Dumbass Quote of the Day »« Romney/Ryan Okay With Abortion for Rape Victims

Could Akin’s Statement Cost Him the Election?

Nate Silver, who predicts electoral results better than anyone else in the country, says that Todd Akin’s appalling comments about rape and abortion could hurt him in his campaign against Sen. Claire McCaskell to cost him the election.

No two controversies are alike, and we’ll have to wait for polling data to see what impact this has on the race. But based on some loose historical precedents, the remarks could be enough to swing the polls to Ms. McCaskill.

In August 2006, Senator George Allen, then the Republican incumbent in Virginia, was videotaped using the term “macaca” at a rally, which was interpreted by some as a racial epithet against a staff member for his Democratic opponent, James Webb.

The polls quickly shifted against Mr. Allen. He had led by an average of 12 points in the three polls conducted just before his comments. But his lead was whittled down to just two points in the three polls conducted just after the remark, and Mr. Allen eventually lost the race by about 10,000 votes.

Last February, in another instance of apparent racial insensitivity, the Republican candidate Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, a former United States representative, released an attack ad against the Democratic incumbent, Debbie Stabenow, that was deemed offensive by Asian-American groups. Mr. Hoekstra’s standing also declined in the polls. He had trailed Ms. Stabenow by an average of eight percentage points in three polls conducted in late 2011, before the ad’s release. But the gap averaged 18 points in two polls taken just after the commercial was released, although it has recovered some since.

These episodes in Virginia and Michigan, which produced a net swing of about 10 percentage points in the polls against the candidate involved in the controversy, appear as though they may represent fairly typical cases.

paper by Nicholas Chad Long of St. Edward’s University examined the performance of Senate candidates running for re-election between 1974 and 2008 who were involved in various types of controversy.

Mr. Long identified 21 cases in which the controversy surrounded a public statement the candidate had made. He found that, on average, these candidates received about 5  percent less of the vote than they otherwise would have on Election Day, controlling for other factors. Since most Senate races are two-way contests, losing five percentage points also implies that the opponent gains five percentage points, meaning that the net swing is equal to 10 points.

If Mr. Akin lost a net of 10 points in the polls to Ms. McCaskill because of the remark, he would be trailing her by five points in surveys rather than leading her by about that margin.

And the effect could be much bigger than that. There’s a real fight on for control of the Senate and it could very well come down to a single seat. It’s entirely plausible that Akin not only cost himself a spot, he may have cost his party control of that chamber for the next two years.

Comments

  1. Alverant says

    Akin shouldn’t worry. Once the GOP realizes the choice is between him and a Democrat, they’ll rally support behind him again and work on supressing the vote of those who tend to vote Democratic.

  2. joachim says

    If Sam Harris’s comments about rape being “natural” did not cost him his leadership role as one of the “Four Horsemen” what does that say about atheism?

  3. Reginald Selkirk says

    Since most Senate races are two-way contests, losing five percentage points also implies that the opponent gains five percentage points, meaning that the net swing is equal to 10 points.

    That doesn’t sound right to me. It could be that 5% of your backers stay home, not that they vote for your opponent.

  4. a miasma of incandescent plasma says

    If Akin’s comment doesn’t cost him the election, what does that say about Missouri?!

    Nothing new really, besides a continual increase of population in the rural areas outside of the saner parts – STL, KC, and Columbia.

  5. Michael Heath says

    joachim writes:

    If Sam Harris’s comments about rape being “natural” did not cost him his leadership role as one of the “Four Horsemen” what does that say about atheism?

    That atheists are able to think coherently and consider assertions within their proper context. That’s opposed to an opponent like you seeking to dishonestly misconstrue the rhetoric of their opponents in hopes of either:
    a) drumming a person out of their tribe whose compelling arguments they’d prefer to avoid or,
    b) demonize the person because they’re not a part of the tribe.

    So which are you?

  6. scienceavenger says

    Haven’t seen Harris’ comment, but rape is “natural”, if by that we mean “occurs in nature”, but then so is murder, theft, and death by flood. These facts have no bearing on whether we should or should not build a world where they are at least reduced, if not eradicated. “Is” “ought”.

    OTOH, the claim that women’s bodies have magic anti-pregnancy-by-rape fluids that alleviate the problem is ignorant beyond belief. Not apples to apples at all.

  7. Reginald Selkirk says

    The conventional wisdom

    At the same time, the brouhaha shifts the national discussion to divisive social issues that could repel swing voters rather than economic issues that could attract them in a climate of high unemployment and stumbling recovery, the GOP officials said.

    It’s a pity more people can’t recognize that right wing economics are just as evidence-based as their understanding of reproductive biology. The Republican majority in the House has prevented stimulus spending for the last ~ 2 years, to the detriment of the economy, and they want to pin the failure on Obama. The Republican plan for economic stimulus is to cut taxes for the rich, which somehow doesn’t seem to have gotten the job done over the last 10 years.

  8. laurentweppe says

    a) drumming a person out of their tribe whose compelling arguments they’d prefer to avoid or,
b) demonize the person because they’re not a part of the tribe.

    But which one?

    The rich upper-class white dudes tribe?
    or
    The far-right sociopathic with a torture and nuke fetish dudes tribe?

  9. Reginald Selkirk says

    From the same article:

    The focus on GOP calls for no-exception abortion bans, (Ralph) Reed said, is “an attempt by the left to raise a bogeyman and by the media to raise ‘gotcha questions’ with candidates who are pro-life.”

    In other words, he hoped they could get the job done without anyone noticing.

  10. says

    Not only will it cost Akin for certain, but this is an instance of one man’s comments resulting in a widespread tarring of an entire party. Sure, people love to generalize about Wingnuts and Libtards whenever a politican publicly steps in dog shit, but the number of jokes and aggrieved condemnations and other electronic flak that has followed Akin’s unbelievably misguided words seems unprecedented, and is certainly ill-timed. All by himself he’s forced various GOPers to unconfortably clarify their positions on abortion, leading necessarily to some obvious backpedaling, a la Ryan. I’d almost accept the idea that he was paid by the DNC to say what he said.

  11. d cwilson says

    I need to unpack Akin’s statement here.

    1) He first said “illegitimate” and now, thanks to some prompting from Huckleberry, says he meant to says “forcible” instead. I still don’t see how that’s any better, but let’s move on to:

    2) Even if there is no shadow of a doubt that a woman was raped, Akin says she still should not be allowed to get an abortion. This is now the official position of the GOP as expressed in their party platform. Akin’s crime here seems to be just that he said it out loud.

    3) This brings us to the most ridiculous part of his statement: That a woman’s body has some kind rape-sperm detection mechanism that can prevent her from becoming pregnant, so #2 shouldn’t even be an issue, according.

    This third part is to me, the most moronic part of his statement and it’s the part he still hasn’t apologized for. So long as he keeps pretending that his only mistake was “poor word choice”, either he’s toast or my last shred of faith in humanity will be gone.

  12. Doug Little says

    I’d almost accept the idea that he was paid by the DNC to say what he said.

    It would seem that way except that the Republicans have been saying stupid shit for years and have never been called on it. Maybe we have finally hit rock bottom and this is finally the turning point where these idiots will be held accountable for what they stand for and say. Or then again maybe not.

  13. says

    If Sam Harris’s comments about rape being “natural” did not cost him his leadership role as one of the “Four Horsemen”

    Actually, it did. Although, Hitchens’ death probably had more to do with people not talking so much about the “horsemen” than Harris’ making a fool of himself. It seems to me that the atheist community has generally re-thought the value of anointed spokespeople.

  14. Yoritomo says

    Reginald Selkirk @5:

    I believe “5 percent less of the vote” means that if they would otherwise have received X% of the votes cast, they now receive (X-5)%. Whether that’s because some of the supporters stay at home or because some vote for the opponent doesn’t really matter – the opponent still gets (105-X)% instead of (100-X)% of the votes cast.

  15. raven says

    If Akin’s comment doesn’t cost him the election, what does that say about Missouri?!

    I wondered about that myself. Don’t they have women in Missouri? Or ones that vote anyway.

    troll:

    If Sam Harris’s comments about rape being “natural” did not cost him his leadership role as one of the “Four Horsemen”

    It has.

    I realize you are an idiot but at least try to keep up.

    Sam Harris has said a lot of things that turned a lot of people off. That isn’t even his dumbest comment.

    I got about halfway through his book and gave up, very rare for someone who will read almost anything. He spent too much time Moslem bashing. None of it was incorrect but that isn’t our big problem. We have our own version, called…fundie xians.

  16. raven says

    Maybe we have finally hit rock bottom and this is finally the turning point where these idiots will be held accountable for what they stand for and say.

    If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

    It’s not even known if there is a bottom that they can sink too. Einstein: Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity. And I’m not sure about the universe.”

    Don’t forget, the people of Missouri have already elected Akin before. He is a representative in the US house.

  17. eric says

    Kevinbeck:

    I’d almost accept the idea that he was paid by the DNC to say what he said.

    In the spirit of offering a conspiracy theory to counter your conspiracy theory…

    Perhaps he was paid by the GOP to say what he did, to see how the public would respond ahead of the GOP meeting in FL. He was a trial balloon, for both the Romney campaign and the GOP party platform currently being drafted.

    And it got them good information: based on the response, Romney’s campaign then knew the correct PR move was to have Ryan adopt a more moderate position, rather than having Romney adopt Ryan’s. And the GOP leadership now knows not to adopt a statement that expressly rejects abortion in the case of rape; they’ll stick with a statement that is silent on it or even expressly say they are okay with it.

    Aside from the complete lack of evidence for my theory :), its main flaw is that Akin is in a pretty tight race for a Senate seat. That’s a very expensive trial balloon. If this was really what was going on (I don’t think it is, but its an amusing idea), the GOP likely would’ve picked someone more expendable to ‘send up.’

  18. baal says

    I sincerely hope Akin loses. The Right, however, has either been conditioned to not care who they are voting for or actually agree with him. Given that and the skewed impact of the current (and new!) voting laws, asshats like Akin keep winning.

    ~~~
    Cyanide is natural. There needs to be some context if a quote snip is to be used as an argument or to insult Sam Harris.

  19. D. C. Sessions says

    This makes sense from a psychological perspective. People’s opinions are sticky, in part due to confirmation bias. Cognitive dissonance has to hit a pretty high level to get past that.

    Unless something comes along to give people an “out:” something that gives them a previously-ignored reason to switch positions. At that point, they can flip without appearing irresolute to themselves. Because Senator Bluesmoke has revealed himself to be a total ass, to name one scenario.

  20. KG says

    Cyanide is natural. There needs to be some context if a quote snip is to be used as an argument or to insult Sam Harris.

    I get the impression joachim is too stupid to realise that. In any case, Harris has spewed more than enough putrid garbage (on torture, nuclear first strikes and racial profiling) and blithering idiocy (on “parapsychology”) to be rejected for any sort of “leadership role”, if he ever had one.

  21. Michael Heath says

    raven writes:

    Sam Harris has said a lot of things that turned a lot of people off. That isn’t even his dumbest comment.

    Sam Harris has certainly made some arguments that has turned some liberals off, but they’re hardly dumb arguments; as evidenced by how he’s either matched- or out-argued every one who cares to legitimately and directly engage him (I follow all his debates). Which I observe even on those positions where I disagree with him (torture) or ride the fence due to lack of compelling arguments like those opposed to racial profiling.

    In fact nearly all criticisms I encounter of Sam Harris [cowardly?] declare victory prior to even attempting to cogently refute his position.

    Perhaps the most valuable asset Mr. Harris brings to the atheist movement is his communication and argumentation skills. I question the character of those who look to ostracize him merely because he takes some politically incorrect positions where no one has been able to clearly defeat his argument to the point we can conclude Harris’ position is no longer an arguable one. Authentic integrity is demonstrated by seeking out positions which counter our own and legitimately testing the quality of our position relative to a dissenting view.

  22. redpanda says

    What I’ve seen from Sam Harris (and I’m open to correction here as I haven’t been following him closely since The Moral Landscape), is that he is asking very difficult questions and making what seems like an honest attempt to deal with them using the best rational arguments he can find. I’m fence-sitting most of them at the moment because I’m not familiar with the data and I don’t trust that my personal experience is sufficient to make accurate claims about issues and groups that don’t directly affect me;

    But I don’t understand why so many people vilify and slander him out of hand without directly addressing his arguments, simply (it seems to me) for arriving at what they consider amoral conclusions. That’s thought police: “I don’t care how you arrived at that conclusion, it’s fucked up and you’re a bad person for even thinking in that direction.” I feel like we should be applauding his commitment to open inquiry on taboo topics, even if we aren’t convinced by his arguments or feel that some conclusions (torture, pre-emptive nukes, etc.) are unjustified as a matter of principle regardless of how he arrived there.

    I’m no philosopher, but his arguments seem quite utilitarian to me. Does it not make more sense to address the philosophical foundations of his approach if you disagree with it rather than demonize him as stupid, racist, bigoted, etc. for coming to conclusions that you strongly disagree with?

    Am I thinking poorly here? If anyone thinks I’m approaching this the wrong way I’d love for you to help me see things your way, because at this point I simply don’t understand all the bile thrown around every time Harris’ name pops up.

  23. harold says

    If Sam Harris’s comments about rape being “natural” did not cost him his leadership role as one of the “Four Horsemen” what does that say about atheism?

    1) Typical amoral, infantile use of the “it’s okay because someone else did it too” defense. From the paleolithic to about 1980, humans used to outgrow this technique around the age of five. However, American right wingers never outgrow it.

    2) False accusation; I’m not interested in the “atheist movement” (or in religion), but plenty of people who are don’t like Sam Harris.

    3) Flawed logic – Sam Harris was never elected to anything, and rape IS “natural”, in the sense that all repulsive human behaviors are ultimately natural. On the other hand, the claim that women can’t be impregnated by rape is an insane lie.

    It seems to me that the atheist community has generally re-thought the value of anointed spokespeople.

    If that’s true, it would be an incredible improvement (from my subjective and biased perspective).

    I remain to be convinced.

  24. raven says

    But I don’t understand why so many people vilify and slander him out of hand without directly addressing his arguments, simply (it seems to me) for arriving at what they consider amoral conclusions.

    Oh Cthulhu, there is so much wrong is such a short post.

    1. “vilify and slander him out of hand”

    Who did that? This is cuckoo, to be polite. People have given many solid reasons for why Harris is an idiot. Even I did above in my criticism of his book.

    2. “without directly addressing his arguments,” They’ve been addressed at length. Just because you haven’t even looked, much less found them doesn’t mean they exist. Really, did you know when the sun sets, it just doesn’t disappear? It’s still there even though you can’t see it.

    3. There is a compelling reason why we don’t spend huge amounts of time on Sam Harris or random internet trolls. We have other and better things to do and finite lifespans.

    Sam Harris started out high on my list of people to pay attention to. And managed to work himself down below what to cook for dinner.

    Much like a poster on this thread, can you guess which one?

  25. raven says

    It seems to me that the atheist community has generally re-thought the value of anointed spokespeople.

    If that’s true, it would be an incredible improvement (from my subjective and biased perspective).

    Leadership of the Nones is self initiated. Following the leaders is also self initiated.

    This is a true bottom up mass movement.

    There are getting to be more and more people considered leaders one way or another. And a move towards more diversity than middle aged and older white guys. A long way to go but social change is just slow.

  26. Freeman says

    Raven,

    Yes, there are female voters here in Missouri. There are also A LOT of churches, well-attended by a huge number of those female voters, many of whom are so brainwashed even they believe the kind of things Akin was saying.

    Middle-aged to Senior women here are among the fiercest anti-abortion, pro-torture, pro-war authoritarian types. You ought to see some of the vile, insane, and/or just flat-out wrong crap my own mother emails me. It’s sad, and a little scary, frankly.

  27. redpanda says

    Thanks, raven. I thought I had stated fairly clearly that I was speaking only from personal experience there along with acknowledging how limited it is, but thanks for taking the time to make sure I understand the concept that knowledge might exist which I haven’t yet encountered.

    Most of my experience regarding Harris’s arguments has consisted of skimming his blog and the comment threads here, so perhaps I should have been more careful in my phrasing of statements like “…out of hand” and “without addressing his arguments.” Perhaps next time you could direct an uninformed inquiry like mine to some specific examples of what I’m missing rather than infantalizing me.

    The only specific criticism I see coming from you concerning Harris in this thread was the reference to too much of his book being about Muslims, and therefore largely irrelevant to you as (I assume) a United States citizen. That doesn’t explain why Harris is an idiot, it simply explains why his book was mostly irrelevant to your interests.

  28. escuerd says

    If Sam Harris’s comments about rape being “natural” did not cost him his leadership role as one of the “Four Horsemen” what does that say about atheism?

    Your argument is bad, and you should feel bad.

    Naturalness has no implications for morality, and while I’ve never read Harris’s works, I’d be surprised if he were stupid or ignorant enough not to understand this. Do you have evidence that he doesn’t, or are you just quote-mining and trolling?

  29. says

    Sam Harris is a complete moron about racial profiling (And thus has no credibility as a leader of anything, let alone atheism), but the “rape is natural” comment is taken absurdly out of context. So drastically out of context, in fact, that it might as well be an Andrea Dworkin quote in MRA propaganda.

    Here’s the full context:

    “As a biological phenomenon, religion is the product of cognitive processes that have deep roots in our evolutionary past. Some researchers have speculated that religion itself may have played an important role in getting large groups of prehistoric humans to socially cohere. If this is true, we can say that religion has served an important purpose. This does not suggest, however, that it serves an important purpose now. There is, after all, nothing more natural than rape. But no one would argue that rape is good, or compatible with a civil society, because it may have had evolutionary advantages for our ancestors. That religion may have served some necessary func­tion for us in the past does not preclude the possibility that it is now the greatest impedi­ment to our building a global civilization.”

    -Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation

    The comparison itself is a tad awkward (but I think the concept behind it is dead on), but it’s not quite the rape apologia that joachim seems to think it is.

  30. Michael Heath says

    redpanda writes:

    I’m no philosopher, but his arguments seem quite utilitarian to me.

    I’m not a philosopher either, where I took at least two perhaps three philosophy courses in college; so I probably know only enough to be dangerous. However when I was reading Moral Landscape I brought up some of Harris’ arguments as counters to religious right policy prescriptives in a couple of venues. I was immediately confronted with two things:
    1) That his argument in Moral Landscape is a classic utilitarian approach according to people who commented who appeared to be more informed on philosophy in general than me. So your conclusion is consistent with what was described to me several times.
    2) These same people predominately rejected his argument out-of-hand, with no coherent or compelling reason. Mostly in a venue other than Ed’s, where the other venue is populated with more academics than we find here.

    My humbly held reaction to the second observation was that these people were typical moral relativists, humble since I’m not well-informed on the competing moral frameworks argued amongst philosophers and my view was probably stereotypical to perhaps a fault. That perhaps there were cogent reasons to dismiss utilitarian objective morality out of hand, where these people were simply unqualified or unmotivated to defend their ad hominems.

    What I’ve found since then is there are far more objective moralists within philosophy departments than I presumed, this objective and utilitarian approach is not dismissed out of hand. In fact I saw one survey, though I’m not sure how valid it is, that more than 50% of academic atheist philosophers support an objective moral framework. That the assumption academic philosophers at liberal universities are predominately moral relativists is simply not true and to a degree – a mere strawman by anti-intellectual conservatives and ivory-tower liberals (which unfortunately still exist though appear to have been dying out since the 1980s).

    I searched out book reviews by supposed experts who dissent from the arguments in Moral Landscape; both while I read the book and immediately after – partly to provide some dissenting perspective prior to writing my review of this book in Amazon. All of these dissenting reviews shared one attribute, they were piss-poor arguments. Not in terms of being uncompelling in their conclusions, but instead a poorly constructed argument. Ill-framed, untrue premises – especially misrepresentations of what Harris’ argued and surprisingly, some remedial logical fallacies – from experts mind you. Mr. Harris is very good at getting his opponents to punch themselves in the face; he brings that out them. I think because they don’t have the game to take him on head-first yet won’t adapt either – a trait I used to relate only to conservatives though I’m increasingly seeing it in this venue since Ed’s move from scienceblogs.com.

  31. Michael Heath says

    shockna writes:

    Sam Harris is a complete moron about racial profiling

    Than please quote his exact argument and rebut it. I recently saw Mr. Harris go toe-to-toe with a security expert was not able to overcome Harris’ arguments, though Harris wasn’t able to overcome that experts’ arguments either (in terms of both being able to hold arguable positions post-debate). Otherwise you join the growing collection of those who dismiss his arguments or him while demonstrating no compelling reason for us to dismiss him.

    Now to pile on to schockna’s other point. Some research on the attributes of the human penis subsequent to Harris’ referenced publication reveal an evolutionary advantage to rape women in spite of their being partnered to another male or even having copulated with other males recently. That’s because the underside of the tip of the human penis has a 90+% effective rate at scooping semen which was recently inseminated to the point her last partner has a distinct advantage at impregnating that female.

  32. says

    Some research on the attributes of the human penis subsequent to Harris’ referenced publication reveal an evolutionary advantage to rape women in spite of their being partnered to another male or even having copulated with other males recently. That’s because the underside of the tip of the human penis has a 90+% effective rate at scooping semen which was recently inseminated to the point her last partner has a distinct advantage at impregnating that female.

    Ummm, an evolutionary advantage that makes it easier to remove the sperm of other males and replace it with your own doesn’t necessarily have anything to say about whether the sperm was originally placed there consensually or not.

    Loads of non-human animals without penile ridges rape each other. I see no reason to view the design of the male penis as in any way particularly adapted for rape.

  33. Michael Heath says

    Gretchen writes:

    Loads of non-human animals without penile ridges rape each other. I see no reason to view the design of the male penis as in any way particularly adapted for rape.

    Obviously there are other human attributes which make it disadvantageous from an evolutionary perspective to rape females. I was in no way promoting rape, merely providing additional context to Harris’ point that scientists have discovered rape being a natural aspect of primitive procreation behavior, where such discoveries continue even after he reported such.

  34. Ichthyic says

    this is just an example of a long history of gaffes. while true it SOMETIMES has made a difference when there is a truly noteworthy gaffe, usually it does not.

    in summary:

    H1: Stupid people inevitably will shoot themselves in the foot.

    there is a long, LONG history of this.

    H2: Stupid people who also possess authoritarian personalities really could care less if someone they like shoots themselves in the foot.

    H3: Stupid people who also possess authoritarian personalities will be unaffected in their voting preferences for other stupid people.

    H4: This is why I left.

  35. Ichthyic says

    Ummm, an evolutionary advantage that makes it easier to remove the sperm of other males and replace it with your own doesn’t necessarily have anything to say about whether the sperm was originally placed there consensually or not.

    yes, the contention did seem a bit nonsequitor.

  36. Ichthyic says

    I was in no way promoting rape, merely providing additional context to Harris’ point that scientists have discovered rape being a natural aspect of primitive procreation behavior, where such discoveries continue even after he reported such.

    but the points you mention related to penis anatomy have nothing to do with forced copulation.

  37. Ichthyic says

    Sam Harris has certainly made some arguments that has turned some liberals off, but they’re hardly dumb arguments

    you know what you’re saying there, implicitly?

    that you think conservatives have no objections to Harris.

    that’s laughable.

    I see you still trying hard to overcome your conservative bias though.

    keep at it.

  38. Michael Heath says

    Ichthyic,

    I’ve decided to no longer expend my time responding to your comment posts, or reading them either. I’m also highly confident whatever you write in response to mine will in no way detract from my arguments, which further motivates me to not read or respond to your comment posts. So have at it.

  39. redpanda says

    you know what you’re saying there, implicitly?

    that you think conservatives have no objections to Harris.

    Forgive me for being slow, but could you spell that connection out for me? I don’t see how he implies anything even remotely like that. What in the world does a statement that some liberals find his arguments objectionable have to do with what conservatives may or may not think about them? Honest question; you’re definitely seeing something that must be way over my head.

  40. Ichthyic says

    Sam Harris has certainly made some arguments that has turned some liberals off, but they’re hardly dumb arguments

    look, this is simple, Heath is always suggesting that the only people to find fault with the people he likes are liberals.

    do you really not think that there are conservtives that hate what Harris has to say?

    do you not think that criticisms of Harris are all biased politically?

    fucking hardly.

    if either of you knew anything about what the actual crticisms of Harris ARE, you wouldn’t say stupid shit like this.

  41. Ichthyic says

    do you think that criticisms of Harris are all biased politically?

    shouldn’t have been a “not” in there.

  42. Ichthyic says

    and yes, repanda, apparently you are entirely dim to context, both of what I was saying to Heath, and what the overall commentary regarding Sam Harris has been in the last 10 years.

    if you want to figure it out further, you’d have to review how Heath does his commentary here over the last 5 years.

    he LOVES to handwaive objections away with phrases like “it’s only a few liberals saying that”

  43. redpanda says

    look, this is simple, Heath is always suggesting that the only people to find fault with the people he likes are liberals.

    Ah, I see. Considering that this is an atheist website and all of the entities under discussion are similarly atheist, I wouldn’t have thought to interpret his comment about “some liberals…” as anything other than “some people here….” I clearly don’t have the experience with him that you do. Your comment about him implying that conservatives don’t object to Harris (which I agree is a laughable assertion) struck me as coming out of left field, considering that this is again a conversation on an atheist website about the reactions of atheists to the arguments of an atheist. Where do conservative opinions of Harris fit into that conversation?

    do you really not think that there are conservtives that hate what Harris has to say?

    do you not think that criticisms of Harris are all biased politically?

    fucking hardly.

    I personally know a number of conservatives who find Harris confused and irrational on many fronts, so no delusions about that here. But beyond that, I find the political affiliation of the person making an argument far less interesting then the actual merits of their argument. I try not to see the world in partisan terms.

    I’m still somewhat new to atheism and I haven’t been around long enough to understand all the sides of all these arguments (and I have no clue who or what most of you are), but I do find it somewhat frustrating that people seem to assume that because I’m asking questions that “have already been answered,” that I’m an intellectually dishonest closet conservative buffoon who only deserves to be mocked and talked down to dismissively. Seriously, what the fuck? Most of what I’ve done here is share my personal experiences and ask honest questions that might help me understand why I see things differently from others. Am I not supposed to post anything until I already have all the ‘right’ answers?

    if either of you knew anything about what the actual crticisms of Harris ARE, you wouldn’t say stupid shit like this.

    Sure. And I do realize that it’s not your responsibility to educate me. But when I ask specific questions in the hope that someone reading might take the time to point me in the right direction or help disavow me of a flawed perspective, it’s nice to be taken seriously and not rudely dismissed.

  44. KG says

    Than please quote his exact argument and rebut it. I recently saw Mr. Harris go toe-to-toe with a security expert was not able to overcome Harris’ arguments, though Harris wasn’t able to overcome that experts’ arguments either (in terms of both being able to hold arguable positions post-debate). – Michael Heath

    That’s a risible assessment: Schneier, who actually knows a lot about security, shredded Harris’s racist drivel.

    Harris’s stated position is that anyone who “could conceivably be Muslim” should be singled out for additional security procedures. That’s blindingly stupid on its face, as anyone could conceivably be Muslim – but of course that’s not what he meant. Since an Islamist terrorist is not likely to be carrying a copy of Suicide-bombing for Dummies, and even Harris is probably not stupid enough to think they would, the only thing he could have meant, but is too gutless to say, is “anyone who could conceivably be Middle Eastern”, ignoring the simple fact that Islamist terrorists or possible terrorists have included people of Pakistani, Indonesian, Caucasian (in its literal sense, not the daft American sense of “white”) Nigerian, Afro-Caribbean and white Australian origin.

    On torture, Harris uses the hackneyed “ticking-bomb” scenario, again ignoring the view of experts that torture, whether in that situation or any other, is an extremely unreliable way of getting accurate information: there are a range of other interrogation techniques which are at least as likely to do so, and which do not have the huge practical and moral drawbacks torture has. Harris says torture should remain illegal in all cases, but in some cases nonetheless thinks agents of the state would be morally right to use it. So are state authorities to say:

    These are the rules on how you treat prisoners, but sometimes you should break them, and…

    And what? We’ll look the other way? We’ll jail you afterwards? We’ll look the other way if it works, but jail you if it doesn’t? Will there be rules about when you can break the rules? What about rules about when you can break the rules about when you can break the rules? It’s simply incoherent.

    I question the character of those who look to ostracize him merely because he takes some politically incorrect positions – michael Heath

    I question the character of anyone who tries to use an accusation of being “politically correct” as part of their argument.

  45. KG says

    Parenthetically, I note that joachim has succeeded in derailing the thread; maybe he’s not as stupid as I thought.

  46. says

    Sorry to be so late in commenting; I’ve been examining the “penis scooping” thing, from every angle, since, oh, ’bout 8:30 last night.

    “Perhaps he was paid by the GOP to say what he did, to see how the public would respond ahead of the GOP meeting in FL. He was a trial balloon, for both the Romney campaign and the GOP party platform currently being drafted.”

    I sincerely doubt that any GOPerv would willingly torpedo his own senate race for “the good of the party”. RWAfuckwads are, by their nature, subservient to higher authority–until they can pump enough bullets into them and toss their weighed-down corpses into the nearest deep body of water. Capone and his ilk had nothing on the GOP.

  47. dingojack says

    Deoo – “Sorry to be so late in commenting; I’ve been examining the “penis scooping” thing, from every angle, since, oh, ’bout 8:30 last night”.

    I hope you’re not typing with one hand even now. That’d be a marathon!
    ;) Dingo

  48. says

    I’m also highly confident whatever you write in response to mine will in no way detract from my arguments, which further motivates me to not read or respond to your comment posts. So have at it. —

    Expect for the fact that the human penis can remove sperm plugs has nothing to do with whether the female consents. Nearly all mammalian penises do that. In species were the sperm plug is gel-like like ours the penis is piston shaped. In species that the sperm-plug is hard, the penis is more needle shaped to break through the plug. There is nothing special about the human penis that allows the male to penetrate the female easier against her will or somehow latch onto a female fighting back.

    The only two ‘penis’ that are really adapted for force copulation, that I can think of are ducks and bed bugs. (Niether organ is technically a penis). Certain duck ‘penises’ are so long that when a female is attacked by males, even the males on the outer edge of the pile have a chance to reach the female. In this mating system, female choice is nearly non-existant. In Bed bugs, the male penis is knife-shaped. In most cases the male doesn’t even worry about getting his sperm in the right hole. He just cuts the females body and deposits his sperm in her body cavity. (Some species have gone as far as having the females with no equivalent to a vagina , the male has to cut the female to deposit the sperm.) If human penises were shaped like that then one could argue that the male penis was adapted for rape.

    The basic premise that the human penis is adapted for rape is flawed.

  49. raven says

    I question the character of those who look to ostracize him merely because he takes some politically incorrect positions – michael Heath

    I question the character of anyone who tries to use an accusation of being “politically correct” as part of their argument.

    WTH. This doesn’t make any sense.

    A vicious personal attack on people you disagree with. There is no character questioning here, it’s just the Fallacy of appeal to emotion and tossing insults around.

    It’s also Ed Brayton’s Argumentum ad labelum. People I disagree with are:

    1. of bad character, evil, the other, the spirit of the antichrist, liberals, Democrats, atheists.

    2. guily of practicing “political correctness”, whatever that is. This is a meaningless label.

  50. raven says

    If you can’t ostracize someone for their views, what can you ostracize them for?

    Skin color, choice of shoes, style of dress, not having enough pets, ethnic origin, state of origin?

    Those are all superficialities, some of which an individual has no choice in.

    People have a lot more responsibility for what they say and do though. That is also the central issue here.

    A lot of people don’t like Sam Harris’s views. It has nothing to do with his personality, the fact that his initials are SH, or that he lives in the “wrong” state. It has everything to do with his…views.

    FWIW, I’m not aware that he has been ostracized. Plenty of people will agree with him, especially the Moslem haters, advocates of torture, and fans of nuclear war, all of which are common in the USA.

    I don’t pay any attention to Harris, not to ostracize him, but because he is a waste of whole minutes of my finite lifespan.

  51. Nathair says

    Who did that? This is cuckoo, to be polite. People have given many solid reasons for why Harris is an idiot. Even I did above in my criticism of his book.

    No, you did not. What you said was that although there was nothing incorrect in the book you felt that “He spent too much time Moslem bashing.” That’s not a “solid reason”, that’s an unsupported, unexplained opinion.

    See also the general allegations that Harris is “racist” and bigoted against “anyone who could conceivably be Middle Eastern” when Harris has specifically contrasted extreme Islam with (among others) Palestinian Christians (who, in case you were not aware, are “Middle Eastern”.) I do not agree with a number of Harris’ positions, but these attempts to paint him as some sort of unthinking, vile, racist idiot are becoming very tiresome. It’s getting so that one cannot read a comment thread on FTB without wading through the crowds gleefully setting fire to some grotesque straw-Harris.

    Honest people of good will can disagree without animosity. That is not what I am seeing here.

  52. John Phillips, FCD says

    @Michael Heath, while I don’t always agree with you, you do appear to have a bee in your bonnet about ‘some liberals’, I generally read what you post and usually have some respect for much of it. But, if you seriously think that SH held his own in the security debate with BS, you have a serious reality distortion field affecting you. At best and after much wriggling, SH moved his position from, crudely put, stop and search all the scary brown people to implying that he was actually talking about behavioural profiling. Now behavioural profiling can be very effective, at least when you have the resources and trained staff to implement it, e.g. the Israelis. Unfortunately, because of the manpower and resources it requires to properly implement, it doesn’t scale well, especially if relying on next to minimum wage staff with minimal training or experience, and I say that as someone who employed behavioural profiling during anti-terrorist work in the distant past.

  53. Paul says

    See also the general allegations that Harris is “racist” and bigoted against “anyone who could conceivably be Middle Eastern” when Harris has specifically contrasted extreme Islam with (among others) Palestinian Christians (who, in case you were not aware, are “Middle Eastern”.)

    Has he come out with his test to distinguish the two? This was part of the basis of Schneier’s utilitarian argument against Harris on the profiling issue; Harris completely ignored it and tried to claim that Schneier was making an argument from political correctness, when he was doing nothing of the sort. Much like Heath has done here. The feasibility of Harris’s proposal on profiling rests on the idea that a “Muslim detector” is possible, at FAR better than random chance (otherwise base rate fallacy will utterly swamp anything good that could come of the screening, not to mention missing many potential true positives if your model is stuck on “Middle Eastern-looking).

    I must vigorously agree with

    I question the character of anyone who tries to use an accusation of being “politically correct” as part of their argument.

    This includes Sam Harris.

  54. says

    John Phillips, FCD “…and I say that as someone who employed behavioural profiling during anti-terrorist work in the distant past.”
    Oh, come on! You were a Hall Monitor.

    And take off that damn sash.

  55. dingojack says

    .Raven “…state of origin?

    Those are all superficialities”

    Don’t tell certain Australians (to their faces) that the State of Origin* is superficial! :D

    Dingo
    —–
    * Apparently some earth-shatteringly important rugby match played between NSW and QLD. (That NSW always seems to lose).

  56. John Phillips, FCD says

    MO, me a hall monitor, or prefect, as they were in my school? Now that is funny, thanks, I really needed a laugh right now :)

  57. abb3w says

    @14, Doug Little

    Maybe we have finally hit rock bottom and this is finally the turning point where these idiots will be held accountable for what they stand for and say.

    Every time I’ve thought the right has hit rock bottom, they’ve pulled out rock blasting charges and just kept going.

  58. Nathair says

    Has he come out with his test to distinguish the two?

    My point, which I fear yo have missed, was that an accusation of racism fails because Harris is discussing the correlation between Muslim Jihadists and suicide bombing and contrasted that explicitly with non-Muslim Middle Eastern people and suicide bombing.

    Harris never, ever said “The TSA should only check out Middle Eastern people cause the Middle Eastern ‘race’ is just a buncha suiciders” he said “The TSA should stop treating wheelchair-bound four year olds from Chicago on the way to Disneyland with their family as if they were a credible suicide bomb threat.” It is certainly possible that he is wrong about the efficacy of such “anti-profiling”, that there really are no people who are unlikely to be terrorists or that such profiling would invite terrorists to instantly start recruiting eighty five year old wheelchair-bound Scandanavian women as their bombers. Wrong does not equal racism. Starting an anti-Harris witch hunt, bringing the issue up in every thread that… I was going to say “in every thread remotely related to the issue” but that’s bollocks, THIS thread has absolutely nothing to do with Harris or profiling or racism but the Witchsmellers Pursuivant popped in to burn Harris in effigy anyway. It’s not justified. Fucking stop it.

  59. abb3w says

    And Rasmussen Reports sezThe latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the Show Me State finds McCaskill earning 48% support to Akin’s 38%. Nine percent (9%) like some other candidate in the race, and five percent (5%) are undecided.

    From 47-44 lead to 38-48 trailing; at first pass, looks like about a D+13 grade impact event.

    For want of a nail, the shoe was lost….

  60. Paul says

    Harris never, ever said “The TSA should only check out Middle Eastern people cause the Middle Eastern ‘race’ is just a buncha suiciders” he said “The TSA should stop treating wheelchair-bound four year olds from Chicago on the way to Disneyland with their family as if they were a credible suicide bomb threat.”

    Yes, and he said screening should focus on Muslims in lieu of young or old people in wheelchairs. I have yet to see his machine that will allow us to recognize Muslims. You have seen the airport security photos of the 9/11 highjackers, right?

    You also must be aware that terrorists have investigated using wheelchairs to smuggle explosives, correct?

  61. Nathair says

    I have yet to see his machine that will allow us to recognize Muslims.

    Apparently you are also yet to read what he did say.

    You also must be aware that terrorists have investigated using wheelchairs to smuggle explosives, correct?

    Let me make this perfectly clear, I am not trying to prove Sam Harris right, to prove that profiling (or anti-profiling) would be efficacious. I am saying that you are not justified in translating his remarks about profiling into proof that Sam Harris is racist. Harris is concerned with militant Islam (which is an ideology, not a race) and he’s got some pretty damn solid reasons for that concern. To try to leap from there to the accusation that this means he is also bigoted against everyone who’s ancestry contains people from the region where Islam is dominant is just ignorant libel.

  62. Michael Heath says

    holytape writes:

    Expect for the fact that the human penis can remove sperm plugs has nothing to do with whether the female consents.

    True, but it has a lot to do with incentive of some males to rape, especially those juveniles ostracized from the clan.

  63. Michael Heath says

    John Phillips writes:

    you do appear to have a bee in your bonnet about ‘some liberals’

    I have a bee in my bonnet when it comes to bad arguments, which I see increasing in Ed’s blog – all from the liberal side. I think for two reasons:

    1) We had a more science-literate crowd at scienceblogs.com which didn’t completely follow Ed over to this blog. This increases the relative proportion of those commenting who don’t benefit from the mandates science places on those literate in scientific methodology.

    2) Ed’s obviously got more on his plate than he had when he first started his blog. Having the blogger take down bad arguments tends to send many of the morons to another venue. Over the past couple of years Ed’s not commented nearly as heavily in his blog posts as he used to do. I assume for entirely good reasons.

    Ed was an extremely effective commenter more than able and eager to rebut bad arguments from liberals, especially given all the commenters eager to take down bad conservative arguments before Ed has his opportunity to take his shot. This venue is self-evidently, and laudably, not friendly to bad conservative arguments. But I unfortunately also observe this venue becoming increasingly more forgiving of bad arguments from liberals given the preponderance of liberals who don’t share a respect for the high standards scientists apply to make their case in an informal venue like this. So while bad conservative arguments can not survive here given the demographics of the venue, there’s an increased opportunity to get away with bad liberal arguments and some are exploiting it. I find this to be a frustrating trend.

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