Michael Shermer is displeased with me. It’s about this thing from last August.
And speaking of videos…I didn’t watch all of that one on The Point the other day, and yesterday a Facebook friend, Mavaddat, pointed out a later segment when they talked about Y no women. Michael Shermer explained:
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.
I quoted him in the column I wrote for Free Inquiry the same month. He’s replied to the column today.
I’ll just comment on a few things.
I would like to use this opportunity to address a larger issue at hand, starting with another important point that Benson also failed to mention, and that is Cara Santa Maria’s own comment that she made after reading the viewer question and before I answered: “In putting together this panel I had a hellova time finding a woman who would be willing to sit on the panel with me to discuss her atheism. Why is that?”
It’s because she didn’t ask enough women. Shermer emailed her later to ask her about it, and she told him
“In my search for panelists on the show, I did reach out to a couple of high-profile female atheists local to Los Angeles, but none were available to join.
Two. That’s not very many. That’s not enough. It’s not nearly enough to justify even the claim that she had a hellova time finding a woman who would be willing to sit on the panel, let alone any broader claim that women don’t do atheism so much.
Anyway. Shermer goes on –
We must remember that we are all subject to the same cognitive biases as those whom we criticize in religious and paranormal cohorts, and keep in mind that in journalism, as in science and all rational inquiry, there is an ethic of going to the primary source, and especially giving the person in question the benefit of the doubt. In this case, a simple email asking what I meant would have cleared up any misunderstanding. (Skeptical Inquirer columnist Kenneth Krause did just that after reading Benson’s article, and that removed any doubt for him as to my position.)
Is that true? Is it true that in journalism, as in science and all rational inquiry, if X says something, there is an ethic of asking X what X meant?
I don’t believe it. (Get me, I’m a skeptic!) I think people get quoted all the time without further inquiry. That’s because very often that’s the issue – what was said, what people heard, what got out there into the discourse. Shermer said what he said. I wanted to address what he said. So I did that.
Farther down the page –
Perhaps unintentionally, Benson makes a strong case that something other than misogyny may be at work here, when she asks rhetorically if I would make the same argument about race. I would, yes, because I do not believe that the fact that the secular community does not contain the precise percentage of blacks, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans as in the general population, means that all of us in the secular community are racists, explicitly or implicitly.
Ah no that’s not what I said. I didn’t ask if he would make the same argument – I asked if he would say the same thing. Then I helpfully spelled it out.
Would Shermer have said that if the question had been about race instead of gender? Would he have said “it’s more of a white thing”? It seems very unlikely.
The difference is obvious, yes? I don’t believe he would say “It’s a white thing.” I think he would hear it before he said it, and stop. My point was that he didn’t hear “it’s a guy thing” in the same way.
There’s a lot of stuff about tribalism and witch hunts and purity, which is frankly mostly bullshit. Not totally bullshit, but mostly.
And so does John Loftus – totally non-tribal, of course. It begins with some friendly advice:
When will the witch hunt end? I’ll tell you. When atheists kick people like Ophelia to the curb just as people ended the real witch hunt in the 18th century.
Kick kick kickety kick.