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…]

Busy Bee Roundup of Bizarre & Shocking Things

Texas votes Nazi. Sam Harris exposes his sexism. Michael Shermer gets investigated. Richard Dawkins vomits all over the internet. I can’t keep up.

Alas, I have been doing nonstop traveling and events and work-catchup for weeks. I haven’t even been able to get to my comments queue, so I shall soon just be clearing everything to post, probably most without response or very little response, as I have no time. I’m getting caught up on backlogged work in preparation for two events in Canada that I have to travel to later this week. I apologize for the comments delay. I had hoped to find time for it in transit, but alas I couldn’t, and likely won’t (this grueling schedule shall continue for months).

But for those who haven’t been already getting the skinny, all this happened between when I got on an airplane Thursday and landed yesterday… [Read more…]

Help Get Justice for Michael Brown

smalldervishmemeYou can help see justice have its day. You can make a real difference standing up against state corruption and tyranny. You can make a difference toward ending, by exposing and shaming, the wanton and deadly racism so common among the men with guns we ask to police our streets (and it is indeed usually the men). This is how.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave (!), you should know by now the story of Michael Brown, an unarmed college student gunned down by Ferguson police, in circumstances so incredibly suspicious and tinted with racism and shocking abuses of police authority, as to horrify anyone paying attention. This isn’t new (we’ve heard this story sadly too many times: see some examples of this being pointed out here and here and here). But this is becoming the last straw. And now his family wants to fight. And they are incurring expenses pursuing legal recourse (they have already had to pay for their own autopsy, because the city’s has suspicious omissions and appears to be covering up the facts…you know, as for example). And fighting for their fair day in court will only get more expensive here on out, as the corrupt city authorities appear to be circling their wagons and will do everything in their power to stonewall them and mount their expenses in the hope they will give up for lack of money.

Indeed, Anonymous has just exposed the fact that, apparently, the chief of police [now heading the investigation] in Ferguson, or else his son, hangs a confederate flag on his living room wall!! Brown’s family is not likely to get honest justice from the authorities.

The police have even resorted to physically attacking and arresting the press, gassing and assaulting people in their own backyards, and charging into the streets to shoot and beat down peaceful protesters, even camera crews from major news organizations (so much for the first amendment “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”). They are even dragging pregnant women out of their cars and smashing them to the ground for no good reason. The timeline shows some protest rioting and looting has occurred. But the police then use that as an excuse to assault completely peaceful protests, and deny people access to public areas, even their own homes (Ferguson now looks like the streets of any tyrannical nation). The police are literally shooting people with rubber bullets, gassing them, bombing them, and beating them. And using the mini-riots in other locations as an excuse. But think about this. The cops are now the Redcoats. And this is a real tea party. Or, rather, more like the 1766 New York riots over the quartering act…when the people were answering the unjust use of force against them by yet another haughty and unanswerable imperial power. The quartering act riot of 1766 (assault on the state police). The tea party riot of 1773 (destruction of property). The Ferguson riot. What, really, is the difference?

But no matter. This is about starting to put an end to all oppressive and tyrannical abuse of power, by supporting a peaceful family that is being denied justice.

Help the Brown family bring the truth to light and have a fair trial of the facts. They have raised so little so far, barely three grand. For a case like this they will need fifty to a hundred grand. I want to see an outpouring of support. Send what you can to the Michael Brown Memorial Fund. Please do this. If not for Brown and his grieving family, do it to show you believe in opposing corruption, abuse and oppression in your own country. Do it to show you are fed up with police getting away with the murder of black men every month. Do it to show this must stop. And the people are now paying attention.