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Jan 17 2013

Waiting for the magic

Ed has a good post on Michael Shermer’s exaggerated outrage at my criticism of him.

His comment on the bit where Shermer says I turned the inquisition on him and that we inquisitors are trying to force him to defend himself -

What does innocence until proven guilty have to do with any of this? That is a legal concept and you are not on trial, no matter how much you imagine yourself to be. You said something dumb and sexist in a public forum and someone else pointed out that it was dumb and sexist in a public forum. And the truth is that you are defending yourself, primarily by going on the offensive and accusing your critics of trying to destroy you and others the same way the Catholic Church, the McCarthyites and the Nazis did to their opponents.

All of this is such an hysterical overreaction that it leaves my jaw agape. No one has been “purged” in any “inquisitions” or “witch hunts.” What they have been is criticized for saying dumb things now and again. You’d think that Shermer, who has spent most of his adult life encouraging people to think critically would recognize criticism when he sees it, but he squeals like a stuck pig when the harsh glare of criticism is turned on him.

He does. And he goes on squealing, too. Apparently everyone was supposed to think he’s infallible, and yet, he’s a skeptic, so he must be familiar with the idea that no one is infallible. Vanity vanity vanity; it’s the orange-eyed monster.

I like Michael Shermer. I’ve written for his magazine and had interesting conversations with him at a couple of events and I’m even sympathetic to his libertarian political views, unlike a lot of others in this community. But he is embarrassing himself here and the only reason I can think of to explain it is vanity. I wish he would stop. There’s still a serious discussion to be had about diversity at atheist events but it cannot be had with someone who is making these ridiculous claims of witch hunts, inquisitions and Nazi purges.

And once again I am struck by how much this rhetoric mirrors that of people in stark opposition to the goals of atheists and skeptics. When Paula Kirby refers to Rebecca Watson and her defenders as “feminazis,” she is using exactly the same language used by Rush Limbaugh (who invented that term, or at least made it famous). When Al Stefanelli claims that Watson and her defenders just “hate white men,” he is using exactly the same argument used by right-wing Christians for decades. And when Shermer talks about witch hunts, inquisitions and purges, he is using precisely the same rhetoric that right-wing Christian anti-feminists have used, and continue to use, to describe not only feminists but the entire secular community as well. And he is acting just like those fundamentalist Christians who are practically addicted to false claims of persecution.

Yes but when a sketpic acts like that it’s magically transformed into – wait…

49 comments

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  1. 1
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Oh, hold on, that’s not magic. You can see, step by step, how he transforms himself into a raging twit. (More likely, just let’s the usually-hidden inner twit out.)

  2. 2
    Argle Bargle

    Shermer has changed the controversy from him making a sexist remark to others making vile, hateful, vicious attacks on him. Instead of women being the victims of his thoughtless comment, Shermer is casting himself as being mercilessly hounded and brutally attacked because…well, just because.

  3. 3
    chezjake

    “Yes but when a sketpic acts like that it’s magically transformed into – wait…”

    I’m sure that was an inadvertent typo, but I also think you have come up with an excellent term for referring to people like Shermer who claim to be skeptics but can’t accept criticism. They are now “sketpics.”

  4. 4
    R Johnston

    A skeptic who acts like a religious fundamentalist by outright rejecting skepticism and critical thinking isn’t magically transformed into anything because he does not exist. Rather, when an ostensible skeptic such as Shermer acts in such a way we perform a Bayesian update on our estimated probability that he is, in fact, a skeptic and conclude tentatively that he is not, in fact, a skeptic.

    In other words, the proper response to Shermer is to, unlike Shermer, admit error here and say that with the abundance of new information any previous conclusion that Shermer is a skeptic is no longer tenable.

  5. 5
    PabloPablo

    Shermer has changed the controversy from him making a sexist remark to others making vile, hateful, vicious attacks on him. Instead of women being the victims of his thoughtless comment, Shermer is casting himself as being mercilessly hounded and brutally attacked because…well, just because.

    He obviously has been learning from Rebecca Watson. How exactly are women victims by that comment? How melodramatic is that?

    “Witch Hunt” is a legitimate phrase to describe the actions of Ophelia Benson over this issue. Ophelia has obsessively trawled through Shermer’s comments, taken something out of context, and then produced half a dozen posts on it. It is Ophelia producing the “hit pieces”, and of course, the FfTB tactic of getting others (PZ, Brayton) to add their copycat hit pieces follows quickly.

    I’m sure that was an inadvertent typo, but I also think you have come up with an excellent term for referring to people like Shermer who claim to be skeptics but can’t accept criticism.

    That would apply to Ophelia and her posters as well, who flounce as soon as evidence is presented that they don’t like. Ophelia even resorts to banhammering anybody who criticises her backed with evidence. So don’t try to play that game, hypocrite.

  6. 6
    Tessa

    PabloPablo,
    Can you clarify what you mean by trawled through Shermer’s comments? And the “Half dozen posts” were about Shermer’s responses to her article. I’m just not sure what you’re talking about.

  7. 7
    PabloPablo

    Tessa, Ophelia admitted she was searching through Shermer’s previous writings. I find it strange that she suddenly discovered this rather innocuous “guy thing” quote. Shermer correctly rebutted Ophelia for missing out the context and misrepresenting him. Shermer’s reply was thoughtful and accurate. Ophelia is simply banging out the hit pieces in frustration. We know that certain people at FTB don’t take criticism at all well.

    You have to remember that Shermer is a white male, privileged and a libertarian. That is why Ophelia and PZ have been after him. I also know that he has been a marked man in the backchannel for some time. Google “blacklist”.

  8. 8
    PabloPablo

    Can I point out that the numbers on the current Atheist Census show something like 65% are men. Would it be shockingly sexist to say filling in online atheist censuses is “a guy thing”.

    It’s pretty hard to blame an environment of sexism, or the patriarchy, when it comes to filling in online forms.

  9. 9
    michaeld

    Umm you know ophelia wrote the initial article months ago right Pablo?

  10. 10
    PabloPablo

    michaeld, yes I’m familiar with the history.

    It is interesting that Michael takes his time to respond, taking care to explain the facts and the context, while Ophelia fires off angry, snarky responses straight away.

    Like I said, Ophelia does not take criticism very well, and that is why she has resorted to hit pieces.

  11. 11
    michaeld

    So Ophelia writes a piece on august 25th 2012 on a video posted on august 20th 2012 Shermer replies Dec 12 2012. And Ophelia is the one trawling for Shermer quotes?

    Ophelia doesn’t take criticism well but Shermer comparing his critics to inquitiors, witch hunters, ethnic purgers and nazis is taking time and care to explain the facts? How does any of the criticism Shermer has received compare to any of those groups?

  12. 12
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    The irony, of course, is that if Ophelia hadn’t backed up her claim with examples, the PabloPablos of the world would be demanding ‘evidence’; that she has produced it is ‘trawling for comments’. Heads they win, tails you lose.

    “Witch Hunt” is a legitimate phrase to describe the actions of Ophelia Benson over this issue.

    It would be if Ophelia was in a position of power over Shermer, as was the case with both the literal witch hunts (either in Europe or the US) and their political equivalent (McCarthyism). Since she isn’t (quite the opposite, in fact), it’s not – and to claim it is is profound intellectual dishonesty.

    Not that we expect anything better, mind you. These are the same scumbags who mock cancer survivors.

  13. 13
    Tessa

    Tessa, Ophelia admitted she was searching through Shermer’s previous writings. I find it strange that she suddenly discovered this rather innocuous “guy thing” quote. Shermer correctly rebutted Ophelia for missing out the context and misrepresenting him. Shermer’s reply was thoughtful and accurate. Ophelia is simply banging out the hit pieces in frustration. We know that certain people at FTB don’t take criticism at all well.

    Ophelia wrote the article right after Shermer’s guy thing remark. his statement was on an internet show. The article Ophelia wrote wasn’t even about Shermer, she used his statement as an example of contributing to stereotypes. She devoted one or two paragraphs to his statement. Shermer’s response much larger than Ophelia’s whole article and featured accusations of it being a witch hunt. I don’t know how that is “correctly rebutting”. After that, Ophelia went through shermer’s previous writing. You have your chronology wrong.

  14. 14
    PabloPablo

    So Ophelia writes a piece on august 25th 2012 on a video posted on august 20th 2012 Shermer replies Dec 12 2012. And Ophelia is the one trawling for Shermer quotes?

    Yes. Quotes that she can take out of context and misrepresent.

    Ophelia doesn’t take criticism well but Shermer comparing his critics to inquitiors, witch hunters, ethnic purgers and nazis is taking time and care to explain the facts?

    Shermer is simply using FTB privilege to use those terms, the same way many over here use terms such as “racist”, “potential rapist” and “misoygnist” when referring to behaviour similar to types of people. BTW, Shermer’s response was much more, and the fact that you and Ophelia concentrate so much on the Godwinning is testament to your lack of argument.

    How does any of the criticism Shermer has received compare to any of those groups?

    It is not a measurement. It is the method. Many in the atheist and skeptic communities are of the same opinion as Shermer about the bully tactics employed by FTB and others.

    It would be if Ophelia was in a position of power over Shermer, as was the case with both the literal witch hunts (either in Europe or the US) and their political equivalent (McCarthyism). Since she isn’t (quite the opposite, in fact), it’s not – and to claim it is is profound intellectual dishonesty.

    Position of power does not come into it. Shermer is simply one person, whereas FTB is a myriad of witch hunters. The “Witch Hunt” analogy is perfect, because spurious charges are brought up, fingers are pointed, and the pitchforks are gathered. FTB hunts its witches by numbers. Also,

  15. 15
    PabloPablo

    …Ophelia is in a position of power – she has a b og which she uses to present a one-sided debate. It is beyond proven that she deletes legitimate criticism of her position, and allows lies and mistruths from her regular posters to stand.

    These are the same scumbags who mock cancer survivors.

    Who are? At least they don’t defend to the hilt a doxxing stalker of women who threatens fellow bloggers via email.

  16. 16
    michaeld

    No they weren’t out of context. Neither the 50/50 bit before or the equal attendence at TAM in anyway affects the line that being intellectually active is more of a guy thing. Also Ophelia Benson’s original post wasn’t only about Shermer he was a small part of it. If anything Shermer made himself the focus of it months after later when no one was even thinking about it.

    Tell you what Pablo Come back to us when we have someone on the rack and the hot pokers glowing hot.

  17. 17
    PabloPablo

    Tessa, Ophelia attempted to misrepresent Shermer, claiming his “guy thing” didn’t just relate to the numbers of men/women in atheism, but some kind of statement about the intellectual calibre of women. It wasn’t.

    Also, what stereotype are you talking about? That more men tend to be atheist than women on average? That’s a fact, and not a stereotype. That more men volunteer put themselves forward to speak at these events? Is that fact or stereotype?

    Denial of these facts is simply a lack of critical thinking and a case of allowing ones personal politics cloud your judgment. By all means, tackle the issues that stops women from taking more active roles, but don’t try and twist Shermer’s accurate observation when the facts back him up.

  18. 18
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    PabloPablo wrote:

    It is not a measurement. It is the method.

    No, it’s false equivalence. Simple as that.

    Many in the atheist and skeptic communities are of the same opinion as Shermer about the bully tactics employed by FTB and others

    Do these lurkers support him via email?

    Shermer is simply one person, whereas FTB is a myriad of witch hunters.

    Make your mind up. Either your earlier statement – ‘many in the atheist and skeptic communities are of the same opinion as Shermer…’ or there’s only one person cricitising them. Which is it?

  19. 19
    PabloPablo

    No they weren’t out of context. Neither the 50/50 bit before or the equal attendence at TAM in anyway affects the line that being intellectually active is more of a guy thing.

    What do you think Shermer meant by “intellectually active”? I think it means the hands on, day-in day-out, involvement in the movement, speaking at conferences, volunteering for roles, etc. The fact is fewer women are involved in atheism and skepticism. If you said playing sport is more of a guy thing, you would be right in terms of numbers playing and watching the sport.

    If Shermer erred, it is because the term “intellectually active” was a poor phrase for referring to those who put themselves up to be at the forefront of the movement. You are stretching your credibility if you are suggesting Shermer thinks women are less capable of being “intellectually active” (whatever that actually means) in the movement.

  20. 20
    PabloPablo

    No, it’s false equivalence. Simple as that.

    How so? I’ve already explained that the terms are valid because of the comparison of the method used. Plus, if this is your opinion, do you also think the usage of “potential rapist” and “racist” are valid when used in the same manner by many here at FTB?

    Do these lurkers support him via email?

    Most are not lurkers. Venture outside the FTB echo chamber and you will find quite a lot of pushback to you guys. I know it must be a shame that most of the community don’t share yout agenda.

    Make your mind up. Either your earlier statement – ‘many in the atheist and skeptic communities are of the same opinion as Shermer…’ or there’s only one person cricitising them. Which is it?

    You’re confused. Shermer responds as an individual. The attacks the other way always come in the form of multiple blogs, and their commentators, and in an effort to dogpile and intimidate by numbers. Fact is, most of the community don’t feel the need to suddenly scribble down a blog post in support of Shermer, because, unlike FTB, they are not conspiring a co-ordinated attack in the ‘backchannel’. Further, the community outside of FTB consists of independent and actual free-thinkers – not people who stand up and salute the FTB partyline.

  21. 21
    michaeld

    Pablo

    The Stereotype is of a quiet passive woman who doesn’t want to argue or cause any trouble that kind of thing is man stuff. The problem with Shermer’s quote is that it suggest that this is a innate thing and isn’t affected by the skeptic community in general. The host of the point said she couldn’t find a woman to be on the panel and later that she tried a whole 2 women. Where as at least 3 men were contacted cause 3 men were on the panel. It also completely misses the kind of abuse and harassment that gets sent at women for speaking out that can cause them to be quiet. Shermer has had several posts now to clarify any of this but he hasn’t.

  22. 22
    Tessa

    Tessa, Ophelia attempted to misrepresent Shermer, claiming his “guy thing” didn’t just relate to the numbers of men/women in atheism, but some kind of statement about the intellectual calibre of women. It wasn’t.

    His statement wasn’t about numbers. The initial question was about numbers. Shermer answered that question by saying he felt the numbers were 50/50. Then he posed a new question. One about speaking out and being intellectually active. And that was answered with “it’s a guy thing.” You don’t answer a “why” question with a numbers answer. And also, saying that speaking out and being intellectually active is a guy thing is also saying it’s not a girl thing. And I don’t see how saying women are too meek is any better than too stupid

    And also, misinterpreting isn’t the same as taking out of context.

    Also, what stereotype are you talking about? That more men tend to be atheist than women on average? That’s a fact, and not a stereotype. That more men volunteer put themselves forward to speak at these events? Is that fact or stereotype?

    That women are too meek, or just don’t want to speak out at events. Or that speaking out and being active should be left to the guys because it’s their thing. That kind of stuff.

    And it’s not just about volunteering, it’s also about being asked. People don’t just walk up onto these stages and start talking (I’m assuming). If you have a large homogenized group taking up the podium time, that creates a barrier for those who are outside that group. By seeking out more women to speak, it will look less like a boy’s club and even more will speak up.

    Denial of these facts is simply a lack of critical thinking and a case of allowing ones personal politics cloud your judgment. By all means, tackle the issues that stops women from taking more active roles, but don’t try and twist Shermer’s accurate observation when the facts back him up.

    Shermer’s statement wasn’t an observation of the facts, it was his answer to why they are like that. The other speaker on the show actually gave a real answer that wasn’t just “a guy thing”

  23. 23
    PabloPablo

    The Stereotype is of a quiet passive woman who doesn’t want to argue or cause any trouble that kind of thing is man stuff.

    There is no evidence Shemer had this stereotype in mind. Shermer knows the facts – fewer women identify as atheists or skeptics, and fewer women put themselves forward for leadership positions, speaking roles, etc. This is reflected in many other movements and societies, such as games clubs, comic conventions, etc. Denial of this fact is a lack of skepticism and intellectual dishonesty.

    Now, here comes the crutch of the matter: why do fewer women involve themselves in these movements? Is it abuse and harassment? I don’t think so. There is no reason why the number of women filling in the atheist census should not be closer to 50/50, and you can’t blame abuse and harassment in this circumstance.

    That leaves us with another possibility – one that you people at FTB seem loathe to admit, much to the detriment of your skeptical credentials. You don’t want to admit there are gender differences – that it might be possible more men (in general terms) have a greater desire to take up leadership roles than women (in general terms). I’m not saying this is true because I am a skeptic and would like to see research on the matter. I will be open-minded, but you will be close-minded because you have your conclusion – men’s and women’s brains are the same, have the same desires, interests, etc. so any inequality in numbers must be down to some horrible conspiracy to prevent women from taking an interest in the first place!

    I do note however, the anguish you show overt the lack of women showing an interest in the forefront of the atheist/skeptic movement (that is not to say there are no women, because we know of many women currently involved, and you could include Ophelia, here), is not reflected in the lack of women who show an interest in watching sport, for example. The inequality is even bigger here, but facing up to this fact would mean you would have to admit differences in brains.

    For a bunch of skeptics, some of you are really fearful of science, evidence, and the reality of life.

  24. 24
    Jafafa Hots

    Hmmm.
    PabloPablo’s arguments seem to be almost identical (and identically false) to those of Steersman over on Ed’s blog.

    Not saying they’re the same person. Maybe it’s just a hivemind thing? Can we say that about them, or is it only us who aren’t fully independent thinking beings?

  25. 25
    michaeld

    @Pablopablo

    Yeah it’s not like we’ve seen a number of prominent women atheists walk away after the treatment they received (Jen, lacie green right off the top of my head). Or that people don’t want to become more active cause they see the abuse women take (several commenters have mentioned this as why they don’t start blogs).

    The atheist census also has the problem someone has to hear about it either from a local group or an internet site. Either of which can drive women away if they don’t want to deal with sexist arguments in the comment section, people in the groups or sexist bloggers making awful arguments then doubling down when called on it.

  26. 26
    PabloPablo

    Then he posed a new question. One about speaking out and being intellectually active. And that was answered with “it’s a guy thing.”

    Well, again, I think you misinterprete Shermer here. He is being factually correct in so much that it is men who generally gravitate towards these roles. If anything, it was a clumsy phrase, but it was not sexist. To be “intellectually active” you have to be in these roles. The women who are in these roles are as just as intellectually active as anybody else, and I’m sure Shermer would agree. Again, this boils down to the reason why a) fewer women identify as atheist or skeptic in the first place, and b) why fewer women put themselves forward. Some of you have a pretty clear view – it is because of harassment or barriers, but I think the reasons are more nuanced.

    And it’s not just about volunteering, it’s also about being asked. People don’t just walk up onto these stages and start talking (I’m assuming). If you have a large homogenized group taking up the podium time, that creates a barrier for those who are outside that group. By seeking out more women to speak, it will look less like a boy’s club and even more will speak up.

    The fact is fewer women identify as atheist or skeptic, so the numbers are already against women in terms of podium talks, etc. The Atheist Census currently has it around 65% as male, and yet, with NO barriers, far fewer women are signing up. Can you give us a credible reason why that gap should exist? You can’t use the excuse of barriers and not being asked, etc. Further, you still don’t want to admit any notion that men’s and women’s brains could be different, and that men (in general terms) could have a greater inclination to get involved at the forefront of these movements*. Obviously, men and women who are interested in these leadership positions and speaking engagements should have an equal chance, but that does not mean there is not a bigger pool of men in the first place.

    *BTW, not having an interest in taking in a front seat IS NOT a negative attribute. I’ve witnessed a lot of shy and reserved people get a lot of flak because they are quite happy to follow, rather than lead. There seems to be a presumption here at FTB that a lack of interest in becoming a leader is somehow a negative attribute. Further, although you are right in that it is wrong to dismiss women as a group of meek individuals, being meek is not itself negative.

  27. 27
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    I will be open-minded, but you will be close-minded because you have your conclusion – men’s and women’s brains are the same, have the same desires, interests, etc. so any inequality in numbers must be down to some horrible conspiracy to prevent women from taking an interest in the first place!

    Except it’s not a (fictitious) horrible conspiracy, it’s a real and demonstrable one – backed up by the disproportionate amount of negativity directed towards women in the atheist community who have done nothing more than ask that the issue be addressed.

    Not one of those ‘bullied’ by any of the FTB/Skepchick bloggers has had even a fraction of the abuse, no matter how much you say the word ‘doxxing’ – fake Twitter accounts, photoshopped images and videos; obsessive stalking on Twitter; sheer volume of posts on places like the Slymepit dedicated solely to discussing their physical appearance and personal life; speculating that someone like Greta Christina, who’s spent years working to benefit the skeptic movement, lied about having cancer in order to make money.

    If I’m wrong, show me the equivalent. Show me the fake accounts and the videos and the photoshopping. Show me the screenshots of the harassment on Twitter. Show me quotes where anyone from FTB/Skepchick has accused any of their opponents of faking illness to make money. Show me the death threats and the rape threats.

  28. 28
    PabloPablo

    Jafafa, I have read Steersman’s comments, and I agree with most of what he says. He makes good points, argues them well, and backs them evidence.

    I know you don’t like that, but still. Me and Steersman just happen oppose FTB dogma, and therefore, we must both be viewed with utmost suspicion. Right? An accusation of trolling/sockpuppetry is usually one of the first charges on the rap sheet.

  29. 29
    michaeld

    There’s also you know studies that support cultural explanations over biological ones. in this case that women being more religious then men may be more of a thing in christianity then in other religions.

    http://pure.rhul.ac.uk/portal/files/4124634/Are_women_more_religious_than_men.pdf

    As well as a number of cultural reasons why women are more religious

    Mothers have tended to spend more time raising children, which often means overseeing their involvement in church activities.
    Though two-income households are more common today, in the past women often had more flexible daily schedules, permitting more church involvement during the week.
    Women tend to be more open about sharing personal problems and are more relational than men. Other Gallup research shows a higher proportion of women than men say they have a “best friend” in their congregation, he wrote.

    Taken from the reasons Gallop gives http://www.livescience.com/7689-women-religious-men.html

    I’m also curious how you’d respond to the question Ophelia originally asked. If it had
    “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 whites thing.”

    Would you say this isn’t racist? The data shows more whites in american then blacks say are non religious. Would you also suggest that there might be a biological explanation or at this point is a cultural explanation more likely the cause?

  30. 30
    kevinkirkpatrick

    PabloPablo:

    There is no evidence Shermer had this stereotype in mind. Shermer knows the facts – fewer women identify as atheists or skeptics, and fewer women put themselves forward for leadership positions, speaking roles, etc. This is reflected in many other movements and societies, such as games clubs, comic conventions, etc. Denial of this fact is a lack of skepticism and intellectual dishonesty.

    It’s simple. The statement, “being intellectually active is more of a guy thing”, absolutely implies that men are naturally more inclined than women to be intellectually active. There’s no way to take that as anything but an implication that, in some respects, men are intellectually superior. It doesn’t matter if it’s what Shermer had in mind, or if it’s what Shermer meant to imply; or even if it’s what Shermer believes. All that matters is that he made a statement that unambiguously reinforced the sexist stereotype that women just don’t stack up to men when it comes to intellectual activity. It boggles my mind how anyone can see the words that Shermer used and not absolutely bristle at this underlying implication – IMO, you’d have to be as intellectually inactive as a doorknob to miss it. (Did you notice how “intellectually inactive” kinda came across as an insult there? Just want to make sure that didn’t slip past you). As a father, I sure as hell was pissed off to hear anyone, much less a public figure in the atheist movement, imply that my daughter (having a vagina and all) is just not going to be as capable in life as her penis-having peers when it comes to being intellectual activity.

  31. 31
    Tessa

    Well, again, I think you misinterprete Shermer here. He is being factually correct in so much that it is men who generally gravitate towards these roles. If anything, it was a clumsy phrase, but it was not sexist. To be “intellectually active” you have to be in these roles. The women who are in these roles are as just as intellectually active as anybody else, and I’m sure Shermer would agree. Again, this boils down to the reason why a) fewer women identify as atheist or skeptic in the first place, and b) why fewer women put themselves forward. Some of you have a pretty clear view – it is because of harassment or barriers, but I think the reasons are more nuanced.

    There is more nuance to the harassment and barriers as well. Also, do you honestly not think that a statement like “it’s a guy thing” would be discouraging to women who saw that show?

    The fact is fewer women identify as atheist or skeptic, so the numbers are already against women in terms of podium talks, etc. The Atheist Census currently has it around 65% as male, and yet, with NO barriers, far fewer women are signing up. Can you give us a credible reason why that gap should exist? You can’t use the excuse of barriers and not being asked, etc. Further, you still don’t want to admit any notion that men’s and women’s brains could be different, and that men (in general terms) could have a greater inclination to get involved at the forefront of these movements*. Obviously, men and women who are interested in these leadership positions and speaking engagements should have an equal chance, but that does not mean there is not a bigger pool of men in the first place.

    As I said before, “barriers” is a generality that has lots of nuance. For example, have you heard of the reasons some people who don’t believe in any god give for still not wanting to be identified as an atheist? Many of them aren’t even based on gender. The word itself has a history and can in itself be a barrier (I do not like this fact and wish it wasn’t the case, but there you go). That’s just the word atheist. Even in an online census, one might not want to align themselves with people they don’t want to be associated with. Add to that the fact it does have a history of being a boys club, then yes, I can definitely see women not wanting to add themselves to a census of a group they might not feel welcome in (I haven’t put myself in the census).

    As for the different brains for men and women, I don’t think anybody here would say it is impossible that there are differences. The problem is that there is so much societal enforced gender stereotyping that it’s pretty darn impossible to truly know where one ends and the other begins. And deciding on the differences itself becomes a discouragement for those who don’t fit those assigned differences.

  32. 32
  33. 33
    kevinkirkpatrick

    I hate when I make ironic typos. Final two words should be “intellectually active”, of course.

  34. 34
    PabloPablo

    Michaeld, your analogy is flawed.

    There is no biological difference between the races. However there are obvious biological differences between the sexes. Futher, is there a gap between the number of black men in leadership roles than black woman?

    I would entirely agree that the inequality that sees far fewer black people advance is down to cultural factors.

    As for the numbers about religion, the issue is not why more women identify as religious, but the fact that they currently do. Shermer’s quote references the “is” situation rather than the “ought” situation. Fewer women identify as atheist, so to begin with there are fewer women for atheism to pick from the pool. I think as the Church loses its influence, the gap will narrow very quickly.

  35. 35
    PabloPablo

    There is more nuance to the harassment and barriers as well. Also, do you honestly not think that a statement like “it’s a guy thing” would be discouraging to women who saw that show?

    No. I think women are stronger than you give them credit for. I also think the women who saw that recognised that comment in the right context.

    Add to that the fact it does have a history of being a boys club, then yes, I can definitely see women not wanting to add themselves to a census of a group they might not feel welcome in (I haven’t put myself in the census).

    Isn’t it more of an online form? The Church is traditionally a boys club, male only clergy, etc. and yet more women profess to being subscribers of that club. Contradiction?

  36. 36
    Jafafa Hots

    Jafafa, I have read Steersman’s comments, and I agree with most of what he says. He makes good points, argues them well, and backs them evidence. I know you don’t like that, but still.

    Actually I would LOVE that, were it ever to actually happen.

  37. 37
    PabloPablo

    Except it’s not a (fictitious) horrible conspiracy, it’s a real and demonstrable one – backed up by the disproportionate amount of negativity directed towards women in the atheist community who have done nothing more than ask that the issue be addressed.

    Don’t conflate legitimate criticism with stuff from trolls. I disagree that “negativity” is necessarily abuse, after all, Shermer, Dawkins and Harris get plenty of negative stuff thrown their way.

    Not one of those ‘bullied’ by any of the FTB/Skepchick bloggers has had even a fraction of the abuse

    I think bluharmony would disagree.

    no matter how much you say the word ‘doxxing’ – fake Twitter accounts</blockquote

    Like HomerVacula?

  38. 38
    Tessa

    Isn’t it more of an online form? The Church is traditionally a boys club, male only clergy, etc. and yet more women profess to being subscribers of that club. Contradiction?

    1) Why would you even fill out a webform for a group you don’t want to be associated with. Do you really think people who don’t believe in gods but see atheists as elitist jerky know-it-alls are going to grace us with their entry?

    2) I’m sorry. I banged my head on my desk repeatedly just now so give me a moment for the stars to stop spinning….. OK, I’m ready now. The clergy is typically a boys club. the religion itself gets kids at a young age and has historically kept girls meek little baby makers who are to blame for all sin of humanity so better not make any waves or the men will get biblical on their asses.

  39. 39
    Jafafa Hots

    I think bluharmony would disagree.

    Do you have even the slightest idea what kind of garbage bluharmony has slung at other people?

  40. 40
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    PabloPablo, to imply that either bluharmony or HomerVacula combined have received even close to the amount of abuse and harassment that Rebecca Watson alone has, or for as prolonged a period, is laughable. Then when you add Surly Amy, Jen McCreight, Greta Christina, Ophelia, Stephanie Zvan, Surly Amy, Natalie Reed – the list goes on and on and on and on and on – the obvious dishonesty of such a claim is obvious.

    You’re like a soldier who shoots at kids, justifying it because one looked at you the wrong way and claiming ‘they started it!”

  41. 41
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    Sorry, said Surly Amy twice. I’m sure it’s at least in part because she’s got as much awesome as two regular people, if not more…

  42. 42
    Tessa

    As for the numbers about religion, the issue is not why more women identify as religious, but the fact that they currently do. Shermer’s quote references the “is” situation rather than the “ought” situation. Fewer women identify as atheist, so to begin with there are fewer women for atheism to pick from the pool. I think as the Church loses its influence, the gap will narrow very quickly.

    OK. This is interesting. You and Shermer are working at 2 difference premises.
    In yours: There are fewer women for atheism to pick from a pool.
    In Shermer’s: It’s a 50/50 split.

    So already that’s incompatible. Remember his statement was on the basis of an even number, but more men speak out and are intellectually active because it’s a guy thing to do so.

  43. 43
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    This bullshit hyperskeptical approach is so transparent. It’s a case of ‘Well, we’ve got this problem’ and the response being ‘Well, okay; if you can show 100% that there’s a problem, what’s caused the problem and how we can fix the problem then maybe well think about discussing it. But until then, sit down and shut up while we enjoy the status quo and don’t have to change anything. High-five me, bro!”

    That’s not skepticism, that’s obstructionism masquerading as skepticism.

    We know there’s a problem; the numbers say so (Shermer’s belief in 50/50 notwithstanding) – and we also have a lot of women saying why they don’t attend. So, that’s something we could work with, maybe try doing a few things differently to see what happens.

    But these assholes don’t want that – they don’t even want to entertain the notion. And that’s the giveaway, because a true skeptic is inquisitive, and would spend at least some time applying their skepticism to what harm might actually come from trying out alternative methods and practices.

    And I’ve not seen any of these people do that, entirely because they know what it would reveal: that they need to change their ways of thinking and acting if they truly want the movement to grow and become more diverse. That they might occasionally have to listen to (heaven forbid!) people talk about topics that aren’t aimed solely at the concerns they have. To express empathy for others. To admit privilege and be okay with it.

    To them ‘skepticism’ is nothing more than a tool to dismiss something they don’t like. They’re liars and cowards and false skeptics, and we need to keep pointing that out.

  44. 44
    dirigible, despite the admins

    “Don’t conflate legitimate criticism with stuff from trolls.”

    Or call it a “witch hunt”.

    “I disagree that “negativity” is necessarily abuse, after all, Shermer, Dawkins and Harris get plenty of negative stuff thrown their way.”

    They also get mild rebuke over individual comments.

    Which they are free to respond to in as professional a way as they wish to.

    I’m really not seeing what has got you so turgid.

  45. 45
    Tim Harris

    Perhaps because I am not American (since being seen as a member of this or that seems to me to be far more important to Americans than it is to people of other nationalities, though I am happy to be corrected on this) or because I am by nature misanthropic, I am not much of a ‘joiner’ and dislike being, or being seen as, a member of some ‘community’ or other, but what strikes me about Michael Schermer and his defenders is what remarkably silly people they are, consumed with amour-propre and a desire to shine publicly by being in ‘leadership’ roles in whatever ‘community’ they inflict themselves upon, whether it be a church or an amateur theatrical group , and representative of precisely the kind of people who make me even less eager to join the sort of community that ‘has such people in’t', however brave and new it might be.

  46. 46
    thetalkingstove

    HomerVacula is/was (not sure if its still active) a parody. Nobody was going to think it was the real Vacula.

    The fake Ophelia was impersonation, not parody. No one is saying there can’t be mockery, but blatant impersonation is not cool.

    Again, this boils down to the reason why a) fewer women identify as atheist or skeptic in the first place, and b) why fewer women put themselves forward. Some of you have a pretty clear view – it is because of harassment or barriers, but I think the reasons are more nuanced.

    I’d love to hear these nuanced reasons. By any chance are they along the lines of “men are just naturally more logical and skeptical than women”?

  47. 47
    michaeld

    @Pablo

    Dare I point out there actually are some genetic differences in people from different locations? For example Sickle cell disease is more common in people from sub saharan africa. I don’t think this has any bearing on intelligence ( or that race is a useful concept) but that is a nice little factoid to base a stupid argument around how active they are in a community. Might be something in their brain culture can’t explain it we need more studies… and so on.

    I see plenty of evidence to suggest a social cause for this that can be improved by policy changes. We can try these changes and see how it affects things. You’ve suggested a possible biological link I see no reason. I’ve yet to see evidence that there is a biological reason beyond men and women are different in other ways so this might be true. Nor do I see how accepting a biological reason suggests any ways to improve the situation.

  48. 48
    tomh

    PabloPablo wrote:
    I have read Steersman’s comments, and I agree with most of what he says. He makes good points, argues them well, and backs them evidence.

    That’s enough to discredit anything you have to say right there.. Steersman thinks OB was “criminally negligent” and is lucky that Shermer didn’t sue her for “defamation.” His point was inane, his arguments puerile, and his evidence nonexistent.

  49. 49
    Jacob Schmidt

    @PabloPablo

    There is no biological difference between the races. However there are obvious biological differences between the sexes. Futher, is there a gap between the number of black men in leadership roles than black woman?

    Except that biological differences between white people and black people was used as a justification for the oppression of blacks.

    In any case, how the fuck do you differentiate between different races without noting the biological differences? They’re irrelevant but they’re still obvious.

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