What dialogue? »« A Facebook page named “Allah”

Epidemics of accusations

I re-read some of Michael Shermer’s Why People Believe Weird Things this morning, to refresh my memory. I’ve read that and Why We Believe and the odd article here and there. I’ve never liked his writing much. It’s not bad, but it’s a little loose and lazy. Characterless. Journalistic.

I was interested to see that chapter 7 is titled Epidemics of Accusations: Medieval and Modern Witch Crazes. The modern ones are the panics about “Satanic” abuse in the 1980s and about “recovered memory” in the 90s. They’re interesting subjects and ones I’ve read a fair bit about, thanks to Frederick Crews and Elizabeth Loftus among others. It’s terrible stuff – people’s lives ruined by ridiculous beliefs about Satanic rapes that never happened and “recovered memories” of Daddy committing a murder for which he was sent to jail with no other evidence. (He was let out after more than six years.)

While re-reading that chapter I became quite…annoyed that Shermer had accused me of witch hunting. He compared me to people who put innocent people in prison on the basis of absurd beliefs.

Think about it. I said he had perpetuated an insulting stereotype about women by saying that wanting to stand up and speak about atheism and be intellectually active about it was “more a guy thing.” He said I was a witch hunter.

Not quite proportionate.

Anthony K said a good thing on Crommunist’s post A Response to Lee today.

And this is what it comes down to.

This is why the skeptical movement has been largely so unsuccessful. If Lee, or Shermer, were at all interested in the putative goals of the skeptics movement, namely to make the world a more rational place, they’d be much less interested in justifying why they think skepticism is a “guy thing”, and much more interested in making it as much an “everybody’s thing” as possible.

But of course, they’re not.

The skeptical movement has never been about outreach. It’s never been about helping to make the greater community outside the skeptics movement itself more skeptical, or rational.

It’s always been a clubhouse for those who think of themselves as smarter than average.

This is why Jenny McCarthy cleaned the skeptical movement’s clock. This is why Sylvia Browne still makes money hand over fist.

Good luck with your little guild, Shermer.

It’s all leather chairs and humidors.

Comments

  1. A. Noyd says

    The thing that gets me about the “witch hunt” meme is that if sexism is systemic—if it is, as we claim, the current, default setting of our society—then we’d expect to find instances of sexism everywhere. But our opponents have preemptively turned the expected result into a moral failing on our part. They’ve made any attempts to spread awareness of the pervasiveness of sexism into over-zealousness and confabulation. The more examples of sexism we offer up, the more they can point to the very number of those examples as evidence that we’re out of control.

    I dunno, maybe we should hammer on the difference between witches and sexism a bit more when they pull that shit. At least force them to admit that they’re as incredulous about the existence of sexism as they are about the existence of witches.

  2. Rodney Nelson says

    I’ve never been part of organized skepticism for several reasons.

    * It’s always struck me as an old boys club. The one CFI meeting I went to several years ago was full of middle aged, middle class, white men, with most of the few women also being middle aged, middle class and white. When I asked one of the organizers why there were few women, almost no young women (or men), and no people of color I was brushed off with a “this sort of thing doesn’t appeal to them.” I have nothing against being middle aged, middle class or white, since I fall into all of those categories myself, but it was obvious to me that little effort was being made to appeal to those who didn’t meet those specifications.

    * I agree that anti-vacc, homeopathy, and other forms of medical woo are actively harmful. I support efforts to shine a light on these delusions. However I can’t get excited about Bigfoot, Uri Geller, or poltergeists and I don’t care if some people believe the old house on the hill is haunted. So in my opinion too much effort is spent on debunking Nessie which takes away from debunking Jenny McCarthy and Andrew Wakefield.

    * A fair number of members of skeptic organizations (I’m looking at you, JREF) are libertarians, a group I am not in sympathy with.

    * Organized skepticism refuses to consider atheism. Skepticism has no problem discussing von Däniken but recoils with horror when confronted with atheism. I couldn’t care less about telepathy but I am concerned with how religious thought effects politics and society.

    I agree with Ophelia. It’s all leather chairs and humidors.

  3. Landon says

    It’s bizarre to me that Shermer implies that we can only *know* if there’s sexism in skepticism with careful, controlled studies, etc. etc., and never addresses the question of whether there’s *reason to think* that there’s sexism in skepticism. Maybe Shermer is right that *knowing* the answer to the question requires the kinds of evidence he insists upon – although I doubt it very much and think he needs to bone up on his epistemology – but I don’t recall any Ophelia or anyone else who’s concerned about these issues insisting that they *know* to scientific certainty the prevalence, spread, or whatever of sexism in the movement – rather, as I’ve seen it, the consistent theme has been “there’s excellent reason to think that there is a sexism problem.”

    That is, we have enough anecdotal evidence, not to mention strong enough scientific evidence of the type Shermer wants that the problem exists in the larger culture, to believe that there is a problem. More than enough to be going on with, in other words. Shermer can’t possibly be ignorant of the epistemic validity of such reasoning – he’d have to be an idiot to insist that ONLY controlled studies and such give us any useful epistemic products, and he’s NOT an idiot. So one can only conclude that he’s being a disingenuous prick when he blows right past this glaringly obvious point to stomp his foot and say, “well, there’s no studies, so we can’t be sure.”

    [And, for the record, I've never liked his writing, either. It's sloppy, which makes it annoying to read.]

  4. Scote says

    Shermer can be pretty annoying. I think “How to think about weird things” is a better book than Shermers’s “Why People Believe Weird Things”.

  5. denaturesd says

    I’m a sciency type and have enjoyed Shermer’s writings. The style is fine with me, only the framing of ‘making one long argument’ has given me pause. In particular, I found his descriptions of the Holocaust denial movement insightful. His books and magazine solidified my interest in skepticism in the nineties.

    His recent actions have been disappointing, providing a sense that he hasn’t been mindful of what has been discussed in skeptic circles the last few years. He’s shown capacity to modify knee-jerk libertarian views of global warming, gun control, and Ayn Rand in favor of rational examination. I’m at a loss why he decided to not be clear on a desire and need for more inclusiveness, rather than using hearsay to claim vilification and being convinced nothing he could say could alter people’s opinion of him.

    In ‘Why People Believe Weird Things’ much time is spent illustrating those who believe weird things. But the question is never answered with a scientific study or in any systematic of compelling way. Why this approach of argument is good for a Shermer book but not a Benson essay is another unanswered question.

  6. Timon for Tea says

    they’d be much less interested in justifying why they think skepticism is a “guy thing”,

    But Shermer doesn’t think skepticism is a ‘guy thing’. In fact he was saying the opposite, that he thought this was a misconception in the very interview that was quoted to start this whole silly spat. In fact he said it directly before the quoted passage that caused such uproar and pearl clutching.

    This is like some mad dance or ritual that non-participants like me just cannot understand: people who believe exactly the same things desperately finding reasons to hate each other by assiduously misrepresenting what each other has said. It doesn’t seem like a good use of energy and mental resources, but I am beginning to think I am missing the point, all this ‘skepticism’ is really just a game for insiders, a way of taking chunks out of each other without any real harm being done, a kind of machismo for the physically timid. That is a pity, though for those of us who get excluded.

  7. says

    Rodney/#2

    The organized ‘skepticism’ and religion thing, it’s interesting.

    One of the thing I think it tells me is: religion really is in a special category, socially. As in: there’s one level of social Rubicon you cross when you tell someone in public and out loud they’re full of shit about Bigfoot, and then another when you tell them they’re full of shit about Yahweh. So you can get groups organized around doing the former, but not the latter. Presumably, the archbishop is still welcome at their dinner parties, so it kinda works out for everyone who’s into that kind of company. And hey, if we’re talking the humidor set, I’m sure the archbishop knows how to talk proper English over a glass of cognac. The rabble at the strip mall churches with their loud Hosannas, they may be another matter…

    But I think, seriously, I’d take it as a bitter joke, incidentally, to be told I’m being all exclusive and clubby about atheism. Because it really is confounded by a lot of social rules that have generally served to try to make it anathema even to bring up the subject in polite company. So if you’re telling an atheist ‘oh, you’re acting all exclusive; you just don’t want anyone else in your nice little ‘smarter than thou’ club’, they’re as like to say: ‘Listen, it’s not so much that as if I bring this stuff up most places, I don’t get invited back to dinner like ever; I kinda gotta find quiet corners… Oh, and speaking of, if you’d like to exchange some Russell, meet me in the alley later, and we probably shouldn’t go together…’

    But more seriously: you get so much noise, so much hatred, so much shushing if you just argue forthrightly against just about anyone’s religion. Bigfoot or astrology or whatever, okay, you come across as maybe a bit of a live wire, but maybe they can put up with you if you’re pretty enough and make it entertaining enough. Bring up religion? Reaction’s more gonna be: whoinhell invited that asshole? Let’s just lose track of their contact details for next time, shall we?

  8. 'dirigible says

    OB wrote:

    “I said he had perpetuated an insulting stereotype about women by saying that wanting to stand up and speak about atheism and be intellectually active about it was “more a guy thing.””

    Shermer previously wrote:

    “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it, you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”

    Timon just wrote:

    “But Shermer doesn’t think skepticism is a ‘guy thing’.”

    Which may or may not be true but is very clearly not what Shermer was being criticised for.

  9. Timon for Tea says

    Dirigible, I was responding to precisely that criticism, quoted approvingly by Ophelia, and it is patently wrong.

  10. sambarge says

    I’m sorry. Were the words that directly preceded the quote above something along the lines of I totally don’t agree with people who say…” or was the quote followed by …and everyone knows that is completely not true” or something? Because the quote is pretty straight-forward.

  11. Timon for Tea says

    Sambarge, directly before the quoted words Shermer said that he thought is was untrue that women were not interested in scepticism, that he thought the interest was 50/50 between the sexes. It couldn’t have been clearer. he then went on to speculate why more men that women took to the podium or attended conferences. He did not say that scepticism was a ‘guy thing’, he said the opposite.

  12. Aureola Nominee, FCD says

    Timon:

    So what you are saying is that Shermer thinks skepticism is 50/50, but being willing to stand up and talk about it is more of a guy thing?

    So women can be skeptcs, but are not interested in being openly skeptic?

    Does not improve much his position, IMHO.

  13. says

    Why People Believe Weird Things is a book I’ve long credited with changing the way I viewed the world. I own hundreds (maybe even thousands) of dollars worth of books on astrology and tarot and dream interpretation and ESP and anything else you can imagine. I picked up that book on a lark and from that point forward, I started to reconsider everything I assumed about the supernatural. It sounds like hyperbole, but it was a turning point for me.

    It’s absolutely heart breaking to realize that the man who wrote the book that introduced me to skepticism, doesn’t care if I feel welcomed in the community and doesn’t really think I’m cut out for it, anyway. I subscribe to his magazine, I’ve read most of his books, but, I’ve decided I won’t be renewing and I won’t be buying or recommending his books anymore.

    He’s welcome to feel as he does, and he’s certainly welcome to say what he pleases, but I’ll be taking my business elsewhere.

  14. Timon for Tea says

    So what you are saying is that Shermer thinks skepticism is 50/50, but being willing to stand up and talk about it is more of a guy thing?

    Yes, I think that’s it. He may be wrong to think that, but he isn’t saying what his new enemies are saying he is saying.

  15. Timon for Tea says

    It’s absolutely heart breaking to realize that the man who wrote the book that introduced me to skepticism, doesn’t care if I feel welcomed in the community and doesn’t really think I’m cut out for it, anyway.

    Marnie, your heart needn’t break, Shermer self-identifies as a feminist and is enthusiastic about encouraging the involvement of women in all things skeptical. He made a misunderstood off-the-cuff comment about men tending to dominate public speaking that’s all. Everything else is just the usual internet fire-and-fluff storm. Check out his blog and you will be reassured, but take all second-hand commentary with a pinch of salt.

  16. Tessa says

    Timon, I’m not sure how him thinking that speaking out about skepticism is a guy thing is less sexist. Isn’t that just saying women are too meek or timid to speak out about it? How is that better than saying they are too stupid?

  17. says

    Enemies? I’m sorry we’re not really his enemies. I don’t agree with all his views but Shermer’s done a lot of good work. Yes he did say it was probably 50 :50 women and men he just went on to suggest the reason men are more prominent as speakers is cause its more of a guy thing. The whole passive, not argumentative, woman thing is the stereotype we have a problem with.

    I don’t see how the 50:50 line or the line about TAM particularly improves the bit in the middle. His reply defends against the idea that he said that women were too stupid to be skeptics then goes into a big discussion of how a whole bunch of people agree its more of a guy thing mixed with how tribalistic we are and witch hunts and we need to do more research. Completely avoiding what people have to say on the matter or even addressing that part of what he said in any sort of apologetic or reflective way.

  18. says

    @Timon for Tea,
    I read Shermer’s blog post. I also read some of his tweets and retweets in which he doubled down on the idea that if women aren’t well represented in the community it’s on their shoulders, that they have failed to make themselves represented in the group.

    Someone made an analogy in the comments of a blog post. I wish I had saved it, but it went something like this:

    Imagine a teacher has only half the number of books needed for his math students. He arbitrarily hands out all but 1 of the books to the students, and puts one copy in the library for the students who didn’t get their own copy. As the semester progresses, the students with the books on average do better than the students without books. Of course, there are students with books who don’t bother to use it and do poorly. There’s also one particularly motivated student without a book, who gets to the library before everyone else and checks out the one other available book for the class. She does better than even some of the students with books.

    At the end of the semester, the teacher says that everyone will be graded fairly, based on how well they do on the final. If someone without a book raises his hand and says it isn’t fair, the teacher points to the student who got up early each day and checked out the book from the library and says, “If you were just more motivated, you could excel too, she’s doing even better than people who were given the book. It’s your fault you’re not doing better.”

    That is what I hear when people tell women or any other group that is underrepresented in the community, that maybe they just aren’t cut out for it or maybe they just aren’t as qualified as the represented group. The libertarian idea that anyone who is in a position of power is more deserving and qualified than someone who isn’t only serves to maintain the status quo. What I and some others believe is that identifying a disparity is not the end of the road, but the start to improving things. Shermer has a wife and daughter and works with many capable, intelligent and qualified women. I don’t believe that he dislikes or discounts women, but I do think he’s being intellectually lazy on this topic. As a leader in this community, I find that a toxic attitude and one I won’t support.

  19. Landon says

    He’s prevaricating on the use of the word “skepticism,” then, which is not only beneath him but something he’s called out many others for in the past. The topic of conversation was generally understood to be something like ‘participation in the skeptical movement’s social aspect’, not ‘what people believe privately.’ Sexism would be much less of a relevant consideration for the latter, after all; it’s a social phenomenon that disadvantages people in social situations.

    So what does Shermer do? He immediately shifts the focus away from the social. Convenient, but also cheap and stupid. If he admits that women don’t participate as much in the social side of skepticism, then, as many others have pointed out, that’s still a sexist attitude IF he takes it that said lack of participation is just, well, “a girl thing.”

    Note that for all his talk about “not knowing” until we have “studies” in hand, Shermer takes the default stance that there’s no sexism in the skeptical movement until it’s proven otherwise. This despite full-on scientific evidence that it exists in the larger culture. On this issue, he’s blown it, big time.

  20. Timon for Tea says

    Timon, I’m not sure how him thinking that speaking out about skepticism is a guy thing is less sexist. Isn’t that just saying women are too meek or timid to speak out about it?

    I don’t think that’s the obvious interpretation Tessa, it is possible that the greater degree of aggression and competitiveness typical among men manifests in a tendency to want to be in front of the crowd more. I don’t say that is the case, but it isn’t a sexist theory because it might be true and it is likely to be at least partly true. I think that Shermer in a more thoughtful mode would likely want to nuance the comment a lot more anyway, talking off the cuff can catch you out like that.

  21. Timon for Tea says

    Note that for all his talk about “not knowing” until we have “studies” in hand, Shermer takes the default stance that there’s no sexism in the skeptical movement until it’s proven otherwise.

    I have seen others make this claim but I can’t see what justifies it. If you have conflicting theories about what causes a phenomenon, it is better ti test the theories than simply to shout from different sides of an ideological divide. That is pretty much the basis of skepticism so it is not unusual to see a skeptic take that position. It does not imply a default that denies sexism at all. It is just properly skeptical about apportioning blame before we have any data to apportion with.

  22. says

    ” I think that Shermer in a more thoughtful mode would likely want to nuance the comment a lot more anyway, talking off the cuff can catch you out like that.”

    Like when he had a whole blog post to explain what he meant?

  23. says

    @Hein,
    Thank you, the comment was definitely referencing that source, and clearly, I left out a lot of good stuff in my retelling.

  24. Tessa says

    “I don’t think that’s the obvious interpretation Tessa, it is possible that the greater degree of aggression and competitiveness typical among men manifests in a tendency to want to be in front of the crowd more. I don’t say that is the case, but it isn’t a sexist theory because it might be true and it is likely to be at least partly true. I think that Shermer in a more thoughtful mode would likely want to nuance the comment a lot more anyway, talking off the cuff can catch you out like that.”

    The problem with that is that there are subjects in which there are plenty of female speakers. So the issue becomes, why there are more women speakers in some environments and less in others? And leaders in the movement who make off the cuff statements that speaking out about it is a guy thing isn’t exactly encouraging for women in an environment that’s already seen as male dominated.

  25. sambarge says

    … directly before the quoted words Shermer said that he thought is was untrue that women were not interested in scepticism, that he thought the interest was 50/50 between the sexes. It couldn’t have been clearer. he then went on to speculate why more men that women took to the podium or attended conferences. He did not say that scepticism was a ‘guy thing’, he said the opposite.

    So, Shermer thinks that women can think as well as men, they just aren’t interested in any of the glory attached with thinking or sharing their ideas. So, men are grandstanding SOBs who feel like they’re entitled to manipulate the conversation and demand attention.

    Thanks for the clarification.

  26. Timon for Tea says

    But there are plenty of women speakers in skepticism too, aren’t there Tessa? About 50/50 at TAM a bit less elsewhere in public fora and many fewer further down the rungs of organisation. The question is why male voices dominate, it is not about exclusivity

    It would be interesting to look at spheres where there is a clear majority of women speakers. Are there any? It might be revealing to look at where and why.

  27. Timon for Tea says

    So, Shermer thinks that women can think as well as men, they just aren’t interested in any of the glory attached with thinking or sharing their ideas.

    trying to paint this issue in primary colours is what is causing all the confusion. It wan’t go. Shermer is saying, as far as I can tell, that women are men’s intellectual equals but that more men are more often more interested in taking to the public stage than women. Marginal differences in causes can make large differences in outcomes. He may be right, or he may be wrong, we need to test it if we can.

    So, men are grandstanding SOBs who feel like their entitled to manipulate the conversation and demand attention.

    That is my experience, do you find it so implausible?

  28. says

    Timon @ 14 – but that is what I’m saying that Shermer is saying.

    Stop saying I’m misrepresenting him. I’m not.

    It’s not the opposite of the sexist stereotype to say that there probably are 50% women in terms of bodies but it’s just that women don’t do anything – “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it, you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”

    Concentrate really hard and maybe you can see that.

    Another thing it would be useful to keep in mind: a lot of women have been jumping up and down saying “I want to! Ask me, ask me, ask me!” for years, and they’ve been ignored. Shermer is not just wrong, he’s stupidly wrong, to put it in terms of who wants to.

    On the other hand it’s true that Cara Santa Maria set it up for him – she primed him – with that “I had a helluva time finding a woman” remark which turned out to be wildly inaccurate.

  29. says

    Ha – perfect, apposite tweet from Neil deGrasse Tyson, seconds ago –

    Neil deGrasse Tyson‏@neiltyson

    If you’re always successful at BS’ing it’s because you are not hanging around people who are smarter than you.

  30. Tessa says

    “But there are plenty of women speakers in skepticism too, aren’t there Tessa? About 50/50 at TAM a bit less elsewhere in public fora and many fewer further down the rungs of organisation. The question is why male voices dominate, it is not about exclusivity

    It would be interesting to look at spheres where there is a clear majority of women speakers. Are there any? It might be revealing to look at where and why.”

    Obviously there aren’t plenty if there’s still a big divide throughout the organization as a whole. It’s about outreach and encouragement. Which statements like “it’s a guy thing” isn’t going to improve. That’s the point. Since the beginning, the realm of skepticism has been seen as a boys’ club. Groups that do not have a history of women being discouraged don’t have this issue.

  31. Landon says

    @Timon:

    The stance that we should suspend judgment at all on whether there is sexism in the skeptical movement until we have studies ignores the point stated several times, by me and others, that we have a strong a foritiori case: there is sexism in the larger culture, especially among middle class white males (and we DO have studies for that), so it’s reasonable to conclude as a working hypothesis that sexism is a problem in the subculture, which has in positions of influence largely middle class white males. Arguing that we need studies before we can conclude anything is, in fact, special pleading.

    I’d like to see you address this directly, since you’ve so studiously avoided engaging this point thus far.

  32. A. Noyd says

    Timon for Tea (#15)

    Shermer self-identifies as a feminist and is enthusiastic about encouraging the involvement of women in all things skeptical.

    You know, it’s not impossible to self-identify as a feminist and still hold deeply toxic ideas about women. Being a feminist is not a merit badge you pin to your sash one time or an achievement you unlock; it’s a journey outside the borders of ingrained belief and a process of self-correction. You have to be willing to do more than adopt certain principles; you have to make sure that they are consistent with reality and effective at improving the world. And if they’re not, you have to change them—and change yourself.

    A lot of folk who self-identify as feminists look at things like sex difference in convention attendance (as speakers or guests) and are more than happy to say that men and women should be equally encouraged to come. Which would be great, but they stop short or fail to study why there’s a difference in the first place. So when encouragement doesn’t even the split, they’ll opt for the easy answer and opine that the skew in attendance numbers stems from men and women possessing, on average, different psychologies and temperaments.

    And, whatever their professed principles, that is sexist.

    (#21)

    I don’t say that is the case, but it isn’t a sexist theory because it might be true and it is likely to be at least partly true.

    “It might be true” is not the meter for whether something is sexist or not. Also, consider that how we assign plausibility is influenced by growing up in a deeply sexist society. In other words, you can’t objectively judge “might” and “likely.” You can’t even get close without deconstructing a fuckton of your biases.

  33. Gordon Willis says

    I sympathise with Anthony K. Basically, what he says is understandable. I question whether he is entirely right. I mean, I think that he is partly right, but there are some complexities. I doubt whether it’s fair to say that members of the Skeptics movement are never concerned with reaching out to the rest of the world and doing what they feel they ought to free us from irrationality. But it is easy for a movement to become overtaken by self-absorption, and I think that the label “skeptics” doesn’t help, because it has more than one definition, or implication. Especially, there is a sense in which “skepticism” implies contempt and superiority towards those perceived as “gullible” and “irrational” and “mentally lazy”.
    .
    This can certainly foster contempt for others among those inclined to arrogance. But I think that the problem here is more simple: someone says something which reveals that he isn’t entirely free of presupposition, and instead of simple acceptance of the fact and a willingness to learn from it we hear self-justification and even blame levelled at others. No, it’s not “so much for the skeptics’ movement”, it’s simply that skeptics need to remember to be skeptical of themselves, and this is perhaps more demanding than anything else. Skepticism has a moral dimension, not just an intellectual one, and that means that we have to apply it to ourselves.

  34. raymoscow says

    Is there some sort of anti-FTB cognitive filter that is keeping people from reading what Ophelia has actually written? Or is it simply that reading comprehension skills have gone way down in recent years?

  35. Stacy says

    Yes, I think that’s it. He may be wrong to think that, but he isn’t saying what his new enemies are saying he is saying

    Pointing out that what Shermer said was sexist does not mean Ophelia thinks he’s “the embodiment of misogyny.” Means she thinks he made a sexist remark, one that perpetuates the stereotype she was talking about in her article. Pointing that out does not mean that people who noticed the sexism of the remark are Shermer’s enemies.

    If Shermer doesn’t want tribalism, he should try to understand where the objection to his remark comes from. He may disagree that his remark was sexist, but hyperbole about witch hunts and enemies does not help to reduce tribalism.

  36. Anthony K says

    Is there some sort of anti-FTB cognitive filter that is keeping people from reading what Ophelia has actually written?

    Yes. One commenter at Pharyngula impressed us all all with hir mental gymnastics used to give Shermer the benefit of the doubt, from suggesting that Shermer was

    drawing a distinction between atheists as a whole (likely to be 50/50 split) and atheists who are interested in attending atheist conferences, speaking etc (more likely to be male)

    to suggesting that

    there might just be a possibility that he doesn’t know. Like when politicians don’t know the answer to a question, or don’t want to answer the question they’ll tend to stall by repeating it back in another form.

    Of course, that commenter was all out of benefits of the doubt to give when it came to Ophelia:

    It seems to me that only a particularly mean-spirited person could take his words and assume they were really on the level as “women can’t do thinky”

  37. Cyranothe2nd says

    The thing about accusing a woman of mounting a witch hunt that makes me so angry is that witch hunts were, on the average, attempts by men to silence women by accusing them of harming men and children through magic, of divesting them of property, of–in most cases–torturing and killing them for imagined crimes. These were targeted attacks, mostly against women, in order to create fear and subjugation in ALL WOMEN. To use the rhetorical analogy of “witch hunts” to accuse a woman of doing the same against men is to deny the misogynistic culture–and not only that, to claim that the culture is actually reversed, that women now have the power to deprive men of liberty, property, and life, and to terrorize men.

    It’s a deeply misogynistic claim.

    It is also highly appropriative in the same way that claiming that “reverse-racism” exists is highly appropriative of the experiences of people of color.

  38. says

    Well, yes, plus there is the whole imbalance of power aspect. I mean really. Do I have more power and influence and contacts and Important Friends and money and fame and status than Michael Shermer? Or does he have more of all of those than I do?

  39. A. Noyd says

    Anthony K (#38)

    Of course, that commenter was all out of benefits of the doubt to give when it came to Ophelia:

    It seems to me that only a particularly mean-spirited person could take his words and assume they were really on the level as “women can’t do thinky”

    Gaaah! It was don’t. “Women don’t do thinky.” That’s not failing to give the benefit of the doubt; that’s myuido changing what Ophelia said to fit what xe wanted her to have said.

  40. Timon for Tea says

    Stop saying I’m misrepresenting him. I’m not.

    I didn’t say you were misrepresenting him Ophelia. I said he was misrepresented by the person you quote. And he was. You are right that one of us could use a some harder concentration.

    @Timon:The stance that we should suspend judgment at all on whether there is sexism in the skeptical movement until we have studies ignores the point stated several times…

    But that isn’t a stance I take nor, as far as I can tell, does Sherrmer. Of course we can assume that there is sexism in the skekptical movement just as there is in, say, the universities. The questions is whether it is the main thing that prevents women from fully participating in the former and if it is, why it doesn’t prevent full participation in the latter (for example).

    “It might be true” is not the meter for whether something is sexist or not.

    Yes it is (well, almost anyway). It is not sexist to say something that is true about sexual differences.

    Also, consider that how we assign plausibility is influenced by growing up in a deeply sexist society. In other words, you can’t objectively judge “might” and “likely.”

    You can objectively judge, you just need scientific method. That is what skepticism is about. We are all beset by biases, but we can see through them if we progress methodically and properly apply science.But we all have to do it, to follow the evidence, and hold our beliefs about the world lightly, even when we feel very strongly emotionally attached to a particular world view. That is as true of feminists and feminism as anything else. You (we) might be wrong about the prevalence of sexism and its effects in our society.

  41. says

    It is not sexist to say something that is true about sexual differences.

    It’s a sexist assumption to assume the difference in inherent in one’s gender and not consider that it could be a product of our culture. It’s also a blatant show of privilege coming from someone who is not part of the group in question.

  42. Timon for Tea says

    It’s a sexist assumption to assume the difference in inherent in one’s gender and not consider that it could be a product of our culture. It’s also a blatant show of privilege coming from someone who is not part of the group in question.

    I am talking about sex and not gender differences and about making as few assumptions as possible. The ‘privilege’ point is simply daft, we should privilege truth over confusion, even if a member of a particular group disagrees. If we don’t, all we have is the darkness of tribal loyalties and superstition. The identity of the person holding the truth ought to be irrelevant to skeptics.

  43. says

    I am talking about sex and not gender differences and about making as few assumptions as possible.

    My sentiment still stands, unless you can provide some evidence. What is it about my two X chromosomes makes me less likely to be represented in the community? What is it about your XY chromosomes that make you more likely to be represented in the community?

    Claiming that women aren’t well represented in the community because of something inherently linked to their female-ness is a pretty big assumption that requires some pretty compelling proof. I’d be interested to hear you explain with examples and evidence, exactly what you mean, no vagueness. What about being female is antithetical to being a part of the community.

  44. Timon for Tea says

    My sentiment still stands, unless you can provide some evidence. What is it about my two X chromosomes makes me less likely to be represented in the community?

    I am not trying to make a case Marnie, just saying that it is not implausible that biological differences account for different patterns in behaviour, even very complex ones.

  45. says

    I am not trying to make a case Marnie, just saying that it is not implausible that biological differences account for different patterns in behaviour, even very complex ones.

    It’s plausible but that doesn’t make it the answer with the least assumptions. I would say it’s a pretty extraordinary claim that requires some pretty extraordinary evidence, especially since men have an X chromosome themselves. Your assertion is that there is something on the Y chromosome that makes a person not just different than someone without a Y chromosome, but more qualified to be represented in the group.

  46. 'dirigible says

    “Dirigible, I was responding to precisely that criticism, quoted approvingly by Ophelia, and it is patently wrong.”

    I apologize. I will be very careful not to use past tense in future.

  47. says

    Timon @ 43 –

    I didn’t say you were misrepresenting him Ophelia. I said he was misrepresented by the person you quote.

    No you didn’t. You said “he isn’t saying what his new enemies are saying he is saying.”

  48. smhll says

    (Threadrupt)
    Could we design an interesting experiment with an atheist/skeptical video clip on YouTube that is scripted that is read by a female talking head (or torso) compared with the same script read by a male actor and compare the comments? I realize there would be a problem with where to promote it to attract similarly random commenters to each clip. I would guess that even with identical statements, the woman would get more comments on her appearance and more hostility. (Not that I’m sure how to measure hostility.)

    I’m sure that this research already exists for some other contexts.

  49. A. Noyd says

    Timon for Tea (#43)

    “It might be true” is not the meter for whether something is sexist or not.

    Yes it is (well, almost anyway). It is not sexist to say something that is true about sexual differences.

    Aww, look at you move the goalposts about. You’ve changed “might” to “is.” Do you understand that I was talking about speculation and not fact, in line with what you said? Theories that might be true are not the same as things that are true. After all, anyone can say whatever they please might be true, but that doesn’t make it so. And isn’t it odd (not really) how much speculation ends up conforming to the current, common wisdom about sex/gender and sex/gender differences, even though most of it turns out to be wrong?

    You can objectively judge, you just need scientific method. That is what skepticism is about. We are all beset by biases, but we can see through them if we progress methodically and properly apply science.

    The scientific method, while wonderful, does not allow us to objectively judge anything. (Although, you’re right—skepticism does seem to be about treating that misconception as a dogma.) Properly used, the scientific method moderates our inability to ever judge things objectively. It helps to fix your data, not yourself. If, at any point, you say to yourself, “I use the scientific method, therefore my point of view on this or that is more objective,” then you’re an idiot. That’s true even if you’re talking about a topic you specialize in scientifically, but infinitely more so for things you do not specialize in.

    If you want to overcome your biases as much as possible, you have to confront them directly. You have to do that in tandem with applying the scientific method to questions. You can’t take for granted that approaching a question methodically is enough. That’s because there is not just one way to “follow the evidence.” After all, you can convince yourself you’re doing exactly that while failing to realize your biases have led you to favor certain evidence or reject other evidence without due cause.

    You, yourself, downplay the prevalence of sexism while pretending it’s feminists who need to be more cautious, even though the evidence is on the side of feminism (and our sexist society already acts as a massive check on overstatement). That’s the same game creationists play with evolution. You don’t see it because you think the scientific method innoculates you against cognitive error on that scale. Your overconfidence proves my point.

  50. says

    これは、非常に良いもの、感謝の意を調べました。”私は最善を尽くします。それはすべて私がしてもいいです私はあなたの助けと神のために頼む。”リンドン·ジョンソンで。

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>