More There’s No Time to Explain!

Logo for the show, it's Brian Parra's bearded silhouette in black and white with a skull for a face, the words circling around it There's No Time to Explain, and the words below With Brian Parra. My brother-in-law Brian Parra has come out with several more episodes of his new podcast There’s No Time to Explain, and they are all awesome. He is getting some great guests and ranging over some really diverse topics. So I just had to talk about it!

I was his first interviewee, in episode 1, which I wrote about recently. We ranged over many cool topics. A lot of it is the kind of stuff people don’t usually ask me about. And those are always the most fun. You can follow that link to read a summary of what we covered in that episode. But here I’ll brief his next three eps, so you can get a feel for whether you might want to go give them a listen too! [Read more…]

There’s No Time to Explain

Photograph of an American M1 Abrams battle tank rolling down a street.My brother in law, Brian Parra, has launched a groovy new podcast, There’s No Time to Explain. And I was his first interview subject (episode 1). It’s an example of my favorite kind of podcast, where we both chat about all kinds of things that mostly aren’t the usual things I’m talking about over and over.

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What Dawkins Is Proposing Is the Suppression of Free Speech and the Acceptance of Sexism in Science

Hyperbolic whining when criticized is the male analog to the trope of women crying when criticized. So it’s ironic to see Richard Dawkings “crying” (over and over again) about a male peer being criticized for saying maybe women should be segregated from men in labs because they cry too much when criticized. Sure, Dawkins thinks Sir Tim Hunt saying that was deplorable. But he thinks nothing should come of it. We should just laugh off a Muslim scientist saying it would be better if labs were gender segregated (and not meaning it sarcastically). Because of sexist false generalizations about women, and how “women” can’t handle criticism and relationships.

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Fantastic Study of Gender Differences Finds White Privilege Instead

Graphic from the article discussed showing support for nuclear power by gender as described in the article.This is one of the most excellent must read articles ever sent to me (by a girlfriend who does this sort of thing for a living. You know who you are, Girl. Thank you!) I’m talking about David Roberts, “There’s a Gender Divide on Nuclear Power, but It Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means,” at Vox.

First I’ll tell you why I think it’s awesome. Then I’ll quote some of the best bits for you, if you just want to skip to that…

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Myths of Charity: The Enduring Sham of Arthur Brooks

Photo of an actual Louisiana Disaster Assistance debit card or automated benefit card, produced by the department of social services.Six years ago Arthur Brooks published Who Really Cares (which has gone through several subtitles, from America’s Charity Divide to Who Gives, Who Doesn’t, and Why It Matters to The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism). This book is still triumphantly cited by many conservatives and libertarians as proving various dubious things, but especially two in particular: that atheists are less charitable than religious believers, and that privatizing all social welfare would improve social welfare.

But this book is largely a sham. It cooks the numbers and uses devious logical tricks to make it seem as though its conclusions are true, when in fact they demonstrably are not (or at best are demonstrably undemonstrated). A good skeptic doesn’t just believe what she reads; she checks the facts and the logic to make sure she’s not being snowed. Sadly, libertarians (usually men) who cite this book at me (as happened last year in a private communication) are bad skeptics. Because they don’t treat this book skeptically. At all. It just corroborates their ideology, so obviously it can’t be incorrect about anything, and one shouldn’t even think to check if it is.

This struck me the moment that exchange happened: a notable man claimed to me that data in Who Really Cares proves that “the working poor” give “three times more” to charity than anyone “on public assistance” at the same income level, and therefore public welfare makes people less charitable. Of course, right away I was suspicious, since it seems absurd to think someone who can only survive by receiving charity should be expected to give anything to charity. (Can you imagine badmouthing a disabled homeless person dependent on your soup kitchen and group home for not giving anything to charity…that lousy miser!)

But more importantly to today’s lesson, I was immediately suspicious of the statistic. [Read more…]

Some Good Stuff on Social Justice Responsibility

Thank you, David Wong and Miri Mogilevsky!

A girlfriend tipped me off to David Wong’s really amusing and spot-on 101 on why social justice (particularly regarding structural racism and sexism) is not about white guilt but about fixing what our ancestors broke. Check out 5 Helpful Answers to Society’s Most Uncomfortable Questions to see what I mean (and yes, this is impressively educational and insightful for an article at Cracked!). That’s really elegantly written. Funny. Apt. And a much needed summary of what many of us take for granted but find hard to explain so well. Required reading for anyone who doesn’t already get it (but wants to), and rewarding reading for anyone who already does!

As it happens, just by chance, Miri Mogilevsky also published a really excellent article at DailyDot [Read more…]

Appearing in Boise, Idaho, This Wednesday — For National Day of Reason!

Poster for the Idaho National Day of Reason Event. Says more info at tvcor.org, music and refreshments, Treasure Valley Coalition of Reason, bring donations for Nepal to be taken by the Foundation Beyond Belief. Mentions time and place as in blog post. Says guest speakers include Richard Carrier, author and blogger, Dustin Williams, Atheist Nomads podcaster, and Susan Harrington, atheist civil rights activist, and says there will be more.Where? Idaho state capital steps (in Boise). When? Noon to 1:30pm, Thursday, May 7. Why? To make a public appeal for the separation of church and state, in honor of this year’s National Day of Reason (2015).

Sponsored by the Treasure Valley Coalition of Reason. I’ll be speaking on the subject from the steps. So will Dustin Williams, Atheist Nomads podcaster, and Susan Harrington, noted atheist civil rights activist, and more. There will also be music and refreshments. Come on down and rally for the cause! Help show our numbers!

As the organizers put it:

This is a work/school day that you probably will want to take off. This is one of those days where every single body that shows up will make a difference.

Later in the day there will be a public dinner somewhere (announcements will be made at the event), where you can hang out with me and other speakers and attendees, and buy a signed copy of my latest book.

The Foundation Beyond Belief will also be there taking donations for Nepal disaster relief.

Check out the event Facebook page for details and updates.

Katherine Cross on Tone Policing

Katherine Cross has written an excellent piece on distinguishing legitimate from illegitimate tone policing: Words for Cutting: Why We Need to Stop Abusing The Tone Argument. The article is a valuable read all through. Do not regard my summary here as its replacement. My aim is only to expand on it.

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Cross makes two overarching points. One is that though intention is not magic, it does matter (as she says, it’s still data). And we should acknowledge that. I shall have nothing to say about that; it’s obviously correct (see Dan Fincke). The other is that while it is legitimate to denounce tone policing in many cases (and not only because it’s a fallacy), this should not become a non-circumstantial rule that applies to every instance, as if all tone policing were bad. It’s not.

Within that overarching point she makes the following supporting points:

  • Tone policing someone who is defending the oppressed or victimized is often illegitimate. Because when someone does that, “while they claim to be attacking tone, they are actually attacking the message, and often as not the very identity of the messenger.” This is thoroughly explained at GeekFeminismWiki. In these cases, tone isn’t really the issue. It’s just being used to silence someone or avoid addressing the point they are making. And that’s wrong. If you try to do that, you deserve to get called out on your shit. Own it. Then stop it. And do better in future. (I think this can also be done in ignorance—not just as a deliberate tactic, but out of not appreciating the context that evokes a particular tone, as I noted in the case of JT Eberhard’s attempt to tone-police Bria Crutchfield two years ago.)
  • Anger and other so-called negative emotions are important and have tremendous personal and social utility (without which, see Miranda). Anger is not irrational. Anger is data and motivation. You can be angry for irrational reasons. But not all reasons to be angry are irrational. Nevertheless, as Cross says, “like any emotion or tool, there are right and wrong ways to deploy it.” Thus, calling someone out for (let’s say) calling for sexists to be killed (even in jest) is not an illegitimate tone argument. That is a fully legitimate tone argument. If you are doing that, your tone is fucked. Sort that shit out.
  • Genuinely censurable tone can include threats, ill-wishing, calls for violence, ad hominems, or just plain abuse (see my article The Art of the Insult & The Sin of the Slur for more on that last point).

In short, in Cross’s words:

To put it simply: sometimes someone is being too angry. Sometimes an activist’s rage is doing more harm than good. Sometimes there is no good being done by it whatsoever. Not every emotion we have is a great strike against oppressive forces. Sometimes you are just being too loud, abusing people verbally, triggering them, and so forth. Sometimes you are just being a jerk and your tone is a fairly reliable indicator of this.

Quite. There are some things I think that could be added, though… [Read more…]