time), he and some members of his team kept circling back on the topic of how to force those who’re reluctant to be more empathetic and conform to their values and expectations:

Rutsch on mandated empathy programs

Despite the hard tone of my narration of events, I don’t take pleasure in singling out and publicly criticizing an individual. However, I hope that speaking out may help some of his 30,000+ followers to see Rutsch for what he actually is. Perhaps there’s also a sliver of hope that Rutsch will learn how moronic it is to engage in knee-jerk pursuits and attempts to wear down authors of articles he didn’t read and understand in an effort to censor negative evaluations of empathy.

Henceforth, I won’t respond to Rutsch or his followers because I value my time. He or any member of his cult can still properly respond to my “Getting Real About Empathy” series by first reading and understanding it (along with the several scientific studies I cited – all essential in supporting my arguments) and then by writing an article with logical and supported rebuttals to each point that I made.


*Below is my message (which conveys how fed up I was with his persistence) and Rutsch’s response. He clearly gave me permission to divulge the contents of our interaction:


We’re already having a recorded dialog about my empathy articles. Welcome to my writing show!!! Everything you’ve said here and the Google+ doc will go out to the public on the world wide web… including your resistance to learning, your resistance to new information, your unwillingness to read, your lack of integrity, and your futile attempts at controlling this conversation with me via empathic dialogue.

Rutsch permits publicly divulging contents of interaction