More on Shermer, PZ, and Michael Nugent

Ashley to Michael: I'm asking whether it's unreasonable for someone to feel uncomfortable when you say it's wrong to call Shermer a rapist.  Michael to Ashley: That's a question I haven't heard before. I don't know. I'll think about it and get back to you. Capped from Damion Reinhardt's Storify

I wanted to respond at length to both Michael Nugent, who I’ve spoken with over Twitter, and to many commenters who agree with him in the previous post and on Twitter.

I don’t have a problem with Michael Nugent’s distaste for PZ’s tone.  I don’t agree in general, though like Nugent, I found PZ to be lacking in his posts about Dawkin’s childhood sex abuse and Robin Williams’ suicide.  PZ has always been a pit bull, and it generally gives his posts clarity and humor, both of which I appreciate.  But, I don’t really care if you hate that, that’s fine, to each his own.

I also don’t really have a problem with Atheist Ireland’s dissociation with PZ.  Again, freedom of association, to each their own.  I do think that, while they’ve made an exhaustive list of why they don’t like his tone, they’ve failed entirely to even try to make a case as to why an American blogger’s tone has any relevance to the work they are doing.  I’m not sure what harm PZ has actually caused to Atheist Ireland, beyond making Michael Nugent very unhappy. Why Atheist Ireland’s agenda includes breaking up with bloggers is beyond me.

The problem I have with Michael Nugent fundamentally boils down to his 9/17/14 blog post in which he equivalizes his complaints about PZ’s tone in his posts to PZ agreeing to post a firsthand account of rape in which the victim names her rapist.  This post by Nugent is in response to a lengthy, in-depth article by well-respected journalist Mark Oppenheimer, known for his work at the New York Times, in which Oppenheimer details multiple accusations of misbehavior on the part of Michael Shermer.

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The Background of Atheist Ireland’s Breakup with PZ: It’s about Michael Shermer

Edits from earlier versions: Two major edits from information sent to me via Twitter by people who were, I think, trying to be hostile, but who I appreciate sending me the information. Ron Lindsay did not ask Rebecca Watson to take down her post, he asked her to reword it and the link to his post has been reworded to reflect that; this was a misremembrance on my part. The second is that I added screencaps and reworded the description of the Slymepit to be more accurate. The inaccuracy previously was the suggestion that they stalked people’s hospitals, which seems to be a game of telephone garbled interpretation I heard of an event that is linked to, in which they took PZ’s hospitalization as an opportunity to make up STD rumors about him. While I did have 2 editors fact check the post, they missed these, as did I.

Mixed Rape Finals - Members of FtB judging a rape; unauthorized photoshop of Brian Engler's original photo

I’m not entirely sure if the joke is that we’re judging our own rapes or a rape we’ve witnessed.

So in recent days, there’s been a bit of drama in the atheist movement over Atheist Ireland and PZ Myers that I’ve spent a bit of time trying to fully understand the background of.  Since I spent all the time getting a big picture overview, I thought other people might like to have access to it as well.  I don’t regularly follow any of the main players’ blogs, and I’ve been ill for the last 8 months, so I haven’t regularly followed anything during that time.  That said, the tl;dr version of the story is that it’s about Michael Shermer, and the longer version follows.  It’s not convoluted, it’s just happened over a long period of time.

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Thunderf00t: Stealing people’s private information is a major violation

All emails sent to this list are confidential and private. Revealing information contained in any email sent to the list to anyone not on the list without permission of the author is strictly prohibited.

I have tried to stay as far away from this Thunderf00t drama as possible.  Unfortunately, Thunderf00t’s vendetta against PZ Myers and feminism at large has now turned into an all out personal attack against anyone who has anything to do with FtB.

Thunderf00t has hacked, repeatedly, into the FtB private emails, stolen them, and forwarded private, confidential information to other people.  He is using this to hurt people.  Some of the bloggers here do so anonymously for reasons of personal safety and his actions have threatened their anonymity and the safety of themselves and their loved ones.

I am absolutely sick over this.  The information he has about me is not nearly as worrisome as the information he has about other people.  I blog as myself, after all, and though there are things I said under the protection of confidentiality that I would vastly prefer not to be brought up, I can live if they are.  The information he has about other people, however, and the things he has done to try to hurt them by forwarding information to others and, after telling people he has backchannel information, lying about what has been said… that worries me a lot.

I didn’t really care about Thunderf00t before this.  It is clear now that he is a cruel man out to destroy anyone he thinks he can, either out of spite or out of a total disregard for collateral damage in his hatred for PZ.  There are not words for how violated I feel, how heartsick I am for those who are worried about personal details being shared, and how grotesque Thunderf00t’s behavior is.

He will undoubtedly crow about how clever and weaselly he is, but just remember that he has hurt many people and deeply damaged relationships and trust.  He has done something that I would not wish on my worst enemies and he has done it, apparently, just to be mean.  I could not be more disappointed that he is an “ally” in the atheist movement and, even worse, that there are those who will surely laugh at his cruelty along with him.

Mostly, I am just sad.

TAM Saturday

I got up early on Saturday and headed to the Del Mar bar to meet Ginger Campbell, super awesome brain and ER doctor, to watch the 3rd place World Cup match between Sweden and France.  I didn’t stay for the whole thing, but Sweden ended up winning.  I missed a panel about paranormal investigation and a talk by Sadie Crabtree.  I fully intended to watch Sadie Crabtree, but got caught up in a conversation with Heidi Anderson in the Presenters room.

ASIDE: I am on the airplane and having a slow freak out because a crown on one of my teeth isn’t there and I have apparently swallowed it.  It doesn’t hurt, I didn’t notice when it happened, but now my throat hurts.  I assume I’m not going to die from swallowing a crown, right?  I wish this airplane had internet so I could send out a distress signal.

Anyway, I then got a tdap vaccine because I don’t want to get whooping cough.  My arm still hurts.

I got caught up in a discussion with PZ Myers and a group of guys about Elevatorgate and women in the movement.  It’s always weird to be the only woman in discussion about women because you’re treated as like a representative of the whole gender.  It was a good discussion though.  When they realized I was giving a talk the following day, they asked if it was going to be about women in the movement and seemed disappointed when I said it wasn’t going to be.  I told them that women join the movement because they care about skepticism and issues other than being a woman, I don’t want to be put in some ghetto where it’s my job to talk only about women.

Then, there was a panel about placebos and how and why they worked, and if it was possible to use the placebo effect intentionally and honestly.  It was an interesting discussion, though I wonder if it would have been better as a presentation rather than a panel discussion.

Elizabeth Loftus then spoke about manufacturing memories and how unreliable human memories are.  I found this very interesting because I’d just finished reading The Invisible Gorilla, which is about much the same thing.  Or at least I think it was, but I could be manufacturing that memory too…

Richard Wiseman was up next, but I don’t remember his talk at all.  Then it was lunch, where we talked about Mansplaining, Poe’s Law, and Godwin’s Law.

After lunch the magnificantly awesome Carol Tavris spoke about cognitive dissonance.  Her main point was that when you’re arguing with someone you have to be careful because if you say that their beliefs or opinions are stupid they won’t be able to agree because it won’t jive with their image of themselves as smart people.

Then!  Oh Then!  Then it was Bill Nye the Science Guy!  His talk was interesting, he was interesting, and we’re all pretty sure he is the Doctor.  It’s the bow tie.  After Bill, it was Richard Dawkins, who I didn’t actually think was that interesting.  He talked about his new children’s book, and then about aliens.  After PZ had been so entertaining on the subject Friday, Dawkins was a bit dry.  But, he started taking questions and that was fairly interesting.  We were all trapped in the room because there was a Chuck Norris convention at the hotel as well, and they were taking up the hallway.  Dawkins, adorably, didn’t know who Chuck Norris was.

That evening I went to a presenter’s reception, and got to spend some time hanging out with a lot of awesome people who were going to be speaking, including Debbie Goddard who I had not previously spent much time with.  But there was a drunk british guy from Shrewsbury who would not leave me alone.  I hate wine breath.  And I was not nice to him, but he kept following me.  He was so annoying that every time I tried to escape and enter a new conversation, everyone who was in that conversation would leave and leave me stranded.

He also kept touching me, which I found very disconcerting.  Fortunately, I was eventually rescued, and he was asked to leave, but it was pretty gross.

I was hungry, went to Steak and Shake, one of the two take out restaurants at the hotel — it took 45 minutes to get food.  It was horrible.  And the food was only OK as well.  Then I went to bed early, so I could get up for the papers on Sunday.

TAM Friday

First up this morning was a marginal breakfast.  I don’t understand this — why do people put cooked fruit into things that don’t need cooked fruit.  Cooked fruit is not chocolate.  It does not make things better.  It makes them measurably much worse.  Croissants don’t need jelly on the inside.  It’s gross.

George Hrab opened the conference with a brilliant song, the best part of which was the direction to make sure that any questions you direct at a speaker are actually questions, not opinions, speeches, or comments on the speaker.  It was pretty funny.

Michael Shermer was first up and I literally don’t remember what he talked about.  I was not awake and not that interested, so I guess it just didn’t stick.

Then there was a panel, Skepticism and TV.  I got over the fact that *I* wasn’t on the panel, but I have to say it is really hard to look at these panels of old white guys and think that they’ve made the effort to get more than one point of view.  When they found out Adam Savage wasn’t coming, they had the opportunity to try to get a minority or a woman on the panel, and they didn’t.  Which was a shame because everyone on the panel agreed with one another and didn’t have a lot of useful advice on how to get more skepticism on TV.

Here’s the thing, when you don’t have young people talking about what’s going on, you miss stuff.  If you don’t have women, or mothers, or people of color, or people from different socio-economic levels, you don’t hear about whether people are actually being exposed to skepticism on TV.

Did the old white men mention any of the children’s programming out there?  No, not at all.  And that’s probably the place where you see the most skepticism incorporated into fiction storylines.  Look at Dora the Explorer, or any of the other investigative type shows that are aimed at kids.  Those teach critical thinking and why don’t they think that that qualifies as skepticism on TV.  Yes, you watch Bones or whatever and it’s absurd and not related to real critical thinking, but prime time adult television is not the only thing on TV.  There’s more than the Discovery Channel.

They also talked a lot about editing and how to get around being edited in ways they don’t want to be.  I’ll just say that it’s almost impossible to get by a determined editor.  They’re tricksy people.

*deep breath*

Yes, so I took some issues with that panel.

Next up was Lawrence Krauss.  A few months ago, Krauss made some statements in support of his friend who was an admitted rapist of underage girls.  There was a fair amount of backlash, and threats to walk out on him at TAM.  If that happened, I couldn’t tell.  There’s so many people in and out of the room anyway, it wouldn’t have been noticed, but also I think that elevatorgate has so overshadowed this that no one quite cared as much.

He gave a history lesson on Richard Feynman, which was OK, but I wasn’t that interested in a biography.

Then Jamy Ian Swiss led James Randi and two others in a recap of Project Alpha, which was when two magicians pretend to have Uri Gelleresque powers for several years and the lab believed them despite the fact that it was very obvious what they were doing.  Embarrassing for science, but kind of hilarious for magicians.  It shows how lame psychics are.

Eugenie Scott was up next, but I didn’t listen to that talk, I looked at books and walked around.  I wasn’t very interested in Climate Change Denial and I was tired and wanted to move around.  I’m trying to get over feeling guilty for not going to every talk, but it’s uncomfortable to sit all day.

And then it was lunch — I sat with the amazing Greta Christina and several other really cool people.  Elevatorgate was the primary topic, but what I liked that we talked about was how the movement needs to be getting people in disadvantaged circumstances involved.  So many people who are in the movement are there because they are the ones who can afford it.  If you look at where the large populations of black people are, they are also poor places with strong religious communities.  South Carolina and Mississippi have huge percentage of black people in their population, and those are places where being an atheist is not necessarily safe but more importantly, these are places where there are problems facing the community that are so much more pressing than religion.  Teen Pregnancy, education, jail time.  These are problems that the skeptic community should be working on, because we can’t get people to participate if they’re struggling to live.  Let’s get people in better life circumstances so that they can spend time on education and learning to be scientifically literate.  And it’s not just the South, of course, it’s inner city, it’s Detroit, it’s Compton.

Ok, sorry, off the soapbox.

After lunch, it was just pure uninterrupted awesomeness.

Jennifer Michael Hecht spoke first, and she decided she was going to try to talk about everything that ever happened ever and that she would accomplish this by talking super fast.  She talked a lot about the history of skepticism, which is the focus of her very excellent book Doubt, A History.  She was fantastic.  She talked about the movie The Road to Wellville, and said that a lot of people who go to quacks do it because, essentially, they want the attention.  Though she also implied that women could get a happy ending from a chiropractor.

They had to cut her off before she was finished, and then it was time for PZ, who was hilarious.  Every slide had a picture of either squid or octopi, which I feel is necessary.  He was talking about the biology of aliens.  I think his most interesting point was that there are several highly intelligent animals on earth that are self-aware that we still don’t know how to communicate with, yet we’re seeking out aliens.

He was awesome, and was followed by Pamela Gay, who I didn’t particularly like.  Not that she wasn’t good, she was calling for more funding and emphasis on science.  What I didn’t like was her criticism of the skeptic movement as scattered, as though the emphasis of everyone on the movement should be on science.  The fact of the matter is that not everyone can care a lot about every cause — outrage fatigue.  Science education is important, and I’m for it and happy to support it, but it’s not what I’m particularly interested in.  It’s not the cause that I’m going to spend time on.  That’s not because I’m scattered, it’s because my time is spent elsewhere.  I appreciate her enthusiasm for the cause, but it’s not a very useful criticism.

And then it was time for the best thing I’ve ever seen ever.  I can’t wait for it to be on YouTube, because I want to watch it again.  It was a panel on the future of humans in space.  It was moderated by Phil Plait, and had Bill Nye the Science Guy, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Pamela Gay, and Lawrence Krauss.  NdGT started off real quiet and then he jumped in like a ninja and started kicking ass.  He thinks that we don’t spend enough money on science and we should double NASA’s budget and do everything.  The bank bailout was more money than everything we spent on NASA in its fifty year existence.  Lawrence Krauss sort of poo-pooed the idea of humans in space, and Neil deGrasse Tyson bitch slapped him, with major assistance from Bill Nye.

NdGT totally dominated, and I didn’t want it to ever end.  I would say it was impossible to follow, except it was Tyson himself who was following it up, so he was fine.  He is a great speaker — he’s funny, he’s passionate, and he knows what he’s talking about.  Once again, it was simply so amazing that it’s difficult to sum up.  His focus was on stupid things that people believe that aren’t true.  I told Jarrett that Bill Nye and NdGT should be in a buddy cop movie together, he tweeted it, and the Jen McCreight saw that NdGT in his talk was going to go on his Twitter feed and she quickly posted it AND he read it outloud.  Hysterically funny.  I want it to happen.

And when NdGT was finished, that was it for the day.  I went back to my room for a while, came back up while Jennifer Michael Hecht was doing autographs.  I sat in a throne-like chair beside her while she fielded people who wanted her signature on her books.  It was entertaining sitting on that side of the table.  After that, I went down to eat.  Saw Heidi Anderson briefly and then got ready for Penn’s Party.  I hung out with Jen McCreight and some people before the party and then it was time for Donuts and Bacon.

Penn has a band called the No God Band — they’re decent, and the party was essentially a concert for them.  They did a lot of covers and some original songs as well.  I ended up hanging with Jen some more, as well as Hemant and a few others.  I saw Christina Rad briefly, and that was fun.  It was really loud and I was really tired, so I ended up bailing after about an hour and a half.  Then I collapsed in exhaustion because my legs could no longer hold me up.


Wow, Richard Dawkins is Clueless

I love Richard Dawkins.  I like his books, I love watching him read his hate mail, I loved listening to him talk at TAM last year, I loved watching him smirk about everything, I loved his documentary and I just like him in general.

But he doesn’t get what it’s like to be a woman.  Not that one would expect him to have a total understanding, he is not a woman, but you would think that he’d be able to empathize just a little with women.  Apparently not.  Apparently if your genitals aren’t being mutilated and you’re complaining about creepy behavior from men at conferences, you’re just complaining about nothing.  Wow, that’s great PR from a movement trying to get more women involved.

Have some background:

  1. Rebecca Watson was part of a panel about feminism.
  2. A stranger followed her into the elevator at four in the morning, waited for the doors to be closed, and tried to get her to go back to the room with him.
  3. She was creeped out majorly by this behavior. And was bothered that her talk had apparently made no difference and that her wish to go back to her room and sleep, which she said to a large room of people that included the stranger, was being ignored by someone who thought it was his right to hit on her regardless of what she wanted.
  4. Another female blogger, Stef McGraw, said she was overreacting.
  5. Rebecca Watson mentioned Stef, by name, in another panel.
  6. Stef then said it was abuse of power for Watson to call her out in a panel.
  7. A bunch of guys in the movement started protesting that if you can’t approach a stranger in the middle of the night (in an enclosed, inescapable space) then how will you ever meet anyone in the movement??? Plus, Freedom of Speech!
  8. PZ posted about it, which garnered much response and vitriol from various people.
  9. DAWKINS came into the comment thread and said basically that it was OK for guys to be creepy because some women get their genitals mutilated. That the creepy behavior was NO DIFFERENT from someone chewing gum on an elevator. Richard Dawkins said this, PZ confirmed it was actually him.
  10. My head exploded

Here’s some advice for guys: If a woman, particularly a complete stranger, can literally not get away from you, that’s not a good time to proposition her.  If you’ve got her trapped in a small space or are between her and her escape route, don’t imply, on any level, that you’d like to do things to her body.  Just don’t.

Why?  Because she doesn’t know if you’re a good guy or not and she’s trapped in a space suddenly with someone who doesn’t care about how safe she feels, and in this particular case, has already intentionally ignored her stated wishes.  Why on earth would she think you’re not going to ignore it when she says NO?  There are lots of opportunities to express interest in ways that don’t feel incredibly dangerous to a woman — if you put yourself in her shoes and think, “Would this seem safe if I was a woman who might get raped by a strange man?”  If the answer is anything but, “Yes,” DON’T DO IT.

Here is an amazing post about how not to make women feel scared shitless when you try to hit on them.  Don’t act like a threat!  Don’t ignore what people say!  Don’t ignore body language!  And don’t accuse women of complaining about meaningless crap when they’re afraid for their safety because some people have it worse!

Skepticism VS Atheism: The Stupid Fight

I’m not sure why this is, but there seems to be a faction of Skeptics, not all of whom are religious, who have a problem with Skeptics who like to talk about Atheism. They are concerned that people conflate Atheism and Skepticism. I’m not sure who these theoretical people are, but let’s assume that this is a real concern and not one just made up.

Skepticism is just a way of thinking, sort of a “Well, then prove it” attitude towards life and knowledge. There have been people who claimed to be skeptics who believed in God, and who believed that global warming wasn’t real for that matter, so there’s no litmus test for being a Skeptic, it’s a goal to strive for. Most people don’t actually achieve Skepticism towards everything in their lives.

Why, just the other day I refused to click on a link because it was going to disprove some something or other, some story that I preferred to believe was true because it was a really nice story. Now, I don’t remember what it even was, so undoubtedly I’ll continue believing it was true. That would be a SkepticFail on my part.

Some people will claim that God is not a testable hypothesis, and these people are sort of right. The deistic god that doesn’t do anything so might as well not be there, that god is an untestable claim — the Christian or Muslim or Jewish or Whatever Religion’s God is a testable claim because those religions claim that their God can *do* things. A skeptical approach to religion leads you directly to the conclusion that no religion has a god that exists as they describe it. This is agnosticism if not atheism.

This doesn’t mean you can’t be a skeptic and also believe in God, you absolutely can.  You can be a skeptic and believe in homeopathy, or UFOs, or be a Birther, or a 9/11 Truther, or any number of things.  It just means that you aren’t applying good thinking to one or another of your worldviews.  I believe people are fundamentally good, that’s probably also a testable claim that I’d just as soon not see the results on.

Here’s what I don’t understand: how is saying “skeptics should be skeptical of religion” is the same as saying “skepticism and atheism are the same thing”? Who are these mysterious people who assume that skepticism and atheism are the same thing?  It’s not the people who want to talk about atheism at skeptic conferences, they think that skepticism should lead to agnosticism.  In case that isn’t clear, that’s not the same as saying “Skeptic = Atheist”.

I don’t know that anyone is arguing that deism or agnosticism is a bad thing, but there are many bad things that religions do. Perhaps the thing that ought not be conflated is belief in a god and belief in a religion.  Atheists who speak at Skeptic conventions want to encourage Skeptical thought towards religion and towards religious beliefs that hurt people.  How many lives have been ruined by believers in UFOs?  How many lives have been ruined by believers in religion?  Or, to be even less confrontational, how many people believe in UFOs and how many believe in religion?  Is it really unreasonable to spend some time throwing Skeptical thinking at such a large and pervasive target?

If you had a skeptic conference that focused on disproving homeopathy rather than disproving religion, would calling it a “Skeptic Conference” be wrong? Are we only arguing about this because some people are afraid that offending the religious is going to scare people off? Are we so concerned with religious people’s sensitivities that we’d compromise our own willingness to tell the truth and ask questions?

I will say that I’m highly skeptical of this claim that Atheism is not an important part of the Skeptic movement.

John Paul Miller: ATTN: Pharynguloids

I went to the Cleveland Museum of Art over the weekend — it was really fantastic, I highly recommend it.  There were a lot of cool things on display, but one thing really caught my eye and made me think of PZ Myers.  There was a special display about a jewelry artist named John Paul Miller (no relation).  I had originally just skipped it because I don’t have any particular interest in jewelry, but my mother went to look and it was actually pretty cool.  There were lots of Cephalopods!

I’ve always cultivated a special love for tentacled beings since seeing The Little Mermaid, and as a regular Pharyngula reader I was super excited to see little jewelry cephalopods because I figured PZ would also think they were pretty cool.

John Paul Miller basically rediscovered a technology of jewelry making that was invented by the Etruscans and had been lost with the fall of the Roman Empire.  He was basically a nerdy historian and an artist:

He began a search for information about this ancient art and found that granulation reached its apex in the 7th and 6th centuries B.C. Over the intervening years, however, the technique was virtually lost.

Miller found little else written about granulation. When he asked goldsmiths about it, only one or two even knew the rudiments.

He researched archeological journals and finally discovered one devoted to granulation. The author speculated that certain alloys could form a eutectic bond (at the lowest possible temperature of solidification) when heated in a reducing atmosphere. This would permit the precision fusion of tiny spheres of metal on to a surface just like Miller had seen. Ordinarily, when solder is used, it tends to fill in corners and blend the shapes. However, in the fusion process, the granules are attached at only very small contact points, giving them the effect of floating above the surface like balloons on a quiet lake.

But enough of all that, pictures:


Those are mine.  These are other ones from around the web:


He did things that were less tentacled as well


DBAD Follow Up

Why do I suddenly have the urge to build a giant phallus out of straw? - Tracy

I am getting a fair amount of attention from the skeptic community for my post about Phil Plait’s Don’t Be A Dick Speech.  I don’t really have much more to say than what I said originally.

The really funny thing about this debate is that I suspect the only thing anyone actually disagrees on is whether Phil Plait was clear enough in his definition of dick.  Everyone thinks that being nice to people when you’re trying to change their minds is appropriate, and everyone thinks that being a funny asshole about ideas and to Kent Hovind is appropriate.  It’s just that the Dick Proponents, where I’ve found myself along with PZ and Dawkins, think that Phil should have been clearer about what he thought was appropriate or not, and the Dick Haters think Phil’s point was self-evident and everyone should be able to intuit his exact meaning.

Basically the Dick Proponents would like some evidence, examples and clarifications, and the Dick Haters take it on faith that Phil meant what they think he meant.  Hmm.


I agree with Greta Christina, let firebrands be firebrands, let the diplomats be diplomats.

Phil Plait Says Don’t Be A Dick

OK, so, Mr. Plait, who I am told is normally super super awesome and does genuinely seem like a nice guy, really irritated the shit out of me during TAM. And I say this with as much respect as possible and I acknowledge that this is my first exposure to him, and that people who know him and his work took what he was saying a bit differently than did I. He was basically saying that skeptics have a tone problem and more flies with honey and stop being assholes.

My level of being incredibly irritated with him for trying to be the Skeptic Tone Police has subsided a bit, partially because I think he didn’t mean it the way he said it. I think he was using general language because his argument was a little sloppy, not because he genuinely thinks no one should ever raise their voice in angry disagreement. To me, however, it sounded like he was saying “Christopher Hitchens, PZed and Dawkins have all got to stop being so strident and angry and dickish. Why can’t we all just get along?” But, apparently he was saying “The JREF forums are fucking hellish”. But I don’t read the JREF forums, so I wouldn’t know.

I agree that, generally speaking, you should be nice to someone you’re trying to convince if you’re having an argument with them to convince them. But, and this is important, that’s not the only reason you have arguments. Sometimes it’s to convince everyone else that you’re right, regardless of what the other person thinks. The internet is an amazing place where your arguments are all public. Sometimes humiliating someone who has a stupid point of view has the effect of convincing everyone else that you are right. Particularly if you can do it in a hilarious way. Hitchens made me OK with self-identifying atheist simply because he was such a hilariously snobby jerkface.

The entire speech was somewhat patronizing — here’s daddy figure Phil Plait telling us all to mind our Ps and Qs and not be so abrasive because daddy doesn’t like that. Pissed me off something hardcore having to sit through him lecturing me about being too mean to people. I felt the same way in a thread over on Pharyngula where people were saying women didn’t like how abrasive the skeptics/atheists are. It’s not true, I love it, it’s entertaining, it’s informative, it’s fun. I’m not a weak little girl, daddy doesn’t get to tell me to play nice with others.

And the fact is most of the people he’s talking about are people who are incredibly nice, polite and respectful in person. He’s got a problem with their online behavior. And frankly, it’s the fucking internet, that’s how people are and to fucking yell at a bunch of people who are really into the same thing you are because you don’t like the tone they take is a bit much.

AND I take issue with him treating skepticism as something we should be in charge of proselytizing. If I want to have an angry discussion about people hacking off little girls privates and be a complete dick to anyone who disagrees with me, I get to do that. Will that change people’s minds, I dunno, but it’s my way of dealing with the information and skepticism isn’t some fucking religion that has rules. His speech, more than anything, makes me a bit reticent to call myself a skeptic rather than an atheist because it makes me think he wants it to be treated as a religion, and that makes me very squeamish.

I know that this wasn’t the first skeptic event for most of the people in the crowd, but it basically was for me… and now I’m quite skeptical of this whole “Skeptic Movement”. I’m an uppity ginger, and I’m not joining any “movement” that tells me that who I am is not OK.

And, as I said, I don’t think that that was what he intended, I suspect it was at least partially him venting about behavior he witnesses online, and, as he doesn’t know me, I’m 80% sure it was not intended as a personal affront. Which is good, because then he’d be guilty of the behavior he’s denouncing. And probably he didn’t mean it was never OK to raise your voice in a crowded room, but that’s sure what it sounded like to me.