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Jan 15 2013

Shermer responds. Again.

So, that was interesting. I collected the big bag of held mail yesterday, and sorted it, and found the latest Freethinker with my column in it, and the latest Free Inquiry with my column in it. Late in the evening I flung myself down to read the Free Inquiry – and was brought up short on the contents page. “Oh? Eh? Wha? Really? Er…uh oh.” Because why? Because

53 Response

A Guy Thing? Secularism, Feminism, and a Response to Ophelia Benson

Michael Shermer

Huh, I thought. Huh. But he already did respond. At some length. With considerable heat. With, in fact, quite a large helping of righteous indignation. With an air of “who is this woman to criticize something I said?” He really needed to say more?

Who knows, but he did say more, along with recycling what he’d already said. He said a lot more. He took up three pages (or two and a half, since there’s an ad on the last page) responding to my one sentence in a paragraph on sexist stereotypes. He said a lot.

The issue isn’t online yet, and I don’t know if Shermer’s piece will be online when it is, so I can’t link to it. Update: now it is online. The gist is – we’re making great progress in including women in atheism and skepticism. But – there is “a McCarthy-like witch hunt” to get rid of all sexism and racism, real or imagined. This “unfortunate trend has produced a backlash against itself by purging from its ranks the likes of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris” -

Wait, what? Purging? Who has, what has? No it hasn’t. Many of us strongly disagree with Dawkins’s “Dear Muslima” but that isn’t purging him. Oddly enough, we don’t have the power to “purge” people. “This unfortunate trend” isn’t the KGB nor even the Stasi, and it can’t purge people.

There are lots of women at the top, he goes on, but even so “much ink and emotion are spilled over trivial slips of the tongue that allegedly reveal hidden biases and unconscious prejudices.”

Ok that’s for me – that was what that passage in my column was about.

…atheism hasn’t always been very welcoming to women. Maybe there’s an idea that men created God so men should do the uncreating.

Mostly, though, it’s just a matter of stereotypes, the boring stubborn wrong stereotypes and implicit associations that feminism has been battling since forever. The social psychologist Cordelia Fine sums them up in Delusions of Gender:

Measures of implicit associations reveal that men, more than women, are implicitly associated with science, math, career, hierarchy, and high authority. In contrast, women, more than men, are implicitly associated with the liberal arts, family and domesticity, egalitarianism, and low authority.

The main stereotype in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do non-theism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”

Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that a week ago on a video panel discussion on The Point. The host, Cara Santa Maria, presented the question: why isn’t the gender split in atheism closer to 50-50? 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.”

It’s all there – women don’t do thinky, they don’t speak up, they don’t talk at conferences, they don’t get involved – it’s “a guy thing,” like football and porn and washing the car.

It’s incredibly discouraging, that kind of thing. I thought (naïvely) that stereotypes of women as stupid and passive and bashful had been exposed as, precisely, sexist stereotypes decades ago, at least among intellectual and political and progressive types. I thought everybody knew they were not just wrong but also retrograde. 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.

So, yes, I spilled some ink over something he said that, in my view, revealed a sexist stereotype, of a kind that does damage. I think I’m allowed to do that. I don’t think that’s a particularly monstrous thing to do.

But Shermer thinks it’s comparable to Nazism. Will Orac rebuke him? I don’t think anyone will bet on that.

To date, I have stayed out of this witch hunt against our most prominent leaders, thinking that “this too shall pass.” Perhaps I should have said something earlier. As Martin Niemoller famously warned about the inactivity of German intellectuals during the rise of the Nazi party, “first they came for…” but “I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a…”

Yes, he wrote that.

He goes on to say that “self-proclaimed secular feminists attacked Richard Dawkins for a seemingly innocent response to an equally innocent admonishment to guys by Rebecca Watson…”

Self-proclaimed secular feminists? Attacked? Seemingly innocent? “Dear Muslima” was “seemingly innocent”? Not in my book. And if Rebecca’s admonishment was also seemingly innocent, why – oh never mind.

Then there’s Sam Harris and racial profiling, and a swipe at PZ. Then he says “the inquisition” (yes, he says that) has been turned on him, by me.

I have already responded to this charge against me elsewhere [with a footnote to the URL], so I will only briefly summarize it here.

Briefly?! Ya not so much. At great length. Most of this is the eSkeptic piece, a bit nastier in places (he accuses me of “redacting” what he said, when I simply quoted one thing he said, in its entirety).

He concludes with a warning about the way social movements devour their young, and then republishes what Harriet Hall said about me in her email to him, with lots of repetition of my name in case lazy readers had already forgotten it. Then he gropes for an explanation for why there aren’t more women atheists and skeptics doing tv shows right now -

…it is probably a legacy of the past socialization defining what women are expected to do.

No. That assumes women are deciding not to do tv shows. That’s not it. They are not being invited. It’s odd for a skeptic to overlook that. As I pointed out, Cara Santa Maria later told Shermer that she had asked only two women to do her show. That’s not a big enough sample to conclude that women are deciding not to do them.

But I’m a Nazi witch-hunting inquisitor, so what do I know.

124 comments

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  1. 1
    Marcus Ranum

    As soon as I saw the title appear on the “FTB recent” I thought, “Oh, boy!” and ran downstairs to make some popcorn.

    I’m predicting Mr Shermer’s going to ply his shovel of hole-enlarging and make the dirt fly!!! Because if he was capable of realizing his mistake and/or saying “I was wrong” ( <— So hard! ) he would have done it by now. Thus, we will be treated to occasional outbreaks of self-justification until Mr Shermer has reduced himself to a non-entity except for in his own community where he can be right all the time.

  2. 2
    Ophelia Benson

    Honestly, you would think he’d have more sense than to betray that much outraged vanity. McCarthy, witch hunts, Nazis, and an inquisition, all in one piece? Because I criticized something he said? Seriously? It’s beyond ridiculous.

  3. 3
    Marcus Ranum

    Oh, dear. That was worse than I expected.

  4. 4
    Marcus Ranum

    They tortured Galileo, and it was just like what those self-described “feminists” are doing to poor Mr Shermer! In fact, the treatment Mr Shermer is suffering at the hands of the mob bears a remarkable resemblance to the burning of The Library At Alexandria. And the entirety of The Cold War. Sad, but true.

  5. 5
    dsmccoy

    “much ink and emotion are spilled over trivial slips of the tongue”

    All he had to do quite a while ago was acknowledge his original statement as a mistake, but he just can’t seem to put down the shovel.

  6. 6
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    If he had actually admitted that it was a slip of the tongue, that would have been the end of it. And of course, his desperation to protect other rich white college-educated men from any and all criticism has been noted.

  7. 7
    Jackie the wacky

    WTAF?
    Isn’t he the same “skeptic” who also happened to be a climate change denier?
    Isn’t he also an “I’ve got mine, fuck you” libertarian?
    Now he doubles (triples?) down on sexism denial?
    Yeah, I’m never buying that magazine again.
    ..and to have the nerve and extremely bad taste to continue to claim that women speaking up about sexism and harassment are on a “witch hunt”? Does he even know the history of actual witch hunts? He’s sounds so much like right wing nuts when they declare that gay people having rights is somehow infringing upon their religious rights. Both cry “Persecution!” at valid criticism. I suppose that is because both Shermer and the wing nuts are so invested in defending their privilege.

  8. 8
    unbound

    Isn’t Shermer supposed to be logical? How many logical fallacies did he employ in that screed?

    The description of his response alone shows at least 2 or 3 (definitely strawman, seems to imply slippery slope and black-or-white). I would imagine there is probably another 1/2 dozen more in the whole article.

    You’d think a man with a reputation for logical thought would be able to analysis his own work better…

  9. 9
    Inaji

    “a McCarthy-like witch hunt”

    Oh FFS. I’m very tired of this testerical whine. It not only trivializes the actual, horrific events themselves, but he should be very thankful indeed that nothing even close to these events is happening, to him or anyone else.

    “much ink and emotion are spilled over trivial slips of the tongue that allegedly reveal hidden biases and unconscious prejudices.”

    Goodness, what purple rhetoric. And still, the point goes sailing atmospheres over his head. Yes, Michael, people do make slips which reveal unconscious biases. Happens to all of us. Fortunately, for those of us who are capable of thinking, we realize that bias, become aware of it and work to change it. Amazing, eh?

  10. 10
    Raging Bee

    …“much ink and emotion are spilled over trivial slips of the tongue that allegedly reveal hidden biases and unconscious prejudices.”

    Gee, that wouldn’t be such a huge problem if he’d…you know…choose his words more carefully or something. But hey, I’m just a technical writer, just some shmoe whose job it is to make sure the right words are used so no one misunderstands whatever is being said…what do I know, right?

    That’s one of the many things that’s been bothering me about these MRA types since the whole “Dear Muslima” thing: this totally childish refusal to take any responsibility for their own words. They can’t defend what they say, and they can’t bring themselves to admit they might have said anything wrong either — all they can do is throw tantrums and blame everyone else for not understanding what they “really ” meant. That may be expected behavior for a twelve-year-old who’s trying out new words and starting to question the grownups, but it’s not acceptable for anyone past age 18.

    …This “unfortunate trend has produced a backlash against itself by purging from its ranks the likes of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris”…

    Where “purging” = “starting to see they’re not really as smart or important as they pretend to be.” Conflating those two things is something people of an authoritarian mindset tend to do.

    Speaking of Harris, here’s another article asking why anyone even takes him seriously:

    http://www.salon.com/2013/01/10/why_does_anyone_take_sam_harris_seriously/

  11. 11
    R Johnston

    Isn’t Shermer supposed to be logical?

    Emphatically no. Schermer self-describes as a libertarian, which, regardless of anything else you know about him, is enough to conclude that any expectation that he should be logical is unfounded.

    Libertarianism is the emotionally based MRA brand of atheism rooted in the blind unthinking rejection of authority and in the anti-reality beliefs that economic and social collective action problems do not exist, including the belief that systemic bigotry against anyone other than straight white males is not a problem worthy of note. Libertarianism is religious in nature, a faith based rejection of logic.

  12. 12
    Raging Bee

    If he had actually admitted that it was a slip of the tongue, that would have been the end of it.

    I’m waiting for Steersman to show up and tell us how he has to defend every word Shermer says, to the death, because there’s a huge conspiracy of radical feminists to distort reality. It was amusing the first time, but it probably won’t be as funny next time around.

  13. 13
    Raging Bee

    From the cited article, here’s Sam Harris poo-pooing our emotional reaction to the Sandy Hook massacre:

    “Fifty-five million kids went to school on the day that 20 were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. Even in the United States, therefore, the chances of a child’s dying in a school shooting are remote. As my friend Steven Pinker demonstrates in his monumental study of human violence, The Better Angels of Our Nature, our perception of danger is easily distorted by rare events.”

    The sooner idiot s like this can be “purged” from our public discourse, the better. Surely the atheist movement (plus or minus) can find better “leaders” than this.

  14. 14
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    much ink and emotion are spilled over trivial slips of the tongue that allegedly reveal hidden biases and unconscious prejudices.

    The thing is, it probably was both. Yes, it was an innocent slip of the tongue. At the same time, it does reveal the toxic patriarchism that dominates society at all levels. I am sexist, racist, bigoted. But I have become aware of my biases and try really hard not to let that toxic dreck out and to rethink what I say and write before I drop it in public.. Just as I am also privileged (white, male, hetero, etc.) and have become aware of that. So (and I direct this at Shermer and his defenders), I say, big deal, you said something sexist. It happens. Accept that you did it, apologize, try to do better, and try to be more aware of your hidden biases and unconscious prejudices.

  15. 15
    Nathair

    until Mr Shermer has reduced himself to a non-entity except for in his own community where he can be right all the time

    Really? We still aren’t there yet?

  16. 16
    TychaBrahe

    It wasn’t an innocent slip of the tongue. It was an expression of privilege, a statement by someone who doesn’t have to think about why women don’t get invited to speak at events because he isn’t a woman and he does get invited to events.

    No one is to be faulted for being blind to discrimination because of his or her privilege so long as it’s not a habit. The thing is though, that when someone suggests you check your privilege, you do it, and your thought processes mature.

  17. 17
    thetalkingstove

    I almost can’t believe the audacity (not to mention the unoriginality) in using the ‘first they came for me’ line, as if he is in any possible sense at risk of persecution. What a ridiculous, ego-soaked buffoon.

  18. 18
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Libertarianism and privilege go hand in hand. And I guess to a libertarian, asserting that there are rules by which a libertarian’s behavior can and should be judged are by definition an infringement on their narcissistic, immature definition of “freedom.” Taxes are theft, rules are fascism, attempting to get Shermer to change his mind even slightly is just like Hitler.

  19. 19
    theoreticalgrrrl

    “How many logical fallacies did he employ in that screed?”

    I think it’s called a gish gallop.

    ‘Perhaps I should have said something earlier. As Martin Niemoller famously warned about the inactivity of German intellectuals during the rise of the Nazi party, “first they came for…” but “I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a…”’

    Seriously, Shermer? Women voicing opinions you don’t like are like the Nazi party, and they’ll come for you if you don’t speak up and condemn them?

    And you say Ophelia is the one on a “witch hunt”? Jesus.

  20. 20
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    As Martin Niemöller famously warned …

    As somebody whose family members were actually amongst those “they came for”: Fuck you Michael Shermer. Fuck you for equating being criticised in a magazine and on blogs with them being dragged from your home, hauled off into concentration camps, shaved, tatooed, beaten, starved, worked to death and finally sent into a gas chamber.
    Fuck you.
    You know, for you they’re a rhetorical device, for me they’re family.

  21. 21
    PZ Myers

    I don’t think Tom Flynn would be happy if you and I teamed up to write articles slamming Michael Shermer, so I won’t. But I still have to wonder why he let that kind of crap fly by.

  22. 22
    screechymonkey

    As Martin Niemoller famously warned about the inactivity of German intellectuals during the rise of the Nazi party

    Oh dear. Has Orac been alerted?

  23. 23
    theoreticalgrrrl

    It’s ironic that he calls being criticized by a woman a witch hunt. The paranoia Shermer displays toward the evil, wicked feminazis who must be stopped at all costs is similar to paranoia of uppity women in the witch hunter’s manual, the Malleus Maleficarum. The authors say, “All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable…it is no matter for wonder that there are more women than men found infected with the heresy of witchcraft….And blessed be the Highest Who has so far preserved the male sex from so great a crime: for since He was willing to be born and to suffer for us, therefore He has granted to men the privilege.”

  24. 24
    Maureen Brian

    How many times is it now that Shermer has “replied”? He must have very little confidence that anyone will believe him,

  25. 25
    Inaji

    PZ:

    But I still have to wonder why he let that kind of crap fly by.

    Perhaps he agrees with Shermer? Sexism, it gets everywhere.

  26. 26
    Ophelia Benson

    screechy @ 22 – heh – just what I thought – and it’s included in the post!

  27. 27
    SallyStrange

    …it is probably a legacy of the past socialization defining what women are expected to do.

    Yes, and people are NEVER influenced in their thinking about social roles (i.e., “socialized”) by remarks from people on national television about how speaking in public about skepticism and atheism is “a guy thing.”

    Never happens.

  28. 28
    C4llum

    Oh god… does this really have to start again? why do the associations between skepticism and sexism have to be reinforced? so unnecessary.. Anyway, what Shermer said isn’t a big deal, as for the “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.” Who’s to say that isn’t true? More guys go to skeptics conferences. It’s a statistic. That doesn’t mean women don’t do thinky. People jumping to conclusions way to easily here..

  29. 29
    doubtthat

    This is bizarre.

    Either Shermer said what he meant and he still thinks it, or he didn’t express himself well in real time (sometimes hard to do).

    His response, therefore, is either, “Fuck yeah, I said it. I still mean it.” Or, “Sorry, that’s not what I meant to say. Let me express the thought more clearly and apologize for the earlier statement.”

    If he really believes it, all the criticism is just. If he didn’t and apologized, there would be no criticism. What’s he upset about?

  30. 30
    SallyStrange

    Oh god… does this really have to start again?

    Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. Privilege–did it seem like it stopped for a second? Not from my perspective.

  31. 31
    Inaji

    C4llum:

    More guys go to skeptics conferences. It’s a statistic.

    Mmm. And just why do you think that is? Try really, really hard to think it through.

  32. 32
    doubtthat

    @28

    That was an impressive attempt at minimizing the statement.

    If his only point in response to a question about why there wasn’t equal gender representation in atheism was to point out there wasn’t equal representation at conferences, it would just be a dumb, frivolous reply”

    A: So, why aren’t there more women in atheism?
    B: Well, I think it’s because there aren’t more women in atheism.

    Not really an answer.

    No, his explanation for the gender differential could not simply be proof that there’s a gender differential, it was the part where he said being “intellectually active” about atheism was a “guy thing.”

    Most vertebrates should be able to pick up the none-too-subtle implication.

  33. 33
    Inaji

    Sally Strange:

    Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. Privilege–did it seem like it stopped for a second? Not from my perspective.

    Oh Sally, you forget – as long as we uppity feminazis shut up, it all goes away.

  34. 34
    SallyStrange

    Oh Sally, you forget – as long as we uppity feminazis shut up, it all goes away.

    Riiiiiiight…

    Huh, that explains a lot. See, people are always saying that if I just shut up about sexism (or whatever bigotry), it will just go away. That my vocal opposition to it is only reinforcing it.

    I never realized that they just meant that it goes away FOR THEM, and that’s enough for them. And that, in effect, it only exists when some annoying minority person is complaining about it. Makes so much more sense now!

    *The more you know…*

  35. 35
    Ophelia Benson

    Bob – just so. I think the one point he does have, or would have if he made it, is that it was spoken not written. It’s easy to mess up while speaking. But as you say – he could have just said that.

  36. 36
    stewart

    I won’t do what Giliell did, though I have the family tree for it. I’d just like to point out, very calmly, that by invoking “first they came for…,” Shermer is committing a very grave exaggeration, as the verbal violence in Germany far exceeded anything we are familiar with long before “they” actually “came for” anybody. When someone has been “come for” it means, among other things, that they can’t sit down at the computer and complain about it. They’re gone, right away. If they had a few minutes to stuff something into a bag, they were already doing better than some.

  37. 37
    Ophelia Benson

    Caine @ 25 – no, I don’t think so.

    I get to respond in the next issue. I’ll be much briefer, and I won’t babble of Nazis and inquisitions.

  38. 38
    Ophelia Benson

    By the way the response is now online.

    http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=fi&page=shermer_33_2

  39. 39
    screechymonkey

    Opehlia @26: ah, so it was. And here I thought I’d had an original thought!

    C4llum@28:

    Anyway, what Shermer said isn’t a big deal, as for the “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.” Who’s to say that isn’t true?

    Ah, yes, the well-known motto of the skeptic: “Who’s to say that isn’t true?”

    Dude claims to talk to the dead? Eh, who’s to say he can’t?
    Earth is 6,000 years old? Eh, who’s to say it isn’t?

  40. 40
    jenniferphillips

    What a wonderfully insular argument he makes. If he only receives affirmative feedback after this, he’s right. If he receives feedback challenging his assertions, such feedback is clearly coming from (Femi)nazis and their ilk and…he’s right. Seamless.

    Just guessing, but perhaps the volume of ‘affirmative’ feedback he received from response part I prompted him to produce the current opus. His arguments seem to summarize all the main s’pitter talking points from the past year–at least as far as I can tell from these obviously REDACTED article excerpts :)

  41. 41
    Bjarte Foshaug

    That’s right, what Shermer has been subjected to is exactly like that one critical sentence the nazis wrote about the jews, exactly!

  42. 42
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    So Shermer’s entire point is that because women are doing better than they used to, any sexism that still exists should be ignored, swept under the rug, and not talked about. And since rich white college-educated men have ALWAYS done better than everyone else, any criticism of him or other rich white college-educated men is the worst thing ever and requires him to keep beating the drum about it until the last vestiges of criticism are silenced once and for all.

  43. 43
    carlie

    Then he gropes for an explanation for why there aren’t more women atheists and skeptics doing tv shows right now -
    “…it is probably a legacy of the past socialization defining what women are expected to do.”

    Gosh, it couldn’t at all be that when women offer their own opinions that they get multi-page rants published kicking them out on the curb, under the bus, and through the mud, could it?

  44. 44
    Argle Bargle

    Shermer has spent a great deal of effort proving to himself that he’s a good guy and all those evil, witch-hunting feminazis are out to get him. He just made a “seemingly innocent” remark and how dare those feminists (self-proclaimed and secular) take his comment at face value. There’s nuances in “it’s a guy thing” and just like women are bad at thinky they’re bad at nuance. Besides, there’s some women who can do thinky, they’re the ones who agree with Shermer.

  45. 45
    doubtthat

    So what did I mean by “it’s a guy thing”? Mostly it was just an observation of the way things were in the past (a bunch of old white guys) that is rapidly changing (the near-parity at TAM), and is in reality intellectually equal (“I think it probably really is fifty-fifty”).

    Haha, what the fuck? That makes absolutely no sense…at all.

    Observation of the past? I have read and reread his explanation, and it just doesn’t work.

    Again, 2 options:

    1) Shermer believes thinking is a guy thing
    2) Shermer doesn’t and said something regrettable extemporaneously.

    He argues that he doesn’t believe 1, fine, great, then why the hell doesn’t he just say that his comment was stupid and not representative of his beliefs and apologize for giving the implication that he bought into musty old stereotypes?

    It’s just asshole behavior to be mad at Ophelia for reading his stupid statement and interpreting it as it appears. Add in the part where he says, “I think it is 50/50,” and it just becomes incoherent. It seems to imply that while membership is 50/50, it’s a “guy thing” to speak and argue and get involved and think about these issues. There’s a mass of female members content to just sit in the stands and watch. That doesn’t actually improve the claim with respect to the criticism.

  46. 46
    oolon

    I get to respond in the next issue. I’ll be much briefer, and I won’t babble of Nazis and inquisitions.

    Must subscribe to Free Inquiry…

  47. 47
    Utakata

    To date, I have stayed out of this witch hunt against our most prominent leaders, thinking that “this too shall pass.”…

    …in which Michael Shermer adjust his tinfiol hat.

    And yeah, lol at the Godwin.

  48. 48
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    BTW… does anyone feel like Shermer or Dawkins or especially Harris are your “leaders”? I didn’t vote for a single one of those assholes, last I checked.

  49. 49
    jenniferphillips

    I hadn’t read Harriet’s email to him before now. It’s…depressing.

  50. 50
    cadfile

    Tom Flynn wrote an essay some time back in FI that made a case against gay marriage based on it would mean higher taxes which Libertarians like Flynn always say is wrong so he isn’t a progressive so it was no suprise that Shermer’s article was published

    I have also observed stereotyping but the other way in my Humanist group. We were trying to discover how best to increase membership and some members explained that our group wasn’t addressing those things that women look for in social groups. We were said to be too rational and lacking in empathy as if only women have that trait.

  51. 51
    Bruce Everett

    Is it just me, or is Michael Shermer acting like he thinks he’s Nic Cage in The Wicker Man?

  52. 52
    chasstewart

    Sally! Stop calling other people “Mr. Privilege”! I thought that was my name? :(

  53. 53
    Inaji

    IJoe:

    BTW… does anyone feel like Shermer or Dawkins or especially Harris are your “leaders”?

    Emphatically no.

  54. 54
    Limassol Smithy

    C4llum:

    More guys go to skeptics conferences. It’s a statistic.

    Caine:

    Mmm. And just why do you think that is? Try really, really hard to think it through.

    Probably the same reason why more guys read the Pharyngula site, and FreeThoughtBlogs as a whole, Caine? Perhaps you could think really hard and inform us why fewer women read Pharyngula and FTB?

    You take care now.

  55. 55
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    Prominent voices – yes. Leaders – hell no. Which means that, while I’ve been disappointed at how many of these ‘prominent voices’ have said/done assholish and douchebag things, I don’t see it as that big of a deal in terms of how it affects me – I’ve found other voices.

  56. 56
    Marcus Ranum

    does anyone feel like Shermer or Dawkins or especially Harris are your “leaders”?

    No.

    More detailed version: No, because it seems to me that the questioning nature of being a “free thinker” is antithetical to the notion of being a “follower” of a “leader” Being a “follower” implies accepting the transmitted beliefs of a “leader” – which, in the case of skepticism, is a problem – because those beliefs do not get successfully transmitted unless they individually survive skeptical challenge. Thus, I can accept many of Dawkins’ beliefs regarding evolution since they are convincing to me because they don’t contradict my broad understanding of evolution and there isn’t a large and perceptible cottage-industry of evolutionary biologists shooting holes in Dawkins. I understand that Dawkins is not really making any kind of argument about evolution, anymore, and is mostly a figurehead or spokesperson. But I’d expect he’d get verbally taken to pieces if he was promoting utter bullshit. Consider scientists’ reactions to Satoshi Kanazawa’s arguments as an example of what we would expect if Dawkins was promoting pernicious bullshit in that field. Since ideally skeptics consider ideas’ merit on an per-idea basis, I don’t expect that skeptics make the mistake of thinking “Because Dawkins has a clue about evolution, therefore he is right about everything else, too.” That’s the kind of bad reasoning that advertising executives everywhere depend on, and rational people understand that it’s a human tendency to fall into that pattern, and we should avoid it. Adopting someone as a “leader” means rejecting rationality, because to “follow” a “leader” we’re basically saying “they’re right about everything, therefore I uncritically adopt all their views superceeding my own.” Following is self-imposed slavery.

    Harris is not qualified to lead me, because his objectivity seems doubtful and some of his moral arguments (specifically regarding torture) are ridiculous. I’m not saying I’ve got better answers, but I sure as hell am not “following” someone who’s wearing a clown-suit.

    How many of us “followed” Hitchens? Yeah, that made you laugh, didn’t it? I dearly loved the man for his writing and wit and erudition and for the way he hammered the shit out of his foes but he didn’t ever manage to utter the words “I was wrong about Iraq” and, like Shermer (although Shermer is nowhere near Hitchens’ league) he kept plying his silver-edged shovel. Most of us judged him badly for that.

    Do not try to lead me, for I shall not follow.
    Tell me why what you want me to do is a good idea, and I’ll always listen.

  57. 57
    carlie

    Probably the same reason why more guys read the Pharyngula site, and FreeThoughtBlogs as a whole, Caine? Perhaps you could think really hard and inform us why fewer women read Pharyngula and FTB?

    You have statistics on that?
    Also, way to not only miss the point, but duck in such a way that it whips around and hits you in the butt.

    You take care now.

    Bless your heart.

  58. 58
    Inaji

    LS:

    Probably the same reason why more guys read the Pharyngula site, and FreeThoughtBlogs as a whole, Caine? Perhaps you could think really hard and inform us why fewer women read Pharyngula and FTB?

    Oh yes, I forgot. There are no women at Pharyngula. Amazing how we’re all invisible.

  59. 59
    SallyStrange

    Probably the same reason why more guys read the Pharyngula site, and FreeThoughtBlogs as a whole, Caine? Perhaps you could think really hard and inform us why fewer women read Pharyngula and FTB?

    And that’s probably the same reason that more women COMMENT at Pharyngula!

    What would that reason be? Oh psshht, you silly billies! Limassol isn’t offering REASONS. He just wants to help extend the endless cycle of snarky rhetoric one step further.

    So, is it true that more men read FTB and Pharyngula? I wasn’t aware that anyone had performed such a breakdown.

  60. 60
    SallyStrange

    Sally! Stop calling other people “Mr. Privilege”! I thought that was my name?

    It’s a title, honeybun. But you will always be Senor Privilege to me.

  61. 61
    oolon

    To date, I have stayed out of this witch hunt against our most prominent leaders, thinking that “this too shall pass.”…

    No Michael. You need to stamp your foot and shout in a clear voice “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”… It’s the only thing these feminist Balrogs understand, petulant displays of power!

    Sort of surprised Ophelia wasn’t likened to some mythical fire breathing monster as that’s about all that is left after Hitler-McCarthyite-Inquisition-Witch Finder General comparisons. Reality based analogies fail from this point in… I sure hope she is contrite in her reply or where will he go to next ;-)

  62. 62
    Ophelia Benson

    It seems to imply that while membership is 50/50, it’s a “guy thing” to speak and argue and get involved and think about these issues. There’s a mass of female members content to just sit in the stands and watch.

    Exactly!! Excuse me for shouting, but that’s exactly it. I am SO not content to just sit in the stands and watch, and I know so many other women who are also not.

  63. 63
    Inaji

    Again, I’d like Caine to explain why FTB and Pharyngula is visited by men more than women

    Cupcake, I’d dearly like you to provide evidence of this. Go ahead, I’ll wait. You might wish to address Carlie’s and Sally’s responses to you, too. I point these out because you seem to have difficulty seeing women.

  64. 64
    Inaji

    I said there are fewer women than men at Pharyngula.

    No, that’s not what you said. You made the assertion, you provide the evidence.

  65. 65
    Marcus Ranum

    So, is it true that more men read FTB and Pharyngula? I wasn’t aware that anyone had performed such a breakdown.

    It would be fascinating if the powers that be would publish some statistics about FTB’s readership and commentariat, wouldn’t it?

    Of course it would probably work “for entertainment only” because I can’t see how you’d be able to validate any of the information. A survey would have all kinds of sampling biasses (but it’d still be cool!) … Social scientists should do experiments on us!

  66. 66
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    Limassol Smithy wrote:

    I wasn’t aware that any internet user alive today didn’t know of sites that show you the statistics!

    Link? Screenshot?

    [prediction: "I'm not going to do your homework for you", followed by a flounce]

  67. 67
    Inaji

    Wowbagger:

    Link? Screenshot?

    Indeed, I’d like to see. Ah well, the ‘there are no women on Pharyngula’ meme is alive and well. How freaking old is that one now?

  68. 68
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Anyway, what Shermer said isn’t a big deal, as for the “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.” Who’s to say that isn’t true? More guys go to skeptics conferences. It’s a statistic. That doesn’t mean women don’t do thinky.

    Shermer had multiple opportunities to say something along those lines rather than embark on his mad wall-of-text voyages, and didn’t. Positively refuses to do so.

    This is the problem.

    Never mind he flatly contradicts his 50/50 comment at the same time. So.

  69. 69
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    Well, so much for my predictive powers; I didn’t factor in Ophelia’s low tolerance for transparently dishonest assholes…

  70. 70
    carlie

    So why is it that every discussion about atheism in any form always ends up with somebody showing up to complain about Pharyngula? It’s not the only blog around, you know. It’s not even this one.

    But every time I do a tour around FtB, and the wider atheosphere, and the wider femin…um, isosphere, I always bump right into people complaining about Pharyngula again. It’s like every other comment section out there is Jan Brady. Pharyngula, Pharyngula, Pharyngula!

  71. 71
    carlie

    Given how many times people who are loud and obvious about their gender still get misgendered by other commenters, (never mind the ones who prefer not to mention it), I don’t think I’d trust any analysis of gender breakdown of the commentariat.

  72. 72
    CyprusSunLounger

    No, that’s not what you said. You made the assertion, you provide the evidence.

    It is what I said, Caine. Comment 54 is the evidence. Admit your mistake, or admit you’re a liar.

    Indeed, I’d like to see. Ah well, the ‘there are no women on Pharyngula’ meme is alive and well. How freaking old is that one now?

    Where is that meme? Actually QUOTE where I said that. The evidence about visits can be found at www alexa com/siteinfo/freethoughtblogs com (replace spaces withdots).

    prediction: “I’m not going to do your homework for you”, followed by a flounce

    By “flounce”, you mean banhammered, because Ophelia will now realise she needs to protect you from your lie. People don’t “flounce” here, they get censored.

    So, now that you all know that I am right, and that fewer women visit freethoughtblogs, you can continue the discussion into why that is the case.

    PS – Many apologies I have provided links to evidence and facts. I will realise that is a big no no here at Butterflies and Wheels in general.

    PPS – When the atheist and skeptic communities are ridiculing you for trying to stifle debate, you might want to look at the past half hour or so, and weep.

  73. 73
    John Morales

    Carlie, to answer your rhetorical question, because Pharyngula is the most infamous place in the Wretched Hive of feminism that is FTB.

  74. 74
    oolon

    Stats – http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/freethoughtblogs.com

    You can get gender but it is biased when the way they determine it is from the tiny set of toolbar users. So not at all accurate when the difference is so small. Also no way of separating Pharyngula and definitely no way of separating the commenters. If they provided a sample size for the data then you could determine a confidence level, but they don’t, unless you pay maybe?

  75. 75
    Inaji

    It is what I said, Caine.

    Yes, you’re right. I apologize for that. As for Alexa, you have got to be kidding. “Males are over represented…confidence high”. That’s a base generalization and it means you’re pulling your conclusion straight out of your ass.

    You didn’t bother to answer Carlie or Sally, which might answer for your swallowing such bilge whole. It would seem women are altogether invisible to you.

  76. 76
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    carlie wrote:

    So why is it that every discussion about atheism in any form always ends up with somebody showing up to complain about Pharyngula? It’s not the only blog around, you know. It’s not even this one.

    Because PZ’s the one they’re the angriest at; he’s the one who’s betrayed them the most.

    He was the number one online atheist dude-bro idol, since he was a) male, and b) regularly spent a great deal of time pointing out how stupid and/or evil those dumb ol’ religionists are, and in no uncertain terms. This, for these kind of atheists, is exactly what atheism is – being reminded, as unsubtly as possible, just how much better they are than those who believe in gods.

    In their narrow, entitled brains, people like PZ exist to serve them, to cater to their desires.

    But that’s changed, and PZ is no longer their go-to guy for self-actualisation. Since he’s gotten more insistent about applying the same level of critical analysis to the atheist community and highlighting its flaws, they’re not getting the same opportunities to feel better about themselves by comparison; quite the opposite – PZ’s actually making them feel bad for their behaviour, as well as undermining their belief that atheists are automatically better people, no matter what they do.

    This has made them very, very bitter indeed. And they don’t really know what to do about that, other than lash out.

  77. 77
    John Morales

    [meta]

    CyprusSunLounger:

    PPS – When the atheist and skeptic communities are ridiculing you for trying to stifle debate, you might want to look at the past half hour or so, and weep.

    Clearly, you aren’t being stifled — so either you’re not debating or there is no such stifling.

    (Which is it?)

  78. 78
    Ophelia Benson

    Bullshit, sock puppet whoever you are @ 72. When you start simply screaming that I’m NOT RATIONAL then you can’t play with the adults any more.

  79. 79
    jenniferphillips

    I have no idea how alexa collects their data, but I can’t imagine it’s a random sample OR that it’s big enough to mean anything for the site as a whole, let alone any one blog. So, CyprusSunLounger/Limassol Smithy, if the assertion had been about FtB as a whole, that page does indeed contains words to back up the claim, although it’s not statistically strong support. However, what LS *said* was “more guys read the Pharyngula site, and FreeThoughtBlogs as a whole”. The former is an oft-repeated bald-assed assertion with no supporting data whatsoever.

  80. 80
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    Anyone know how, exactly, Alexa determines gender – or, for that matter, any of its metrics that aren’t based on hardware/location?

  81. 81
    jenniferphillips

    Wowbagger, I’m assuming it datamines all the needlepoint patterns I have on my hard drive. How else?

  82. 82
    John Morales

    [meta]

    Well, so much for my rhetorical question. :|

    To contribute some content: My belief based on my experience is that FTB in general and some of its blogs (this being one) in particular are women-friendly places for commenters.

  83. 83
    Captaintripps

    @80 Wowbagger: Alexa uses a toolbar as well as cookies from code on sites. It’s an okay source for metrics, but it’s more or less useful for general comparison, not in-depth statistics.

    Ophelia, I can see why Shermer would want to respond. Given the climate and what was quoted that’s reasonable. The more he responds, though. the more foolish he sounds, what with the gulag comparisons and character witnesses. Really all he needed to say was something along the lines of:

    In Ophelia Benson’s latest column is an aside about me. I have a bit of a quibble with how she quoted me, but for the record I don’t believe atheism is a guy thing. That was a mangled, extemporaneous way of saying we’ve been less diverse in the past because the atmosphere hasn’t been welcoming to women.

    At least, I think that covers all the bases he wants to cover and it even seems to save face pretty well if you care about that sort of thing.

  84. 84
    Inaji

    Jennifer:

    Wowbagger, I’m assuming it datamines all the needlepoint patterns I have on my hard drive. How else?

    Aha! Needlepoint is a popular hobby with many men. It’s all confused, poor thing.

  85. 85
    Ophelia Benson

    Ha! Final para of latest comment from sock puppet –

    BTW, this latest reputation-wrecker for Ophelia and B@W has been documented and screencapped at The Pit. Ophelia’s attempt to censor the facts will be brought up in any on-line discussion of Shermer when those comment boards are opened.

    Of course it has! And that’s why you can’t comment here. I don’t let people from the slime pit comment here. All you have to do is talk like a sane rational adult human being as opposed to a crazily obsessed Watcher from the slime pit, and you can comment away to your heart’s content.

    “Documented and screencapped at The Pit uh uh uh.” Gives your life meaning, doesn’t it.

  86. 86
    jenniferphillips

    Captain Tripps, so far he’s generated two lengthy responses in which he hasn’t said that. The first one (http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/12-12-12/#feature) complains about Ophelia, talks of witch hunts, and quotes an email from Harriet Hall. The more recent one complains about Ophelia (and PZ), talks of Nazis, and quotes the same email from Harriet Hall. We don’t seem to be moving in a productive direction here.

  87. 87
    John Morales

    Captaintripps, I think you’re being a little too sure about Shermer’s position and that he’d not appreciate the way you’ve put words into his mouth.

  88. 88
    Inaji

    BTW, this latest reputation-wrecker for Ophelia and B@W has been documented and screencapped at The Pit. Ophelia’s attempt to censor the facts will be brought up in any on-line discussion of Shermer when those comment boards are opened.

    I can’t say I’m surprised. Why on earth do these idiots think screencapping is necessary? It’s not like you’re in the habit of disappearing your own blog posts, Ophelia.

    Of course, anyone who thinks a fuzzy algorithm equals actual statistics isn’t exactly a great thinker.

  89. 89
    Ophelia Benson

    @ 83 – well, but one, he did respond, and two – I don’t think everyone who gets mentioned in a magazine then gets to write a 3 page article in response. I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works, because people often can’t even get a letter published in response. I think Shermer used his clout to get a 3 page article published in response to my brief criticism. I think that’s an abuse of status.

  90. 90
    Jafafa Hots

    I don’t understand why women keep complaining that men rape them, when all you have to do is look at the rape statistics – they plainly SHOW that women are at greater risk of being raped by men.

    Stop blaming MEN for that, men aren’t responsible for statistics. Clearly that’s JUST HOW IT IS.

  91. 91
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    I’m about as interested in what the Slymepit says about Ophelia as I am in what Stormfront says about Obama. Peas in a pod.

  92. 92
    Captaintripps

    Ophelia, I’m not aware of any of the stuff around how it was published. Good to know. One of the subtexts I see in all the ink he spilled, cloutful and not, is “look at all these women that think I’m not sexist.” I’m positing that if that subtext is true and he really means it, he could’ve written something along the lines of what I wrote and post it at his site rather than get super defensive. I’ll add to that (with your new information) rather than get super-defensive and possibly use his clout to get it published.

    I guess in short my point is that there was an easy way to respond simply and show support for feminism in atheism.

  93. 93
    screechymonkey

    “Documented and screencapped at The Pit uh uh uh.”

    Huh. How about that. Why, it’s almost like they’re saying that the internet provides alternative forums, so that a blogger moderating her comments section isn’t really interfering with FREEZE PEACH.

  94. 94
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Wowbagger:

    I’m about as interested in what the Slymepit says about Ophelia as I am in what Stormfront says about Obama. Peas in a pod.

    I’m totally stealing that one. You can borrow my “No, I DON’T need to read the Slymepit again to know that they are a bunch of assholes, any more than I need to check up on Stormfront every few weeks to make sure they are still a bunch of raving racists” if you like. :)

  95. 95
    Ophelia Benson

    Captain – just so, there was. He could have just said “ew, that came out wrong.” He could even have sugared the pill by rebuking me for criticising something he said as opposed to something he wrote. I wouldn’t agree, but I don’t think I would think it was absurd.

  96. 96
    Aratina Cage

    @C4llum #28

    “it’s more of a guy thing.” Who’s to say that isn’t true? More guys go to skeptics conferences. It’s a statistic. That doesn’t mean women don’t do thinky. People jumping to conclusions way to easily here..

    So why did the host of the panel discussion hear it the same way the rest of us did as him saying that it’s a sphere that fits men better than it fits women? How come people like you brush over that? It’s an easy conclusion to jump to because it’s most likely what he meant!

  97. 97
    Aratina Cage

    Wow, this thread has grown a bunch since I last refreshed. Whoops!

  98. 98
    Martha

    Google told me I was a 64-year-old man. I have abundant physical evidence contradicting this conclusion. So I’m not sure I trust any computer’s gender assignment…

    I’m glad to hear that Shermer is a climate-change denier. It helps me to know that his inability to deal with reality is general.

  99. 99
    stewart

    I just can’t believe how juvenile the bunch at the pit are. I didn’t do this, but it now seems one could have followed the whole thing on two browser tabs simultaneously. “Ophelia’s discussing Shermer.” “Quick, someone, go over and annoy them.” Then someone shows up here, disrupts, is unmasked and banished, then back at the hideout, screen grabs are brandished, as if all this will one day be presented in evidence at Ophelia’s big show trial. They behave as if they really are in some secret hideout and not on the Internet, where we can read everything they write there. And those few times they’ve gone so over the top here that the place needed to be fumigated, that’s our big crime, while the obsessive photoshopping of obscene images of Ophelia, P.Z. et al (well, not Al anymore; he’s over there now), the creation of fake accounts in the name of Ophelia and Rebecca (the like of which no one on our side has done to any of them) and the monotonous use of the same 4-letter words over and over again as if they had a quota in order to replenish their energy cells, none of this counts, this is all stuff we ought to be able to shrug off and ignore if we want the score to remain even. I do envy them for one thing, though: the sheer amount of time so many of them seem to have to waste on this obsessive cataloguing of people they hate.

  100. 100
    Ophelia Benson

    I can’t wait for my big show trial. I’ve always wanted one.

  101. 101
    Inaji

    Martha:

    Google told me I was a 64-year-old man.

    Heh. If someone googles my name, a wealth of hits come up for an apparently well known male athlete. I’m neither.

  102. 102
    Tom Foss

    Today, even as a plethora of women openly, freely participate in—or lead—secular organizations, much ink and emotion are spilled over trivial slips of the tongue that allegedly reveal hidden biases and unconscious prejudices.

    As I mentioned (more briefly) on Twitter, unconscious biases that cause us to treat claims in different ways–accepting supernatural or comfortable explanations without evidence, for instance–are the sorts of thing that we should constantly be vigilant about. That they exist is undoubted, and is worth spilling many books’ worth of ink about, worth spilling ink about in multiple regular magazines. Unconscious biases that cause us to accept our experiences of ghosts or bigfoot or UFOs or gods at face value are to be distrusted, named and catalogued, rooted out and excised from our minds.

    Unconscious biases that cause us to treat people in different ways–accepting stereotypical or comfortable descriptions without evidence, for instance–are to be met with profound skepticism. How can we even be sure these “biases” exist? If they’re unconscious, how could they possibly be revealed in little things we say and do? No, there’s no reason to “spill ink” on these alleged unconscious biases that may or may not cause us to accept our observations of women or people of color or LGBT individuals at face value. If these biases even exist, who’s to say they’re not accurate, or there for some good reason? Now stop trying to make me think uncomfortable thoughts.

  103. 103
    John Morales

    Tom Foss:

    Unconscious biases that cause us to accept our experiences of ghosts or bigfoot or UFOs or gods at face value are to be distrusted, named and catalogued, rooted out and excised from our minds.
    Unconscious biases that cause us to treat people in different ways–accepting stereotypical or comfortable descriptions without evidence, for instance–are to be met with profound skepticism.

    Problem here is that the natural bias towards Shermer was a positive one for many skeptics; nonetheless, his own contentions in this domain are there for anyone to see.

  104. 104
    Tom Foss

    I was trying to get at the notion that Shermer (and the other skeptics who balk at the notion that they might exhibit unconscious sexist or other biases) is being profoundly inconsistent. He (and we, generally) already accept that people (as a result of biology and society) have a host of unconscious biases that shape our thinking about claims and whatnot, but they’re hugely resistant to the notion that biases may exist that shape their thinking about people and social systems.

  105. 105
    cuervocuero

    Mr. Shermer was on the latest ep of “Thinking Atheist”, wherein he stated he *was* a climate change denier but that he now believes it’s happening and is anthrocentric.

    Although he also said, post Sandy Hook, the magazine is going to be doing in depth work on gun control in the US and how banning assault weapons isn’t going to solve anything because the US isn’t Australia…or something. I was a bit uncomfortably surprised at some of his broader statements being conversed as truth claims. No doubt I will be informed I was not interpreting his words in proper context.

  106. 106
    screechymonkey

    Martha @98, my understanding is that Shermer is no longer a climate change denier. I believe he reversed his position a couple of years ago.

  107. 107
    aweraw

    Caine, parfum de merde:

    anyone who thinks a fuzzy algorithm equals actual statistics isn’t exactly a great thinker.

    Really? I could have sworn that it’s a well established fact in statistical mathematics that one can fairly accurately calculate a population composition from a sample set…. or are you just trying to come up with a justification for your unwillingness to consider his evidence? Please, if you have any contradictory evidence, I’d be interested in seeing it.

  108. 108
    John Morales

    aweraw:

    I could have sworn that it’s a well established fact in statistical mathematics that one can fairly accurately calculate a population composition from a sample set….

    With a sufficiently large sample size and given knowledge of the probability distribution, yes.

    (What does that have to do with fuzzy reasoning (in this case, a hasty generalisation)?)

  109. 109
    aweraw

    With a sufficiently large sample size and given knowledge of the probability distribution, yes.

    Would you insinuate that Alexa doesn’t possess either of these things?

    What does that have to do with fuzzy reasoning (in this case, a hasty generalisation)?

    I don’t know. I was not the one who attributed it to Alexa’s methodology.

  110. 110
    Your Name's not Bruce?

    Ophelia, you’ll always be my favourite Nazi witch-hunting inquisitor!

  111. 111
    Inaji

    aweraw, Alexa does not provide actual statistics. What’s the point of discussing this if you don’t understand that? For example, in discussing this elsewhere, Jadehawk made the point that Alexa claims that the proportion of readers with graduate degrees is comparable to the rest of the internet and that people who went to college are underrepresented. It’s more than obvious to most people that you need to take such “stats” with a very large dose of salt, to say the least.

    This whole mess got started by the assertion that *most* readers of Pharyngula and FTB are male. That’s simply not true, whether you wish to go by Alexa or not – further digging brought out that according to Alexa, it’s a 55% /45% split. That doesn’t even come close to “*most* readers are male”.

  112. 112
    Stacy

    This whole mess got started by the assertion that *most* readers of Pharyngula and FTB are male.

    No, the assertion was that *more* of them are male.

    (Which just begs the original question. Why is that (assuming it’s true?) If you’re Michael Shermer, you reply, “because it’s a guy thing, guys are more intellectually active about that stuff.” And then you whine about being persecuted when somebody points out how sexist that answer is.)

  113. 113
    susans

    All of my European relatives, every one, were killed by the Nazis and that is exactly the same as the one time that someone said something about me at Pharyngula that was wrong. And I sat next to PZ all day at a conference and he didn’t kill me, but he probably wasn’t paying attention. Too bad Shermer wasn’t there to alert him.

  114. 114
    Inaji

    Stacy:

    No, the assertion was that *more* of them are male.

    Thanks for the correction. Long day.

  115. 115
    carlie

    I still don’t understand what Alexa uses to determine whether a reader is male or female?

  116. 116
    carlie

    Because from what I can see, it only works if a user has its software installed in their browser, AND has provided correct information when registering. What I don’t see is information on how many users have this toolbar compared to the total number. Sampling only works if it’s the proper size relative to the total and properly representative of the whole group.

  117. 117
    Martha

    @screechymonkey & @cuervo: thanks. Perhaps he’s just a tad slow when he perceives his personal liberty as under attack and he’ll eventually change his mind on this one, too.

    I am not holding my breath.

  118. 118
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    Martha wrote:

    Perhaps he’s just a tad slow when he perceives his personal liberty as under attack and he’ll eventually change his mind on this one, too.

    It probably won’t help that there’s an army of furiously hoggling basement-dwellers with hours of time on their hands and an army of sock-puppets telling him 24/7 that he’s doing, ‘a heck of a job’ at putting teh ebil feminists in their place.

    I’d think him above it, but it’s worked on more than a few others I’d previously considered level-headed.

  119. 119
    screechymonkey

    I don’t read Shermer on a regular basis, so hopefully someone else can answer this: before he finally reversed himself, how did Shermer react to criticism of his climate change denial? Did he whine about being persecuted by witch-hunters and complain that he was being “purged” from the skeptical movement? My suspicion is no.

    More recently, when James Randi wrote a rather bizarre piece that seemed to be engaging in climate change denial, he got a wave of criticism from other skeptics. And while I recall that he bristled a little bit at the ferocity of the response, I don’t recall reading complaints about purges and witch-hunts then, either. (A few folks wrote things along the lines of “let’s cut Randi some slack, I’m sure he didn’t mean that the way it sounded and if he did he’ll probably fix it.”)

    Similarly, lots of people in the community debated, ad nauseum, Christopher Hitchens’s position on Iraq and his refusal to change that position. And while there was no shortage of people defending Hitchens, I don’t recall gasping about witch-hunts and persecution then, either. (Certainly not from Hitchens, who seemed to love nothing more than fierce debate and criticism. Well, maybe scotch, and who can blame him?)

    It seems that the persecution complex only shows up when privilege is being questions.

  120. 120
    Sastra

    @screechymonkey #119:

    Good point.

    That whole article by Michael Shermer was so … so … well, what Ophelia said.

  121. 121
    Inaji

    Carlie:

    Because from what I can see, it only works if a user has its software installed in their browser, AND has provided correct information when registering. What I don’t see is information on how many users have this toolbar compared to the total number. Sampling only works if it’s the proper size relative to the total and properly representative of the whole group.

    Exactly. Basically, Alexa makes its best guess. All of which is fine, I simply don’t see how it can be used as actual evidence that more men read certain blogs and blog networks, which is in turn being asserted as evidence that Shermer is right with the whole “guy thing”.

  122. 122
    John Morales

    Caine, as you noted, readership:commentership::skepticism:attendeeship with respect to blogs and conferences.

  123. 123
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Maybe more women don’t speak up because, when they do, they are ignored, ridiculed, criticized for everything from their voice to their clothing to their bodies, and generally made to feel unwelcome.

    With persistence, maybe we’ll start to change that. It’s amazing what happens to men who seriously consider, “Would you want your daughter to be treated that way?”

    If you ever want proof of unconscious biases, ask a group of people from different countries where is the appropriate place to do things such as polish their shoes or wash the dog.

  124. 124
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    He can dish out criticism, but he can’t take it. What a whiner!

    For your amusement, here’s one of the best of almost 5,000 comments on PZ’s “grenade” post:

    It looks like Why People Believe Weird Things was missing the chapter, “Why People Believe It’s Okay to Have Sex With Someone Incapable of Giving Consent (Especially When You Got Them That Way)”.

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    [...] gebracht, in Fettschrift noch dazu, damit auch keiner seinen Opferstatus verpasst). Wie mich das an den aktuellen Michael Shermer-Vollabsturz [...]

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    […] wasn’t so long ago that Michael Shermer responded to the criticisms of comments he made about skepticism being “a guy …, and I thought, “Okay, that’s pretty over-the-top, but on the balance of things, he […]

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