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Feb 01 2012

Ideas that undermine received wisdom

This claim of “Froborr’s” is really appallingly hostile to a great many of the foundations of a liberal open thoughtful society or culture or world.

First, the move to make a truth claim about reality part of one’s identity (“a huge part of who I am”) is death to thinking. It’s the same move the shouters about “hurting religious sentiments” make: it turns one’s ideas into one’s Self in a move to make it taboo to question them. Making it taboo to question ideas is death to thinking.

Second, the move to equate public discussion with forcible conversion is, obviously, death to public discussion. If all argument that [X is better or more true or more evidence-based than Y] amounts to forcible conversion and thus is “evil in one of its purest forms” – well I don’t even need to say more: the upshot is obvious.

The whole thing is an alarming ploy to make all existing world-views indistinguishable from people’s identities and therefore sacrosanct and not to be challenged. That’s simply a recipe for mental stagnation.

Russell Blackford made a related point the other day, in connection with Elaine Ecklund.

An important component of the role of universities is the creation of a space where what seem like commonsense ideas – handed down through socialisation and tradition – can be held up to the light and challenged. One thing that we want from academics, especially in fields such as philosophy, is the capacity and courage to attack popular ideas, including popular ideas of morality. This kind of intellectual critique, which may involve the development of unpopular critiques of how ordinary people think, is one way that we make progress as a society.

Accommodationist thinkers in the style of Ecklund or, say, Chris Mooney, want to reverse this. The idea is to market a product, such as science, by showing how it is safe for people to consume without it challenging their existing worldviews (which may be based on religion or traditional morality). People with various existing worldviews are taken as demographics, and the idea is to market science to them.

But science and scholarship are dangerous – not necessarily in the sense of creating physical risks, but in the sense that they can lead to ideas that undermine received wisdom. Universities are places where dangerous ideas, in this sense, are created, refined, and tested in debate. To suggest otherwise, and adopt the marketing strategy favoured by accommodationists, is profoundly ignorant and anti-intellectual.

I think that’s absolutely spot-on, and crucial.

It’s really not a good idea to try to persuade everyone that only safe ideas are permissible, much less that potentially unnerving ones are pure evil. It’s a blow for ignorance and anti-intellectualism and against learning, change, growth, surprise, development – and freedom.

53 comments

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  1. 1
    sailor1031

    But, but…..all you need is to believe that something is true and you can never change your mind about it! So all those who believe the big bang are going to be destroyed if it turns out the universe is cyclic? What one thinks today is NOT who one is! Beliefs are not identity. Very sloppy thinking for an atheist…..

  2. 2
    Egbert

    “So: Where is the empirical evidence that religious belief is harmful, either to believers or non-believers?”

    Oh dear, we can see the harm religion does with its actual consequences, is this guy living in a bubble? I think there is something seriously bogus about this guy’s argument. It is entirely one-sided, caring about the disproportionate trauma of losing faith, but not seeing the death, rape and violence done in the name of religious belief. The guy hasn’t experienced any such existential trauma, so why does he write as if he does? Fishy.

  3. 3
    Natalie Reed

    Perfectly said, Ophelia.

  4. 4
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    … and what’s the purpose of marketing? To put butts in seats, to have more customers than your competitors, to put more cash in your pocket or power within your grasp. Marketing has nothing to do with truth, or what’s best for people or society, it is about pumping up numbers for the people behind the marketing.

  5. 5
    TCC

    Accommodationist thinkers in the style of Ecklund or, say, Chris Mooney, want to reverse this. The idea is to market a product, such as science, by showing how it is safe for people to consume without it challenging their existing worldviews (which may be based on religion or traditional morality). People with various existing worldviews are taken as demographics, and the idea is to market science to them.

    Maybe I’m an accommodationist, then, but I’m not really opposed to the notion of helping people reconcile their personal views (religious or otherwise) with science as long as the science is not misrepresented. I don’t want science to be watered down, certainly, but it seems that there is a little bit of wiggle room with some things. Take evolution, a scientific theory that is both well-attested and which many (although probably not most) Christians accept as truth. Helping Christians reconcile their faith to science can accomplish two things: 1) it gives science advocates an ally where there would have otherwise been an enemy, and 2) it can serve as a “gateway drug” of sorts out of religion in many cases by hooking people on science as a method of ascertaining truth (from which the whole religion thing unravels).

    What this approach does take away, however, is the ability to use it as a tool against religion and a wedge between the religious and non-religious, which is (I suspect) why “accommodationists” are so thoroughly castigated in most atheist circles.

    Consider it a diplomacy vs. warfare sort of approach. I tend to think that the former is better, but then again, I might be biased by the fact that I recently abandoned religion by that method. I also see the more aggressive approach as one that hardens the resolve of the religious and turns them away from science, which is bad both for free thought (and freethinkers) and for science.

    I don’t disagree, however, that there are hard lines to be drawn, in order to keep the science from being watered down just because it might offend people’s delicate sensibilities. But I think there’s a middle path to be made between the hard-nosed anti-religion approach and the soft “we can make science fit your beliefs” accommodationist approach.

  6. 6
    eric

    TCC:

    Take evolution, a scientific theory that is both well-attested and which many (although probably not most) Christians accept as truth. Helping Christians reconcile their faith to science can accomplish two things…

    I mostly disagree. It really depends on who is doing the reconciling. If your pastor is doing it, more power to him or her. But if your biology professor is doing it, no, that’s not a very good idea at all.

    For one thing, any time spent on reconciliation takes away from time that could be spent on, y’know, biology.

    Second, your biology prof is not the right expert to be doing the reconciling. Why are you going to them on “what science means” for Sect X when they are (very likely) neither a recognized theological expert on Sect X, nor priest or other representative of Sext X? “What evolution means for [example] seventh day adventism” is not an evolutionary biology question, it’s a seventh day adventism question. Go to the appropriate priest for that, not a biologist.

    About the most accommodationist thing a biologist should be saying is: “whether evolution is consistent with [insert your sect here] is an interesting question, Virginia. Go ask your priest about it.”

  7. 7
    Stacy

    Crossposted from the Slactivist site. I addressed it to a commenter named Izzy, but could just as well have addressed it to Froborr

    @Izzy

    But you know, if you fundamentally disrespect my worldview, odds are you shouldn’t be talking to me. Because I definitely don’t want to talk to you

    So you prefer to live isolated from people who don’t think the way you do. And you don’t listen to people who don’t think the way you do, because in not respecting your worldview, they “fundamentally disrespect” you.

    Got it. Listen, as a New Atheist, I’m not going to rip your hands away from your ears and attempt to shout over your chants of “La la la I can’t hear you!” That’s not what we’re about.

    We’re about being out and present in the marketplace of ideas, trying to convince others to think critically, accept reality, and drop supernatural thinking. That’s it.

    If you think the ideas you hold about reality are a fundamental part of who you are, you’re never going to be open to learning. Anything. Yes, humans do tend to wrap up our identity with our beliefs. But we shouldn’t do it. We’re wrong to do it. Learning not to do that is a big part of developing intellectual integrity. When we conflate what we think with who we are, we shut ourselves off to learning.

    This whole, “making people aware that you don’t respect their worldview is hurtful and therefore morally wrong” nonsense is what drives blasphemy laws.

  8. 8
    Ophelia Benson

    Got a link for Izzy’s comment, Stacy? That thread is such a nightmare to navigate (they badly need a “Last” link!) and I figure you know roughly where it is.

    I want to keep it because it’s so wrong.

  9. 9
    Wysteria

    Ophelia, the last page of that thread can be reached via http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2012/01/the-problem-of-proselytizing/comments/page/99 (it’s only at 15 pages now, I don’t think we’ve ever reached 99 in threads I’ve followed). Switching out the page number for 99 in any thread works.

  10. 10
    Stacy

    Ophelia, I think this will take you to the page with Izzy’s comment: http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2012/01/the-problem-of-proselytizing/comments/page/13/#comments

  11. 11
    Ian MacDougall

    Ophelia:

    “Making it taboo to question ideas is death to thinking.”

    Well said. It certainly is.

    All the religions that I know anything about have proscriptions on questioning articles of faith. One can ask an authority for clarification on some point of doctrine, but to question the doctrine itself is to place yourself in ‘spiritual danger’ or some such situation.

    But the paradox is that all the modern religions, in a pretty close parallel of biological evolution, arose by modification of some other already established intellectual structure. None of them came out of thin air already formed. To found them, their founders had to think for themselves.

    They were then faced with the tricky task of banning all such questioning and modification thereafter.

  12. 12
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Izzy:

    But you know, if you fundamentally disrespect my worldview, odds are you shouldn’t be talking to me. Because I definitely don’t want to talk to you

    I wouldn’t put up with this shit from a fundie xtian; why should I put up with it from a “progressive” xtian? Oh, right, because they’re my “allies.” Pfft. Fuck off and go find someone who’ll sugarcoat things for you.

    BTW, in the latest comments to their post about Pharyngula, they’re tsk-tsking about how “privileged” we all are. They really ought to ask Be Scofield to do a guest-post there. They’d eat up his passive-aggressive, intellectually dishonest horseshit with a ladle.

  13. 13
    Ophelia Benson

    Thanks Stacy. What a sludge-fest.

  14. 14
    TCC

    eric, I don’t actually disagree with you on that. It’s not the responsibility of biologists/biology instructors to demonstrate that science can be reconciled with (some) religious beliefs. I think your response is largely correct, although I fear that there are plenty of fed-up biology teachers out there who get defensive about religious objections to biology (and reasonably so, in my opinion) and so inadvertently create or at least help promulgate a wedge between science and religion.

    As for your suggestion that it is religious leaders who should be doing the reconciling…well, if it were that easy, there wouldn’t be such acrimony among fundamentalists about evolution, would there?

    I’m not necessarily suggesting a sea change in the way that we teach evolution or religion. I’m proposing that advocates of science should be open to reconciliations, more or less, and to work with religious individuals to highlight how it is possible to be religious and accept evolution as a scientific theory. As it stands, a hardline stance regarding religion strengthens the resolve of the fundies and leaves behind individuals who would be sympathetic to the cause of science.

    Plus, I might add, getting religious people to reconcile evolution with their religious beliefs is a step toward getting them to question their beliefs, so I think that is very much in the spirit of this post.

  15. 15
    Stacy

    Wow, I’ve given up, those people make me grind my teeth, and they’re nibs as it is!

  16. 16
    Ophelia Benson

    They are excruciating.

  17. 17
    karmakin

    More projection than a bloody multiplex. I’m reading the link to the last page of that thread and geez.

    “And yes, I still stand by it being the purest kind of evil, the self-centered callous disregard for the personhood of others. Again, you fail at reading comprehension, as demonstrated by your inability to distinguish between purity of evil (which is to say, evil unmixed with mitigating factors) with severity of evil.”

    I can’t even begin to count the number of things wrong with that statement, on a factual level, on a projection level, on a rationalistic level, and most importantly on an ethical level.

    I’m actually not entirely opposed to the argument that maybe we all should keep religion and such beliefs much more private than we do, however to direct it at the out-group shows a staggering amount of blindness. Any such social and cultural change MUST start with the in-group.

  18. 18
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Froborr et al. have created a large vat of sloppy thinking. These people are skeptics?

    I couldn’t possibly read all of that, but not too many of the contra posts I read were that sloppy.

  19. 19
    karmakin

    So I waded in over there.

    What is it..if you fight something too hard you can easily become what you’ve fought against? That’s really what I see. A certain kind of tribal identity over everything else. Even over actually doing good in the world. Will dehumanize the whole world to maintain their tribal identity of being the “last good souls”.

  20. 20
    Ophelia Benson

    I know. Everything draped in “trigger warnings” and caring, while they energetically agree on how Evil Greta Christina is.

    Oy.

  21. 21
    LeftSidePositive

    Oh. Holy. Shit.

    I read the discussion. People were irate about the idea of correcting misapprehensions being “curist” (look–I’m in the medical field: NOWHERE outside of mental illness does the concept of “curism” even exist. No one with congestive heart failure gets incensed at the idea of people curing congestive heart failure. Now, it’s one thing to object to people ignoring the here-and-now issues of a population out of a quixotic hope for a “cure” just around the corner, but once that jumps the shark to actually OPPOSING CURING DISEASES, I just can’t take it!)

    Someone actually said it was wrong to call people who ask medical-drama actors for medical advice dumb, because that criticizes that person’s perception of the connection between the role or significance and the actor.

    Apparently identifying actual problems with reality testing as mental illness is “ableist.” Yeah, not being able to recognize reality IS A PROBLEM. It’s not like sexism or racism where the problems with the “difference” are entirely socially-constructed and there is no inherent better or worse. Sorry, but a working mind is better than a mind that doesn’t work. That’s not to say the PERSON with a not-always-functioning mind isn’t a valuable, dignified human being with all their needs and complexities, but it is inherently dangerous not to know how reality works. It hurts yourself and others not to be able to look critically and accurately at the world, and to reach valid conclusions.

    And, OH MY GOD–the number of people who just couldn’t care less if what they believed is true?!?!?! I know Greta’s written about this, but DAMN!!!!!

  22. 22
    karmakin

    Well, to me “truth” isn’t really the primary factor here. I think that there are relatively harmless untrue beliefs that people can have and such. The reason why at least for me I push back on religious privilege is that real people are suffering because of it, full stop. I’m not really concerned if religion makes the lives of religious believers better or worse, although for sure we should take it into account.

    This suffering is the primary importance here, and these people seem to care nothing about that. In the wake of what’s happening with the Komen foundation quite frankly it’s incredibly relevant right now.

  23. 23
    Josh Slocum

    I’m not necessarily suggesting a sea change in the way that we teach evolution or religion. I’m proposing that advocates of science should be open to reconciliations, more or less, and to work with religious individuals to highlight how it is possible to be religious and accept evolution as a scientific theory.

    It’s transparent that you’re projecting your very recent realization that you’re an atheist (which means your extremely recent discomfort with your religion is at the fore of your mind) onto this question. What you’re suggesting is sugar-coated bullshit, and it’s dishonest. One either accepts facts about the world or one doesn’t. Facts don’t need to “reconcile” with what you or religious people would desperately like to be true.

    This wouldn’t seem at all controversial if we were talking about anything else that isn’t walled-off and mollycoddled the way “religious sentiments” are. You’d never talk this nonsense about “reconciliation” between liberal and conservative public policy issues. You’d never say “it is possible to be conservative and accept liberal policies.”

    You need to get how it’s bullshit to do this just because religion is still a tender spot for you emotionally.

  24. 24
    Ysidro

    I’ve said it before: those folks taught me all I know about privilage and I thank them for it. However, they also unintentionally taught me that one can be understanding of the concept of privilage and still not see one’s own.

    It’s a shame, I actually like most of the posters and commentors there but I just couldn’t condone their behavior anymore. *sigh*

  25. 25
    karmakin

    Ysidro:Been there done that got the t-shirt. *sigh* with you.

    It’s weird. For me mentions of trigger warnings ARE a trigger for me. Go figure.

  26. 26
    eric

    TCC @14:

    I’m proposing that advocates of science should be open to reconciliations, more or less, and to work with religious individuals to highlight how it is possible to be religious and accept evolution as a scientific theory.

    We do work with religious individuals. Many scientists ARE religious individuals. Ken Miller is a classic example. But there is no scientific justification for why all scientists should take Ken’s position. PZ’s opposing position is just as valid.

    Look, when a scientist claims that JoeBob’s theology is really consistent with science, even if JoeBob doesn’t see it, they are making a strong value judgement: “I know how JoeBob’s theology ought to be interpreted. And according to me, he’s doing it wrong.” No wonder opponents get mad, this is incredibly arrogant!!! A Ph.D. in biology does not make one National Theology Czar.

    Let the sects and individuals decide whether what they believe is consistent with science or not. Professionally, don’t try to even argue the point, because when you do that you’re arguing theology. Save it for when you take your ‘professinal scientist’ hat off and are speaking as an individual. Professionaly, just teach good science. Explain why science reaches the conclusions that it does, and let the theological chips fall where they may.

    TL,DR: your “should” is unwarranted. Advocates of science will have to decide on an individual basis whether to be open to reconciliation or not, because the pro-reconciliation position does not fall out of science. Its metaphysics and/or theology.

  27. 27
    Sastra

    TCC #14 wrote:

    I’m proposing that advocates of science should be open to reconciliations, more or less, and to work with religious individuals to highlight how it is possible to be religious and accept evolution as a scientific theory. As it stands, a hardline stance regarding religion strengthens the resolve of the fundies and leaves behind individuals who would be sympathetic to the cause of science.

    Consider this: telling religious people that it is possible to be religious and still accept scientific theories strengthens the cultural belief that science-based atheism is philosophically shallow, if not bankrupt. It leaves behind individuals who would be sympathetic to the idea that atheism is a reasonable option — and that atheists are ordinary people, just like them. It draws lines and forms divisions by removing the real issue and creating different categories of people instead. And atheists are dropped into their category like a rock; they fall hard.

    I don’t think that’s a small problem. It seems to me that celebrating compartmentalization as a virtue and encouraging special pleading as commendable perpetuates the idea that one believes in God because of the kind of person one is. You shouldn’t reason your way to God the way you approach any other hypothesis. No no no. That’s shallow. There are no conflicts with science because we’re in a different category now.

    Believing in God is not a conclusion: it’s a reflection of your identity. You’re the kind of person who wants to reach out make a connection with the fundamental purpose and meaning of the universe. Atheists, on the other hand … are not that kind of person.

    This isn’t simply wrong as an empirical matter. It screws us culturally. It ruins us politically. It takes away our motivation for not believing in God — a rational, scientific approach to a hypothesis — and instead substitutes the idea that the REAL reason we don’t believe in God is because we have character issues. It can’t be science (as we claim) because it is perfectly consistent to be religious and still accept science. And now that God is fixed firmly outside of science … it comes down to values. God is perfect love, everything wonderful and more. You either “respond” to him or you don’t. Atheists don’t.

    Which is fine, of course. How could anyone possibly draw any negative inferences about atheists from this?

    Easy. How could anyone infer anything but negative slurs against atheism from that line of argument?

    Yes, opposition to accomodationism is a matter of philosophical and intellectual consistency. But it’s also a shrewd political strategy. I think that removing religious claims from reason and placing the divide as an emotional choice drawn from the depths of one’s basic identity slams us atheists against the wall.

  28. 28
    Ophelia Benson

    VERY WELL SAID.

  29. 29
    dirigible

    “death to thinking”

    This is the placard many outraged protesters would be holding if they were honest about it.

  30. 30
    LMM

    @ Ysidro: Join the club.

    I must say, they’ve successfully managed to turn what could have been a minor screw-up into a disaster. The latest thread has the moderators silencing well-meaning, calm critics by saying “they’re tired of dealing with critics”. The really frustrating part is, the moderators weren’t willing to deal with criticism of Frobarr’s post initially, either. They drove off those of us who are attempting to critique it, and then acted baffled when it was (as one might expect) Phyrangulated.

    The really annoying part is, mmy is citing my criticism (I’m pretty sure she’s citing me) as evidence that the ‘community’ was somehow open to a real debate over the subject, when I left after it became clear that mmy was going to attack anyone who pointed out any flaws in Frobarr’s posts. (Nathaniel had a similar experience.) It’s rather infuriating to be the token protestor when it’s clear that I wasn’t going to be taken seriously. I’d email them about it, but I know that mmy wouldn’t care. As far as she’s concerned, she’s done nothing wrong.

  31. 31
    Ophelia Benson

    They’re an Awful Warning.

    Fortunately there’s a lot of churning among people who comment here, so this place isn’t going to turn into some kind of therapeutic nursing home for the trigger-sensitive. Not that it would anyway, with me around. I’m way too mean.

  32. 32
    Timothy (TRiG)

    … while they energetically agree on how Evil Greta Christina is.

    Name one single person who has said that Greta Christina is evil. That did not happen. It is a lie.

    this place isn’t going to turn into some kind of therapeutic nursing home for the trigger-sensitive

    PTSD is a real thing that exists in the real world.

    TRiG.

  33. 33
    Timothy (TRiG)

    NOWHERE outside of mental illness does the concept of “curism” even exist. No one with congestive heart failure gets incensed at the idea of people curing congestive heart failure.

    Bullshit and lies, as you’d know if you’d read the thread. Mention was made of blind people, deaf people, and people who receive help from physical therapists.

    And, OH MY GOD–the number of people who just couldn’t care less if what they believed is true.

    Yeah. I found that … quite alien. I just cannot get my head into thinking that way. I was brought up Jehovah’s Witness, and am now an atheist, and I’ve always cared about the truth. (A less charitable interpretation would be that I’ve always cared about being right.)

    I’m not sure I can disagree with those people because I’m not sure I even understand what they’re saying. I suspect we’re simply talking past each other. To say, “This is probably not true, but I believe it anyway,” requires either strange mental gymnastics or a different definition of the word believe than I’m used to. And besides, the main people who were saying that were in a place of pain at the time, which isn’t the best time for debate or even discussion. Some other time, perhaps. It’s a subject I’d like to get back to.

    There are plenty of things I like to imagine are true, and I could bore you by listing some of them, but I wouldn’t say I believed any of them.

    TRiG.

  34. 34
    Aratina Cage

    Name one single person who has said that Greta Christina is evil.

    Timothy (TRiG), it’s in the main part of the post:

    What Greta Christina advocates…is evil in one of its purest forms.

    If you say she advocates evil, is it really too far of a stretch to say that she is evil? Compare your answer to what Jenny McCarthy or Rick Santorum advocate and if you find them evil for doing so.

  35. 35
    Timothy (TRiG)

    If you say she advocates evil, is it really too far of a stretch to say that she is evil?

    No. I don’t agree with either statement, but they are nonetheless very different statements.

    Compare your answer to what Jenny McCarthy or Rick Santorum advocate and if you find them evil for doing so.

    Never heard of Jenny McCarthy. Rick is a nasty little man, but I’m very reluctant to throw the word evil around.

    TRiG.

  36. 36
    Aratina Cage

    Timothy (TRiG), just google her name, then tell me that what she is advocating isn’t evil and that she isn’t evil for advocating that. And I can’t fucking believe you don’t think Rick Santorum is evil. And why not have a chat with Froborr about throwing the word evil around instead of Ophelia if you have such a problem with it?

  37. 37
    Ophelia Benson

    No, they really aren’t very different statements. It’s true that they’re not identical, and in some contexts the distinction may be important, but they’re not radically or profoundly different.

  38. 38
    Ophelia Benson

    Oh, and another thing – don’t call me a liar.

    And as Aratina said – if you have such fine feelings about not using the word “evil,” why are you rebuking me instead of Froborr? Froborr’s the one who “threw it around”; I’m not.

  39. 39
    Timothy (TRiG)

    And why not have a chat with Froborr about throwing the word evil around?

    Why do you assume I haven’t?

    And I can’t fucking believe you don’t think Rick Santorum is evil.

    The word evil is one I will apply (with caution, and after some thought) to actions, and sometimes (with even more caution) to beliefs. I’m very very reluctant to apply it to people. But that’s just me. I suppose it depends on what you mean by the word. Words can have different meanings to different people, and even to the same people in different contexts. (This is a subject I tend to bang on about, so I’ll stop now.)

    No, they really aren’t very different statements.

    Well, I disagree. I suppose how much difference you see depends partly on your philosophy and partly on your definitions. In my case (can’t speak for Forborr), there are some words that I just avoid using because I find their definitions hazy and any resultant conversation is likely to lead to much talking at cross purposes. The main words on that list are faith and spirituality, but I’d also add evil as applied to a person (or, perhaps, an object). That’s me.

    I think the foundation of my humanist ethics depends on seeing people as intrinsically valuable*, and labelling a person as evil is therefore … problematic. Perhaps this is something I should think more about. But basically, I think that evil as applied to people is a word with theological meaning. I don’t find much use for it in my value-system.

    I don’t know where Froborr is coming from, but I suspect it’s not entirely dissimilar. He seems to think there’s a strong difference between the cases, anyway.

    TRiG.

    * Not intrinsically good, but intrinsically valuable: people are worth something. I think good is a slightly problematic label to apply to a person too. I had to explain this to a Calvinist once; he thought the difference between his ethics and mine was that he thought people were intrinsically evil, and I thought they were intrinsically good. No, I explained to him. It’s more complicated than that. I reject his categories of good and evil people. My ethical perpective is not a simple mirror image of his. It has an independent foundation. Humanism is not reverse-Calvinism. Mine isn’t, anyway.

    (Calvinism disturbs me. It’s basic principle seems to be, “God is a hate-filled monster. We must love him!” And my reaction to that is just yuck.)

  40. 40
    Timothy (TRiG)

    Name one single person who has said that Greta Christina is evil.

    Maybe not a lie. Maybe a misunderstanding. Still wrong, though.

    TRiG.

  41. 41
    Timothy (TRiG)

    And by the way,

    What Greta Christina advocates…is evil in one of its purest forms.

    And I thought quote-mining was something Creationists did. How disillusioning.

    TRiG.

  42. 42
    Herms

    And I thought quote-mining was something Creationists did. How disillusioning.

    The full quote:

    What Greta Christina advocates–what any atheist advocates when they suggest “increasing the numbers of atheists” as a laudable goal, what any adherent of any religion advocates when they suggest “increasing the number of members of my religion”–is evil in one of its purest forms.

    I don’t see how omitting the middle portion is equivalent to Creationist quote mining. Seems like a pretty textbook use of ellipsis to shorten a quote.

  43. 43
    Aratina Cage

    @Timothy (TRiG)

    And I thought quote-mining was something Creationists did. How disillusioning.

    You’re acting no better than Munkhaus or any of the other anti-woman trolls in the atheist movement with that kind of accusation.

    For your edification: The Ellipsis & Quote Mining.

    And in addition to the unshortened quote that Herms provides above, there is no context following that statement. And the context above that statement is just as damning:

    you do not have a right to cure people by force unless they are demonstrably an immediate danger to themselves or others.

    I cannot reiterate this enough: Proselytizing is yet another word for making people suffer in order to transform them into what you think they should be, for no other reason than because they are not what you think they should be.

    People like Greta are violating other people’s rights; people like Greta are making people suffer. Those accusations are totally uncalled for. That you defend them so vigorously is what should be disillusioning you.

  44. 44
    Ophelia Benson

    Quote-mining. [smites brow]

    The bit in between is between dashes; that means it slices out without disrupting the meaning of the sentence itself, which is what we quoted. The bit in between could just as well have been a footnote. Gramatically the core sentence is the part we quoted, and the bit in between is an aside. Omitting the aside just makes it clear exactly what was being said; it doesn’t distort it.

    You’ve accused me of lying and quote mining now. Thin ice.

  45. 45
    demonhellfish

    If you suffer through reading much on Slack, you’ll notice that there’s a very slippery standard as to whether statements are taken to include their direct implications. If their regular commenter Kit, for instance, she’ll call you all manner of insulting things if you say something that she interpolates into accusing her of something, but on the other hand, if you call her on a bad claim that necessarily follows from her own words, she’ll completely deny it unless she actually said the bad claim itself. It doesn’t matter to her how directly the claim follows from what she’s said.

    This claimed distinction between calling somebody evil and calling their advocated actions evil is just the same bullshit. The people on that board have said *repeatedly* that nobody has insulted Greta Christina, because they only called her policies evil, not her person. And then they turn around and say that it’s insulting to mentally ill people to call religion “delusional”, even given thousand-word posts about how religious-crazy is obviously different from mental defects and that the latter is not morally culpable.

    The place is just one big cesspool of double standards and hypocracy.

  46. 46
    Timothy (TRiG)

    No, they really aren’t very different statements. It’s true that they’re not identical, and in some contexts the distinction may be important, but they’re not radically or profoundly different.

    No. They really are not at all the same thing. They are not even remotely similar. And if you think they are then perhaps we’re just talking past each other. We are simply not using words in the same way.

    Compare the following three statements:

    *checks there are no Trevors in the thread*
    All clear? Go. —

    1. What Trevor is doing is evil.
    2. Some of Trevor’s thoughts are evil.
    3. Trevor is evil.

    I see these as three very different statements. And, as I’ve said, Statement 3 is one I can’t see myself ever making about anyone, really. Froborr did not include a disclaimer or clarification stating that he was not calling Greta Christina evil because, as he’s since said, it never occurred to him that anyone would need such a disclaimer. To him, as to me, the statements are very different. Almost completely unrelated, in fact.

    ***

    And now, onto quote-mining. I did not call you a quote-miner. I called Aratina Cage a quote-miner.

    In omitting the parenthetical statement, zie was, yes, left with a grammatically valid sentence derived from the original on grammatically sound principles. So what? Zie radically changed the force of the original, converting it from a general statement to a specific one. Whether that qualifies as “quote-mining” is, of course, a judgement call.

    I am not aware that disregarding the rules of grammar is any part of the definition of quote-mining.

    TRiG.

  47. 47
    Ophelia Benson

    Good point, dan. Nice of Timothy to demonstrate exactly what you say.

    Yeah right – “she is doing X and X is evil” is “almost completely different” from “she is evil.” You bet.

  48. 48
    Aratina Cage

    @Timothy (TRiG) [I think I'm going to start calling you TRiGger if you don't stop making false accusations about me because that is triggering me!]

    And now, onto quote-mining. I did not call you a quote-miner. I called Aratina Cage a quote-miner.

    That’s not all you did. You compared me to a creationist. Yes, you compared a fellow atheist to a creationist, just like Munkhaus did. It’s one thing to say I am quote-mining because you are simply wrong about that. It’s quite another to make such a dastardly comparison of me to a creationist–people I’ve been fighting with my whole life to keep their Biblical literalism from taking away every right I have to exist as a gay man and every right women have to exist as non-slaves to men.

    In omitting the parenthetical statement, [he] was, yes, left with a grammatically valid sentence derived from the original on grammatically sound principles. So what? [He] radically changed the force of the original, converting it from a general statement to a specific one.

    Again, you are wrong about that–radically wrong–energetically wrong! Froborr named Greta Christina specifically; it wasn’t something I made up or forged! In fact, why are you taking it out on me and others here? You should be telling Froborr that it was wrong to specifically name Greta Christina!

    Whether that qualifies as “quote-mining” is, of course, a judgement call.

    It is not a judgment call. You are wrong. That is not quote-mining; read up on what quote-mining is in the Wikipedia article I referenced.

    I am not aware that disregarding the rules of grammar is any part of the definition of quote-mining.
    TRiG.

    Nobody said you were disregarding any rules of grammar. You seemed unaware (or unwilling to admit knowledge) about what an ellipsis is used for in writing. If you knew what it meant, then you should have known I was purposefully omitting the middle section because it did not matter for the purpose of determining if anyone at your Slacktivist site had called Greta Christina evil.

    Does everyone else see this? TRiG challenged us to show where Greta Christina was called evil. Ophelia Benson was not making it up, and I tried to help TRiG find it, and for that I get likened to a creationist and accused of quote-mining because I left off that Froborr issued a blanket condemnation of all activist atheists in total as being evil as well when that doesn’t make one bit of difference as to whether or not Greta Christina, specifically, was called evil.

  49. 49
    Ophelia Benson

    [waves hand] I see it!

  50. 50
    demonhellfish

    Well, TRiG’s correct that the ellipsis changes the quote to only include G.C. Of course, without the ellipsis includes G.C. explicitly, and also calls a whole bunch of other people evil. Mind you, we’ve already objected to the general claim, and the shorten quote was used specifically to answer the question of when G.C. in particular was called evil. The quote-mining accusation is beyond unfounded, but I’ll leave it to TRiG to demonstrate whether it was malicious or just astonishingly stupid.

  51. 51
    demonhellfish

    As for the whole thing about what counts as calling somebody evil, when TRiG@46 compares his three alternatives, he completely neglects that #2 differs in kind not because there’s a fundamental difference between an individual and their beliefs, but because of the added word some.

    But let’s pretend that #1 and #3 are importantly different. Froborr’s piece was bad not only because it called G.C. evil (#3), but because it described her goal as evil (#1). Even if you insist on drawing the distinction, it’s no defense of the original problem.

  52. 52
    Aratina Cage

    [waves hand] I see it!

    :) Thank you, Ophelia. That helps. It really does!

    The accusation is so weird. I’m finding myself extremely frustrated by it. The stuff in between the dashes of Froborr’s last paragraph:

    what any atheist advocates when they suggest “increasing the numbers of atheists” as a laudable goal, what any adherent of any religion advocates when they suggest “increasing the number of members of my religion”

    …does not negate anything about Greta Christina, nor does it change the last part of that paragraph from applying to Greta Christina. At most, the part in between the dashes only broadens the scope of people Froborr is charging with being evil, though he doesn’t name them like he does Greta Christina.

  53. 53

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