But I Don’t Want to Wait

I mean, I can be an evil little thing while I’m traveling, but I’ll have to wait until I’m going to be home to receive the shirt.

Thanks to JT, his readers, and Jenn of Wholesale Fundraising Shirts, you don’t have to. Unlike me, you can click through right now to get your t-shirt or sweatshirt saying that if Jessica Ahlquist gets to have state legislators calling her an “evil little thing” for standing up for the Constitution, you want the same thing. If she’s evil, how can you not be?

Okay, so maybe you’re not sure you’re evil enough to wear the shirt. We can help with that. If you buy the shirt, all of the profits from the sale go toward Jessica’s college fund. Get yourself one of these, and you’ll be helping to educate an uppity heathen woman. How’s that for evil?

Go on. You know you want to. Won’t tell your mother.

What? I told you I was evil. Give me a little bit and I’ll have the shirt to prove it.

Atheists Talk: Sean Faircloth on “Attack of the Theocrats!”

Join us this Sunday, January 22nd, 2012 for an interview with Sean Faircloth, the author of the newly published, Attack of the Theocrats! How the Religious Right Harms Us All and What We Can Do About It.

Sean Faircloth is the Director of Strategy and Policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason. In this role he is designing and leading innovative strategies to improve the secular movement. He is a passionate, outspoken advocate for the separation of church and state. In Attack of the Theocrats he urges Secular Americans to recognize and address the harm done to us all by religious privilege that has been written into our state and federal laws.

Prior to his work at the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason, Sean Faircloth lead for two years as the Executive Director for the Secular Coalition of America. He served five terms as a representative in the Maine Legislature, where he was a member of the Judiciary and Appropriations Committee, and in his final term was elected Majority Whip.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to [email protected] during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

In the Trees

While I’m at ScienceOnline, my brain is usually buzzing too hard to concentrate on writing anything. To keep you entertained, a repost. The politicians have changed since I wrote this, but the funding problems remain. This was originally posted here.

For someone with acrophobia, I spent an awful lot of time as a child a story or more off the ground in trees. We had a treehouse for a few years that was worth the climb up the rope ladder. I spent uncounted hours reading in weeping willows, having juggled a book and usually an apple in my climb. I’d ignore the discomforts of my irregular perch for the privilege of reading uninterrupted, just me and the tree. No one ever looked up.

That wasn’t my first close association with willows, either. When I was two, we moved into a real house, and one of the first things we did was plant a willow in the front yard. I named her Alice. She came down just a few years ago, having lived a good, long life for such a weedy type of tree.

I’ve always lived among trees and gone to the woods for quiet, but it took a change of scenery to discover just how much trees mean to me. I was in my early twenties when I went to Arizona with my mother to visit my grandparents. I chalked the tension up to too much family in too small a space and tried to ignore it as it built over a couple of days.

My mother and I took a side trip north to Flagstaff, to spend a few days seeing the sights in and around the Navajo Nation and, of course, the Grand Canyon. (It’s, um, big. Dangerously icy in February too. The ravens, however, are charming and like peanuts more than I do.) As we drove north out of Phoenix, I wasn’t really looking forward to more time in constant proximity to family.

Then we started to climb out of the desert and hit an elevation where there were trees. Stubby little piñon pines, but still the first trees I’d seen in days. And I relaxed. Turns out that trees are pretty important to me.

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Science Fair Spectacular

This fall, Freethought Blogs participated in the Donors Choose challenge to help fund special projects at U.S. schools. One of the projects readers of this blog helped to support was the Science Fair Spectacular.  The teacher who created the project recently posted a letter and some pictures.

Planning for Projects

Getting excited planning for projects.

I want you to know what an impact this activity has had on my students. Although we have just started picking our projects for the Science Fair, the students are very excited. It has definitely set an interest in science that may have not been there before. Just the other day, I had a student tell me that he never knew science could be so much fun. As we work toward our end product, the Science Fair, I suspect we will do a lot of growing and learning about many aspects of science. Because of you, this is possible! We are truly grateful!

With gratitude,
Mrs. Raspberry

Thank You

We <3 science. Thank you.

And thank you all again from me as well.

The Tyranny of the Original Idea

While I’m at ScienceOnline, my brain is usually buzzing too hard to concentrate on writing anything. To keep you entertained, a repost. This was originally posted here.

Two youngsters fall in love. Their love is forbidden because they belong to two worlds at war with each other. Realizing the futility of the feuds that keep them apart, they decide to flee. Confusion follows and our story ends in death.

Romeo and Juliet, of course. Or is this West Side Story? Sung in Shadow? Or Pyramus and Thisbe? Perhaps even Ha-Buah?

Earlier this week, Mike posted about feeling that his writing wasn’t original enough. Bah. I hate it when I see someone denigrating their own work this way. It’s silly and pointless and keeps people from contributing to the world. And may I point out, I’m hardly the first to say so.

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They Will Not Be Grateful

I’m a bit late for Religious Freedom Day. Chris Rodda got a great post out on Jefferson’s opinion of Patrick Henry, who tried to turn our country into a theocracy in its early days. Me? I was ridiculously busy.

JT and Christina, on the other hand, have been doing a bang-up job of chronicling the cost of protecting our religious freedoms. In case you don’t pay attention to these sorts of things, Jessica Ahlquist won her court case last week, with a judge rather snarkily confirming that a prayer on the wall of her public school is a prohibited government endorsement of religion.

Since that time, Jessica has received condemnation that tops the ravings she had to deal with while the case was in progress. [Read more...]

Relative Importance of IT Domains

The following is a guest post from my friend Jim Hall. He’s best known as the founder of the FreeDOS project, but he’s also the Director of IT at the University of Minnesota Morris. A while back, he ran a survey for people at all levels of IT to collect some data on how required skill sets change as people move through an IT leadership chain.

I helped him promote the survey and let him know I was curious about the results. My husband works in IT as well, and conversations among the lot of us frequently touch on how organizations and projects are managed–for better or for worse. He offered me this guest post to get the information to a broader audience than would read it on his own blog, which has a largely academic readership. I know I have a lot of readers in IT. Enjoy.

Some time ago, I posted an online poll to survey the relative importance of four qualities at various levels in an IT organization. With the help of other bloggers, and through retweets, we got the word out to as many IT folks as possible. We received responses from all across the globe (though most were from the U.S.) representing private industry, higher education, and government. The poll was up for about two months, but most of the responses came within the first few weeks. I’d like to share the results with you.

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Toward a Definition of Misogyny

One of the sticking points in the last few months of discussions about the role of women in the skeptical and atheist movements is the resistance to the use of the word “misogyny.” In its general form, the argument goes: “Hey! There’s no evidence that this person actually hates women. Using that word is an exaggeration/hyperbole/an unwarranted attack!” Then all other discussion must grind to a halt while this argument happens. Again.

There’s a little problem with that. “Hatred of women” is not a definition of “misogyny”. It’s a translation. To have an actual working definition of the word, we’re going to have to do a little more work.

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Not on Their Behalf

When your objection to a particular argument hinges on that argument being parallel to racism, expect the black folks in the room to notice. More than that, expect them to have something to say on the matter. Crommunist decided yesterday was a good day to have his say, in “Shuffling feet: a black man’s view on Schroedinger’s Rapist.”

As much as I hate it when white people use anti-black racism as a cudgel with which to beat other people, I can understand the conundrum as it is expressed. The problem with it (and the reason why it’s so bothersome to hear white people talk about anti-black racism) is that it fails to address the question in a meaningful way. To demonstrate what I mean, I’d like to share a couple of personal anecdotes from my own life. I’ve never shared these stories with anyone before, and I’m not sure why because there’s nothing particularly embarrassing about them, and they’re extremely useful in this context.

When I was in high school, I was the de facto manager of my string quartet. We were gaining a bit of a reputation – we were pretty good, and young people are a novelty – and had picked up a lot of gigs playing weddings. One particular evening, I was supposed to meet the bride-to-be at her church. I had been hanging out at my friend’s house, and was walking from his place to the church. Unhappily, I realized that I was running a bit late – very unprofessional – so I decided to pick up my pace. It was cool outside, so I had my hoodie up.

You’ll have to read the whole thing to find out what happened and what he did about it. And those of you who like the “just like racism” defense against the Schroedinger’s Rapist argument should understand that Crommunist’s post is going to get linked every time you make the defense from here on out in these discussions. You might as well deal with it now.

When Daniel at Camels With Hammers wrote a linking post on the topic, someone in the comments tried to change the subject. Schroedinger’s Rapist was no longer just racism. Now it was just like the fear of allowing trans women to use women’s restrooms because it might increase a woman’s fear of rape. Luckily, Natalie Reed, who will be joining FtB very soon, was on hand to answer that.

The point is that “schrodinger’s rapist” is based on a rational, substantiated and legitimate risk assessment.

The belief that permitting trans women into women’s spaces poses some kind of threat is not a legitimate assessment of risk. It is motivated by irrational fears. You know what they call irrational fear of trans people? Transphobia.

Furthermore, the supposed hypothetical risk posed to cis women in this situation needs to be weighed against the very REAL risk, threat, harassment and so on of trans women. If I go into a men’s room, I’m putting myself at VERY direct, real risk of being attacked, beaten or sexually assaulted. And even if that doesn’t happen, the attendant discomfort far outweighs whatever discomfort a cis woman can claim to have with my presence in the women’s room.

If you’ve ever wondered why it’s so important to include diverse voices in conversations like these, here is your answer. I can tell you why the statistics don’t support comparing associating crime with race to associating rape with gender. Plenty of people can explain–and have explained repeatedly and at length–why power differentials make it unreasonable to compare the situations of the people making judgments in each of these cases. However, only people who live these experiences can fully capture what is missed when people say, “Well, isn’t this just like that?”

And now that you’ve been told, if you were one of the people making these comparisons, it’s time to knock it off. You have no reason to speak for people who are perfectly happy to speak for themselves. You’ve definitely got no excuse now to continue to get it wrong.

Whose Side Are You On?

This post is one of several intended to provide some starting points for the session John Timmer and I are moderating at Science Online 2012, “You Got Your Politics in My Science.” The general topic has to do with when scientific findings call out for advocacy, and when advocacy is appropriate in the reporting of science. Feel free to join the conversation even if you’re not part of Science Online. This is an unconference that works to see as many viewpoints expressed on its topics as possible.

In our correspondence on our session, John mentioned something that instantly rang bells: the tendency of people to look at scientific information you present and infer from that your cultural identity. He mentioned it as a speculative idea, in (I believe) that it hasn’t been documented in the research as a function of cognition. As that isn’t the literature I’m particularly familiar with, I can’t back him up on that. What I can do, however, is document the phenomenon in the wild.

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