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Jan 17 2013

Shermer and the Myth of Feminist Persecution

Michael Shermer has once again responded to Ophelia Benson for having dared to criticize him for saying something dumb and sexist and he’s going for the full persecution pose, complete with allusions to witch hunts, inquisitions, McCarthyism, purges and — yes — Nazis. You can read that response, which was published as a response to Ophelia’s criticism of him in Free Inquiry, here.

Let me provide another example of moral progress that at first will seem counterintuitive. It involves a McCarthy-like witch hunt within secular communities to root out the last vestiges of sexism, racism, and bigotry of any kind, real or imagined. Although this unfortunate trend has produced a backlash against itself by purging from its ranks the likes of such prominent advocates as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, I contend that this is in fact a sign of moral progress.

Leaving aside the first and last clauses, which strike me as rather irrelevant, one has to ask: Dawkins and Harris have been purged? In what universe, exactly? I write often about the alternate reality on Planet Wingnuttia, but it appears that Shermer lives on one of the moons orbiting that planet if he thinks that Dawkins and Harris have somehow been “purged” from the atheist movement. They remain probably the two biggest names in the non-believing world, with legions of readers and listeners, millions of books sold and constant invitations to speak at the largest and most prestigious events. No one has purged them, nor could anyone do so even if they wished (and no one, as far as I know, has even suggested such a thing). But the bad analogies are just getting started:

To date, I have stayed out of this witch hunt against our most prominent leaders, thinking that “this too shall pass.” Perhaps I should have said something earlier. As Martin Niemoller famously warned about the inactivity of German intellectuals during the rise of the Nazi party, “first they came for…” but “I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a…”

Really? Seriously? Do I even have to explain how ridiculous this Nazi reference is? I certainly hope not.

When self-proclaimed secular feminists attacked Richard Dawkins for a seemingly innocent response to an equally innocent admonishment to guys by Rebecca Watson (the founder of Skepchicks) that it isn’t cool to hit on women in elevators, this erupted into what came to be known as “Elevator­gate.” I didn’t speak out because I figured that an intellect as formidable as Richard Dawkins’s did not need my comparatively modest brainpower in support.

No, Dawkins’ “Dear Muslima” comment was not “seemingly innocent.” It was condescending and dismissive and, yes I’ll say it, irrational. That is not something we’re used to from Dawkins, which is why people were shocked enough by it that most wondered if the comment really came from him or whether it was someone deliberately trying to make Dawkins look bad. But no, he did say it and yes, he did look bad. And deservedly so. One wonders how Shermer might have said if he’d chosen to speak out. Would he have pointed out that Rebecca’s admittedly “innocent admonishment” was exactly that and that Dawkins’ insulting response to it was pretty vile? One doubts it.

But perhaps I should have spoken out, because now the inquisition has been turned on me, by none other than one of the leading self-proclaimed secular feminists whose work has heretofore been important in the moral progress of our movement. I have already responded to this charge against me elsewhere,* so I will only briefly summarize it here. Instead of allowing my inquisitors to force me into the position of defending myself (I still believe in the judicial principle of innocence until proven guilty), I shall use this incident to make the case for moral progress.

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

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

All of this leaves me with just one question: Is it really that difficult to just admit to having made a mistake? Is it really so hard to say, “Yeah, what I said was dumb. I should have thought it through more. I’m sorry”? I’ve had to do it many times. I bet most other people have too. Why is that so difficult? When Shermer said that the reason there are so few women speaking at atheist conferences is because being “intellectually active” was “more of a guy thing,” that was a really dumb and sexist thing to say. Yes, it was an off the cuff remark in response to a question he may not have been prepared to answer, but why not just say that? Why not just say “I said something dumb without really thinking it through and it was wrong” and then replace it with a more thoughtful and reasonable explanation?

If he had done that, this would all have been over long ago. In fact, it could have been a good opportunity to have an interesting discussion about how to increase diversity in our communities. He could have actually used that opportunity to help lead that discussion. But he didn’t. He chose instead to make it far worse with these hysterical and paranoid claims of presumptive martyrdom and he is making himself look very, very bad in the process.

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

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

I am also struck by the fact that even in a community that is ostensibly dedicated to rational thinking, we have developed cults of personality that surround prominent members of the community with sycophants willing to defend them against any criticism, no matter how reasonable or justified that criticism may be (I’ve even seen it in some of my own readers when I’ve been criticized, even with the low level of “fame” that I have and it’s creepy there too). That’s not a surprise, of course; it’s pretty much human nature. But shouldn’t we strive to transcend such thinking? Shouldn’t atheists and skeptics, of all people, put in the mental effort necessary to overcome those tendencies and evaluate each and every argument and claim using the same rational criteria? Shouldn’t we, of all people, be willing to admit when we’ve said something dumb?

Look, I’m as guilty as Shermer of circling the wagons around myself from time to time, of getting defensive and remaining obstinate in the face of accurate and legitimate criticism. And anyone who says they haven’t behaved this way at one time or another is lying to you and to themselves. So the answer to my question above? Is it really that hard to admit to saying something dumb? Yes, it is. But part of being a skeptic is recognizing that we all behave irrationally from time to time, we all use cognitive shortcuts and make bad arguments sometimes and we all allow our vanity or our emotions to override our use of reason. And it’s always easier to spot it in others than it is in ourselves. I get it. I’ve been there and I’ve done it. But at some point you have to be intellectually honest enough to engage in genuine self-reflection, admit that you’re doing it and make amends. I think Shermer still has the opportunity to do that, but he’s got to stop making the hole he’s in deeper.

Shermer, like Dawkins and Harris, has done a great deal to advance atheism and skepticism in the world. We owe them all a debt of gratitude for the lifetime of dedication to fostering a more rational world. But they aren’t perfect and they aren’t above criticism. Nor am I, or Ophelia, or Rebecca Watson, or PZ Myers, or anyone else. And when any of is criticized for legitimate reasons — and we all have been, at one point or another (and for me, at many times) — we must put our vanity and our ego aside and evaluate our own behavior as closely as we do those we oppose. It’s not easy. It never is. But it’s necessary if we are to deserve the title of skeptic.

Editor’s Note: Kacy Ray, you are banned from the comments on this thread. The last thing we need is another 200 comments about how unfair it is that people won’t meet you out back behind your Facebook page for the conversation you insist on having.

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  1. 1
    rjlangley

    Re. cults of personality, I for one was glad, in a weird way, when Dawkins made the ‘Dear Muslima’ comment. It was the first time I’d ever truly disagreed with him, where previously I’d been open to charges of treating him like an ‘atheist pope’ or whatever new tu quoque the religionists and accomodationists are using.

    A certain former FTB blogger has a similar kind of sycophantic following…

  2. 2
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    <I write often about the alternate reality on Planet Wingnuttia, but it appears that Shermer lives on one of the moons orbiting that planet if he thinks that Dawkins and Harris have somehow been “purged” from the atheist movement.

    Thank you for that laugh, I could use it.

  3. 3
    whiskeyjack

    I learned a few years ago how to admit when I was wrong, misinformed, or ignorant.

    Really, it’s like a superpower.

  4. 4
    Strewth

    whiskeyjack, I love you.

  5. 5
    Kevin

    It’s this exact type of remark that brought down the President of Harvard a while back. One would think that Shermer would be aware of this.

    I had the exact same response to this thing at the outset. Shermer should have taken the opportunity to say something like, “I probably say or write a million or so words in public forums a year. I said about a dozen words that were ill-considered, and upon further reflection, I agree they were wrong. My apologies. Skepticism and leadership in the skeptical community are not now nor have they ever been ‘more of a guy thing. It was a dumb thing to say. Forgive me.”

    He would have been applauded. Lionized, even.

    Instead, we get this.

    Hint, Michael. Women probably make up about 50% of the book buying public — maybe even more. Stop pissing off half your target audience. You dunderhead.

  6. 6
    Hank_Says

    Well said, Ed. Shermer’s been acting like a gradeschooler over this. It’s probably not completely surprising but you’d think someone of Shermer’s skeptical credentials would have a little more self-awareness – and a little more class than to invoke the Nazis in response to some mild criticism. Half a dozen members of my family put themselves on the line to rid the world of those bastards and, having always had keen interest in and knowledge of the Nazi story, I find it histrionic in the extreme and deeply offensive to see someone compared to a totalitarian despot in response to mild (but well-earned) criticism in a blog article.

  7. 7
    Gnumann+,with no bloody irony at all (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun)

    Ed:

    But he is embarrassing himself here and the only reason I can think of to explain it is vanity.

    I can think of another one.
    As an ex-libertarian (man – I’ve been a lot of loathsome things in my life…), I can tell you one of the things libertarian fear the most is the acceptance of the societally stacked deck. To admit the playing field isn’t even (and won’t be without redistribution and regulation) is anathema.

    In a sense, to admit social barriers to women’s participation in his play-pen is also to admit his political ideology is defunct.

  8. 8
    Gnumann+,with no bloody irony at all (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun)

    By the way – has anybody heard from Orac yet? My google-fu turned up zilch…

  9. 9
    oolon

    Some people have mentioned that Shermer was a global warming denier as a negative thing against him, I’d counter and say it was fucking amazing that he rationally reasoned his way out of that corner. So many people get stuck in entrenched positions and refuse to consider they are wrong. I hope he can do it again, only thing is in this case its all about he said / she said rumour and disinformation so a lot harder to reason your way out. The hyperbole should embarrass him when he reads that article back…

  10. 10
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    By the way – has anybody heard from Orac yet? My google-fu turned up zilch…

    Orac only objects to uppity women making comparisons with Nazi Germany

  11. 11
    sawells

    I think you, and Ophelia Benson, and PZ, etc., think it’s obvious that people should be able to admit error and correct themselves, because that’s been your branch of atheism/skepticism. You could call it “Enquiry skepticism” – with the view that the skeptical method is for everybody, we should all be using it, it’s not personal, and it’s supposed to be public and self-correcting.

    Unfortunately it looks like Shermer is part of a different branch, one which is about smugly being right where other people are wrong. And the trouble with that branch is that (i) it isn’t about spreading critical thinking, because that would reduce the number of other people who are wrong, and then who would we feel superior to? and (ii) it’s incompatible with publicly admitting you were wrong, because being wrong is for other people, not you. We can call it “Asshole skepticism”.

  12. 12
    Gnumann+,with no bloody irony at all (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun)

    Orac only objects to uppity women making comparisons with Nazi Germany

    Hmmm…

    This wasn’t the message I got from him way back when. Here I though he was a staunch crusader against all slightly hyperbolic nazi comparisons.

    Did he … lie to me ..?

    Or is it that he is just a staunch crusader againstslightly hyperbolic comparisons, while the crass and obviously irrelevant ones get a free pass. That would fit (though not make a lot of sense).

  13. 13
    R Johnston

    @7: Exactly.

    Libertarianism short circuits skeptical and critical thinking when it comes to any admission of stacked decks, collective action problems, or the role that luck plays in success. Libertarianism is a fundamentally religious belief that intrudes on one’s ability to skeptically consider socioeconomic matters. Libertarianism has the same relationship to basic decency and economic literacy that christianity has to acceptance of evolution.

  14. 14
    Ed Brayton

    I think everyone should lay off the “Why hasn’t so and so said something about this.” That’s the same kind of thing I get from some people whenever I don’t write about some story they think is important. There are a million things to comment on in this world and people have lives.

  15. 15
    yiela

    @7: Gnumann, I think you made a good point here.

  16. 16
    Gnumann+,with no bloody irony at all (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun)

    I think everyone should lay off the “Why hasn’t so and so said something about this.” That’s the same kind of thing I get from some people whenever I don’t write about some story they think is important. There are a million things to comment on in this world and people have lives.

    Sorry Ed.

    I don’t think your comparison is quite valid here. Actions in the past might lead to a moral obligation in the future.

    I get that you don’t want me to diss Orac on your blog though, and I’ll stop. I’m Sorry.

  17. 17
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    @ Kevin

    Yeah, if Shermer just said what some of his apologists keep claiming he meant, this would have been a non-issue. It’s his reaction to a mild initial criticism which is showing what he’s really all about.

  18. 18
    Ed Brayton

    I think that comparison is perfect. That’s exactly the argument I’ve heard against me when I fail to comment on some story. The argument is always made by someone who is just dying to conclude that I’m a hypocrite, so the fact that I’ve written about story X in the past but not story Y now is their evidence — since I’d commented on one, I had a moral obligation to comment on the other or I’d been proven a hypocrite. But that conveniently ignores the fact that there are other possible, even likely, reasons for it. In most cases, I hadn’t even heard about story Y.

    Orac is a big boy and can certainly defend himself. I just don’t think it’s reasonable to jump to a conclusion that he’s being a hypocrite here.

  19. 19
    Ophelia Benson

    Just for the record – to explain why people said that – Orac went out of his way to rebuke me (at considerable length and quite aggressively) for a comparison of DJ Grothe scolding women for complaining about harassment to scolding Jews in 1936 Germany. He never ever comments on my blog or interacts with me in any other way, and it was at the height of the wrangle with DJ – and it was shortly before TAM, and he and I were both scheduled to be there. Given all that, it was pointed and unpleasant. People didn’t mention him above just because he’s the Nazi-mention patrol.

    Now I’ll shut up.

  20. 20
    shouldbeworking

    I learned many years ago to admit being wrong or off base. It’s simple: practice,practice, practice.

  21. 21
    2ndserve

    Shermer wrote, “I do not believe that women are, in Benson’s characterization, “too stupid to do nontheism” or that “unbelieving in God is thinky work and women don’t do thinky”. I don’t believe that for a moment, and in any case the evidence (as I outlined at the beginning of this essay) overwhelmingly demonstrates that women are more than capable of thinking, writing, speaking, and debating about God and theism. Unquestionably. Unequivocally. After reading Greta Christina’s book, for example, if I were a believer heading into a debate with her about God, I would be trembling in my boots as much as many theists I know were when they faced the great Christopher Hitchens.”

    Once Benson pointed out the “It’s a guy thing.” it would have been nice if Shermer had stated he mispoke or if he had apologized. People often have a hard time admitting they were wrong. I know I do. Shermer’s later comments make it clear he doesn’t think women are stupid or unthinky. I wish there were more “benefit of the doubt” given on both sides of this.

    This makes me sad.

  22. 22
    eric

    That is not something we’re used to from Dawkins, which is why people were shocked enough by it that most wondered if the comment really came from him

    And that is a spectacular indication that the defense was a ‘cult of personality’ thing based on bias rather than reason. If you can’t believe X said A because A is so outlandish, then you find out X did, and your response is to change your position on A, then your defense of A is based on an acceptance of authority rather than a rational analysis of A.

    Anyone who thought the ‘Dear Muslima’ comment was offensive or stupid before they believed Dawkins said it, but then thought it was a perfectly valid satire or criticism after they confirmed that Dawkins said it, is demonstrating the exact sort of tribal or cult bias we criticize in others.

  23. 23
    poxyhowzes

    Giliel @ 10:

    The only Nazi woman recognized in her own right from 1933 to 1943 was Leni Reifenstahl (sp? – I did it from memory).

    So when someone of the female persuasion (let’s call such an hypothetical someone “OP”) types the word “Nazi,” then Orac and his Zombie Hitler is all over her immediately because she (that is, the hypothetical OP) impertinently rises above the Nazi feminist ideal of “Kinder, Küch, und Kirch.”

    But, of course, if a person of the male persuasion (someone we might call, for discussion purposes, “MS”) accuses someone of being “Nazi,” then we must carefully examine the facts in the case, refer back to the history and the historiography of the 1930s and 1940s, and, and,.. and,… patiently await the verdict of history. No Zombie Hitler to be invoked

    And I bet females are no good at cancer surgery, either!

    pH

  24. 24
    Dennis N

    I for one was glad, in a weird way, when Dawkins made the ‘Dear Muslima’ comment. It was the first time I’d ever truly disagreed with him

    Same here, in the sense that it was the first time I was a complete 180 from him. He was definitely wrong there, but I don’t recall him responding the way Shermer is now; though I don’t follow these back and fourths that closely, so I’m open to being corrected.

  25. 25
    smhll

    Look, I’m as guilty as Shermer of circling the wagons around myself from time to time, of getting defensive and remaining obstinate in the face of accurate and legitimate criticism.

    Good article. Thank you. I suspect some of the perpetual friction comes from different lines about what criticism is “legitimate” and what criticism dwells on things someone else thinks of as unimportant.

  26. 26
    Argle Bargle

    By now Shermer has too much pride invested in his defense for him to admit he said something which was sexist. His vanity won’t allow him to accept reasonable, mild criticism. Instead, he’s ramped up the controversy and changed it from him making a sexist remark to others making hateful, unwarranted attacks on him.

  27. 27
    kacyray

    Seriously??

  28. 28
    kacyray

    Heh… was just checking.

    Don’t worry… I’m not going to do whatever it is you thought I was going to do. I don’t even think I had a comment to make on this topic.

  29. 29
    2ndserve

    I knew it.

  30. 30
    poxyhowzes

    Sorry to have somewhat cross-posted with Ophelia @19
    And Ed @ 18, ORAC is anything BUT a “Big Boy,” in my opinion. As you say, he can defend himself, but he hardly ever does. He invokes “Zombie Hitler” at whim and at random. Hence the repeated

    In contrast, many folks at FtB have certain “awards” or “citations” they offer for which they cite the criteria over and over again. Orac has never, to my knowledge, explained when he will invoke “Zombie Hitler.”

    pH

  31. 31
    poxyhowzes

    Whoops!

    ….hence the repeated questions on this blog and this thread about “where is ORAC.”

  32. 32
    eric

    he can defend himself, but he hardly ever does. He invokes “Zombie Hitler” at whim and at random. Hence the repeated questions on this blog and this thread about “where is ORAC.”

    No, that makes no sense whatsoever. If Alice won’t answer my question I don’t run over to Bob and ask “hey Bob, why won’t Alice answer my question?”

    I mean, are we two now? Mommy’s busy so people are going running to daddy to tug on his shirt and say “daddy daddy, mommy’s not paying attention to me! Make her pay attention to me!”

  33. 33
    Gregory in Seattle

    “…within secular communities to root out the last vestiges of sexism, racism, and bigotry of any kind”

    How can this be a bad thing? Is Shermer actually saying that we should NOT be working to root out sexism, racism and bigotry?

  34. 34
    Tabby Lavalamp

    Dennis N wrote…

    He was definitely wrong there, but I don’t recall him responding the way Shermer is now; though I don’t follow these back and fourths that closely, so I’m open to being corrected.

    His response wasn’t quite as egregious, but he did respond poorly to the criticism.
    http://www.blaghag.com/2011/07/richard-dawkins-your-privilege-is.html

    For a major figure in a movement that makes as much noise as we do over prayer in schools or the biblical verse in courtrooms to make this argument…

  35. 35
    wneroaster

    Maybe this has already been discussed (here or elsewhere), but would elevatorgate have ever become an issue if the guy had just asked her to have coffee at a coffee shop or down in the hotel restaurant instead of his room? Is there something still too presumptuous going that direction, instead?

  36. 36
    Tabby Lavalamp

    wneroaster, it might have mitigated some of it (and given the “he was just asking her for coffee!” crowd a more valid argument from that aspect), but there would have still been an issue of him not listening to Watson say she’s tired and is going to bed.

  37. 37
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    Maybe this has already been discussed (here or elsewhere), but would elevatorgate have ever become an issue if the guy had just asked her to have coffee at a coffee shop or down in the hotel restaurant instead of his room? Is there something still too presumptuous going that direction, instead?

    In my opinion, ‘elevatorgate’ (oh, how I loathe that term) is just the straw that broke the camel’s back. If it hadn’t been that it would have been something else, some other woman would have spoken out, painting a target on herself and receiving the same levels of abuse and obsessive harassment that Rebecca Watson’s received.

    That’s the thing about those who are, ignorantly, citing this as creating ‘deep rifts’ in the atheist community – the rifts were always there; it’s just that people were pretending otherwise. Some people wanted to stop pretending while others were content with the status quo (the always charming ‘I’ve got mine so y’all can go fuck yourselves’ philosophy) and here we are.

  38. 38
    mattand

    @35:

    Dude hit on Rebbeca in an elevator at 4 AM, in a hotel where she had just given a speech about women being objectified at skeptic conferences.

    Seriously, you might need to research the incident a wee bit more.

  39. 39
    olivercrangle

    Ed,

    The Internet admonishment to not compare others behaviors to NAZIs certainly does not include not comparing our own failings with those of Pastor Niemoller in standing up for others being bullied.

    When I tell you I believe FreeThoughtBloggers are often abusive of others, and I reference Pastor Neimoller for inspiration, I am not calling you a NAZI or saying FTB is like NAZI Germany.

    I am reminding myself of the importance of standing up to bullies, even when the people they bully may not be my cup of tea.

    And Ed, isn’t that the very foundation of social justice and atheismplus? Are you really saying Atheism Plus has no room for Pastor Neimoller’s poem?

    First They Came – Pastor Martin Niemoller

    First they came for the Communists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Communist
    Then they came for the Socialists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Socialist
    Then they came for the trade unionists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a trade unionist
    Then they came for the Jews
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Jew
    Then they came for me
    And there was no one left
    To speak out for me

    http://www.cls.utk.edu/pdf/holocaust/sectione.pdf

    Lessons from the Holocaust:

    Critical Thinking:
    Speaking Out for Others
    Center for Literacy Studies, The University of Tennessee

    Speaking out for the rights of another person is difficult, especially if that person is
    significantly different from you.

    1) Read and think about the poem “First They Came for the Jews.” What is Pastor Niemoller
    saying about his own actions? Does this “moral” apply to other people?

    2) Consider a situation in which you are a witness to a stranger being abused. How does your
    response to the situation change if you know that person? Or if that person is your best friend?
    Or if that person is your child?

    3) Describe a situation that you have experienced in which you either spoke up for another person
    or chose to be silent. If you could change your own actions of the time, what would you do differently?

    Question for Ed Brayton:

    Is the University of Tennessee comparing its students to NAZIs?

    Yahoo Answers:

    What is the meaning or message in the poem “first they came for the jews”?

    Best Answer – Chosen by Voters

    Its saying that we shouldn’t stand aside and let oppression occur simply because we aren’t the target or victims of said oppressions, because one day we might become the victims and then nobody will defend us.

    Then They Came for Me (A New Twist)
    by Stephen Rohde, a constitutional lawyer and President of the ACLU of Southern California. Adapted from the original by Rev. Martin Niemoller (1937).

    First they came for the Muslims, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Muslim.

    Then they came to detain immigrants indefinitely solely upon the certification of the Attorney General, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t an immigrant.

    Then they came to eavesdrop on suspects consulting with their attorneys, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a suspect.

    Then they came to prosecute non-citizens before secret military commissions, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a non-citizen.

    Then they came to enter homes and offices for unannounced “sneak and peek” searches, and I didn’t speak up because I had nothing to hide.

    Then they came to reinstate Cointelpro and resume the infiltration and surveillance of domestic religious and political groups, and I didn’t speak up because I had stopped participating in any groups.

    Then they came for anyone who objected to government policy because it aided the terrorists and gave ammunition to America’s enemies, and I didn’t speak up because…… I didn’t speak up.

    Then they came for me……. and by that time no one was left to speak up.

    http://www.washoe.k12.nv.us/americanhistory/secondary/lessons/lessons_std08/gray_d19.html

    Teaching American History Project Lesson
    Desiree Gray

    Am I my brother’s keeper? What is my social and moral obligation to others in need? In what circumstances will I risk my own life to save another? How responsible are free nations to those who suffer the oppression and evils of dictatorship? How much intervention is justified when “ethnic cleansing” is being practiced in other nations? Who is responsible for Holocaust and genocide? These questions will be the premise for a two-day lesson personalizing the Jewish Holocaust through poetry and art.

    This lesson will build upon a strong foundation of knowledge about the Holocaust and an awareness of current events. Student will realize that the Holocaust was not an isolated incident and can and should not be easily forgotten, George Santayana wrote that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. Again and again…It is imperative that students see the connection between social and moral obligation and historical events.

    Students will examine the factors that enable individuals to collectively as well as individually perpetrate and condone evil and the impact of apathetic bystanders as fuel for human violence. The 1964 Kitty Genovese case is a prime example of a crime committed in the United States in front of 38 neighbors and bystanders. Students will learn about the Genovese case and ponder its significance in relation to the Holocaust and daily life in the United States.

    Finally, students will formulate their own opinions about social responsibility and decide for themselves whether or not they believe that they are their brother’s keeper? In addition, this lesson can be used to introduce other genocides such as in Turkey, Cambodia, Tibet, and Bosnia, the disappearances in Argentina and Chile, the death squad killings in El Salvador, Stalin’s purges, the killing of the Tutsi in Rwanda and in many others as well.

    Objectives:

    Students will recognize the social and moral responsibility of society to preserve the basic human rights of all of its members.

    Students will critique Israel Bernbaum’s art piece “On Both Sides of the Warsaw Ghetto Wall” and discuss its significance to their daily lives.

    Students will internalize the lessons of the Holocaust and intolerance by reading and analyzing:
    Pastor Martin Niemöller’s, “First They Came For the Jews”
    Maurice Ogden’s, “The Hangman”
    News article of the 1964 Kitty Genevese case

    Students will answer and discuss the following questions:
    How can I make a difference?
    What does the Holocaust mean to me?

    Question for Ed: Is Ms. Gray saying her students are NAZIs? Is she saying US society is NAZI Germany?
    Question for Ed: What is Ms. Gray saying?

    Question for Ed:

    SAT Question for Ed:

    What is the most correct answer:

    1) Michael Shermer was comparing Ophelia Benson and others to NAZIs

    2) Michael Shermer was stating he had failed in not speaking out for others, and reminding us all of the importance of doing so, even when we may disagree with those being bullied.

    Shermer makes an explicit compares what he, Dawkins, Harris, and many others have suffered to McCarthyism. Address him on those grounds.

    The claim he has compared Benson’s behavior to NAZI Germany is weak and relies on being able to ignore the explicit comparison and rests on a twisting of what is now a well known cultural theme, and a good one, that we must speak out for others even if we disagree with them, even if they are different from us.

    How can a social justice movement run away from Pastor Niemoller?

  40. 40
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    Looks like olivercrangle is looking to be banned from yet another of the FT blogs. I can’t say I’m unhappy about that prospect.

  41. 41
    Suido

    I started reading olivercrangle’s trainwreck, and gave up when he quoted Yahoo answers.

    I think I just got stupiderer.

  42. 42
    SallyStrange

    Seriously, SAT questions? How fucking arrogant can you get, you cheapskate child-hating sexist asshole?

  43. 43
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    I’ll admit, I’m stubborn, and I can be stupid and dig my claws in. I still struggle with it.

  44. 44
    wneroaster

    That’s not really what I asked. I also didn’t know he badgered her after she declined (so you’re right that maybe I didn’t know enough to pose the question). But I appreciate you assuming I was trying to make Rebecca look melodramatic.

    Let me rephrase the hypothetical (keeping with the 4am thing) to make it general (i.e. not about Rebecca Watson): is it ok to ask a stranger at a conference if they’d like to go have coffee downstairs in the restaurant or at a coffee shop as they were ascending to their room in an empty elevator? I ask b/c long-term relationships get started this way. Seems like it’s not too crazy to imagine somebody would entertain such a question.

  45. 45
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    No one has been “purged”

    Shermer’s self-aggrandizing, pants-shitting temper-tantrum makes ME want to puke. Does that count?

  46. 46
    Marcus Ranum

    He was definitely wrong there, but I don’t recall him responding the way Shermer is now

    Dawkins stopped shovelling and climbed out of the hole, then walked away and let it die down. Good strategy.
    It works much better than calling in a steam-powered backhoe, or climbing out and throwing yourself on one’s shovel while singing operastyle.

    Dawkins did not fill the hole in behind him, though. Since the internets never forget, academe’s “let it blow over” strategy is suboptimal compared to saying, “oops!” and filling the hole before taking one’s shovel and letting the grass grow over one’s mistake.

  47. 47
    uno1

    @44 wneroaster, This is off topic, and not the best thread for you to ask about this, so its probably a bad idea to keep asking about this. But one thing I got out of reading about that situation is making an advance on a woman, alone in an elevator (in any place she can’t choose her distance of interaction or walk way), has the potential to make a woman feel very uncomfortable, especially if she doesn’t know you. The right time to ask her out would be before she gets on the elevator (and then don’t follow her on if rejected). And of course, be polite and respectful. There isn’t a set of hard and fast rules, just be mindful of how the other person might feel, and when women tell you something makes them feel uncomfortable, listen.

  48. 48
    Marcus Ranum

    Dude hit on Rebbeca in an elevator at 4 AM, in a hotel where she had just given a speech about women being objectified at skeptic conferences.

    I bet it was the National Rifle Association guy. I mean, with shark-jumping skills like that, who else could it be?

  49. 49
    Steersman

    The thing is Ed, that neither you nor Ophelia nor all of the pack braying at Shermer’s heels have ever managed to prove that his “[atheism], it’s more of a guy thing” actually qualifies as a sexist statement. And considering that that premise undergirds most of the subsequent attacks against him it seems that the dearth of evidence to justify the charge might reasonably be construed as evidence of a witch-hunt and an attempt to crucify him. Nice bunch of people.

    However, on the question of proof, should you actually want to do “due diligence” and retain your qualifications or claim to being a skeptic, you might want to consider some facts. Consider that most of the people in prisons for violent crimes are overwhelmingly males by a 10:1 ratio about which one could also say “[violent crime], it’s more of a guy thing”. Sexist or a statement of fact? How about Pinker’s observation in his The Blank Slate that men “have a much stronger taste for no-strings sex with multiple or anonymous partners, as we see in the almost all-male consumer base for prostitution and visual pornography”. Sexist or a statement of fact? And, relative to the point in question, a recent Atheist Census with 24,000 respondents puts the population at 32% female and 67% male. Maybe some justification for the Shermer’s assertion that “[atheism], it’s more of a guy thing”?

    Once you’ve proven that Shermer’s statement was, in point of fact and not as an article of dogma, actually sexist then, and only then, can you and the rest of the pack have some justification for complaining about accusations of witch-hunts and the like.

  50. 50
    Ed Brayton

    olivercrangle wrote:

    1) Michael Shermer was comparing Ophelia Benson and others to NAZIs

    2) Michael Shermer was stating he had failed in not speaking out for others, and reminding us all of the importance of doing so, even when we may disagree with those being bullied.

    Shermer makes an explicit compares what he, Dawkins, Harris, and many others have suffered to McCarthyism. Address him on those grounds.

    Well yeah, this might make sense if he hadn’t already accused his critics of engaging in a witch hunt, an inquisition and a “purge,” all references to some of the most totalitarian and horrible events in history. He says he failed to speak out for others who were victims of these non-existent purges, inquisitions and witch hunts. So yes, the analogy is clearly to some fascist witch hunt that he wrongly thinks has happened to others and is now happening to him. The horrible things that happened to those he imagines he has failed to speak up for did not happen and are not happening, to him or to anyone else. And his critics are not witch burners, Stalinist thugs, Catholic inquisitors or Nazi stormtroopers.

  51. 51
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Steersman is clearly one of those Cargo Cult pseudo-skeptics who expects people to pull out pie charts to “prove” things, rather than actually using his brain to think about things.

  52. 52
    Maureen Brian

    Steersman, dear, we all long ago accepted that Shermer mis-spoke. No big deal! We all do it from time to time.

    His first opportunity to say, “oops! badly phrased” was right there in the interview which was being recorded. The fact that he didn’t say it was mentioned in passing by Ophelia. The article she wrote was not about Shermer at all and this was months ago.

    Since then, the man has missed no opportunity – and people have been foolish enough to give him those opportunities – to slag off everyone who does not worship his total perfection, in the manner he thinks fit. In the course of which he has been quite willing to twist, distort and make up what ever facts he thought might strengthen his case.

    I for one have long since stopped worrying about his sexism. It’s there but we have no reason to think it is worse than anyone else’s. His arrogance and self-obsession, though, are in a class of their own.

  53. 53
    Steersman

    Improbable Joe said (#51):

    Steersman is clearly one of those Cargo Cult pseudo-skeptics who expects people to pull out pie charts to “prove” things, rather than actually using his brain to think about things.

    As opposed to Improbable Joe’s tendency to gesture hypnotically or sacrifice some beast or gaze into his crystal ball for divine guidance.

    If you’re going to use words you have to be able to show how the definitions apply to the situations and circumstances you wish to describe with them. Simply asserting something without evidence – ipse dixit – tends to betray some unfortunate and problematic similarities with fundamentalist Christians ….

  54. 54
    olivercrangle

    “Well yeah, this might make sense if he hadn’t already accused his critics of engaging in a witch hunt, an inquisition and a “purge,” all references to some of the most totalitarian and horrible events in history.”

    The purge he refers to explicitly is in social movements in general and objectivism in specific.

    And you ignore once more his chief comparison, which is to McCarthyism. And McCarthyism however terrible, was not really one of the most totalitarian and horrible events in history.

    So engage Shermer with an argument that what has happened is not on the scale of the social movement purges or McCarthyist purges.

    But all you have done here Ed, is throw in with a “me too” tribal defense of your friend. But her argument is overwrought, and her claim to a comparison of Naziism very misplaced.

    And hey, if you observe the daily blogs of PZ, Stephanie Zvan, Christina, Benson, Skepchick, Lee, etc., these are bloggers that go purposefully out of their way to out the evil “slymepitters”, banning them for mere participation at the SlymePit forum, and not banning them for behavior more typically associated with banning (spamming, libel, threats, doxxing, etc.)

    At face value, the comparison to McCarthyism, and the comparison to “witch hunts” as the cultural meme understands that, seems accurate to me.

  55. 55
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Steersman, let’s go ahead and treat you like a Creationist, since you’re just as irrational:

    What do you consider “proof” of sexism? What standard must a comment meet before you’ll accept the possibility that it is sexist?

  56. 56
    Steersman

    Maureen Brian said (#52):

    Steersman, dear, we all long ago accepted that Shermer mis-spoke. No big deal! We all do it from time to time.

    Maureen – dear, that is precisely the problem, because you simply have not proven the case that his statement was sexist. Simply that y’all have “accepted that Shermer mis-spoke” hardly qualifies as any type of proof – as least by all the rules of logic and evidence with which I’m familiar. Why the fuck should Shermer or anyone else accept your acceptance of the charge of sexism as evidence of fuck-all except that your standards of proof are idiosyncratic at best if not outright bigoted and prejudiced and manifestations of dogma?

  57. 57
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    olivercrangle wrote:

    At face value, the comparison to McCarthyism, and the comparison to “witch hunts” as the cultural meme understands that, seems accurate to me.

    Important question, olivercrangle: what was McCarthy’s position/occupation during the time at which the ‘witch hunts’ took place?

  58. 58
    shadowmant

    To be fair, your blog is misleading. At no time did he say that:
    the reason there are so few women speaking at atheist conferences is because being “intellectually active” was “more of a guy thing,”

    The comment in question was directed as to why no woman were available to come onto the TV show. He actually went on to mention that women actually made up about half the speakers at conferences later and never said anything about “there are so few women speaking at atheist conferences”

    The way in which you have clipped two parts of the quote out of the whole and placed them together is also very misleading. Here is the actual quote in response to a question as to why every female asked to come on the show rejected the offer:
    “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”

    To me, this comes across as four variables would be needed in a person to show interest in coming on the show and that finding all four of these specific variables together would be a guy thing. Is this accurate? No idea, perhaps it was just bad luck not being able to find a female to join the panel or perhaps another variable not mentioned that is more common amongst males was involved in the decisions made by the folks asked to join.

    My personal opinion: To tie directly together that he meant that woman are not intellectually active seems a large stretch of imagination. One would either need to be looking for an excuse to be offended or else get their information from a blog that perhaps displayed a partial quote out of context.
    To me this being paralleled to a witch hunt would be accurate.

  59. 59
    Maureen Brian

    Suppose, steersman, that I were to ask you why there are so few African-Americans in the US Senate and you were to reply that it’s not a place they seem to hang out. That wouldn’t be an explanation. It would be circular reasoning and an attempt not to address a perfectly reasonable question which was put to you.

    That is what Shermer did – he tried to bat away a question. Not good going for a skeptic, let alone a skeptic super-hero.

    But you stick with your idolatry. It clearly means a lot to you.

  60. 60
    TCC

    However, on the question of proof, should you actually want to do “due diligence” and retain your qualifications or claim to being a skeptic, you might want to consider some facts. Consider that most of the people in prisons for violent crimes are overwhelmingly males by a 10:1 ratio about which one could also say “[violent crime], it’s more of a guy thing”. Sexist or a statement of fact? How about Pinker’s observation in his The Blank Slate that men “have a much stronger taste for no-strings sex with multiple or anonymous partners, as we see in the almost all-male consumer base for prostitution and visual pornography”. Sexist or a statement of fact? And, relative to the point in question, a recent Atheist Census with 24,000 respondents puts the population at 32% female and 67% male. Maybe some justification for the Shermer’s assertion that “[atheism], it’s more of a guy thing”?

    Yes, it would in fact be sexist to make those specific statements, since it would suggest a reason for the gender disparity. Saying “[violent crime], it’s more of a guy thing” is essentially saying “being male makes you more prone to commit a violent crime,” which isn’t necessarily the case. (And I sincerely hope you aren’t saying that the Atheist Census actually provides evidence for a gender disparity in atheism, which would be one of the stupidest things you’ve said here – and that’s really saying something.)

  61. 61
    Steersman

    Improbable Joe said (#55):

    Steersman, let’s go ahead and treat you like a Creationist, since you’re just as irrational

    Considering that I offered 2 analogous cases – which I note you didn’t address – in support of my argument, analogy being essentially a case of ratios, the word being the root of “rationality”, I would have to say that’s a real thigh-slapper there, Joe.

    What do you consider “proof” of sexism? What standard must a comment meet before you’ll accept the possibility that it is sexist?

    Well, here’s a thought: we could always start with some dictionary definitions – which I very much doubt that anyone in Free-from-Thought-Blog-land actually thought to do before now – and see where the chips fall:

    sexism:

    1. Discrimination based on gender, especially discrimination against women.
    2. Attitudes, conditions, or behaviors that promote stereotyping of social roles based on gender.

    stereotype:

    1. A conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image.

    So, do show us all how it is that Shermer’s statement manifested any discrimination. Did he assert that because “atheism is more of a guy thing” that women shouldn’t be allowed to be atheists or go to atheist conventions? Did his statement actually promote any simplified – i.e., inaccurate, false or misleading – conception of the composition of the population of atheists? Before trying to answer that question do try to wrap your head around the fact that a simple statement of fact – as my examples about prison populations, “the consumer base for prostitution and visual pornography”, and the Atheist Census were designed to illustrate – does not qualify as any type of “oversimplified conception”.

    This failing to exercise due diligence in even attempting to justify the charge of sexism is, at the very least, the most egregious and odious case of anti-intellectualism that I have ever seen. And more than enough evidence to justify all of the counter charges of witch-hunting and feminazis and atheist-cults.

  62. 62
    shadowmant

    Yes, it would in fact be sexist to make those specific statements, since it would suggest a reason for the gender disparity. Saying “[violent crime], it’s more of a guy thing” is essentially saying “being male makes you more prone to commit a violent crime,” which isn’t necessarily the case. (And I sincerely hope you aren’t saying that the Atheist Census actually provides evidence for a gender disparity in atheism, which would be one of the stupidest things you’ve said here – and that’s really saying something.)

    I disagree that sexism can be defined as simply claiming gender is the reason for a difference. I would say it`s more claiming that it is a reason for a difference in an effort to suppress the opposite sex. Using your definition we can call sexism on any of the following statements (that no one would argue is false):
    [Menstruation], it’s more of a [girl] thing
    [Giving birth], it’s more of a [girl] thing
    [Generally having greater height], it’s more of a [guy] thing
    [Generally having greater muscle mass], it’s more of a [guy] thing

    There are very obvious differences between genders. This cannot be denied. There are likely even less obvious ones. I think that labeling someone as a sexist simply because they question if a situation where there is a gender disparity is due to a difference in gender is unfair to that person.

  63. 63
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Why would we reduce human interaction to simplistic dictionary definitions, unless it is for the purpose of disappearing complexity and depending on that simplicity to make an “argument” that falls apart in the real world?

    Of course, making the statement “it is a guy thing” is BY DEFINITION appealing to a stereotype… you nitwit. Emphasizing the word “more” doesn’t change it, unless you’re appealing to a absolutist “straw-sexist” fantasy, which seems really likely.

    Plus, you keep saying “due diligence” for some unknown reason.

  64. 64
    Jafafa Hots

    Why would we reduce human interaction to simplistic dictionary definitions, unless it is for the purpose of disappearing complexity and depending on that simplicity to make an “argument” that falls apart in the real world?

    Those are the only options given on the Official Sexist Language Exemption Determination Test.
    (Please be sure to use a number two pencil.)

  65. 65
    jenniferphillips

    I think there needs to be some internet law, á lá Godwin and Scopie, whereby invoking a dictionary definition as part of your argument results in forfeit.

  66. 66
    Michael Heath

    Michael Shermer:

    Let me provide another example of moral progress that at first will seem counterintuitive. It involves a McCarthy-like witch hunt within secular communities to root out the last vestiges of sexism, racism, and bigotry of any kind, real or imagined.
    [emphasis mine - MH]

    Gregory in Seattle @ 33 quotemines Shermer by clipping the above quote down to this:

    “…within secular communities to root out the last vestiges of sexism, racism, and bigotry of any kind”

    Gregory bravely takes on his strawman:

    How can this be a bad thing? Is Shermer actually saying that we should NOT be working to root out sexism, racism and bigotry?

    Uh no, Shermer’s actually arguing we shouldn’t be doing what you just did @ 33, and he’s right on that count.

  67. 67
    TCC

    shadowmant, those actually are problematic in terms of gender since they are sex-linked traits. And even if pointing out gender as a reason – which it’s not in the cases you gave – is not a sufficient condition, it does seem to be a necessary one. Your examples are (mostly) not ones that rely on a stereotype; Shermer’s absolutely does. And saying that sexism requires some attempt or intent to subjugate the other gender is exactly wrong; that would be like saying that the statement “I think dark people are inferior, but I don’t want to take away their rights” isn’t racist. No, it is most certainly is; it just doesn’t advocate legal discrimination. So your definition isn’t exactly helpful there.

  68. 68
    gregaryous42

    Okay, I can’t stand it any more!

    Seriously, I really don’t get it. RW makes what appears to me to be a somewhat odd suggestion that invitations prefaced with “don’t get me wrong” are somehow veiled and threatening, a few people make that observation out loud (and granted a quite a few other lose their collective shit over it) and then all of a sudden any comment in either direction is labelled with the most extreme charges.

    I’m not kidding it all seems utterly over the top on all sides, some one point me at something that explains why you’re all going ballistic over each others rather bland stories and comments.

    Persecution Freak!
    Drama Queen
    Mysoginist

    I’m not sure Mr Shermer hasn’t got a point. Can’t anyone just make an offhand remark without having it savaged to pieces by the mob. “Maybe it’s a guy thing” so?? Maybe it is, so what? Make it a girl thing then. Actually it sounded like more of a sarcastic joke than anything else.

    Anyway sorry if it all sounds like one more dumb uniformed mysoginistic, drama queen, bigot . . . whatever.

  69. 69
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    gregaryous42 wrote:

    Seriously, I really don’t get it.

    No, that’s quite obvious. And yet, instead of going away and reading up on exactly what happened, what the responses to it were, and what’s happened since, you chose to keep on writing while assuming it’s somehow everyone’s else’s job to fill you in.

    Newsflash: it’s not. Maybe try doing so research first so you have at least a chance of being able to contribute to the discussion.

  70. 70
    Steersman

    Improbable Joe said (#63):

    Why would we reduce human interaction to simplistic dictionary definitions, unless it is for the purpose of disappearing complexity and depending on that simplicity to make an “argument” that falls apart in the real world?

    What horseshit. If you can’t actually address much less refute the points and evidence advanced in support of a case then simply dismiss them through recourse to some ethereal, nebulous, and unsupportable set of “ideas”. Seems to have some similarities with “The Courtier’s Reply” which was apparently originated by PZ – “don’t do as I do, but as I say” – Myers ….

    Of course, making the statement “it is a guy thing” is BY DEFINITION appealing to a stereotype… you nitwit. Emphasizing the word “more” doesn’t change it, unless you’re appealing to a absolutist “straw-sexist” fantasy, which seems really likely.

    But Shermer did use “more” – contrary to Benson’s attempted hatchet job on him – which is what changes it from a categorical statement – which is probably unsupportable and sexist – to one which is factual. Consider, if you’re capable and haven’t yet drunk all of your Kool-Aid, these statements: “all carbon atoms have 12 neutrons”, and “most – i.e., more – carbon atoms have 12 neutrons”. Entirely different kettles of fish – and anything but a “straw-chemist” fantasy – as they describe false and true statements, respectively.

    Plus, you keep saying “due diligence” for some unknown reason.

    Maybe because it has some relevance to the discussion? Specifically:

    A common example of due diligence in various industries is the process through which a potential acquirer evaluates a target company or its assets for acquisition.

    In this case, “buying” the “hypothesis” – and I use the term loosely – that Benson, Brayton, Myers and Company – a company which should be disbanded if not charged with fraud – have been peddling that Shermer’s statement was sexist. And one that many in FfTB-land have bought hook-line-and-sinker.

  71. 71
    Michael Heath

    Ed,

    You are of course correct on the rhetorical fallacies and weaknesses of Michael Shermer’s argument. And I’m glad you’re pointing them out, we need to do what the religionists won’t, which is maintain awareness of our own performance and call out performances accordingly. But I see this post as beneath you. Specifically, your lead is:

    Michael Shermer has once again responded to Ophelia Benson for having dared to criticize him for saying something dumb and sexist and he’s going for the full persecution pose . . .

    Ophelia Benson didn’t merely criticize Shermer, she grossly misrepresented what he stated in a way that makes it appear what he said was far worse than what he actually said. I find your lead here misinforms readers of what Shermer was responding to in his post. My percpetion changed significantly after reading Shermer’s post and Benson’s (linked below).

    Here’s what Shermer said:

    I think it probably really is fifty-fifty. It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”

    I think it’s also critical to consider everything else he stated in that show to properly weigh the level of sexism above. The dumbness employed is self-evident on its own and needs no further context. But this statement wasn’t made in a vacuum where the surrounding verbal exchanges are supportive of this being more of a dumb statement than convincing evidence of even mild sexism, compelling perhaps, but certainly not risible to the level of sexism Ms. Benson falsely accuses Shermer of perpetrating here.

    And here’s the gross misrepresentation by Ms. Benson:

    The main stereotype in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do nontheism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”

    Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that during a panel discussion on the online talk-show The Point. The host, Cara Santa Maria, presented a question: Why isn’t the gender split in atheism closer to 50-50? Shermer explained, “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”

    It’s all there—women don’t do thinky, they don’t speak up, they don’t talk at conferences, they don’t get involved—it’s “a guy thing,” like football and porn and washing the car.

    Go after Shermer, he deserves it, but I think it’s unfair of you to also not go after Benson as well. All I know about this is pretty much contained on this blog post thread. And that is that Shermer needs some lessons in argumentation, dispassionate critiquing, and room to develop his emotional intelligence . Ms. Benson on the other hand reveals a morally repugnant willingness to defame another person; where I find that to be a far worse moral failing here than the buffonery on display by Mr. Shermer.

  72. 72
    Steersman

    jenniferphillips said (#65):

    I think there needs to be some internet law, á lá Godwin and Scopie, whereby invoking a dictionary definition as part of your argument results in forfeit.

    Good idea. Why not follow that up by burning all of the dictionaries so that no one can ever use a dictionary in any argument ever again. And then all of the books that you personally disagree with ….

    P.S. Ed, here’s another charter member for your “atheist cult” ….

  73. 73
    hypatiasdaughter

    #62 shadowmant
    Shermer made that comment after being told by the host of the show that they couldn’t find a woman to interview on the topic (He also said that the ratio of women in the movement was about 50/50 – his comment about “a guy thing” was specifically referring to activism.)
    He was speaking as a representative of the skeptic/atheist community. What he should have said was “You didn’t look hard enough. I have met many women who write, blog and speak on the topic.” He has met many of them at conferences and in his role as the editor of Skeptic magazine.
    Was his remark sexist? For me it was more the indifference about setting the record straight. He was being interviewed to set the record straight about skeptics and atheists – but about women in the movement? Meh. Not that important. I find the ennui about women’s role, the barriers they might face, the indifference to finding reasons, is the sexist part. The actual words said are just the tip of the iceberg of an underlying attitude.
    And what is this obsession with the word “sexist”? I see so may people get twisted in knots over that label. Is is worse than calling someone an “asshole”, an “idiot” – or even a Nazi, an inquisitioner, or a witch hunter?

  74. 74
    Michael Heath

    hypatiasdaugher furthers the lie:

    He was speaking as a representative of the skeptic/atheist community. What he should have said was “You didn’t look hard enough. I have met many women who write, blog and speak on the topic.” He has met many of them at conferences and in his role as the editor of Skeptic magazine.
    Was his remark sexist? For me it was more the indifference about setting the record straight. He was being interviewed to set the record straight about skeptics and atheists – but about women in the movement? Meh. Not that important.

    You need to read Shermer’s entire post. While the portion he’s being criticized for is dumb, he pretty much stated in other parts of the show what you wished he had stated as a response to that question. The fact we’re attacking someone in the exact dishonest tribalistic manner we criticize conservative Christians for doing does not bode well for us. In this case playing David Barton’s foil and not reading the cites but instead depending on the preferred tribal narrative to be true when in fact that narrative is not true.

  75. 75
    Jafafa Hots

    I see so may people get twisted in knots over that label. Is is worse than calling someone an “asshole”, an “idiot” – or even a Nazi, an inquisitioner, or a witch hunter?

    Just like “racist” or “bigot,” accusing someone of these things is officially worse than BEING one.

  76. 76
    Steersman

    Jafafa Hots said (#75):

    I see so may people get twisted in knots over that label. Is is worse than calling someone an “asshole”, an “idiot” – or even a Nazi, an inquisitioner, or a witch hunter?

    Just like “racist” or “bigot,” accusing someone of these things is officially worse than BEING one.

    It’s not the accusation that’s the problem; it’s the accusation and the pillorying without a shred of evidence to support it. Tends to raise a few eyebrows when those doing so claim to be skeptics ….

  77. 77
    A Hermit

    I’m not sure Mr Shermer hasn’t got a point. Can’t anyone just make an offhand remark without having it savaged to pieces by the mob.

    He’s not being “savaged” for that remark; he got a t=rather mild criticism for saying somethin gwhich, on the face of it, reinforced a sexist stereotype.

    He’s getting some pushback now for over-reacting to that rather mild critique and comparing it to witch hunts and inquisitiions and Nazis oh my!

  78. 78
    Gretchen

    Michael Heath said:

    Ms. Benson on the other hand reveals a morally repugnant willingness to defame another person; where I find that to be a far worse moral failing here than the buffonery on display by Mr. Shermer.

    Yeah, Ophelia Benson “defamed” another person, whereas Michael Shermer did the same to every “self-proclaimed” skeptical feminist out there. Clearly what she did is far worse….

  79. 79
    Jafafa Hots

    Steersman, you have provided plenty of evidence,
    Just not evidence of what you’re asserting.

  80. 80
    Steersman

    Jafafa Hots said (#79):

    Steersman, you have provided plenty of evidence,
    Just not evidence of what you’re asserting.

    And what evidence do you think I’ve provided and what do you think it is that I’m asserting?

    The thing is that Benson, Brayton, Myers and Company have been the ones to make the completely and totally unsubstantiated – if not wild and bordering on criminally negligent – accusations. I’ve offered far more real tangible evidence than they have for the counter-claim, i.e., that Shermer’s statement can not reasonably be construed as sexist. Most skeptics with any appreciation for what the word entails are likely to judge accordingly. As Hitchens put it: “What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.”

  81. 81
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Michael Heath:

    Shermer’s statement was not made in a vacuum. Ophelia’s response was reasonable under Duck Theory given her actual experiences with public sexism, and Shermer had a chance to prove he’d been mischaracterized and blew it spectacularly.

    I used to think you were smarter than this.

  82. 82
    Steersman

    Gretchen said (#78)

    Michael Heath said:

    Ms. Benson on the other hand reveals a morally repugnant willingness to defame another person; where I find that to be a far worse moral failing here than the buffonery on display by Mr. Shermer.

    Yeah, Ophelia Benson “defamed” another person, whereas Michael Shermer did the same to every “self-proclaimed” skeptical feminist out there. Clearly what she did is far worse….

    That is only plausibly true if Shermer had actually made a sexist statement , that his “[atheism], it’s more of a guy thing” qualifies as such. Have you proven that? Have you addressed the points of my counter claim, that it’s only sexist if there’s discrimination involved or that it promotes a stereotype?

    Absent that proof, your rather risible umbrage looks little more than a discreditable and egregious attempt to railroad someone for your own failures in applying logic and analyzing the facts of the matter. I think it’s called prejudice and bigotry ….

    P.S. Ed, another charter member for your cult …

  83. 83
    Gretchen

    That is only plausibly true if Shermer had actually made a sexist statement , that his “[atheism], it’s more of a guy thing” qualifies as such.

    No, it’s only plausibly true if Shermer posted a broadly overreaching and histrionic diatribe blaming skeptical feminists in general for a McCarthyistic Nazi witch hunt against him because a few particular members of that group posted some mildly critical comments of what he originally said. Which is, sorry to say, not only plausibly but undeniably the case.

    P.S. Ed, another charter member for your cult …

    Vice cult leader in charge of brainwashing. Get it right, squire.

  84. 84
    tomh

    Steersman wrote:

    if not wild and bordering on criminally negligent

    Now that’s hilarious. “Criminally negligent,” no less. Just what is the law against describing someone’s words as sexist, again?

  85. 85
    Steersman

    Gretchen said (#83):

    That is only plausibly true if Shermer had actually made a sexist statement , that his “[atheism], it’s more of a guy thing” qualifies as such.

    No, it’s only plausibly true if Shermer posted a broadly overreaching and histrionic diatribe blaming skeptical feminists in general for a McCarthyistic Nazi witch hunt against him because a few particular members of that group posted some mildly critical comments of what he originally said. Which is, sorry to say, not only plausibly but undeniably the case.

    Maybe. But what and who started the ball rolling? Methinks it was the hatchet-job that Benson did on him in that Secular Humanism article several months ago. If the charge she made is fabricated and totally false then he might well have some justifications for being bent out of shape, particularly when the charge of sexism was subsequently compounded by further piling-on after his quite reasonable response. Sort of like shooting an intruder in your home.

    And unless you address that point, that charge that he made a sexist statement, then I think that qualifies as railroading and witch-hunting. Unless you want to argue that people aren’t entitled to defend their homes and selves.

    P.S. Ed, another charter member for your cult …

    Vice cult leader in charge of brainwashing. Get it right, squire.

    Sorry … your VCLiCoBW; credit – even if only for some sense of humour – where credit is due ….

  86. 86
    jenniferphillips

    Steersman @72 said:

    Good idea. Why not follow that up by burning all of the dictionaries so that no one can ever use a dictionary in any argument ever again. And then all of the books that you personally disagree with ….

    Yes, because pointing out that dictionary definition arguments are stupid and ineffective is EXACTLY like censorship. I see you studied at the Michael Shermer School of Hyperbole.

  87. 87
    Jafafa Hots

    Vice cult leader in charge of brainwashing. Get it right, squire.

    ooooh! There’s a vice cult?!?!? Why wasn’t I invit…

    Oh, sorry, misunderstood.

  88. 88
    kevinstone

    I find this railing against Shermer absurd. On one hand, Shermer made a sexist-sounding comment that was spontaneous, unthinking, and in-eloquent, compounded by the recent unrelated sexual harassment incident and the fact that there is a distinct gender bias in our everyday language–it’s a guy thing, hey guys, man up, man made, etc. On the other hand, Shermer has been very explicit in his position on the role and importance of women in the atheist movement, and women in general. And what he has said about women has been wholly positive. So unless you can demonstrate that he was being insincere lauding all of these women atheists, then there is no particular reason for you to believe that there is some underlying berg of sexist ice which we are only seeing the very tip of. For even if that were the case, provided the berg remains substantially submerged, the problem rarely if ever manifests, does it not? And if that’s the case then what’s the big fucking deal? One could argue we all have giant bergs of one sort of ice or another that we keep submerged; we call them character flaws. One such character flaw that I would like to see submerged more often is paranoia. Yet that one, more than others, has a tendency to surface, made buoyant by over-active pattern detection. When examined objectively there is no pattern here to detect. Sexism implies that the person speaking in sexist ways believes what they’re saying is true, and thus a pattern of behavior should be evident. If that’s not the case–and it clearly isn’t in Shermer’s case–then it’s just a matter of language and fuck you. Yes, he could have chosen better language when asked . Yes, his words were offensive to some. But it does not represent a pattern of behavior, and therefore I don’t believe Shermer is any more a sexist than I am a theist. Saying “it’s a guy thing” makes Shermer a sexist about as much as saying “Jesus fucking Christ” makes me a Christian.

  89. 89
    dsmccoy

    It’s crazy to argue whether Shermers original statement was sexist or not. If you actually read Shermers replies he pretty much admits that it was a slip if the tongue. The problem is that he doesn’t stop with that, but goes on with some crazy counter-attack in revenge for having it pointed out to him making sweeping generalizations about groups of people, all way out of proportion to his original comment or OB’s original fairly minor criticism of it. Where is all the outrage coming from? Nothing warranted it. Even if he didn’t agree that the original statement was sexist, fine, then he could just say he disagrees with the OB’s opinion on it, without any need to go railing on about witch-hunts, inquisitions, and Nazi’s.

  90. 90
    Iamcuriousblue

    I’m just going to say my peace and let the inevitable insults and bashing take their course -

    The point that those of us who find this corner of the atheist movement to be increasingly authoritarian or totalitarian is not that you have anything close to the power of a Fascist or Stalinist government. But that your movement, as manifest in the kind of extreme ideological feminism* so often on display here, it looks like many historical authoritarian movements that were not in power and which still are very damaging. I look at the kind of creepy Marxist entryism that all manner of liberation movements of the past have experienced and see quite a few parallels with the social justice warrior/ultra-feminist contingent of the atheist movement. The destruction of the 60s anti-war movement into squabbling little cults after an organized takeover of SDS by the Marxist cult Progressive Labor Party strikes me as having a whole lot of parallels with what’s going on now. (I might also add that the PLP were the ones who assaulted E.O. Wilson for advocating an early form of evolutionary psychology, an action I’m sure would win the hearts of more than a few Aplussers.)

    I think there are some pretty clear parallels with Scientology as well, with it’s nasty ingroup-outgroup dynamic, it’s delusions of being a righteous but persecuted group battling to save the world, and its nasty campaigns against its critics.

    So calling you a bunch of crypto-totalitarians in the sense of creating a nontheistic cult where religion is simply replaced by an uncritical embrace of a narrow political ideology? I say, y’all resemble that accusation. Calling you the equivalent of the Stalinism? No, not really – that would take the perfect storm of atheism, hard-line ideology, and state power, and the third ingredient is thankfully missing. But it’s why so many of us don’t want people like you anywhere *near* political power, and don’t want any part of a “secular” movement that’s going to help that along.

    *(which, from where I’m sitting, looks like the worst kind of 70s radical feminism, minus the transphobia, and maybe with the occasional pretense of being “sex positive”)

  91. 91
    Jafafa Hots

    Kevin, hiding character flaws does no good.
    Digging them out, exposing them to the air, examining and OWNING them is what you’re supposed to do.

    If you say things that reveal a bias (and we all have biases) how the hell does ignoring that bias and pretending it doesn’t exist, and losing your shit when someone points to your iceberg do ANYTHING to help?

    Upping the ante is NOT a sign that those who saw bias in your speech were wrong.
    It’s not necessarily evidence that they are right, either – but it sure doesn’t help your case.

    I’m not going to call you a bigot because I see no evidence you are one.
    But I do see that you are not only startlingly ignorant about the course of civil rights activism in the US, you’re also ignorant of the fact that the very style of argument you are using is what some of the milder apologists for bigotry (or the unwanted remnants of bigoted speech or thought in those who are otherwise enlightened) have long used….

    …and that that approach proved not only not to help, but actually to impede progress.

    There is an underlying berg of sexist ice in all of human culture.
    If a person does not have the capacity to own up to their own unwanted remnants, then they are in denial of their own acculturation. This isn’t particularly helpful.

    It happens to us all. In my case, I am in such confusion over an event this week and so unsure about whether or not I can see my motivations clearly, whether there may be some residual racism or bias, that I have scheduled an appointment with a counselor to discuss it.

    This shit takes work, and the work never ends.

  92. 92
    Steersman

    tomh said (#84):

    Steersman wrote:

    if not wild and bordering on criminally negligent

    Now that’s hilarious. “Criminally negligent,” no less. Just what is the law against describing someone’s words as sexist, again?

    I did say “bordering on”, although the law on defamation seems to cover the circumstances:

    Defamation—also called calumny, vilification, traducement, slander (for transitory statements), and libel (for written, broadcast, or otherwise published words)—is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation a negative or inferior image.

    As to the facts of the matter, the “claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual”, consider Benson’s statement in that Secular Humanism article:

    The main stereotype in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do nontheism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”

    Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that during a panel discussion on the online talk-show The Point.

    For one thing he most definitely did not say “that’s a guy thing”, and, even more most definitely, he did not say “unbelieving in god is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky” nor the even worse “women are too stupid to do nontheism”, both of which are strongly implied – “to be factual” – by Benson’s “said exactly that”. Hatchet-job, indeed. I figure she’s lucky he hasn’t sued her for slander or libel.

  93. 93
    Jafafa Hots

    I figure she’s lucky he hasn’t sued her for slander or libel.

    I figure that people in the legal system don’t particularly like legal arguments that have been pulled out of someone’s ass. Unsanitary.

  94. 94
    Steersman

    Jafafa Hots said (#93)

    I figure she’s lucky he hasn’t sued her for slander or libel.

    I figure that people in the legal system don’t particularly like legal arguments that have been pulled out of someone’s ass. Unsanitary.

    I figure that type of dismissal of an argument without considering the facts presented is par for the course here in free-from-thought-blog-land ….

  95. 95
    Jafafa Hots

    I figure that type of dismissal of an argument without considering the facts presented is par for the course here in free-from-thought-blog-land ….

    First you have to present some facts. Not deliberate distortions, not opinion, and not statement that you claim support your argument which don’t.

    I usually try to give such empty dishonest rhetoric the attention it deserves.
    Occasionally I give it more attention than it deserves, such as now.

  96. 96
    Steersman

    Jafafa Hots said (#95)

    I figure that type of dismissal of an argument without considering the facts presented is par for the course here in free-from-thought-blog-land ….

    First you have to present some facts. Not deliberate distortions, not opinion, and not statement that you claim support your argument which don’t.

    I’m not a mind reader – which argument are you referring to? In both cases – #80 & #92 – I provided or referenced specific facts which you have yet to address. Or maybe you were waiting for only those facts that you agree with? ….

  97. 97
    georgebean

    I wish there was more accountability expected of “celebrities” in the atheist community, most particularly Sam Harris, who seems to be revered for no other reason that I can see but that he’s a “famous” atheist. He’s written some of the most oversold, yet embarrassingly fatuous and amateurishly supported claims about religion, morals, etc I’ve ever read (caveat-I won’t read Rick Warren or any of that ilk so I’ll concede there will certainly be far worse overhyped crappola on the bookshelves than I’ve bothered to read).

    He doesn’t irritate me because he’s “not PC”. He really gets my hair up because he tries to apply this patina of “science and reason” on his own “my gut tells me” nonsense, liberally bolstered with cherry picked factoids and the same hocus pocus “divination”, “gap plugging” and deflective handwaving as any self respecting creationist or climate change denier. It is immensely irritating to me he is fawned over rather than castigated for what amounts to pumping truckloads more pseudoscience out there, and I think it’s because his atheism (and politics) grab all the attention.

    Years ago I was urged by a Christian to read “Mere Christianity” because (he told me) it was a solidly “logical” and evidence based, as opposed to “dogma-based”, argument for the truth of Christianity. My reaction reading it was exactly the same as it’s been reading much by Harris-that I was being flimflammed. Harris, like Lewis, merely wanked with “reason” to amuse himself filling up pages while giving the illusion we’re getting to the proof, the core, upon which everything else follows. Except neither use it to demonstrate or prove these core premises. They’re using it to market their premises, both of them exposing, really, that their key premises are merely “givens”.

  98. 98
    Steersman

    Iamcuriousblue said (#90):

    I’m just going to say my piece and let the inevitable insults and bashing take their course ….

    Well, you certainly won’t get that from me at least as I thought your arguments and points were spot on.

    While I don’t know many of the details of the “60s anti-war movement” as I was only peripherally involved and that here in Canada, I have read Pinker’s description – in his How the Mind Works – of several incidents of assault against Wilson where people poured water over his head and brought noise makers to his class. Really sort of an eye-opener that made me realize that dogma – and its consequences – was not restricted to religious cloisters and seminaries ….

  99. 99
    tomh

    Steersman wrote:

    I figure she’s lucky he hasn’t sued her for slander or libel

    Oh, so now it’s not “criminal” any more, he should just sue her for some sort of damages? I guess she must have knowingly made false statements about Shermer, with actual malice intended, since he’s a public figure of sorts, see New York Times v Sullivan (1964). Here’s a clue for you – you don’t win a defamation suit by suing someone over their opinion of you.

  100. 100
    Ed Brayton

    Steersman wrote:

    The thing is Ed, that neither you nor Ophelia nor all of the pack braying at Shermer’s heels have ever managed to prove that his “[atheism], it’s more of a guy thing” actually qualifies as a sexist statement. And considering that that premise undergirds most of the subsequent attacks against him it seems that the dearth of evidence to justify the charge might reasonably be construed as evidence of a witch-hunt and an attempt to crucify him. Nice bunch of people.

    I think claiming that there are more men speaking at conferences than women because men are more “intellectually active” is quite obviously both dumb and sexist. I don’t think this is really stepping out on a limb at all.

    And, relative to the point in question, a recent Atheist Census with 24,000 respondents puts the population at 32% female and 67% male. Maybe some justification for the Shermer’s assertion that “[atheism], it’s more of a guy thing”?

    It’s fascinating seeing the two completely contradictory excuses being offered for Shermer’s sexist statement. The first one, offered by Shermer himself, is that because he said that he thinks the real ratio of men to women in atheism “probably really is fifty-fifty,” he could not possibly have said something sexist. But if the ratio really is 50/50 then the problem of relatively few women speakers and relatively few women in attendance is even more of a problem. If there are just as many atheist women as men, why don’t they come to meetings? It certainly cant’ be explained by the absurd claim that men are more “intellectually active” than women.

    And now we have your defense, which is the exact opposite, that the ratio isn’t 50/50 at all so that makes his statement justified. But he wasn’t arguing that there aren’t an equal number of men and women leading discussions and speaking at conferences because there aren’t an equal number of male and female atheists; in fact, he says the exact opposite of that, as explained above. So your argument is not a defense of what he said, it’s a defense of an entirely different statement.

    Is it actually 50/50? Probably not, because polling shows that men are more likely to be atheists than women (at least in the United States) — not by a huge margin, but enough that it probably can’t be expected to be 50/50 at this point. But that isn’t really the relevant question. The relevant questions are: why in many of our communities do we see very low numbers of women in attendance? And why do we see so few women in speaking roles or leading discussions? We have heard from many women that they feel uncomfortable going to events because they are often singled out and sexualized, especially if there’s only a small number of them and a very large number of men. I’ve spoken to many women who have told me exactly that, that if they go to a local atheist event they end up being hit on constantly and that isn’t why they’re there. We can take that testimony seriously and try to change the atmosphere, or we can put our head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t happen and the status quo will continue. It doesn’t mean we have to throw people out for flirting, for crying out loud. It means we need to set a more respectful tone and educate people to be aware of how their behavior may be affecting people. This is hardly an unreasonable suggestion.

  101. 101
    SallyStrange

    behaviors that promote stereotyping of social roles based on gender.

    Hah! Funny, appeals to dictionary usually fail but in this case it looks like a bingo to me.

    Shermer was asked why there seem to be more men around. In response, he appealed to the stereotype that atheism/skepticism, being “intellectually active” about it, and speaking in public about it, are a “guy thing.” In the context of the question “why are there more men?”, the response “it’s a guy thing,” really does not communicate much criticism of the premise of the statement “it’s a guy thing.” He ended up perpetuating, rather than challenging, a sexist stereotype. It’s obvious that he did so without conscious intent, so in fact his gaffe is a perfect example of something Shermer himself is always lecturing us about: unconscious bias. Didn’t mean to appeal to a stereotype, but did so anyway, because thoughtlessness. Happens to everyone. Happened to me today.

    And that’s just about what Ophelia said. Not that Shermer hates women, not that he ought to be purged.

    Just like with RW, the response is disproportionate to the alleged offense.

  102. 102
    mikee

    Do I expect leaders in skepticism and atheism to always say the right thing? – No, they are only human.

    Do I expect them to own up when they get things wrong? Damn right I do – that is the only rational thing to do.

    Do I expect them to listen to other people’s views? Damn right I do. If they expect everyone to listen to them, without questions, then they have become the sort of people skeptics and atheists have been fighting against .

  103. 103
    SallyStrange

    I’m just going to say my peace and let the inevitable insults and bashing take their course

    Yes, that’s always the first thing those fascists always do, make fun of you! You poor, poor preemptive victim.

  104. 104
    georgebean

    (Now that I’ve vented some of the steam I feel about the unfounded reverence paid to Harris)….I can’t help but notice that this whole “feminism” issue has led to an epidemic of over-defensiveness and there’s a shortage of chill pills now just when so many could use them.

    It’s such a *simple idea* (gender equality), and yet it’s proving to be one of the most complicated this community has been forced to address. And look how prickly (if not downright crazy) people are reacting over this! I mean, seriously – I’m old so I remember the Friedan and Robin Morgan feminist wave and hell yes was some of it ridiculously over-the-top (I also remember some inexcusably over-the-top excesses by LG activists in the 1980s – the BT political phase was yet-to-be). So when I see the kinds of relative nothings that have triggered this “anti-feminist” defensiveness it astonishes me how reactionary so many in this “reason based community” are.

    Confirms my darkest fears, really, that “reason” doesn’t resolve much outside the bounds of a given cultural perspective.

  105. 105
    dingojack

    Did Shermer actually say: “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.””

    So, is he suggesting that men are more likely ‘to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it’? If this is so, why might that be Mr Shermer?
    And is he seriously saying men are more likely to be ‘intellectually active’ about skepticism and atheism? Seriously?

    Dingo

  106. 106
    Steersman

    georgebean said (#104):

    (Now that I’ve vented some of the steam I feel about the unfounded reverence paid to Harris)….I can’t help but notice that this whole “feminism” issue has led to an epidemic of over-defensiveness and there’s a shortage of chill pills now just when so many could use them.

    It’s such a *simple idea* (gender equality), and yet it’s proving to be one of the most complicated this community has been forced to address. ….

    I can sympathize and I generally agree with you about Harris, although I haven’t read enough him to say much except to note, as I think you suggested, that it seems various philosophers have criticized his over-reliance on science to decide questions of morality.

    However, on the question of your “simple idea” of gender equality – at least in the sense of civil rights, I don’t think many actually dispute that point. My impression is that one of the larger bones of contention is the question of to what extent are our psychologies determined by genetics and by culture – the old nature-nurture debate. And the implications of that debate seem to have some significant relevance to a number of issues, notably the extent to which various behaviour patterns are “girl things” or “guy things” ….

  107. 107
    georgebean

    “My impression is that one of the larger bones of contention is the question of to what extent are our psychologies determined by genetics and by culture – the old nature-nurture debate. ”

    Uh, well.. I submit that would be you *reading into* the debate what may be key sub-textual contentions that caused so many to go haywire. But remember there’s the “appeal to nature” fallacy that (I should hope) most self-respecting secularists abjure so if that’s what the debate’s about, few of the anybodies engaged in it are admitting that’s what it’s about.

    I don’t think that’s what it’s really about myself. I think what it’s really about is oftentimes rationalized to be about that.

  108. 108
    Steersman

    dingojack said (#105):

    And is he seriously saying men are more likely to be ‘intellectually active’ about skepticism and atheism? Seriously?

    Assuming for a moment that that is what he said, why is that such a hard concept to wrap your head around? As I mentioned above, a recent Atheist Census with some 170,000 respondents worldwide [60,000 in the US] shows a distribution of about 25% female and 74% male from which one could probably extrapolate that the gender distribution in the US is very similar. However, a recent Pew Forum poll puts the distribution at about 42.5% female and 57.5% male [approximately; pg 21] based on a sample of some 3000 people surveyed by phone. And the discrepancy is, I think, probably due to the fact that the former seems to be Internet based while the latter is just plain old telephone so may get an older demographic.

    Now, assuming that the first survey is polling those who are more “intellectually active” within the atheist community, the numbers would seem to justify Shermer’s contention that it is the males who happen to be more so. However, that still says absolutely nothing about the reasons for that disparity – maybe there are more males because more males happen to be interested in geek science and the Internet and so are more aware of those types of surveys or more willing to answer them and consequently more aware of the various atheist conventions and discussion boards. And maybe there are more women who are more intellectually active on other issues and in other venues. Or maybe there are economic disparities that prevent more women from accessing the Internet and so unable to be involved in various activities.

    But, regardless of the reasons for those disparities, it seems rather difficult to argue that they don’t exist. That atheist activism isn’t “more of a guy thing”.

  109. 109
    Jafafa Hots

    Yeah. Maybe girls just don’t have atheism genes.

  110. 110
    Jafafa Hots

    (should have referenced #106.)

  111. 111
    Jafafa Hots

    But, regardless of the reasons for those disparities, it seems rather difficult to argue that they don’t exist. That atheist activism isn’t “more of a guy thing”

    One thing we know for sure – claiming it’s more of a guy thing is more of a guy thing.

  112. 112
    Steersman

    Jafafa Hots said (#109)

    Yeah. Maybe girls just don’t have atheism genes.

    Right. The same way girls also don’t have the genes that lead men to commit violent crimes more often – at least based on the fact that there are 10 times as many men in jail for those types of crimes than there are women ….

    Or maybe you don’t think that genes have any influence on our behaviours, and that Jehovah – or his Wife – put them there for decoration?

    We all have pretty much the same genes, but there are variations and they do have at least some influence on our behaviours. And some of them can be rather problematic and some of them quite beneficial, some more so than others. But it generally helps to know about their effects and how they can be compensated for or used to their fullest extents, although it seems that we’re not quite there yet.

    One thing we know for sure – claiming it’s more of a guy thing is more of a guy thing.

    You might be right about that, although there’s still the question of why that is the case. Generally there have been more guy scientists, although there have also been a great many brilliant gal scientists as well so that if a large part of being a scientist is genetic then it isn’t something that is exclusive to any one sex.

  113. 113
    Steersman

    georgebean said (#107):

    Uh, well.. I submit that would be you *reading into* the debate what may be key sub-textual contentions that caused so many to go haywire.

    Yes, “unexamined” biases and conceptions can be rather problematic. Unfortunately, that we can sweep problems under the rug tends not to be any guarantee that they still can’t trip us up – and frequently at the most inopportune times.

    But remember there’s the “appeal to nature” fallacy that (I should hope) most self-respecting secularists abjure so if that’s what the debate’s about, few of the anybodies engaged in it are admitting that’s what it’s about.

    There’s a difference between acknowledging a certain set of behaviour patterns in various subgroups in a population, and asserting that any of them are “good”, “bad”, or “indifferent”. But I find that one can’t do much about “accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative” if one can’t face the facts about which are what to begin with. And that is, I think, a major stumbling block for many.

    I don’t think that’s what it’s really about myself. I think what it’s really about is oftentimes rationalized to be about that.

    My impression from a fair amount of reading is that more than a few others are of a similar mind. For instance, you might not be aware of but be interested in this Wikipedia article on equity and gender feminism – a division which mirrors the nature-nurture debate. In addition there is this chapter on Gender in Stephen Pinker’s The Blank Slate.

  114. 114
    huntstoddard

    Go after Shermer, he deserves it, but I think it’s unfair of you to also not go after Benson as well. All I know about this is pretty much contained on this blog post thread. And that is that Shermer needs some lessons in argumentation, dispassionate critiquing, and room to develop his emotional intelligence . Ms. Benson on the other hand reveals a morally repugnant willingness to defame another person; where I find that to be a far worse moral failing here than the buffonery on display by Mr. Shermer.

    This has been my general conclusion. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Yes, what Shermer said was kind of dumb, but that doesn’t excuse Benson’s hit piece on him, which wildly misrepresented what he said. Even worse, it wildly misrepresents what Shermer almost certainly stands for and believes.

  115. 115
    Steersman

    jenniferphillips said (#86):

    Steersman @72 said:

    Good idea. Why not follow that up by burning all of the dictionaries so that no one can ever use a dictionary in any argument ever again. And then all of the books that you personally disagree with ….

    Yes, because pointing out that dictionary definition arguments are stupid and ineffective is EXACTLY like censorship.

    But you didn’t say they were “stupid and ineffective”; you said “… there needs to be some internet law … whereby invoking a dictionary definition as part of your argument results in forfeit”. Which looks to me rather much exactly like censorship: “to remove or suppress what is considered morally, politically, or otherwise objectionable”.

    Relative to which you might want to reflect on something from a German writer, Heinrich Heine:

    Where they burn books, so too will they in the end burn human beings.

    From the suppression of books to the burning of them is a fairly common progression found in the historical record. And it frequently doesn’t stop there – why it’s very bad karma to even suggest anything remotely like the first step.

    I see you studied at the Michael Shermer School of Hyperbole.

    Masters and Ph.D. Highly recommended – I would suggest that you start with his The Believing Brain….

  116. 116
    uno1

    Steersman, for fucks sake, please stop using the Atheist Census as though it’s an accurate measurements. It’s essentially an internet poll in terms of sampling. Also, as a side-note, visibility does not equal intellectual activity.

    How about you respond to Ed’s response to your initial points, or acknowledge where your reasoning is dodgy.

  117. 117
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    What the anti-feminists practice isn’t skepticism, any more than what a creationist practices is science – it’s a cover for dismissing thing they don’t happen to like or agree with out of hand; rolling the turd in glitter because they know it can’t be polished.

    We know there are fewer women in the community – though even this is something that’s called into question by the so-called skeptics – and we could do something about it easily enough and see if things changed for the better. It would grow the numbers of the movement and maybe even help free more people from the shackles of religion and the problems it causes.

    But no, they want to shout ‘extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence!’ on every aspect of it, despite the fact there’s nothing extraordinary about the issues outlined whatsoever. But that doesn’t matter to them; they just want to maintain the status quo, where they can have their egos stroked and their particular interests focused upon, no matter how little that matters to other parts of the community or how much that prevents them from wanting to be involved.

    They don’t give two shits about anyone who’s not currently satisfied with how things are in the community – the always endearing ‘I’ve got mine so y’all can go fuck yourselves’ attitude, with skepticism being the tool through which they seek to maintain their privileged positions.

    I’d just wish they were honest enough to admit it and put aside the pretence of skepticism. If the so-called skeptics were as ‘skeptical’ about their daily lives as they are about this issue, none of them would even cross the road. Or possibly even leave the house.

  118. 118
    Steersman

    uno1 said (#116):

    Steersman, for fucks sake, please stop using the Atheist Census as though it’s an accurate measurements. It’s essentially an internet poll in terms of sampling.

    Not sure how much weight I was actually putting on it. I also referenced the Pew Forum statistics as well which was based on a substantially smaller sample size. Even absent some measure or estimate on the realibility of the AC it still seems better than nothing which was what was available before.

    Also, as a side-note, visibility does not equal intellectual activity

    Maybe not exactly, but, assuming you were referring to the AC, that 170,000 people – 60,000 in the US – provided the relevant information to them means that there was at least that amount of “intellectual activity” and whatever else of a similar nature goes along with being a “net-izen” ….

    How about you respond to Ed’s response to your initial points, or acknowledge where your reasoning is dodgy.

    Responding to Ed’s comment is going to take some thought and more time than I have at the moment ….

  119. 119
    dingojack

    Steersman – let’s imagine a hypothetical alien race. One sex makes up 99% of the population, other other 1%. The sex with the lesser number zip around, flitting from one location to the other, the other lethargically drags themselves at only a few centimetres per hour. Which has greater energy levels?

    Bald percentages don’t tell you anything about ‘intellectual activity’ levels, levels of intellectual activity would do that. Any evidence in that regard?

    Dingo
    ——–
    BTW The Atheist survey is an self-selecting Internet survey any so is unreliable. The Pew survey is for 3000 person, contacted by phone within the US, therefore age-biased, self-selecting and of restricted geographical usefulness. Neither speaks accurately of atheists in general.

  120. 120
    dingojack

    Steersman – I don’t know if having 510 women and 690 men (out of a total of 1200 atheists*) is statistically significant. I’ll let others who are more familiar with the calculations make the call.
    Dingo
    ——–
    * or is that 42.5% female and 57.5% male of all atheists?

  121. 121
    Michael Heath

    A Hermit wrote:

    [Michael Shermer's] not being “savaged” for that remark; he got a t=rather mild criticism for saying somethin gwhich, on the face of it, reinforced a sexist stereotype.

    No, that’s certainly not all. Ophelia Benson greatly distorted what Mr. Shermer said; falsely turning him into a raging sexist when if you read what Shermer actually said within the context of everything else he said, was worthy only of the mild criticism you and some others in this thread claim he received from others. (I know only what I’ve read in this thread, Benson’s false attack on Shermer, and Shermer’s response).

    Mr. Shermer’s original statement is worthy of criticism, but he also has a legitimate beef against Ms. Benson. The fact his response to her defamation is so pathetically bad and remedial is worthy of ridicule, but Ms. Benson’s defamation he responds to here is repugnant. I’d argue his original statement was a 2 – 3 on a scale of sexism, Ms. Benson’s descent into demagoguery in response has me scoring that a 6 out of 10. The fact her demagoguery works is disappointing, see Gretchen’s post below your’s as one more illustration of the type of tribalistic thinking one can observe in the freethinking society.

  122. 122
    Gretchen

    Michael Heath said:

    Ms. Benson’s descent into demagoguery in response has me scoring that a 6 out of 10. The fact her demagoguery works is disappointing, see Gretchen’s post below your’s as one more illustration of the type of tribalistic thinking one can observe in the freethinking society.

    Good lord. I not only said not one word in favor of Benson but even granted without argument your assertion that she “defamed” someone, which is a “morally repugnant” thing to do. I submit, Mr. Heath, that you wouldn’t recognize tribalism if it hunted you down wielding a tomahawk. You just don’t like that I consider it far worse to insult a broad category of people while adopting a comical persecution pose than to possibly misrepresent, for whatever reason, a single public figure in order to cast blame on him. Whichever one of us is right, I find it ironic that your own behavior more closely resembles the one you consider worse.

    P.S. What, I would also ask, is the point of banning Kacy Ray from this thread when there is no shortage of people willing to carry his moronic torch of tribalism in his stead?

  123. 123
    MadHatter

    Michael a huge part of the problem here is that what Shermer said wasn’t in a vacuum. Women have been told pretty regularly that they aren’t intellectual enough to be atheist, or that we aren’t welcome as part of the community in one way or another. What he said was especially dismissive with that background. Then he compounded it by doubling down.

    Benson’s response arose from that background. The one where we’re told to “sit quietly” or at best to make any complaints we have as “nicely” as possible, preferably with a smile. That she didn’t is what I think has upset the apple cart.

    You might want to consider that background for a moment.

  124. 124
    dingojack

    Michael – Shermer said: “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.””

    Which Benson interpreted as meaning ‘I think these things are activities and qualities more suited to men*”. Which I would contend is a reasonable interpretation of his intent.
    When asked to clarify this statement, he could have said ‘no, that’s not what I intended to convey at all. It was a clumsily worded, off-the-cuff statement. I’m sorry if I sounded as if I was saying women skeptics and/or atheists are incapable of doing these things’. or something a little more elegant, instead he doubled and tripled down on the statement.

    Dingo
    ——–
    * including being more ‘intellectually active’ than women, apparently
    BTW I’d suggest you re-read what Ophelia Benson wrote more carefully before accusing her of defamation.

  125. 125
    Deen

    Ophelia Benson greatly distorted what Mr. Shermer said; falsely turning him into a raging sexist

    Where did she do that? From what I’ve read, she only quoted him saying something that she claims confirms a common sexist stereotype (a claim that you seem to agree is quite defensible). She doesn’t ascribe malice to Shermer, or assign sexist motivations at all in the original article, nor anywhere else that I’ve found. I *am* seeing a lot of people ascribing malice to Ophelia Benson, though.

  126. 126
    Raging Bee

    The thing is Ed, that neither you nor Ophelia nor all of the pack braying at Shermer’s heels have ever managed to prove that his “[atheism], it’s more of a guy thing” actually qualifies as a sexist statement.

    Go to bed, Steersman, we’ve already dealt with your bogus quibbling and hairsplitting in Ed’s “Atheist Cult” post. All of your arguments got refuted from multiple directions, and now you’re back repeating the same flat denials all over again. What do you do for an encore — deny there’s any “proof” that “n*gg*r”
    is an insulting word?

    I suggest you read comment #21 above, and take it to heart: another defender of Shermer admitted this one comment of his wrong, but managed to dfend him by saying it wasn’t representative of Shermer’s stated opinions overall. That may or may not be the truth, but it’s a hell of a lot more credible than your desperate attempt to deny any error on his part. You should learn from that example — and so should Shermer.

  127. 127
    Raging Bee

    What time-zone is Steersman in? Did he really stay up all night churning out this relentless trolling drivel? What an obsessive one-track idiot.

  128. 128
    sawells

    @125: I think a lot of the anti-feminist overreaction stems from a faillure to distinguish between “that thing you said was a sexist thing to say” and “you are a sexist”. They don’t grasp that a person who isn’t A SEXIST in their identity can quite easily say something which is a sexist thing to say – what with sexism being rife in our culture, history and language.

    So they see a mild criticism – that Shermer said something which reinforced a sexist stereotype – and they react as if somebody had said “Shermer is vile sexist scum and must be eternally shunned and purged from our ranks”.

    It’s a self-image thing. They know that they are Not Sexist, and so any ascription that anything they said or did might be sexist must ipso facto be wrong and an evil Nazi witch-hunt.

    Okay, it’s also a stupidity thing.

  129. 129
    kacyray

    Gretchen, Ed himself conceded the idea that the comments frequently take on a tribalistic tone.

    I’ve demonstrated example after example of tribalism.

    If you don’t see it… that’s probably because the last people to notice tribalism would be members of the tribe. That’s human nature. This thread is a bit of a refreshing departure from that trend, but it doesn’t change the overall nature of the community. It is what it is.

    Anyway… I was preemptively banned. I’ll shut up now.

  130. 130
    dingojack

    #129, – With which part of ‘he doubled and tripled down’ are you having difficulty?
    #129 – ‘I’ve demonstrated example after example of tribalism’. – uh no you haven’t you’ve whined that you can’t present your plethora of alleged evidence, despite there being no barrier to you doing so, and that’s about it.
    Dingo

  131. 131
    Gretchen

    Gretchen, Ed himself conceded the idea that the comments frequently take on a tribalistic tone.

    Yes, they do. However (brace yourself; this might come as a bit of a shock) disagreement with KacyRay or Michael Heath are not, in themselves, examples of that.

  132. 132
    ildi

    MH:

    Ophelia Benson greatly distorted what Mr. Shermer said; falsely turning him into a raging sexist when if you read what Shermer actually said within the context of everything else he said, was worthy only of the mild criticism you and some others in this thread claim he received from others. (I know only what I’ve read in this thread, Benson’s false attack on Shermer, and Shermer’s response).

    Wait a minute, if your information is based on this thread, how do you know that Benson greatly distorted what Shermer said? You didn’t bother to read the original article she wrote for context, but now you’re able to evaluate Shermer’s statement in context based only on this thread? If you’re going to make the pretty outrageous statement that she’ s ‘falsely turning him into a raging sexist’ doesn’t it behoove you do to a little more fucking research?

  133. 133
    Raging Bee

    Anyway… I was preemptively banned. I’ll shut up now.

    That comment is so self-refuting I had to laugh. Kacyray doesn’t seem to understand that a claim of “persecution” doesn’t work if it’s funny, bless his little heart.

  134. 134
    oolon

    Why are Steers et al whining on about Ophelias hideous accusations of sexism? She never labelled him a sexist or misogynist in the first place so why bother arguing over it!

    Ophelia…

    I didn’t label him a sexist or a misogynist….. My article was about the stereotype, not about Shermer. I devoted one paragraph to Shermer.

    She just used him as an example of a prominent sceptic who trotted out the tired old stereotype without any one picking up on it or challenging it…

    Personally its a real shame this vanity whine has glossed over the actual controversy there –> comments that it was hard to get women speakers when only two had been asked!

  135. 135
    jenniferphillips

    Steersman:

    But you didn’t say they were “stupid and ineffective”; you said “… there needs to be some internet law … whereby invoking a dictionary definition as part of your argument results in forfeit”. Which looks to me rather much exactly like censorship: “to remove or suppress what is considered morally, politically, or otherwise objectionable”.

    Do you truly not understand what the word ‘forfeit’ means in the context of Godwin’s or Scopie’s law? My apologies if you are not familiar with all internet traditions, but these laws (and the corollary that I proposed in my original comment) mandate that any person invoking Nazi Germany, the whale.to website or dictionary definitions during a debate will be considered to have lost the argument and, often, ribbed a bit for their absurdity. ‘Forfeit’ in this case means ‘lose the argument’. Not ‘lose your personal freedom or your life’.

    But you know what, even if you didn’t know the history of Godwin’s law, and couldn’t be arsed to google it, your inability or unwillingness to consider all the possible meanings of ‘forfeit’ and jump to the worst possible interpretation is pretty much par for the course. This tendency to overreach for any possible mud to sling is part of the reason this fight has raged on for going on two years now.

    And I see you actually used a dictionary definition of ‘forfeit’ to challenge my new law. How very brave of you.

  136. 136
    SallyStrange

    I think a lot of the anti-feminist overreaction stems from a faillure to distinguish between “that thing you said was a sexist thing to say” and “you are a sexist”. They don’t grasp that a person who isn’t A SEXIST in their identity can quite easily say something which is a sexist thing to say – what with sexism being rife in our culture, history and language.

    So they see a mild criticism – that Shermer said something which reinforced a sexist stereotype – and they react as if somebody had said “Shermer is vile sexist scum and must be eternally shunned and purged from our ranks”.

    It’s a self-image thing. They know that they are Not Sexist, and so any ascription that anything they said or did might be sexist must ipso facto be wrong and an evil Nazi witch-hunt.

    Okay, it’s also a stupidity thing.

    Quoted and repeated for truth and emphasis.

  137. 137
    Gretchen

    Otherwise known as the “that thing you said” conversation. See: Jay Smooth on Youtube talking about the concept when it comes to racism. It should come up with by simply searching “Jay Smooth racism.”

  138. 138
    Ophelia Benson

    Good grief. I “greatly distorted what Mr. Shermer said” and I “defamed” him – by quoting exactly what he said and commenting on it.

    Dudes, I quoted exactly what he said. You can’t “greatly distort” and “defame” people by quoting exactly what they say.

  139. 139
    heddle

    Ophelia Benson,

    Dudes, I quoted exactly what he said. You can’t “greatly distort” and “defame” people by quoting exactly what they say.

    Of couse you can. It’s called a quote-mine and it happens all the time. Surely you don’t really believe what you just wrote.

  140. 140
    Ophelia Benson

    Yes, and if the house bursts into flames then you’re allowed to get out of bed. I used to pull that trick on my mother when I was 5 too.

    I didn’t quote-mine.

    You people claiming I lied and defamed do realize that Free Inquiry has editors, right? And that editors don’t let contributors lie and defame?

  141. 141
    Michael Heath

    Sarah to me:

    Michael a huge part of the problem here is that what Shermer said wasn’t in a vacuum. Women have been told pretty regularly that they aren’t intellectual enough to be atheist, or that we aren’t welcome as part of the community in one way or another. What he said was especially dismissive with that background. Then he compounded it by doubling down.

    I get the context and did when I posted previously. But his gaffe must also be considered within the context of the other things he stated which were overtly pro-equality. That context strongly suggests his gaffe was more insensitive, what others have called dumb, than blatantly sexist; though I still think it was sexist where I arbitrarily rated it a 2 -3 out of 10.

    Re Shermer’s “doubling down”: Is there a response from Shermer other than the one Ed linked to here that you are referencing? Because what Shermer originally said in no way justifies the gross misrepresentation of what Shermer stated by Ophelia Benson. Her defamation certainly justifies Shermer defending himself from the demagoguery she’s working here; albeit his defense is as pathetically ridiculous as Ed noted. And that’s a notable distinction, his audience (people like us) can discern how pathetic his persecution complex argument is, while Ms. Benson’s demagoguery strikes bone with tribalistic freethinkers – to the point they can’t even confront what she wrote.

    I’m reminded of noticing the speck in another’s eye while being unaware of the mote in one’s one. (not you Sarah, but those who avoid/deny what Ms. Benson stated or try to justify or minimize her dishonest character attack).

  142. 142
    aaronbaker

    I’m of two minds about this:

    Shermer’s response to Benson borders on (or falls right into) unhinged; however, I don’t believe he was insinuating that women are too dumb for “thinky” pursuits, as Benson charged. He could at least as plausibly be understood to mean that women tend to be less assertive than men (maybe a problematic generalization, too, but not obnoxious). Not being a mind reader, I see no good reason to prefer one attribution of intent to the other–and I’m disinclined for reasons of fairness to read the the worst possible intent into people’s statements without some corroborating evidence.

  143. 143
    heddle

    Ophelia Benson

    I didn’t quote-mine.

    I didn’t claim that you did quote-mine. I’ll keep my opinion on that to myself. My comment was limited to your claim in #138, which is demonstrably false.

  144. 144
    Michael Heath

    Me earlier:

    Ophelia Benson greatly distorted what Mr. Shermer said; falsely turning him into a raging sexist

    Deen responds:

    Where did she do that? From what I’ve read, she only quoted him saying something that she claims confirms a common sexist stereotype (a claim that you seem to agree is quite defensible). She doesn’t ascribe malice to Shermer, or assign sexist motivations at all in the original article, nor anywhere else that I’ve found. I *am* seeing a lot of people ascribing malice to Ophelia Benson, though.

    This is a perfect example of the type denialism I referred to earlier. I suggest re-reading what each stated, i.e., Ed’s link to Shermer in the main body of this blog post and my link to Benson’s response at comment post 71. You’ll find she didn’t merely quote what he said, she instead created an imaginary Shermer with attendant ilk who express all sorts of atrociously sexist things. The problem is Mr. Shermer did no such thing.

  145. 145
    Raging Bee

    But his gaffe must also be considered within the context of the other things he stated which were overtly pro-equality.

    If he’d clarified or amended his gaffe, then yes, we’d have to consider that broader context. But when he doubled down on the stupid and started crying about Nazi persecution, then he’s the one who blew his original words out of that context, not us. His asinine crybaby attacks are the reason we’re not talking about whatever else he’s said over the years.

    He could at least as plausibly be understood to mean that women tend to be less assertive than men (maybe a problematic generalization, too, but not obnoxious).

    Yes, it’s still obnoxious, because it’s something that was said with zero regard for facts or circumstances. And yes, it’s still “sexist;” your more charitable interpretation makes it a little milder, but not excusable.

    …and I’m disinclined for reasons of fairness to read the the worst possible intent into people’s statements without some corroborating evidence.

    What’s his unhinged doubling-down — chopped liver? Refusal to admit error is a pretty strong indicator of bad intent, as are outlandish self-pitying Nazi references.

  146. 146
    Raging Bee

    …she instead created an imaginary Shermer with attendant ilk who express all sorts of atrociously sexist things.

    Care to quote some specific examples?

  147. 147
    spartan

    I do agree with almost everyone’s criticism of Shermer’s comments, but I don’t think that criticism of Ophelia on this is that out-of-bounds. Although I can see how she got there, I think ‘women don’t do thinky’ is pretty close to the worst paraphrase you can make of Shermer’s statement, that in my mind is not that unambiguous. And I don’t think selecting the worst interpretation is, well, skeptical. That kind of shit used to happen all the time here with, speak of the devil, Mr. Heddle, where someone would say ‘heddle said/believes arglebargle’ and when you actually find where they are getting it from, it is, at best, one possible interpretation of what he said. I don’t find the tactic any more valid just because the topic is sexism/feminism as opposed to atheism v theism. Which is not to say that Ophelia, who don’t get me wrong is overall an excellent blogger, has no cause at all to react in that way, but I don’t think it’s consistent with this from Ed: “Shouldn’t atheists and skeptics, of all people, put in the mental effort necessary to overcome those tendencies and evaluate each and every argument and claim using the same rational criteria?” And gack, before someone utters the banal, ‘intent is not magic’, I didn’t say it was. But it’s not irrelevant either.

  148. 148
    Steersman

    Ophelia Benson said (#138):

    Good grief. I “greatly distorted what Mr. Shermer said” and I “defamed” him – by quoting exactly what he said and commenting on it.

    Dudes, I quoted exactly what he said. You can’t “greatly distort” and “defame” people by quoting exactly what they say.

    What unmitigated horseshit, Ophelia.

    Shermer said: “… it’s more of a guy thing”.

    You said at one point at the beginning of the article:

    The main stereotype in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do nontheism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”

    Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that during a panel discussion on the online talk-show The Point.

    While your “said exactly that” is somewhat open to interpretation, the most charitable one to you is that it is referring only to “that’s a guy thing”. Which he, in no uncertain terms, simply never fucking said.

    And that “more” of his makes all of the difference in the world in changing a categorical statement to a conditional one: asserting that all men are rapists is sexist; noting that there are 136 times more men in prison for rape than there are women is a simple statement of fact.

  149. 149
    hypatiasdaughter

    #74 Michael Heath

    In this case playing David Barton’s foil and not reading the cites but instead depending on the preferred tribal narrative to be true when in fact that narrative is not true.

    I totally agree. Which is why I actually viewed the video of both The Point panel discussion (in which nothing was said about women in atheism at all) and the Q&A session that followed, where Shermer made the comment. And I also read Benson’s original article that Shermer was quoted in.
    You, on the other hand, seem only to have read Shermer’s posts defending his words. It seems your definition of tribalism is anyone that anyone getting the facts from Benson or Brayton are being lied to ; whereas anyone getting them from Shemer is being told the gospel truth. Shermer said it. I believe it . Case closed.
    Do you have enough honesty and introspection to see the tribalism in your own position and behavior?

    I will post links to the two videos and a transcript of the relevant section of the Q&A sessions, if Ed permits.
    Read it. Watch the video. Sean Carroll, a Theoretical Physicist from CalTech, made the very points that I would expect to come out of the mouth of someone who was being interviewed about the A/S community, who edits a major magazine about the skeptic community and who, by his own admission, is well aware of the Deep Rifts in the community that have been brewing over the last two years. I expect that Shermer actually agreed with everything Carroll said so why the hell didn’t he say it first? Why didn’t he have an opinion on the topic that was as insightful as a fucking physicist ?
    Answer: Indifference. Problems for women in the A/S community are not his fight. Shrug But the problems of the guys who are being criticized by feminists…..Well, now he knows he should have stood up and been counted with them.

  150. 150
    Michael Heath

    Me @ 71:

    Ophelia Benson greatly distorted what Mr. Shermer said; falsely turning him into a raging sexist when if you read what Shermer actually said within the context of everything else he said, was worthy only of the mild criticism you and some others in this thread claim he received from others. (I know only what I’ve read in this thread, Benson’s false attack on Shermer, and Shermer’s response).

    ildi responds @ 132:

    Wait a minute, if your information is based on this thread, how do you know that Benson greatly distorted what Shermer said? You didn’t bother to read the original article she wrote for context, but now you’re able to evaluate Shermer’s statement in context based only on this thread? If you’re going to make the pretty outrageous statement that she’ s ‘falsely turning him into a raging sexist’ doesn’t it behoove you do to a little more fucking research?

    My post @ 71 which you quote here refers to Shermer’s post which is linked to in the body of Ed’s blog post; I noted that in the very text you blockquoted @ 132 (see italics above). And get this, I not only cited Benson’s response in what you quote here which I now also italicize, I also linked to Ms. Benson’s defamation of Shermer in the very body of my post which you quoted and quoted her verbatim in that post as well.

    Why do I predominately encounter rampant denial/avoidance and reading fails when I criticize tribalistic liberal arguments?

  151. 151
    ildi

    MH: Ah, so you did read the article, missed that. Ok, lets put that quote in context:

    Mostly though, it’s just a matter of stereotypes, the boring, stubborn, wrong stereotypes and implicit associations that feminism has been battling since, well, forever. The social psychologist Cordelia Fine sums them up in Delusions of Gender: “Measures of implicit associations reveal that men, more than women, are implicitly associated with science, math, career, hierarchy, and high authority. In contrast, women, more than men, are implicitly associated with the liberal arts, family and domesticity, egalitarianism, and low authority.”

    The main stereotype in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do nontheism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”

    Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that during a panel discussion on the online talk-show The Point. The host, Cara Santa Maria, presented a question: Why isn’t the gender split in atheism closer to 50-50? Shermer explained, “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”

    It’s all there—women don’t do thinky, they don’t speak up, they don’t talk at conferences, they don’t get involved—it’s “a guy thing,” like football and porn and washing the car.

    It’s incredibly discouraging, that kind of thing. I thought (naïvely) that stereotypes of women as stupid and passive and bashful had been exposed as, precisely, sexist stereotypes decades ago, at least among intellectual and political and progressive types. I thought everybody knew they were not just wrong but also retrograde. Would Shermer have said that if the question had been about race instead of gender? Would he have said “it’s more of a white thing”? It seems very unlikely.

    Benson uses hyperbole. Shame on her! However, nothing in her narrative justifies

    You’ll find she didn’t merely quote what he said, she instead created an imaginary Shermer with attendant ilk who express all sorts of atrociously sexist things.

    or

    Ms. Benson’s defamation he responds to here is repugnant.

    Talk about a plank in one’s eye! Can you be any more hypberpolic yourself? By this ‘logic’, when people criticize heddle for his beliefs about the morality of the Canaanite genocide, they’re calling him a genocidal murderer.

  152. 152
    ildi

    hypberpolic – alternate spelling of hyperbolic

  153. 153
    Michael Heath

    Ophelia Benson @ 138 to me:

    Good grief. I “greatly distorted what Mr. Shermer said” and I “defamed” him – by quoting exactly what he said and commenting on it.

    You didn’t merely comment on “it”, you created a distortion of what he stated and commented on that. I’ll repeat both. Shermer as quoted by me @ 71:

    Here’s what Shermer said:
    I think it probably really is fifty-fifty. It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”

    Ophelia Benson then stated:

    The main stereotype in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do nontheism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”
    Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that during a panel discussion on the online talk-show The Point. The host, Cara Santa Maria, presented a question: Why isn’t the gender split in atheism closer to 50-50? Shermer explained, “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”

    It’s all there—women don’t do thinky, they don’t speak up, they don’t talk at conferences, they don’t get involved—it’s “a guy thing,” like football and porn and washing the car.

    You owe Mr. Shermer an apology, as does he for what he stated.

  154. 154
    Michael Heath

    Me earlier:

    …[Ophelia Benson] instead created an imaginary Shermer with attendant ilk who express all sorts of atrociously sexist things.

    Raging Bee responds:

    Care to quote some specific examples?

    This doesn’t make sense. I’m claiming a set with a population of one, so there’s no need for examples; instead my assertion on this one quote is either fair, not fair, or something in-between. I’m comfortable I described her defamation for what it is. That would be the article and quote I linked to and quoted @ 71, which I just posted above again immediately above @ 153.

  155. 155
    eric

    Heath:

    Re Shermer’s “doubling down”: Is there a response from Shermer other than the one Ed linked to here that you are referencing? Because what Shermer originally said in no way justifies the gross misrepresentation of what Shermer stated by Ophelia Benson.

    Yes, Here. Now look: here is OB’s original response. She quotes Shermer’s ‘its a guy thing.’ Then she parahprases it. Then she says ‘Shermer said exactly that.’ It is pretty clear that when she says ‘Shermer said exactly that,’ she’s referring to the quote one line above, i.e., that Shermer said “its a guy thing.” Which he did. But now go back and look at that first response of Shermer’s. He quotes her paraphrase and implies she’s misquoting him. But she obviously isn’t. There is only one phrase of Shermer’s in quotation marks in her article, and its “its a guy thing.” That’s the quote she uses, and that quote is accurate.
    Do you get it now? OB is not implying that her entire (initial) paraphrase was a direct quote. There’s quotation marks around one thing, and that thing is accurate.
    Her later parahprase of Shermer’s comment is ‘women don’t do thinky, they don’t speak up, they don’t talk at conferences, they don’t get involved—it’s “a guy thing,”’ As far as I can tell, your substantive complaint is that the thinky part may not be an accurate paraphrase – Shermer may only have meant that speaking up and talking at conferences is a guy thing.
    Do I have that right? Is that your substantive complaint?
    Can you understand how others may consider that a distracting quibble, and that the remaining bits – that speaking at conferences is a guy thing – is quite bad enough? Do you also understand that OB’s whole point in her criticism – ‘this sort of comment is incredibly discouraging to women’ – directly applies to Shermer’s comment, even if you interpret Shermer as ‘merely’ saying that speaking at conferences is a guy thing?
    Now, since you seem to be drawing from this post of Eds but not earlier sources,
    here is the list of OP’s threads on the matter. I’d particularly invite you to look at the Dec 13 one, “morning cleanup,” where she states – twice – that she is not attempting to draw any conclusion about Shermer as a person, call him sexist or misogynist. She’s talking about this one, specific comment of his being discouraging to women. In other words, your “created an imaginary Shermer with attendant ilk who express all sorts of atrociously sexist things” was a position she repudiated over a month ago.
    ***
    Which maybe brings us to the gist of the matter. Do YOU think someone saying “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing” is discouraging to women, or not?

    I do. OB does – that’s the point she is trying to make. Shermer either doesn’t think its discouraging to women or thinks, well, I don’t really know what else he could think if he’s defending saying that.

  156. 156
    Steersman

    Raging Bee said (#146):

    …[Benson] instead created an imaginary Shermer with attendant ilk who express all sorts of atrociously sexist things.

    Care to quote some specific examples?

    Gawd, you’re clueless. Or your reading skills are the shits.

    Benson said some 5 months ago the following which started this whole drama:

    The main stereotype in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do nontheism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”

    Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that during a panel discussion on the online talk-show The Point.

    Her inference, if not a bare-faced lying statement, is that Shermer thinks that “unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because that’s a guy thing.”

    Hatchet-job, indeed.

  157. 157
    Michael Heath

    hypatiasdaughter to me @ 149:

    You, on the other hand, seem only to have read Shermer’s posts defending his words.

    The avoidance on this topic is incredible. I not only read Ms. Benson’s article, I linked to it and quoted from it right next to the Shermer comment in my post @ 71.

    Hypatiasdaughter’s delusions go ever-deeper:

    It seems your definition of tribalism is anyone that anyone getting the facts from Benson or Brayton are being lied to ; whereas anyone getting them from Shemer is being told the gospel truth. Shermer said it. I believe it . Case closed.
    Do you have enough honesty and introspection to see the tribalism in your own position and behavior?

    Tribalism in this case is avoiding or denying repugnant behavior by a member of the tribe; in spite of criticizing non-tribal members when they do it. I did no such thing, I’ve criticized Ed, Shermer, Benson, and those like you who avoid Benson’s demagoguery and defamation of Shermer.

    I’m judging the merits of each person’s statements by the very same criteria we use here to ridicule conservatives, including Ed’s post. And contrary to your lying here about what I wrote previously, I not only confronted what Benson wrote, I frickin’ linked to it and quoted from it to reveal how her description of Shermer compared to the quote from Shermer – it didn’t, it was an obvious and repugnant misrepresentation of what he wrote.

  158. 158
    Michael Heath

    ildi to me:

    Benson uses hyperbole.

    Not even close; Ms. Benson created an imaginary Shermer and then trashed that one. Strawmen are one of the most remedial forms of rhetorical fallacies, and they’re particularly repellent when they’re used to defame another person.

  159. 159
    jenniferphillips

    Michael Heath:

    I’ve been trying really hard to determine what, exactly, you find so repellent about the original article–I truly don’t see the imaginary Shermer you speak of. Is it that you believe “women don’t do thinky” is too broad an interpretation of “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”?

  160. 160
    Raging Bee

    Although I can see how she got there, I think ‘women don’t do thinky’ is pretty close to the worst paraphrase you can make of Shermer’s statement.

    Here’s Shermer’s actual statement, as quoted above:

    … It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”

    So, yeah, “women don’t do thinky” isn’t really that far from what Shermer said, as the text in bold should remind you. He really did seem to be saying that bieng “intellectually active” is one of the things he considered “more of a guy thing.”

  161. 161
    Raging Bee

    Benson uses hyperbole.

    That’s nothing compared to her older brother Doug, who uses…sarcasm!

  162. 162
    ildi

    MH: I’m comfortable describing the imaginary Shermer as existing only in your fervid imagination. Hey, you and heddle finally have something in common!

  163. 163
    A. Noyd

    Michael Heath (#153)

    You owe Mr. Shermer an apology, as does he for what he stated.

    You really need to think a bit more about why Ophelia included that bit that goes “it’s ‘a guy thing,’ like football and porn and washing the car.” [Emphasis added.] Here’s a clue: It provides context that should help you understand whether she thinks what Shermer said was normal or unusual.

  164. 164
    hypatiasdaughter

    #156 Michael Heath
    And did you view the original video, as I did when you accused me of “depending on the preferred tribal narrative to be true when in fact that narrative is not true.”? Of buying the “lie”, without investigation? You told me “to read Shermer’s entire post.” I SAW THE ORIGINAL VIDEO. I know exactly what he and the other panel members said. (I even wrote a transcript that I am hopeful Ed will post – I had some borked links in it which may be why it hasn’t appeared).
    And “those like you who avoid Benson’s demagoguery and defamation of Shermer.”- hmm, I am not aware that I made any defense of Benson or anyone else’s position in any of my posts. See #73 and #149. I have my own issues with Shermer’s conduct.
    Deary me, Mikey, you keep accusing me of of saying things I haven’t said. Of holding positions I haven’t stated. Something about me seems to be getting under your skin…..and it can’t be because I “tribally” side with Benson, because I haven’t stated that I do……

  165. 165
    aaronbaker

    Raging Bee wrote:

    Here’s Shermer’s actual statement, as quoted above:

    … It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”

    So, yeah, “women don’t do thinky” isn’t really that far from what Shermer said, as the text in bold should remind you. He really did seem to be saying that bieng “intellectually active” is one of the things he considered “more of a guy thing.”

    Maybe it’s because I find it really hard to believe that Michael Shermer actually thinks women are “too dumb to do ‘thinky’,” but why isn’t this (as its context suggests: “It’s who wants to stand up . .., go on . . . , go to . . .” ) a really lead-footed way of saying that men are more active, in the sense of being more aggressive, more assertive, more willing to confront others, and the like? If that’s what is, it’s still maddeningly complacent and I think inaccurate–but it’s not what Benson charged him with saying.

  166. 166
    spartan

    So, yeah, “women don’t do thinky” isn’t really that far from what Shermer said, as the text in bold should remind you. He really did seem to be saying that bieng “intellectually active” is one of the things he considered “more of a guy thing.”

    Let’s set aside ‘intellectually active’ for a second. If Shermer had said everything else except that, is it absolutely ridiculous to paraphrase that answer as, ‘it appears that more men than women in the atheist community want to stand up and talk about it and go on shows and conferences about it.’, would you have an issue with that? It is entirely consistent with the idea that I fully buy in to and is shared by all that I know of at FTB: there are damned good reasons why women would not want to participate in these conferences, due to the inexcusable and juvenile harassment some of them have to endure. If you don’t see my paraphrase, if it was what was actually said, as objectionable, is it then ridiculous to look at the words ‘intellectually active’ and put the emphasis on the ‘active’ part, and see it as a restatement of the earlier statement; i.e., ‘intellectually active’ refers to ‘wanting to stand up and talk about it and go on shows’, in other words, take an active role in promoting atheism? These are ‘intellectual’ functions, as opposed to going and and soliciting donations for atheism groups or something which would be ‘active’ but questionably ‘intellectual’. I know that I”m not so positive that ‘it’s a guy thing’ has a specific unambiguous meaning, is it as objectionable if it’s being used descriptively as opposed to prescriptively?

    I’m not trying to excuse him, ‘intellectually active’ is a terrible choice of words and yes he has responsibility for the ambiguity in ‘it’s a guy thing’ also. But when I see essentially, ‘Shermer said that women don’t think as well as men about atheism’, that’s a strong negative statement, and to me I’m expecting to see roughly that exact statement from him, and I don’t. Maybe it boils down to this: I don’t know that Ophelia is being skeptical about whether what this statement means to her is actually the only reasonable interpretation, and I think when you’re going to say something pointedly, and unambiguously, negative about someone you have the responsibility to be as skeptical as possible and totally rule out other interpretations prior to paraphrasing them and accusing them of definitely saying ‘x’. And does this statement fit at all into some other larger body of evidence and statements from him where he has essentially suggested that same thing, that ‘women don’t do thinky’? If it doesn’t, then where exactly is skepticism intersecting with Ophelia’s paraphrase?

  167. 167
    Ed Brayton

    Here’s where I would quibble with Ophelia’s representation of what Shermer said. I think the focus should have been kept on his claim that men are just more “intellectually active” rather than equating that to “women don’t do thinky.” A distinction can be made between women having the ability to think and women being interested in taking a public stand on atheism or secularism. But here’s the thing: What he said is still incredibly sexist and dumb even without that paraphrase, whether fair or not. And it’s probably wiser to be very careful not to give one’s enemies any ammunition to shoot at you.

    But Gretchen is right that even if you consider her paraphrase of his words to be a misrepresentation or exaggeration, what he said is not only still sexist it’s far more important and serious because it insults and demeans half of the species. So trying to shine the light on Ophelia and make accusations against her does absolutely nothing to make what Shermer said any less dumb or sexist.

    And again, please note the point of this whole post: I get it. I understand the tendency to circle the wagons and get defensive and go on the attack mode against one’s critics rather than just admit that you made a mistake or said something dumb. This is a very basic human tendency and I’m as guilty of it as anyone else at times. But one very important part of being a skeptic and a critical thinker is to recognize these tendencies and the way they undermine our rationality and to make the effort to overcome them.

    And that is true of all the other cognitive shortcuts that undermine our rationality, including tribalism. It’s all too easy to draw a line, to put everyone who disagrees with on the other side of the fence and to pretend that everyone we put over there is wrong and/or evil in all of the same ways. This kind of simplistic thinking is something we have all done, me included, and some of us do it automatically and without ever questioning those assumptions. And we eliminate any middle ground and presume that anyone who isn’t in 100% agreement with us must be one of the evil bad guys on the other side of the fence and they must therefore agree with everything the worst people over there think. This is lazy, sloppy thinking. And again, we all do it. I’ve done it more times than I can count. But we must try to not do this, to recognize a range of opinions rather than a simple black or white, to consider the nuances rather than doing the George Bush “you’re either with us or against us” thing.

  168. 168
    Raging Bee

    Maybe it’s because I find it really hard to believe that Michael Shermer actually thinks women are “too dumb to do ‘thinky’…”

    If he didn’t think that, then he shouldn’t have said what he said; and he should have retracted and reworded his comment when he realized he’d said something that didn’t represent what he “actually thinks.”

    …and I think when you’re going to say something pointedly, and unambiguously, negative about someone you have the responsibility to be as skeptical as possible and totally rule out other interpretations prior to paraphrasing them and accusing them of definitely saying ‘x’.

    Are you saying that to Shermer, or just to Ophelia?

  169. 169
    spartan

    Are you saying that to Shermer, or just to Ophelia?

    Definitely both, although as I said I think there is a difference in these particular statements. I’m on the fence as to who was worse and I’m not even sure how to measure it. Pro-Shermer: what he said, and definitely meant, I think has some ambiguity. Anti-Shermer: there is no question to me that one possible interpretation of what he said is how Ophelia paraphrased it, he has responsibility for that and and again as Gretchen noted it is potentially an insult to a vastly larger number of people. Pro-Ophelia: what Shermer said is definitely worthy of criticism. Anti-Ophelia: there is less ambiguity in my mind as to what Ophelia said and meant and I don’t know that the accusation/insinuation is justified by this one statement. Again, with admitting that there may be some larger context in which Shermer has been sexist in the past that I’m unaware of.

    And to be clear, and honest, I really don’t think anything about this particular episode is that big of a deal and any criticism I have of both parties is an insignificant speck that is miniscule next to all of the other excellent things they’ve both done and written.

  170. 170
    Steersman

    Ed Brayton said (#167):

    Here’s where I would quibble with Ophelia’s representation of what Shermer said. I think the focus should have been kept on his claim that men are just more “intellectually active” rather than equating that to “women don’t do thinky.” A distinction can be made between women having the ability to think and women being interested in taking a public stand on atheism or secularism.

    I hope you do more than just “quibble” with “Ophelia’s [mis]-representation of what Shermer said” as it was the rather odious snowball that started the avalanche of vituperation that has landed on Shermer’s head. But I quite agree with you that it is important to make that “distinction … between women having the ability to think and being interested in taking a public stand on atheism”. However, your subsequent statement, as follows, still suggests an unwillingness to consider the facts of the matter in spite of your quite commendable acknowledgement of tribalism and its consequences, as well as your quite credible plea to “consider nuances” and to guard against “lazy, simplistic, sloppy thinking”:

    But here’s the thing: What he said is still incredibly sexist and dumb even without that paraphrase, whether fair or not. And it’s probably wiser to be very careful not to give one’s enemies any ammunition to shoot at you.

    But Gretchen is right that even if you consider her paraphrase of his words to be a misrepresentation or exaggeration, what he said is not only still sexist it’s far more important and serious because it insults and demeans half of the species

    And there’s the rub: seems to me that none of you are providing any evidence or argument supporting your contention that his statement is actually sexist or “demeans half the species” nor have you made any attempt to address the countervailing evidence I’ve provided in an attempt to refute it: most here are simply accepting that contention as a given, as a catechism, as an “ipse dixit” from various bishops and priestesses. Not a particularly credible position for those claiming to be skeptics.

    And “fair or not”? What a ridiculous statement to make – if the “exaggeration” completely changes the meaning and intent behind the original statement – as seems quite evident, a contention it seems you’re simply not willing to address – then you’re still using that mistake of yours to justify your attacks on Shermer. That’s not skepticism and rationality, but categorical thinking, anti-intellectualism, tribalism, dishonesty and dogma.

  171. 171
    huntstoddard

    But we must try to not do this, to recognize a range of opinions rather than a simple black or white, to consider the nuances rather than doing the George Bush “you’re either with us or against us” thing.

    But I think this is less about ranges of opinion than about, as Shermer put it, rooting out every vestige of sexism in our group, when we all know that sexism is operative even within the minds of those among us who purport to be most purified of it. This is why I don’t think comparisons to witch hunts or McCarthyism are unwarranted. The metaphors hold. The danger lies in placing “purity” above all other concerns, backed by the supreme importance of the cause, whether it be stopping a slight against half the species, stopping communism intent on destroying us as a nation, or stopping the ‘Evil One’ here to defile our souls. The parallels are always striking, because we as human beings will always be subject to the same type of thing, as you note. And what is casually defaming a person, or drowning the witch, or destroying the person’s career, when you’ve been faced with the unmitigated evil of the opposition? I mean, we know that sexism is bad, right? Not only is it bad, it’s wrong against half the population. How can anyone possibly quibble about a man’s career when the motivation is so righteous? In a way, this is a throwback to the rationale that even minor sins against God were worthy of death. The sin might be minor, but consider, it’s a sin against God!

  172. 172
    Steersman

    Michael Heath said (#153):
    [repost because of links causing ‘held in moderation']

    You [Benson] owe Mr. Shermer an apology, as does he for what he stated.

    I’ll readily agree with you that Benson owes Shermer an apology, although I’m not sure that I’ll agree that he does as I don’t see what your “what he stated” is referring to. If it is his latest response published in the Free Inquiry magazine then I might agree that some of it is at least somewhat overwrought. However, if you’re referring to his original comment on the The Point then that seems a rather untenable position. And, more particularly, that is because I think he was largely just stating a simple fact on par with Pinker’s observation [link above] that “men have a much stronger taste for no-strings sex with multiple or anonymous partners, as we see in the almost all-male consumer base for prostitution and visual pornography” – de gustibus non est disputandum.

    As for the question of how much evidence there is for the suggestion that “[atheist activism], it’s more of a guy thing”, I recently ran across some additional statistics on the composition of the atheist community. It is a Discover blog post [Gene Expression; Nov 19, 2010] which references a World Values Survey and lists some raw data showing the percentages of the sample by gender in the groups “Religious”, “Not Religious”, and “Atheist”. And for men in the US the numbers are, respectively, 65.1%, 28.9%, and 6.0% while the numbers for women are 78.6%, 20.1% and 1.2%. So, making the quite reasonable assumption that those who actually identify as atheist are those who are more “intellectually active about” their non-theism than those who only identify only as “not religious”, one can quite reasonaly argue that, as Shermer actually said (as opposed to what apparently happened in Benson’s fevered imagination), “[atheist activism], it’s more a guy thing” – and by a factor of 5 to 1.

    A disparity, I might add, that is strongly supported by the recent Atheist Census data: the very fact that responding to that Internet survey requires a not inconsiderable amount of “activism” substantially selects for those who are, in fact, “atheist activists”. And the numbers show, here again, “it’s more of a guy thing” – and by a factor of about 4 to 1.

    But I think the above suggests a large part of the reason why this conversation has gone, or is perilously close to going, off the rails, and that is largely the difficulty in comparing the statistics of various populations and making conclusions about the populations based on the statistics. For instance, I would say that even Pinker’s “men have a much stronger taste for … prostitution and visual pornography” is somewhat problematic because it suggests that all men have that stronger taste whereas I expect that he meant and the statistics support the contention that more men than women have that taste, i.e., there are probably some men without that taste, and some women with it.

    And likewise with Benson’s bit of demagoguery, her aspersions on Shermer’s character, that “unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because that’s a guy thing.” That there might be more men than women in “atheist activism” – potentially or hypothetically 6.0% of the population versus 1.2% of the population – say’s absolutely diddly squat about whether women can “do thinky”. Maybe women can do, and probably and actually do, “thinky” better in some areas other than atheism which are, maybe, even more important than atheism is – the sun doesn’t rise and set on the atheist empire. But the point is that Shermer did not make that rather illogical if not egregious “leap of faith” – that was entirely Benson’s doing and she can’t very well condemn Shermer for her failures to use logic properly.

  173. 173
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    huntstoddard wrote:

    How can anyone possibly quibble about a man’s career when the motivation is so righteous?

    LOL. I love how you’ve taken “Hey, maybe he needs to think about what he said and the impact it might have” and twisted it into “ZOMG! How dare you imply he might have said something like that! You’re threatening his CAREER!” Slippery slope much?

    What a dishonest bunch of shits. Like I said upthread, stop pretending that this is anything other a reflection of your desire to maintain the status quo and continue to have your preferences catered for at the expense of the size and diversity of the atheist community.

  174. 174
    Steersman

    huntstoddard said (#171):

    This is why I don’t think comparisons to witch hunts or McCarthyism are unwarranted. The metaphors hold. The danger lies in placing “purity” above all other concerns, backed by the supreme importance of the cause, whether it be stopping a slight against half the species, stopping communism intent on destroying us as a nation, or stopping the ‘Evil One’ here to defile our souls.

    Yes, quite agree that there’s more than a little justification for the “comparisons to witch hunts and McCarthyism”. Some unfortunate and problematic echoes of several passages in Dr. Strangelove:

    God willing, we will prevail, in peace and freedom from fear, and in true health, through the purity and essence of our natural… fluids. God bless you all.

    We all seem to have the potential of becoming “true believers” – schrodinger’s believer – and allowing the end to justify some quite problematic if not horrific means. Seems the most useful prophylactic against that is simply to consider – as Ed suggested even if he seems unable or unwilling to follow-through in this case – the other person’s arguments with some degree of honesty.

  175. 175
    Ed Brayton

    I notice, Steersman, that despite saying that answering my comment from last night would take too much time and effort, you’ve left several long comments in this thread since then and still haven’t answered it. Why do you continue to assert a defense of Shermer’s words that contradicts his own argument in defense of that statement?

    By the way, this statement clearly shows you don’t know a thing about how polling is done:

    Assuming for a moment that that is what he said, why is that such a hard concept to wrap your head around? As I mentioned above, a recent Atheist Census with some 170,000 respondents worldwide [60,000 in the US] shows a distribution of about 25% female and 74% male from which one could probably extrapolate that the gender distribution in the US is very similar. However, a recent Pew Forum poll puts the distribution at about 42.5% female and 57.5% male [approximately; pg 21] based on a sample of some 3000 people surveyed by phone. And the discrepancy is, I think, probably due to the fact that the former seems to be Internet based while the latter is just plain old telephone so may get an older demographic.

    Uh, no. The discrepancy is that the Atheist Census is a poll that relies on a self-reported sample while the Pew Poll is a genuine poll with a random sample. The Atheist Census is an important project, but no pollster would ever use a self-selected sample group and think that they got a representative sample of the population. Random sampling is a much better way of modeling the demographic traits of any population. And Pew, by the way, includes cell phones in their surveys, so the premise of your absurd explanation is as false as the conclusion.

  176. 176
    huntstoddard

    LOL. I love how you’ve taken “Hey, maybe he needs to think about what he said and the impact it might have”

    I’m not sure how selective your reading must be to go from:

    The main stereotype in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do nontheism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”

    Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that during a panel discussion on the online talk-show The Point.

    to

    Hey, maybe he needs to think about what he said and the impact it might have.

    It is an amazing thing to behold though.

  177. 177
    Raging Bee

    I’m on the fence as to who was worse…

    You mean you can’t figure out whether criticizing a poorly-worded statement is better or worse than equating criticism with genocidal persecution? Seriously? Grow up two decades and come back next week.

  178. 178
    huntstoddard

    “You’re threatening his CAREER!” Slippery slope much?”

    Career destruction was in reference to actual McCarthyism, where careers really were destroyed. I doubt there is much potential for this to hurt Shermer’s career, but then again you never know how these things will blossom. It could certainly damage his reputation. Some, of course, will think that this is appropriate. We now operate in the “call out culture,” where every transgression must and will be prosecuted, even those voiced by the tiniest Who in Whoville. Even those in the highest stations will be brought down by that teenager in the Red Guard uniform.

  179. 179
    spartan

    You mean you can’t figure out whether criticizing a poorly-worded statement is better or worse than equating criticism with genocidal persecution? Seriously? Grow up two decades and come back next week.

    The irony is never lost on me Bee of your telling others to grow up given that were I to sum up in one word the vibe of your typical post it would be ‘whine’. I didn’t say anything about the genocidal persecution bit, I think that’s just stupidity; yep Shermer’s being idiotically over the top, what’s ‘worse’ about that fact, I think he’s harming himself more than anybody else. Regardless, I happen to think that it is secondary to the original statement and Ophelia’s response, ya know, what I was specifically talking about.

  180. 180
    dingojack

    For those of you that have come late to party here’s what (I think) has happened so far:
    a) Shermer said some dumb off-the-cuff remarks.
    b) Benson criticized him for saying them
    c) Shermer doubled down on the stupid*
    d) Some criticized him, still others defended him.
    e) Shermer tripled down, with a paranoid half-pike
    f) Again others criticised and defended him
    g) Strings of defective arguments, with poorly thought-out logic ensued
    Have I missed anything out?
    Dingo
    ——–
    * Here’s where Shermer could have broken the chain. If he had said ‘That’s not at all what I intended to convey. Those remarks were poorly worded and clumsily constructed, I apologised if it came across as suggesting that women in the skeptic/atheist movement are unable or not permitted to do these things or have these qualities. (What I actually meant was X)’. There would not have been such a storm of criticism, in fact probably he would have been praised for the adult way he handled the problem.

  181. 181
    Steersman

    Ed Brayton said (#175):

    I notice, Steersman, that despite saying that answering my comment from last night would take too much time and effort, you’ve left several long comments in this thread since then and still haven’t answered it.

    Apologies for that, but it was 4 A.M when I called it a day and the other posts were topical and “hot” and the issues raised were a large part of my planned response to you so thought to kill two birds with one stone. I expect to address them later this evening, if I don’t address them in the following, and plan to reference or use those earlier comments.

    Why do you continue to assert a defense of Shermer’s words that contradicts his own argument in defense of that statement?

    Largely because I think his original response in December’s eSkeptic was the more reasonable and credible one, and that his latest one in Free Inquiry with its allusion to “slips of the tongue”, while suggestive of some willingness to compromise, looks somewhat forced and is therefore somewhat of a bridge too far that I probably won’t try to defend.

    By the way, this statement clearly shows you don’t know a thing about how polling is done ….

    Uh, no. The discrepancy is that the Atheist Census is a poll that relies on a self-reported sample while the Pew Poll is a genuine poll with a random sample. The Atheist Census is an important project, but no pollster would ever use a self-selected sample group and think that they got a representative sample of the population. Random sampling is a much better way of modeling the demographic traits of any population. And Pew, by the way, includes cell phones in their surveys, so the premise of your absurd explanation is as false as the conclusion.

    I certainly don’t know everything about sampling and polling and statistics, but I’m not completely unfamiliar with the math and techniques involved either. And while there are, as you suggest, problems with “self-selected samples”, I think you have your thumb on the scales. For one thing, if you wanted to do a survey, for example, on the prevalence of prostate cancer and advertised in the newspaper for respondents then you already have a “self-selected sample group” on the basis of gender: that by itself is insufficient to discredit a survey as you seem to suggest.

    In addition and somewhat along the same line, there is the question as to which population it is that we wish to sample. And my impression is that it is not just the “Not Religious” or “Unaffiliated – which the Pew Forum indicates is about 44% women and 56% men – but the atheists and, more particularly, those who are actually “intellectually active”. And in the case of just atheists even the Pew Forum indicates that they “are much more likely to be male (64%) than female (36%)” [pg 37; Nones on the Rise], although I note that the World Values Survey shows a greater disparity [5:1] which might be due to the sampling method. But it seems that even those Pew Forum numbers are enough to justify “[atheism], it’s more of a guy thing”.

    However, in the case of “intellectually active”, neither the Pew Forum nor the World Values Survey seem to have asked about the degree of “intellectual activism” so the only recourse one has, that I can see, is to surveys such as the Atheist Census. And I really see that as little different from broadcasting on a school’s PA system asking all those who might be interested in doing political activism to show up in the gym: obviously it’s a “self-selected sample”, but it is still an entirely accurate sample – i.e., the whole population of those who are interested enough to show up. And I expect that the Atheist Census is pretty much the same thing – considering the ubiquitous influence of the Internet I would think a large percentage of those who are intellectually active and who wish to promote atheism are going to have a presence on or a substantial degree of familiarity with the Internet and so be aware of that Census.

    Consequently those results seem to give more than a little justification for arguing that the population of atheist activists who are intellectually active consists of from 64% [Pew] to 75% [AC] male, and 36% to 25% female. Ergo, unless you’re able to demonstrate other reasons for that disparity, it is quite reasonable to accept that “[atheism], it’s more of a guy thing”.

  182. 182
    huntstoddard

    “b) Benson criticized him for saying them”

    Uh, no. I’m in general agreement with the gist of your argument, but this isn’t accurate. It would be accurate if what she said was (as per my #176): “Hey, maybe he needs to think about what he said and the impact it might have.” Instead she said Shermer thinks women are stupid.

    And that’s where Shermer should have said “What I said was wrong and stupid, but what Benson said was maliciously unfair, and I want an apology.” Maybe he would have gotten one, maybe not.

  183. 183
    dingojack

    Steersman – prostate cancer analogy. Fail. Reason: Women don’t have prostates. Testing women would be like testing how flattened the arches of the feet are in those who don’t have feet. This isn’t an example of ‘self-selection’ it’s simply an example of testing only those who one can meaningfully test.

    The surveys you mention:
    a) How, where, and how many were polled? How significant are the results, statistically?
    b) What question(s) were asked? How were they asked?
    c) Do the results hold true generally, or only in the specific groups asked? (ie. how representative are these sub-populations in relation to the population as a whole?)
    d) Can the surveys be directly compared to each other at all?
    e) Not a measure of how ‘intellectually active’ one is, merely a measure of who can be bothered to answer a survey. (not even close to being the same thing)

    Dingo

  184. 184
    dingojack

    huntstoddard – Shermer clearly said that being ‘intellectually active’ is ‘more of a guy thing’. Which seems to imply that: being ‘intellectually active’ is something that mostly only men are capable and/or permitted to be, and, by the implied antithesis, that women are expected to be capable and/or permitted to being ‘mostly passively unintellectual’. I’d say that Benson’s interpretation is a reasonable criticism.
    Especially in view of his doubling and tripling down without clarification or denial (in fact his failure to address the issue could be seen as a kind of tacit acknowledgement oof his orginal intent).
    Dingo

  185. 185
    Steersman

    dingojack said (#183):

    Steersman – prostate cancer analogy. Fail. Reason: Women don’t have prostates.

    Yes, I was aware of that and it was meant to suggest, on which I may have fallen short, “testing only those who one can meaningfully test” which is what I think the Atheist Census does contrary to Ed’s suggestion. Which then makes it a valid measure of some credibility and certainly consistent with the Pew Forum one.

    The surveys you mention:
    a) How, where, and how many were polled? How significant are the results, statistically?
    b) What question(s) were asked? How were they asked?

    The Nones: “http://www.pewforum.org/uploadedFiles/Topics/Religious_Affiliation/Unaffiliated/NonesOnTheRise-full.pdf”.
    Appendices 1 and 2 give the methodology and the questionaires used.

    Atheist Census: “http://www.atheistcensus.com/”

    c) Do the results hold true generally, or only in the specific groups asked? (ie. how representative are these sub-populations in relation to the population as a whole?)

    If they’re done right – which the Pew Forum surveys give every indication of having been – then they normally say something like the results are accurate to within, I think, +/- 5%, 19 times out of 20 – i.e., if they repeat the surveys then 19 times out of 20 you’ll get the same results within that error band.

    d) Can the surveys be directly compared to each other at all?

    That seems to be the case which is why, I think, they publish the methodologies so that people can compare various results.

    e) Not a measure of how ‘intellectually active’ one is, merely a measure of who can be bothered to answer a survey. (not even close to being the same thing)

    And what evidence do you have for that assertion? I’ve generally put the phrase in quotes because Shermer didn’t give much indication as to what he meant by it, and it is likely to cover a lot of possibilities. But one of them would seem to be “engaged in public discussions on the objectives, principles, values, and initiatives of atheist activism” which would seem to cover a great many of the individuals on these discussion boards and who show up at various conventions.

    And because of the nature of those discussions and the common thread – the Internet – it seems plausible to argue that a great many of those who are “intellectually active” are going to be aware of that Census and so provide it with the relevant information. Maybe there is some disparity by gender in those who do so, but as that seems to be the question in play – which gender is more intellectually active within the atheist community? – the results still seem of more than passing relevance to it regardless of that disparity. In any case, the Pew Forum results seem to be the bottom end of the spectrum – the lowest percentage for male atheists – so that even if the AC results are somewhat questionable the hypothesis – “atheism, it’s more of a guy thing” – is at least still strongly supported.

  186. 186
    Steersman

    dingojack said (#184):

    huntstoddard – Shermer clearly said that being ‘intellectually active’ is ‘more of a guy thing’. Which seems to imply that: being ‘intellectually active’ is something that mostly only men are capable and/or permitted to be, and, by the implied antithesis, that women are expected to be capable and/or permitted to being ‘mostly passively unintellectual’. I’d say that Benson’s interpretation is a reasonable criticism.

    There, I think, is one of the primary places or types of places this conversation – and others of a similar nature – goes off the rails. Shermer said, and Benson quoted him as saying:

    It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing

    As his “it” can quite reasonably be construed as “atheism”, it is, I think, an egregious case of misinterpretation, bad-faith, tribalism, and sloppy thinking to assert that he said anything remotely like what you’re trying to put into his mouth. He most definitely did not say that “being ‘intellectually active’ is ‘more of a guy thing’” nor that “‘intellectually active’ is something that mostly [sic] only men are capable of or are permitted to be”. What he said was that “[intellectually active about atheism], it’s more of a guy thing”. Entirely different kettles of fish, if not entirely different species.

  187. 187
    dingojack

    Steersman – thanks for the links to the methodology. However you haven’t shown that filling in a survey is a good proxy for ‘intellectually active’*. If a person thinks that filling in a useless on-line survey, rather than actually doing something in the community, is a waste of time does that make that person not ‘intellectually active’?
    Dingo
    ——–
    * ie a person who actively thinks about issues and communicates that thought to others via a variety of ways.
    (BTW what’s your local time?)

  188. 188
    dingojack

    Steerman – *sigh* I would have thought that even the most stunned mullet would have realised that I was speaking in the context of atheism/skepticism as that was the topic under conversation, but apparently not.
    It is implying that women should be quiet and sit a the back of the atheist/skeptic bus*, because of their sex.
    Dingo
    ——-
    * for those with a little nous, apologies, but some need their noses rubbed in the obvious

  189. 189
    jenniferphillips

    What he said was that “[intellectually active about atheism], it’s more of a guy thing”. Entirely different kettles of fish, if not entirely different species.

    Even with your clarification, it’s still a sexist thing to say! If Ophelia had put it in your piece exactly as you paraphrased it, it still would have served as an example of her main thesis (which was not about Shermer at all) on the pervasive sexism in the atheist community. So, no. Not different kettles of fish. Just smaller ones.

  190. 190
    jenniferphillips

    if Ophelia had put it in HER piece exactly as you paraphrased it…

  191. 191
    Steersman

    dingojack said (#187):

    Steersman – thanks for the links to the methodology. However you haven’t shown that filling in a survey is a good proxy for ‘intellectually active’*.

    I wasn’t trying to show that it was a “good proxy”. I said “it seems plausible to argue that …” there is some degree of correlation. An open question, but a plausible hypothesis, particularly since the survey seems designed to appeal to those who are “intellectually active”, i.e., those who wish to promote the goals of atheist activism.

    If a person thinks that filling in a useless on-line survey, rather than actually doing something in the community, is a waste of time does that make that person not ‘intellectually active’?

    How much time do you think it would take to fill out the form? How do you know that it is a “useless on-line survey”? That seems rather a questionable assumption at best. Seems to be all sorts of benefits that could follow from “being counted” – the AC certainly seems to think so. As do some 170,000 respondents.

    But to answer your question, no, of course not: those who don’t fill in the survey aren’t necessarily “not intellectually active” [IA]. But the question is whether those who fill out the survey and happen to be IA – which they almost are by definition – are representative, in terms of gender, of those who are IA and don’t fill out the forms. Considering that the Pew Forum results put atheists at 64% male and 36% female to begin with it seems not implausible that those who are IA should reach the 75% male and 25% female that the Atheist Census strongly suggests.

  192. 192
    Steersman

    dingojack said (#188):

    Steersman – *sigh* I would have thought that even the most stunned mullet would have realised that I was speaking in the context of atheism/skepticism as that was the topic under conversation, but apparently not.

    That looks rather disingenuous and intellectually dishonest at best, and outright cheating and fraud at worst as you said “Shermer clearly said that being ‘intellectually active’ is ‘more of a guy” which is a flat-out lie. The context of Shermer’s statement was only atheism while Benson’s was much broader and included all “thinky work” which you were supporting by intent or carelessness by dropping Shermer’s explicit references to atheism – which is more or less confirmed by your own inference that “women are expected to be … mostly passively unintellectual”. Looks rather categorical to me and entirely consistent with Benson’s several statements about the “thinky work” stereotype, notably this:

    Sally Haslanger, a philosopher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote about this stubborn problem in a 2008 essay, “Changing the Ideology and Culture of Philosophy: Not by Reason (Alone).”:

    Why there aren’t more women of my cohort in philosophy? Because there were very few of us and there was a lot of outright discrimination. . . . In graduate school I was told by one of my teachers that he had “never seen a first rate woman philosopher and never expected to because women were incapable of having seminal ideas.

    That was Benson’s thesis – that Shermer’s statement was part of a promotion of a stereotype of “women as stupid and passive” – and damned if she was going to allow a fair reading of his statement to get in the way of its advancement. Something that more than a few here – from Ed on down, including you – seem to be fully in agreement with.

    It is implying that women should be quiet and sit at the back of the atheist/skeptic bus*, because of their sex.

    What unmitigated horse manure – it is implying absolutely nothing of the kind. You simply can not make those types of statements about individuals based on statistical distributions in a population. Does knowing that the mortality rate is 2% tell you when you’re going to die?

    Consider a case in which there is a population of 500 men and 500 women with say 300 men and 300 women with IQs of 100, and 200 men and 200 women with IQs of, say, 110 such that the latter group are entirely capable of doing the same types of “thinky work” and who we will call “intellectually active” over some spectrum of fields. But now say that there is some activity – atheism, for example – that causes some subset of the entire population – say, 5% or 50 people – to gravitate into some particular loose organization. And further let us stipulate that the distribution by gender in the atheist group is 70% male and 30% female – 35 males and 15 females – which matches the average of the Pew Forum and Atheist Census statistics.

    Now in the above, without any consideration about the capabilities of those 35 individual males and 15 individual females to do “thinky work”, it is still a true fact without any hint of sexism or stereotyping that one can quite credibly and reasonably say, “atheism, it’s more of a guy thing”. But since Benson has thrown a whole boatload of “thinky work” red-herrings onto the crime scene, let us now stipulate that our particular grouping of 50 individuals has the same distribution in each gender of those who can do “thinky work” as does the larger population, i.e., 60% of both males – 21 individuals – and females – 9 individuals – can’t do “thinky work” while 40% of both males – 14 individuals – and females – 6 individuals – can, in fact, do the “thinky work”. So now our population of atheists includes 21 males and 9 females who can’t do “thinky work” as well as 14 males and 6 females who can. So let us consider what we can say about our group: it is, or should be, manifestly obvious that we can still quite credibly and without a whiff of sexism say that “intellectually active atheism – aka, manifesting the ability to do “thinky work” – is still more of a guy thing”.

    And further observations relative to the above sub-group can be made: assuming, as indicated above, that the distribution of those who can do the “thinky work” in each gender is equal, the fact that there are more males than females in the atheist grouping who are capable of that type of work means that there is some other grouping in the larger society in which there will be more females than males who can do that type of work, i.e., “intellectually active {needlepoint, quantum mechanics, haute cuisine, HIV research, ….}, it’s more of a gal thing”. Simply no observation about the relative frequency of ability to do “thinky work” – or any other type of work or activity for that matter – in any sub-group says diddly squat – except statistically speaking – about the frequency in any other subgroup. There is simply no way that one can reasonably infer – simply because someone has made an observation about the distribution of those able to do “thinky work” in one sub-population – that that means they are making any assertion as to the distribution in any other sub-population or the whole one.

    And finally, relative to your rather egregious and decidedly obtuse “women should be quiet and sit at the back of the atheist bus”, that I along with others might be in the position of those unable to do “thinky work” of a certain type, particularly in comparison to someone like Dawkins who is, certainly doesn’t mean that our civil rights – notably our right to any particular seat in the bus – are any less than his.

    As I’ve mentioned several times before, comparing populations and assigning rights and attributes to individuals based on statistical distributions in those populations can be decidedly tricky and problematic. I’ve found that due care and attention to the details and nuances – and the sciences – along with healthy doses of skepticism is a necessity.

  193. 193
    Steersman

    Ed Brayton said (#100):

    I think claiming that there are more men speaking at conferences than women because men are more “intellectually active” is quite obviously both dumb and sexist. I don’t think this is really stepping out on a limb at all.

    You keep using that word [sexism]; I do not think it means what you think it means. Which calls into question your subsequent uses of it. But have you actually taken a look at my previous posts where I raise the question as to what constitutes “sexism”? As I indicated or argued [#61], unless you’ve got discrimination or the “promoting of a stereotype” you really don’t have sexism. And simply asserting that something is “obviously” the case with diddly-squat in the way of evidence to justify the charge looks rather too much like the assertions of religious fundamentalists.

    It’s fascinating seeing the two completely contradictory excuses being offered for Shermer’s sexist statement.

    Apart from the rather egregious case of begging the question in asserting that Shermer’s statement was in fact sexist – that is the bone of contention, not a proven case of law, science, or morality – you might have a point about the “contradictory excuses”. However, as I indicated before I think he’s wrong about the ratio probably being fifty-fifty as the Pew Forum results [#181] puts the ratio at 64% male and 36% female.

    If there are just as many atheist women as men, why don’t they come to meetings? It certainly can’t be explained by the absurd claim that men are more “intellectually active” than women.

    I’m not arguing that there are as many atheist women as there are men so you can’t expect me to answer why non-existent women don’t come to the meetings. And I think you – and many others here – are misconstruing Shermer’s “intellectually active” as he actually said “intellectually active about it, i.e., atheism”. It is saying absolutely nothing at all about women being intellectually active – or not – about any other topic, subject or field, only that guys are, as a simple statement of fact – almost a tautology, “intellectually active about atheism”. And that misconstrual is where I think you and Benson and many others have gone off the rails. I’ve discussed the point in greater detail in #192.

    And now we have your defense, which is the exact opposite, that the ratio isn’t 50/50 at all so that makes his statement justified. But he wasn’t arguing that there aren’t an equal number of men and women leading discussions and speaking at conferences because there aren’t an equal number of male and female atheists; in fact, he says the exact opposite of that, as explained above. So your argument is not a defense of what he said, it’s a defense of an entirely different statement.

    That he was, in effect, arguing that there are “an equal number of male and female atheists” doesn’t change the fact that the statistics strongly suggests that there is a significant disparity. But that doesn’t in the slightest change the fact that he is being raked over the coals for his “it’s more of a guy thing” for it supposedly being sexist when there isn’t a single solitary shred of evidence and proof to justify the charge. Witch-hunt, indeed.

    The relevant questions are: why in many of our communities do we see very low numbers of women in attendance? And why do we see so few women in speaking roles or leading discussions?

    Maybe because, in part, most women aren’t all that interested in the goals and principles of “atheism” – at least as they are promulgated? Your sales promotional material isn’t appealing enough? The prevalence of dogma is a turn-off, particularly for those who have fought long and hard to be free of it? But I kind of have to wonder at this “categorical imperative” that every field of endeavor and interest has to possess exactly 50-50 representation in actors and audience.

    We have heard from many women that they feel uncomfortable going to events because they are often singled out and sexualized, especially if there’s only a small number of them and a very large number of men. I’ve spoken to many women who have told me exactly that, that if they go to a local atheist event they end up being hit on constantly and that isn’t why they’re there.

    Yes, well that is certainly a horse of a different colour. And there are probably many reasons for that, one of which is the actual disparity that the statistics strongly suggest is the case. What extra efforts are required in that case to ensure some degree of decorum, I can’t really say. But refusing to face the facts can’t be a good starting point.

  194. 194
    huntstoddard

    Especially in view of his doubling and tripling down without clarification or denial (in fact his failure to address the issue could be seen as a kind of tacit acknowledgement oof his orginal intent).

    Or his “doubling and tripling down” can be interpreted as an outraged reaction to Benson’s baiting response. That’s kind of what people do, you know, when incensed by baiting. Personally I’m willing to write off all of Shermer’s replies to the original objection. This whole things should get a big fat “Do Over,” starting with Benson’s first response.

  195. 195
    huntstoddard

    Or preferably, with Shermer’s discussion. I’m pretty sure, at this point, he would alter his words.

  196. 196
    TCC

    Steersman et al. – Compare the following statements:
    1. “Being intellectually active about atheism is more of a guy thing.”
    2. “There seems to be more men than women being invited to talk about atheism publicly.”

    Is there a substantive difference between these statements, and would one be preferable over the other in terms of a fair assessment of the situation?

  197. 197
    Michael Heath

    Ed writes @ 167:

    trying to shine the light on Ophelia and make accusations against her does absolutely nothing to make what Shermer said any less dumb or sexist.

    Of course, and that’s a strawman. The problem here isn’t that people are avoiding the objectionable comment Shermer stated – anyone worthy of consideration is in agreement what he did was dumb, insensitive, and easily perceived as sexist though it’s questionable whether he intended to be sexist (as opposed to oblivious). But denying or avoiding the far more objectionable character assassination Ms. Benson does against Shermer when it’s a classic example of demagoguery is not a fair assessment of this situation. Shermer has a legitimate beef, and his using that opportunity to dig his hole ever deeper with a pathetic reaction you post about here Ed in no way negates the far more egregious behavior of Ms. Benson.

    Ed concludes @ 167:

    And that is true of all the other cognitive shortcuts that undermine our rationality, including tribalism. It’s all too easy to draw a line, to put everyone who disagrees with on the other side of the fence and to pretend that everyone we put over there is wrong and/or evil in all of the same ways. This kind of simplistic thinking is something we have all done, me included, and some of us do it automatically and without ever questioning those assumptions. And we eliminate any middle ground and presume that anyone who isn’t in 100% agreement with us must be one of the evil bad guys on the other side of the fence and they must therefore agree with everything the worst people over there think. This is lazy, sloppy thinking. And again, we all do it. I’ve done it more times than I can count. But we must try to not do this, to recognize a range of opinions rather than a simple black or white, to consider the nuances rather than doing the George Bush “you’re either with us or against us” thing.

    To meet this standard obligates us to point out all the bad behavior and fairly weigh assess the level of egregiousness – not just relatively but to a normative standard as well. In this we’re obligated to not avoid the thoroughly dishonest defamation of Shermer by Ms. Benson by condemn her, which I do here. I think it’s far worse than Shermer’s sin, though I concede that’s arguable as Gretchen asserts, but to a normative behavior Benson’s behavior here is disgusting and should be called out.

  198. 198
    dingojack

    huntstoddard – ooh I think the whole ‘do over’ thing could start a little earlier than that.
    Kacy – well whadda ya know, the Internet connection on yer rubber dingy turned out to be better than you thought! (it took me awhile)
    Steersman TL;DR – I’ll do it in the morning. Goodnight.
    Dingo

  199. 199
    Michael Heath

    hypatiasdaughter to me @ 164

    Deary me, Mikey, you keep accusing me of of saying things I haven’t said. Of holding positions I haven’t stated.

    That’s some weapons grade projection going on there. I blockquoted everything you stated which I then directly rebutted. Here you just conjure up an assertion about me without quoting anything I wrote which supports your claim.

    This is a fine illustration of how tribalists act when they don’t want to confront the bad behavior of their side. In this case, how Ms. Benson distorts what Mr. Shermer actually said; though Shermer’s doing himself no favors with his pathetically absurd reaction as Ed rightly points out in this post. But Shermer’s behavior makes him appear immature and kinda dumb about these things – as opposed to Benson falsely painting him as something far worse by her dishonest distortion of what he actually stated.

  200. 200
    Stacy

    character assassination

    Character assassination? Hyperbole is hyperbolic. Pointing out that Shermer said something sexist is not “character assassination.”

    anyone worthy of consideration is in agreement what he did was dumb, insensitive, and easily perceived as sexist though it’s questionable whether he intended to be sexist

    Whether or not he intended to say something sexist is beside the point. He said something sexist. That is what Ophelia Benson addressed: his words, and the stereotype they convey.

    Thanks though for making your priorities clear: calling out sexist drivel is character assassination and needs be condemned.

  201. 201
    sawells

    Here’s an interesting point.

    What Ophelia pointed out is that what Shermer _said_ – the “It’s more of a guy thing” comment – is sexist as it implies women are intellectually inferior.

    Steersman keeps claiming that Ophelia said Shermer _thinks_ that women are intellectually inferior.

    Do you think Steersman will ever grasp his fundamental misunderstanding? I’m not optimistic. Instead I think we’ll get more endless quibbling megaposts.

  202. 202
    Stacy

    falsely painting him as something far worse

    She did not paint him as anything. She repeated his words and paraphrased them, as part of her discussion about stereotypes. She said that he said something sexist. That is, as Ian Cromwell would point out, a cognitive failing, not a moral one.

    (Do you understand the difference between (for example) “You said a racist thing” and “You are a racist”? No? I suggest you read some Ian Cromwell.)

  203. 203
    Michael Heath

    Ed,

    I’m increasingly troubled by this blog post. Your lead states:

    Michael Shermer has once again responded to Ophelia Benson for having dared to criticize him for saying something dumb and sexist . . .
    [emphasis mine - MH]

    But that is not what motivates Mr. Shermer, instead it was Ms. Benson’s misrepresentation of what he said as Shermer writes in the very article to which you link:

    I don’t believe that [Benson's distortion and then smear of Shermer] for a moment, and in any case the evidence (as I outlined at the beginning of this essay) overwhelmingly demonstrates that women are more than capable of thinking, writing, speaking, and debating about God and theism. Unquestionably. Unequivocally.

    I think you owe those readers who care about objective truth a retraction. Right now this blog post thread provides convincing evidence you’re effectively helping to promote Ophelia Benson’s demagoguery.

  204. 204
    Stacy

    @sawells

    What Ophelia pointed out is that what Shermer _said_ – the “It’s more of a guy thing” comment – is sexist as it implies women are intellectually inferior.

    Steersman keeps claiming that Ophelia said Shermer _thinks_ that women are intellectually inferior.

    Do you think Steersman will ever grasp his fundamental misunderstanding? I’m not optimistic.

    Neither am I. Heath is making the same error.

  205. 205
    Jason Thibeault

    Michael Heath:

    dem·a·gogue
    /ˈdeməˌgäg/
    Noun
    A political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.
    (in ancient Greece and Rome) A leader or orator who espoused the cause of the common people.

    So, what? There is no background societal prejudice that women are less capable of thinking than men? Or Shermer’s “it’s more of a guy thing” isn’t playing into that prejudice?

    Or is it that you, like others in this conversation, think Ophelia is saying Shermer actively thinks this, rather than having said something stupid accidentally? And that’s what you consider demagoguery, that she’s not making a rational argument in accusing Shermer of something that she didn’t even accuse him of?

  206. 206
    ildi

    I have a question for you, Michael Heath:

    If Benson had not paraphrased Shermer’s statement from “who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing” to “women don’t do thinky”, would you still be accusing her of repugnant character assassination, defamation and demagoguery?

  207. 207
    Ophelia Benson

    Yikes. What a lot of incomprehension.

    Michael Heath @ 203 – That’s Shermer saying, in response to what I wrote, that he doesn’t believe women are stupid etc. That’s totally irrelevant. I never said he believed. I have no idea what he believes. I said what he said. I began with the fact that it was in a discussion, which means it wasn’t a written claim, which means he didn’t have time to think again or the ability to delete it and start over.

    It was about what he said. The column as a whole was about stereotypes. It wasn’t about Shermer. I never said that Shermer is a sexist or that he thinks women are stupid. I said what he said. His replying afterward that he doesn’t believe that does nothing whatever to contradict my claim that he said it.

  208. 208
    Michael Heath

    Somebody in this thread wrote:

    Maybe it’s because I find it really hard to believe that Michael Shermer actually thinks women are “too dumb to do ‘thinky’…”

    Raging Bee responds:

    If he didn’t think that, then he shouldn’t have said what he said; and he should have retracted and reworded his comment when he realized he’d said something that didn’t represent what he “actually thinks.”

    That’s a pretty gigant non sequitur since “too dumb to do ‘thinky’ is not a topic Mr. Shermer even raised, let alone asserted. Instead what happened was Ms. Benson created imagined assertions never stated by Mr. Shermer and destroyed that strawman, defaming Shermer in the process and motivating him to write his ridiculous defense which Ed linked to in the body of his blog post.

  209. 209
    jenniferphillips

    I’m baffled that so many heretofore rational people are arguing the justified use of Nazi, Witch hunt, Stasi and McCarthyism comparisons when sexist remarks made by people they like are called out. I’m further baffled that many of these same people are turning a blind eye to the endless tsunami of obsessive internet hate that the people doing the calling-out–every last one of them–receive on a daily basis. Baffled, and truly saddened that there is such disparity in prioritizing harm.

  210. 210
    Michael Heath

    someone upthread writes:

    I’m on the fence as to who was worse…

    Raging Bee responds:

    You mean you can’t figure out whether criticizing a poorly-worded statement is better or worse than equating criticism with genocidal persecution? Seriously? Grow up two decades and come back next week.

    More dishonesty. Mr. Shermer wasn’t reacting to mere criticism, but instead defamation by Ophelia Benson who didn’t merely criticize what he stated, but instead created a false strawman and falsely attributed it it Shermer.

    Shermer was quite clear in the linked article he was responding to demaoguery where the evidence Ms. Benson was doing exactly that is a perfect illustration of demagoguery. And as evidenced by this thread, an effective demagogic effort at that.

  211. 211
    Michael Heath

    huntstoddard writes:

    Career destruction was in reference to actual McCarthyism, where careers really were destroyed. I doubt there is much potential for this to hurt Shermer’s career, but then again you never know how these things will blossom. It could certainly damage his reputation. Some, of course, will think that this is appropriate. We now operate in the “call out culture,” where every transgression must and will be prosecuted, even those voiced by the tiniest Who in Whoville. Even those in the highest stations will be brought down by that teenager in the Red Guard uniform.

    What’s particularly egregious here is that Mr. Shermer’s no longer being vilified only by what he stated and his absurd defense, but instead and I think far worse, being vilified by what Ophelia Benson falsely attributes to him.

  212. 212
    Michael Heath

    Stacy writes:

    Heath is making the same error.

    Uh no, you’re instead lying about what Ophelia Benson actually did. Which is exactly the type of tribalistic behavior we ridicule when conservatives do it. The interesting question is whether you do so obliviously or purposefully, which is exactly the same question we ask when conservatives present evidence of either delusion or dishonesty.

  213. 213
    Michael Heath

    Jason Thibeault @ 205 to me:

    dem·a·gogue
    /ˈdeməˌgäg/
    Noun
    A political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.
    (in ancient Greece and Rome) A leader or orator who espoused the cause of the common people.

    I’m referring to this definition of the term :

    S: (n) demagoguery, demagogy (impassioned appeals to the prejudices and emotions of the populace).

    Ms. Benson’s mischaracterization of what Mr. Shermer actually stated fits this definition to a tee, and the results it’s worked are clearly evident in this thread.

    Jason Thibeault @ 205 to me:

    So, what? There is no background societal prejudice that women are less capable of thinking than men? Or Shermer’s “it’s more of a guy thing” isn’t playing into that prejudice?

    Of course there is, no one worthy of considering argued otherwise, including Shermer. Whether purposefully or inadvertently you also misrepresent my position on Shermer’s original objectionable comment. I’ve repeatedly criticized him in this thread, in fact I’ve criticized him for it every single time I referenced that statement. What he stated was dumb, insensitive, and arguably sexist – I think so and put it a 2-3 out of 10, though it’s questionable whether he realized what he said was sexist or oblivious of the implications. But his objectionable statement in no way excuses Ms. Benson’s defamation of him and the effectiveness she’s enjoying of her demagoguery.

    This is my beef; we’re rightly condemning the content Shermer originally stated, rightly criticizing him for what he said, and justifiably ridiculing him for his Godwin-rich defense of what Ophelia Benson wrote about him. However that’s a defective framing of this issue, the other reality which is avoided or denied here is Ms. Benson’s repugnant character assassination of Mr. Shermer using a self-contrived strawman which does not represent what Shermer stated.

    Ed’s lead sentence here also isn’t true when it comes to reporting what motivated Shermer to respond. Shermer’s response wasn’t due to mere criticism, but instead as Shermer writes and I quote above, a response due to an untrue attack. That has Ed effectively promoting Benson’s demagogic defamation of Shermer.

    Jason Thibeault @ 205 to me:

    Or is it that you, like others in this conversation, think Ophelia is saying Shermer actively thinks this, rather than having said something stupid accidentally? And that’s what you consider demagoguery, that she’s not making a rational argument in accusing Shermer of something that she didn’t even accuse him of?

    I have no idea what Ms. Benson thinks beyond what she writes. She’s not making a rational argument, she’s instead created an imagined argument, a strawman, and then attributes it to Shermer. And it’s worked splendidly as evidenced by this thread. She’s got supposed freethinkers abandoning their critical thinking skills to make even the most remedial rhetorical and logical fallacies to avoid or even deny her bad behavior.

  214. 214
    Michael Heath

    ildi writes:

    I have a question for you, Michael Heath:

    If Benson had not paraphrased Shermer’s statement from “who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing” to “women don’t do thinky”, would you still be accusing her of repugnant character assassination, defamation and demagoguery?

    Notice how I quote what people state and respond; without misconstruing what they stated into something else. That’s what I expect.

    I won’t speculate on a hypothetical as you request of me here. I’ll stick to what was actually stated by all parties; that’s what matters, not hypotheticals.

    In addition, if I were going to write and publish an article like Ms. Benson did, I would have held actual truth in enough regard to attempt to interview the subject prior to commenting on what he wrote. And if that person refused, I still wouldn’t perceive that rejection as license to lie about what the subject actually stated.

    Ms. Benson had an opportunity to move the debate forward if she’d only interviewed Shermer and analyzed what he actually stated rather than create a strawman to demagogue Shermer’s objectionable comments; instead she did what Rush Limbaugh does. I find such even more objectionable on our side than Limbaugh’s because honesty and critical thinking are supposed to be attributes of freethinkers.

    This is not rocket science. High school journalism classes teach the remedial level of standards for both reportage and opinionated analysis I advocate for here.

  215. 215
    Jason Thibeault

    Yes, Ophelia had the gross temerity to mention Michael Shermer by name and quote his words as an example of the sort of background sexism women experience. How dare she give a concrete example of a stereotype that a rational person might unknowingly have. How demagogic of her to provide examples of her argument.

    I know you really want to make this about Ophelia smearing Shermer. She didn’t. So stop.

  216. 216
    Michael Heath

    Ophelia Benson writes:

    Yikes. What a lot of incomprehension.

    Michael Heath @ 203 – That’s Shermer saying, in response to what I wrote, that he doesn’t believe women are stupid etc. That’s totally irrelevant. I never said he believed. I have no idea what he believes. I said what he said. I began with the fact that it was in a discussion, which means it wasn’t a written claim, which means he didn’t have time to think again or the ability to delete it and start over.

    It was about what he said. The column as a whole was about stereotypes. It wasn’t about Shermer. I never said that Shermer is a sexist or that he thinks women are stupid. I said what he said. His replying afterward that he doesn’t believe that does nothing whatever to contradict my claim that he said it.

    The best rebuttal is to repeat what Shermer said and how you characterized it. Shermer:

    I think it probably really is fifty-fifty. It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”

    And you respond, cherry-picking his statement as well by not including his “fifty-fifty” comment; though I think that’s trivial to your misrepresentation of what Shermer stated:

    The main stereotype in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do nontheism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”
    Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that during a panel discussion on the online talk-show The Point. The host, Cara Santa Maria, presented a question: Why isn’t the gender split in atheism closer to 50-50? Shermer explained, “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”

    It’s all there—women don’t do thinky, they don’t speak up, they don’t talk at conferences, they don’t get involved—it’s “a guy thing,” like football and porn and washing the car.

    Shermer never claimed women don’t think. If somebody asserted, “women dont do thinky”, they wouldn’t merely be a sexist, but an outright misogynist. So here you are attributing a misogynist statement to Shermer, in spite of his never even raising the subject, let alone making such an objectionable claim.

    Ms. Benson, if you had any integrity, you’d publically apologize to Michael Shermer for your defamation of him to a degree that gets equal visibility to your defamation of him. Shermer has a lot of ‘splainin’ to do as well, but his dumb and bad behavior doesn’t justify your defamation of him; regardless of whether his original statement was more egregious to your defamation of him as Gretchen argues.

    And claiming some editor let it slip by so it must be OK as you previously asserted is not a valid excuse to anyone who takes responsibility for their behavior. Anybody who is capable of not succumbing to tribalism or looking beyond their biases can clearly observe that your attribution of Shermer claiming women don’t think is clearly a lie when we look to what Mr. Shermer actually stated. So I suggest a credible apology.

  217. 217
    Michael Heath

    Ophelia Benson @ 140:

    I didn’t quote-mine.

    Italics below are directly relelvant to Ms. Bensons’s claim.

    Shermer reports [1]

    Cara Santa Maria, who invited me and two other men (Sean Carroll and Edward Falzon) to discuss atheism. In a Q&A following the main discussion, a male viewer asked: “Why isn’t the gender split closer to fifty-fifty as it should be?”
    [emphasis mine - MH]

    Shermer responds [1]:

    She then turned to me [Michael Shermer]. I said: ““I think it probably really is fifty-fifty. It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”.

    Ophelia Benson rebuts Shermer:

    It’s all there—women don’t do thinky, they don’t speak up, they don’t talk at conferences, they don’t get involved—it’s “a guy thing,” like football and porn and washing the car.

    Shermer’s “fifty-fifty” response directly refutes your, “they don’t get involved”. The fact you left out the very statement which reveals your “don’t get involved” is not something Shermer stated validates you do quote-mine. Whether it was inadvertent or not is not something I can know.

    I think this is misrepresentation of Mr. Shermer by quote-mine is relatively trivial compared to Benson’s dishonest claim Shermer claims women don’t think. Worthy of apology yes, but not as risible.

  218. 218
    Michael Heath

    jenniferphillips writes:

    I’m baffled that so many heretofore rational people are arguing the justified use of Nazi, Witch hunt, Stasi and McCarthyism comparisons when sexist remarks made by people they like are called out.

    Please inform this thread which commenters meet this level of behavior and at least their respective post numbers where they do so.

  219. 219
    Michael Heath

    Jason Thibeault, apparently to me:

    Yes, Ophelia had the gross temerity to mention Michael Shermer by name and quote his words as an example of the sort of background sexism women experience. How dare she give a concrete example of a stereotype that a rational person might unknowingly have. How demagogic of her to provide examples of her argument.

    You’re lying in your response to me about what I stated. I’ve repeatedly criticized what Shermer originally stated and repeatedly asserted it’s worthy of criticism. I’ve also repeatedly asserted my objection quite clearly, my objection is that Benson lied about what Shermer said, turning what he said into something far worse and pinning it on him.

    Jason Thibeault stated:

    I know you really want to make this about Ophelia smearing Shermer. She didn’t. So stop.

    You are now denying reality which is obvious with the quotes I present @ 216. Benson has Shermer arguing that women don’t “do thinky”. That’s a horribly misogynist thing to assert; which Shermer never asserted. Instead Benson created this lie. If you don’t think this is a smear, well here’s the definition:

    damage the reputation of (someone) by false accusations; slander:
    Cite: http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/smear

    Claiming someone should just shut up is a typical response when someone can’t perceive or formulate a credible defense while wanting to avoid adapting their position when inconvenient facts are presented. In this case Ms. Benson’s defamation of Mr. Shermer and Ed’s lead sentence which is simply not true as I validate @ 203 by referencing what Shermer wrote that contradicts Ed’s lead sentence.

  220. 220
    ildi

    Anybody who is capable of not succumbing to tribalism or looking beyond their biases can clearly observe that your attribution of Shermer claiming women don’t think is clearly a lie when we look to what Mr. Shermer actually stated.

    Minor detail: Benson did NOT say that Shermer claimed women don’t think. Benson deserves an apology for your repugnant mischaracterization of her statement.

  221. 221
    Michael Heath

    ildi to me:

    Minor detail: Benson did NOT say that Shermer claimed women don’t think. Benson deserves an apology for your repugnant mischaracterization of her statement.

    I’ll emphasize the applicable phrases of what Ms. Benson wrote in direct reference to what Shermer stated:

    The main stereotype in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do nontheism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”
    Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that during a panel discussion on the online talk-show The Point.
    The host, Cara Santa Maria, presented a question: Why isn’t the gender split in atheism closer to 50-50? Shermer explained, “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”
    It’s all there—women don’t do thinky, they don’t speak up, they don’t talk at conferences, they don’t get involved—it’s “a guy thing,” like football and porn and washing the car.

    What Shermer actually said:

    I think it probably really is fifty-fifty [female participation]. It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”

    Hopefully my bold and italics gets you back to reality.

  222. 222
    Ophelia Benson

    Boy. Michael Heath sure does like to say that people are lying. I was trained to be very cautious about saying that. Actually I was trained never to say it, but I occasionally do, when people lie about me. But Michael Heath just announces it and repeats it, over and over and over. Not the mark of a responsible commenter.

  223. 223
    spartan

    I know you really want to make this about Ophelia smearing Shermer. She didn’t. So stop.

    Yes, yes Jason, your arguments become much more compelling when you apparently use your telepathic powers to state what people you do not know ‘want’, and project this false dichotomy (‘this’ can be ‘about’ more than one thing thank you) on to the discussion. Why are you so desperate to absolve her of any criticism? Also, it’s annoying behavior to tell people to stop on blogs that are not your own, so stop. ;)

    Shermer and Ophelia in my mind are about equal on this, they certainly both could have communicated what they were trying to say in a much better way. No skeptic should believe on this statement alone that Shermer believes that women don’t think as well as men, and neither should anyone think on her statement alone that Ophelia actually believes that Shermer actually believes that. So what Shermer said was poorly communicated in regard to his intent and has an interpretation that unfortunately reinforces stereotypes, and what Ophelia said was poorly communicated as one interpretation of what she said is that she is accusing Shermer of believing or unambiguously stating that women are inferior intellectually. I think I disagree with Michael on his rankings of offense but I do think he has a point, and overall I’m not sure how rational or skeptical it is to assume the worst possible interpretation of what someone says without further evidence to support it in the first place.

  224. 224
    Michael Heath

    Ophelia Benson writes:

    Boy. Michael Heath sure does like to say that people are lying. I was trained to be very cautious about saying that. Actually I was trained never to say it, but I occasionally do, when people lie about me. But Michael Heath just announces it and repeats it, over and over and over. Not the mark of a responsible commenter.

    It’s a lie I just announced it and repeated it. I instead validated your lies by comparing what Shermer stated and how you turned that into something different and far worse.

    The fact you focus on someone calling you a liar rather than confronting and responding to the lies you told doesn’t speak well at all about your character.

    You obviously struck a nerve with me; it’s for two very simple reasons: the advantage freethinkers and pro-science people have over conservatives is our honesty. If people on our side are willing to be dishonest, we lose a primary competitive advantage we have to encourage people to reject magical thinking, join reality, and hopefully – begin to promote causes based on science-centric premises. Secondly, humanity suffers when we tolerate dishonesty.

    I suggest acknowledging your lies, apologize to Mr. Shermer for defaming him, and retract your false statements wherever they were published.

  225. 225
    Michael Heath

    spartan writes:

    I’m not sure how rational or skeptical it is to assume the worst possible interpretation of what someone says without further evidence to support it in the first place.

    I think we have a moral obligation, and certainly a journalistic one, to get a subject’s response to a conclusion that is so very different than what the subject actually stated when publishing in the type of venue which published Ms. Benson’s article. Especially when that conclusion easily turns a sexist statement into a misogynistic one while also easily qualifying as defamation as Shermer validates it to be in the very link Ed embeds in his blog post.

  226. 226
    ildi

    I’ll break it down for you, Michael, since your bias is obviously interfering with your critical analysis.

    Notice that I when I quoted from Benson’s article back up in #151, I included the previous paragraph, where she quotes social psychologist Cordelia Fine from Delusions of Gender:

    Measures of implicit associations reveal that men, more than women, are implicitly associated with science, math, career, hierarchy, and high authority. In contrast, women, more than men, are implicitly associated with the liberal arts, family and domesticity, egalitarianism, and low authority.

    Her next sentence after quoting Fine:

    The main stereotype in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do nontheism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”

    It’s pretty clear for anyone without a strong bias to read Benson in the most unfavorable light that she is using “don’t do thinky” as shorthand for the Fine quote. So when Shermer says being intellectually active is a guy thing, he is exemplifying the very implicit associations that Fine describes.

  227. 227
    Steersman

    jenniferphillips said (#189):

    What he said was that “[intellectually active about atheism], it’s more of a guy thing”. Entirely different kettles of fish, if not entirely different species.

    Even with your clarification, it’s still a sexist thing to say! If Ophelia had put it in your piece exactly as you paraphrased it, it still would have served as an example of her main thesis (which was not about Shermer at all) on the pervasive sexism in the atheist community. So, no. Not different kettles of fish. Just smaller ones.

    You keep using that word [sexism]; I do not think it means what you think it means. Have you actually taken a look at my previous posts where I raise the question as to what constitutes “sexism”? As I indicated or argued [#61], unless you’ve got discrimination or the “promoting of a stereotype” you really don’t have sexism. Is it sexism to note that there are ten times as many men as women in prison for various crimes? Simply making a statement of fact about gender disparities in various populations – which is all that Shermer’s did – simply does not qualify as sexism. And simply asserting that something is the case with diddly-squat in the way of evidence to justify the charge looks rather too much like the assertions of religious fundamentalists – and bigots.

    That there is sexism in the atheist community I won’t dispute. But that isn’t the crux of the matter – it is the entirely discreditable, egregious, odious, and mephitic charge that Shermer’s statement – “it’s more of a guy thing” – qualifies as such.

  228. 228
    Steersman

    TCC said (#196):

    Steersman et al. – Compare the following statements:
    1. “Being intellectually active about atheism is more of a guy thing.”
    2. “There seems to be more men than women being invited to talk about atheism publicly.”

    Is there a substantive difference between these statements, and would one be preferable over the other in terms of a fair assessment of the situation?

    Seems to me that each of them are describing two very different scenarios. The first one is speaking to the motivations of all those involved – speakers, conference goers, bloggers, commenters, etc.; it seems to be asserting that there are more guys than gals who are involved and who are “intellectually active about atheism”. The second one describes only the population of those speaking and says nothing about the reasons for the disparity – maybe there’s a quota system in operation; maybe there are questions of availability and expenses; maybe there’s some bias in play. But the probable existence of more male than female speakers who are “intellectually active about atheism” is probably a large one.

    Because they describe different situations it doesn’t seem reasonable to argue that one is preferable over the other.

  229. 229
    Steersman

    Ophelia Benson said (#207):

    It was about what he said. The column as a whole was about stereotypes. It wasn’t about Shermer. I never said that Shermer is a sexist or that he thinks women are stupid. I said what he said. His replying afterward that he doesn’t believe that does nothing whatever to contradict my claim that he said it.

    No you didn’t “say what he said”. He said “it’s more of a guy thing”. You said that he said “it’s a guy thing”. Note the extra word that you dropped because you, apparently, wanted to fit it into a different narrative.

    To say that he said something that he didn’t say is to lie which makes you a liar. To pigheadedly continue to repeat it gives one some justification for thinking that your modus operandi is: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

  230. 230
    ildi

    Simply making a statement of fact about gender disparities in various populations – which is all that Shermer’s did – simply does not qualify as sexism.

    Except that he wasn’t merely making a statement of fact; he was responding to the issue of why there are less women speakers by saying that being intellectually active is more of a guy thing. That is promoting a stereotype.

    To use your prison analogy, it’s one thing to say that 67.89 percent of drug offenders in prison are African-Americans. It’s another thing to say, well, doing drugs is a black thing.

  231. 231
    ildi

    Oh, I just noticed, MIchael; since Shermer later explained his dumb comment and put it in context, all is happy with the world (oh, wait, no he didn’t), but when Benson actually comes to the thread and explains what she meant, you call her a liar.

  232. 232
    Michael Heath

    ildi writes:

    I’ll break it down for you, Michael, since your bias is obviously interfering with your critical analysis.

    Notice that I when I quoted from Benson’s article back up in #151, I included the previous paragraph, where she quotes social psychologist Cordelia Fine from Delusions of Gender:

    Measures of implicit associations reveal that men, more than women, are implicitly associated with science, math, career, hierarchy, and high authority. In contrast, women, more than men, are implicitly associated with the liberal arts, family and domesticity, egalitarianism, and low authority.

    Her next sentence after quoting Fine:

    The main stereotype in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do nontheism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”

    It’s pretty clear for anyone without a strong bias to read Benson in the most unfavorable light that she is using “don’t do thinky” as shorthand for the Fine quote. So when Shermer says being intellectually active is a guy thing, he is exemplifying the very implicit associations that Fine describes.

    I’ll repeat what Ophelia Benson said that’s relevant in bold. I’ll repeat what Ophelia Benson said which directly asserts this is what Shermer said in bold italics. Here it is:

    Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that during a panel discussion on the online talk-show The Point. The host, Cara Santa Maria, presented a question: Why isn’t the gender split in atheism closer to 50-50? Shermer explained, “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”
    It’s all there—women don’t do thinky, they don’t speak up, they don’t talk at conferences, they don’t get involved—it’s “a guy thing,” like football and porn and washing the car.

    So from this perspective, your’re not only projecting your own bias onto me, but denying the very plainly worded claims Ms. Benson makes about Shermer’s statement which do not reconcile to what Mr. Shermer actually stated.

    This is really getting sadly comical. This venue never denies the dishonesty and obvious fallacies made by conservatives, but when it’s a progressive on a popular cause doing the same . . . well, this is not pretty.

    And I have no idea what bias you think I have. I do know my biases related to this matter. Those biases are objective truth, reality, my contempt of dishonesty – especially the defamation of others even when it’s directed to contemptible people, and fealty for critical thinking . Whatever other bias(es) you think are involved is imagined.

  233. 233
    jenniferphillips

    Steersman, it doesn’t become true if you just repeat it over and over again. You were wrong at #61 and you’re just as wrong at #227. If you apply yourself, I expect you’ll still be wrong at #419. ildi and others have already said why, most recently at 230. Shermer didn’t state a statistical fact, he stated an opinion, phrased in a way that many reasonable people found rather sexist. Enter the Nazis and book burners.

    I’m obviously not going to change your mind, so please feel free to continue your absurdly furious overreactions and privileged posturing without my input.

  234. 234
    jenniferphillips

    Michael Heath, I’ve always found you to be a thoughtful contributor to this blog, but you’re barely less ridiculous than Steersman in this case. It must be hard to be a Champion of truth, reality, honesty and critical thinking when you can dismiss ridiculous, extended descents into persecution imagery (prominently featured in TWO articles from Shermer responding to Ophelia) as silly and unfortunate and write post after post roaring at Ophelia to apologize for what was, at worst, a clumsy characterization of Shermer’s remarks. Are you writing equally passionate pleas on Shermer’s blog asking him to walk back all the Witch Hunt/McCarthyism/Nazi talk? If not, why not?

  235. 235
    Michael Heath

    jenniferphillips writes to me:

    Michael Heath, I’ve always found you to be a thoughtful contributor to this blog, but you’re barely less ridiculous than Steersman in this case. It must be hard to be a Champion of truth, reality, honesty and critical thinking when you can dismiss ridiculous, extended descents into persecution imagery (prominently featured in TWO articles from Shermer responding to Ophelia) as silly and unfortunate and write post after post roaring at Ophelia to apologize for what was, at worst, a clumsy characterization of Shermer’s remarks. Are you writing equally passionate pleas on Shermer’s blog asking him to walk back all the Witch Hunt/McCarthyism/Nazi talk? If not, why not?

    In regards to your comment about me posting at Shermer’s, I’m not commenting there or at the blog post Ophelia Benson has on her blog about this topic. Ed’s blog is the venue I choose to express myself. Your imagined motivations of me are exactly that – imagined. If you want to know my motivations I make them quite clear @ 224 and several other posts in this thread.

    You’re lying about me when you claim I dismissed Shermer’s response. I’ve repeatedly pointed out its worthy of criticism and in many posts ridicule as noted in my comment posts @ 71, 74, 121, 141, 197, 199, 211, 213, 216, and 219 – many of those posts have detailed criticisms. The fact you can’t make that observation and instead lie about my behavior here continues to validate and illustrate my claim about how triablism has infected those who would have us deny or avoid Ms. Benson’s defamation of Mr. Shermer.

    In regards to your previously noting my being a thoughtful contributor here, one conclusion is the following. I’m not the one arguing differently in this thread, but instead demanding we apply the same standards, which I do here, to Ms. Benson that we do to Bryan Fischer, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and all the others on the right who defame and demagogue. I think the evidence is overwhelming this conclusion is the most parsimonious.

  236. 236
    Steersman

    ildi said (#230):

    Simply making a statement of fact about gender disparities in various populations – which is all that Shermer’s did – simply does not qualify as sexism.

    Except that he wasn’t merely making a statement of fact; he was responding to the issue of why there are less women speakers by saying that being intellectually active is more of a guy thing. That is promoting a stereotype.

    But he didn’t’s say that “being intellectually active is more of a guy thing; he said “[being intellectually active about atheism], it’s more of a guy thing”. That some field happens to have more men than women being “intellectually active” about it says nothing in favour of the argument that all fields will have that disparity. Nor does it preclude the quite likely case – as I illustrated in #192 – that other fields will exist where one can credibly say “[intellectually active about {needlepoint, quantum mechanics, haute cuisine, HIV research, …}, it’s a gal thing”.

    In addition, the definition of “stereotype” stipulates that it entails an “oversimplified conception” in which one is, for example, insisting that the characteristics of some subgroup in a population are true of all subgroups. Which would be the case in your own “intellectually active is more of a guy thing”.

    To use your prison analogy, it’s one thing to say that 67.89 percent of drug offenders in prison are African-Americans. It’s another thing to say, well, doing drugs is a black thing.

    But the latter is a stereotype because, as per the definition, it asserts that the doing of drugs – which is manifestly true for those blacks so charged – is applicable to all blacks. However, if you had said that “doing drugs is more of a black thing” then that is only stating a fact. It may not actually answer any questions as to why that is the case, but it is not at all racist.

  237. 237
    Steersman

    Jason Thibeault said (#215):

    Yes, Ophelia had the gross temerity to mention Michael Shermer by name and quote his words as an example of the sort of background sexism women experience. How dare she give a concrete example of a stereotype that a rational person might unknowingly have. How demagogic of her to provide examples of her argument.

    I know you really want to make this about Ophelia smearing Shermer. She didn’t. So stop.

    So, by your assessment, she’s asserting that he said something that is sexist? In my book – the dictionary – saying that someone said something that is sexist is tantamount to calling them a sexist. One can be somewhat mealy-mouthed – as seems to be the case in this neck of the woods – about trying to deny that, but it really doesn’t seem to be a charge that you can stick-handle around.

    And that presumably being the case, maybe you can point out exactly where Ms. Benson actually adduced the requiste evidence and managed to prove that the charge is true. Or is that just a central article of faith in the FfTB catechism and therefore sacrosanct and immune to any challenge?

  238. 238
    Aaron Logan

    I don’t know. I read the statement “Michael Shermer said exactly that” as him employing the ‘exact’ stereotype that Fine describes and then “women don’t do thinky” as a restatement of Fine, not as restatement of Shermer. That seems to be the more charitable reading. I’m also rather surprised that the editors allowed, in Heath’s and Steersman’s opinions for example, such egregious defamation to be published. For now, I’m going to trust the editors’ as seeing no defamation rather than missing it.

  239. 239
    sawells

    Steersman, when you say @237: “In my book – the dictionary – saying that someone said something that is sexist is tantamount to calling them a sexist.” you are fundamentally wrong and making an error which I pointed out to you already @128. Please stop being wrong about this, you’re embarrassing yourself, and you’re using the wrong dictionary too.

    Consider “everyone who runs is a runner”. No, I run for a bus on occasion, but I am not A Runner the way Mo Farah is A Runner.

  240. 240
    Steersman

    jenniferphillips said (#233):

    ildi and others have already said why, most recently at 230.

    Have you ever thought to actually use that organ on the top of your neck – I think it’s called a brain – and think through an argument, to weigh the evidence and judge accordingly, on your own without being spoonfed and brainwashed?

    … your absurdly furious overreactions and privileged posturing without my input.

    “privileged posturing”? That’s a new one – freshly minted by the gynocracy and their fascist running dogs? What a laugh.

  241. 241
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    And Steersman finally shows his true colors.

  242. 242
    tomh

    And Steersman finally shows his true colors.

    Oh, he showed them a long time ago. He thinks Benson should be locked up for “criminal negligence,” and Shermer should sue her for “defamation,” presumably because Shermer’s feelings were hurt. All because Benson expressed her opinion that Shermer’s remark was sexist.

  243. 243
    Steersman

    sawells said (#239):

    Steersman, when you say @237: “In my book – the dictionary – saying that someone said something that is sexist is tantamount to calling them a sexist.” you are fundamentally wrong and making an error which I pointed out to you already @128. Please stop being wrong about this, you’re embarrassing yourself, and you’re using the wrong dictionary too.

    Consider “everyone who runs is a runner”. No, I run for a bus on occasion, but I am not A Runner the way Mo Farah is A Runner.

    This shows that “runner” is generic. You’re insisting on a particular qualification that doesn’t necessarily have to apply. Mo Farah is a runner, but so am I when I run down to the store for a loaf of bread:

    runner – someone who travels on foot by running

    And Merriam-Webster has “runner: one that runs”.

    Maybe saying something that is sexist isn’t necessarily proof that one is a sexist as there are a number of “use-attribution” variations that allow one off the hook. Which is why I said “tantamount”.

  244. 244
    jenniferphillips

    Oh no! Clever Steersman has stumbled onto my Dastardly Gynocratic Plot to burn all the dictionaries and persecute all the True Skeptics forevermore. The fascist running dogs will be ’round to tattoo ‘Sexist’ across your chest shortly.

  245. 245
    Steersman

    And WMDKitty finally shows his ability to present and understand a detailed and cogent argument ….

  246. 246
    Steersman

    tomh said (#242):

    And Steersman finally shows his true colors.

    Oh, he showed them a long time ago. He thinks Benson should be locked up for “criminal negligence,” and Shermer should sue her for “defamation,” presumably because Shermer’s feelings were hurt. All because Benson expressed her opinion that Shermer’s remark was sexist.

    No – because she makes “a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation a negative or inferior image”; because she – and many in her cohort – are peddling a bare-faced lie.

  247. 247
    tomh

    And that legal wizard Steersman says, Lock her up! Throw away the key!

  248. 248
    Jason Thibeault

    In my book – the dictionary – saying that someone said something that is sexist is tantamount to calling them a sexist.

    Which dictionary is THAT in?

    “Hey that thing you said is racist!” != “Hey, you’re a racist!” Why would that equation work differently for sexism?

    Oh, because we really want to defend persecution complexes. Perhaps you’re being witch-hunted RIGHT NOW by my request for a dictionary that actually defines accidental sexist language as an intrinsic property of a person’s identity.

  249. 249
    Gretchen

    Steersman said:

    And WMDKitty finally shows his ability to present and understand a detailed and cogent argument ….

    No, that would be the genius who actually replied to an argument by referring to a “gynocracy.”

    I wasn’t actually very bothered by Shermer’s initial remarks. You know, about skepticism being “a guy thing.” Even “intellectually active” didn’t really rouse my ire, because I figured he was just trying, in a very clumsy way, to suggest that men tend to be more outgoing and willing to take risks, and being openly atheistic can be a hell of a risk. But when he compared himself to Dawkins without the slightest acknowledgment that Dawkins actually did anything wrong, and proceeded to claim that they were both like victims of a totalitarian regime because some people had spoken out and criticized statements they’d made as sexist, well…..it suddenly became very difficult to make a meaningful distinction between what he was saying, and Rush Limbaugh declaring that any woman who stands up for herself and declares that she has a right to make decisions about such important things as her own reproduction is a “feminazi.” Or, of course, a “femistasi.”

    And now you, perhaps in a fit of desperation, have started spouting the same bullshit. Women who disagree are like dictators. The whole body of them are like a fascist regime, bent on ruthlessly squelching any dissent.

    Except……in reality, it’s nothing like that. It’s just another persecution complex on the part of the people with the real power, who perceive any move toward equality as their own victimization. Just like the Christians who whine about a war on Christmas are the people who declare that any criticism of speech on the grounds that it’s sexist is tyrannical censorship on the part of a totalitarians.

    Get over yourselves.

  250. 250
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    Steersman, you really are an idiot. Why don’t you go troll somewhere else?

  251. 251
    hypatiasdaughter

    #199 Michael Heath
    Now, Mikey, you are making me laugh. You have quoted selective parts of my posts. You have never once answered my questions. Like, did you ever watch the video of the interview?

    Here you just conjure up an assertion about me without quoting anything I wrote which supports your claim

    In post #164

    And “those like you who avoid Benson’s demagoguery and defamation of Shermer.”- hmm, I am not aware that I made any defense of Benson or anyone else’s position in any of my posts. See #73 and #149.

    Since you seem to have problems with the English language, I ask you again – where in any of my posts have I defended “the demagoguery and defamation” of either the Benson or Ed? I have never mentioned either one in my posts.
    And hey, Mikey, have you noticed that huntstoddard and Steermans are acting a little “tribal”? Are you planning to take them to task? Or would that be turning on your fellow tribesmen?

  252. 252
    Ophelia Benson

    Michael Heath, you really should stop saying I lied (and, yes, calling me a liar). I provided the exact quote. It’s right there on the page. Then when I comment I say “it’s a guy thing” instead of “it’s more of a guy thing” – but the exact quote is immediately above, and it’s obvious to any experienced reader which one is the exact quote. It’s not lying to give a paraphrase in the commentary when the original is right there.

  253. 253
    Steersman

    tomh said (#246):

    And that legal wizard Steersman says, Lock her up! Throw away the key!

    No, I didn’t say that at all. Either your reading comprehension is the shits or you’re trying for demagogue of the year …. and in the face of tough competition from various FfTB’s ….

  254. 254
    Steersman

    Jason Thibeault said (#248):

    In my book – the dictionary – saying that someone said something that is sexist is tantamount to calling them a sexist.

    Which dictionary is THAT in?

    “Hey that thing you said is racist!” != “Hey, you’re a racist!” Why would that equation work differently for sexism?

    And if the thing said isn’t retracted then the implication if not inexorable conclusion is, ipso facto, that the person is a racist. The reason why I did say “tantamount”: “equivalent in effect or value” but not exactly equal. More particularly, if sexism is this:

    1: prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially : discrimination against women
    2: behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex

    Then a sexist, as a person, has to be:

    1: someone who is prejudiced or discriminates based on sex;
    2: someone whose behavior, conditions, or attitudes foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex

    So if a sexist is one who exhibits sexism – i.e., those behaviours or attitudes – and someone has done such exhibiting then it follows that they are a sexist. Or maybe you can explain to me how discrimination, or “behaviour and attitudes that foster stereotypes” can exist without the discriminator or the person exhibiting those behaviours and attitudes. Like I said, “tantamount” ….

    Oh, because we really want to defend persecution complexes. Perhaps you’re being witch-hunted RIGHT NOW by my request for a dictionary that actually defines accidental sexist language as an intrinsic property of a person’s identity.

    Who said anything about accidental? That’s your inference as to his intent. Shermer presumably made the statement because he thought it was an accurate, if maybe noncommittal, description of the reasons for the disparity. If it was something he believed to be true then why would he change it except if you’ve managed to convince him that it was sexist? As he hasn’t – at least that I can see in his December eSkeptic article – and as many here continue to call it a sexist comment, it seems perfectly reasonable to infer that you’re calling him a sexist. And with diddly-squat in the way of evidence and proof to justify the charge. Which tends to look rather much like a witch-hunt ….

  255. 255
    Steersman

    Gretchen said (#249):

    No, that would be the genius who actually replied to an argument by referring to a “gynocracy.”

    Seems to be some over here also who are somewhat challenged by sarcasm, mine being entirely justified by jenniferphillips’ “priviledged posturing” with it’s echoes of “The Patriarchy” ….

    And now you, perhaps in a fit of desperation, have started spouting the same bullshit. Women who disagree are like dictators. The whole body of them are like a fascist regime, bent on ruthlessly squelching any dissent.

    Apart from the fact that I was a long way from “spouting the same bullshit” (over-react much or often?) as it was only a sarcastic needle, considering the prevalence of people ascribing all sorts of nefarious and egregious activities to “The Patriarchy”, one might be forgiven for suggesting a feminist organization equally as nefarious and egregious.

  256. 256
    ildi

    MH: You even bold it, and can’t see it. Amazing.

    Women “don’t do thinky” is not the same as saying women “don’t think.” It mystifies me how you can ignore the context of the Fine quote in your quest for the objective truth. Shermer makes an off-the-cuff sexist remark and Benson uses it as an example of the types of implicit assumptions about the sexes that are still rampant in our society, even among progressives.

    Your bias shows in that you have no problem interpreting Shermer’s statement as more dumb and ill-conceived rather than sexist, but that you consider (your flawed understanding of) Benson’s interpretation of that sexist statement to rise to the level of character assassination and repugnant demagoguery.

  257. 257
    Steersman

    WMDKitty said (#250):

    Steersman, you really are an idiot. Why don’t you go troll somewhere else?

    Curious that so many people are so quick to level the charge of “troll” when they don’t have any rebuttals to the “troll’s” arguments …. I wonder why that is ….

  258. 258
    Gretchen

    Seems to be some over here also who are somewhat challenged by sarcasm, mine being entirely justified by jenniferphillips’ “priviledged posturing” with it’s echoes of “The Patriarchy”

    1) Comprehension of the term “patriarchy” utter fail. I don’t especially like it either, in part because it is so easily misunderstood, but seriously….when you don’t even try, it doesn’t count.

    2) I’m sure that works splendidly when arguing with black people about racism and you refer to the “negocracy.” Because it’s always totally cool and inoffensive to pretend that minorities are in fact their own organized powerful entity of which you, majority member, are the victim. Sarcastically or no.

    Fuckwit.

  259. 259
    ildi

    But the latter is a stereotype because, as per the definition, it asserts that the doing of drugs – which is manifestly true for those blacks so charged – is applicable to all blacks. However, if you had said that “doing drugs is more of a black thing” then that is only stating a fact. It may not actually answer any questions as to why that is the case, but it is not at all racist.

    No, saying doing drugs is more of a black thing because there are more blacks in prison for drug offenses is not just stating a fact, it’s making an assumption without having all the facts in place. It tells you nothing about the use of drugs in the general population, it just tells you who is arrested for, tried for, and found guilty of drug offenses. Saying it’s more of a black thing is racist when you ignore all the other dynamics.

  260. 260
    Steersman

    Ophelia Benson said (#252):

    Then when I comment I say “it’s a guy thing” instead of “it’s more of a guy thing” – but the exact quote is immediately above, and it’s obvious to any experienced reader which one is the exact quote.

    More horse-manure there, Ophelia.

    You really should re-read your own article. The first statement of Shermer’s you mis-quote is “that’s a guy thing” which you immediately follow up by saying “Michael Shermer said exactly that”with your “that” clearly referring to the “that’s a guy thing” – as well as to the “women don’t do thinky work” – in the previous paragraph.

    That you subsequently quote him correctly saying “it’s more of a guy thing” detracts not in the slightest from the fact that you made an assertion as to what he said that is simply not true.

  261. 261
    tomh

    Steersman:

    Seems to be some over here also who are somewhat challenged by sarcasm

    That would be you – since I didn’t put ‘Lock her up’ in quotes I guess I knew you didn’t use those words. You did, however, say that Benson’s words bordered on “criminal negligence” and she could be sued for “defamation.” Probably the most ridiculous assertion you’ve made in a long line of them that you’ve made. That’s what happens when you get your legal knowledge from Wikipedia.

    I’m sure of one thing out of all this – Steersman got a new dictionary for Christmas. It’s heartwarming, really, to see how he depends on it.

  262. 262
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    Steersmann

    Keep digging….

  263. 263
    sawells

    Isn’t it funny how, if Ophelia quotes Shermer saying “more of a guy thing” and later paraphrases “It’s a guy thing”, then OMG MISREPRESENTATION, but if Steersman chooses to believe that “that thing you said was sexist” is “tantamount to” saying “you are sexist”, then we must all prostrate ourselves before his interpretation even though it’s not at all what was said?

  264. 264
    Stacy

    @Michael Heath:

    I do know my biases related to this matter.

    Assuming you mean that comprehensively–”I know all my biases related to this matter”–you are a fool if you really believe that.

    We all have biases we don’t consciously perceive.

    You very clearly have misunderstood Ms. Benson’s point. She did not say that Shermer said “women don’t think.” She did not call Shermer A Sexist.

    She pointed out that he said something sexist (you’ve admitted he did,) by way of explaining the tenacity and ubiquity of sexist stereotypes.

    You, like Shermer himself, have attempted to paint that as an egregious crime. You’ve attempted to make a column that was about sexist stereotypes into a column excoriating Shermer.

  265. 265
    Stacy

    Once again, for the self-righteous and the obtuse as well as those honestly grappling with this: sexist thinking is a cognitive failure, not a moral one. Ophelia Benson understands this. Michael Shermer apparently doesn’t. He was not pilloried.

    (Persisting in sexist thinking after it’s been revealed to be a cognitive failure may in some circumstances be a moral failure, but we all know how long it can take for even smart people to change an entrenched way of thinking.)

  266. 266
    ildi

    You’d think Shermer would, in fact, understand this, Stacy. He just published The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths last year.

  267. 267
    Steersman

    ildi said (#259):

    No, saying doing drugs is more of a black thing because there are more blacks in prison for drug offenses is not just stating a fact, it’s making an assumption without having all the facts in place. It tells you nothing about the use of drugs in the general population, it just tells you who is arrested for, tried for, and found guilty of drug offenses. Saying it’s more of a black thing is racist when you ignore all the other dynamics.

    You’re trying to move the goalposts. The question wasn’t one of addressing “all the other dynamics” of one part of my analogy, but of the consequences and import of the word “more”. It is that which turns a categorical statement – “it’s a guy thing” – which might justifiably be called sexist and stereotyping into one – “it’s more of a guy thing” – that is a simple statement of fact. And relative to which you might actually want to take a look at the Pew Forum statistics that I quoted earlier which quite conclusively demonstrates that the atheist population of the US is comprised of 64% male and 36% female. Something which is rather conclusively corroborated by the Atheist Census which strongly suggests a ratio of 74% male and 25% female.

  268. 268
    Steersman

    sawells said (#263)

    Isn’t it funny how, if Ophelia quotes Shermer saying “more of a guy thing” and later paraphrases “It’s a guy thing”, then OMG MISREPRESENTATION, but if Steersman chooses to believe that “that thing you said was sexist” is “tantamount to” saying “you are sexist”, then we must all prostrate ourselves before his interpretation even though it’s not at all what was said?

    You might want to try putting brain in gear before putting mouth in motion – and reading Ophelia’s article first.

    If you had done so you might have noticed that she FIRST mis-quoted Shermer as saying “it’s a guy thing” and THEN she said “Shermer said exactly that” – where there is no possible way of inferring that her “that” was referring to anything other than “it’s a guy thing”if not other more problematic statements – and THEN she FINALLY said that Shermer said “it’s more of a guy think”. Do note the progression: lie if not libel THEN “said exactly that” THEN “it’s more of a guy thing”.

    Yea, put me on a jury and I doubt that I would have much difficulty rendering a verdict of guilty of libel.

    As for my interpretation of sexist – which is more or less corroborated in thousands if not millions of dictionaries; I recommend you actually take a look at one of them – I suppose then by your “logic” that if someone commits a crime then they are not a criminal? That if you say I have murdered someone that you aren’t then saying that I’m a murderer?

  269. 269
    Steersman

    WMDKitty said (#262):

    Steersman

    Keep digging….

    Another transparent attempt to dismiss a person instead of actually trying to address their arguments. Maybe you’re incapable of that ….

    What a bunch of fucking clueless intellectually-dishonest assholes – and I’m being charitable ….

  270. 270
    sawells

    The thing about a sexist culture, sweet little Steersman, is that it leads to people saying sexist things, even if they aren’t consciously sexist. Describing the person as sexist would be unfair; describing the statement as sexist is only accurate. In re. the discussion of racism, Gretchen already pointed you to a resource, which I’ll quote for you:

    “Otherwise known as the “that thing you said” conversation. See: Jay Smooth on Youtube talking about the concept when it comes to racism. It should come up with by simply searching “Jay Smooth racism.””

    Now you could choose to advance your education, or you could keep mindlessly repeating your dictionary argument. To refute which, note that Stephen Hawking is known to have climbed a tree at least once, before his dystrophy set in; wherefore it would according to you be perfectly accurate to describe Stephen Hawking as a tree-climber. Ridiculous enough for you yet?

    Hey, I just realised what this reminds me of – it’s the religious gotcha about “Have you ever told a lie? What do we call people who tell lies? You are A LIAR and require God’s forgiveness.”

  271. 271
    Stacy

    /engage *shudder* Steersman:

    As for my interpretation of sexist – which is more or less corroborated in thousands if not millions of dictionaries

    You do know that the word functions as both adjective and noun, right?

    (Fuckin’ word sense, how does it work?)

    I suppose then by your “logic” that if someone commits a crime then they are not a criminal? That if you say I have murdered someone that you aren’t then saying that I’m a murderer?

    Are you a runner, Steersman? I used to run around a lot when I was a little kid. Does that make me a runner?

    I can play chopsticks. Am I a pianist?

    By your definition, everyone is sexist. It simply makes more sense to make a distinction between expression of a cognitive bias we all share to one degree or another (sexism) and being a person with a deliberate, conscious belief in the inferiority of women.

    I suggest everyone read Ian Cromwell (The Crommunist). He makes the same point with regards to racism.

    /disengage

  272. 272
    dan4

    @115: I don’t care about this controversy, but I find it amusing that Steersman seems to believe that the second word in Mrs. Phillips’ “internet law” characterization of her distaste for people online using dictionary definitions was actually meant in a literal legal sense (how else to interpret his overheated ‘looks like censorship to me!” response to said characterization?).

  273. 273
    dan4

    Ironically, I would think that a court would be more sympathetic to a libel claim by Mrs. Phillips against Steersman for claiming that the former wants to ban books than one based on a “it’s a guy thing/”more of a guy thing” differentiation (yeah, this comment should have been part of @272. My apologies for that).

  274. 274
    Ophelia Benson

    Yea, put me on a jury and I doubt that I would have much difficulty rendering a verdict of guilty of libel.

    Right because there would totally be no problem with trying to sue me for libel over the difference between “it’s a guy thing” and “it’s more of a guy thing” when both versions are given and it’s clear which one is the direct quote. You bet! Any ambitious lawyer would jump at the chance? Court costs? What court costs? The case is a sure-fire winner!

  275. 275
    Stacy

    By your definition, everyone is sexist.

    Shit. Everyone is sexist. I meant to say: By your definition everyone is a sexist.

  276. 276
    sawells

    @275: well, he’s already said that for him both I and Mo farah are “runners”, so I think this one is irony-proof.

  277. 277
    ildi

    Steersman:

    The question wasn’t one of addressing “all the other dynamics” of one part of my analogy, but of the consequences and import of the word “more”. It is that which turns a categorical statement – “it’s a guy thing” – which might justifiably be called sexist and stereotyping into one – “it’s more of a guy thing” – that is a simple statement of fact. And relative to which you might actually want to take a look at the Pew Forum statistics that I quoted earlier which quite conclusively demonstrates that the atheist population of the US is comprised of 64% male and 36% female.

    Yes, the question IS one of addressing all the other dynamics. Why do more men self-report atheist than women? Why would this difference in self-reporting indicate that being intellectually active in the atheist movement is a more of guy thing? It’s circular logic to say that it’s more of a guy thing because more guys participate. To call that just stating a fact about why things are that way is perpetuating a stereotype; i.e., it’s a sexist statement.

  278. 278
    jenniferphillips

    dan4 @ 272/3
    Yes. The word ‘forfeit’ also seemed to unduly alarm him. The dictionary arguments are coming fast and thick, so even subtracting all the faulty logic and sexist dog whistles he’s deployed here, I think it’s safe to declare him the loser at this point.

    Scopie’s Law is a bit obscure, but I find it hard to believe that Steersman has never heard of Godwin. The pitters & MRAs were so recently touting it in triumph when Ophelia made her ‘women creating a climate where women feel unsafe by speaking out against sexism–> jews creating a climate where Jews felt unsafe by speaking out against antisemitism in 1936 Germany’ analogy. (here)

  279. 279
    Michael Heath

    Aaron Logan @ 238:

    I’m also rather surprised that the editors allowed, in Heath’s and Steersman’s opinions for example, such egregious defamation to be published. For now, I’m going to trust the editors’ as seeing no defamation rather than missing it.

    To clarify a point. I never claimed the editors were at fault for Benson’s defamation. When Ms. Benson tried to avoid her own culpability by deferring to her editors I rebutted that @ 216 arguing she’s responsible for her actions.

    I don’t know the level of scrutiny editors enjoy or their skill set so they could very well have missed it. I am instead assigning responsibility to Ms. Benson for failing to interview Mr. Shermer prior to misrepresenting what he said and then defaming him by misconstruing what he actually said by making it far worse. Misrepresentation which clearly meets the definition of defamation and as evidenced this thread, working quite well as demagoguery with those unable to confront what Shermer actually stated and what Benson falsely claims he meant.

  280. 280
    Michael Heath

    tomh @ 242:

    Oh, he showed them a long time ago. He thinks Benson should be locked up for “criminal negligence,” and Shermer should sue her for “defamation,” presumably because Shermer’s feelings were hurt. All because Benson expressed her opinion that Shermer’s remark was sexist.

    The objection by Shermer and my condemnation of Ms. Benson isn’t about her “opinion” but instead her premises – which are demonstrably false. There is a difference between an opinion and the premises which support an opinion.

    Here’s Shermer in the article Ed linked to:

    I don’t believe that [Benson's distortion and then smear of Shermer] for a moment, and in any case the evidence (as I outlined at the beginning of this essay) overwhelmingly demonstrates that women are more than capable of thinking, writing, speaking, and debating about God and theism. Unquestionably. Unequivocally.

    I quote Shermer from my post @ 203 because the link Ed provided in the body of his blog post isn’t currently accessible.

    If people had a honest, well-framed, coherent defense of Ms. Benson, we’d see it. I’ve yet to observe anything that avoids even remedial rhetorical and logical fallacies along with enormous volumes of avoidance and outright denial.

  281. 281
    Michael Heath

    Gretchen @ 249,

    You make a valid argument regarding Michael Shermer’s bad behavior. But why do you avoid responding to Ophelia Benson’s misrepresentation of Shermer which motivated Mr. Shermer to lash out? Why do you avoid the fact her criticism of Shermer didn’t depend on what Shermer actually said but instead her false characterization of what he stated? Why do you not criticize her for failing to seek out a more fleshed-out perspective by interviewing him to ask him what he meant rather than confront what he actually said? Or if he refused, sticking to what stated rather than conjuring up the false characterization of him that she used to make her case.

  282. 282
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    Michael Heath

    Oh, shut up already. Ophelia DID NOT misrepresent, misconstrue, or otherwise “twist” Mr. Shermer’s words. She quoted exactly what he said, and pointed out that it was, in fact, sexist.

  283. 283
    Michael Heath

    Ophelia Benson to me @ 252:

    Michael Heath, you really should stop saying I lied (and, yes, calling me a liar). I provided the exact quote. It’s right there on the page. Then when I comment I say “it’s a guy thing” instead of “it’s more of a guy thing” – but the exact quote is immediately above, and it’s obvious to any experienced reader which one is the exact quote. It’s not lying to give a paraphrase in the commentary when the original is right there.

    Why would I stop claiming you lied when not only did you lie, but you refuse to retract your lies and even lie in this post as well?

    In this quote above, you didn’t do an, “exact quote” of Shermer. That’s a lie which has been pointed out to you by a handful of people, including Shermer in his response to your article which Ed linked to in the body of his blog post. You quote-mined Shermer which effectively buttresses your false characterization of Shermer, i.e., leaving out his, “I think it probably really is fifty-fifty“. I validated this @ quote-mine at 217 with all the relevant quotes.

    I previously didn’t claim you lied by quote-mining Shermer because it could very well have been inadvertent as I acknowledged @ 217 when I stated, Whether it was inadvertent or not is not something I can know.. However the exclusion of that statement helped sell your lies about Shermer. And now, your claiming (disingenuously?) you did an, “exact quote”; well, hat has you purposefully misinforming this thread’s readers given the quote-mine has been demonstrated @ 217 and noted by Shermer’s response.

    And I repeatedly demonstrated you in fact lied about Mr. Shermer said . No reasonable person can claim the moral gravity of what he said that started this ruckus compares to the misogynistic characterization you described. Mr. Shermer also validates that you misrepresented what he stated in the very link Ed provided in his quote which I repeat here:

    I don’t believe that [Benson's distortion and then smear of Shermer] for a moment, and in any case the evidence (as I outlined at the beginning of this essay) overwhelmingly demonstrates that women are more than capable of thinking, writing, speaking, and debating about God and theism. Unquestionably. Unequivocally.

    Ms. Benson, if you don’t want to be called a liar, please stop lying and retract the lies you’ve already told. That takes character; given your defamation of Mr. Shermer and avoidance of what you’ve done when it’s been pointed to you by Shermer and at least me, I have little confidence you’re capable of such integrity. Please prove me wrong, we need less liars in this world – especially by those who seek to influence others as you and I both do.

  284. 284
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    Look, shit-for-brains, OPHELIA DID NOT LIE.

    She did not “distort” Shermer’s words.

    She quoted his exact words, and pointed out that it was a sexist thing to say.

    The lies and distortions are a figment of your delusional little imagination.

    Now shut the fuck up and stop smearing a good woman who has more integrity in her little finger than you will ever see in your disgusting little integrity-free life.

  285. 285
    Steersman

    WMDKitty said (#284):

    Look, shit-for-brains, OPHELIA DID NOT LIE.

    She did not “distort” Shermer’s words.

    She quoted his exact words, and pointed out that it was a sexist thing to say.

    If you want to give some evidence that your handle – “always growing and learning” – isn’t a total delusion on your part – there being more evidence for “shrinking and getting more and more stupid” – you might want to try putting brain in gear before putting mouth in motion – and reading Ophelia’s article first.

    If you had done so to begin with you might have noticed that she FIRST mis-quoted Shermer as saying “it’s a guy thing” and THEN she said “Shermer said exactly that” – where there is no possible way of inferring that her “that” was referring to anything other than “it’s a guy thing” if not other more problematic statements – and THEN she FINALLY said that Shermer said “it’s more of a guy thing”. Do note the progression: lie if not libel THEN “said exactly that” THEN “it’s more of a guy thing”.

    It’s that misquote followed by the “said exactly that” that constitutes the lie and, apparently, the libel. That she subsequently quoted him accurately does not let her off the hook for having lied to begin with nor with having to accept the consequences for having done so.

  286. 286
    Aaron Logan

    I think (again more charitably, Mr Heath) that Ophelia was addressing sexist stereotypes and not alleging that Shermer is sexist. I don’t see an actual allegation from Ophelia that Shermer is sexist only that this one thing, in isolation, was sexist (inadvertent, unconsciously sexist likely). The sexism of “it’s more of a guy thing” is made more stark because of Shermer’s actual attitudes towards women and is a mild example of Ophelia’s restatement of Fine to describe systemic attitudes, for example, that “women don’t do thinky.” Several of you disagree but haven’t justified a less than charitable reading of Ophelia.

  287. 287
    Steersman

    Aaron Logan said (#286):

    I don’t see an actual allegation from Ophelia that Shermer is sexist only that this one thing, in isolation, was sexist (inadvertent, unconsciously sexist likely). …. Several of you disagree but haven’t justified a less than charitable reading of Ophelia.

    Christ in a sidecar. Did no one here actually read Ophelia’s article? Here’s what she said, the money-shot:

    Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”

    Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that during a panel discussion on the online talk-show The Point.

    That looks to me to be a pretty pointed allegation – based on an egregious and odious lie – that Shermer is sexist. The “charitable reading” is in assuming that Ophelia’s “that” refers only to the part in quotes – “that’s a guy thing” – and not the even more apparently libelous accusation that Shermer actually said – “exactly” – that “Unbelieving in God is thinky work ….”

  288. 288
    Aaron Logan

    Steersman, “money-shot” in this context is egregiously sexist and, charitably, unthinkingly sexist. With an own goal like that, you should retire from the field.

  289. 289
    Michael Heath

    ildi to me @ 256:

    MH: You even bold it, and can’t see it. Amazing.

    I did see it and chose not to use it @ 232. That’s because the Benson quote I bolded in response to your post @ 226 was sufficient in pointing out even a generous reading of Benson, as you asked me to do @ 226, still has her defaming Shermer by misconstruing Shermer’s thoughts.

    I now regret the decision because I can see now how that is confusing I didn’t confront both your challenges. I. e., you wanting me to dig into the Fine statement and Benson’s false projection of that onto Shermer; that was something I didn’t address, choosing only to address your request I not consider Benson in an “unfavorable light” but something more generous. Which I did in my response to your 226 , and she still comes out incredibly dishonest.

    I obviously saw Benson’s reference to Fine that you raised @ 226, no denialism here. In fact even before you brought it up I quoted Benson’s false projection of Fine onto Shermer in my original objection @ 71.

    Your falsely attributing this to my not being capable of “seeing it” is the exact defect which got Benson in trouble, imagining what someone else thinks and using that as material to describe another person’s thoughts rather than using what people actually state.

    So I’ll do a do-over, which is more devastating than what I previously used.

    ildi @ 226:

    ’ll break it down for you, Michael, since your bias is obviously interfering with your critical analysis. [Nice projection there. - MH]

    Notice that I when I quoted from Benson’s article back up in #151, I included the previous paragraph, where she quotes social psychologist Cordelia Fine from Delusions of Gender:

    Measures of implicit associations reveal that men, more than women, are implicitly associated with science, math, career, hierarchy, and high authority. In contrast, women, more than men, are implicitly associated with the liberal arts, family and domesticity,egalitarianism, and low authority.

    Her [Ophelia Benon's] next sentence after quoting Fine:

    The main stereotype in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do nontheism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”

    It’s pretty clear for anyone without a strong bias to read Benson in the most unfavorable light that she is using “don’t do thinky” as shorthand for the Fine quote. So when Shermer says being intellectually active is a guy thing, he is exemplifying the very implicit associations that Fine describes.

    ildi, Benson now has you quote-mining Shermer as well where your conclusion is as invalid as Benson’s.

    It’s clear Shermer didn’t think or state women, “don’t do thinky” merely by considering the statement Shermer made which Benson quote-mined out of what she quoted by him. A quote-mine you fail to re-insert in your post @ 226, in spite of others pointing out Benson’s taking that relevant statement out and how that makes for a better case (though still obviously dishonest). The statement of course being, I think it [female participation in general*] probably really is fifty-fifty.

    Here’s Benson, again:

    The main stereotype [referencing Fine] in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do nontheism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”
    Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that during a panel discussion on the online talk-show The Point. The host, Cara Santa Maria, presented a question: Why isn’t the gender split in atheism closer to 50-50? Shermer explained, [Benson fails to include, I think it [female participation in general*] probably really is fifty-fifty. ] “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”

    It’s all there—women don’t do thinky, they don’t speak up, they don’t talk at conferences, they don’t get involved—it’s “a guy thing,” like football and porn and washing the car.

    Well again, Shermer didn’t say that nor even raised the point about “thinky”, plus he refuted the hosts claim there was no female participation. By quote-mining out the “fifty-fifty” statement, inadvertent or purposeful, it effectively makes it easier for Benson to distort what Shermer stated to Benson’s false strawman. Ms. Benson’s now demonstrated she’s not merely a liar, but a repeated one at that given her responses in this very thread, e.g., she wrote with more her claim she did an “exact quote” of Shermer in spite of her acknowledging she’s been accused of quote-mined which I validated she actually did @ 217 (though I don’t assert whether it was inadvertent or purposeful).

    Ms. Benson needs to apologize to Mr. Shermer and issue a retraction.

    *The Shermer and Benson articles at humanist.org are not currently available. So my description of Shermer’s “it” to mean “general female participation” is from memory. Of course if females are fifty-fifty in their particpation than they are doing “thinky” given the whole freethinking/atheist/skeptic enterprise is nearly all about thinking.

  290. 290
    dan4

    @287: The “charitable reading” is in assuming that Ophelia’s “that” refers only to the part in quotes–”that’s a guy thing”-and not the even more apparently libelous accusation that Shermer actually said-”exactly”-that “Unbelieving in God is thinky work…”

    That’s a pretty darn safe assumption, considering that “that’s a guy thing” is surrounded by quotations and “Unbelieving in God is thinky work…” isn’t.

  291. 291
    Michael Heath

    Stacy @ 264 writes:

    You’ve attempted to make a column that was about sexist stereotypes into a column excoriating Shermer.

    This has to be deepest denial of what Ms. Benson actually did that’s been published in this thread; and that’s saying something given all the denialism observed so far.

    See my post above where I quote Benson doing exactly that, i.e., excoriating Shermer for supposedly stating that women, are “too stupid”, and “don’t do thinky”; both are demonstrably false, both are misogynistic things to assert, both are assertions Shermer didn’t make, especially when we read back-in what Benson left-out that Shermer stated, and both are comments Shermer notes he doesn’t think. Nor is there a record challenging his response on this to Benson’s defamation of him.

  292. 292
    Steersman

    Aaron Logan said (#288):

    Steersman, “money-shot” in this context is egregiously sexist and, charitably, unthinkingly sexist. With an own goal like that, you should retire from the field.

    Really? I had no idea …. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say on the topic:

    A money shot is a moving or stationary visual element of a film, video, television broadcast, or print publication that is disproportionately expensive to produce and/or is perceived as essential to the overall importance or revenue-generating potential of the work.

    But I suppose that was another red-herring from you lot – anything so you don’t actually have to address your interlocutor’s arguments.

  293. 293
    Michael Heath

    WMDKitty writes:

    Oh, shut up already. Ophelia DID NOT misrepresent, misconstrue, or otherwise “twist” Mr. Shermer’s words. She quoted exactly what he said, and pointed out that it was, in fact, sexist.

    Asking someone to shut up is typical behavior of someone who can’t defend their position but don’t want to change it, people; don’t like cognitive dissonance where some lack the character to adapt when facts, and that’s what we have here, falsifytheir position. That’s why YECS don’t study evolution.

    No, Ms. Benson didn’t quote exactly what Shermer stated. Ms. Benson did what David Barton does, which was to selectively quote him where what she left out a statement which falsifies her lie that he claimed women don’t participate. I.e., she left out his statement, ,i.I think it [female participation in general*] probably really is fifty-fifty.

    In addition Ms. Benson lied in her article where I quote her tying the following to Shermer:

    . . . women are too stupid to do nontheism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, . .

    She lied even further on this matter by asserting and I quote her again:

    Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that during a panel discussion on the online talk-show The Point.

    Well when we read what he stated, he never claimed women are too stupid to do nontheism. He never claimed they can’t , “do thinky”, and he didn’t claim women don’t participate in general, claiming instead their participation is fifty-fifty.

  294. 294
    Michael Heath

    WMDKitty (Always growing and learning) to me:

    Look, shit-for-brains, OPHELIA DID NOT LIE.

    She did not “distort” Shermer’s words.

    She quoted his exact words, and pointed out that it was a sexist thing to say.

    The lies and distortions are a figment of your delusional little imagination.

    Now shut the fuck up and stop smearing a good woman who has more integrity in her little finger than you will ever see in your disgusting little integrity-free life.

    If I was dishonestly smearing Ms. Benson, you could hold up what I assert to what she wrote and that would reveal my falsehoods. The fact you can’t but wish I’d shut up anyway illustrates how cognitive dissonance can cause all sorts of bad behavior as you demonstrate here. Facts are pesky things to some people.

  295. 295
    Aaron Logan

    Steersman, read the rest of the wikipedia article. Is what you meant rather than “money-shot” in the porn movie sense? Why should I give you the benefit of a more charitable reading, especially since your preferred dictionary money shot agrees with me? You’re the one weaseling out of the implications of your sexist statement by changing dictionaries when it’s convenient to you.

  296. 296
    Steersman

    dan4 said (#290):

    @287: The “charitable reading” is in assuming that Ophelia’s “that” refers only to the part in quotes–”that’s a guy thing”-and not the even more apparently libelous accusation that Shermer actually said-”exactly”-that “Unbelieving in God is thinky work…”

    That’s a pretty darn safe assumption, considering that “that’s a guy thing” is surrounded by quotations and “Unbelieving in God is thinky work…” isn’t.

    Maybe. But the fact that Benson made the misquote of Shermer part of a larger sentence – and the proximate and supposed cause of another more problematic “moral failing” on the part of Shermer, i.e., the assertion that “women don’t do thinky” BECAUSE “that’s a guy thing” – lends some credibilty to the argument that her “exactly that” was meant to cause people to infer that Shermer had said, directly or indirectly, what was implied in the whole sentence. And relative to the question of implication you might want to note what Wikipedia says about defamation:

    libel (for written, broadcast, or otherwise published words)—is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation a negative or inferior image.

    However, in any case, are you then conceding that Benson lied when she said that Shermer said “exactly that” where “that” is, at the very least, referring to “that’s a guy thing”?

  297. 297
    Steersman

    Aaron Logan said (#295):

    Steersman, read the rest of the wikipedia article. Is what you meant rather than “money-shot” in the porn movie sense?

    I did. And yes, particularly since the “porn movie sense” is a decided stretch. Although, considering what appears to be Benson’s efforts to screw if not rape Shermer – figuratively speaking – one might argue that the cases are at least somewhat analogous.

    Why should I give you the benefit of a more charitable reading, especially since your preferred dictionary money shot agrees with me? You’re the one weaseling out of the implications of your sexist statement by changing dictionaries when it’s convenient to you.

    So, you’re telling me that you know more about what my intent was than I do?

    But, in any case, the Wikipedia article gives some justification for concluding that the use of the term in general cinematography predates its use in reference to pornography. And that some dictionaries only have the one definition hardly means that everyone has to accept that one – particularly when other dictionaries have both.

  298. 298
    tomh

    Michael Heath @ #280

    So apparently you would agree with the iignorant Steersman that Benson could be convicted of libel. After all, that was the claim I was answering. In other words, she knowingly made false statements, and the statements caused actual harm to Shermer. Not only that, but since he’s a public figure, (author, columnist, etc.), her statements were made with provable malice and a reckless disregard of the truth. That’s the minimum that would be required to show libel. Sound like a strong case to you?

    And in spite of your rather tortured interpretations of Benson’s subsequent commentary, any libel case would turn on her actual quote of Shermer’s. Everything else is opinion.

  299. 299
    Aaron Logan

    Steersman@297. I’m arguing that your intent was not sexist merely that your statement was, just like Ophelia is arguing that Shermer’s statement was sexist and that his intent was not.

    But now your rhetoric is so over the top, “rape Shermer – figuratively speaking” that any further dialog is useless.

  300. 300
    Steersman

    jenniferphillips said (#278):

    dan4 @ 272/3
    Yes. The word ‘forfeit’ also seemed to unduly alarm him. The dictionary arguments are coming fast and thick, so even subtracting all the faulty logic and sexist dog whistles he’s deployed here, I think it’s safe to declare him the loser at this point.

    Ipse dixit; the High Priestess jenniferphillips in her Cloak of Papal Infallibility has spoken. It wasn’t the word “forfeit” that alarmed me; it was the arrogance and a rather cavalier attitude towards reasoned debate. This isn’t a game of Scrabble where you get to dictate where and when which books are allowed to be used, but a question of addressing serious issues. In the former case the game, apart from providing some entertainment, is to determine who has command of which words without recourse to a dictionary; in the latter case “the game” is to get some handle on the truth for which books – notably dictionaries – and other sources of information are of paramount importance. That you would seek to curtail that access points to a rather authoritarian if not fascist frame of mind – feminazis, indeed.

  301. 301
    Steersman

    Aaron Logan said (#299):

    Steersman@297. I’m arguing that your intent was not sexist merely that your statement was, just like Ophelia is arguing that Shermer’s statement was sexist and that his intent was not.

    The thing is that whether a word is sexist or not depends on context and interpretation for which recourse to a dictionary is frequently mandatory. In the case of my statement, there are a number possible interpretations other than the pornographic one you are insisting on – with diddly-squat in the way evidence to support it – and one of which – “perceived as essential to the overall importance or revenue-generating potential of the work” – is far more plausible given the context. In addition, Ophelia saying that a statement is sexist hardly makes it so when there is absolutely no evidence – no consistency between the word’s definition and the facts of the case – to justify the contention.

    But now your rhetoric is so over the top, “rape Shermer – figuratively speaking” that any further dialog is useless.

    You too might want to pick up a dictionary and spend some time perusing it. Some words in particular you might want to look up:

    hy•per•bo•le (h-pûrb-l)
    n.
    A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect, as in I could sleep for a year or This book weighs a ton.

    a•nal•o•gy
    1.
    a. Similarity in some respects between things that are otherwise dissimilar.
    b. A comparison based on such similarity. See Synonyms at likeness.
    3. A form of logical inference or an instance of it, based on the assumption that if two things are known to be alike in some respects, then they must be alike in other respects.

  302. 302
    dan4

    @300: “That you would seek to curtail that access….”

    Once again, with the idiotic literalist readings of the “law” and “forfeit” portion of Mrs. Phillips’s initial comment. She doesn’t want to friggin’ CRIMINALIZE (“curtail that access”) the usage of dictionaries. It’s (unintentionally) hilarious that you think she was proposing an ACTUAL law with the aforementioned. comment. Either you refuse to acknowledge or you are not even aware of the fact that the word “law” has definitions beyond a strictly legal sense. If it’s the former, you are extremely stubborn. If it’s the latter, you are extremely stupid.

    (I’m sure that Mrs. Phillips can defend herself against Steersman’s idiocy, but I wanted to comment, just in case she doesn’t return to this thread…not an unlikely possibility, given it’s several days old by now).

  303. 303
    tomh

    Steersman wrote:

    Ophelia saying that a statement is sexist hardly makes it so

    Just as your denying that it is sexist hardly makes it so. A word like sexist is a value judgment that everyone will make for themselves – in other words, it is an opinion and everyone will have their own opinion on the matter. This is true of many value judgments. For instance, it might be my opinion that you are an ignoramus, but of course, that is open to interpretation. Some might argue that you are a borderline ignoramus, while others might argue, even more fiercely, that you are a full-blown, raving ignoramus. It’s all a matter of opinion.

  304. 304
    Steersman

    dan4 said (#302):

    @300: “That you would seek to curtail that access….”

    Once again, with the idiotic literalist readings of the “law” and “forfeit” portion of Mrs. Phillips’s initial comment. She doesn’t want to friggin’ CRIMINALIZE (“curtail that access”) the usage of dictionaries. It’s (unintentionally) hilarious that you think she was proposing an ACTUAL law with the aforementioned.

    Where the fuck do you get the idea from that I have said or am saying anything about “criminalizing the usage of dictionaries”? Jennifer Phillips said:

    I think there needs to be some internet law, á lá Godwin and Scopie, whereby invoking a dictionary definition as part of your argument results in forfeit.

    And forfeit means:

    tr.v. for•feit, for•feit•ed, for•feit•ing, for•feits
    1. To surrender, be deprived of, or give up the right to on account of a crime, an offense, an error, or a breach of contract.

    So, whether she wants to criminalize it – now or in the future – or not is immaterial – for the nonce – beside the fact that she apparently wants to impose or create some rule whereby having recourse to dictionaries during arguments on various Internet forums means that those doing so have forfeited the argument – have surrendered their right to have a fair hearing of their arguments. What type of civil discourse do you think is possible if people aren’t allowed to refer to dictionaries and other source documents? Methinks she and all who support that idea need to have their fucking heads examined.

  305. 305
    Steersman

    tomh said (#303):

    Steersman wrote:

    Ophelia saying that a statement is sexist hardly makes it so.

    Just as your denying that it is sexist hardly makes it so.

    But the thing is, you – and Ophelia and Ed and PZ and the rest of the braying pack of hounds; a witch-hunting mob with pitchforks in your hands and murder in your hearts – are the ones who have made the charge. So therefore you are the ones obliged to provide the evidence and proof, and all you’ve shown so far is simply diddly-squat. Where’s the proof that Shermer’s statement is discriminatory or is promoting a stereotype? And, as mentioned, simply noting some gender disparities in some grouping simply does not qualify as “promoting”.

    At least I’ve provided a definition for the term and asked questions as to how it applies and demonstrated a reasonable argument buttressed by various facts as to why it doesn’t.

    A word like sexist is a value judgment that everyone will make for themselves – in other words, it is an opinion and everyone will have their own opinion on the matter.

    So, what do you do? Pay the words extra and allow them to mean whatever the fuck you want them to mean? And yell “Off with their heads!” whenever anyone disputes the meanings? You’re right that value judgements are part of the process, but the definitions mean that a set of criteria have to be met before you can reasonably assert that the term applies: you simply can’t call a submarine yellow unless it happens to reflect light of a particular wavelength – insisting otherwise tends to put you into the class of the delusional like young-earth creationists. Nice crowd you travel with there, Ed.

    And that’s why you gals and guys don’t want to allow the use of dictionaries. Simply because it proves you are all – or almost all – simply blowing smoke out of your asses if not raving lunatics.

  306. 306
    sawells

    You’d think, if Steersman’s entire beef is that A MEAN THING WAS SAID OMG!, he would avoid describing people as ” a witch-hunting mob with pitchforks in your hands and murder in your hearts”. How sweet he is.

    Still, it’s nice of him to provide such a clear demonstration that his side of the argument is the one based on ludicrous hyperbole and massively bad reading comprehension. It’s always fun when all you have to do to refute your opponent is let them keep talking. I wonder how long he’ll keep posting before he realises?

  307. 307
    Raging Bee

    Braying pack of hounds; a witch-hunting mob with pitchforks in our hands and murder in our hearts?” Good lord, boy, you’ve been down to this ridiculous childish name-calling for enarly a week now. Isn’t it about time you admitted it’s not getting you (or your BFF Shermer) anywhere?

    And why are you making such a disgraceful ass of yourself trying to defend Shermer’s piss-poor choice of words? Your downright unhinged, drooling sycophantic loyalty is noted. Now go back to bed. Or, better yet, get help, so you can conduct yourself with a bit of dignity, without having to be such a pathetic suck-up.

  308. 308
    Raging Bee

    At least I’ve provided a definition for the term and asked questions…

    Yeah, that’s the standard whining refrain of nearly every loony, liar, and con-artist when they’re called out on their BS: “I was only asking questions [that were based on false premises, and ignoring every answer i got, and asking the same questions over and over again...]”

    How old is this idiot, fourteen? Just asking questions, mind you…

  309. 309
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    If people had a honest, well-framed, coherent defense of Ms. Benson, we’d see it. I’ve yet to observe anything that avoids even remedial rhetorical and logical fallacies along with enormous volumes of avoidance and outright denial.

    Let’s just strip away the vanity and tinsel from this garbage. What you’re actually saying is that, no matter what Benson says, you’re going to ignore it and continue on this BITCHES SHUT UP crusade. You can’t be honest about what she said, despite having actual quotes presented to you. You keep insisting SHE’s the liar, SHE’s the problem, SHE needs to shut up. All while outright denying evidence, ignoring reality and desperately sucking up to a whiny, entitled crybaby who can’t handle being mildly disagreed with.

    You can go away now. Safe and secure in the knowledge that you did your part to drive women away.

  310. 310
    Raging Bee

    If people had a honest, well-framed, coherent defense of Ms. Benson, we’d see it.

    WE do indeed see it. You might see it too, if you’d get your head out of your ass.

  311. 311
    Raging Bee

    …or Shermer’s ass, as the case may be…

  312. 312
    ildi

    MH:

    The host, Cara Santa Maria, presented a question: Why isn’t the gender split in atheism closer to 50-50? Shermer explained, [Benson fails to include, I think it [female participation in general*] probably really is fifty-fifty. ] “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”

    Really? You think he was referring to “female participation in general” being split 50/50 when in the very next sentence he says that standing up and talking about it is more of a guy thing?

    I went to the source, the video. (Look for “atheist Q&A the point” on youtube).

    Santa Maria reads a quote from a question she got on facebook (which shows up on the screen at 11:38):

    Santa Maria:

    Atheist groups always consist of a bunch of (mostly old) men. You are very nice middle-aged men, but you are mostly men. In atheism we don’t have a rule that makes a woman worth only 50% as much as a man and we don’t make women stay silent and only ask their husbands questions. We in atheism supposedly treat women as equals. So why isn’t the gender split closer to 50/50 as it should be?

    And I think that this is a valid question. I personally don’t have any statistics on this, but I can tell you in my experience when putting together this episode and putting together this panel I had a hell of a time finding a woman who would be willing to sit on the panel with me and talk about her atheism. Why is that?

    Shermer: I think it’s, it probably really is 50/50, it’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conference and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; it’s more of a guy thing.

    Santa Maria talking over Shermer’s response: That’s really the question, who’s an outspoken atheist.

    Santa Maria: Why do you think it’s more of a guy thing? I mean, cause I don’t get it, I don’t get it, because for me it’s a me thing and I’m a girl, and I don’t know why other girls don’t see it as being a girl thing.

    Carroll: There is self-reinforcement, because we don’t invite women to give talks at the atheist convention and we don’t know who they are; I think that the men need to do some positive outreach here to support and bring up the women who are willing to talk about it and are interested in the subject I think AJ’s video was fantastic… etc.

    Shermer does talk about Randy’s last meeting/conference that had more women than men for the first time, but then feels it’s important to make the point that that was about skepticism, so it incorporates a lot of different things, not just atheism.

    Also, very interesting: At 13:58:

    Falzon: I have heard, I have heard some, just anecdotally, it’s partly, there might be actually an imbalance of women to men in atheism for emotional reasons. Women, I’m told, maybe somebody can help me out with this, are more inclined to hang onto their faith for emotional reasons than men.

    Santa Clara laughs: It’s a hypothesis, right?

    Shermer: Probably it’s more like justification of faith. Guys are more likely to say I believe in God because of intelligent design and they’ll spout the arguments that sound rational and women are probably more in tune to the real reason people believe, the emotional need and [comfort?] social reasons and so on.

    So, yeah, women are more emotional, men are more intellectual, women just happen to be right about the emotionalism for once.

  313. 313
    Ophelia Benson

    I did not lie. I did not defame Shermer. My article is not demagoguery.

  314. 314
    Michael Heath

    tomh to me:

    So apparently you would agree with the iignorant Steersman that Benson could be convicted of libel.

    No, and why do you imagine the worst of people regarding items they never addressed?

    This is supposed to be reality-friendly venue, but the defense of Ophelia Benson’s defamation of Shermer, coupled to her demagoguing the issue, has some posters behaving just like conservative wingnuts. Here we observe the projection of assertions of one person onto somebody else, similar to how Benson took what Fine said and falsely attributed it to Shermer.

  315. 315
    A. Noyd

    Michael Heath (#314)

    No, and why do you imagine the worst of people regarding items they never addressed?

    “Worst”? It could hardly be more ridiculous than everything else you’ve said here.
    It may not share a compartment with convicting Ophelia for libel, but your unhinged ranting about defamation and demagoguery is definitely somewhere aboard the Crazytown Express.

  316. 316
    tomh

    Michael Heath wrote:

    why do you imagine the worst of people regarding items they never addressed?

    Why did I think you agreed with Steersman? Since you quoted my comment, with apparent disapprobation, regarding Steersman’s certainty that Benson was guilty of libel, it certainly appeared that you agreed with him. And your fondness for the word defamation regarding Benson’s comments only adds to that appearance.

  317. 317
    Michael Heath

    Me @ 208

    If people had a honest, well-framed, coherent defense of Ms. Benson, we’d see it. I’ve yet to observe anything that avoids even remedial rhetorical and logical fallacies along with enormous volumes of avoidance and outright denial.

    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle @ 309 responds:

    Let’s just strip away the vanity and tinsel from this garbage. What you’re actually saying is that, no matter what Benson says, you’re going to ignore it and continue on this BITCHES SHUT UP crusade.

    Nuclear grade projection there. I never argued anyone should shut up. But guess what, others who can’t provide a defense of Benson’s defamation of Shermer certainly have demand that of me, I assume to end their cognitive dissonance. Specifically:

    Jason Thibeault @ 215:
    I know you really want to make this about Ophelia smearing Shermer [Not true, I want us to condemn both of their behavior, not just the tribal apostate]. She didn’t. So stop.

    WMD Kitty @ 282:

    Oh, shut up already. Ophelia DID NOT misrepresent, misconstrue, or otherwise “twist” Mr. Shermer’s words [actually she blatantly did this, only a denialist would claim otherwise] She quoted exactly what he said [not true, we've convincingly validated she left out a key statement which helped her defame Shermer], and pointed out that it was, in fact, sexist. [Which no one is arguing, I'm instead condemning Benson'd defamation and now cowardly demagoguing of her defamation of him.]

    WMD Kitty @ 294 to me:

    Now shut the fuck up and stop smearing a good woman who has more integrity in her little finger than you will ever see in your disgusting little integrity-free life. [WMD Kitty has yet to provide even an iota of evidence who has more integrity.]

    More from Illuminata @ 309:

    You can’t be honest about what she said, despite having actual quotes presented to you. You keep insisting SHE’s the liar, SHE’s the problem, SHE needs to shut up. All while outright denying evidence, ignoring reality and desperately sucking up to a whiny, entitled crybaby who can’t handle being mildly disagreed with.

    This is incoherent, which is expected in such defenses. I’ve plainly revealed by putting Shermer’s offensive quote and Benson’s dishonest response next to each other in many comment posts here; the last @ 289. Ms. Benson has clearly misrepresented Mr. Shermer. Mr. Shermer never claimed women, “are too stupid for nontheism”, contra Ms. Benson’s false claim he did, “exactly that”.

    Mr. Shermer never claimed, “unbelieving in God is thinky work and women don’t do thinky”, contra Ms. Benson’s false claim he did, “exactly that”. Mr. Shermer never claimed that, “women don’t do thinky, they don’t speak up”, contra Ms. Benson’s claim he did, “exactly that”, where she also quote-mined Shermer’s quote which made it clearer his fuck-up never extended to the lies Benson puts into Shermer’s mouth.

    I agree Shermer’s behavior is ridiculous, but you lie here when you claim his absurd response is merely because somebody, “mildly disagreed” with him. Defaming someone is not “mild disagreement”. His article also clearly reveals that his absurd response was motivated by Ms. Benson lying about him, where I quote him, again:

    I [Michael Shermer] don’t believe that [Ophelia Benson's misrepresentation of what he said] for a moment, and in any case the evidence (as I outlined at the beginning of this essay) overwhelmingly demonstrates that women are more than capable of thinking, writing, speaking, and debating about God and theism. Unquestionably. Unequivocally.

  318. 318
    Michael Heath

    Me earlier:

    If people had a honest, well-framed, coherent defense of Ms. Benson, we’d see it.

    Raging Bee responds:

    WE do indeed see it. You might see it too, if you’d get your head out of your ass.

    What post numbers directly confront what Shermer said, compares it to what Benson wrote in her article, validating that Shermer really did bring up and assert that, “unbelieving in God is thinky work and women don’t do thinky”, and that “women don’t do thinky, they don’t speak up”, and that Shermer never stated in a recorded video that I think it [female participation] probably really is fifty-fifty. in order to validate Ms. Benson did quote him, “exactly”.

    Good luck with that.

  319. 319
    Ophelia Benson

    That’s not what I claimed, Michael Heath. To turn your trick back on you – you’re lying. You’re lying you’re lying you’re lying.

    Ms. Benson has clearly misrepresented Mr. Shermer. Mr. Shermer never claimed women, “are too stupid for nontheism”, contra Ms. Benson’s false claim he did, “exactly that”.

    Mr. Shermer never claimed, “unbelieving in God is thinky work and women don’t do thinky”, contra Ms. Benson’s false claim he did, “exactly that”. Mr. Shermer never claimed that, “women don’t do thinky, they don’t speak up”, contra Ms. Benson’s claim he did, “exactly that”, where she also quote-mined Shermer’s quote which made it clearer his fuck-up never extended to the lies Benson puts into Shermer’s mouth.

    Lies lies lies and the lying liars who lie them. Also defamation and demagoguery, and also you burned the toast.

    I did not claim that Shermer claimed “unbelieving in God is thinky work and women don’t do thinky.” Don’t lie.

    But seriously. You seem not to know how to read. You’re doing it wrong. You’re ignoring the conventions of writing in order to pretend that I lied when I didn’t.

    I did not lie. I did not defame Shermer. My article is not demagoguery.

  320. 320
    Raging Bee

    …others who can’t provide a defense of Benson’s defamation of Shermer…

    There’s no “defamation” to “defend.” At the very worst, Benson slightly exaggerated Shermer’s insulting sexism in her description of what his words meant. That’s not “defamation” by any reasonable definition of the word, and it’s really not that much of an exaggeration — as we see each time Shermer’s and her statements are compared side by side.

    I really don’t see why you’re so eager to bash Benson for “defamation,” when you know damn well nearly all of us here engage in similar rephrasing of others’ idiotic and dishonest words every damn day, and laugh whenever said others try to protest our interpretation of their words. Dude, we all know you’re smarter than this, and more honest — so why are you continuing with this nonsensical dishonest hairsplitting?

  321. 321
    Michael Heath

    Ophelia Benson writes @ 313:

    I did not lie. I did not defame Shermer. My article is not demagoguery.

    Sure you lied; and now you lie here by claiming you didn’t lie. The lies are piling up Ms. Benson.

    I think you know you lied but don’t how to extract yourself out of your lies. I think this because you haven’t even attempted to falsify my claims, which I realize you can’t do because my claims are objectively true.

    The only way out with any integrity is to fess up, publish a retraction, and apologize to Mr. Shermer. Yes, you have an argument from popularity going for you – congrats. And yes, Mr. Shermer obviously did wrong and also owes you an apology for his pathetic response, where yours isn’t pathetic but instead outright vile. And pointing to the bad behavior of one person (Shermer’s) to excuse one’s own bad behavior is something we should have moved beyond in grade school; not that you even reached the point you concede your lies and have done this, but others here have argued this for you (the falsely described hyperbole defense). That’s the quality of support you’ve achieved here – which is typical of those who defend demagoguery.

    If you didn’t lie and I’m instead mistaken or lying, you could demonstrate how your assertions are true. Instead all we’ve got from you is mere assertions you didn’t lie where I’m the poster here repeatedly pointing to what Shermer stated next to your obviously false misrepresentation of what he stated, coupled to your quote-mining* him which buttresses your misrepresentation.

    If you could defend yourself you’d validate that Mr. Shermer actually did assert that, “unbelieving in God is thinky work and women don’t do thinky” (he not only didn’t raise the first topic, he also pointed out females were participating* where you don’t include that assertion in your quote of what he stated). Instead we get your false claim that Shermer stated, “exactly that”. You’d validate he asserted, “women don’t do thinky, they don’t speak up”, where again, you don’t include that assertion* in your quote of what he stated which helps reveal your mischaracterization of what he stated.

    And yet we’re still stuck with your repeated false claim you did, “an exact quote” of Shermer when in fact you quote-mined him. You left out a key statement, I think it [female participation] probably really is fifty-fifty.; a Shermer asseertion that reveals his framing was narrow on female participation and not the projection you falsely laid on him.

    And as I’ve repeatedly noted, I don’t know if your quote-mine of Shermer was dishonest or not, in spite of leaving your leaving that out helping to make your defamation resonate. However your repeated claim you did an “exact quote” clearly misinforms people, i.e., you are lying as Shermer notes in his response and is clear to anyone can read a sentence is in one place and see it’s both not in your quote of Shermer and how that helps make your false case against Shermer. Some here obviously can’t, which illustrates the success of your demagoguery.

    *The Shermer statement which Benson didn’t include which helps reveal to readers the falsity of her characterization of what Shermer stated: I think it [female participation] probably really is fifty-fifty.. However, even if Ms. Benson included that statement, it would still be obvious Ms. Benson lied about Mr. Shermer with her false claim he asserted that, “unbelieving in God is thinky work and women don’t do thinky”; where she falsely claim he said (meant), “exactly that”.

  322. 322
    Michael Heath

    Ophelia Benson @ 319:

    I did not claim that Shermer claimed “unbelieving in God is thinky work and women don’t do thinky.”

    Shermer stated:

    I think it probably really is fifty-fifty. It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”

    Ophelia Benson writes in response to Shermer’s statement:

    The main stereotype in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do nontheism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”
    Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that during a panel discussion on the online talk-show The Point.

    Sarah Palin’s admirers defended her false characterizations when she did similar. Obviously some progressives in the base are similarly inflicted – which is not a surprise, science reveals similar behavior in both types of partisans.

    Perhaps you’re not lying and are instead so delusional you can’t consider the very words you wrote.

  323. 323
    Suido

    “I think it probably really is fifty-fifty. It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.

    Bolding fixed. How is ‘intellectually active’ not equivalent to ‘thinky work’? Michael Heath, you’re argument isn’t holding up.

    /parachute comment.

  324. 324
    Suido

    Urg.

    *Your.

  325. 325
    Michael Heath

    Raging Bee writes:

    At the very worst, Benson slightly exaggerated Shermer’s insulting sexism in her description of what his words meant.

    Please point to the statement Shermer made which Benson supposedly exaggerates into:

    Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”

    Here is Shermer’s response to the defamation by Benson:

    I don’t believe that [Ophelia Benson's misrepresentation of what he said] for a moment, and in any case the evidence (as I outlined at the beginning of this essay) overwhelmingly demonstrates that women are more than capable of thinking, writing, speaking, and debating about God and theism. Unquestionably. Unequivocally.

    Hopefully Raging Bee you won’t use Shermer’s response above as a red herring opportunity to avoid confronting what he originally stated that motivated Ms. Benson to write her article. It’s the original statement and Benson’s response I’m challenging you to confront rather than dodge. I only point out Shermer’s response to Benson’s hit piece to demonstrate how Ms. Benson’s article is so poorly researched and so incredibly dishonest.

    If her own ideology so blinded her to what Shermer actually stated, that defect in her capabilities might have been checked by merely interviewing him. That’s one reason we have journalistic standards; which we expect even opinion pieces to use. And even if she didn’t get an interview, she still has an ethical responsibility to criticize him for what he actually stated rather than falsely attributing misogynistic claims onto him about topics he never even referenced.

  326. 326
    Michael Heath

    Suido,

    Please read Shermer’s response, as ridiculous as much of it is, prior to claiming my argument, “doesn’t hold up”. It’s obvious from that article, and Benson’s quote-mine of his “fifty-fifty” statement, what framework Shermer was using when it came to his intellectual quip that you bold.

    In addition, where does Shermer make the misogynistic claim which Benson has him asserting, “Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”

    Good luck with that.

  327. 327
    dan4

    @304: I got the idea from the “curtail that access…” characterization in @300, from the “suppression of books” characterization in @115, and from your “looks exactly like censorship!” hysteria (also from @115). All three things clearly ascribe a “criminality” implication to Mrs. Phillips’ “internet law” rule.

  328. 328
    tomh

    Michael Heath wrote:

    you haven’t even attempted to falsify my claims, which I realize you can’t do because my claims are objectively true.

    No, your claims are not objectively true, they are your interpretation of what was written, which makes them your opinion. You have convinced Steersman, at least, of the validity of you interpretation, but it seems that many others do not share your opinion. You cannot just proclaim your interpretation and declare that it is “objectively true” without expecting some pushback from others with a different interpretation. And, when you continually lace your opinions with words like, defamation, liar, vile, demagoguery, and the like, you can naturally expect others to respond in kind.

    I realize that you think your opinion is unassailable and beyond reproach, but to claim it is “objectively true” is just being pretentious beyond all reason.

  329. 329
    Suido

    to claim it is “objectively true” is just being pretentious

    QFT.

  330. 330
    ildi

    So, in summary, Shermer participates on a panel discussion where he postulates that men are more active participants in the atheist movement even if it’s about 50/50 because speaking out and being intellectually active is more of a guy thing. He goes on further to suppose that men stay religious for intellectual reasons and women for emotional reasons. The first of his statements is used as an example of the type of sexist stereotyping that is still endemic. Shermer notices, and says he unequivocally believes women are more than capable of thinking, writing, speaking, and debating about God and theism. (Which, btw, wasn’t the point; not whether he thinks women are capable, but of why Shermer thought that actually doing so is more of a guy thing.) Oh, and witch hunt, first they came for the other libertarians, yadda, yadda, yadda.

    In our happy thread, MIchael Heath thinks that Shermer saying “who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing” is just a quip, so why does everybody have their panties in a bunch? Funny Shermer!

    Michael Heath also has a meltdown about the way Ophelia Benson uses Shermer’s sexist statement as an example (all in the name of objective truth, donchaknow), even going so far as to engage in a little psychoanalysis and defaming Benson’s character in the process. Bizarre Heath!

  331. 331
    Steersman

    Ophelia Benson said (#319):

    I did not claim that Shermer claimed “unbelieving in God is thinky work and women don’t do thinky.” Don’t lie.

    So then, Ms. Benson, would you care to take the stand in your defense or would you prefer to take the Fifth? And – assuming the former as I’m sure most here realize that your standards are impeccable and that you would wish to clarify any misunderstandings that might have arisen, as you would, no doubt, allow others to do should you be writing about them where such misunderstandings might occur – I will start by asking whether you wrote the following:

    Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”

    Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that during a panel discussion on the online talk-show The Point.

    And, assuming your answer is “yes” then I would ask that you specify precisely what you meant by “exactly that”, i.e., what your “that” was actually referring to, taking due cognizance of the fact that several relevant definitions of the word that are these:

    1. c. Used to refer to the event, action, or time just mentioned: After that, he became a recluse.
    3. Used to emphasize the idea of a previously expressed word or phrase: He was fed up, and that to a great degree.

    By which token, most reasonable people – such as these fine upstanding ladies and gentlemen of the jury – are likely to conclude that your “that” – nay, your “exactly that” – was referring to that which was “just mentioned”, i.e., your immediately preceding statement, “Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because that’s a guy thing.”

    So then the question is, was your supposed quote “that’s a guy thing” in the latter half of that sentence “exactly” what you were referring to when you said that “Shermer said exactly that”? Since, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Shermer did, in fact, say something similar, i.e., “… it’s more of a guy thing”. Or was it, perchance, the entire sentence in which “that’s a guy thing” is offered as the supposed reason that your readers should infer that Shermer said something only close to the first part of the sentence, i.e., “Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky”?

    And, in the former case, since there are some fairly profound and far reaching differences between what Shermer actually said (“… it’s more of a guy thing”), and what you supposedly insist that he said (“that’s a guy thing”), the jury might well have more than enough justification for concluding that your “said exactly that” is a lie and that you are a liar.

    In addition, in the latter case – the whole “previously expressed” sentence being the referent of “exactly that” – then the evidence is even more conclusive that Shermer said absolutely nothing of the kind. And since the inference you laid out in front of your readers and the conclusion you apparently argued that they should accept based on the “reason” you presented – the lie that you peddled – are equally fallacious, the jury might well have additional justification for concluding that you are not only a liar but guilty of innuendo, yellow journalism, and libel: “the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation a negative or inferior image”.

  332. 332
    sawells

    I’m beginning to suspect that Steersman was bitten by a lawyer and now thinks he’s turning into one at full moon. “Take the stand” forsooth. Get over yourself.

    I’ve spotted another creationism parallel. You know that quotemining thing they do where they quote Darwin’s introductory paragraph – about how the evolution of the eye looks unlikely at first – and then don’t mention the entire subsequent chapter explaining how eyes can evolve? Well, here we have Steersman quoting the first couple of sentences from Ophelia, and then obsessively demanding that we analyse only those sentences (and we have to use his dictionary too!) while ignoring the subsequent paragraphs of careful explanation about stereotypes and stereotype threat.

    The good thing is that anyone who actually reads Ophelia’s article, as opposed to just the quotemines and misrepresentations, can see how far off base these rabid Shermerians have gone.

  333. 333
    Raging Bee

    Heath, how many times are you going to mindlessly repeat the same assertions that have already been refuted earlier on this very thread? You’re starting to sound like Larry Fafarman, mindlessly demanding that we show you what’s already either self-evident or already shown, and repeatedly insisting that you don’t see what the rest of us see, therefore it can’t posibly exist. You’re embarrassing yourself, and you’re embarrassing me, and others like me who have previously had great respect for the caliber of your normal discourse here. It’s perfectly obvious you’re either drunk (not likely given how long you’ve been at it now), going through some personal crisis, or letting your loyalty to Shermer degrade your reasoning ability. If it’s the first, sleep it off. If it’s the second, get off here and deal with it, we’re perfectly happy to wait. If it’s the third, just admit you’re biased already — and see comment #21 above for a more plausible defense of Shermer. Trust me, we respect bias here, as long as you’re honest about it.

    Benson does not deserve to be called a liar, as you’ve done, any more than she deserves to be equated with Nazi genocide, as your buddy Shermer has done. You and Shermer are both acting like assholes, and there’s absolutely zero need or excuse for any of it — both you and Shermer could be doing better things with your time, if only both of you had simply admitted that Shermer said something that came out wrong. It’s not like that’s a mistake only the dumbest of us ever make. You know I’ve made that mistake, and you also know I’ve gone back and said something like “Oops, sorry, I typed that in haste, lemme rephrase/clarify/explain what I really meant to say…”

  334. 334
    pHred

    I realize that you think your opinion is unassailable and beyond reproach, but to claim it is “objectively true” is just being pretentious beyond all reason.

    QFT2
     
    Seriously, just because people are refusing to agree with the way you have chosen to interpret Ophelia’s article does not make them delusional. Nor is she under any obligation for apologizing due to your opinion of what her article “really means.” This is seriously unhinged.

  335. 335
    Raging Bee

    I’m beginning to suspect that Steersman was bitten by a lawyer…

    You’re being way too charitable. The impression I get is of a fourteen-year-old boy who’s just discovered the joys of quoting a dictionary and sneering at other people’s “improper” use of words — a tactic he now uses all the time, because it’s all he has, without yet grasping any of the adult common sense that would allow him to understand the greater issues that aren’t covered in his brand new dictionary. I knew some really bright kids in high school who acted like that, happily quoting bits of knowledge they weren’t yet wise enough to integrate in to a larger coherent adult worldview, and then smiling smugly when others just got tired of arguing with their incoherent nonsense.

  336. 336
    Raging Bee

    So then, Ms. Benson, would you care to take the stand in your defense or would you prefer to take the Fifth?

    Oh look, you got a woman to lose her temper and say something not totally correct, after being relentlessly yammered at and hounded by three nitwits for, what, a week now? Now you can go back to AVfM or Stormfront or wherever you go for validation and brag about what a strong sensible man you are in the face of those emotional ninny females.

    This is another standard tactic of the MRAs: relentlessly harass, hound and lie about their female targets until one of them says something intemperate, then go on to hound said woman over the less-than-perfectly-rational thing she said. Even a privileged white guy like me can see what you’re doing, Steersman, so there’s no way you can be fooling anyone else.

    Yes, Ophelia did indeed say that Shermer had claimed women didn’t do thinky. She spoke correctly originally, that really was pretty much what Shermer had said, whether or not he had meant to say it. If she recently tried to deny it, after losing her temper in the face of relentless stupid childish yammering by people like you and Heath, that’s a perfectly understandable mistake, and I, for one, don’t blame her for it at all. You should be grateful she gave you so much more time, effort and attention than you and your ignorant immature antics deserve.

  337. 337
    Raging Bee

    Oh, and if you’re trying to call Ophelia a liar, while defending a guy who has equated her mere criticism with genocidal Nazi persecution, then be prepared to be laughed at for a long time. Your weak mind is like a microscope: it magnifies tiny things and can’t handle big ones.

  338. 338
    Ophelia Benson

    No, I didn’t claim that Shermer had claimed women don’t do thinky. (That was how Michael Heath put it – I claimed that Shermer claimed.)

    I included exactly what Shermer did say, in quotation marks. That’s the bit where I document what he said. It is OBVIOUS – to people who are familiar with reading, and with how writing works – that only the longer quotation is what he said. The rest of it is commentary. I didn’t lose my temper; I corrected Heath’s gross mistake about what I said (or, in his pejorative, “claimed”).

  339. 339
    Ophelia Benson

    To clarify (and beat a dead horse to a bloody pulp) yet again, here’s the relevant bit yet again. I talk about stereotypes that could be part of the reason atheism hasn’t been totally welcoming to women. Then:

    The main stereotype in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do non-theism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”

    Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that a week ago on a video panel discussion on The Point. The host, Cara Santa Maria, presented the question: why isn’t the gender split in atheism closer to 50-50? Shermer explained, “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it, you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”

    It’s all there – women don’t do thinky, they don’t speak up, they don’t talk at conferences, they don’t get involved – it’s “a guy thing,” like football and porn and washing the car.

    It is OBVIOUS, to people accustomed to reading, that it is only in the middle para that I am directly quoting Shermer. In the first I’m summarizing the stereotype, and in the third I’m referring back to it. I am not directly quoting Shermer in either paragraph. That is OBVIOUS. The exact quotation is right there for anyone to see, so it’s ludicrous to say that I misrepresented what he said.

    And that is why I’m not lying, and why Michael Heath is a slanderous thug to keep shouting that I am.

  340. 340
    Raging Bee

    I owe you an apology, Ophelia. Maybe I’m the one who lost his temper dealing with these yammering dipshits.

    This is what Ophelia said that Steersman called a lie:

    I did not claim that Shermer claimed “unbelieving in God is thinky work and women don’t do thinky.” Don’t lie.

    Note the quotation marks (which I did not account for earlier): Ophelia is here saying she did not claim that Shermer said those particular words. And that’s the truth: she really never claimed Shermer used those particular words. She merely claimed — correctly, as any literate and honest person can see — that Shermer had said something so close to that meaning that those words were a correct interpretation or paraphrase of them.

    Thre, I’ve done what I can to clear this up. Not that that will stop Steersman from having another long, sweaty night freaking out over his fantasy of Ophelia in Nazi jackboots…

  341. 341
    Ophelia Benson

    No problem RB!

    I realize I did give the lunatics one toehold, by saying of the overall stereotype, “Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that…” Sane people of course realize that I meant Shermer invoked exactly that stereotype – but I forgot that lunatics would be reading it, and reading it with a magnifying glass specially adapted for searching out MISANDRIST EXAGGERATION.

  342. 342
    Raging Bee

    And, in the former case, since there are some fairly profound and far reaching differences between what Shermer actually said (“… it’s more of a guy thing”), and what you supposedly insist that he said (“that’s a guy thing”)…

    Yeah, just like there’s such a profound and far-reaching difference between saying someone is “a n*gg*r,” and saying he/she is “more of a n*gg*r.” Makes all the difference in the world, amirite?

    Okay, it makes all the difference in Steersman’s tiny excuse for a world. Bit of a difference between that and “the world,” I guess…

  343. 343
    Stacy

    You’ve attempted to make a column that was about sexist stereotypes into a column excoriating Shermer.

    This has to be deepest denial of what Ms. Benson actually did that’s been published in this thread; and that’s saying something given all the denialism observed so far.

    See my post above where I quote Benson doing exactly that, i.e., excoriating Shermer for supposedly stating that women, are “too stupid”, and “don’t do thinky”; both are demonstrably false, both are misogynistic things to assert, both are assertions Shermer didn’t make, especially when we read back-in what Benson left-out that Shermer stated, and both are comments Shermer notes he doesn’t think. Nor is there a record challenging his response on this to Benson’s defamation of him

    Jesus Christ on a pogo stick.

    Was the article about Shermer? No it was not.

    Did the article excoriate Shermer? If you think pointing out that he said being “intellectually active about [atheism] is a guy thing” is excoriation, then fine.

    Was Ophelia’s point “Shermer thinks this! BAAAD SHERMER!?” or was it “Look at the stupid stereotype Shermer invoked”?

    You try answering those questions for yourself, Heath. Honestly. Think real hard.

  344. 344
    Stacy

    And after that, you try addressing my point that sexist thinking is a cognitive failing, not a moral one.

    “Look at the stupid stereotype Shermer invoked”?

    (That wasn’t at all the point of the article, of course. Sorry if I implied that in my last comment. The article was about the stereotypes. Shermer’s remark was just an example.)

  345. 345
    Michael Heath

    tomh writes:

    No, your claims are not objectively true, they are your interpretation of what was written, which makes them your opinion.

    It is objectively true that Shermer never even raised the topic that, “Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.” No interpretation is necessary because only one person raised this topic, and that was Ms. Benson. Shermer never did. Benson’s false position was also refuted by Shermer in his response to her defamatory article.

    It is objectively true that Ms. Benson quote-mined Shermer’s statement by removing his, “fifty-fifty” comment, which made it easier to manufacture a position which Shermer never asserted.

    If Benson was Sarah Palin making up these lies this forum would be on it like flies on horseshit. It’s not, I think because she’s one of our tribe and many liberals succumb to the same tribalistic thinking that conservatives do.

  346. 346
    Steersman

    sawells said (#332):

    I’m beginning to suspect that Steersman was bitten by a lawyer and now thinks he’s turning into one at full moon. “Take the stand” forsooth. Get over yourself.

    Where did you get the idea that I think that I’m turning into one? It was a figure of speech, simply the theme around which I built my case – so to speak. And one which I note that you didn’t actually address – what’s the matter? No evidence to justify your counter-arguments?

    I’ve spotted another creationism parallel. You know that quotemining thing they do where they quote Darwin’s introductory paragraph – about how the evolution of the eye looks unlikely at first – and then don’t mention the entire subsequent chapter explaining how eyes can evolve?

    Even assuming for the moment that there are some points of tangency, that is pretty thin evidence to justify your innuendo that I’m little more than a creationist. You might want to try wrapping your, apparently, rather pointed head around the fact that just because there are some points that are analogous in two scenarios that hardly justifies concluding that all aspects and points of those scenarios are likewise analogous. Which is why I tended to accept that there was some justification for Benson’s analogy between Nazi Germany and TAM without feeling obliged, as many seemed to feel, to consider that she meant to suggest that all aspects or attributes of the former were applicable to the latter. As Paula Kirby put it in her Sisterhood of the Oppressed, calling someone a grammar-nazi hardly justifies concluding that they are likely to embark on genocide and the invasion of Poland.

    Well, here we have Steersman quoting the first couple of sentences from Ophelia, and then obsessively demanding that we analyze only those sentences (and we have to use his dictionary too!) while ignoring the subsequent paragraphs of careful explanation about stereotypes and stereotype threat.

    Considering that those “first couple of sentences” entail an outright and egregious lie on which most of her subsequent argument, and her efforts to use Shermer’s statements as an egregious example of sexism, is based, one might reasonably insist that the truth and implications of her assertions be analyzed in some detail. Sort of like before charging someone with murder it is considered wise as well as manifesting some honesty to determine first whether a murder has taken place.

  347. 347
    Steersman

    dan4 said (#327):

    @304: I got the idea from the “curtail that access…” characterization in @300, from the “suppression of books” characterization in @115, and from your “looks exactly like censorship!” hysteria (also from @115). All three things clearly ascribe a “criminality” implication to Mrs. Phillips’ “internet law” rule.

    Hardly “hysteria” when all I did was point out the definition for censorship – “to remove or suppress what is considered morally, politically, or otherwise objectionable” – and note that it suited to a tee what Phillips was suggesting. And while censorship – the “criminalization” of certain types of publications in certain venues – may well have some justifications – for example, the restrictions on pornography in movies for “General Audiences”, the situation described by Phillips – the use of dictionaries in Internet discussions – was so over-the-top in being applicable to entirely innocuous cases that it entirely justified suggesting a rather egregious bias and anti-intellectualism more typical of Nazi book-burners than sane and rational members of a democratic society. Hence the hyperbolic analogy.

    But none of that justifies concluding that I was expecting her to be petitioning her representatives to create some actual laws to “CRIMINALIZE the usage of dictionaries”.

  348. 348
    Steersman

    Raging Bee said (to MH; #320):

    I really don’t see why you’re so eager to bash Benson for “defamation,” when you know damn well nearly all of us here engage in similar rephrasing of others’ idiotic and dishonest words every damn day, and laugh whenever said others try to protest our interpretation of their words. Dude, we all know you’re smarter than this, and more honest — so why are you continuing with this nonsensical dishonest hairsplitting?

    Maybe because there’s a principle in play here that many are showing a cavalier disregard for? [That is, the truth.] Maybe because Benson has used some “idiotic and dishonest words” that many who have not drunk all of the FfTB Kook-Aid find decidedly risible and deeply problematic? Possibly because the charge of sexism leveled against Shermer has no credible evidence and proof to justify it yet which has motivated all sorts of vituperative attacks against him? Because Ophelia – “Connecting the word feminism with the word virulent … is misogyny” – Benson attempted to use that egregious claim as an example to peddle the feminist dogma that “nontheism” and feminism should be kissing-cousins if not joined at the hip? Because all of that gives some credence to the counter charge of “feminist persecution” that Ed attempted, rather unsuccessfully, to dismiss as a “myth”?

  349. 349
    Ophelia Benson

    I didn’t level a charge of sexism against Shermer. I pointed out that he had said one sexist thing.

    Disregard for the truth yourself.

  350. 350
    Ophelia Benson

    It is objectively true that Shermer never even raised the topic that, “Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.” No interpretation is necessary because only one person raised this topic, and that was Ms. Benson. Shermer never did. Benson’s false position was also refuted by Shermer in his response to her defamatory article.

    It is objectively true that Ms. Benson quote-mined Shermer’s statement by removing his, “fifty-fifty” comment, which made it easier to manufacture a position which Shermer never asserted.

    No it’s not, and no it’s not.

  351. 351
    Michael Heath

    ildi writes:

    Michael Heath thinks that Shermer saying “who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing” is just a quip,

    I’m always amazed at how willing people are take indefensible positions, where they so often repeat the very same defective behavior of the tribal ally they defend.

    No ildi, I do not think that, that’s the imaginary Heath in your head. This has you behaving just like Benson does by creating imaginary false misogynistic thoughts by Shermer – and then publishing them, just like you do here of me.

    If you disagree with what I wrote, quote it and attempt to refute it. Lying about someone else, like you do here of me, does not help your cause.

    ildi writes:

    Michael Heath also has a meltdown about the way Ophelia Benson uses Shermer’s sexist statement as an example (all in the name of objective truth, donchaknow), even going so far as to engage in a little psychoanalysis and defaming Benson’s character in the process. Bizarre Heath!

    I would argue taking something objectionable stated by somebody else and then blowing that up into something far worse and different meets your use of the term meltdown. Doing what I did, which is repeatedly quote what Shermer stated that Benson referenced, and then quoting Benson’s misrepresentation of it, is the opposite of a meltdown but instead a key factor in doing a dispassionate fact-based analysis. Where this one is like shooting fish in a barrel, which makes it even more disheartening we see tribalism supplanting reason.

  352. 352
    Michael Heath

    Raging Bee writes:

    Heath, how many times are you going to mindlessly repeat the same assertions that have already been refuted earlier on this very thread?

    Those pesky facts, they sure are creating a tremendous load of cognitive dissonance in this thread. And they haven’t been refuted earlier on this thread, if I’m wrong, then please:
    1) quote what Shermer stated that Benson referenced in her article,
    2) quote what Benson wrote in her article in response to that statement,
    3) explain how her quote-mine doesn’t matter and
    4) why it’s OK for her to project certain assertions onto Shermer he never made.
    Please do that.

  353. 353
    Steersman

    Ophelia Benson said (#349):

    I didn’t level a charge of sexism against Shermer. I pointed out that he had said one sexist thing.

    Do show us where you’ve justified, where you’ve proven, the charge that “he said one sexist thing”. You might want to consider in some detail – you know, actually engage in some “thinky work” relative to – my previous arguments where I’ve insisted, with more than a little justification and actual facts and statistical examples, that sexism and sexist things have to entail either discrimination or the “promoting of a stereotype”. And that relative to the latter, simply noting gender disparities in various populations simply does not qualify as “promoting a stereotype” – as even Ed gives some indication of accepting with his (#167):

    A distinction can be made between women having the ability to think and women being interested in taking a public stand on atheism or secularism.

  354. 354
    Michael Heath

    Raging Bee to me:

    Benson does not deserve to be called a liar, as you’ve done, any more than she deserves to be equated with Nazi genocide, as your buddy Shermer has done.

    More tribalism. Mr. Shermer is not only my buddy, but I’ve repeatedly denigrated, criticized, and ridiculed what he wrote, e.g., @ 71, 74, 121, 141, 197, 199, 211, 213, 216, and 219.

    Shermer’s pathetic behavior is no excuse to defame him as Benson did. We’ve had our fun with Shermer, that was like shooting fish in a barrel. But we have no moral authority to project such deserved ridicule onto him if we don’t maintain the same standard for everyone else.

  355. 355
    Michael Heath

    pHred writes @ 334:

    Seriously, just because people are refusing to agree with the way you have chosen to interpret Ophelia’s article does not make them delusional. Nor is she under any obligation for apologizing due to your opinion of what her article “really means.” This is seriously unhinged.

    There is an enormous difference between facts and the interpretation of comments. I’m focused on condemning Ms. Benson on two key categories of facts.

    The first is Benson projecting assertions on Shermer he never even raised as a topic. For example, where in the statement that Benson references of Shermer in her article does Shermer claim, “Unbelieving in God is thinky work”? He doesn’t even broach the topic, let alone make such a misogynistic assertion. It is a fact he doesn’t, and yet Benson falsely claims he stated, “exactly that”. And no, I never and don’t take her to mean “exactly that” pedantically but instead that was the point he supposed to have conveyed – but didn’t.

    It is also a fact that Ms. Benson both quote-mined Shermer by not including his, “fifty-fifty” statement and then lying in this thread by claiming she not only didn’t quote-mine him, but did an exact quote of him. This is demonstrably not true; yet I don’t recall any of Benson’s defenders here confronting this fact. It’s a long thread so perhaps someone has presented a thoroughly forgettable rebuttal. “Fifty-fifty” is a key phrase in framing the context of that followed; leaving it out makes it far easier to extend what Shermer well beyond what he was referencing. So she misinforms the readers of her article by leaving it out and lies by claiming she did an exact quote when she instead quote-mined Shermer in a way that helps her mispresentation of him.

  356. 356
    Michael Heath

    @ 338 Ophelia Benson finally confronts her creating statements and projecting them onto Shermer:

    No, I didn’t claim that Shermer had claimed women don’t do thinky. (That was how Michael Heath put it – I claimed that Shermer claimed.)

    I’ll repeat what you wrote that clearly shows this is a lie:

    The main stereotype in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do nontheism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”
    Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that during a panel discussion on the online talk-show The Point.

    Ophelia Benson continues @ 338:

    I included exactly what Shermer did say, in quotation marks.

    What Shermer said:

    I think it [female participation] probably really is fifty-fifty. It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”

    Ms. Benson’s Shermer quote in her article, I insert in brackets and bold Shermer’s response which is not included in Benson’s quote, instead she [conveniently?] left it out:

    Why isn’t the gender split in atheism closer to 50-50? Shermer explained, [I think it probably really is fifty-fifty.] “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”

    Ophelia Benson continues @ 338:

    That’s the bit where I document what he said. It is OBVIOUS – to people who are familiar with reading, and with how writing works – that only the longer quotation is what he said. The rest of it is commentary. I didn’t lose my temper; I corrected Heath’s gross mistake about what I said (or, in his pejorative, “claimed”).

    I’ve never argued which parts of your article is what Shermer stated and which parts is your description of what he wrote. As you point out, that is obvious. I’m condemning you for:
    a) quote-mining Shermer,
    b) repeatedly and dishonestly claiming you didn’t when that is demonstrably not true,
    c) quote-mining him in a way that makes it easier for your false description of what he wrote to resonate,
    d) criticizing you for creating misogynistic assertions and attributing it to Shermer when he never even raised the topic,
    e) not attempting to interview Shermer and report what he meant, but instead creating a strawman of Shermer
    f) repeatedly lying that you quoted him exactly when in fact you quote-mined him
    g) not owning up to your defamation of his and turning your article into a successful demagogic event as illustrated in this comment
    h) not apologizing to Shermer for defaming him (And yes, he owes you and and all people an apology as well for his original statement and his pathetic response to your defamation of him. But the bad behavior of one person is no excuse in this case for your own bad behavior and failure of character to own up to it.

    And it’s not mere “commentary” to claim that Shermer conveyed, “Unbelieving in God is thinky work, especially given your asserting he said, “exactly that”. Where again, I know the term isn’t mean to be employed pedantically but instead this was your way of conveying this to be a something Shermer expressed. But he didn’t, he never raised this as a topic and it’s a lie for you to claim otherwise.

  357. 357
    ildi

    Here you go, you liar:

    …what framework Shermer was using when it came to his intellectual quip that you bold

    You’re the one who’s cherry-picking for leaving out the context of the Fine quote:

    Measures of implicit associations reveal that men, more than women, are implicitly associated with science, math, career, hierarchy, and high authority. In contrast, women, more than men, are implicitly associated with the liberal arts, family and domesticity, egalitarianism, and low authority.

    Shermer claimed exactly that with his opinion that speaking out and being intellectually active is more of a guy thing. Just because you don’t like Benson’s shorthand doesn’t change the facts.

    Re. your obsession with the 50/50 thing; if you watch the video, it is clear that Shermer and Santa Maria are both agreeing that the gender split among atheists is probably 50/50, the question being, why is it harder to get women to be outspoken atheists? Shermer TWICE repeats that women are less likely to be intellectually active, once in the context of being outspoken, the other in the context of men being religious for intellectual reasons, women for emotional reasons. So, he also claims the other side of the coin, that belief in god is thinky work, and even here women don’t do thinky.

    Go ahead and dig that hole even deeper. Shermer makes clearly misogynistic statements in the video, not quips.

  358. 358
    Ophelia Benson

    I didn’t lie. I didn’t quote mine. I didn’t defame.

  359. 359
    jeffret

    I didn’t lie. I didn’t quote mine. I didn’t defame.

    QFT

  360. 360
    Stacy

    Sexist thinking is a cognitive failure, not a moral one.

  361. 361
    Steersman

    Raging Bee said (#335):

    I’m beginning to suspect that Steersman was bitten by a lawyer…

    You’re being way too charitable. The impression I get is of a fourteen-year-old boy who’s just discovered the joys of quoting a dictionary and sneering at other people’s “improper” use of words — a tactic he now uses all the time, because it’s all he has, without yet grasping any of the adult common sense that would allow him to understand the greater issues that aren’t covered in his brand new dictionary.

    Ah so. You no doubt mean “common sense” in the sense of the dogma that is common to FfTB. Aka, “conventional wisdom”. Sort of like that possessed by the courtiers replying to the charge that the Emperor was as naked as a jaybird.

    Besides which, doesn’t “fourteen-year-old boy” qualify as ageism or ableism? Something supposedly anathematized by the Emperor Hisself, PZ Myers.

  362. 362
    Steersman

    Raging Bee said (#336):

    This is another standard tactic of the MRAs: relentlessly harass, hound and lie about their female targets until one of them says something intemperate, then go on to hound said woman over the less-than-perfectly-rational thing she said. Even a privileged white guy like me can see what you’re doing, Steersman, so there’s no way you can be fooling anyone else.

    Yes, Ophelia did indeed say that Shermer had claimed women didn’t do thinky. She spoke correctly originally, that really was pretty much what Shermer had said, whether or not he had meant to say it.

    I think you need to review the bidding, the progression of events in this contretemps. It was Benson’s egregious assertion that “Shermer said exactly that” some six months ago that started the ball rolling, not some nefarious MRAs harassing some delicate flower of womanhood until she made a faux pas.

    In addition, while I’m amused that you seem to have conceded that “Ophelia did indeed say that Shermer had claimed that women don’t do thinky” even if you retracted it tout suite as soon as she glared ominously at you, the point isn’t that she said that something “was pretty much what Shermer had said”, but that she said that something was “exactly” what Shermer said – which is a barefaced lie.

  363. 363
    Steersman

    Ophelia Benson said (#339):

    To clarify (and beat a dead horse to a bloody pulp) yet again, here’s the relevant bit yet again. I talk about stereotypes that could be part of the reason atheism hasn’t been totally welcoming to women. Then:

    The main stereotype in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do non-theism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”

    Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that a week ago on a video panel discussion on The Point. The host, Cara Santa Maria, presented the question: why isn’t the gender split in atheism closer to 50-50? Shermer explained, “It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it, you know, it’s more of a guy thing.”

    It’s all there – women don’t do thinky, they don’t speak up, they don’t talk at conferences, they don’t get involved – it’s “a guy thing,” like football and porn and washing the car.

    It is OBVIOUS, to people accustomed to reading, that it is only in the middle para that I am directly quoting Shermer. In the first I’m summarizing the stereotype, and in the third I’m referring back to it. I am not directly quoting Shermer in either paragraph. That is OBVIOUS. The exact quotation is right there for anyone to see, so it’s ludicrous to say that I misrepresented what he said.

    So what the hell is the reason for your “that’s a guy thing” in the first paragraph if not to provide a quote of “exactly” what Shermer said? Or are you in the habit of quoting phrases willy-nilly? Besides which, you haven’t yet answered my question as to what your “that” in “exactly that” was referring to. And, as argued earlier, the most probable referent is “that’s a guy thing” which makes your “exactly that” simply a barefaced lie.

    As for “OBVIOUS to people accustomed to reading” would you say that Shermer is likely to be “accustomed to reading” or not? Because his eSkeptic article of last December makes it quite clear that he too reached the quite reasonable conclusion that your “exactly that” was referring to “that’s a guy thing”.

    In addition, how, pray tell, is anyone to know which was the “exact quotation” when you provided no link to the source video? In which case, one could just as reasonably argue that “that’s a guy thing” is the more probable occurrence given both the definition of “that” and the vehemence associated with “exactly that”. Yellow journalism, indeed.

  364. 364
    Steersman

    Raging Bee said (#342):

    And, in the former case, since there are some fairly profound and far reaching differences between what Shermer actually said (“… it’s more of a guy thing”), and what you supposedly insist that he said (“that’s a guy thing”)…

    Yeah, just like there’s such a profound and far-reaching difference between saying someone is “a n*gg*r,” and saying he/she is “more of a n*gg*r.” Makes all the difference in the world, amirite?

    What unmitigated crap. That isn’t even comparing apples and oranges, but more like apples and pterodactyls – I mean, both are biological – amirite? More particularly, my argument was based on the relative frequency of men and women in various populations and the reasons for them – did you know (probably not since you seem to be a know-nothing) that a Pew Forum survey puts the distribution of males and females in the atheism population at 64% and 36%? Is that an example of sexism to say so? In any case, your example, your “analogy”, seems to be making some bizarre argument about the meaning of “more” relative to the attributes of a single individual – sort of like “pregnant” and “more pregnant”. Entirely different critters.

  365. 365
    sawells

    Keep digging, boys, it’s free entertainment.

  366. 366
    Raging Bee

    Do show us where you’ve justified, where you’ve proven, the charge that “he said one sexist thing”.

    Already done, countless times, you tired stupid crankcase.

    Besides which, doesn’t “fourteen-year-old boy” qualify as ageism or ableism?

    Short answer: No. Longer answer: Lamest nitpick EVER.

    Keep digging, boys, it’s free entertainment.

    It would be, if it wasn’t the same shovel-full over and over.

  367. 367
    Raging Bee

    …even if you retracted it tout suite as soon as she glared ominously at you…

    Calling a guy “henpecked” when he agrees witha woman? Yeah, that’s a shining example of TRUE SKEPTICISM in the face of the FfTB whiteknighting groupthink yadayadayada…

    And the fact that you would say something like that, after I’ve explained the exact nature of my mistake, once again shows your total lack of maturity or integrity.

  368. 368
    Raging Bee

    e) not attempting to interview Shermer and report what he meant, but instead creating a strawman of Shermer

    Are you fucking kidding me? Since when were Shermer’s critics required to “interview” Shermer and find out what he “really” meant before criticizing him? Or does this newly-minted rule apply only to Ophelia? I’ve certainly never heard you apply it to anyone else. (And if she has to get back to Shermer to find out what he “really” meant before responding to him, that’s just further proof that he chose his words very poorly indeed, and he has no right to complain if others get it wrong.)

    f) repeatedly lying…

    You’re accusing Ophelia of lying, while your buddy Shermer compares her criticism to Nazi persecution? If you’re trying to expose lies, you’re not even lookng in the right general direction. And you expect us to take all this dime-store-inquisition bullshit seriously?

    And if you really have to keep on disgracing yourself by relentlessly nitpicking over Ophelia’s choice of words, while letting Shermer’s far less competent choice of words pass, here’s a final protip: every time you quote the same words of Shermer’s, you remind us how spot-on Ophelia’s critique of them was. That was the effect the first time we saw the quotes, and it’s having the same effect the thousandth time around. Two thousand might be the charm, ya never know, but at this point I kinda doubt it.

    Seriously, Heath, your obsessive bashing of Ophelia, for an alleged faux-pas that looks more inconsequential every time you quote the other guy, is just a fucking disgrace. If this is the most important thing you can find to freak out about, maybe you should log out of here and do something else for awhile. Read a book, go to an art gallery, or something, just recharge whatever is uncharacteristically deficient in you these days. Take as long as you have to, we’ll wait.

  369. 369
    pHred

    So after re-reading Ophelia’s article again for the upteenth time, as far as can see virtually all of Mr. Heath’s outrage (the whole a-h list) is focused on her colloquial use of the word “exactly” as in “an example of exactly the same kind of stereotype being discussed in the article” rather than his interpreted use of the work as “verbatim” and reading backwards absorbing the entire previous statement. That’s it – so ignoring the entire context of the article, which is about stereotypes, the source of all of this outrage is possibly sloppy use of the word “exactly”. For this horrible linguistic transgression Ophelia gets called morally repugnant, vile, disturbed and piled on with a huge list of completely over-the-top epitaphs.
     
    A quote of what he did actually say in response to a question (not something “he never even raised as a topic” … what does that even have to do with anything? – he was answering a question) being pointed out as an unthinking and disheartening of use of a stereotype has now become a horrible offense that demands retribution. A quote from someone who should know better basically offhandedly tossed out as a solid slap in the face to all of the women like Ophelia and Greta, etc. etc. etc. who have been working hard and loud in the movement. And the reason it is so important as an example is that Shermer really does (or at least I thought he did but given his subsequent behavior I am now not sure) know better but he still used a harmful stereotype. He actually, really did use the phrase “it’s more of a guy thing.”
     
    It is not defamation to quote the words he actually said and explain how they are harmful.
     
    It does not matter what he “meant” either – I might not mean to step on your foot, but it still causes you pain when I do – so in the context of the article, which I repeat was about gender stereotypes, not about Shermer, this was exactly an example of what can be so disheartening about the atheist community for women. And for use of this quote we get literally weeks of hysteria.
     
    And putting the whole 50-50 thing in bold again does not help the argument, it makes it worse. Including the 50-50 thing that implies that he believes that there actually are lots of women out there somewhere, invisible, noncontributing and silent, and apparently happy and willing to be that way. Leaving the 50-50 bit out does not change the meaning of the quote so it is not quote mining.
     
    Quote mining is when you take the statement “I hate broccoli when it is overcooked and covered in garlic, but I really love it when it is gently steamed and served with Parmesan cheese” and turn it into a headline like X says “I hate broccoli” in vicious attack on healthy vegetable.
     
    Nowhere in the article does she call Shermer a sexist or misogynist. There was absolutely no reason to interview him because the article was NOT ABOUT HIM (and thanks to this nonsense I have had Carly Simon stuck in my head). It was about sexist stereotypes. Shermer just happened to have provided a perfect example of unthinking use of a stereotype.
     
    All of the hysterical “she called him a sexist” stuff – that is coming from your own head. And the idea that she has to apologize for using this example ? Warren Betty much ? Clearly you don’t have this crap thrown in your face every day – but women in science, in engineering, in atheism do, every single day. Try checking your privilege and reading the whole article with the blinders off. Maybe you will see what we are talking about.

  370. 370
    jeffret

    @pHred:

    So after re-reading Ophelia’s article again for the upteenth time, as far as can see virtually all of Mr. Heath’s outrage (the whole a-h list) is focused on her colloquial use of the word “exactly” as in “an example of exactly the same kind of stereotype being discussed in the article” rather than his interpreted use of the work as “verbatim” and reading backwards absorbing the entire previous statement.

    I had exactly the same observation when I read Ophelia’s column and re-read (several times) Michael’s interminable harangues here. Michael seems really hung up on “exactly” as a precise mathematical equivalence. Whereas, Ophelia used the term, quite correctly, in its English, literary sense. Just as I did here in my first sentence. I’m not lying, etc., even though my thoughts were not absolutely, 100%, precisely the same as pHred’s. Michael seems to have entered this conversation with a distorted sense of precision and proportion.

    Also, Michael seems to have determined beforehand that Shermer’s statements were not sexist. See his initial comment @66, where he isolates the term “imaginary” as the most important word in another Shermer quote on the incident. Michael is saying that those who have experienced and studied sexism are wrong, whereas it is objectively and conclusively clear that the sexist comment Ophelia pointed out is imaginary.

  371. 371
    jeffret

    Michael Heath, are you subject to the influences of tribalism, also? Or is that just something that afflicts others?

    When this issue first broke, I related the storyline to my wife. She doesn’t identify as an atheist and has no connection to the atheist and skeptical community, online or otherwise. She doesn’t particularly identify as a feminist. She has no idea who the people involved are and doesn’t care one way or the other. I told her the context of Shermer’s comment and then started paraphrasing his controversial statement. When I got to the part, “it’s more of a guy thing”, she immediately scoffed, identified it as sexist, and called it unfortunate or foolish. She has no tribal connection to any of the involved people or groups. Yet she still easily identified it as sexist.

    Perhaps it is not as clearly, objectively, and conclusively imaginary as it appears to you. Perhaps tribalism isn’t the only reason why people identify Shermer’s statement as sexist.

  372. 372
    Steersman

    Raging Bee said (#366):

    Do show us where you’ve justified, where you’ve proven, the charge that “he said one sexist thing”.

    Already done, countless times, you tired stupid crankcase.

    Do tell precisely where might that be as I haven’t been able to find it. No one yet here has actually managed to prove – maybe too much “thinky work” – that Shermer’s statement – as per the definition of sexism – manifests or entails any discrimination or that it promotes any stereotype, taking due cognizance of the fact that simply noting gender disparities in various groups simply does not qualify as promoting a stereotype. And that is something that even Ed Brayton acknowledged in #167.

  373. 373
    Steersman

    jeffret said (#371):

    Perhaps it is not as clearly, objectively, and conclusively imaginary as it appears to you. Perhaps tribalism isn’t the only reason why people identify Shermer’s statement as sexist.

    Not a bad argument and example. However, for thousands of years people thought that the earth was the centre of the universe because the sun happens to move across the sky. And, mirabile dictu, they were wrong. Just because it might be “conventional wisdom” that Shermer’s statement is perceived as sexist hardly makes it so. Particularly when an evaluation of the definition of the word – which virtually no one here has managed to do yet – makes it a serious stretch.

  374. 374
    Raging Bee

    Steersman: since you’ve just tried to use comment #167 to back up your BS, I’ll just quote one paragraph FROM THAT VERY SAME COMMENT that does the exact opposite:

    But Gretchen is right that even if you consider her paraphrase of [Shermer's] words to be a misrepresentation or exaggeration, what he said is not only still sexist[,] it’s far more important and serious because it insults and demeans half of the species. So trying to shine the light on Ophelia and make accusations against her does absolutely nothing to make what Shermer said any less dumb or sexist.

    So the only question that remains is, are you too fucking stoopid, or too fucking hateful and dishonest, to understand how transparently bogus your arguments are?

  375. 375
    jeffret

    Steersman:

    However, for thousands of years people thought that the earth was the centre of the universe because the sun happens to move across the sky. And, mirabile dictu, they were wrong. Just because it might be “conventional wisdom” that Shermer’s statement is perceived as sexist hardly makes it so. Particularly when an evaluation of the definition of the word – which virtually no one here has managed to do yet – makes it a serious stretch.

    That would be a marvelous counter-argument, if it were at all relevant to the discussion at hand. The earth revolves around the sun independently of anything humans do. The dictionary was not God-breathed and does not exist independently outside of human society, culture, and perception.

  376. 376
    Raging Bee

    Steersman is comparing himself to Galileo? That’s to fucking silly I can’t even call it “hubris.” Sure thing, boy, now go sit next to “the Isaac Newton of information theory” and wait for the Universe to vindicate you.

    The dictionary was not God-breathed and does not exist independently outside of human society, culture, and perception.

    Steersman’s problem is, he only understands the dictionary, but not the human society, culture, and perception bits. (Oh, and we’ve already established that Shermer’s asinine comments do indeed fit the dictionary definition of “sexism,” because they promote negative stereotypes; so Steersman’s constant harping on dictionary definitions is bogus even in isolation.)

  377. 377
    Steersman

    Raging Bee said (#376):

    Steersman is comparing himself to Galileo? That’s [too] fucking silly I can’t even call it “hubris.” Sure thing, boy, now go sit next to “the Isaac Newton of information theory” and wait for the Universe to vindicate you.

    What a clueless git. Where did I even allude to comparing myself to Galileo? That I described an analogy that uses astronomical or cosmological terms hardly justifies concluding that all aspects of the cases in question are likewise comparable or analogous – much less that I was portraying myself as any particular character in the evolution of those fields. Except, apparently, in your rather fevered imagination. Much like those idiots who apparently inferred that because Benson drew some parallels between Nazi Germany and TAM that meant she was trying to suggest that Grothe was about to embark on a final solution of his own. You lot really should spend some time trying to wrap your pointed heads around the processes and implications of analogies.

  378. 378
    Steersman

    jeffret said (#375):

    Steersman:

    However, for thousands of years people thought that the earth was the centre of the universe because the sun happens to move across the sky. And, mirabile dictu, they were wrong. Just because it might be “conventional wisdom” that Shermer’s statement is perceived as sexist hardly makes it so. Particularly when an evaluation of the definition of the word – which virtually no one here has managed to do yet – makes it a serious stretch.

    That would be a marvelous counter-argument, if it were at all relevant to the discussion at hand. The earth revolves around the sun independently of anything humans do. The dictionary was not God-breathed and does not exist independently outside of human society, culture, and perception.

    But the earth and the sun were “God-breathed”? Your Christian fundamentalism speaking?

    However, in any case, the point of my analogy was to illustrate the fact that people’s perceptions are not necessarily an infallible guide to what is really the true state of affairs. Which, in the absence of any proof whatsoever that Shermer’s statement was in fact sexist, makes that fact and that analogy entirely “relevant to the discussion at hand”. For examples and elaborations, you might wish to review the Wikipedia article section on cognitive illusions, notably the reference to “unconscious inferences” – the rather odious “leap of faith” made by many to asserting Shermer’s statement was sexist being a prime example.

  379. 379
    Steersman

    Raging Bee said (#374):

    Steersman: since you’ve just tried to use comment #167 to back up your BS, I’ll just quote one paragraph FROM THAT VERY SAME COMMENT that does the exact opposite:

    But Gretchen is right that even if you consider her paraphrase of [Shermer's] words to be a misrepresentation or exaggeration, what he said is not only still sexist[,] it’s far more important and serious because it insults and demeans half of the species. So trying to shine the light on Ophelia and make accusations against her does absolutely nothing to make what Shermer said any less dumb or sexist.

    So the only question that remains is, are you too fucking stoopid, or too fucking hateful and dishonest, to understand how transparently bogus your arguments are?

    So then, oh great and wondrous sage of logic, if my arguments are so “transparently bogus” then what do you think of “Aristotle’s law of non-contradiction [which] states that One cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time.”? That is, for the logic-challenged if not challenged by “thinky work”, one cannot say that something is, for example, green and not green. But, as you so perspicaciously if not damningly noted with your “exact opposite”, that is essentially what Ed seems rather egregiously guilty of. Not particularly credible, methinks, that he should assert that “a distinction can be made between women having the ability to think and women being interested in taking a public stand on atheism or secularism” and then turn around and in the very next sentence condemn Shermer for saying something that is supposedly, “still incredibly sexist” when Shermer’s statement was essentially just an assertion that there are fewer women “interested in taking a public stand on atheism” than there are men, i.e., “[being interested in taking a public stand on atheism], it’s more of a guy thing”. A fact which is corroborated by a Pew Forum survey that puts the atheist population at 64% men and 36% women.

    Methinks you need to make up your mind there, Ed, along with many of the more rabid followers in your “cult”; shit or get off the pot: repudiate that “distinction” or the charge that Shermer’s statement was sexist; trying to have one’s cake and eat it too tends to be regarded as sufficient cause for ridicule and laughter. As Jefferson put it:

    Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them ….

    And one can’t get a more “unintelligible proposition” than one which attempts to encompass a contradiction.

    But to help all or some of you to get over that not particularly mountainous hurdle in spite of your apparent perceptions to the contrary, one might note that even Ophelia Benson made the quite credible, if sarcastically phrased and innuendo laden, observation that it’s “a guy thing,” like football and porn and washing the car. While the football and washing the car might be debatable points, it would seem that the case with porn is quite credible and backed up by many manifest facts, and observations by people like Steven Pinker (here). However, I don’t see many arguing that that disparity is an egregious case of sexism which should be rectified by drawing more women into that ethos. As one can quite credibly say “[pornography], it’s more of a guy thing” without that manifesting any sexism, so one can say “[being interested in taking a public stand on atheism], it’s more of a guy thing” without that likewise manifesting any sexism.

    However, in neither of those cases are any reasons offered for the causes of those disparities. While there might well be cultural reasons for some of the 64-36 ratio found by the Pew Forum, to assert that all of it is so caused, particularly in the absence of any statistical evidence, is not particularly skeptical at best and ludicrous at worst. Far more plausible to assert that, as is quite likely with the pornography case, genetics has had at least some significant influence in tipping that balance past the 50-50 ratio.

  380. 380
    Raging Bee

    So then, oh great and wondrous sage of logic, if my arguments are so “transparently bogus” then what do you think of “Aristotle’s law of non-contradiction [which] states that One cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time.”?

    What do I think? I think it’s being used as yet another pretentious distraction by an idiot who either cannot or will not understand the issue being discussed here.

    Methinks you need to make up your mind there, Ed, along with many of the more rabid followers in your “cult”; shit or get off the pot…

    First you try to quote Ed in an attempt to argue from authority. Then, when your bluff is called and you realize your “authority” didn’t say what you pretend he said, you start bashing Ed as a “cult leader” instead. Not only are each of your talking-points bogus on their own, they’re laughably contradictory when seen together. I’m not sure what we should call that — fractal bogosity? Exponential bogosity? Microdimentional bogosity? Maybe we can steal a term from string theory…spaghetti code? No, that doesn’t quite seem to work either…

  381. 381
    Raging Bee

    But the earth and the sun were “God-breathed”? Your Christian fundamentalism speaking?

    Your attempts to change the subject get more pathetic every day, Steersman. Forgive me for channeling Samuel L. Jackson, but Go the fuck to bed. I am sick and tired of this motherfucking deliberate ignorance on this motherfucking thread.

  382. 382
    Raging Bee

    However, in neither of those cases are any reasons offered for the causes of those disparities.

    Exactly. It’s sexist to say that something is “more of a guy thing,” and it’s doubly sexist to try to justify such stereotypical assertions by reference to a smattering of statistics that hint at “disparities” without explaining what may or may not have caused them, or what they even mean. I’ve seen “race realists” doing the same thing to try to justify their stereotypical thinking about black people. You’re not fooling anyone here, dipshit.

    Oh, and you’re citing the Pew Forum? Didn’t their polls have Mutt Romney ahead in the Presidential election all the way up to Election Day? Your arguments from authority just keep getting lamer.

  383. 383
    Raging Bee

    …Far more plausible to assert that, as is quite likely with the pornography case, genetics has had at least some significant influence in tipping that balance past the 50-50 ratio.

    Translation: “The statistics I’m bandying about don’t really prove anything all that conclusively, therefore I’ll just stick with my original deep-seated prejudices.” Fuck off, little man.

  384. 384
    jeffret

    Steersman:

    But the earth and the sun were “God-breathed”? Your Christian fundamentalism speaking?

    Nice jumping to conclusions, but no. I borrowed the metaphor because it fits your irrational adherence to a supposedly infallible text, complete with the unthinking presumption that your interpretation is the one and only despite all evidence to the contrary.

    However, in any case, the point of my analogy was to illustrate the fact that people’s perceptions are not necessarily an infallible guide to what is really the true state of affairs.

    Which might be useful if your analogy was at all relevant. An analogy is always an instance of presenting how something is like something else, not how something is something else. It’s only useful if it is like that other thing in meaningful ways and its aspects of dissimilarity are minor or unrelated. Your analogy utterly fails to be similar in the important characteristics.

  385. 385
    TCC

    Anyone else get the impression that we wouldn’t be having this conversation if Shermer had omitted the word “intellectually” from his answer?

  386. 386
    Raging Bee

    TCC: Hard to say…he wouldn’t be implying that women don’t do thinky — but he’d still have implied that women don’t do talky or leady, which would have got him some criticism, which might still have prompted him to freak out about feminazi persecution. And even if he hadn’t done all that, Ed would still have plenty of material about “the myth of feminist persecution,” and anything he said about that would have got at least one MRA troll like Steersileo to show up with a pile of idiotic sophistry (if not unvarnished hatred) to prove…um…whatever they so desperately need to prove.

  387. 387
    Steersman

    Raging Bee said (#380):

    Methinks you need to make up your mind there, Ed, along with many of the more rabid followers in your “cult”; shit or get off the pot…

    First you try to quote Ed in an attempt to argue from authority. Then, when your bluff is called and you realize your “authority” didn’t say what you pretend he said, you start bashing Ed as a “cult leader” instead.

    What an absolute fucking idiot. What do you mean “pretend he said”? He actually did, in point of manifest fact, say:

    A distinction can be made between women having the ability to think and women being interested in taking a public stand on atheism or secularism.

    And I didn’t notice you or anyone else in his flock attempt to refute or even question that contention in spite of it apparently being tantamount to a refutation of the decidedly bogus definition of sexism that seems to be an article of faith in this neck of the back-woods, i.e., that it asserts that one can note and assert the existence of gender disparities in various populations without that being at all an expression of sexism. Maybe too much “cognitive dissonance” to do so? Or simply too clueless to recognize the implications?

    However, in passing, I might point out that while there is a definite germ of truth in the statement, one might argue that it is badly phrased and that it betrays a number of “unconscious inferences” that might send the unwary and the logic-challenged – most of those here – off the rails. More specifically, it is rather ridiculous to talk of either men or women “having the ability to think” as it is not the group that thinks – unless one wants to try arguing that a mob thinks – but individual men and women who do so; some women and some men are going to have a greater ability to think or to have a greater interest “in taking a public stand on atheism” than other women and other men. For example, I would think it likely to be true and be not at all nonplussed to learn that Harriet Hall has both a greater ability to think than I do as well as a greater interest in “taking a public stand on atheism”. But the fact of the matter is that the statistics strongly suggest that, as Shermer more or less implied, there are simply more men than there are women who think about atheism or who are “interested in taking a public stand on atheism or secularism”.

  388. 388
    Steersman

    Raging Bee said (#383):

    …Far more plausible to assert that, as is quite likely with the pornography case, genetics has had at least some significant influence in tipping that balance past the 50-50 ratio.

    Translation: “The statistics I’m bandying about don’t really prove anything all that conclusively, therefore I’ll just stick with my original deep-seated prejudices.”

    But you have absolutely fuck-all in the way of any statistics or any other evidence to justify your apparent contentions that there are no gender disparities at all in any groupings and that such disparities are due entirely to social and cultural factors. And since you do have fuck-all, that makes the Pew Forum and Atheist Census statistics the more credible alternative – “in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”.

    Fuck off, little man.

    Up yours ….

  389. 389
    Steersman

    jeffret said (#384):

    Steersman:

    But the earth and the sun were “God-breathed”? Your Christian fundamentalism speaking?

    Nice jumping to conclusions, but no.

    What conclusions? They were a couple of questions. That you are apparently unclear on the difference between a hypothesis framed as those questions and a conclusion doesn’t say a hell of a lot in favour of your ability to use logic, or your skepticism.

    I borrowed the metaphor because it fits your irrational adherence to a supposedly infallible text, complete with the unthinking presumption that your interpretation is the one and only despite all evidence to the contrary.

    And which “infallible text” would that be? The dictionary? Hardly infallible as it isn’t any “revealed word of God”, but simply a compendium of the definitions of words that we collectively agree with, and change depending on usage. And absolutely no one here has yet managed to address, much less refute, my contention, evidence, and proof that the definition of the word “sexism” most definitely does not apply to Shermer’s statement: “[atheism], it’s more of a guy thing”.

    As for “all evidence to the contrary”, maybe you could point me to precisely where that evidence was provided as I asked that of Raging Bee several times and on which he has been not surprisingly silent as I couldn’t find any. But I guess he was and is just blowing smoke out of his arse ….

    jeffret said:

    However, in any case, the point of my analogy was to illustrate the fact that people’s perceptions are not necessarily an infallible guide to what is really the true state of affairs.

    Which might be useful if your analogy was at all relevant. An analogy is always an instance of presenting how something is like something else, not how something is something else. It’s only useful if it is like that other thing in meaningful ways and its aspects of dissimilarity are minor or unrelated. Your analogy utterly fails to be similar in the important characteristics.

    Yes, and my analogy was that the misperception and false conclusion that the earth was stationary was like the misperception and false conclusion that Shermer’s statement qualifies as sexism– not at all a case of asserting that the evolution of cosmology was the same as the evolution of feminist dogma as the clueless Raging Bee managed to infer. And, considering that you have as much proof for your latter contention as Ptolemy had for the former, I would say that that is a rather “important characteristic” in common which justifies the analogy.

  390. 390
    jeffret

    Steersman:

    Yes, and my analogy was that the misperception and false conclusion that the earth was stationary was like the misperception and false conclusion that Shermer’s statement qualifies as sexism– not at all a case of asserting that the evolution of cosmology was the same as the evolution of feminist dogma as the clueless Raging Bee managed to infer. And, considering that you have as much proof for your latter contention as Ptolemy had for the former, I would say that that is a rather “important characteristic” in common which justifies the analogy.

    Hardly. Until you can understand the fundamental differences between cosmology and human interaction there isn’t much value in continuing the “discussion”. With your prejudice to discarding that which you don’t like, or don’t understand, as “feminist dogma” there definitely isn’t value.

  391. 391
    Raging Bee

    …Shermer’s statement: “[atheism], it’s more of a guy thing”.

    That’s nowhere near what Shermer actually said, and you know it, you lying sack of shit.

    And since you’re now trying to revive your long-discredited arguments on Greta’s blog, I think we can safely conclude you’re giving up here.

  392. 392
    Steersman

    Raging Bee said (#391):

    …Shermer’s statement: “[atheism], it’s more of a guy thing”.

    That’s nowhere near what Shermer actually said, and you know it ….

    It’s the meat of it – which, for the terminally clueless like yourself, is why I put the word in brackets and which referred to the following:

    It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.

    Considering that the question that he was responding to there was asking why there wasn’t a 50-50 gender split in “atheist groups”, most rational people – which probably excludes you – are going to recognize that Shermer’s “it” in the above can reasonably be replaced, as I did, with “[atheism]”.

    … you lying sack of shit.

    And you know what you can do with your dead porcupine.

    And since you’re now trying to revive your long-discredited arguments on Greta’s blog, I think we can safely conclude you’re giving up here.

    Apart from your rather risible use of the royal “we”, the only way that I’ll concede that my arguments are “discredited” is if you actually manage to prove why the definition of “sexism” applies to Shermer’s statements above. Which of course you have yet to do – in spite of me asking several times; seems that all you’re really doing is defining “sexism” as “what Shermer said”. Might work in the delusional world you and others seem to inhabit; in the real one where dictionaries have some relevance – not so well.

  393. 393
    Steersman

    jeffret said (#390):

    Steersman:

    Yes, and my analogy was that the misperception and false conclusion that the earth was stationary was like the misperception and false conclusion that Shermer’s statement qualifies as sexism – not at all a case of asserting that the evolution of cosmology was the same as the evolution of feminist dogma as the clueless Raging Bee managed to infer. And, considering that you have as much proof for your latter contention as Ptolemy had for the former, I would say that that is a rather “important characteristic” in common which justifies the analogy.

    Hardly. Until you can understand the fundamental differences between cosmology and human interaction there isn’t much value in continuing the “discussion”.

    The question isn’t the differences, but the similarities, the relevant one being the willingness to accept that one’s perceptions are the gospel truth, that they correspond exactly to reality. Although the hurdle you seem to have some difficulty with is the possibility that your charge of sexism is entirely bogus, a figment of your imagination. And, more particularly, it seems that the definition of sexism in play is “what Shermer said”. Curious though that my dictionary doesn’t carry that one. But that definition does have the “advantage” that you don’t need to provide any evidence to justify the charge: “Proof? We don’t need no stinking proof! Off with his head!” Witch-hunts, indeed.

    With your prejudice to discarding that which you don’t like, or don’t understand, as “feminist dogma” there definitely isn’t value.

    In light of the fact that you haven’t actually even attempted to address any of my arguments, one can readily imagine you – and others here – in the position of a devotee of Ptolemy saying that about the Copernican theory.

  394. 394
    Michael Heath

    pHred @ 369:

    So after re-reading Ophelia’s article again for the upteenth time, as far as can see virtually all of Mr. Heath’s outrage (the whole a-h list) is focused on her colloquial use of the word “exactly” as in “an example of exactly the same kind of stereotype being discussed in the article” rather than his interpreted use of the work as “verbatim” and reading backwards absorbing the entire previous statement. That’s it – so ignoring the entire context of the article, which is about stereotypes, the source of all of this outrage is possibly sloppy use of the word “exactly”. For this horrible linguistic transgression Ophelia gets called morally repugnant, vile, disturbed and piled on with a huge list of completely over-the-top epitaphs.

    Not only didn’t I obsess on “exactly”, I repeatedly pointed out in previous posts I didn’t use it pedantically and understand what followed was instead meant to be a characterization of what he stated – this is not a topic I’ve even raised (though I have problems with this as well – it’s evidence of incredibly sloppy thinking).

    My disgust is instead about Benson manufacturing a misogynistic assertion and attributing it to something Shermer stated, and then quote-mined a quip out of Shermer’s statement which validates he wasn’t referring to that topic at all.

  395. 395
    Michael Heath

    I’ve said my piece more than what should be warranted and won’t be here responding anymore in this thread; unless Ed shows up and starts commenting and isn’t opposed to my posting more. Right now I don’t want to wear out his hospitality.

    I’d welcome Ed creating a new blog post on this topic again. And I continue to hope Ed will issue a correction of this blog post’s lede, which simply isn’t true.

  396. 396
    Michael Heath

    My link at 395 should have went to this comment post instead: http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2013/01/17/shermer-and-the-myth-of-feminist-persecution/#comment-213053

  397. 397
    Michael Heath

    My post @ 395 should have linked to this comment post instead: http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2013/01/17/shermer-and-the-myth-of-feminist-persecution/#comment-213053

  398. 398
    tomh

    Heath wrote:

    I’d welcome Ed creating a new blog post on this topic again.

    I can’t imagine what else you could possibly say. It’s all there in dozens of your comments for anyone to peruse who is interested. Maybe it will convince someone besides Steersman.

  399. 399
    Raging Bee

    A distinction can be made between women having the ability to think and women being interested in taking a public stand on atheism or secularism.

    Yes, such a distinction CAN and SHOULD be made. But Shermer’s lazy, poorly worded overgeneralization DID NOT MAKE IT. So again, Steersman, quoting Ed doesn’t reinforce your stupid repetitive trolling arguments one bit.

  400. 400
    Ophelia Benson

    Michael Heath is hoping that Ed will start a new thread on the subject so that Michael Heath can call me a liar some more. How impressive.

  401. 401
    Raging Bee

    Ophelia: I think what Heath is hoping for is another thread without someone like Steersman making his side look even more embarrassing than it originally was.

  1. 402
    Waiting for the magic » Butterflies and Wheels

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

  2. 403
    Does Ed Brayton Realise How Stupid He Sounds? « grey lining

    [...] Shermer and the Myth of Feminist Persecution [...]

  3. 404
    No one is being purged « Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers of Waterloo

    [...] has straw-manned the criticism made by Benson in response to his original statements.  I think Ed Brayton sums up Shermer’s reaction the [...]

  4. 405
    Writing to be understood » Butterflies and Wheels

    [...] Heath has been insisting even more insistently on a couple of posts of Ed Brayton’s – Shermer and the Myth of Feminst Persecution and a later post that had nothing to do with me or Shermer - that I lied about Shermer, that I am [...]

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