#RichardDawkins #Awkward


Like a lot of you, I look back wistfully upon a time when Richard Dawkins was a name to inspire admiration, and not one whose mere mention immediately triggers an “Oh shit, what has he said this time?” response. Over on Twitter, where he’s cultivated a reputation for (to put it politely) shooting from the hip and being nearly as reactionary as any Teabagger, his latest gem goes something like this:

Hmm, okay. And yet, oddly, in 2013 (*corrected posting date), the Richard Dawkins Foundation website was favorably reporting on this:

‘Secular safe zones’ offer campus shelter to atheist students

The small sticker on professor Robert Schmidt’s office door isn’t just a decoration — it’s a beacon of safety for students who feel they are being singled out for their lack of religious beliefs.

The blue, green, yellow and pink rectangle signals that Schmidt’s office at Utah State University is a “Secular Safe Zone” — a place where students who are atheists, agnostics or just questioning their faith can go for advice about dealing with bullying, discrimination and other forms of aggression.

“Being an ally to ‘create safe spaces in which secular students can question, criticize, and discuss topics and issues important to them’ feels right to me,” Schmidt said from his Logan office, quoting the goals of the Secular Safe Zone program. “All students should feel safe on campus.” [Emphasis added.]

Yeah, this is one of those moments best addressed by a Fillion GIF.

giphy-3


Addendum: Sadly, it didn’t take me long to find another example of Dawkins being a bit two-faced. I noticed this tweet exchange…

…and remembered that, in the wake of Elevatorgate and “Dear Muslima,” Dawkins got some personal revenge by demanding Rebecca Watson be disinvited from Reason Rally. #Awkward.

Comments

  1. Joe Cole says

    Dawkins is probably making his comments based on his lifetime in UK Universities where the vast majority of students simply won’t be bothered with religion. A very small number of christian students will be evangelical bible bashers. There will also be an increasing, but mostly small, number of Muslims. Beyond that, religion is mostly of no concern and will be well below the radar. We don’t even have religious universities such as Liberty in US
    Other than that, the attitude to youngsters going to University is that they are there to spread their wings, learn about life and. hopefully(!) get a degree.
    In UK terms, Dawkin’s comments make total sense.

  2. says

    Except this isn’t the context in which the tweet was made. (Although in a broad sense, context shouldn’t matter. Either you believe students at university should feel they’re in a safe environment, to whatever degree their beliefs are being challenged by their education, or you don’t.) There is currently a protest going on at Cardiff University against a scheduled speaking engagement by Germaine Greer, a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) notorious for intensely bigoted remarks against transgendered people. So on the one hand, you can see it as a conflict between a speaker’s free-speech right to publicly voice a viewpoint many find abhorrent, and the students’ right to protest the uni giving her a platform for it. But Dawkins’ dismissal of the concept of a “safe space” here misses an essential point. This isn’t merely a situation of, say, a fundamentalist student feeling all butthurt that their biology course doesn’t teach Genesis 1:1 as science. There’s an actual safety issue here, in that transgendered people face physical violence to a greater degree than even most marginalized groups. Reported homicides of transgendered women have hit an historic high in 2015. Certainly Greer isn’t planning on getting on stage and shouting “Go curbstomp a trans person!” But she doesn’t have to. Dehumanizing speech is entirely sufficient, and in the mind of a sociopathic listener, well, they’ll make whatever connections they need to justify violence if that’s how they roll.

    Supporting free speech doesn’t mean you completely ignore that speech can and does have consequences. To do so would be to deny the power of suasion, which would be to deny what communication does altogether. People who aren’t raging bigoted sociopaths know how to frame sensitive subjects in such a way that audiences who might be troubled by those subjects will be able to listen and consider a different point of view. But then, if the view you’re expressing is categorically sociopathic bigotry, then you can’t really frame it in a nice way, and the Donald Trumps and Ann Coulters of the world don’t care. They’ll just throw whatever hate speech they have out there with no filters at all, because they left humanity at the door long ago.

    There are situations of other extremist voices inspiring violence. Among the more infamous Christian RWNJ public figures, Glenn Beck’s ravings have inspired at least two wannabe mass shooters, and Alex Jones one that I know of. In both cases the would-be avengers were too stupid and incompetent to pull off their plans (they were, after all, fans of Glenn Beck and Alex Jones). Now, do I want to deny Beck or Jones their free speech? No. But will I call them out on the consequences of radicalizing the crazies in their audience? Sure. And would I go into WTF mode if I found out they were getting a speaking engagement at my local university? Most likely.

  3. says

    Sorry, but I’ve anticipated this defense. If he doesn’t know the article’s on his organization’s site (and I suspect he does now, as several people have tweeted the link to him), then he needs to read it, and offer up his opinion on whether he agrees with the Secular Safe Zone program or not. If he doesn’t, then at least he’s being consistent, though we’d be in for another round of the Dawkins Cycle again.

  4. Nume says

    maybe because i dont live in the US but i find the idea of secular safe zones to be ridiculous.

    but you know what they say about getting to know your heroes,can ruin what you think about them,twitter just makes it much easier.

  5. Joe Cole says

    I’m not sure what Germaine Greer has to do with it. She was going to give a talk on feminism…a subject she is famous for. But students always have enjoyed getting their knickers in a twist about things and, on this occasion, whilst the reason for their protest was right, all they have done is lost an opportunity to hear something which would have been worth listening to (Greer was not going to talk about transgender politics)
    .
    I don’t think Dawkins was saying that students should not feel safe. He was saying that they should not be wrapped up in cotton wool (if that translates for you?). One of the things that university should do is to help youngsters learn to stand on their own two feet.

  6. says

    What Greer has to do with it is that this tweet came amidst several others in which Dawkins was defending Greer and attacking her protesters, like he does.

    I would argue that universities can very easily fulfill their brief of helping students stand on their own feet and breaking them out of whatever sheltered upbringing they’ve had, whilst not booking appearances by people infamous for hate speech. Sure, you could say no one is being forced to attend. But that still doesn’t mean they’re obliged to remain silent about their disapproval.

  7. oolon says

    so the problem here its you assume he runs the website?

    There is also an interview with a person from the Secular Student Alliance discussing the safe spaces initiative. In the voice of RDF, the Richard Dawkins Foundation, they say it is “great”… So yeah, not the man himself I assume, but someone representing him and his foundation. Hard to believe he is so incompetent he doesn’t know what is being promoted by his own foundation, right?

  8. Joe Cole says

    The university was hardly booking someone who is “infamous for hate speech”. They booked her long before her one ill judged comment which was made just three days ago. Other than that one comment, she has always spoken up for minorities. If you want to support censorship though……………

  9. says

    I bet myself $20 someone would make the false equivalence of “protesting an objectionable speaker” with “you support censorship,” so I’m going to buy myself a nice steak dinner tonight. While I’m enjoying that, go back, read comment #2, paying special attention to the second and third paragraphs, and take as long as you need to process it.

    Other than that one comment, she has always spoken up for minorities.

    So no one gets to criticize you for being bigoted towards Minority A as long as you’re supportive of Minorities B-Z?

  10. Joe Cole says

    The university was hardly booking someone who is “infamous for hate speech”. They booked her long before her ill judged comment which was made just three days ago. Other than that, she has always spoken up for minorities. If you want to support censorship though……………

  11. Joe Cole says

    I don’t know what happened there………….

    I’m just saying get it in perspective.

    Criticising her for one view is very different from censoring all her views. She has had a lot to say on many issues for many years and she also happens to be an excellent speaker. The students are worse off with not having the opportunity to hear her.

    I remember, in my student days, seeing Enoch Powell (look him up if you want, but all I need say is that he was famous for his racist views). Some students wanted him banned but he was allowed to speak. We were able to hear his arguments and judge them and him for ourselves.
    There may be a case for banning speeches that are inciting others to violence but he was not doing that. Neither was Greer, no matter how objectionable her comments may be.

    Enjoy your steak.

  12. says

    For the record, I personally would rather Greer spoke, and that students had on opportunity to engage her in a no-holds-barred Q&A session. But unlike Dawkins, I’m disinclined to write off those protesting her or thinking that she shouldn’t get a platform as being censorious, or simply helpless babies who need their blankies because they can’t handle being challenged.

  13. Igor Bigor says

    Steak? I’m not sure what that means, but that sounds so good.

    I’m not sure about Powell (I’ll take your word), and I’ve only just now heard of Greer, so my info is just the product of some light research on my part, and I don’t have any strong feeling on this issue in Cardiff or these people. You had said “They booked her long before her ill judged comment which was made just three days ago.” and that got me curious, so I looked it up and came to share.

    The students are more concerned that giving her a platform would endorse such views, which might complicate the already tenuous safety that Trans folk have.
    Perhaps if she was being hosted with multiple speakers it would be less of an issue to the students? Perhaps a debate? Who knows, just throwing it out there. Besides, I’m sure there are plenty of other feminist speakers who are trans-inclusive that you could host to talk about Women & Power and the 20th century (what Greer was set to talk about).

    This is a quote from the people who don’t want her to speak on their reasons why:
    https://www.change.org/p/cardiff-university-do-not-host-germaine-greer
    “Greer has demonstrated time and time again her misogynistic views towards trans women, including continually misgendering trans women and denying the existence of transphobia altogether.
    While debate in a University should be encouraged, hosting a speaker with such problematic and hateful views towards marginalised and vulnerable groups is dangerous. Allowing Greer a platform endorses her views, and by extension, the transmisogyny which she continues to perpetuate.”

    So yeah, that’s all I know :)

  14. says

    Joe @13:

    Criticising her for one view is very different from censoring all her views.

    But all her views haven’t been censored. The suggestion by the students is that she should not be a paid speaker based on her bigotry. She’s still free to speak her mind, but she doesn’t have the right to a paid platform to express herself.

  15. Daniel Engblom says

    Of all the valid criticisms you could have raised, some even topical, this is the tweet you decide to pick on?

  16. nevilleneville says

    Frankly I see little reason to worry about Dawkins. His opinions are reasonable and clear. I suspect this has more to do with the sensitivities of those who he questions. Those people who follow a more authoritarian view of the world or are followers of the wackier elements of atheism generally have an issue with him. More liberal people on the whole don’t find much to disagree with.

    The idea of safe spaces is generally ludicrous and childish, and only displays the infantile nature of the type of people who need to control discourse and their environment. Those scared of leaving a hugbox, then try to create a hugbox world to control and dictate to those around them.

    I think it says more about the mindset of those who throw stones at him than what he actually said. That though, is the nature of a select group of atheists. The hugbox types who demand their atheism comes with a 24 page list of acceptable political views that are non negotiable.

  17. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    She’s already been invited. They are trying to get her disinvited. That is censorship.

    Translation: Dawkins: freeze peach!

    He should know better.

    @nevilleneville

    The idea of safe spaces is generally ludicrous and childish, and only displays the infantile nature of the type of people who need to control discourse and their environment. Those scared of leaving a hugbox, then try to create a hugbox world to control and dictate to those around them.

    Hey asshat, does that mean you also believe that Dawkins is being childish when he promotes secular safe zones at university? See OP.

    Frankly I see little reason to worry about Dawkins. His opinions are reasonable and clear. I suspect this has more to do with the sensitivities of those who he questions.

    More liberal people on the whole don’t find much to disagree with [EL: concerning Dawkins].

    You’re being a gigantic hypocrite with massive blinders and massive favoritism. At least read the OP before commenting. Hell, the OP was especially short too, so there’s no excuse. What the fuck dude?

    Look, when you, and people like you, are sexist towards women and perpetuate the sexist elements of our culture, or perpetuate discrimination and exclusion of trans people, people like me are going to call you out on it. My side is the right of justice, righteousness, and morality, and your side is the side of tyranny, oppression, and evil.

    I can imagine all sorts of manner of replies that you might make – all of them bad.

    Come at me bro.

  18. nevilleneville says

    Dear me, such hostility to such mild comments. I genuinely find amusement at the rage. Is this really the kind of response a freethinker has? To accuse others of being on the side of “Evil” merely for questioning the somewhat tedious nature of safe spaces?

    Unfortunately you have had a knee jerk reaction to something you have read, and instead of maybe disagreeing but seeing it as little more than opinion, you have accused me of being on the side of “Tyranny, oppression, and evil” without a single iota of insight into my political and philosophical leanings. Well how enlightened and liberal is that?

    You seem to have a detailed insight into my opinions on identity and sexuality without any knowledge of me or my outlook. You slur me and posit opinions I don’t have on my behalf. How enlightened or liberal is that?

    Now you want me to “Come at you”? I generally don’t do that without consent, and generally not with a “Bro”.’

    Regarding “Safe spaces”, I don’t see any weight or value in the idea of excluding ideas and speech that one personally doesn’t like. But to demand those around you not to do something that is a legal right and a human pursuit (Expressing one’s opinion) is ridiculous. Being challenged by ideas is part of life, and the best way to deal with it is to evaluate and understand those ideas, so one can expand knowledge. It is part of growing up.

    Now I wasn’t educated in the States so I don’t have a great deal of knowledge of being educated in Utah. It sounds like the secular area was just a place to inform oneself on atheism. I don’t have enough information though to make a rounded judgement, so i won’t. If it is as I said, just a space to find out information and understand atheism in a fairly religious state, then so be it. If though, it was a hugbox that pushed away rational questioning of ideas for dogma, i wouldn’t support it.

    But you see, I try to be enlightened and liberal, so I don’t give a informed opinion on topics I don’t understand. And I especially don’t attribute opinions to people without knowing what they think.

    Try and keep that in mind.

  19. Athywren - Frustration Familiarity Panda says

    It’s entirely possible that he’s unaware, and has made no serious attempt to gain an awareness of what a safe space means? There are plenty of manospherian types who believe it means a place where you’re never criticised, challenged, or exposed to ideas that could be upsetting, and if that’s his opinion of it then I could understand his comment on the matter. Of course, that’s not what it means, and his comment is less a reasonable response to an unreasonable atmosphere, and more a damning indictment of the state of his skeptical abilities, but somehow that still seems to be the most charitable interpretation I can come up with here.
    One of these days, I want the most charitable interpretation I can think of to actually be charitable.

  20. Athywren - Frustration Familiarity Panda says

    @nevilleneville

    Psst, Secret Squirrel, if you’re trying to pass yourself off as a normie, drop words like “hugbox.” They’re not common usage terms and kinda break the cloak – autism isn’t the punchline to every single joke we’ve ever thought of in normiespace.

  21. Monocle Smile says

    @nevilleneville
    You were already off to a bad start, and you’ve started to dig further. I’ll grab the popcorn.

  22. nevilleneville says

    You can only make a bad start if you are trying to succeed at an objective. I have no objective other than to present an alternative view point. I suspect some would like this place to be a safe space, as it seems like a place that is only open to opinions that align with that they themselves hold.

    And if one’s recourse is to claim that another person is one the side of “Tyranny, oppression, and evil” and a sexist, with absolutely no evidence. Well, that doesn’t really bode well for proving a point, does it?

    Especially when they themselves claim to have “The right of justice, righteousness, and morality” on their side. Sounds somewhat dubious, to make that claim whilst providing no argument or fact. Almost like a zealot.

    How are we ever going to make inroads as Atheists if we attack people for having a differing view point on a tedious issue. This behaviour will ostracise people, and all the while you stereotype people whilst never noticing you’re acting like a stereotype yourselves.

  23. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    And tone trolling to boot.

    I notice you didn’t admit fault – either the fault of being a gigantic hypocrite, or not even bothering to read the incredibly short OP.

    This behaviour will ostracise people, and all the while you stereotype people whilst never noticing you’re acting like a stereotype yourselves.

    Good! That’s a great way for social change.

    How are we ever going to make inroads as Atheists if we attack people for having a differing view point on a tedious issue.

    We won’t make peace. I want no peace with you. My side will triumph, and your side will lose. It may take a long time, but history shows that the good guys tend to win moral battles in the modern age. Slavery, voting rights for women. My kind will fight you at every step of the way. This isn’t the first, and it’s not the last.

    I suspect some would like this place to be a safe space, as it seems like a place that is only open to opinions that align with that they themselves hold.

    And your point is seemingly to be an asshole. Gotcha. Let the door hit you on the way out.

  24. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    PS: I’m invoking my knowledge of this guy from several other threads, which is part of why I went off on him.

    One last thing: The goal isn’t atheism dipshit. The goal is to make the world a better place. I have nothing of value in common with you. I have more in common of value with the common Christian than you.

    (minor exaggeration only)

  25. Athywren - Frustration Familiarity Panda says

    @nevilleneville, 24

    I have no objective other than to present an alternative view point. I suspect some would like this place to be a safe space, as it seems like a place that is only open to opinions that align with that they themselves hold.

    Alternate viewpoints are great. Really, they are. But do you think that a viewpoint being alternate means it has no requirement to demonstrate an awareness of the issue being viewed? Given an issue, would you expect two viewpoints that come to different conclusions based on the same facts to be more useful, or two viewpoints based on entirely different ideas of what’s being discussed? For example, if you’re looking for different viewpoints on astronomy, would you find it more enlightening to listen to a discussion about whether the universe is finite but unbounded or infinite, or would it be more useful to hear one about the competing ideas that its current state came to exist a few billions years ago in an immensely rapid expansion, or that it hatched from a cosmic egg?

    To put it another way; sure, I wouldn’t mind most places being safe spaces. I think I’d support that, though I can see that it’s impractical for all places to be that way. I have no idea what your nonsense about places only being open to opinions that align with what I hold, though – you clearly have no idea what a safe space is or what the term means.

  26. Max says

    Your first example isn’t contradictory. In his tweet, Dawkins is referring to the entire university acting as a safe space.

  27. Max says

    And a “safe space” is jargon. It means more than just “a place where people can feel safe.” “Safe spaces” tend to be used to protect students from naughty language or hearing opinions they disagree with. It’s unfair of you to treat these two uses like they’re the same thing and I think you know it.

  28. says

    Max

    And a “safe space” is jargon. It means more than just “a place where people can feel safe.” “Safe spaces” tend to be used to protect students from naughty language or hearing opinions they disagree with. It’s unfair of you to treat these two uses like they’re the same thing and I think you know it.

    I#m pretty sure you can provide lots of evidence for that claim like a good sceptic would…

  29. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Safe spaces” tend to be used to protect students from naughty language or hearing opinions they disagree with.

    Just like Dawkins’ secular safe spaces. AmIright?

  30. Muz says

    Neville, Max; you guys realise that a safe space is little more than a codified “Don’t talk politics at Christmas/Thanksgiving dinner” (because you know it ends in combat and hurt feelings), yes?
    That’s really it, despite the nefarious meanings ascribed by smirking neo-cons. Yes, people can over -do it with this stuff. Especially students and the young. But really, that’s all it is. Even if it gets over done from time to time, isn’t the freedom to figure that out something we hope students to have?

    The weight or value in excluding speech people “don’t like” is simple; it is a known factor that certain language or behaviour will discourage or drive out certain people from engaging in certain environments. (no one would disagree with this, I trust?) You want to broaden inclusion and engagement: that’s the driving principle and goal. So you do what you can to minimise this effect and bring more people along. Sometimes this is specific, sometimes this is general.
    If all you hear at the end of that is “They want to stop people from saying certain things!” you’re an idiot. Sure, that happens sometimes. But it’s all part of an ongoing effort and debate. It’s not a permanent end in itself.

    And I laugh at the idea that doing this makes someone an Authoritarian. If your notion of inclusivity is that there’s a general standard which you approve of and is “right” and someone either gets with the program or gets out, rather than trying to modify this, then you’re the Authoritarian.

  31. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Muz
    Meh? Meh.

    The weight or value in excluding speech people “don’t like” is simple; it is a known factor that certain language or behaviour will discourage or drive out certain people from engaging in certain environments. (no one would disagree with this, I trust?) You want to broaden inclusion and engagement: that’s the driving principle and goal.

    I think the point of university is the best education for the most people – both specific education of the particular topics of the classes, and education by exposure to people of other walks of life. So, of course we want to provide this good education for as many as possible. However, if some policy would raise inclusivity a little by sacrificing large amounts of legitimate exposure to alternate ideas enough to significantly defeat the “education” purporse, then no, we shouldn’t do that inclusive policy.

    I don’t have simple answers because I think that this is a complicated topic. No honestly, I do think it’s complicated and nuanced.

    I would use examples, but I’m finding it hard to come up with examples because we’re talking so generally.

    And I laugh at the idea that doing this makes someone an Authoritarian. If your notion of inclusivity is that there’s a general standard which you approve of and is “right” and someone either gets with the program or gets out, rather than trying to modify this, then you’re the Authoritarian.

    Just a few posts up, I said that my way is the right way, and that I want to exclude certain people from the atheist movement because they’re not getting with the program, and that I have very little interest in modifying these requirements to be members of our club and movement. By what you just said, I think you’re calling my position authoritarian. I think you spoke hastily, and without considering the full ramification of your words.

  32. Joe Cole says

    Tony @ 16

    You certainly have an unusual idea of what censorship is if you really believe that it is not censorship if you ban somebody from speaking on one subject because she has said something on another subject. To then compound it by implying that it is not censorship if you ban somebody from speaking at one venue because she can still speak at another venue, is even more remarkable;

    If the moderator here banned you from saying something, then said it was not censorship because you could use another forum, I suspect that you would not agree.

  33. says

    <If the moderator here banned you from saying something, then said it was not censorship because you could use another forum, I suspect that you would not agree.

    I am very sure that Tony would say “your sandbox, your rules, there’s a big fat internet out there for me, have fun”
    Because that’s what adults do. They understand that not every platform is theirs to use. Fun fact: I have never ever been given a paid platform at a university to broadcast my views on feminism. Am I being censored?

  34. Muz says

    re #32
    I was particularly referencing Nevile’s first foray up at 18 where he accuses people against Dawkins of being Authoritarians and then says terribly Authoritarian things about anyone supporting safe spaces as a concept.
    I’m reaching a bit to try and turn that around on him I suppose, prima facie (he may not be calling everyone who is annoyed by Dawkins an Authoritarian,for example, just church leaders or something), but his tone rings with that sort of authoritarian conservatism about such ideas so I thought I’d make the leap

    Excluding people who would reduce the larger inclusivity of the atheist movement or to increase general social justice isn’t what I’d call Authoritarian, necessarily. Just aggressively progressive, which is fine.. (although I’m probably going to have to go look up authoritarianism again now, aren’t I. Serves me right. Generally I have it as conservative placing of rules and order and power as end in themselves rather than means. A powerful person and/or system. Someone who opposes your opinion might find evidence of authoritarianism in your apparently unswerving insistence on ideas they find abhorrent. But I doubt there’s the required inflexibility. Maybe Neville will be flexible and reasonable behind all his pomposity too. Who knows.)

    Anyway, of course these things (safe spaces and their ilk) can be taken too far and be counter productive. I’m sure I put that in there somewhere. It’s a fine balance (sometimes so fine it can never really work right). I’m reasonably confident that most of the people involved in these well documented excesses of idealism will figure this out.
    There are loads of funny ideas for organisation and behaviour that bubble up at universities all the time. Starry eyed and idealistic nonsense that can’t possibly work among them. I just don’t know why these ones have caught the attention quite in the way they have. There’s something about the faint whiff of post modernism and feminism and things under the broad heading of ‘political correctness’ that really brings them out.
    It was pretty much identical, thinly disguised red-baiting column stuffing for neo-cons, 20 plus years ago. The sky didn’t fall.
    It’s fine to discuss this stuff in principle, of course. But the frisson around these particular things, that brings out the Dawkins’ and the Neville’s and Max’s, is peculiar to say the least. This sudden deep concern for what’s going on at universities. The proportionality for what could be discussed as simply a bad idea, or a good idea sometimes taken too far, just isn’t there.

  35. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Andrew EC:
    I would phrase it more like:
    > Otherwise brilliant old man says something wrong-headed that supports the wrong position. Old man has lots of political cloud. People take things he says too seriously. Unfortunately this is part of a larger serious concern.

  36. Monocle Smile says

    @Joe Cole
    My opinion is that if the law is not involved, then “censorship” is an inappropriate label designed to be inflammatory rather than accurate. People have a right to not want to give someone a paid platform. I don’t see a problem with this.

  37. Athywren - Frustration Familiarity Panda says

    Joe Cole, 33

    You certainly have an unusual idea of what censorship is if you really believe that it is not censorship if you ban somebody from speaking on one subject because she has said something on another subject. To then compound it by implying that it is not censorship if you ban somebody from speaking at one venue because she can still speak at another venue, is even more remarkable;

    That would be a wonderful point if she was banned from speaking on anything. She’s not. She was invited to hold a talk. The audience made it clear that they’re not interested in her talk. That’s not censorship – it’s the “free market of ideas.”
    What you’re arguing for here is the right to speak to people who have no interest in what you have to say – it is not the right to speak at all. Just because they’re walking away, little street preacher, does not mean they are censoring you.

  38. nevilleneville says

    Not surprised to see the arguments for safe spaces are flawed. But that is neither here nor there. I take it most cats here think Atheism+ is a good thing?

  39. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I take it most cats here think Atheism+ is a good thing?

    I like the idea. I imagine most people here feel similarly.

  40. Monocle Smile says

    @nevilleneville
    Not surprised to see you skirting the edge of troll behavior. Will you actually engage this time, or will you continue to be condescending and dismissive?

  41. Muz says

    Neville, the arguments for democracy are flawed too. Or many things one could name. You wanna try a bit harder?

  42. nevilleneville says

    Just came to express my view. Which i did clearly so i’m happy. Thanks for answering my Atheism plus question, Enlightenedliberal. What makes Atheism plus superior to normal atheism? What benefits are their to it?

    Safe spaces clearly fail. It is infantile to want your surroundings to be free of ideas and concepts you don’t like. You can’t block and ban things from your environment purely for upsetting you. Of course the promotion of violence shouldn’t have a place on campus, but banning speakers who do nothing but irritate you is a ridiculous illiberal position. Whether it be a Feminist like Greer or a rightwinger, they both have a right to speak if invited. If students or anyone else for that matter are too fragile to deal with alternate views, that is their problem, not societies.

  43. says

    Again, who ever said safe spaces are about turning the whole world into a children’s romper room where never was heard a discouraging word? (That was a weird mix of references there, I know.) In the Secular Safe Zones program, which, again, the RDF endorsed, they acknowledge the key distinction: that people face “bullying, discrimination and other forms of aggression” for holding certain views and having a safe space in which those people “can question, criticize, and discuss topics and issues important to them” without fear of literally being unsafe — as in, getting your ass kicked by some hopped up bigot — is important. Now, imagine if you’re someone who belongs to a group traditionally targeted for actual violence and murder, and unless you’re a full-on sociopath I cannot fathom any objection to supporting safe environments for such people. Remember, in Bangladesh they’re fucking hacking atheist bloggers to death with machetes. I’d say those are some people in need of a safe space.

    It is, of course, easy for white straight males to laugh off ideas like safe spaces, because our daily lives aren’t a constant exercise in proving we deserve to belong to the human race.

  44. nevilleneville says

    If you ban a speaker due to a commitment to safe spaces whether it be a Rightwinger or a Feminist or whoever, you are creating a romper room for people, blocking your ears from things you don’t want to hear and from others who want to hear about a certain subject from a certain individual. Of course there should be places to learn about a topic or talk about things that concern you. A place for people to explore their atheism who come from a religious family and worry about people finding out. Or a gay person who is scared and needs support to come to grips with how they feel in an understanding environment. I couldn’t agree more.

    But I’m not sure that actively making rules to ban anyone who may disagree with you on a topic is ridiculous and authoritarian. Bangladesh doesn’t need a safe space, it need a secular culture and greater tolerance for a start. The kind of tolerance that lets people disagree each other and doesn’t silence people because of their opinions, you know, like safe space campus policy does.

    I think you are barking up the wrong tree with the white straight male identity politics with me, I’m hardly a Aryan to say the least and I’d like to know why it would be that those who aren’t white men have to prove to be in the human race? I know of at least one person of Indian extraction wetting themselves at the absurdity of that statement.

  45. nevilleneville says

    I’m sure that we agree on 95 percent of things and I don’t think your heart is in the wrong place at all. I understand what it is trying to achieve, but it does the opposite of what it sets out to do. In order to create a environment for people not to be chastised, we shouldn’t go and stop anyone who disagrees with our point coming to campus.

  46. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    What makes Atheism plus superior to normal atheism? What benefits are their to it?

    Atheism is a single answer to a single question: “Do you positively affirm that there is a god or gods?”. There are many many other important questions on how to live this life in this world. Atheism is an incredibly narrow subset of the important questions and answers.

    Atheism plus is loosely defined as: atheism, plus humanism, plus feminism (which is really just included in humanism). Humanism answers an incredibly wide variety of questions, and that the important set of questions and answers for how one should live their life. Making the world into a better place is the actual end-goal of all of our behavior in the atheism movement. Most people here wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about atheism if people who believed in gods were always harmless – e.g. if god beliefs didn’t contribute to making the world into a worse place. But god beliefs tend to make the world into a worse place, and that’s why we take so much effort combatting god beliefs.

    So, atheism plus has almost everything on top of atheism. Humanism – making the world into a better place – is what we are fighting for. The god question is relatively insignificant compared to that goal.

    I assume you share my vague goal of making the world into a better place, e.g. my values of humanism. At least, I hope so. Just for whatever bad reasons that you have, you disagree with my tactics that I choose in order to try to achieve my goal of making the world into a better place. We could go into those disagreements. We might actually disagree about some minor but important details of what “better world” means, and we probably disagree about important scientific factual matters about the current state of the world, and we probably disagree about important scientific factual matters about what plans are effective at changing the world from X to Y.

    Safe spaces clearly fail. It is infantile to want your surroundings to be free of ideas and concepts you don’t like. […]

    This kind of thinking seems to be childish. It seems to be black-or-white, a sign of immature and childish thinking. I do not want my surroundings to be completely free of ideas and concepts I don’t like. However, neither do I want my surroundings to be “filled” with ideas and concepts that I don’t like. For example, being surrounded by neo-Nazis 24-7 sounds like an incredibly unpleasant experience that I would rather do without.

    We need to ensure that even the most wrong-headed speaker has some opportunity to speak their mind and to reach some audience, but simultaneously we also need to ensure that bad ideas receive their proper criticism and social ostracization. Further, we should generally strive to improve the quality of the lives of people, which means not upsetting them with neo-Nazi hate, but again that has to be balanced against the real and important interest that we are all exposed to neo-Nazi hate speech on a “regular” basis. By regular, I might mean once a year, or once a decade, etc. We need to be exposed to challenge ourselves and our preconceptions. To ensure that we don’t remain captive to bad ideas because we were not exposed to alternatives.

    Navigating this balancing act is IMHO incredibly difficult, and the level of difficulty is IMHO underappreciated by nearly all. John Stuart Mill wrote at length on this topic in his book “On Liberty”, and I think he only scratched the surface. This is an incredibly deep, complex, and nuanced topic.

    And I believe that addresses the content of your next two posts as well.

    Actually, one bit:

    The kind of tolerance that lets people disagree each other and doesn’t silence people because of their opinions, you know, like safe space campus policy does.

    The problem is that there is an inherent tension between criticizing an idea, and allowing someone to speak that idea. As human beings, allowing criticism will have the unavoidable consequence of also causing some degree of social oastracization. It’s impossible to have non-zero constructive criticism with zero silencing. That is the first thing you must understand and appreciate. Then, the great difficulty arises. Unfortunately, this is not a child’s world, and there are no simple answers. At least not on this topic.

  47. Andrew EC says

    This discussion is making it seem as though the only two options are “authoritarian control without free speech anywhere” and “raucous free-for-all everywhere where, say, black students can be expected to be daily serenaded with the n-word at breakfast.” Isn’t the reality much more in the middle?

    I thought the point of safe *spaces* was to say: “Hey, by and large, universities are meant to be a haven for free speech and conflicting ideas, but we also recognize that not everyone is looking to engage in a clash of ideas 24-7, particularly when some ideas are deliberately hateful and hurtful. So you know what we’re going to do? We’re going to have a general policy of open exchange of ideas, and then we’re going to carve out spaces where we’re supportive, even if that means there’s less discussion. Don’t like that? Don’t patronize our safe spaces. Go pretty much everywhere else and enjoy the back-and-forth.”

    So in practice, that means something like: 1) we should support universities having diverse student groups, even if those clubs support ideas that I think are objectively awful, like Young Americans for Freedom and Campus Crusade for Christ. And those groups, in turn, should be able to bring in whatever speakers they want, even if those speakers are also objectively horrible human beings, like David Barton.

    But 2) we should expect universities to be slightly more restrained when it comes to public, all-student events, particularly those that are ceremonial in nature (e.g., graduations) and where we value the idea of diverse groups of people all feeling equally welcome. On those SPECIFIC occasions and in those PARTICULAR places, we value community over intellectual ferocity.

    Most of the argument I’m seeing from Neville seems to suggest that everywhere is turning into (2), which seems silly. Is there any argument that (2) is *inherently* inappropriate in a community? If not, then isn’t the debate over how many safe spaces we should create, rather than their existence at all?

  48. Joe Cole says

    41 Athywren

    “That would be a wonderful point if she was banned from speaking on anything. She’s not. She was invited to hold a talk. The audience made it clear that they’re not interested in her talk.”

    Really? The facts show otherwise. An online petition was started by one student (the Union’s Womens Equality officer) The vast majority of the signatures were not even UK citizens, let alone students at Cardiff University. The media storm that was kicked up had nothing to do with what the students wanted. We simply do not know what the audience wanted.

  49. nevilleneville says

    I have been reading up on the history of Atheist+. I think i’ll just stick with my Humanism and Atheism as they are. It seems to have a hell of a lot of critical faults and seems flawed on nearly every level. But thank you for your version of it.

  50. Monocle Smile says

    @nevilleneville
    I don’t think the label of “humanist” applies to you.
    Do you have any actual evidence to back up your statements about safe spaces or “censorship?” Because all I see is bald assertions.

    Read Andrew EC’s comment.

  51. El Conquistador says

    nevilleneville 54

    “Just a few posts up, I said that my way is the right way, and that I want to exclude certain people from the atheist movement because they’re not getting with the program, and that I have very little interest in modifying these requirements to be members of our club and movement.”

    I’ve never heard of Atheist +, but if this is what EnlightenmentLiberal speaks of, I’ll pass…

  52. Monocle Smile says

    @El Conquistador
    I think you misunderstand EL’s message. He’s saying that his purpose is to make the world a better place, and he’s not interested in including people in the atheist movement who don’t share that goal, either explicitly or without awareness. I don’t find that unreasonable.

  53. Vivec says

    Call it infantile if you like, but I have no problem with people wanting to not give money and a soapbox to someone that would really rather like if people like me didn’t exist.

    If there was some KKK grand dragon that was also a genius biologist, I’d have the same objection. Sure, they might not rant about KKK stuff while they give their speech about biology, but rewarding a lifetime of hate speech with cash and prominence isn’t really something I can get behind.

    Also, their sandbox, their rules. Free Speech prevents the government from limiting what you can say within reasonable bounds, it doesn’t mean that venues are obligated to provide a soapbox for your views.

    But yeah, if that’s infantile, I can’t say I’m terribly offended at being called such.

  54. El Conquistador says

    @Monocle Smile

    I understand that. But I also understand that what a person says means little compared to what they do and how they act. The condescending nature of his comments are what I find off putting. Also, it seems that he has appointed himself as the person who can pick and choose who is and is not part of “the atheist movement”. I do not recognize anyone as owning that.

    To be clear on my take on the subject, I think there is a lot of hair splitting on this whole elevatorgate/invite/uninvite issue. Although everyone has valid points, in the end, its a push…

  55. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To be clear on my take on the subject, I think there is a lot of hair splitting on this whole elevatorgate/invite/uninvite issue. Although everyone has valid points, in the end, its a push…

    There are only a few options, and none of them are good.

    One- you have failed to properly educate yourself on the matter, specifically elevatorgate, and you don’t know what you’re talking about, but yet you are commenting and assigning blame. In this case, you’re not being a very good skeptic, and I invite you to bother yourself to look into the matter before forming strong opinions on the matter and before publicly assigning blame concerning the matter.

    Two- You do know what’s going on, but you’re an asshat. In this case, I want nothing to do with you, and I do want to make you feel unwelcome, because you are unwelcome.

    Three- You know that the slymepitters et al are primarily at fault, but you would rather not rock the boat. In which case, I have to quote Martin Luther King Jr.
    Letter from a Birmingham Jail:

    I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

    I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

    And more from the letter, but it’s already a “long” quote.

    Everyone should have read this whole letter at least once in their life.

  56. El Conquistador says

    Oh enlightened one, I bow to your far superior intelligence. How do you retain your humility when dealing with such ignorant apathetic asshats as I?

  57. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    You said that I’m not humble. I got it. I agree. I also don’t care. You possibly also meant to communicate a general disdain for my positions. If there was any other points, I missed them. I also hope you have some concrete points so that we might be able to have intelligent conversation rather than this passive-aggressive bullshit.

  58. Monocle Smile says

    @El Conquistador
    So you claim that actions mean more than words, but you’re going to get butthurt about EL’s words rather than address the concepts he is attempting to convey. Got it. Option 2 it is.

  59. nevilleneville says

    @El Conquistador

    What you must remember is that Atheism+ is a rather same group compared to the Atheist movement as a whole and as such act as a form of reenforcement culture. Creating an us vs them scenario is an important factor in this. Despite sharing 95% of their views, I have been called “Sexist””, not a humanist, a troll,”And in support of the forces of “Tyranny, oppression, and evil”.

    Now even though there has been no evidence of this behaviour, they must be right because on person said “My side is the right of justice, righteousness, and morality”.

    I have only disagreed, and at that only on one subject. No insults to individuals, just disagreed. No wonder it is a failed movement if all you have is rudeness to those who differ and Rebecca Watson.

  60. Joe Cole says

    The good news is that the University has made it clear that it is committed to free speech and intends that the talk should take place. The audience is committed…….the tickets are fully booked.
    All that remains is for Germaine Greer to actually give her talk (she has said that, in view of the silly protests she couldn’t be bothered). If she is true to type she will give the talk, if only to raise two fingers to the small number of protesters.

  61. says

    In related worthless news, the RDF posted this article, which obviously is more “favorable reporting” and a clear indication Dawkins endorses Ben Carson’s strange opinion, rather than just mirroring something about which site contributors can have a discussion.

    Ben Carson: ‘It Takes a Lot More Faith to Believe in Evolution’ Than ‘To Believe in God’

    By Michael W. Chapman

    Dr. Ben Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon, a member of the distinguished National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, and the author of six best selling books, said that it takes faith to believe in God and to believe in evolution because both are “religion,” and he stressed that it requires “a lot more faith to believe in evolution.”

    “I think it’s quite evident from what you’ve seen tonight, it takes faith to believe in God, it takes faith to believe in evolution,” said Dr. Carson during a speech at the Celebration of Creation conference, as reported by the Adventist News Network.

    “I think it takes a lot more faith to believe in evolution than it does to believe in God,” he said.

    AWKWARD!

  62. says

    This is either very low-grade trolling or you’re borderline illiterate. As an organization promoting atheism and secularism, the RDF site posts articles about things favorable to atheists. They also post articles about theists saying incredibly ignorant things, because those people are fun to laugh at. If you can’t tell the difference between when the site is engaging in favorable reporting and ridicule, you might be as clueless as, well, Ben Carson.

  63. says

    Speaking of the potential for very low-grade trolling, borderline illiteracy, and being as dumb as Ben Carson, a quick scan of the “Secular Safe Space” article comments/discussion shows plenty of ridiculing these safe spaces, so obviously “things favorable to atheists” ain’t quite as black and white as you’d like there, champ.

    This is a bad wheeze. Atheists claiming or setting up safe havens is playing the victim card. It is acknowledging that in the land of the free they are second class citizens.

    If some individual is being victimised, they need to get lawyered up and kick ass. Not go crawling away to mope in the quiet room provided for them so they stop bothering the natives.

    Remember when it was the atheists making fun of religious people’s “delicate sensibilities”?

    I my student days, (in England) we called this the science department! There was also a theist zone called the Christian Union…

    Woops, looks like safe-spacers are as fun to laugh at as Ben Carson! Even the secular/atheist ones!

    ANYTHING WITH A SECULAR/ATHEIST LABEL IS AUTO-GOOD FOR DAWKINS AND FOLLOWERS.

    Derp.

    Again, I know you wanna stomp your feet over it and insist it’s true, but unfortunately for you posting news on your site does not equal endorsement of ideas in said reporting, unless you add your opinion stating as much. And, come to that, even if 2+ years ago (BTW, RDF did NOT post it a month ago…RDF posts include the date of posting plain as day, and so do the URLs: …/2013/09/secular-safe-zones-offer-campus-shelter-to-atheist-students/…so nice blunder there) Professor Dawkins attached an editorial praising the idea, why would you assume his more dated opinion is the accurate one? Zero sense made. Congrats.

    Oh, and please suggest these comments came from religious trolls visiting RDF, because I can’t wait to sink that barge too.

    “Things favorable to atheists.” Good grief.

  64. says

    Yup, I got the posting date wrong, fair enough. Generally though, what is the RDF’s track record in terms of being supportive of things atheists do for the benefit of other atheists and the global community at large, whether it’s their own Out Project or Non-Believers Giving Aid or what have you? And how does this compare to their reportage of the latest blathering by Ben Carson or Ray Comfort or Eric Hovind? I mean, you were the one suggesting their implied endorsement of both things is equivalent, so that’s on you. If Dawkins is personally opposed to Secular Safe Zones, or supported the idea at one time then changed his mind, the easy way to clear things up would be for him just to tweet what he thinks. If he is opposed, he’d at least be consistent and no one could say there was an implied double standard at work here.

    As for commenters’ opinions, who cares? Comment sections are asshole orgies by their very nature. (I mean, why don’t harassed people just lawyer up? Obviously that’s a thing every college student can afford!) And reading through the whole comment section on the RDF page, I found far more people praising the program than mocking it.

  65. adamah says

    Holy Hell, Martin: what is it with the hard-on you seemingly have for picking nits with any of RD’s comments that you can possibly twist to fit your biases? Talk about attempting to create a tempest in a teapot via unrelentless straw-manning!

    So let’s all put our thinking caps on, and analyze RD’s tweet and compare it to Schmidt’s words, and see if there’s as much difference as Martin claims (i.e. that it actually rises to the level of constituting a ‘contradiction’).

    “Schmidt said from his Logan office, quoting the goals of the Secular Safe Zone program. “All students shouldfeel safe on campus.” [Emphasis added.]”

    I added bold to the most-important word in the entire sentence (a word which MW seemingly doesn’t comprehend): SHOULD.

    You don’t have to be a lawyer to know that in common usage in both the US and UK, ‘should’ is often not used as an imperative (e.g. where ‘must’ is used to express a mandatory requirement, or an outcome that has to occur), but simply to express a statement of desirability if a given goal is attained. And if not achieved, it’s not the end of the World.

    Note the 2nd (1.1) definition of ‘should’:

    http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/should

    US ENGLISH SHOULD
    Pronunciation: /SHo͝od/ /SHəd/
    Definition of should in English:
    modal verb (3rd sing. should)

    1Used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions:
    he should have been careful
    I think we should trust our people more

    1.1Indicating a desirable or expected state:
    by now students should be able to read with a large degree of independence.

    Now let’s compare that to RD’s tweet:

    A university is not a “safe space”. If you need a safe space, leave, go home, hug your teddy & suck your thumb until ready for university.

    Note the word I bolded: NEED, which functions as an imperative (albeit a somewhat-weaker form: arguably a better choice of words on RD’s part might have been to use ‘require’ or ‘demand’, both conveying more of a sense of imperative). However, that’s the nature of the beast when tweeting (due to character limits), so I’m left staring at tealeafs to see the problem with RD’s tweet.

    MW’s post simply boils down to griping over the “is vs ought” distinction, where RD is describing what actually IS a common reality of life on campus for many atheists (and warning them of the risks they take entering the lion’s den), and Schmidt is offering an “ought to be” exception to what is. Not contradictory….

    It simply boils down to MW not recognizing the difference between statements that are ‘descriptive’ (i.e. of what actually IS) and ‘prescriptive’ (what OUGHT to be), and then assuming one without asking for further clarification from the speaker.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Is–ought_problem

    Such a lack of basic logical skills is embarrassing: MW, do you consider yourself a “freethinker” who doesn’t prematurely jump to conclusions? Egads!

    You’re as biased and bigoted a thinker as they come, only you’re offering a slightly different flavor of bigotry vs the religious types.

  66. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @adamah
    So, Dawkins identified a desirable state of affairs – a goal – that students should feel safe on campus. Should we take actions to make that goal into a reality? If no, I don’t know what you mean at all. It seems you are against certain policies to achieve that goal. It seems you are adopting a contradictory, and almost incoherent position whereby we have identified that the current state of affairs sucks, and another state of affairs is better, but you are against policies that would move us from the bad state of affairs to the good state of affairs.

    Being as charitable as I can be, perhaps you believe that there are other conflicting goals, which is why you don’t want to do these particular policies.

    However, even then, I believe your position is still incoherent. You cannot have both of the following:
    1- You want students to feel safe on campus.
    2- You don’t want campuses to be safe zones in any sense of the term. In a general loose sense, a safe zone is precisely a location where persons can and do feel safe.

    I don’t know how you’ll react. I suspect you’ll immediately argue that “safe zones” have a particular idiomatic meaning beyond the obvious meaning “places where persons can and do feel safe”. Your reaction should be interesting.

  67. Börndi says

    Why in the world can’t we split society into two halves according to if or if not one prefers safe spaces?
    Have your safe spaces and look how far you will come in your new society, I really would like to see how you will solve real problems that are facing humanity. I am out, I want as much free speech as possible, I want to deal with real problems and there are big ones, f.e. to feed humanity in the future, to make our planet cleaner, to invent better technologies to deal with real problems. But leave me alone with your regressive thinking. In fact, if this goes on, I really don’t want to live on this planet anymore. This is hell! What is going on with you people?

  68. Athywren - Frustration Familiarity Panda says

    @adamah
    If a thing should be the case, surely the fact that some people need it to be that way is a large part of the argument for why it should be so? If people who need it should not be in universities in the first place, then why should they exist at all?

    Briefly regarding Dawkins’ thumb sucking comment, I find it interesting that a biologist would be in favour of putting unnecessary selective pressures in place.
    Universities should be places where the brightest of us should be able to hone our minds and become scholars in our chosen subjects. How does selecting for only the most emotionally robust – only those who can handle being dehumanised by guest speakers, having graphic discussions of the assassination of Julius Caesar spring out of nowhere the week after they were attacked by over thirty people with knives and almost killed, etc – help us reach that goal?
    Granted, it’s not actively weeding out all intelligence from the scientific community, but it’s a needless limiting factor. I mean, we don’t expect physics students to be able to manage a marathon each week so why should we expect them to manage the emotional equivalent? (Hell, we don’t even require the intellectual equivalent of it – even creationists can put in the work to get a degree in biology as long as they’re not that most terrible of things – sensitive!) The only reason I can imagine for supporting one and not the other is that one is already a fact of life for a great many people, while the other would be an entirely new and unreasonable requirement that would disqualify many who are currently doing well – I mean, we wouldn’t want to filter out otherwise excellent academics for no good reason, would we? That would be absurd. And yet that’s exactly what we do by leaving those who’re suffering under psychological issues or social injustices without support, and telling them to go home and suck their thumbs until they magically just stop suffering from their psychological issue or being a member of the currently permitted hate target group and become “ready” for university.

  69. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Börndi
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/2013/05/free-speech-vs-freeze-peach/
    No one here is suggesting less free speech in any meaningful, relevant way.

    The questions before us are:
    – Should a university invite a known speaker of hate and bigotry, or not?
    – Is it reasonable to have student protests against the invitation of a known speaker of hate and bigotry?
    – Should students protest against the invitation of a known speaker of hate and bigotry?
    – Is it reasonable for the university to revoke an invitation of a known speaker of hate and bigotry?
    – Should the university revoke an invitation of a known speaker of hate and bigotry?

    I see no legalistic free speech violations going on here. I see no particular worrisome free speech violations. I see a discussion about whether students should pressure the university to revoke an invitation to speak on effectively private / government property. This particular speaker is still free to speak somewhere else.

    Many people forget that the goal or point or Aesop of free speech is to find the good ideas and the bad ideas, in order to kill the bad ideas, to make progress. The point of free speech is not to protect and promote bad ideas. I think you missed that memo. (There are other points to free speech as well, but this is a major one.)

    Many people don’t understand that a reasonable amount of social pressure to conform to good ideas and against bad ideas is necessary to destroy bad ideas such as sexism and religion, especially when the bad ideas have a large social base of support such as with sexism and religion.

  70. Börndi says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal:
    – Should a university invite a known speaker of hate and bigotry, or not?
    It clearly should invite such a speaker. I myself want to judge if that speaker is hateful or not. I don’t prefer anyone else judging for me. Also, these are just words. I can deal with words. I mean you also watch horror films or not? What about the words you hear there? Do you want to ban horror films?
    – Is it reasonable to have student protests against the invitation of a known speaker of hate and bigotry?
    Again, I want to hear that person. What about those who want to hear that person? Do you want to rob these people from the possibility of hearing that person speak? Protests are o.k., but I hope the university is strong enough to acknowledge that there are people who can deal with provoking thoughts and ideas. Also, you don’t have to attend that speech. What about organizing a contra event with a speaker who has opposing views or what about a debate or what about attending and in the questions and answer period asking the questions you want to ask or to criticize or whatever. But let that person speak. If the person doesn’t speak, no one can make up their minds for themselves. That is a big problem. I myself want to make up my mind!
    If the university wants to reject a speaker, then hopefully not because of pressure by the press or by angry student mobs who are driven by irrational emotional ideological thinking.

  71. Monocle Smile says

    @Borndi
    Nobody is preventing anyone from speaking. It’s about whether or not it is best for a university to implicitly endorse someone by paying them to get up on a soapbox.

    Do you want to rob these people from the possibility of hearing that person speak?

    What “robbery?” Can’t people just find the speaker and have a conversation? I don’t think you understand the topic.

  72. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    It clearly should invite such a speaker. I myself want to judge if that speaker is hateful or not. I don’t prefer anyone else judging for me. Also, these are just words. I can deal with words. I mean you also watch horror films or not? What about the words you hear there? Do you want to ban horror films?

    Half of the point of education, elementary, high school, and college, is to instill kids with facts and truth that has been distilled down over time. (The other half is to make the kids think for themselves.) For example, high schools should not give equal time to evolution and creationism. That would be a disservice to the kids. Similarly, high schools should not give equal time to proper geology and astral vs flat-earthers. That would be a disservice to the kids. The problem is that time is finite, and the amount of speakers that a university can invite is finite. When I pay my university tuition, part of that is to trained experts can find the best in their fields to give lectures, and to pay those lecturers. Even giving a podium and a room is money being spent from my tuition.

    You have a ridiculous and completely unworkable notion of education. That’s not what education is, and neither should we change education to be that.

    Put another way, it’s not the job of teachers to every time provide all of the information and let the kids sort it out. No. Part of the job of the teachers is to teach kids facts. Of course, part of the job is to teach critical thinking skills, but of comparable importance is the instruction in facts. You effectively deny half the purpose of education outright. Further, I don’t see how it aids critical thinking skills to give a podium to a bigot to give hateful lectures.

    You have it exactly backward. If you choose to not invite a flat-earther to give a lecture, or TimeCube guy, it’s not robbing the kids. Actually giving a podium to worthless lectures like that is what robs kids from value lectures that might have happened otherwise. I want my money to be spent on a fruitful education, not on giving a podium to hate.

  73. Klebbenator says

    When I first read this post from Martin, I immediately thought about the recent exchange between Dawkins and Maher on Real Time. In the segment they discussed the suppression of politically “charged” ideas and topics by university staff and students, and how it undermines one of the fundamental responsibilities of higher education – to stimulate a diverse range of thought. Is it possible that this is what Dawkins was referring to when talking about safe space, and how it needs to go away? I can’t be sure of the context. I know that he has made some DUM comments as of late…..

  74. Börndi says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal:
    It is absolutely clear that if you f.e. study physics, you don’t want to waste time in discussing known false theories in a lecture on quantum mechanics. You want to have the best and newest and most accurate stuff you can get in the class you attend. I think a university is quite interested in providing that. But when it comes f.e. to political and philosophical ideas, there it is not so easy to say: There is only one view, only one viewpoint is correct. There is an absolute basis for hearing opinions and not shutting down speakers.
    Let me test you: Imagine you had the power to reject speakers at a university.
    Imagine further that a student group wants to invite someone like Warren Farrell or Janice Fiamengo. I chose these two names because I suspect that 99% here are opposed to what they have to say. Would you let them speak at your University and if not, why not?

  75. Athywren - Frustration Familiarity Panda says

    It is absolutely clear that if you f.e. study physics, you don’t want to waste time in discussing known false theories in a lecture on quantum mechanics. You want to have the best and newest and most accurate stuff you can get in the class you attend. I think a university is quite interested in providing that. But when it comes f.e. to political and philosophical ideas, there it is not so easy to say: There is only one view, only one viewpoint is correct. There is an absolute basis for hearing opinions and not shutting down speakers.

    Therefore universities should invite proponents of phrenology to talk about psychiatry? Because even though the idea has long been shown to be false and misleading, it’s not so easy to say “there is only one view, only one viewpoint is correct” when talking about philosophical ideas?

  76. Monocle Smile says

    @Borndi

    But when it comes f.e. to political and philosophical ideas, there it is not so easy to say: There is only one view, only one viewpoint is correct. There is an absolute basis for hearing opinions and not shutting down speakers

    Sorry, I flatly disagree, at least on the topic at hand. I reject this notion of there not being a right answer, especially once we’ve established clear goals. Like EL, I have a goal of making the world a better place, and thus there are particular political and philosophical ideas that are correct and others that are incorrect. People who don’t share this goal can fuck off, because I don’t care what they think and they are in the way.

    You already know the answer to your question. Why did you ask it?

  77. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Börndi
    There is some merit to what you say.

    However, your “all or nothing” aka “black or white” thinking is childish and naive. By and large, neo-Nazis and other hate-filled bigots should constitute a very small percentage of speakers at university compared to great philosophers like MLK Jr, Dennet, or even Dawkins.

    I also have to reject this false dichotomy between philosophy and science. Science is a philosophy. Science is a value system. You think otherwise possibly / probably because you value science so strongly, or because almost everyone values science, or because you think it’s so blindingly obvious, but none of those things make science anything other than a philosophical value system.

    And again, in short, the point of university is to expose me to new good ideas to challenge me and to make me grow as a person. That’s why I’m paying them money. If they use my tuition money to invite 2-bit bigots like a neo-Nazi or the person from the OP (purportedly), then they are spending my money very badly. I didn’t give them money to listen to garden variety 2-bit asshats that I can easily find online or elsewhere.

    Again, one of the primary points of free speech is to sort out the good ideas from the bad ideas, in order that the bad ideas might die. There is a careful balancing line that we all must walk between acting to destroy bad ideas (a good thing) and using the color of law to silence so-called bad ideas. This is a very nuanced and complex topic, and your “black and white” mentality which amounts to “never make progress” is no more correct than any tyrannical fascist who would use the color of law to censor anything but their own opinion.

  78. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    That last line should continue:
    because tyrannical censorship of all opposing ideas also ensures that we never make progress.

  79. ironchops says

    @84 EL:
    I like the last paragraph. It is like a new definition of grace.
    Grace: Acting on a good idea because its good, not because you have too.

  80. adamah says

    EL said:

    So, Dawkins identified a desirable state of affairs – a goal – that students should feel safe on campus.

    Way to step deep in it, right off the bat!

    Nope, EL, you’re horribly confused, and how exquisite the irony that EL (who accused another poster above of failing to comprehend MW’s OP) provides proof-positive that she also failed to read and/or comprehend both MW’s OP and my previous post.

    EL, for the record: Prof. Schmidt is the college professor who offers a ‘safe zone’ in his campus office in Utah: that’s only ONE possible solution to the blowback experienced by those who self-identify as atheists without considering the ramifications before doing so, and it’s prescriptive.

    However, note that Schmidt’s office policy is the exception, not the rule: for the clear majority of atheists attending college outside of Utah (!), RDs descriptive words of the current situation would apply, without a ‘safe zone’ to which to flee and seek refuge.

    Also, it was Schmidt who used the word, ‘SHOULD’, not RD.

    RD’s tweet re: the hostile atmosphere encountered by an unknown number of atheists on an unknown number of campuses is descriptive of the problem, a statement of what likely is to be encountered if one ‘outs’ themselves (and having earned a doctorate, I know full-well how college can be far from a safe, non-challenging environment (by design), regardless if you express a belief in deities or not (e.g. when defending your doctoral dissertation from a panel of professors, looking to tear it apart! But as Martin correctly pointed out above, obviously there’s a difference between attacking ones ideas vs physically assaulting someone: there’s no threat of a mob of profs leaping from their chairs to physically assault a doctoral candidate)).

    Let’s use an analogy from the world of medicine, as it may help:

    Any trained physician understands that treatment (i.e. writing the prescription, initiating therapy, etc) should only follow the process of making an accurate diagnosis of the medical condition, based upon the available evidence on hand (i.e. the diagnosis should strongly correlate with a description of the physical manifestations of any tentative diagnoses, just as symptoms experienced by the pt should likewise correlate with findings of the physical exam to point to a final diagnosis).

    So the patients’ chief complaint, the symptoms, and exam findings are all assessed to (hopefully) reach the correct final diagnosis.

    And only after the proper diagnosis is made can we review available treatment options with the patient, comparing the odds of a successful outcome for each (again, I’m assuming an accurate diagnosis was made: otherwise all bets are off for providing an accurate prognosis).

    All of these mental steps are required to allow patients to make informed decisions as to which option they’ll choose, so they can weigh the ‘risks versus benefits’ of each treatment. Of course, it should be the patients decision (not the doctors), since the patient has to live with the consequences of their choice: they can ‘pick their own poison’.

    So to tie it back to RD’s tweet, he’s providing atheist students with the sobering reminder of the reality they’ll likely be facing on their campus, and just as a doctor who provides prostate cancer patients with the sober reality of the poor survival rates and/or anticipated side-effects of medicines doesn’t somehow automatically disqualify himself from treating the patient’s condition (or invalidate the advice, or make the doctor guilty of being a two-faced hypocrite), the same applies to RD’s statement.

    (The converse is true, too, i.e. simply describing the pt’s medical condition doesn’t somehow disqualify the doctor from treating the condition, or preclude their researching and reporting on various alternative treatment options as they arise.)

    Remember: RD’s offering a descriptive reminder of the problem doesn’t disqualify him (and/or the RDF site) from shining the spotlight on OTHER possible solutions (as displayed by Prof. Schmidt), or preclude RD from offering otheralternative prescriptive suggestions (e.g. RD’s comment to go home and suck one’s thumb until one is prepared to face the slings and arrows of reality. Hyperbolic, yes, but RD’s making a sly point about those demanding reassurance of certainty share an unflattering trait commonly found in those believers seeking reassurances of the Bible).

    So let’s not fall for the fallacious ‘hasty exclusion of viable alternatives’ fallacy. Offering one suggestion doesn’t invalidate the others: unlike a simple multiple-choice test, more than one solution may exist.

    It’s simply hyperbolic nit-picking to suggest RD’s sober warning that atheists may encounter at least some minor discomfort by self-identifying as atheists somehow disqualifies RD from subsequently offering OTHER potential solutions, or represents an example of RD being hypocritical or contradictory.

    MW, you also included a heavy dose of “appeal to smarminess”, and I’m not sure where you took a formal college-level course in logic, but at all of the universities I attended, snark, smugness, and clever GIFs are no replacement for a cogent argument: all of those are considered modern-day versions of the ol’ ‘style over substance’ fallacy.

    Your post simply doesn’t withstand logical scrutiny, but worse, it fails to be compelling. Consider using this hashtag:

    #awkward command of basic principles of logic

    RD is a brilliant, highly-respected retired biology professor, and a popular author/celebrity with worldwide name recognition: and you? What was your major/degree?

    With this post, you seem to have once again stepped on your own cis- male phallus in a very public manner, and a reasonable person SHOULD be embarrassed (hopefully now you understand ‘should’ is not always used as an imperative, but also as a statement of desirability).

    And with his vast background in biology, I assure you RD has forgotten more about biological sciences (and evolution) than you’ll ever HOPE to know. The guy is sharp: he’s provocative, yes, and doesn’t pull any punches, but he rarely misspeaks.

    I remember you also took the bait on at least two prior occasions, and apparently you didn’t learn your lesson to think long and hard before improperly taking a stance against RD. As you’ve proven yet again, in all likelihood there’s a reasonable explanation that you simply haven’t considered, and you’re “grabbing the wrong end of the plunger”.

    @Athyrwren, I’ll respond to your interesting questions later when I get some more time (I’ll still puzzled by EL’s quizzical suggestion that bad ideas should be killed, for how does one kill an idea? without resorting to Orwellianeaque thought control?)

  81. adamah says

    @Monocle Smile, I see you haven’t development your arguments beyond ad hominems?

    @Athywren, you raise some interesting points that I’ll respond to.

    Athywren said:

    If a thing should be the case, surely the fact that some people need it to be that way is a large part of the argument for why it should be so?
    Millions of people around the globe are dying from starvation, or from diseases caused by a lack of basic sanitation/clean water/healthcare, etc. Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss and blindness Worldwide, although they’re easily-treated in first-World countries.
    Surely you would agree there’s no more basic need than food and shelter (per Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ pyramid), yet why do humans allow the situation to continue, despite knowing full-well the problem still exists in 2015?
    I believe apathy (due to a lack of empathy) plays a major role, i.e. out of sight is out of mind, offering a convenient excuse for inactivity; this allows the problem to continue without inducing guilt.

    If people who need it should not be in universities in the first place, then why should they exist at all?

    Doesn’t your use of the word ‘need’ (as in, “need an education”) now seem a bit selfish, when compared to those facing death from starvation?
    Anyway, we’re back to Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ yet again: at the base of the pyramid is the need for food/shelter, and it’s only at the pinnacle that you encounter ‘self-actualization’, i.e. engaging in higher-level pursuits that bring challenge and a sense of fulfillment to one’s life.
    Ah, the luxury of wrestling with our first-world problems, eh? :)

    Briefly regarding Dawkins’ thumb sucking comment, I find it interesting that a biologist would be in favour of putting unnecessary selective pressures in place.

    I take it you’ve not studied evolution in depth (specifically ‘natural selection’), since the phrase, “unnecessary selection pressure” contains a statement of values (‘unnecessary’).

    Fact is, evolution often IS consciously directed by Homo sapiens, where humans often make decisions of what is required for perpetuating various other species (as well as ours) by imposing our values on others.

    So we’re now actually talking about ‘UNnatural selection’ (i.e. directed evolution), e.g. when people breed dogs to create offspring that possess traits deemed as desirable by us.

    Obviously it’s quite possible to do so (just look at the various breeds of dogs, from massive Great Danes to the diminutive Chihuahua), and although it’s not classified as ‘natural selection’, ‘directed evolution’ is quite possible, and is done routinely: I’m quite certain RD is aware of the phenomenon of breeding and selecting for certain traits, since it’s not exactly breaking-news to biologists. :)
    Universities should be places where the brightest of us should be able to hone our minds and become scholars in our chosen subjects. How does selecting for only the most emotionally robust – only those who can handle being dehumanised by guest speakers, having graphic discussions of the assassination of Julius Caesar spring out of nowhere the week after they were attacked by over thirty people with knives and almost killed, etc – help us reach that goal?

    Perhaps I should ask you the converse of your question: how does having a bunch of emotionally-labile hothouse flowers with brittle personalities (who break into tears at the slightest perceived insult or provokation) advantageous to humanity?

    Last time I checked, reining in and gaining control over one’s emotional response is part-and-parcel of being a rationalist (much less engaging in a profession).

    RD made that very point over a year ago, demonstrating how some people become completely irrational and unhinged when they allow their emotions to overtake rationality (he posted an intentionally-inflammatory tweet, and despite telling everyone after-the-fact he had done so to demonstrate a well-known psychological principle, the furor continued unabated. As I recall, MW bit hard on that one, too, and apparently didn’t learn from the experience….)

    Would you prefer a neurosurgeon cutting into your brain who flees from the operating room in a panic when he encounters an unexpected complication (such as accidentally nicking a blood vessel)? I sure as Hell don’t: I want a doctor who’s able to maintain control over their emotions so they can concentrate on addressing any inevitable complications as they arise (e.g. cauterizing the nicked vessel in MY brain, so I don’t die on the table from iatrogenic hemorrhage)!

    If artificially selecting for those who are able to display Rudyard Kipling’s classic advice (remaining calm while those around you are panicking) is NOT a trait that’s highly-advantageous to our species overall, then I don’t know one that WOULD be MORE desirable…

  82. Monocle Smile says

    @socipathic fucktard

    I see you haven’t development your arguments beyond ad hominems?

    What argument? That was an observation.
    Your “arguments” in that pile of crap are a series of pejoratives, naturalistic fallacies, and “how can you talk about blowjobs when people are dying in Darfur” red herrings.

    Anyway, we’re back to Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ yet again: at the base of the pyramid is the need for food/shelter, and it’s only at the pinnacle that you encounter ‘self-actualization’, i.e. engaging in higher-level pursuits that bring challenge and a sense of fulfillment to one’s life.
    Ah, the luxury of wrestling with our first-world problems, eh?

    This is a non sequitur. Like I just mentioned, this is an attempt to stifle conversation by bringing up irrelevant shit.

    Perhaps I should ask you the converse of your question: how does having a bunch of emotionally-labile hothouse flowers with brittle personalities (who break into tears at the slightest perceived insult or provokation) advantageous to humanity?

    So we should intentionally make their lives shitty and depressing so they kill themselves, right? All for The Greater Good, eh? This is classic narcissism, which is no surprise from the fucker who waves around a meaningless diploma in the empty space where a penis should be.

    Would you prefer a neurosurgeon cutting into your brain who flees from the operating room in a panic when he encounters an unexpected complication (such as accidentally nicking a blood vessel)? I sure as Hell don’t: I want a doctor who’s able to maintain control over their emotions so they can concentrate on addressing any inevitable complications as they arise

    Oh, fuck off. This “control over emotions” bullshit is silver-spoon nonsense. It’s obvious that you’ve faced minimal adversity in life, which is why you have contempt for people who struggle through it. You just can’t empathize…and that’s a choice you’ve made, which is why nobody here likes you.

  83. Russell Glasser says

    @Monocle Smile
    “@socipathic fucktard”

    I really don’t think that’s necessary.

  84. Börndi says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal:

    “And again, in short, the point of university is to expose me to new good ideas to challenge me and to make me grow as a person. That’s why I’m paying them money. If they use my tuition money to invite 2-bit bigots like a neo-Nazi or the person from the OP (purportedly), then they are spending my money very badly. I didn’t give them money to listen to garden variety 2-bit asshats that I can easily find online or elsewhere. ”

    It seems that you want a University to be nothing else than the Internet, where you need not to be exposed to opposing ideas, where you can dig deep into a forum of people whose ideas you consider as good ideas and where every second spending there has value for you. Opposing views will not be found there by you.
    If you want to live in such a world, o.k. But please, I beg you, don’t turn our Universities into such places. Why not stay in those forums, why shut down speakers of opposing views? The thing is, if you succeed with your dream you will kill people who consider this as a hell and might die over this. I f.e. need freedom, this is one of the most important things to me. Others prefer more safety and are able to give up freedom for that.
    We must all get along somehow. But I can tell you that you would kill me if you succeeded in building a ‘safe’ world like that. In fact, I may be would die in a fight to defend freedom, I would consider it a honest cause for a fight.

  85. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    It seems that you want a University to be nothing else than the Internet, where you need not to be exposed to opposing ideas, where you can dig deep into a forum of people whose ideas you consider as good ideas and where every second spending there has value for you. Opposing views will not be found there by you.

    It’s hard to have a conversation with someone when they’re speaking with a strawman instead of me. At the very least, please try to understand my position and describe it accurately.

    Quoting me above:

    Half of the point of education, elementary, high school, and college, is to instill kids with facts and truth that has been distilled down over time. (The other half is to make the kids think for themselves.) For example, high schools should not give equal time to evolution and creationism. That would be a disservice to the kids. Similarly, high schools should not give equal time to proper geology and astral vs flat-earthers. That would be a disservice to the kids. The problem is that time is finite, and the amount of speakers that a university can invite is finite. When I pay my university tuition, part of that is to trained experts can find the best in their fields to give lectures, and to pay those lecturers. Even giving a podium and a room is money being spent from my tuition.

    I do want evolution taught in schools. In fact, I want evolution taught in schools even if it’s discomforting or upsetting to some students. I want evolution to be taught in schools whether it’s an opposing viewpoint or not.

    Again, the purpose of education is not to give equal time to both sides of a proposition when the debate has long been settled. And I mean settled in an academic sense. I know evolution is not settled in the realm of popular opinion, and that’s why it’s an “opposing viewpoint” when presented in school, and I want it to be taught in school. Whereas, I do not want intelligent design creationism to be taught in school because it’s wrong, and because we in academic know it’s wrong. The debate is over intellectually speaking.

    In other words, I do want to expose kids in school (and college) to opposing viewpoints when those viewpoints happen to be correct. That’s why we pay teachers and schools.That’s their job. (Part of it. Part of it is also teaching kids how to think, i.e. critical thinking skills.)

    In other words, I do not pay tuition fees and taxes to university in order that they give equal amounts of time for speakers on the creationism vs evolution question. If a university does this, then it is very likely gross misuse of funds.

    It is important to note that at no point have I called for anything that might reasonably be called censorship. Rather, I’m talking as a citizen who pays taxes to support universities and as someone who has paid tuition fees. I want my money going towards proper education about the truth. I do not want my money going towards equal airtime for bullshit, whether that bullshit is creationism vs evolution, Naziism vs humanism, hating on gays vs humanism, hating on trans-people vs humanism, etc.

    Again, I hope you can at least address what I’ve actually arguing rather than your strawman of it. I didn’t read the rest of your post.

  86. Monocle Smile says

    @Russell
    You’re right. I apologize. My post was largely in reaction to adamah’s history rather than his posts in this thread.

  87. adamah says

    @MonocleSmile, your hissyfit posts will be given the merit they deserve until you actually contribute something of substance instead of acting like a petulant brat (and one who apparently suffers from the online equivalent of Tourette’s).

    Errata: for the record, the name given by biologists for the process of humans selecting for desirable traits is ‘artificial selection (aka selective breeding), which observes the convention of humans not being considered as part of nature, but the only species able to rise above nature to control it (or exploit it, depending on your POV).

    Which leads us to a point I wanted to make to correct a common misunderstanding of what the naturalistic fallacy actually is:

    Monocle Smile said:
    Your “arguments” in that pile of crap are a series of pejoratives, naturalistic fallacies, and “how can you talk about blowjobs when people are dying in Darfur” red herrings.

    The naturalistic fallacy is not new, but was initially based on the often-unspoken assumption that God created the natural World, and hence humans could infer something about His will by observing nature (it’s easily countered by offering the example of delicious but poisonous mushrooms. Believers typically counter by blaming the bad stuff on interference of the Devil, with God taking credit for the good: it’s almost useless).

    In that regard, the naturalistic fallacy is actually an implied “appeal to authority”, since God is the ultimate authority to believers.

    Fact is, Athywren was tottering dangerously close to playing the atheistic form of the same fallacy, that is until I cut him off at the pass by explaining that evolution results not just from natural selection, but also from artificial selection (and RD obviously believes in evolution).

    MS, you’d be wise not to accuse others of committing logical fallacies unless you’re absolutely certain you understand what they are, and can recognize if when you see it (that is, unless you just enjoy giving yourself facials with uncooked eggs).

  88. adamah says

    (waiting to see who will point out I actually described ‘appeal to nature’ vs ‘naturalistic fallacy’). 😉

    And perhaps rather than simply posting a link, MS would like to explain in their own words what it is, and how I committed it above…

  89. Monocle Smile says

    @adamah
    Your mistakes can actually be arguably described as either the naturalistic fallacy or a fallacious appeal to nature…because you can squeeze them into both the deduction of “ought” from “is” and an argument that something is correct because it is “natural.”

    Of course, you’re choosing to be pedantic and go off on tangents to avoid addressing my post at all. This is typical behavior from you. Seriously, you implied that it’s okay to shit all over people you consider to be “fragile” because it is “advantageous to humanity.” That makes you a sick, sick fuck.

  90. Athywren - Frustration Familiarity Panda says

    @adamah, 90

    Millions of people around the globe are dying from starvation, or from diseases caused by a lack of basic sanitation/clean water/healthcare, etc. Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss and blindness Worldwide, although they’re easily-treated in first-World countries.
    Surely you would agree there’s no more basic need than food and shelter (per Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ pyramid), yet why do humans allow the situation to continue, despite knowing full-well the problem still exists in 2015?
    I believe apathy (due to a lack of empathy) plays a major role, i.e. out of sight is out of mind, offering a convenient excuse for inactivity; this allows the problem to continue without inducing guilt.

    Some of us, although I am now willing to admit that it may be a very small number, given the popularity of this argument, are capable of holding two – or sometimes even more! – thoughts in our heads at one time. We’re capable of caring about one thing, and another thing, and yet another. Things upon things. Being in favour of a solution for one problem does not preclude being in favour of a solution for another, and the existence of one problem does not negate the existence of other problems. The world is complicated. It has many problems. They all deserve solutions, and choosing to perpetuate one problem whose abolition may in fact lead to solutions for other problems because of the existence of other problems is not remotely rational.

    I take it you’ve not studied evolution in depth (specifically ‘natural selection’), since the phrase, “unnecessary selection pressure” contains a statement of values (‘unnecessary’).
    Fact is, evolution often IS consciously directed by Homo sapiens, where humans often make decisions of what is required for perpetuating various other species (as well as ours) by imposing our values on others.
    So we’re now actually talking about ‘UNnatural selection’ (i.e. directed evolution), e.g. when people breed dogs to create offspring that possess traits deemed as desirable by us.
    Obviously it’s quite possible to do so (just look at the various breeds of dogs, from massive Great Danes to the diminutive Chihuahua), and although it’s not classified as ‘natural selection’, ‘directed evolution’ is quite possible, and is done routinely: I’m quite certain RD is aware of the phenomenon of breeding and selecting for certain traits, since it’s not exactly breaking-news to biologists. :)

    I like how irrelevant this whole passage is.
    You recognise the important point, but then completely ignore it for the sake of lecturing me on the concept of evolution. Yes. Thank you. I am aware of it.
    In your attempt to refute my comment, you chose selection criteria that make you sound more knowledgeable, better educated than I am, as if you were giving a basic lecture to a first year student who has massively misunderstood a fairly basic point. What you didn’t choose were criteria that demonstrated the value of selecting for, say, fluffy tails in police dog breeds. Not only did you not demolish my stance, you provided a perfect demonstration why unnecessary selective pressures are counter productive.
    I’m certain Dawkins is aware of the phenomenon of breeding and selecting for certain traits as well, hence my comment that it is interesting that he would be in favour of putting unnecessary selective pressures in place. I doubt Dawkins would advise selecting for fluffy tails when attempting to breed police dogs – not because dogs with fluffy tails cannot be good police dogs, but because it is an utterly irrelevant and unnecessary selective pressure. I’m sure there are a great many breeds of dog with particularly fluffy tails which are ideal for police doggery, but the fact remains that there are also many excellent breeds whose tails are not all that fluffy. Do you see what I’m getting at here? If you want a particular result, don’t put irrelevant filters in the way. Many of the things you want might get through those filters, but a great many will not and will drop out or be ejected because of irrationally designed filtering.

    Would you prefer a neurosurgeon cutting into your brain who flees from the operating room in a panic when he encounters an unexpected complication (such as accidentally nicking a blood vessel)? I sure as Hell don’t: I want a doctor who’s able to maintain control over their emotions so they can concentrate on addressing any inevitable complications as they arise (e.g. cauterizing the nicked vessel in MY brain, so I don’t die on the table from iatrogenic hemorrhage)!

    Yes. Well done. You’ve identified a necessary selective criterion.
    How is this remotely relevant?

    If artificially selecting for those who are able to display Rudyard Kipling’s classic advice (remaining calm while those around you are panicking) is NOT a trait that’s highly-advantageous to our species overall, then I don’t know one that WOULD be MORE desirable…

    The ability to write without randomly capitalising words?
    I do agree that the ability to remain calm is a good one, but here’s the thing – that’s not all you’re selecting for in the system as it stands. You’re essentially testing for who’s dealing with the least stress.
    Imagine for the moment that you’re trying to measure the capacity of a pair of containers. You have one that’ll take 2 litres, and another that takes 9. The 9 litre container already has 8 litres in it, while the 2 litre container is empty. You pour a litre into each container at a time, and whichever runs out of space last has the most capacity. Is this a fair test of capacity?
    Maybe if you’re looking for the 100 with the most capacity, you’ll get a few of the larger containers – there will be some, after all, that are empty to begin with – and you’ll certainly lose most of those with very little capacity, but you’ll also be losing a great many with equal or greater capacity to your largest containers simply because you made no effort to remove the liquid that was already there. Do you see the point? You’re selecting for capacity, sure, but that’s not the primary selective pressure at work – the whole process is thrown off because of the irrelevant factor of what is already in the containers.
    I look forward to your lecture on this earth thing you call “vol’yume.”

    Fact is, Athywren was tottering dangerously close to playing the atheistic form of the same fallacy, that is until I cut him off at the pass by explaining that evolution results not just from natural selection, but also from artificial selection (and RD obviously believes in evolution).

    Oh, another important selective pressure for academics – the ability to read and understand what’s said. While I am willing to accept that I might be falling short in the ability to perfectly convey my ideas, I suspect it was actually fairly clear.

  91. adamah says

    Monocle Smile said:

    Your mistakes can actually be arguably described as either the naturalistic fallacy or a fallacious appeal to nature…because you can squeeze them into both the deduction of “ought” from “is” and an argument that something is correct because it is “natural.”

    Wrong ( yet) again, Bucko. I never appealed to “natural” above (and you DO realize any reader can easily review my posts to confirm this for themselves, right?).

    MS, step back for one second and think:

    RD and I are describing the current system of conventions used in higher education (AKA the status quo, i.e. what actually IS).

    You seemingly are unaware that all such conventions, norms, mores, etc. are artificial constructs stemming from the minds of Homo sapiens. As I alluded to above (with my comment about mankind not being considered as part of nature, but rising above it), all such human constructs are considered as exceptions to nature; hence, the NF (naturalistic fallacy, or appeal to nature) allegation fails on its face.

    Such a charge is unfounded when discussing matters of public policy (human constructs) as long as no one makes reference to the ‘nature is good’ thing.

    Homo sapiens have developed many such standards and conventions, eg language, laws, etc.

    Most standards are quite arbitrary, i.e. there’s often no physical limitation underlying the concept of a one-way street (i.e. many one-way streets are wide enough to accommodate travel in both directions), but all drivers agree to abide by the rules when they get a ‘drivers license’ (again, getting licensed to drive is a convention, a social contract, as is the concept of traffic tickets to enforce the policies). The standards are often justified in the name of public safety.

    Your NF accusation would be correct if only I had cited the natural order as my supportive evidence (e.g. If I had pointed to species like bonobos, who ostracize members who don’t ‘play by the rules’ adopted by the group).

    However, I didn’t: I know better than to make a freshman mistake like that.

    I even asked you to point out my exact words which led you to wrongly assume committed the NF, but your inability to do so speaks spades.

    Additionally, you seem not to understand that when someone is describing and/or defending the status quo (AKA reality, what actually IS), there’s no OUGHT that can be, or needs to be derived: in common parlance, “it IS what it IS”.

    Maintaining the status quo this demands no action be taken, so there’s no decision-making, no activity needed (unless you consider deciding to reject change as ‘activity’).

    Instead, maintaining status quo requires INACTION, conservatism, or passively rejecting proposed changes.

    That’s why it’s baffling why you’d think I were as misguided as you, and you’d accuse me of playing the ‘NF’ card?

    You, on the other hand, are advocating FOR change (although I’ve noticed you haven’t provided any specifics of what solution(s) you’re proposing we adopt: are you sure you’re not just posting out of boredom? I’m reminded of Trump’s promise to repeal Obamacare if elected, and offering “something really great” in its place. Kinda short on the specifics of his “great” plan….).

    Be that as it may, YOU, as the activist for change, bear the ‘burden of proof’ to convince your audience of two things:

    1) WHY change is needed (i.e. what problems arise from the status quo), but even more importantly,

    2) you need to provide evidence that directly supports why society should adopt your proposed change.

    As stated in the many articles discussing the naturalistic fallacy, you cannot derive supportive evidence for change (i.e. what OUGHT to be) simply by creating a laundry list of the problems with the status quo. That’s what the saying, “You cannot derive an OUGHT from an IS” attempts to convey, i.e. simply griping about the status quo doesn’t satisfy the requirement to provide independent evidence that directly supports adoption of your change.

    So after you admit you’re dead-wrong (yet again) on your understanding of fallacies (this time, NF), you can provide some concrete proposals for how you’d change the status quo to something more to your liking, with supportive evidence of its own.

    (I’m not holding my breath, BTW, since I doubt you actually have any concrete suggestions to offer, much less evidence to support their adoption.)

  92. adamah says

    PS on this:

    MS said-

    Seriously, you implied that it’s okay to shit all over people you consider to be “fragile” because it is “advantageous to humanity.” That makes you a sick, sick fuck.

    Even setting your ignant (sic) straw-manning attempts aside, your premises don’t come anywhere close to supporting your conclusion. Try again….

    #logic fail

    @Athywren, I’ll address your post later, since you’re at least engaging in a discussion in “good faith” (rather than simply posting as an excuse to occasionally vent ones spleen to hurl insults).

  93. Monocle Smile says

    @adam

    I even asked you to point out my exact words which led you to wrongly assume committed the NF, but your inability to do so speaks spades.

    I directly quoted you twice. The first time was an entire paragraph blockquote. Let’s add “illiteracy” to your long list of shortcomings. Then I asked questions that you avoided answering. Now you’re once again spinning off and pretending my accusations of fallacies were directed at different parts of your posts.
    Again, this is typical troll behavior from you. You are not here to have a discussion. Please don’t pretend as if you are.

  94. adamah says

    MS said:

    I directly quoted you twice. The first time was an entire paragraph blockquote.

    Holy Hell, MS: you surely don’t mean this?

    Adamah said-

    Perhaps I should ask you the converse of your question: how does having a bunch of emotionally-labile hothouse flowers with brittle personalities (who break into tears at the slightest perceived insult or provokation) advantageous to humanity?

    Most non-mentally-challenged individuals understand that asking a question does not an ‘argument’ make: for one, a question lacks both a premise and a conclusion!

    The Socratic Method is often used in philosophy courses to develop critical thinking in students, getting them to reconsider their positions by asking a series of questions that encourage self-examination and dialogue.

    The Socratic Method is NOT considered a formal debating technique, but only a useful rhetorical method to develop challenge one’s positions and find possible solutions without offering a pre-canned solution.

    Let’s add “illiteracy” to your long list of shortcomings.

    Oh, the exquisite irony, with words of grammatical rebuke coming from someone who cannot differentiate between ‘questions’ and ‘assertions’!

    Hint, MS: by convention, questions are indicated by use of a curvy symbol placed at the end of the sentence. This symbol even has a special name: ‘question mark’ (“?”).

    Look for them (and I even hinted at its existence, using the word in the first sentence: so who’s illiterate, again?).

    Looking for either the word and/or symbol (or dare I say, both?) is a simple way to avoid making the same mistake in the future.

    And even if we graciously allowed you to transform my question into a conclusion by editing (e.g. “It is not advantageous to have emotionally-labile persons in positions of responsibility”), it STILL wouldn’t rise to constituting a NF, since it’s a naked conclusion that lacks a premise (required to be considered an ‘argument’; nevermind it would require a premise that states what ‘is’ in order to constitute the NF).

    While most articles discussing NF mention you cannot derive an ‘ought’ simply by describing the problem(s) with what ‘is’, apparently they incorrectly assumed readers like you are smart enough to realize you CAN derive an ‘IS’ from another ‘IS’, as long as you’re accurately citing current policy that defines what a proper response to the problem would be.

    Then the only question becomes if the premise is actually correct (true), and if the conclusion is consistent with current policies and options in force at the time.

    And since going home and sucking one’s thumb is only one valid option available to those encountering hostility on campus for being atheists, although RD’s brusque comment may ruffle some feathers, it’s not a NF, either.

    Then I asked questions that you avoided answering. Now you’re once again spinning off and pretending my accusations of fallacies were directed at different parts of your posts.

    I didn’t know why you were quoting it, and since you didn’t ‘unpack it’ to explain your rationale for reaching your invalid conclusion (as I did above, explaining WHY it’s not a NF), then who’s not engaging in ‘good faith’ here?

    MS, I cannot enter your hob-gobbled brain to imagine what illogic you perceive; hence I was baffled by your unsupported accusation of NF!

    Again, this is typical troll behavior from you. You are not here to have a discussion. Please don’t pretend as if you are.

    Says the person who butted into the discussion I was having with Athywren, just as we started engaging in a bit of Socratic methodology (designed to encourage civil discourse).

    Look, MS, you’ve proven conclusively time and time again you lack anything of value to add to threads (and no, comic relief doesn’t count as ‘something of value’). Therefore, you’d be wise to consider the sage advice:

    It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.

    Of course, that ship left the port a long time ago, but hope springs eternal.

    You’ve demanded attention by throwing out flak which required a response to set the record straight: therefore, you should apologize to everyone (esp Athywren) for wasting bandwidth and distracting from the topic under discussion.

  95. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Börndi
    1:23 in, and already one blatant lie. It’s not looking good. And again a few minutes later. I cannot take this hyperbole seriously when it’s so demonstrably wrong. Person in video says that apologizing does no good, and that any mistake, no matter how minor, can ruin someone’s career.

    Disproof by counterexample:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matt_Taylor_%28scientist%29#Shirt_controversy
    Here’s someone who AFAIK handled it correctly. AFAIK, he’s still doing his same work with (hopefully) no negative repercussions.

    So, the person in the video has immediately lost all credibility to me. I cannot take anything they say seriously, and any claimed facts and interpretation I would have to fact check personally before accepting it at all, because this person is detached from reality on this particular issue, or they have a particular ax to grind and willing to use dishonesty to achieve that goal.

    Would I benefit in that sense from watching a lecture by that person? Not really. It would give me insight into the psychology of someone so wrong-headed, and it would probably help me get a tally of talking points on this issue so I can be prepared the next time I encounter someone else who is similarly wrong-headed. It’s like talking to a creationist. Sometimes creationists say the darnest things, and it can be interesting in its own right. But am I going to learn anything about evolution by talking with a creationist? Probably not.

    Further, my central premise is that I pay tax and tuition to public universities in order that they invite proper speakers, and not cranks like creationists. At this moment, I would edge this person towards the crank bucket. I would have to watch more of this person to be reliably certain that the crank label applies, and I don’t care enough to do so at this time.

  96. Börndi says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal:
    I must say that your views frighten me, but I need no safe space to protect me from them, I think I can deal with them. I really hope that you reconsider your views.
    By the way, when it comes to safe spaces: https://youtu.be/EaPaLCuXjT8
    Let me remind you that you don’t have to hear other views, you can simply hang out on forums where all people are agreeing with you. I really wish you the best ….. bye ..

  97. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Börndi
    Should we give equal amounts of time to evolution and creationism in the classroom in high school? And in university? In general, is it a misuse of money for a university to invite some 2-bit young Earth creationist to give a lecture?

    You are still strawmanning my position, and your position is ridiculous. It amounts to the old creationist tactic of “equal time”.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teach_the_Controversy
    That’s not the job of schools. It is a misuse of funds to do so.

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