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Aug 29 2013

Murder of a Skeptic

The New York Times has an article about Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, a prominent Indian skeptic who was murdered last week. The identity and motives of the murderers is not yet known, but the Times notes that Dabholkar had a long list of enemies because he routinely debunked the tall tales and myths that gave them wealth and power.

If a holy man had electrified the public with his miracles, Dr. Dabholkar, a former physician, would duplicate the miracles and explain, step by step, how they were performed. If a sorcerer had amassed a fortune treating infertility, he would arrange a sting operation to unmask the man as a fraud. His goal was to drive a scientist’s skepticism into the heart of India, a country still teeming with gurus, babas, astrologers, godmen and other mystical entrepreneurs.

That mission ended Tuesday, when two men ran up behind Dr. Dabholkar, 67, as he crossed a bridge, shot him at point-blank range, then jumped onto a motorbike and disappeared into the traffic coursing through this city.

Dr. Dabholkar’s killing is the latest episode in a millenniums-old wrestling match between traditionalists and reformers in India. When detectives began putting together a list of Dr. Dabholkar’s enemies, they found that it was long. He had received threats from Hindu far-right groups, been beaten by followers of angry gurus and challenged by councils upholding archaic caste laws. His home state, Maharashtra, was considering legislation he had promoted for 14 years, banning a list of practices like animal sacrifice, the magical treatment of snake bites and the sale of magic stones.

Several FTB bloggers — Avicenna, Taslima, the Nirmukta folks — live in India. Taslima has long been the victim of death threats, both there and in other countries, and we should not forget the plight of Sanal Edamaruku, who is still exiled from his home at the threat of being arrested on blasphemy charges. American skeptics may often be met with a hostile culture, but nothing like this. These people are risking their lives and their freedom by standing up for rationality.

33 comments

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  1. 1
  2. 2
    Don Williams

    Re ” the [New York] Times notes that Dabholkar had a long list of enemies because he routinely debunked the tall tales and myths that gave them wealth and power.”

    So –did Judith Miller ever find those nukes of Saddam Hussein’s?

  3. 3
    colnago80

    Re Don Williams @ #2

    Well, according to the blog’s resident climate change denier, Sir Lancelot, it doesn’t make any difference that the Dubya administration lied us into war by lying about Saddam’s non-existent WMDs. The war was justified anyway. Of course, according to a former JPost columnist whose name escapes me at the moment, Saddam shipped all his chemical weapons to Syria before the invasion so there.

  4. 4
    democommie

    The arrest took place in Goa, former home of Pyush “Bobby Raj’ Jindal’s daddy. Any bets on whether the guy’s a cath-o-lick?

    For Ed (Eyes only):

    You really need to do something about those conspirabot comments like the one at #2.

  5. 5
    colnago80

    Re democommie @ #4

    For once ole Donaldo wasn’t proclaiming a conspiracy theory. Judith Miller did, indeed, claim, along with numerous members of the Dubya administration, that Saddam still had WMDs. The UN inspectors said differently and were shown to be right eventually. We were lied into war. Period, end of discussion.

  6. 6
    Raging Bee

    Don and colnago80/slc1: get a room and go fuck yourselves in it. If you don’t have anything to say about the original subject of this post, then you have no reason to be here at all. And if you have no clue how pointlessly disrespectful it is to take a thread about one of our kind being murdered and jack it for your own stupid-assed unrelated pet peeve, then you need to go back to your mommies and learn some basic manners.

  7. 7
    Raging Bee

    BTW, Ed already has a recent thread about Iraq and WMDs. Take your neverending bullshit there, if that’s what you really want to talk about.

  8. 8
    colnago80

    Re Raging Bee

    Gee, one would almost think that Donaldo or I said something nice about libertarianism.

  9. 9
    Reginald Selkirk

    democommie #4: The arrest took place in Goa, former home of Pyush “Bobby Raj’ Jindal’s daddy. Any bets on whether the guy’s a cath-o-lick?

    I would bet not, since he belongs to a Sanatan Sanstha, a Hindu organization.

  10. 10
    colnago80

    This assassination is just another confirmation of Christopher Hitchens’ claim that religion poisons everything.

  11. 11
    Gretchen

    Raging Bee is quite right. It’s disrespectful to the blog, the blogger, and the commenters to jump into a post’s comment thread and immediately and deliberately derail it. Especially in a post like this. Take that shit elsewhere.

  12. 12
    colnago80

    Shorter Gretchen: I don’t get no respect.

  13. 13
    democommie

    @9:

    Damn good thing I didn’t give odds!

    @5:

    Dondi’s comment might be read by someone not familiar with his particular brand of breathless bullshit and have them inferring that the current post is based on bogus reporting by the writers at the NYT. I am aware of Ms. Miller’s lack of honesty and journalistic integrity*–it has nothing to do with the subject of the OP, afaia.

    * Judith Miller seems to be, like Dondi, pretty good at spinnin’ the bullshit; were they, by some chance, classmates at Utterly Vaccuous Assholes?

  14. 14
    Crudely Wrott

    colnago80: “I don’t get no respect.” So those who don’t show respect frequently pine.
    [Not Gretchen; this a dollop of your inner child seeping out and staining the floor.]

    ——————-
    Acts such as this grimly purposeful assassination bears witness to the fact that those who cannot defend their assertions with arguments derived from freely observed reality are dangerous, anti-social agents.

    We need more Dabkolhars and here is the good news: he spent a great deal of time, effort and money educating others to understand what and why he did as he did. With his death a legion is set loose.

  15. 15
    Don Williams

    Gretchen at 11:
    1) My comment was direct and to the point: We in the USA are in no position to mock
    the people of India for being influenced by superstitious nonsense and myths created to support wealth and power. Who challenged the myths and lies George W Bush used to grab Iraq for Big Oil?

    Where has there been “Rationality” in US political discourse for the past 12 years? Should that not concern us more than what goes on in India?

    2)In the past, Raging Bee has frequently shown himself too ignorant and incompetent to address the facts –so he has to fall back on the political hack’s trick on trying to control the discussion. Unlike Dr. Dabholkar’s assassins, he is too cowardly to use physical force to suppress the truth — so he has to stick his fingers in his ears and go “Me me me me me “

  16. 16
    Don Williams

    Elites support religious con artists because it helps keep the population in line. Our elites and their evangelical tools have no need to assassinate scientists in this country — they can simply destroy them through economic means. Threaten their jobs if they are in the private sector. Threaten their funding if they are funded by the government. Block their access to the tightly controlled mass media.

    We have other means of intimidation in this country — and I see NO national forum where public policy is debated in the rational manner and with the rules of evidence enforced by judges in court cases.

    Who are we to mock the people of India? At least most of them are bright enough to recognize what is going on. Unlike here.

  17. 17
    Gretchen

    Don said:

    My comment was direct and to the point: We in the USA are in no position to mock
    the people of India for being influenced by superstitious nonsense and myths created to support wealth and power. Who challenged the myths and lies George W Bush used to grab Iraq for Big Oil?

    1. This is not a post mocking anyone for anything, you nit. It’s a post decrying the murder of a skeptic.

    2. Even if it was mocking credulous Indians for their superstition, your complaint would be as vacuous as any time someone comes in here and accuses Ed of hypocrisy for criticizing something in another country…which is always. Ed is not the USA. We are not the USA. Not to mention, Ed and commenters here criticize the USA all the fucking time.

    3. The lies Bush used to invade Iraq have nothing to do with superstition, or India, or really anything about this post. They are off topic.

    Go argue with SLC-by-any-other-name about it somewhere else.

  18. 18
    Don Williams

    @17:

    1) Does the USA lack for “gurus, babas, astrologers, godmen and other mystical entrepreneurs.”? Did not a horde of such spring up after Sept 11, 2001 to conceal what provoked that attack –that killed 3000 Americans — and to create a myth? (“They hate us for our Freedoms”. )

    Did they not then create another myth and religious jihad that result in the deaths of 4500 more Americans? Who stood up and challenged them? What rational thought did the Commission on Iraq Intelligence do that should not have been done by the Senate before voting to invade?

    2) Violence and intimidation? Look at our country.

    Murder rate in India(per 100,000) : 3.5 Murder rate in USA: 4.8 Murder rate in Chester, PA: 62

    Male suicide rate in India: 13 Male suicide rate in USA: 20

  19. 19
    Don Williams

    Intimidation? Why did highly respected and tenured professors at Harvard and Chicago — Mearshimer and Walt — have to go to Great Britain to publish their paper pointing out how Israel Lobby billionaires strongly influence US Middle Eastern policy?

    Any country that has made Pat Robertson and John Hagee rich should not mock Indian charlatans.

  20. 20
    colnago80

    Re democommie @ #13

    According to Wiki, Miller attended OSU, Barnard College, and Princeton so we can’t blame Utterly Vacuous Assholes for her. Also, Wiki claims that the NYT gave her the heave ho when her erroneous reporting on Iraq’s WMDs was discovered.

  21. 21
    colnago80

    Re Don Williams @ #19

    Any country that has made Pat Robertson and John Hagee rich should not mock Indian charlatans.

    Not to mention Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

    Why did highly respected and tenured professors at Harvard and Chicago — Mearshimer and Walt — have to go to Great Britain to publish their paper pointing out how Israel Lobby billionaires strongly influence US Middle Eastern policy?

    As yes, highly respected. Mearsheimer pals around with virulent anti-Semites while Walt is a coward who refused to debate Alan Dershowitz on the claims made in his book. Ole Steve has some chicken feathers where his intestinal fortitude ought to be.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/09/john-mearsheimer-endorses-a-hitler-apologist-and-holocaust-revisionist/245518/

  22. 22
    Don Williams

    I would also question Mr Brayton’s assumption that American skeptics get off lightly.

    1) Feb 8, 2000:
    “Over on the other side of the Capitol this week, the chief staffer of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, former CIA operations officer John Millis, proclaimed Deutch the worst CIA director ever.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPcap/2000-02/18/034r-021800-idx.html (scroll down to “Thumbs Up Thumbs Down” )

    2) June 8, 2000:

    “John I. Millis, a former case officer with the Central Intelligence Agency who for the last three years served as the top staff member of the House Intelligence Committee, committed suicide on Sunday, the police and Congressional officials said today. He was 47 and lived in Vienna, Va.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2000/06/06/us/john-millis-47-aide-in-congress.html

    heh heh heh

  23. 23
    colnago80

    Re Don Williams @ #22

    Is ole Donaldo trying to claim that Millis was bumped off and didn’t commit suicide at all? And by the way, I find it amazing that ole Donaldo thinks that Millis was the cat’s meow, considering that the latter had a high opinion of George Tenet. You know, George Tenet who said that the possession of WMDs by Saddam was a slam dunk.

  24. 24
    Don Williams

    @23

    Details, SLC. What real difference is there between pulling the trigger and driving the poor bugger to pull the trigger?

    And what about Gus Weiss?

    From last paragraph of
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/how-the-cold-war-was-won-by-the-french-1788720.html#disqus_thread

    “Gus Weiss reaches the same conclusion. Unlike Mr Védrine, he will never see the cinematic version of events. He died in November 2003 in mysterious circumstances, officially classified as suicide. Mr Weiss, who had split with the Bush administration over Iraq, fell from the windows of his apartment in Washington. The apartment was in the Watergate building.”

  25. 25
    Don Williams

    Or maybe John J Kokal?

    http://journals.democraticunderground.com/Octafish/883 –last paragraph

  26. 26
    Don Williams

    Or Saddam’s lobbyist, Edward von Kloberg?
    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0DE6DB1630F937A35756C0A9639C8B63

  27. 27
    colnago80

    Re Don Williams @ #24

    Well, the Independent is marginally better then the Daily Mail but not by a whole bunch.

  28. 28
    colnago80

    Re Don Williams @ #25

    Hey that’s some site. A Kennedy assassination conspiracy site. I notice a link to Mark Lane’s book on the Kennedy assassination. Mark Lane, who later represented neo-Nazis, was about as reliable in his theories of the assassination as Ken Ham is about evolution.

  29. 29
    colnago80

    Ah gee, 3 more conspiracy theories from ole “Donaldo. 3 guys were either bumped off and their deaths were made to look like suicide or they were driven to commit suicide by nefarious conspirators in the CIA or some other government outfit.

  30. 30
    dingojack

    SLC – not to defend either Mark Lane or Donnikens but: -
    “…. Mark Lane, who later represented neo-Nazis,…”
    Oooh then Mark Lane simply must be a bad guy ’cause he defended neo-Nazis in his capacity as a lawyer! Everyone knows that neo-Nazis don’t deserve (and shouldn’t get) legal representation! Nosiree bob! Just take ‘em out and shoot them, amiright?
    @@
    Dingo

  31. 31
    Don Williams

    @29

    Well, the Moonies at Washington Times had two news items re Millis. One said he was fired for
    leaking classified info and was facing criminal charges — the other article in their Insight magazine
    dropped dark hints about the Love Which Dares Not Speak Its Name. Supposedly Millis’s wife
    was going to sue the Moonies but I never found out what happened.

    http://www.apfn.org/apfn/probe.htm

  32. 32
    colnago80

    Re dingojack the chihuahua @ #30

    The late Louis Nizer,relates an incident in one of his books about being approached by a group of neo-Nazis to defend them in an action. His response was, “I’ll do it but I only get paid if I lose”.

  33. 33
    John Phillips, FCD

    I think I am going to have to go back to Firefox for Ed’s blog just so I can use a killfile again.

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