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The Reply

…to my opening statement is up at the dialog site. That makes relevant links so far:

I’ll have things to say about the response at some point, of course. I won’t post anything new there until they’ve also responded to my response to their opening statement. Right now, I put this here so those who to talk about it have a space.

Talk away. I spent the little energy I have today on a two-hour interfaith panel at a local community college and talking to the students afterward. Now I need a nap.

Comments

  1. mythbri says

    Stephanie, I’m going to continue to read what you have to say in this conversation, because I think yours is a valuable voice and your writing makes me think.

    But I don’t see this conversation going anywhere. I feel frustrated just reading it. I admire your patience in being willing to engage, but…..

    So far it feels like nothing of substance is being said. I feel like I’d get more out of this if it were just a series you were writing.

  2. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    I only skimmed it, but it seemed to me to be suggesting – without using the terms directly – that feminism ‘isn’t science’ and therefore shouldn’t be considered important.

  3. says

    quick-analysis:
    (1)a single good point wrapped in a lot of waffle; plus, the good point really just amounts to “some people sometimes are wrong”, to which we already have a sort-of solution: experimentation (aka trial-and-error) and abandonment of shit that doesn’t work.
    (2)define “mainstream”; also, this doesn’t address anything that Stephanie said, it’s just a defense of JAQing off as not ever being allowed to stop rehashing 101-level issues.
    (3)”post-modernism” really is the centrist’s “muslim nazi communist”; no clue what it means, but they’ll disagree anyway. Also, interesting that only things they already see as quackery should be challenged, and that EP is not on the list.
    (4)”we don’t need to harassment policies, and those who want them are just killjoys who hate men and are trying to scare women for no reason”; that’s one recent example.
    (7)translation: “I don’t understand the word you’re using, can I substitute one of my favorite hobby horse that I also don’t understand for it instead?”
    (15)really what the fuck is the point of activism if you’re not ever going to measure if it’s actually working as intended? At some point, some approaches will come out as more or less effective; if we don’t gather the data and follow where it leads, then we’ll never actually achieve anything. Besides, this point actively contradicts point (1b). If we’re not going to check and see what’s efficacious and what isn’t, on what basis would one “not support it” or even “actively oppose it”?

  4. says

    I only skimmed it, but it seemed to me to be suggesting – without using the terms directly – that feminism ‘isn’t science’ and therefore shouldn’t be considered important.

    not quite; it’s saying that feminism is not “mainstream science” and therefore demanding that you don’t continue doing the things that have shown to alienate many women is prescriprivism and dogma and to be strongly opposed (the same for other social issues).

  5. carlie says

    It seemed so weird, because to me the prevailing vibe it gave off was “there are ideas we shouldn’t ever entertain because they are so damaging, even though we’re saying that we should be free to entertain any ideas”. And then the ideas he thinks we shouldn’t be entertaining due to being damaging aren’t the ones that make women less valued as people than men, but the ones that try to make them equal.

  6. Ariel says

    Jadehawk #3

    (1)a single good point wrapped in a lot of waffle; plus, the good point really just amounts to “some people sometimes are wrong”, to which we already have a sort-of solution: experimentation (aka trial-and-error) and abandonment of shit that doesn’t work.

    I think it’s far more than that. In my opinion (see also the earlier observation by carlie #6) they interpreted this statement by Stephanie

    Additionally, pursuing multiple strategies at once allows us to take advantage of the diverse talents and motivations of those who find value in promoting all or any of these ideals.

    as: “You can have your ideals and promote them, while leaving us alone”.

    And I’m inclined to interpret their answer in (1) as: “your ways are misguided and harmful and we are justified in actively opposing you”. Of course it’s not stated that way, with the dialogue having its guidelines, but I strongly suspect that’s the intention. It’s also a trailer of their future strategy. IMO it would be a bad idea to ignore it and treat the stuff literally; some answer should be incorporated in the next statement. This will require a lot of smart camouflage – I don’t envy Stephanie!

  7. says

    It seemed so weird, because to me the prevailing vibe it gave off was “there are ideas we shouldn’t ever entertain because they are so damaging, even though we’re saying that we should be free to entertain any ideas”.

    I gto that from this statement as well it seems like a verbal game of Jenga, don’t give too much away and pull all the cards out at once lest the game is given away. I guess further down the track it will be exposed as their view that all ideas should be entertained plus some ideas should not be entertained as they are damaging is obviously contradictory. Also begs the obvious question of who determines what ideas are “too” damaging to be allowed and what an appropriate response to that should be. This applies to both “sides”, personally for me the non-harassment, non-photoshop, “callout culture” seems a much better way of proceeding.

  8. A Hermit says

    Sentence 8 says “… I fully agree that people should be encouraged to pursue their atheist activism in any manner in which they see fit. This assumes their activities are in compliance with the principles of equality and avoidance of harm…”

    Isn’t promoting equality and avoiding harm exactly what the A+ idea is all about?

    Also it seems contradictory to declare in one breath that the greatest sin is to “impose” some ideology on others and to then turn around and insist that everyone must comply with the principle of equality (as interpreted by whom, I wonder?)

  9. doubtthat says

    Well, count me as a total skeptic that there’s any value to this whatsoever (that’s not to say I don’t appreciate Stephanie’s effort), but once again, we have this:

    …no person or group of persons has the right to impose their particular brand of advocacy on anyone else.

    And this

    …if I consider some particular approach likely to lead to more harm than good in the long term — even if it is intended to promote some cause or idea with which I agree — then I will not support it. Indeed, I may actively oppose it, especially if it involves the promulgation of potentially harmful, unsupported ideas in society.

    Like, say, the bizarre, obsessive misogyny that started this whole kerfuffle in the first place?

    I have seen no evidence that they even understand the double standard they’re promoting: we get to argue against feminism in all its imagined incarnations, but the minute you start arguing against our anti-feminist position, you’re “imposing” your beliefs, and we can’t have that.

    I also find it just insulting that they continue to speak about these issues as vague, conceptual notions when they’re talking about something very specific. As someone who has been active in politics and grew up in a Bible-belt state, this tactic comes of as trite and transparent, rather than clever.

    Hey, we just want to make sure that the States can exercise they’re constitutional powers. The power to do what? What are these beliefs being “imposed”? Once the specifics enter the conversation it will quickly be noted that (1) they cannot make a substantive argument about any of this and (2) they’re just bitching about feminism — the fake variety in their heads.

  10. says

    Enough. Seriously. Enough.

    It’s all smoke and mirrors. You’re enabling them and their abhorrent behavior. And are giving cover to their abhorrent ideas.

    Plain language, please. Direct. Specific. Stop tiptoeing around the issues.

    1. There is a large group of “skeptics” who do not support an ethos of full human rights for all.

    2. This group of “skeptics” has engaged in a years-long campaign of harassment and bullying against people who do support an ethos of full human rights for all.

    3. The rest of us are perfectly within our rights to marginalize them, ban them, ignore them. In exactly the same way we marginalize, ban, and ignore white supremacists and the like.

    4. Engaging in “dialog” with such people is counterproductive and enabling. It’s like buying a fifth of vodka every day and bringing into the home of an alcoholic, and then being SHOCKED that they actually drink it. Even though you tell them not to.

  11. rrede says

    I’ve been so swamped with work and conferences that I’ve not had the energy to reply–but I’ve been reading the whole chain of posts leading up to this (as best I can, skimming a lot of the stuff at Nugent’s blog) with interest, and just wanted to chime in here to agree with what people are saying about the problematic rhetoric. I pulled these examples (which some others have noted) as especially notable in that respect:

    1. This is the basis for my skeptical and atheist activism in the first place (i.e. against theism/religion, faith-based reasoning, pseudo-science, etc.

    2. . . .some critics of science offer no useful criticism but serve only to undermine public understanding of science. For example: Post-modernism, Intelligent Design, the Templeton Foundation, Scientology, pseudo-scientists, ideologically motivated academics and scholars (such as some Bible historians for example), alternative medicine, etc.

    3. . .no person or group of persons has the right to impose their particular brand of advocacy on anyone else.

    Number 1 just makes me think about how many atheists trained in the sciences reject sociological research regarding systematic discrimination (often, in some of the most notable cases recently, in the “hard” sciences!). So if they’re calling sociological research pseudo-science and using it to reject the evidence their “skeptical and atheist” activism demands, then there’s no point in even trying to cooperate with them.

    Number 2 is connected to the rejection of sociological research (should I note here I’m not a sociologist, but humanities trained, with some interest in sociolinguistics, and also that I realize there is bad research in every field!), and the claim of what is undermining “public understanding” of science–as a postmodernist, I tend to side eye the equivalence of postmodernist theories (SOME of them, there are more than one, and major conflicts among ‘em) as equivalent to some of the others (I don’t know what they all mean, but I do know what ID and alternate medicine are). The greatest cause of lack of scientific training is not any of these things, as far as I can see (I live in rural TExas) but the poor quality of teacher education, separate ‘tracks’ for “science educators” and also the religious domination of school districts, NOT postmodernism. But I also reject the idea that “science” is ahistorical,universal, objective ideal system that some scientists wish to claim.

    Number 3–as all said above–this “no one can impose” is hugely problematic given the history of the past few years (nobody should impose a sexual harassment policy, hmmm/).

    Also: for somebody who is demanding specific examples be given, this respondent is remarkably light on “specific examples” for his/their claims.

  12. Anthony K says

    if I consider some particular approach likely to lead to more harm than good in the long term — even if it is intended to promote some cause or idea with which I agree — then I will not support it. Indeed, I may actively oppose it, especially if it involves the promulgation of potentially harmful, unsupported ideas in society.

    Wait, how did a quote by Samuel Alito on same-sex marriage get in there?

  13. A Hermit says

    Kevin at #11

    Plain language, please. Direct. Specific. Stop tiptoeing around the issues.

    A big atheist amen to that!

    Someone in another comment thread was lamenting the difficulty of “pinning down” what the issues are. This was my reply:

    “I don’t know about that; it’s looked to me for a long time like there are some people who think that sexism is sometimes a problem in the atheist/skeptic community and some others who think that talking about sexism is the problem…

    I see some women saying they are sometimes subjected to dismissive and even insulting language and behaviour when they try to participate in this community and would like that to stop, a small but noisy group of people who call them b******* and c**** and tell them to shut up about it and another group of mostly clueless people who would like to pretend the problem is just rudeness and that both “sides” are equally bad.

    It’s not actually all that complicated.”

    It really isn’t…

  14. says

    A Hermit: Precisely so. At this point, the “dialog” is the problem. Because its continuing to provide space for the “there are two sides to every story” camp. It’s like continuing to call the Tobacco Institute about the dangers of cigarette smoking.

    It’s bad ethics, bad rhetoric, bad psychology, bad everything.

    Bad bad bad bad bad.

    I don’t want dialog with skinheads. I want them marginalized so they don’t harm me or others. You don’t do that by opening up a tattoo parlor that specializes in swastikas.

  15. says

    And I’m inclined to interpret their answer in (1) as: “your ways are misguided and harmful and we are justified in actively opposing you”.

    oh, I agree that this is what it amounts to, especially given the contradiction with (15). It really is just a basic double standard (“I oppose harmful ideas, you impose an ideology”); not that anything else can really be expected from folks who use “ideology” and “dogma” without really knowing what the words mean.

    Because if they did know, they’d be aware that all activism, including the skeptics movement, is a move to impose your ideology on the broader world. (and that’s even besides the meaning of “ideology” in the general sense of weltanschauung, which everyone shares by definition; no people exist who do not have a comprehensive worldview through which they interpret and interact with the world)

  16. says

    But I also reject the idea that “science” is ahistorical, universal, objective ideal system that some scientists wish to claim.

    seconded. as long as science is practiced by humans, with human brains, it will be a subjective enterprise. It’s just the subjective enterprise with the most checks on it, so it produces the least unreliable results (it’s kinda like natural selection in that way: it’s really not “survival of the fittest”, but “survival of the barely adequate” :-p ). And anyone who pays any attention to meta-problems of science will know that. Issues with publication bias (no one really wants to publish “the null hypothesis could not be rejected” papers, cuz those aren’t “sexy”; no one wants to publish “my experiment confirmed the results of the 10 other people who tried this” either, for the same reason), the WEIRD people bias, etc. And that’s just the most obvious stuff.

  17. A Hermit says

    Kevin, I’m actually enjoying the “dialogue” because I see it as exposing the bankrupt thinking on the other side.

    They (at least the ones engaging in the dialogue) desperately want to believe that THEY are the reasonable ones, but the only way they can look that way to an impartial observer, or even to themselves, is to adopt all this fuzzy language and in the end sound as if they are actually agreeing with the A+ ideals of equality and harm reduction…we can see this happening already in the last statement. They can’t come right out with the usual “freeze peach” defense of anti-feminist/MRA type language in this format because it’s clearly not in keeping with the very principles they are claiming to support. Hence the internal contradictions in their statements around not imposing ideology while simultaneously insisting on adherence to certain principles.

    They are painting themselves into a rhetorical corner. As the dialogue progresses I think they are going to have to be more and more explicit about rejecting the kind of outright hatred they have been ignoring or making excuses for (if not actually engaging in themselves) up to now. The real hardcore haters are never going to engage anyway, but if the bigger group of people who really think the problem is just people being mean on the internet can be coaxed into agreeing with those basic principles of fairness and equality then the haters will be even more marginalized.

    I see this as an opportunity to peel away that layer of “respectable” support that the worst of the slymepit has been enjoying. And I think Stephanie is doing a good job so far. far better than I could have…

  18. smhll says

    I can’t say whether this structured dialog is pointless. Right now, I’m wishing it were less abstract and more concrete. But I will acknowledge that principles are important, even in the abstract.

    If I do a lot of guessing and really exert myself to be charitable, I think the persons on the other side may want to hear a statement that says “no one should be thrown out of an event for their ideological position”.

    And, to counter-balance that, I think many people on this side would state that “getting up in people’s faces with your ideological position can be so unfriendly and obnoxious that it becomes harassment”. (I am talking about unwanted vigorous debate as an issue at gatherings. I am not addressing threats and ridicule that are more clearly very wrong and are condemned by nearly everyone. I’m looking at the greyer area.)

  19. arbor says

    Stephanie – I very much agree with Kevin.

    Participation in this dialog is doing much more harm than good.

    These are people to be shunned, not engaged.

  20. hjhornbeck says

    I’m gonna go against Kevin on this one. The Slyme side is ever so slowly trapping themselves in their rhetoric, with the inevitable result of either an embrace of feminism or an admission they have no intellectual leg to stand on. Take, for instance, this:

    I readily endorse the methods and findings of mainstream science (pending future shifts in scientific consensus, of course).

    Which means they embrace feminism, as the evidence for feminism’s main contentions are very strong. Two examples:

    1. Economists have reached consensus, that advancing the status of women is an easy way towards economic advancement:

    Leaving women out of the economy is not just unfair and unjust, it’s also not smart economics. So how do we change things? A commitment to more equitable policies and legislation is one way. Education to give women the skills they need to get jobs is another. [...] Empowering women to become full economic citizens is a crucial part of the World Bank’s work. At the Annual Meetings in Tokyo last Thursday, distinguished panelists such as H.E. President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, World Bank President Jim Kim and CIDA President Margaret Biggs came together to talk about how we can pursue a path of economic growth that includes the world’s other half.

    They are now embracing the policies that feminists have been pushing for decades.

    2. The term “gender” may have been invented in 1955, but it was popularized by feminists in the 70′s. The WHO embraces the term, and modern sociology depends on it to a huge degree:

    By calling attention to the powerful impact of gender in the social ordering of our relationships (microlevel analysis) and our institutions (macrolevel analysis), the feminist theoretical perspective in sociology emerged as a major model that has significantly reshaped the discipline. By the research it spawned, feminist sociological theory is not only bridging the micro–macro gap, it has also illuminated the androcentric bias in sociology and in broader society.

    If feminism isn’t mainstream science, then neither are economics or sociology. Watching them get dragging kicking and screaming into embracing feminism, by holding them to their own words, is very much worth all the long boring weaselwordy proclaimations, in my opinion.

  21. rorschach says

    This really has to stop. I’m reminded of a panel discussion between opposing sides, and instead of working out the differences between panel members, a dialogue is initiated with the biggest loudmouths in the audience.

    Just watch Blackford fellate every single of Dawkins’ tweets, and the fanboi retweeting from Hale et al. of Harris and the like, there are alliances and networks being forged as we speak between those anti-A+ and squeaky-clean atheists who may actually be taken seriously in a debate, but these people are not contributing to Nugent’s dialogue at all. As long as that doesn’t happen, keeping this charade up is, as was mentioned, only enabling a few internet stalkers and harassers.

  22. says

    Kevin #11:

    Plain language, please. Direct. Specific. Stop tiptoeing around the issues.

    1. There is a large group of “skeptics” who do not support an ethos of full human rights for all.

    2. This group of “skeptics” has engaged in a years-long campaign of harassment and bullying against people who do support an ethos of full human rights for all.

    3. The rest of us are perfectly within our rights to marginalize them, ban them, ignore them. In exactly the same way we marginalize, ban, and ignore white supremacists and the like.

    4. Engaging in “dialog” with such people is counterproductive and enabling. It’s like buying a fifth of vodka every day and bringing into the home of an alcoholic, and then being SHOCKED that they actually drink it. Even though you tell them not to.

    5. Both the tactics and ideology of this group of skeptics strongly reflect those of the broader radical Right, far too strongly for such an overlap to be coincidental.

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