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...]

Dawkins Takes a Positive Step

“Any person who tries to intimidate members of our community with threats or harassment is in no way my ally and is only weakening the atheist movement by silencing its voices and driving away support.” — Richard Dawkins

This is part of a new statement Dawkins issued this weekend, on his own website and elsewhere, denouncing the horrible way many (usually anti-feminist) atheists have been behaving the last few years. Greta Christina for the full scoop.

This is a remarkably positive sign. Dawkins has up to now been insensitive and out-of-touch on the treatment of women inside the atheism movement (the worst example being now a named trope, Dear Muslima). So my opinion marker is being moved a little back to favorable by this.

For those who aren’t sure what this is all about, see coverage by Alex Gabriel, Greta Christina, Stephanie Zvan, and Ophelia Benson.

[I apologize for not being clearer, but in my original posting of this information I expected people to read Christina's coverage for the full scoop, but some may not have and thus may have missed key facts of the story: this was a joint statement proposed and written by Ophelia Benson in consultation with Richard Dawkins and agreed to and signed by Richard Dawkins.]

Help a Leading Skeptic Fight Her Sexual Harasser

Photo of Karen Stollznow wearing a necklace by Surlyramics.Karen Stollznow has been harassed for years by an ex-boyfriend, who was eventually disciplined by his employer for it (CFI), and she finally wrote about her experience, and apparently to harass her further, he is suing her. It looks like he is counting on the fact that defending herself in court will bankrupt her and has used that to try and intimidate her into issuing a retraction, but she refuses to retract what she says is simply the truth. If you think this is appalling and want to help her, I would very much like you to. I am donating to her defense fund, and am ready to give more if it’s needed. Their target is $30k but legal experts say a case like this could cost $40k, and in any event, all money not used for the case will be donated to Colorado’s Sexual Assault Victim Advocate Center, so no matter what, your donation goes to a good cause. I want to see this fund grow to equal what he is spending. So she can have her day in court, effect discovery (and thus get a hold of documents he and CFI may have been keeping from her, and depose witnesses under oath), and be fairly represented and not unfairly trumped by wealth.

I think it is a fundamental injustice in this country that people have to pay for their own legal representation in courts. This is not only the case in civil trials, but contrary to popular myth, you even have to pay for your own legal defense in a criminal trial–if the government “decides” you can afford it, you have to pay. This is appalling. It thus turns especially civil cases, but even many criminal trials, into a plutocracy where the one with the most money wins (and in criminal cases, that’s the state), rather than the one with justice actually on their side. But alas, this is the system we are stuck in. So please support the justice our government won’t: help someone get a fair trial. And in the process help fight sexual harassment: because if the precedent is set that harassers can intimidate their victims into shutting up by exploiting the injustice of our wealth-based justice system, well, I’ll let you do the math on that…

Read Karen’s explanation and appeal here.

Donate to her legal defense fund here.

And for backstory on the case, read this (and this).

FtBCon2: Free Online Conference Next Weekend!

Remember when we had this amazing free online conference one weekend last year, with dozens of talks, panels, and speakers, that people all over the world could watch live? And ask questions in real time. And watch the recorded events ever after on YouTube. Well, get ready. Because we’re doing it again–in precisely one week.

Our complete calendar for the weekend of January 31 to February 2 (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) will be finalized and go live over this weekend. As will our complete list of speakers and panelists (and its huge! and spans the globe!). For both speakers and schedule, bookmark our page on Lanyrd and check it tomorrow night (as a backstage planner, I can tell you that we’ve scheduled over 30 talks and panels throughout the conference, featuring over 80 speakers and panelists altogether). For everything else, bookmark FtBCon.org and also check that Saturday night.

(We will also have a YouTube collection of everything that you can view if you miss the live events, facilitated by our own Miri Mogilevsky; right now over there you can view all of last year’s talks and panels–you can also read up on last year’s event here and peruse its Lanyrd page here. This year will be organized similarly, and have a similar diversity of topics.)

Last year I attended many of the talks and panels as a viewer and it was awesome. I gave one talk myself, on “What the Military Taught Me about Feminism.” This year I’m doing one talk and one panel, and helping facilitate and introduce a few more (including panels featuring members of the Secular Student Alliance, The Black Freethinkers Network, and the Filipino Freethinkers…who will actually be streaming in live from the Philippines!). [Read more...]

Michael Shermer: Rapist or Sleaze? (Unless Box Checked for Other)

Presumably you’re aware by now that accusations have been made that Michael Shermer did something bad (if not, you can catch up on current events here). There are some things atheists need to consider about this, philosophically and personally.  [Read more...]

Our Mythical Campaign against Sex

It boggles my mind how haters of A+ (which simply means atheism+humanism+skepticism, nothing more…despite lies and disinformation to the contrary) think we are the ones campaigning against sex. Like this guy. Who falsely claims:

(1) “[T]he in-groupers at FtB have been attempting to redefine flirting as sexual harassment and sexual intercourse as rape.” No, we never did any such thing. To the contrary, we have actually been making the point (repeatedly) that “actual acts of sexual predation” must not be confused with “criminalizing very healthy sex-positive human interaction” (the exact opposite of what this guy says). Indeed, I specifically made this point myself in my discussions of sexual harassment policies (see here and here; I have also talked about the difference, and promoted positive and liberated sexuality, here and here).

And:

(2) “The A+ folks have demanded that convention organizers add to their harassment policies, that no speaker be allowed to engage in sexual contact with any convention attendees.” No, “we” did not. To the contrary, several of us opposed any such suggestion. Including me, one of the patron saints of Atheism Plus (according to a popular anti-A+ meme). No, seriously. I wrote at length against what he claims we have been demanding. Only a few people suggested or discussed it long ago, but the rest of us argued them out of it. Us. The advocates of A+.

This from Emery of the Ardent Atheist podcast.

As to the first of these lies: [Read more...]

A Disturbing New York Law (and What CFI Could Do about It)

In my last article about CFI’s disastrous communications in the recent sexual harassment case, I said there was a second thing about this case that disturbed me that I would write about next: something about the legal and corporate culture at CFI. I hinted at this again when I said “I’m told [the harasser] was punished somehow but no one can talk about how” to which I added that “this is a serious problem I will be taking on in my next post about this matter.”

This is that post.

[Read more...]

CFI Still Doesn’t Get It

If you didn’t already know, a scandal has exploded yet again throwing CFI in a bad light (you can catch up on events here and you should definitely read the original piece starting it all here). And once again they are making things worse with a disastrous pattern of communication. Things are still happening behind the scenes, so I am awaiting events to unfold further before I make a decision, but CFI is not handling this well, and this could spell the end of them for me.

Apart from the obvious (the horrible treatment Stollznow has endured and the awful human being Ben Radford is…and I do not have to trust all of Stollnow’s report to reach that conclusion about him, although I have seen no reason to doubt anything she’s said; and that’s well apart from the fact that Radford already has a record of being an unskeptical anti-feminist worthy of eye-rolling), I have two major problems with what is going on so far, one has to do with the legal and corporate culture at CFI (which I will blog about later, either tomorrow or next week), the other has to do with CFI’s public communications in this matter.

It seems evident, regardless of which details are disputed, that Ben Radford engaged in a sustained campaign of sexual harassment against Dr. Karen Stollznow (both employees of CFI for many years). And he received no visible punishment. He continues to be employed at CFI. I’m told he was punished somehow but no one can talk about how (this is a serious problem I will be taking on in my next post about this matter). But frankly, if even a fraction of what Stollznow says is true, any other business would have fired him in a heartbeat, and I am struggling to understand why I should support any nonprofit that would keep him (or why I should subscribe to a magazine he edits). As for Stollznow, seeing her harasser largely unaffected and receiving no significant support from CFI, she essentially just had to leave.

More about all this may come out, more developments may ensue (I am aware of things happening I can’t discuss). But right now, this is how it looks. And that does not make CFI look good. At all.

But making all this far worse (again) was CFI’s public statement on the matter. Which is a disaster. The same thing happened last time, when CFI’s “statement” about the Lindsay affair was exactly the wrong thing to say, the very worst possible public communication on the matter. It failed to acknowledge any wrongdoing or even what the problem was, it passive-aggressively complained about being criticized, and said nothing that showed any understanding of what it was being criticized for, and nothing as to what it was going to do about it. Indeed, the statement as a whole was essentially an exercise in contempt…even if that wasn’t its intention, but intention isn’t magic–and that’s what a communications director is supposed to be for: to ensure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen, that communications with the public don’t look contemptuous or useless or clueless. Yet in that case CFI didn’t even avail itself of its own communications director. Even now I don’t think its board of directors understands how contemptuous, useless, and clueless that statement made them appear.

This new statement is the same kind of travesty. Other organizations have leadership that actually understands how to do this right (examples here, here, here, and here, and still especially relevant, here). CFI is alone in doing it disastrously. That is essentially the definition of relative incompetence.

I thought CFI’s communications director was Paul Fidalgo–who I know wouldn’t be this awful at the job. If he wrote this new one, he should resign and instruct CFI to hire someone who knows what they’re doing. But I doubt he wrote it, because he didn’t write the last one (that was written by CFI’s warring board of directors who couldn’t agree on anything). And if that’s the case, CFI board of directors, you need to stop doing that. Seriously. Stop doing that. You are consistently making things worse and making CFI look incompetent and insensitive. You do not know what you are doing. Use your communications director. That is what you pay him for.

To help you see what I mean, CFI, let’s break down your public statement on the Radford-Stollznow matter (and we know who the parties are, even if your lawyers keep telling you you can’t admit it). [Read more...]

Sexual Objectification: An Atheist Perspective

Picture of Caroline Heldman, Ph.D.A recently excellent TED talk by Caroline Heldman about sexual objectification is a must-view. It will just take you thirteen minutes of your time, and I guarantee every minute is informative–things you should know, if you don’t already (and don’t assume you do). She correctly defines and identifies a real problem, identifies from empirical and scientific findings why it’s bad, and lays out what you can do about it, and everything she suggests is doable without much expense (the only resources required: just your attention and concern, and what it motivates you to say and think and do) except one thing, which is producing better art, advertising and media yourself (which we need not all do: that’s a recommendation for artists, marketers, and media people).

To watch that video, and read yet another disgusting example of how the women in our own movement are being treated, see Rebecca Watson’s post on it (Reminder: I Am an Object). Her post is short but to the point and she gives the evidence of what she’s talking about (in her case, something far worse than what Heldman is talking about, but on the same arc). Why so many men in our movement (and even some women) are not taking this seriously as a problem to speak out against and fight I don’t know. Anyway, the Heldman video is embedded at the end of her post, so if you don’t care about the latest harassment of Rebecca Watson, you can just skip to the end and watch Heldman (or click on her picture here above). Indeed I dare you to.

In the meantime, I have more to say on this subject as an atheist, a humanist, a feminist, and a philosopher… [Read more...]

Why I Am a Feminist

Our fellow blogger Taslima Nasreen has been running a series of posts asking other bloggers their answer to the question “Why I Am a Feminist.” I contributed, and you can now read my post: “Why I Am a Feminist — Richard Carrier.”

Others who have contributed answers before now include Bina Shah (the journalist and novelist), Aron Ra (fellow FtB blogger and renowned vlogger and podcaster), Rita Banerji (author and activist photographer), and Skeptifem (anti-sexwork activist), with more contributions from Marcella and Eva and Physioprof.

But in timely fashion, Cristina Rad just recently posted a superb vlog on the issue of why and in what ways sexism still exists even in the supposedly most enlightened countries and societies, which supplements my point quite well, that it isn’t just extreme sexism that’s a problem, and that reverse sexism makes no difference to this fact (see Gender Roles, Trolls, & Sexual Harassment Policies). Once again proving Rad is probably the greatest vlogger on the internet. Her ability to edit video and compose arguments, articulate points, and make an entertaining and unassailable case is truly a thing of awe. (The most relevant part to the present point begins at minute 5:33.)

Feminism is an extension of humanism, which itself is a natural product of any well-thought-out naturalism. Which is really the only intellectually credible worldview for an atheist. And I made this point a while ago as a guest on Crommunist’s blog, where he ran a similar series “Because I Am an Atheist,” asking other people not why they are an atheist (like PZ’s series Why I Am an Atheist), but how being an atheist has changed the way they think or act or see the world. To check out my reply see Because I Am an Atheist — Richard Carrier. I don’t mention feminism there specifically, but you can see from it how my feminism would follow from the same process, and what atheism has to do with that.

Also related to this is my perspective on philosophy and what it should be and how we should all aim at doing philosophy, and doing it well, which was a subject of an interview with me by Daniel Fincke, which you might also benefit from reading. In it I discuss the role of philosophy in making us better, distinguishing rational philosophy from irrational philosophy, and the basis of sound moral values, all of which leads into feminism (though again I don’t specifically connect those dots there, you can). See The Full Richard Carrier Interview.

Because I think philosophy done well always leads to feminism. So if philosophy hasn’t done that for you, you’re doing it wrong.