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Sep 06 2013

On Being Disillusioned By Heroes… or, No, I Am Not Bloody Well Happy to Hear Horrible Things About the People I Admired

The other problem here is confirmation bias: the tendency to see only what we wanna see.

-Brian Dalton, a.k.a. Mr. Deity, responding to reports of sexual harassment, assault and rape being made against prominent figures in the atheist/ skeptical community.

Brian Dalton isn’t alone. In many discussions about reports of atheist/ skeptical leaders committing seriously unethical behavior, this trope has come up again and again: “You just want to believe these reports! You were already biased against these people, and you’ll believe anything that confirms what you want to believe! You want to believe that Richard Dawkins blackballed Rebecca Watson from speaking at the Reason Rally! You want to believe that Lawrence Krauss has sexually harassed people at conferences! You want to believe that Michael Shermer committed rape! You’re only seeing what you want to see!” I’m using Dalton’s words as an example, since I’m starting to get weary of critiques that don’t point to an example of what’s being criticized (such as Phil Plait’s notorious “Don’t Be a Dick” speech)… but this is far from the only time I’ve seen this idea.

Here’s the problem with it:

I did not want to believe this.

I did not want to believe any of it.

Richard Dawkins is the reason I’m an atheist. Richard Dawkins is the reason I’m an atheist activist. Before I read The God Delusion, I was calling myself an agnostic, and was very occasionally writing about skepticism and religion. After I read The God Delusion, I was calling myself an atheist, and had decided that I needed to start making atheism the center of my writing career. Very few books have changed my life so rapidly, and so dramatically, and so much for the better. For years, Dawkins was my Number One atheist hero. The day I met him in person was one of the proudest days of my life.

Michael Shermer was enormously influential in my development as a skeptic and a non-believer. The way he laid out the case for cognitive biases — and more specifically, the way he laid out the case for cognitive biases leading to religious belief — strongly shaped both the way I thought about religion and atheism, and the way I wrote about it. In my early days as an atheist and skeptical writer, I cited Why People Believe Weird Things, and the ideas I got from it, all the freaking time.

Lawrence Krauss? Lawrence Krauss is freaking well trying to answer the question, “Why is there something instead of nothing?” Lawrence Krauss is the reason that, when religious believers ask me that question as if it were an unanswerable “Gotcha!”, I can answer, “Actually, physicists are working on that very question, and it seems like it might have an answer. Just like every other question in history that at one time was unanswered, and that people once thought was magic, and that turned out to be Not Magic.”

I admired these people. I looked up to them. My life and my work was shaped by them.

Why on Earth would I want to believe the worst about them?

When I started hearing bad things about these people, the last thing I wanted to do was to believe. It’s one thing to hear reports that your heroes are flawed human beings: to hear, for instance, that they cheat on their spouse, or that they’re a demanding diva backstage. We are all flawed, all human: I can deal with that, I don’t expect anything different. But it’s another thing entirely to see one of your heroes say appallingly racist and sexist things, and double down when they get criticized for it, and keep saying them again and again and again… and to then hear reports that they blackballed one of the people who criticized them most publicly. It’s another thing entirely to hear reports that one of your heroes committed sexual harassment. It’s another thing entirely to hear reports that one of your heroes committed rape.

It was extremely painful to hear this stuff. It was upsetting. It sapped a lot of the excitement and energy I had about the atheist and skeptical movements. It made me feel less optimistic about the future of these movements. It was demoralizing. I did not want to believe it.

I did not start thinking badly of these people until I started hearing bad things about them.

If anything, the confirmation bias worked in the other direction. When I started getting involved in atheism and skepticism, I started out thinking that these people were mega-awesome. I started out thinking that they were not only smart and articulate and insightful, but that they were rigorously ethical. I did not start thinking badly of these people until I started hearing bad things about them. Again. And again. And again and again and again, and again, and again. And again.

September 5 is not the first time I heard reports about Richard Dawkins blackballing Rebecca Watson. August 7 is not the first time I heard reports about Lawrence Kraus sexually harassing women at conferences. August 7 is not the first time I heard reports about Michael Shermer sexually harassing and even assaulting women. I have been hearing these reports for a long time. I couldn’t say anything about them at the time — people had told me these things in confidence — but at the time these reports started to become public, I had been hearing them for a while. In some cases I heard them second-hand; in some cases, I heard them from the horse’s mouth. And I heard a lot of them.

Again. And again. And again and again and again, and again, and again. And again.

Is it the case that right now, as of this writing, in September 2013, I’m more inclined to believe these reports than I once was? Sure. But it didn’t start out that way. I didn’t start out thinking badly of these people, and focusing on every possible piece of evidence that would confirm my bad opinion. I started out thinking well of these people. I changed my mind. It was painful; it was upsetting; it was demoralizing. But I let go of my cherished opinions — because I saw a significant and credible body of evidence contradicting those opinions.

Isn’t that what skeptics and atheists are supposed to do?

109 comments

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  1. 1
    Stephanie Zvan

    Oh, how everything looked so shiny when I walked into these movements. All these people doing the good work, fighting the good fight. Organizations founded around making things better for people.

    Then I saw some problems, and I with my naive optimism thought they merely needed to be pointed out and all this great structure would make quick work of them. I assumed people cared enough to want to fix things. Instead, I found too many people who wouldn’t put in the amount of time and effort that my mother had dealing with these problems in the tiny non-profit she ran for no pay. It hurt.

    Luckily, I also ran into people working in the movement who do amazing things. They take risks on issues like these, sometimes, when they feel they can and keep working in the movement. And while that keeps me going on these issues, that’s another sort of heartbreak in itself. Can we really not allow people to make things better without living in fear that they’ll lose their jobs for it?

    What about any of this is supposed to make me happy?

  2. 2
    Steven Carr

    ‘August 7 is not the first time I heard reports about Michael Shermer sexually harassing and even assaulting women. I have been hearing these reports for a long time. ‘

    I wonder when.

    Because up until this year, I thought the worst harrassment at conferences was somebody propositioning someone else in a lift at a strange time.

    You would think somebody would let the general public know, without going into details, that women were being coerced into sex at conferences.

    It would have helped people like me understand better why there was such a strong movement to get harrassment policies in place at conferences, if it had been more widely publicised that women were being sexually assaulted.

  3. 3
    Susannah

    I have, at the moment, 4 Dawkins books on my shelves, one read twice, one unread: The Ancestor’s Tale. I had just bought it at the time of the “Dear Muslima” letter, and I haven’t been able to look at it without cringing since then.

    I had been passing on links to Krauss videos. And Mr. Deity episodes. I thought these people were wonderful.

    I have long assumed that many of my heroes had feet of clay. They’re human, after all. But I never expected the clay to go all the way to the top. These last couple of years have been tremendously disheartening.

    Now I keep looking at other people I have admired, dreading more bad news.

  4. 4
    Gregory in Seattle

    Damn, woman, you can write well. Very well stated.

    @Steven #2 – This information was passed to people having a need to know, and not made public for exactly the reasons that manifested when it was made public. People presumed to be male are generally not classified as “need to know,” which put us out of the loop. And as the brouhaha over PZ’s reporting showed, a general, without-the-details alert leads only to cries of “Liar!” and “Prove the innuendo!” and “That cannot possibly be me!” It’s a bit of a double bind: details are needed, but the anti-confirmation bias that Greta mentioned above plus the slymepit response that will inevitably target the people providing the details mean that few people are willing to provide those details.

  5. 5
    thinkfree83

    What is frustrating to me is how these people don’t understand (or don’t care) that their bad behavior is tarnishing the movement. In “The God Delusion,” Dawkins makes a big deal about how religion is damaging to women, but when real-life women come to him to complain about how sexism, he blows them off. It’s easy to be outraged about the treatment of women in the Muslim world, but there’s really not that much that we in the West can do about it. We can, however, control how we treat women in our own societies, but as the behavior of the atheist leaders demonstrate, that would require them to make a change, not the religious “others.”

    Actually, it seems to me now that there is no “atheist movement.” Social movements are called “movements” because the members actually want society to change in some way. The leaders of the so-called atheist movement don’t want to change anything, except to get rid of religious institutions, presumably so they can be crowned philosopher-kings. The atheist movement doesn’t have much to say about racism, sexism, or homophobia, except to blame it all on religion. Now, I’m not saying that religion doesn’t bear responsibility for the current state of the world, but it is naive to think that just because you don’t believe in God that you have somehow risen above the all prejudices that woven into the tapestry of our society.

    I think the best thing to do to combat this disillusionment is to try as much as possible to work in our respective communities for change. I think the reason why so many of look up to these “Big Name Atheists” is because we lack supportive, local atheist communities. I noticed the same thing when I was Catholic, where the conservative/traditional Catholics who were unhappy with their local parishes hero worshipped the pope and spent a lot of time online on blogs, forming a virtual idealized church in their minds. And this may sound inflammatory, but I think there is more of a personality cult surrounding many of these Big Name Atheists, particularly Dawkins and Hitchens, than there is among Catholics about the pope. That is what I’ve seen, anyway.

  6. 6
    Steven Carr

    Gregory made an excellent point, which I should have thought of myself, if I had taken two minutes to think.

    At the time of Elevatorgate, the only things which could safely be reported were incidents like being propositioned in a lift.

    That created a huge fuss at the time, and, naturally, none of the women who had been sexually assaulted were able to come forward and say ‘You think that was bad, just see what happened to me.’

    How could they have posted suitably anonymised descriptions of what happened to them at conferences?

    Even Rebecca was not able to hint at the serious nature of what was happening to other women – not at that moment in time. The blowback if she had used the ‘r-word’ would have been too much.

    The only way forward at that time was to try to push for anti-harrassment policies which would have prevented women being propositioned in lifts.

    The sexual assaults had to wait to be reported, as Gregory so rightly pointed out.

  7. 7
    dezn_98

    See to me this response is weird!

    I have never much been for hero worship… so… I was never ‘disillusioned” some famous intellectual heavyweight that I liked did something that supported the status quo. In fact, in my life experience it is the intellectual heavyweights that in some way.. always work to support the status quo, and I find it rare when I see them fight against it. My life experience has lead me to believe that most people support, in small ways, unfair social dynamics like sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, american imperialism, religious institutions….etc… no matter what area in life they excel at, they always manage to support unfair power structures like this. My heroes where always guys who spoke out against the status quo, and even then, i could always find some area where they supported it.. so it never surprised me when they did. In fact, I made it a game to spot when this figure I admire said something idiotic dues to his social status in the hierarchy. I guess I was never one for hero worship or one to think that my heroes were above acting like fools. I always felt that everyone is smart in one area and dumb in another.

    What actually makes me freak out is when other people are “caught off guard” when their heroes say something that is socially awkward. I am always like… what did you expect!!! He is no different from any other white/male/straight/cis/american/rich person! Instead.. you know what catches me off guard? When someone breaks the pattern that I judge people by.. when someone manages to break away from their privilege to such a degree that I can no longer identify when it is acting on them as I can with others. People like PZ surprise me! IT is because I keep waiting for people like PZ to fck it all up.. and they hardly ever do, and when they do, it aint that bad and they learn from it! Those people, to me, are the oddities… and while I admire them, I def do not worship em! I mean, a man like Feynman I greatly admire as well, because he is a amazing physicist and that happens to be my area of expertise… and when someone tells me he was a sexist piece of sht… I am never “disillusions” I am just like… “yeah probably… show me where” and when they do.. I am like.. “yup, you right… No big deal, everyone does this sht.” I guess either I am “cynical” of human nature, or my life experience has taught me to be “realistic” about it.. either way.. These “disillusionments” always puzzle me!

    I think it is good that many people in the athiest community are getting the sht kicked out of them by reality…. either by being told when acting like a bigot, or by being “disillusioned” by their “heroes” acting line bigots. That way, this odd “hero worship” fcking stops! I just see nothing good coming from it. It reminds me of americans and their worship of the founding fathers as these “great men”…even after all that fcked up sht they did to the Indians, black people, women, poor people… etc… I feel like it is time for the worship to stop. But again, maybe this is just my cynicism.. so you know… do you.

  8. 8
    AndersH

    The idea that the feminists are running around trying to invade some spaces for kicks and to get offended is so absurd. Like Rebecca Watson wrote a while back, she didn’t even call herself a feminist when she started being aware of the problems and as Greta Christina writes here, she and many others joined and started getting interested because the skeptic community and what the big names in it seemed awesome. What feminists want here is obvious; that it should remain awesome when you start getting a bit deeper down and to make it more obviously welcoming to a diverse audience and thus more relevant.

    But I guess the conspiracy theory helps the people who are uncomfortable with a more open, diverse, and welcoming environment. Rings equally true for the gaming community at the moment :(

  9. 9
    Alex Gabriel

    It wasn’t just that I took a long time to view Dawkins and others critically: in his specific case, it took a long, long time for me to stop apologising for him. I sat through ‘Dear Muslima’ and thought, ‘Hmm, heroes have flaws too.’ I sat through his sniping and his associates (Paula Kirby’s, Lucy Wainwright’s, etc.) and thought, ‘Hmm, heroes have flaws too.’ I sat through his setting up an £18,000 private university, supposedly to protect the humanities, while he threw social science and humanities under the bus any chance he got, and thought ‘Hmm, heroes have flaws too.’

    Through all of that, and all the other things he did that pissed me off, he was still a hero of mine I thought was flawed, even if I wouldn’t have called him that. The crap he did was never more than a caveat in my admiration for him – it’s only in the last few months that I’ve faced up to the fact I can’t admire him any more. And reaching that point took me far, far longer than it should have.

  10. 10
    Alex Gabriel

    (Also – did you mean to link to the same Tom Chivers piece in the Telegraph twice?)

  11. 11
    chirs3721

    “I did not start thinking badly of these people until I started hearing bad things about them.”

    Odd. I wouldn’t start thinking badly of them until there was some evidence that the bad things being said about them were true.

    “But I let go of my cherished opinions — because I saw a significant and credible body of evidence contradicting those opinions.”

    Since when is the rumor mill a credible body of evidence?

  12. 12
    ludicrous

    7dezn_98 Spot on

    What puzzles me is why do so many godless people go on making new gods to look up to.

    I would like to see a panel entitled “Can we godless folk now decide the making of gods and heroes, is a fools errand”

    Can we look into the motivations, for this kind of “religious” thinking. Can we root out the habit like we root out the habit of traditional godthinkiing?

  13. 13
    piegasm

    Odd. I wouldn’t start thinking badly of them until there was some evidence that the bad things being said about them were true.

    A lot of people reporting the same or very similar bad behavior is evidence. For what must be at least the millionth time, what would constitute evidence to you? It happens while you’re watching or it didn’t happen? Would you even trust the evidence of your own eyes? It could have been staged, right? How do people like you even get through a day thinking like this?

  14. 14
    ludicrous

    These guys have offered us a lesson, I hope we can grasp it

    Quit with the “awe”. It worse than confuses one.

  15. 15
    kelleytastic

    This whole situation has been haunting me for so long. I went from being a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed local organizer who was starting to dip their toe into the national scene to wanting nothing to do with any of it because of the disgusting politics I saw laying out before me.

    Gregory was exactly right – it was previously on a need-to-know basis. I promise you the iceberg unfortunately hasn’t fully surfaced yet either.

    I still don’t want to believe. Neither does my upper back, which is half-covered by a Hubble photograph and a quote from a Lawrence Krauss physics lecture. Talk about admiring people. I argued stubbornly against every rumor I heard about him for the last several years.

    I have my own personal history from my childhood and let me tell you it’s painful to even get online and read thought-provoking articles some days because I know the comments are going to trigger me. Somewhere some ass is going to decide that the proper response to whatever I just read is that some woman just needs a deep dicking. And then she needs to make him a sandwich.

    The movement is losing people – good people – left and right because we just can’t or won’t deal with this. I admire the people who are and appreciate the hard work that you are doing. Maybe one day.

  16. 16
    Stephanie Zvan

    Steven Carr @6:

    Actually, my first two posts on this, introducing the topic after WiS and recommending anti-harassment policies, both mentioned assault. I talked about an attempted rape here a couple weeks later. I think a lot of people just weren’t prepared to understand that this was this big a problem then. That makes it a lot harder to remember those details.

  17. 17
    Jim Newman

    It’s great to have heroes and no one is totally a hero but it’s incredibly disillusioning when their feet don’t just look like clay but a desiccated fecal load. At parties when rape comes up and everyone denies or acts shocked at how common it is, I look around, tell them I used to work at a sheltered for battered women and learned how common and unspoken abuse is and that I was now so jaded I had to situationally ignore it or get angry out my gourd. That when I was in a room of 20 people 4 or 5 of them were probably abusers of one ilk or another. Pressed as to how could that be I say Ok how about several…what number makes you comfortable?

    Sadly, this aspect of wanton disregard for people has made me more antisocial. I hope I don’t end up like Schopenhauer, alone, in an apartment where the best thing I can say about society is at least they invented cars and trucks so horses wouldn’t be abused.

    Frankly, it’s this that makes it hard for me to go to secular meetings, other than expense, too quick a voice, my own problem, and a fear that when I say something it will be taken for some way or other than I consider appropriate. It’s also why I quit office work. I always seem to lose in group dynamics simply because I do have radical opinions and I get slaughtered for it but I simply can’t keep my mouth shut. Books, animals, and a few close friends are the best I seem to be able to hope for. Good for you to have the courage!

  18. 18
    Stephanie Zvan

    Kelley, please take care of you. That is good and worthwhile work too, dear.

    chirs3721, I’m seconding piegasm’s request for you to lay out exactly what would constitute evidence for you.

  19. 19
    imnotandrei

    @6, Stephen Carr

    I detect a powerful stench of mendacity here.

    Even Rebecca was not able to hint at the serious nature of what was happening to other women – not at tha moment in time. The blowback if she had used the ‘r-word’ would have been too much.

    Well, let’s see; considering the amount of explosion she got for asking people not to do something, can you imagine the reaction to people coming forward and saying “This happened to me, from person X”?

    Of course you can — and you’d approve of it, by all accounts.

    After all, elsewhere, where you (I presume) feel safer, you’re using the reaction to Elevatorgate as a way of saying the reports are false, by going:

    If somebody cut off my arm with a chainsaw at a conference, and I know that had happened to other people, I probably would not keep quiet while there was a huge fuss going on about how somebody had stubbed their toe really painfully at a conference.

    (We shall leave out the fact that it’s fairly easy to demonstrate having a limb removed, so your little metaphor is already badly broken)

    Of course, if you saw someone being piled on and attacked for saying something minor, and you had something major to say, would your reaction be:

    a) Hey! All these people will suddenly become rational and accepting when it’s something big!
    b) Oh, *fuck*, I need to duck and cover because if this is what happened for *that*, what’s going to happen to me?
    c) Oh, *fuck*, OK. This is bad. Let me warn people I think might be at risk, as best I can, without bringing the baying packs of Internet Self-Righteous Indignation down on my head?

    or, perhaps:

    d) I must Be Heroic And Speak The Truth, No Matter The Cost To Me Or Other People!

    You are, in effect, arguing that “Anyone would go a, or d, so the fact that there weren’t reports means that this is all made up!”

    I call hyperskeptical rape-denialist garbage.

  20. 20
    chirs3721

    “A lot of people reporting the same or very similar bad behavior is evidence.”

    By that logic, the evidence supporting Christianity is overwhelming.

    “For what must be at least the millionth time, what would constitute evidence to you?”

    A corroborating report from someone else in the room that doesn’t have an established Anti-Dawkins agenda. An official transcript of the meeting. An audio or video recording.

    The only thing we have here is a supposedly verbatim recollection of a two year old conversation (can you remember any conversation you had two years ago word-for-word?), coming from a website that both has a past of anti-Dawkins attitudes and a penchant for playing fast and loose with the truth. Forgive me if my standards aren’t quite low enough to accept that as gospel.

  21. 21
    imnotandrei

    “A lot of people reporting the same or very similar bad behavior is evidence.”

    By that logic, the evidence supporting Christianity is overwhelming.

    I see it’s time to break out the comparison of “amount of evidence required” business.

    No; by that logic, there is a lot of testimonial evidence for Christianity. Of course, the amount of evidence an all-powerful, omni-present divine being should leave behind is huge, so we can compare the amount of evidence we have to the amount of evidence we’d expect to have.

    By which standard, the evidence for Christianity is underwhelming, to put it mildly.

    A corroborating report from someone else in the room that doesn’t have an established Anti-Dawkins agenda.

    And here we get to the crux of the matter. If I had been in that room, and heard that, I would not think highly of Dawkins. Indeed, I might have spoken against the man in the past — thus, to you, destroying my credibility as evidence of wrongdoing.

    If I have reason to lack respect for someone, and it shows, then my lack of respect means I cannot be treated as a witness to the event? Nonsense.

    An official transcript of the meeting.

    You really don’t understand the idea of backchannel communication, do you? If this had been an official communication, I suspect it would have come out a *lot* sooner.

    can you remember any conversation you had two years ago word-for-word?

    Yes.

    Forgive me if my standards aren’t quite low enough to accept that as gospel.

    Well, let’s see; it’s not the “only thing” we have here: We have people coming forward and saying they’d heard similar things. We have the evidence of Dawkins’ own activities from which we can draw some likelihoods.

    Is the story inconsistent with Dawkins’ behavior? No. Is it consistent with things that happened later? Yes. Do we have evidence that some part of the conversation happened? Yes, from the official AA response.

    So, we have much more than the “only” thing you cite, and that much more makes it far from an unreasonable conclusion.

  22. 22
    dezn_98

    @chirs3721

    For someone so keen on deciding things by “evidence”.. you sure as hell do not know a lot about standards of evidence. In that standards are completely malleable to the situation… to ask for exceedingly high standards of evidence for even mundane claims, and yes this is a mundane claim, is to be a “hyper skeptic”… Which is basically an oxymoron because hyper-skepticism is people who actually do not understand how skepticism works. How many times are we going to have to explain to you types how evidence works? Let me lay it out for you..

    1) Natural law breaking claim – a lifetime worth of evidence;Big claim – lots of evidence; small claim – not so much evidence; mundane claim – maybe like one piece of evidence; trivial claim, no real evidence needed. That is the scale buddy… and sometimes the scale is used wrong, by those who have biases – i.e. YOU.

    2) Comparing this claim to a claim about miracles in Christianity is basically an analogy that reveals you have no idea how to set a standard.

    3) For most of us here in the real world… Dawkins acting sexist is a very mundane claim now a dayz because he has a history of acting sexist. If you do not see that, you are just a denialist.

    Let me break this down even further for you.

    1) Do we live in a culture that propagates stereotypical norms in bigoted ways that revolve around race/gender/sexuality/nationality…etc… ? The answer is yes.
    2) Does this mean that a majority of us have an bias towards specific groups of people and act in discriminatory fashion against the ones to which the negative stereotypes are targeted at? Again, yes.
    3) Do we not have a massive history of discrimination and prejudice such that it has long lasting effects on the infrastructure of political/economic/and social power? Yes.

    That is 101 son. If you say no to any of those.. you need some more education.

    4) Is there massive evidence that people act in bigoted ways despite saying they want to be egalitarian? Yes.
    5) Is there evidence that the ones most vulnerable to biases are the ones that are in the privileged groups of society? Again… yes there is.

    That is more 101.

    With that said you can ask yourself this simple question? Is bigotry the norm? The answer is simply yes it is, unfortunately. If you do not submit to this you are living in an alternate reality. FFS in this country black people just got rights 50 years ago… and if you think 50 years is enough to “end racism” you got to be a fool.

    Therefore, claiming someone acted in some bigoted fashion… is actually a fairly mundane claim – if not trivial one. Not much evidence is needed at all to believe in such a claim. If I told you that 50 years ago white people were super duper racist… you would not need any sort of evidence at all – because that is a trivial claim- if you knew your history.

    So lets look at Dawkins.

    1) Has a history of sexist micro-aggressions.
    2) Has a history of Islamaphobia and racist micro aggressions.
    3) White straight male dude from oxford…

    Well fck son! If any stranger on the street walked up to me and said Dawking said some wack ass bigoted sht.. I would striaght up believe um right off the bat. Just with those three points! So what fcking word you live in? I live in a world were people like Dawkins act like this on the daily…

    You people act like bigotry is over.. it ain’t. And if you need “transcripts” and “video evidence” and a fknign DNA samples to convince you that this dude can act sexist.. you not being a skeptic.. you just being a damn ding dong. Wake up man… ths is wack as fck.

  23. 23
    chirs3721

    “No; by that logic, there is a lot of testimonial evidence for Christianity.”

    And testimonial evidence in insufficient to believe their claims. Glad to see we’re on the same page, then.

    “If I had been in that room, and heard that, I would not think highly of Dawkins.”

    Would you have a history of posting anti-Dawkins rants on a blog that could charitably be referred to as tabloid journalism? In that case, I wouldn’t believe you either. What I’m looking for is an impartial source.

    “You really don’t understand the idea of backchannel communication, do you?”

    Never said such a thing existed, or that I expected it to. I was asked what I would consider evidence of a conversation taking place – an official transcript is one such piece of evidence.

    “Yes.”

    Great. Now let me walk back the mistake I made and rephrase it properly: do you remember a conversation you *overheard* two years ago, verbatim? One you did not participate in?

    I remember lots of conversations I overheard two years ago. But none of them so accurately that I could confidently state “This is exactly how it went, word for word.” And considering how much we already know about human memory, how faulty it can be, and how prone to embellishment, exaggeration, and suggestion our memories are, one biased person’s account is insufficient to convince me.

    “We have people coming forward and saying they’d heard similar things.”

    Really? We have other people coming forward saying they’d Dawkins request Watson be blackballed in a meeting with Dave? I’d love to see them.

    Or are you saying we have people coming forward saying they’d heard lots of vague, generalized offhand accounts of Dawkins saying things they don’t like?

    There is a difference.

    “Do we have evidence that some part of the conversation happened? Yes, from the official AA response.”

    Do we have evidence that the key point – that Watson was blackballed – happened? No. We have the word of a website that does not adhere to any code of ethics or standards regarding posting the truth or verifying the integrity of their claims, that has an established anti-Dawkins slant, and has exactly one source recounting a memory from two years ago.

    Again, my standards are not that low.

  24. 24
    ludicrous

    Heroes, gods, celebrities; respect, admire, worship, adulate etc. Are not these soups out of the same kettle as the worship of the gods of old? Thinner perhaps, less salty, not as hard on the stomach?

    But insidious nonetheless.

  25. 25
    chirs3721

    “to ask for exceedingly high standards of evidence for even mundane claims, and yes this is a mundane claim”

    A prominent public figure and atheist figurehead trying to blacklist another speaker is a mundane claim?

    You live in a strange world.

    I don’t deny that sexism exists, that inequality exists, that bigotry exists, that white males (a group to which I belong) enjoy exceptional privilege, and that it is our responsibility to try to fix all of that. The only thing I’m doing is applying skepticism to EVERYONE. Skepticism should not only be applied to the Pasty White Patriarchy – it should be applied to EVERYONE. We should not only question the legitimacy of The White Male Supremacy – we should question the legitimacy of EVERYONE.

  26. 26
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    A corroborating report from someone else in the room that doesn’t have an established Anti-Dawkins agenda. An official transcript of the meeting. An audio or video recording.

    Translation: Women are automatically liars, men are automatically innocent victims of ‘agendas’. rape victims need four male witness, all of whom are willing to file their reports in triplicate with the Skepticul Authoritah (all men, of course), before any women’s claims can begin to approach being honestly addressed.

    but he doesn’t deny sexism exists, he just makes damn sure to use it!

  27. 27
    piegasm

    @20 chris3721

    By that logic, the evidence supporting Christianity is overwhelming.

    1) Christianity makes extraordinary claims. It claims that things we’re pretty certain don’t happen, happened. Sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape are things we know to happen all the time. Thus, there is no reason not to at least provisionally believe claims that these things are happening.

    2) Despite what I said in 1) it’s still evidence. It’s not good evidence in the case of Christianity but it is, in fact, evidence.

    “For what must be at least the millionth time, what would constitute evidence to you?”

    A corroborating report from someone else in the room that doesn’t have an established Anti-Dawkins agenda. An official transcript of the meeting. An audio or video recording.

    The only thing we have here is a supposedly verbatim recollection of a two year old conversation (can you remember any conversation you had two years ago word-for-word?), coming from a website that both has a past of anti-Dawkins attitudes and a penchant for playing fast and loose with the truth. Forgive me if my standards aren’t quite low enough to accept that as gospel.

    Remember that evidence stuff you were talking about earlier? I’m going to need some re: “established Anti-Dawkins agenda” and “penchant for playing fast and loose with the truth.” Don’t show up here braying about how there’s no evidence for claims which are consistent with Dawkins’ prior behavior and then start tossing out completely unevidenced assertions.

  28. 28
    piegasm

    A prominent public figure and atheist figurehead trying to blacklist another speaker is a mundane claim?

    You live in a strange world.

    Otherwise known as ‘reality.’

  29. 29
    besomyka

    @25 What you are doing isn’t skepticism, it’s denialism; and it’s making you part of the problem rather than the solution.

    I know you have a motivated reason to being denialism. You like him. You don’t want to think ill of him. You are capable of denying all the reports, for any number of trivial reasons so that, when you sit in your chair, you can say to yourself: “they have nothing.”. But you’re imposing a very strange conspiratorial agenda on a wide range of people without any compelling evidence of your own, and instead of concluding that your judgement may be biased, you’re willing to assert that everyone else is wrong.

    Denialism.

    It’s a shame.

  30. 30
    imnotandrei

    And testimonial evidence in insufficient to believe their claims. Glad to see we’re on the same page, then.

    I notice you carefully deleted the rest of my point, which shows we’re not on the same page.

    Quote-mining works a lot better when the scrollback bar can’t get to the *previous post*.

    Would you have a history of posting anti-Dawkins rants on a blog that could charitably be referred to as tabloid journalism?

    Again, you miss the point.

    Deliberately, I strongly suspect.

    If you see someone behaving poorly, it appears in your world there are two choices: 1) Report it immediately, before anyone doubts your previous innocence, or 2) Refrain from comment on the person involved, lest it taint your future evidential capacity.

    I have seen Sye Ten Bruggencate acting like a lying, quote-mining idiot. I have said so. If I say to people “This is what I heard him say”, they might go “Well, we know you’ve said bad things about him in the past, so we’ll bear that in mind” — but to say “Oh, you don’t like him, we’ll discount your evidence altogether” is to make it *easier* for people to behave badly — because any bad reaction to their behavior writes you off as a “biased witness”.

    an official transcript is one such piece of evidence.

    Fair enough. Of course, you are deliberately asking for something you know doesn’t exist, but that’s your problem.

    And considering how much we already know about human memory, how faulty it can be, and how prone to embellishment, exaggeration, and suggestion our memories are, one biased person’s account is insufficient to convince me.

    And yet you continue to refuse to acknowledge that’s not all you have. This report is one brick in a very large edifice of evidence.

    Really? We have other people coming forward saying they’d Dawkins request Watson be blackballed in a meeting with Dave? I’d love to see them.

    Or are you saying we have people coming forward saying they’d heard lots of vague, generalized offhand accounts of Dawkins saying things they don’t like?

    Actually, what we have is somewhat in between:

    I raised the issue of serious chatter arising out of a polarised climate amongst organisers, that suggested that Dawkins was using his influence to have Rebecca Watson barred from events.

    This claim was later denied, of course, by a person speaking on behalf of Dawkins’ foundation; of course, by your standards of evidence described above, this is no evidence against the statement, as the speaker is inherently biased.

    Do we have evidence that the key point – that Watson was blackballed – happened?

    Yes. It’s not proof, but the fact that they haven’t appeared anywhere together is evidence that it may have happened. The testimony from a former admirer is another piece of evidence.

    You seem to believe in all-or-nothing, smoking-gun-or-it’s-not-true theories of evidence. How difficult daily life must be.

    hat has an established anti-Dawkins slant, and has exactly one source recounting a memory from two years ago.

    Again, my standards are not that low.

    Fine. Then don’t believe it. You’re allowed to do that.

    Why you need to make a giant loud point of “I don’t believe it!”, I don’t know — except, of course, that’s not your point — your point is not “I don’t believe it”, but “And you shouldn’t either!”

    The alleged behavior fits quite well with other displayed behavior by Dawkins; it comes from a source who was close enough to have observed the alleged behavior, and who at one point was clearly pro-Dawkins; perhaps you should wonder *why* that changed?

    And whether this alleged behavior might have something to do with it?

  31. 31
    chirs3721

    “Remember that evidence stuff you were talking about earlier? I’m going to need some re: “established Anti-Dawkins agenda” and “penchant for playing fast and loose with the truth.””

    Gladly.

    Dawkins:

    http://skepchick.org/2011/07/the-privilege-delusion/

    http://skepchick.org/2011/07/dear-richard-dawkins/

    http://skepchick.org/2013/06/so-much-for-center-for-inquiry/

    Playing fast and loose with the truth:

    http://skepchick.org/2013/09/how-skepchick-got-booted-from-dragoncon-today/

    Here she neglects to mention that the Bigfoot merchandise was not the only problem (which she knew, per her own tweets about the Thor-in-Thursday shirts), names the wrong person entirely as her aggressor (after waiting a whole six hours for confirmation from her source, bless her patient heart), and accepts zero responsibility for her role in the incident (specifically, not reading or knowing the rules because that was Derek’s job).

    http://skepchick.org/2013/08/if-you-dont-like-rape-dont-get-raped-duh/

    I shouldn’t even need to say anything about this one, but in case it isn’t blindingly obvious, this hitpiece constructs a strawman of gargantuan proportions and sets fire to it, rather than anything even in the same ballpark as what Dalton actually said.

    Statistics can apparently be written off as a joke:

    http://debunkingdenialism.com/2013/04/30/how-skepchick-rebecca-watson-misuse-statistics/

    Just a handful of examples that took more time to write up than to find.

  32. 32
    imnotandrei

    I don’t deny that sexism exists, that inequality exists, that bigotry exists, that white males (a group to which I belong) enjoy exceptional privilege, and that it is our responsibility to try to fix all of that. The only thing I’m doing is applying skepticism to EVERYONE. Skepticism should not only be applied to the Pasty White Patriarchy – it should be applied to EVERYONE. We should not only question the legitimacy of The White Male Supremacy – we should question the legitimacy of EVERYONE.

    OK: Let’s try this, since you acknowledge the existence of privilege.

    It doesn’t help to acknowledge that sexism exists, when each and every case of sexism is met with extreme skepticism. Something like that can’t exist in the nebulous “somewhere” without there being instances of it in the real world.

    We should not only question the legitimacy of The White Male Supremacy – we should question the legitimacy of EVERYONE.

    And when the standards we use to judge “legitimacy” are those of the patriarchy, guess what we get? A whole load of bias in what is “legitimate”. This immediately grants legitimacy to Dawkins, and none to those who speak against him on these issues. To be angry with Dawkins, and to say so, is to lose “legitimacy” to criticize him.

    To use a different example, borrowed from Thomas Kochman’s _Black and White Styles in Conflict_ — in many mass movements, there comes a point where the underprivileged — women, labor, PoC, what-have-you — make enough of a fuss and noise through their anger that they are offered a chance to sit down and talk about it. But in order to do so, they need to stop being so blatantly angry.

    Of course, that anger is the only thing that got them to the table, so they’re being told “In order for us to talk to you, you need to give us what we want; then we’ll see what we deign to give you.”

    Similarly — what you are doing with your “No people who’ve shown a bias against Dawkins can be evidence against him”, you’re saying “Unless you’re credible by not disagreeing with Dawkins, I can’t trust your negative reports about Dawkins.”

    Do you see why that’s problematic, finally?

  33. 33
    ludicrous

    There is no need whatever to defend Dawkins.

    I have little doubt that he has friends that he could ask to talk with him about why it is that he has received so much criticism. There are zillions of folks, men and women who would be more than willing to befriend him in this way. If he would publicly ask, he would be overwhelmed with friendly responses and that alone would clear up so much angst.

    Instead of criticizing him, make friendly overtures.

    He did not put himself in this position intentionally, thoughtlessly yes, but that is not the same thing.

    In particular it should be men make these overtures, both because it shouldn’t be always a woman’s job and because men can do it without fear of backlash or renewed insult.

    Surely there are men around him up to doing this….for everybody.

  34. 34
    chirs3721

    “I notice you carefully deleted the rest of my point, which shows we’re not on the same page.”

    I didn’t delete anything, I quoted the relevant portion. You have nothing BUT testimonial evidence here, so your arguments about non-testimonial evidence don’t matter.

    “I have seen Sye Ten Bruggencate acting like a lying, quote-mining idiot. I have said so. If I say to people “This is what I heard him say”, they might go “Well, we know you’ve said bad things about him in the past, so we’ll bear that in mind” — but to say “Oh, you don’t like him, we’ll discount your evidence altogether” is to make it *easier* for people to behave badly — because any bad reaction to their behavior writes you off as a “biased witness”.

    No, any bad reaction combined with a past of zero integrity in reporting about them lets me write them off as a bad witness. If a publication that actually followed a code of ethics regarding journalistic integrity repeatedly reported about Dawkins’ bad behavior, their past reports would not lead me to conclude they were biased, because their past reports would have been made following said code of ethics.

    “Fair enough. Of course, you are deliberately asking for something you know doesn’t exist, but that’s your problem.”

    No, I’m not. I was asked what I would accept. I had no idea if it did or did not exist, and whether it does or doesn’t is irrelevant – the question was asking what type of evidence I would accept. That is one type I would accept.

    “And yet you continue to refuse to acknowledge that’s not all you have. This report is one brick in a very large edifice of evidence.”

    I’ve yet to see these edifice of evidence. We have her account, and according to you, we have additional testimonial evidence, which we both agree is insufficient. What else do we have?

    “I raised the issue of serious chatter arising out of a polarised climate amongst organisers, that suggested that Dawkins was using his influence to have Rebecca Watson barred from events.”

    “Serious chatter” that “suggested”. Well, I’m convinced. That’s not vague or generalized at *all*.

    “You seem to believe in all-or-nothing, smoking-gun-or-it’s-not-true theories of evidence. How difficult daily life must be.”

    I believe in applying the principle of “If there is insufficient evidence that a claim is true, then there is no rational reason to believe the claim” to all extraordinary claims. I don’t apply that to the claim of “Bob ate toast for breakfast.” I do apply it to “A prominent figurehead in the atheist movement attempts to blacklist another speaker.” Why you think that’s an ordinary claim is beyond me.

    “Why you need to make a giant loud point of “I don’t believe it!”, I don’t know — except, of course, that’s not your point — your point is not “I don’t believe it”, but “And you shouldn’t either!””

    Yes, that is my point. The skeptic movement has taken a sharp left turn into “Doubt all white women, believe all women, regardless of the evidence” territory. News flash: that’s not skepticism. Skepticism should be applied equally to men and women, old and young, white and black, and everyone in between. The current movement seems to think that any attempt to apply skepticism and critical thinking towards women is inherently misogynistic. That’s pants-on-head crazy, and I’d like it to stop.

    “The alleged behavior fits quite well with other displayed behavior by Dawkins”

    I agree. I’ve said elsewhere, and if I haven’t said it here then let me now, that I would not be surprised if this turned out to be true. And if it does turn out to be true, I will be the first in line to tell Dawkins to grow the hell up. But the evidence supporting it – one testimonial, from a biased source, on a site with no credibility, about a memory of a two year old event – is insufficient. You have not presented any other evidence besides someone’s claim of “serious chatter” from other people. Even if I accepted that, it’s still testimonial, and is impossibly vague.

  35. 35
    chirs3721

    Darn it, made a typo in my last post.

    “Yes, that is my point. The skeptic movement has taken a sharp left turn into “Doubt all white women, believe all women, regardless of the evidence” territory.”

    That should say:

    “Doubt all white MEN, believe all women”

    Apologies.

  36. 36
    chirs3721

    “Translation: Women are automatically liars, men are automatically innocent victims of ‘agendas’. rape victims need four male witness, all of whom are willing to file their reports in triplicate with the Skepticul Authoritah (all men, of course), before any women’s claims can begin to approach being honestly addressed.”

    Mighty fine straw man you’ve got there.

  37. 37
    chirs3721

    “I know you have a motivated reason to being denialism. You like him. ”

    Actually, I don’t. I am indifferent to Dawkins. I’ve never read any of his books, and I have no intention of doing so. I’ve seen some Youtube clips where he said some neat stuff, and I read the occasional support/criticism blog of his latest shenanigans (the anti-Islam tweets, most recently) but that’s the extent of my experience with him.

  38. 38
    chirs3721

    @piegasm: I’ve made a post with links to Skepchick.org and other sites for the evidence of their slant and “truthiness”, but it’s awaiting moderation.

  39. 39
    chirs3721

    “Similarly — what you are doing with your “No people who’ve shown a bias against Dawkins can be evidence against him”, you’re saying “Unless you’re credible by not disagreeing with Dawkins, I can’t trust your negative reports about Dawkins.””

    It would be problematic if that’s what I was saying. The problem is, as I’ve pointed out in other posts, Skepchick.org doesn’t seem to care about verifying that anything they say is true. If the New York Times posted a column every single week blasting Richard Dawkins, I would still accept them as a credible source, because the New York Times (in theory) adheres to a standardized code of ethics for verifying the integrity of the news they report.

    I’m not dismissing Skepchick’s report because it’s anti-Dawkins. I’m dismissing their report because they have zero credibility for telling the truth.

  40. 40
    dezn_98

    You have got to be playin me dude!!! This line of thought is puro basura.

    What just cause Dawkins is an “athiest figurehead” all of a sudden a mundane claim like “white rich straight dude said some sexist stuff then had a huge tantrum when called out on it” becomes a bigger claim? Man I submit to you that claims like that are mundane and when targeted at Dawkins, his “movement leader” status does not make the claim harder to prove or a bigger clam.. it makes it even more of a mundane claim than before.

    Who are the ones who are more likley to act in bigoted ways? The ones with lots of influence or the ones with little? You see the ones with little to no influence usually keep themselves in check because they don’t have the power to influence people to their cause…. but there goes a saying… power corrupts…Meaning the more power you have the more likely, when given the opportunity to act in a way that is on the boundary of immoral.. the more likely you are to do it. The fact that Dawkins has that kind of power to get his way, means he is more likley, not less likely to act on it. If Dawkins had no influence he would keep his mouth shut more often because he knows he would not be in a position to get his way….. The fact that he is a “figure head” makes this claim even more mundane than less mundane.

    No one is accusing Dawkins of stalking Watson and making sure she is black listed… They are saying that at the time Watson was calling out his sexist BS, he got pissed at her. When a conference person asked if they should invite her, he got even more pissed and said that if they invited her, he was out. This is a very very very mundane claim! To ask for video evidence of this is completly silly. The fact is that this story has been verified by silverman himself.. that is more than enough evidence needed. For you to remain skeptical of this and saying you know “bigotry is all around you in this culture” is a straight up contradiction of facts.

    The fact that you are a white male and you deny this claim based on “skepticism” actually is part of a large historical trend of privileged people denyng events like this marginalization can take place…. wonder why the fck that is? huh?

    Man this sht is foolish… yall need to cut this out. Given all the background of this culture, given the context of the event, and given that person past behavior… yeah… mofo this sht is such a mundane claim that I can not even fathom why you would have the guts to want “video recorded” evidence to support it before you believe it….. I have a sandwich in my hand right now… you ganna be skeptical of that too till I show you a picture? That is striaght up wack sht dog. Cut that crap out.

    I good sir… live in the real world… I live in a world where this sht is so common that while I am still appauled by it.. I cease to be shocked by it, or the various reactions it produces… what god damn world you live in? That is what I want to know… what fantasy land you live in where Dawkins is “too good of a person” not to do some fcked up sexist sht dog? C’mon homie… you only foolin yo self.

    The fact that you would even assume that because dawkins is a figure head in a majorly what straight old male movement…. could not have done some sexist stuff…. is sooooooo wack

    Man…. get wit it already. Ill be over here… you know … in the real world. Where there is a long history of privileged fools denying what minorities go through and making up excuses when they oh so favorite privielged fool gets caught wit his pants down doin some dirty bigoted sht.. In the real world where this denalism is a damn problem because of how rampant bigotry is in reality.

    I hope you will join me soon and stop being a damn ding down about it. And by the time I write this post… I see you still persist in actin dah fool. Nvr fckin mind then.

  41. 41
    Drolfe

    Hey Chris,

    Do you know Bayes’ theorem? What three numbers do you have for each of these hypotheses:

    Dawkins blackballed Watson =

    And

    Dawkins not appearing at any conference with Watson is attributable to chance =

    We can get to the bottom of this if we use the tools of reason. Give me your priors, we’ll plug them in together and discover which is more likely.

  42. 42
    chirs3721

    “What just cause Dawkins is an “athiest figurehead” all of a sudden a mundane claim like “white rich straight dude said some sexist stuff then had a huge tantrum when called out on it” becomes a bigger claim?”

    Not bigger, but certainly requiring more evidence than “Dawkins ate toast for breakfast.” This claim, if true, reflects very poorly on his character, and could potentially turn many of his fans away (I’m not one of them), garner him much negative press, and damage his professional reputation. If you want me to believe it’s true, you’re going to need more than a Skepchick’s say-so.

    “Who are the ones who are more likley to act in bigoted ways?”

    Men. But last time I checked, we don’t determine what actually happened in a scenario by saying “Well, we don’t have any evidence, but really, which one is statistically more likely?”

    “When a conference person asked if they should invite her, he got even more pissed and said that if they invited her, he was out. This is a very very very mundane claim! ”

    No, it’s really not. It shows a staggering level of childishness on Dawkins’ part. The claim itself damages his reputation, regardless of whether or not it’s true, and if the claim IS true, then it’s even more damaging to his reputation. When someone’s career and reputation are in the crosshairs, yes, I’m going to require just a TEENSY bit more than one person’s say-so.

    “The fact that you are a white male and you deny this claim based on “skepticism” actually is part of a large historical trend of privileged people denyng events like this marginalization can take place…”

    I don’t deny that it can take place, and I’m not denying that it did take place. I’m saying “I don’t believe it yet. Bring more evidence.” Asking for one scrap more than one account from an untrustworthy source isn’t unreasonable.

  43. 43
    ludicrous

    The argumentative meter on this thread is pegged.

  44. 44
    chirs3721

    “Do you know Bayes’ theorem?”

    Nope. But not appearing at a conference with Watson could be his choice, or it could be acquiescence of the conference staffers. Those are two very different things. If he were to simply bow out of a conference to avoid Watson, I’d say he’s acting childish and he needs to get over it. If he’s actively encouraging/coercing/bullying conference bookers into blacklisting her, however, that takes it to an entirely new level of scumminess. And that is what this account implies.

  45. 45
    dezn_98

    Chirs,.. you a reall funny dogg…..

    You do not decide to believe things on “what’s more statistically likely”?

    You hyoerskeptics are fcking nuts. Yes you do… you do exactly that with every mundane/trivial claim. I got a sandwich in my hand that I am almost done eating… All you got on that claim is the statistics of probability that I do and my word…. If someone chose to believe my mundane claim… you ganna be all like “I want evidence”.. I demand pictures!.. Homie, do not lie to yourself.

    And now you want to weight the claim basedon how damaging it is to the person? That is the dumbest thing I ever heard.You basically just said you will believe no claim or bigotry at all… because claims of bigotry are now bigger claims because they can damage a persons credibility. When I just outlined to how how incredibly common bigotry is? Again.. straight up contradiction of facts.

    Again, as you left out.. the AA and silverman corroborated the story. So where the fck you been? Even then, such a corroboration is completley unnecessary if you are not a denialist.. which you clearly are by your defense of that Mr. Diety BS.

    You are just asking for one more piece? Man… you not foolin anybody. Privileged fools always say the same garbage when they do not want to face the reality that yes… bigotry is rampant and happens all the damn time.

  46. 46
    chirs3721

    “You do not decide to believe things on “what’s more statistically likely”?”

    Not what I said. Try going back and actually reading what I wrote.

  47. 47
    chirs3721

    “Again, as you left out.. the AA and silverman corroborated the story.”

    No, they corroborated that “there was an exchange”. They vehemently deny that there was any acquiescence on Dave’s part, which is kind of important, since it completely blows the Skepchick’s claims about what happened out of the water.

  48. 48
    dezn_98

    chirs,

    You just wasting everyone’s time trying to play this as some sort of “impartial observer” angle. I got news for you.. no one is an impartial observer on cultural issues like these. The fact that you are white and male.. and you are denying the credibility of this event while also holding an incoherent grudge against an outspoken group of feminist calling them liars….. is a pattern of behavior that has strong historical and sociological connotations that work to marginalize minority views.

    And AA did corroborate the story.. if you think a skeptical organization is going to flatlet admit that they participated in an event that effectually marginalized a feminist view point because they catered to a person of huge social power in the atheist movement.. you are more of a niave person than I thought.. and I already thought you were naive by wanting “video evidence” for such a mundane claim. The fact is that is about as close as corroborative evidence as you are going to get from a well established atheist institution that is accused of acting sexist in this way. Again, you must live in a damn fantasy world.

    I read what you wrote fool.. and my point stands. You do infact decide things based on lack of direct evidence and instead use indirect evidence like probability to decide whether to believe something or not… The fact that you are massively ignorant on cultural norms means that instead of being an impartial observer… you are more likley to defend the status quo instead of understanding how that status quop acts in a bigoted manner every damnn day.

  49. 49
    chirs3721

    “no one is an impartial observer on cultural issues like these.”

    The fact that bias cannot be 100% removed does not change the fact that someone who strives for impartiality is far more credible than someone who doesn’t.

    “And AA did corroborate the story.. ”

    They corroborated that the meeting happened, and that there was “an exchange”. They deny that there was any acquiescence. You assume that because they are TEH PATRIARCHY, they must be lying. I’m saying “Let’s look at the actual evidence.”

    “I read what you wrote fool.. and my point stands. You do infact decide things based on lack of direct evidence”

    So you *didn’t* read what I wrote. Wonderful.

    What I wrote was that, in the absence of evidence, we don’t use statistics to determine what actually occurred in a given instance. If I claim that a white man stabbed me in the park, and there is zero evidence to support this claim, we don’t then turn to the statistics on how many white men commit stabbings every year to determine if it occurred or not. The fact that men are more likely to be bigoted pricks does not mean any claim of a man being a bigoted prick must be true.

  50. 50
    invivoMark

    I once, way long ago, pondered whether I could have a chance becoming an activist in the skeptic/atheist movement. It seems like a whole lot of fun, and something I might be sort of good at.

    I decided against it at the time, because I’m not a minority in any way (I’m a straight white cis male from a middle class family without any significant physical or mental disorders (at least, none that I’d be willing to speak openly about), and so I didn’t really have any unique perspective to offer. I’d just be another bloke shouting into a storm.

    I’m beginning to wonder, these days, whether I might consider my status as a non-racist, non-sexist, non-sexual-assaulter to qualify me as a minority. Although I’m not perfect on issues of racism or sexism (much as I try to be), I do have a pristine record on the latter issue. I’ve got years of experience not-sexually-assaulting women – in fact, a whole lifetime of experience. And I think that perhaps I might be able to finally offer the community a unique perspective on what it’s like to not be a sexually-assaulting douchebag.

    What do you guys think?

  51. 51
    Al Dente

    Dawkins has shown his animosity to Watson in public on several occasions. His response to “Guys, don’t do that” was the infamous Dear Muslima letter. When people tried to explain to Dawkins how that response wasn’t appropriate he likened Watson being propositioned to Dawkins being in the presence of someone chewing gum. She was understandably angry about his quite caviler dismissal of her concerns and said, publicly, that she wouldn’t listen to any of Dawkins’ speeches, buy any of his books, or otherwise have anything to do with him. Dawkins was outraged. How dare someone not be impressed by his total awesomeness!

    I don’t know if the conversation between Silverman and Dawkins happened as reported. However having seen examples of Dawkins’ sexism and his dislike of Watson, I’d be rather surprised if he didn’t issue a Watson or me ultimatum to Silverman.

  52. 52
    dezn_98

    Chirs,

    The very idea that you think saying you are impartial means you are striving for impartiality is nonesense. You can say what you like.. that does nto mean you are impartial at all, and your behavior on this thread indicates you are not impartical because of you massive dislike for a specific group of vocal feminist.

    \may I also remind you that these is a deep history of society taking feminist claims and calling them liars and overzelous in their damnation? FFS… the entire feminist movement, the first wave, was met by such tactics like this when there was blatant sexism… and you think the situation has changed somehow now? Where there are tons of people employing the same strategy to a group of vocal feminist these days? You think that might reflect the sexist culture we live in?… nah.. nah… man go learn something.

    You are a damning yourself each time you open your mouth. If you seriously think that a major institution is willing to admit acting unjustified so easily.. such that their denial of an event can be taken for its word… than I got a bunch of NSA programs to sell you . I got a war on syria to sell you to. The fact of the matter is, that in the real world (won;t you join it?) institutions that have accumulated power will do their best to downplay or deny claims that would damage the institution. If this event took place.. you think there is any probability that the AA would happily admit to any wrong doing? The answer is that regardless of what actually took place.. any institution is going to either downplay or float out deny anything that can make that institution look bad. This means when they “publish” ANYTHING that downplays it ro denies it.. this is to be expected and not be be taken as proof that it did not happen. The fact is that they did corroborate it.. because IN DAMN REALITY.. this is as close as you are going to get to get any admittance of wrong doing from any institution. Again.. Where you live? I am dying to know what fanatasy world you engage in. Can I join that denailism?

    Finaly you prove yourself to not even understand the principals you are espousing… that argument you put up, and once again I know how to read hommie so stop bringing that BS line up, defeats your vary stance. If there are massive stabing by white men goin on in the park you are talking about.. if there is a long history of white men stabbing people in that park.. and you come in and write a blog about soem white dude stabbing you. I am going to believe you.. if you are saying that you are not going to believe someone despite the context of a long history of white people stabbing others in the park.. than this is no longer an argument about niavete.. but now one where it is revealed that you do not even grasp the basics about what is a justified belief and what is not. Basically… you don’t even understand the underlying philosophy in which you are attempting to use to defend your point.. because newsflash.. the philosophy of justified beliefs is on our side.. not yours.

    I have no idea who people like you even get into skepticism if you can’t use it to save your life.

  53. 53
    chirs3721

    “The very idea that you think saying you are impartial means you are striving for impartiality is nonesense.”

    When did I say I was impartial? I’m pretty sure I said that true impartiality is impossible, but that striving for it is better than not striving for it. It is impossible to view any issue with absolute objectivity. It is impossible to remove our own perspectives. But it is possible to be aware of this, to account for this, and to use certain checks and balance (such as standards of evidence, and abiding by certain codes of ethics re: truth in reporting). Someone who does those things is far more credible than someone who doesn’t.

    Again, try reading what I’m actually writing. I’m not sure who you’re arguing with here, but it certainly isn’t me, because none of the points you’re addressing have actually been made by me.

  54. 54
    Al Dente

    chirs3721 @53

    When did I say I was impartial?

    Having read your comments on this thread I know you’re not impartial . Your hyperskepticism, your refusal to even consider that your hero Dawkins could possibly have said what was reported, show your partiality. No, you might pretend you’re being “objective” but the pretense is so thin as to be invisible.

    Sorry if reality doesn’t match your self-image.

  55. 55
    dezn_98

    Chirs..

    stop spouting truisms as if you are making a point. you are not. I do not even think you are at a level of awareness to even judge this situation accurately and every you are writing.. and FFS stop acting like I am not reading it, I assure you hommie I AM.. is an indication you have no idea what you are talking about.

    I am saying you are behaving as if you are impartial.. and you are anything but. The fact that you acknowledge you have biases.. is not a free pass to go on about and act in ways that are by definition denialist attitudes. If you are aware of your biases then you should examine them… You have done no such thing, but insist you can come to a rational conclusion on a subject that you apparently can no think rationally about.

    Stop acting like I ain’t reading what you write.. I am.. and in every god damn response I am putting up objections and arguing against your ideas.. and now.. you have stopped responding to arguments and instead start spitting out truisms and saying I have no read what you wrote. I did read it and I have responded, and you have rather conveniently only responded to the points you see fit and ignored all other arguments I have offered you.

  56. 56
    chirs3721

    “stop spouting truisms as if you are making a point. you are not. I do not even think you are at a level of awareness to even judge this situation accurately and every you are writing.. and FFS stop acting like I am not reading it, I assure you hommie I AM.. is an indication you have no idea what you are talking about.”

    Someone who can barely string a coherent sentence together should not be criticizing the level of awareness of others, ‘hommie’.

    “I am saying you are behaving as if you are impartial.. and you are anything but.”

    I never claimed to be impartial. I have made zero claims about how impartial I am. I am saying that the source of the claim in question is extremely partial, and had the claim come from a source that actually strove for impartiality, I would be more likely to believe it.

    “You have done no such thing, but insist you can come to a rational conclusion on a subject that you apparently can no think rationally about.”

    There is insufficient evidence to justify accepting the claim. Unless there is more evidence you’d like to share with me, I’m failing to see how this is not a rational conclusion.

    “Stop acting like I ain’t reading what you write.. I am.. ”

    Then you’re clearly failing to comprehend it, considering how often I’ve had to correct your bizarre misinterpretations of my arguments.

  57. 57
    imnotandrei

    But it is possible to be aware of this, to account for this, and to use certain checks and balance (such as standards of evidence, and abiding by certain codes of ethics re: truth in reporting). Someone who does those things is far more credible than someone who doesn’t.

    And we have only your word that you do — and only your word that the person reporting Dawkins’ behavior doesn’t.

    Indeed, given what we’ve seen about your standards for “evidence” — e.g. that testimony doesn’t count if you feel the source is “biased”, that patterns of behavior don’t count, that corroboration doesn’t count — we have no reason to suspect that your checks and balances are useful, even if you are implementing them.

    Let’s look at a different comment of yours:

    What I wrote was that, in the absence of evidence, we don’t use statistics to determine what actually occurred in a given instance. If I claim that a white man stabbed me in the park, and there is zero evidence to support this claim, we don’t then turn to the statistics on how many white men commit stabbings every year to determine if it occurred or not. The fact that men are more likely to be bigoted pricks does not mean any claim of a man being a bigoted prick must be true.

    We don’t use it to *determine* what happened, no. But we all have to make judgments from day to day; and in the absence of unequivocal proof, we have to go on the preponderance of the evidence and our estimates of the probabilities.

    If you claim a white man stabbed you in the park, and you have no scars, and no indication you were stabbed? You’re right. I won’t believe you.

    If you assert a white man stabbed you in the park, while you’re being rolled onto an ambulance, guess what? Most people will presume, unless you’re a notorious bigot, that you’re telling the truth.

    We have here a claim that is perfectly consistent with the evidence we do have — the separation of Watson and Dawkins in speaking events, Dawkins’ established animus towards Watson (as exemplifed in one of the very posts you linked to — I note that you never refer to Dawkins’ anti-Watson agenda as evidence *for* the claim, only an anti-Dawkins agenda as an argument *against* it.), his behavior in other areas; and someone who will suffer consequences for speaking up, whether or not it’s true — but far worse ones if it’s established she’s lying.

    As another example: No, it’s really not. It shows a staggering level of childishness on Dawkins’ part. (referring to the blackball claim being ordinary.)

    People are childish all the time. You started this by comparing the claim to the evidence for Christianity; I think you’d agree that compared to claims of creating the universe, resurrection, etc., a man acting childishly is, well, ordinary.

    Indeed, if you think this sort of entitlement is at all rare, I recommend hanging around service staff, or looking at any one of a number of “bad customer” sites on the web; you’ll find plenty of examples. Now, you might choose to disbelieve them all, on the grounds that “it’s just testimony” and “They all have anti-customer bias”, and the idea that someone would act childishly is “extraordinary.”

    But keep doing it over and over and over again, and perhaps you’ll begin to wonder whether that much skepticism is worthwhile.

    The fact that you try and be “impartial” and yet discount evidence entirely on one side suggests that either a) impartiality, you’re doing it very wrong, or b) you’re not striving to be impartial, but instead to confirm the status quo; being skeptical of anything that might challenge it, while accepting its own assertions — a traditional approach, in fact one often mistaken for being “impartial”, for the privileged. I know; I used to do it too.

  58. 58
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Mighty fine straw man you’ve got there.

    It must smart to know that you’ve fooled exactly no one with your “Dawkins is such a victim!” charade. And you tried so hard to feign being skeptical and logical too!

    (but thanks for posting more evidence of Dawkins’ assholery as “proof” that there’s an agenda against him with absolutely no ability to recognize you made points against your own argument. Haven’t laughed that loud in a few days)

  59. 59
    dezn_98

    Chirs,

    The last standing of a fool who has no argument.. is pointing out grammatical/spelling errors. Not one damn spelling error or grammatical error is an indication that I am wrong, neither is it an indication that my ideas lack intellectual clout. I assure you HOMMIE despite my grammatical style that I chose to write with, my ideas are rock fking solid, and my mind is legit. So no, even if you had perfect grammar and spoke perfect english.. that means squat. (BTW taking a swipe at my grammar… is def a move made by socially unaware fools who do not understand that yes even grammar and the English language is laced with biases. The fact that I chose to use slang is a choice I made a long time ago bro… especially when made aware of the racial problems associated with SAE and AAEV.)

    Fact is that you are trying to blast a vocal feminist group using a strategy that has been long employed in sexist ways that work to silence feminist groups as a whole… throughout fcking history. Why don’t you take a good look at yourself before you jump on the “skepchicks are ummm bad and scary!” bandwagon. Before you accuse them of biased.. examine your own.. and why your perception of them.. is remarkably different from other peoples perspective. If you knew anything about implicit biases you know that any types of vocal aggressive feminism is going to be marginalized by society in ways that try to paint them as liars and over-reactionary… The fact is instead of quickly labeling them in this way, you should have first examined the likelihood of being a privileged male causing you to view them in an odd sexist way. That actually happens quite a lot buddy… and if you think you are above that self-examination.. you got a lot to learn.

    Finally.. I laid out all the evidence several times and you have done nothing, not a damn thing to combat the argument at all. I laid out how this is factually a mundane claim – given the social/political/historical context, and the behavior of that person in the past – you can literally come to no other conclusion than the belief that dawkins acted sexist. To which your retort was what? That this is not true because dawkins happens to be very powerful atheist leader? Can you not see how irrational that objection is? Then I pointed out how the institution in question provided corroborative evidence.. and you said that because they denied any wrong doing it is not corroborative? Do not see how incredibly foolish that rational is, when the reality is that this is what we MUST expect from any institution regardless of events? You then provided an analogy about getting stabbed in the park, and I fcking showed you why that analogy helps our case not yours… I have literally argued every point you put up, and you come back in and start claiming I did not?

    Either address the points made or at this point just stop posting. When you make an argument I will be more than happy to come back here.. if all you are going to do is sidestep this by making fun of my choice of communication dog and then rather repugnantly insisting I have not made every damn effort imaginable to combat actual points… …. then w/e… I am out, HOMMIE

  60. 60
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    I am saying you are behaving as if you are impartial.. and you are anything but.

    Oh, c’mon now. He said sexism exists! It just conveniently doesn’t exist where he choses not to see it because he’s Skepticul! That’s what skeptic means, right?

  61. 61
    chirs3721

    “And we have only your word that you do — and only your word that the person reporting Dawkins’ behavior doesn’t.”

    Actually, I’ve provided several links that the website in question (Skepchick) likes to get creative with the truth, and has an anti-Dawkins bent. As for me, I’ve made approximately zero claims about my own impartiality. Zero. Not-a-one. The only thing I have said about impartiality is that a SOURCE that strives for impartiality is more credible than a source that doesn’t.

    “Indeed, given what we’ve seen about your standards for “evidence” — e.g. that testimony doesn’t count if you feel the source is “biased”, that patterns of behavior don’t count, that corroboration doesn’t count — we have no reason to suspect that your checks and balances are useful, even if you are implementing them.”

    No, testimony doesn’t count if the source isn’t *credible*. Patterns of behavior most certainly count. Corroboration absolutely counts, if the corroboration comes from a credible source.

    “We have here a claim that is perfectly consistent with the evidence we do have — the separation of Watson and Dawkins in speaking events, Dawkins’ established animus towards Watson (as exemplifed in one of the very posts you linked to — I note that you never refer to Dawkins’ anti-Watson agenda as evidence *for* the claim, only an anti-Dawkins agenda as an argument *against* it.), his behavior in other areas; and someone who will suffer consequences for speaking up, whether or not it’s true — but far worse ones if it’s established she’s lying.”

    Fair call on not accounting for Dawkins’ animus towards Watson. It’s because of that that I actually wouldn’t be surprised if the claim were true. That said, the level of consequences for both parties are precisely why I want more evidence. If this turns out to be true, there are severe consequences for Dawkins. If this turns out to be false, there are severe consequences for the writer, and I’d argue, for Skepchick.org. Because determining what happened actually has consequences, we have to determine what actually happened beyond “He said/she said”.

    I don’t believe the claim from Skepchick, because they are not a credible source. I don’t believe the claim from AA, because they have every reason to cover their ass (although it’s worth pointing out that as of yet, there’s no way to discern if their denial is telling the truth, or their denial is a lie). We have established anti-Watson behavior on the part of Dawkins, and established anti-Dawkins behavior on the part of Watson. If you could present some evidence (beyond the testimonial of an non-credible source) that Dawkins has actually requested that conference bookers blacklist Watson, I would be more likely to believe this.

    As it stands, however, the accounts of his behavior vary wildly, and do not directly support THIS claim. To draw a parallel, the claims that Michael Shermer made a sexist remark to Woman A may support his being a sexist scumbag, but they are NOT evidence that supports Woman B’s claim of rape. General behavior can be used to establish general behavior; it is not evidence of one specific instance.

    “People are childish all the time. You started this by comparing the claim to the evidence for Christianity;”

    It was childish to demonstrate that “There’s lots of testimonial evidence” is a bad argument?

    “Indeed, if you think this sort of entitlement is at all rare, I recommend hanging around service staff, or looking at any one of a number of “bad customer” sites on the web; you’ll find plenty of examples.”

    I don’t think it’s rare. But “Men are statistically likely to be assholes” is not evidence that “In this specific scenario, Man A was an asshole.” Those are two VERY different things.

    I have to giggle at all of these claims about how I must love the status quo. The status quo right now is terrible – notice that I’m the only one here arguing with you guys. The status quo right now is to call anyone who criticizes women a rape apologist. The status quo right now is to challenge leadership (which is perfectly fine), but not challenge anyone who is challenging the leadership (which is ridiculous).

  62. 62
    chirs3721

    “Oh, c’mon now. He said sexism exists! It just conveniently doesn’t exist where he choses not to see it because he’s Skepticul! That’s what skeptic means, right?”

    Another fine straw man. Quite the collection you have.

  63. 63
    chirs3721

    “It must smart to know that you’ve fooled exactly no one with your “Dawkins is such a victim!” charade.”

    And another!

  64. 64
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Thank you, Chris for illustrating that you have no argument and no understanding of what a strawman is. I like laughing at unexpected funnies.

  65. 65
    Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy

    Chirs @39:

    If the New York Times posted a column every single week blasting Richard Dawkins, I would still accept them as a credible source, because the New York Times (in theory) adheres to a standardized code of ethics for verifying the integrity of the news they report.

    Do you remember the Iraq war, and the NY Times reporting on Iraq’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction”? Much later, after thousands of people had died in a war that was started on false premises, the Times admitted that they hadn’t checked their facts, and that they had taken the Bush administration’s word even when they had evidence against it.

    At this point, I tentatively trust them on local news, but it’s not because the stories are in the Times, it’s despite that.

    You’re doing the same thing here that you are with Dawkins: assuming that the established authority must be telling the truth.

    That’s another shape of wanting to believe things; yes, it simplifies life if you can assume “what X tells me is true” rather than “what X tells me is likely to be true” or “I used to trust X, but after they lied about A, ignored B, and passed along false propaganda about C, I can probably trust them on Unrelated Topic 1, but other than that, no.”

  66. 66
    chirs3721

    Ok, I’ll bite: please point out where I said anything close to resembling “Dawkins is such a victim!”

  67. 67
    chirs3721

    “You’re doing the same thing here that you are with Dawkins: assuming that the established authority must be telling the truth.”

    No, I’ve already said that I don’t buy the AA statement because they have every reason to cover their ass. So we have two conflicting statements, neither of which are credible. This is insufficient to accept the claim that the incident occurred.

  68. 68
    imnotandrei

    ctually, I’ve provided several links that the website in question (Skepchick) likes to get creative with the truth, and has an anti-Dawkins bent.

    You produced one link with the “creative with the truth” evidence — which is to an ongoing controversy — and several articles calling Dawkins out for specific things. If you are claiming that any argument but the most emotionless and abstract with Dawkins’ behavior is an “anti-Dawkins bent”, then you’ve provided evidence — of course, such a claim renders your position once again useless, as it amounts to “If Dawkins has upset you in the past, we can’t trust your evidence at any point after that.” (Oh — it also conflates “A person who posts on a site” with “the entire views of the site”. I do not significantly distrust the Wall Street Journal’s reporting of business news because I find their editorial page to be a load of crackpots and liars.)

    As for me, I’ve made approximately zero claims about my own impartiality. Zero. Not-a-one. The only thing I have said about impartiality is that a SOURCE that strives for impartiality is more credible than a source that doesn’t.

    And you’ve given us no reason to believe the source doesn’t strive for impartiality. Having opinions does not prevent one from striving for impartiality.

    No, testimony doesn’t count if the source isn’t *credible*.

    And, again, you have given us no reason to disbelieve the source except “She posted on a site that has complained about Richard Dawkins” and “She didn’t come forth immediately.”

    Patterns of behavior most certainly count. Corroboration absolutely counts, if the corroboration comes from a credible source.

    See the problems above about “credible” sources in your view, but I’m glad you accept this evidence.

    If this turns out to be true, there are severe consequences for Dawkins.

    What? People will consider him a sexist jackass — as many already do. He is free to take his stance — indeed, he can do it honestly and publically. All he has lost is some glitter on his reputation (to those who believe the accusations) and perhaps the chance to blackball someone privately.

    Again, the consequences are likely more severe for the accuser than the accused, even if they are *true* — given the amount of suffering dished out to Rebecca Watson, for example, for asking people not to do something. Which speaks once more to credibility — why lie when it will do you more harm than it does the person you’re lying about?

    To draw a parallel, the claims that Michael Shermer made a sexist remark to Woman A may support his being a sexist scumbag, but they are NOT evidence that supports Woman B’s claim of rape. General behavior can be used to establish general behavior; it is not evidence of one specific instance.

    Actually, it can be used to help establish prior probability; “If person A has behaved in this way before, or a way like it, we have more reason to believe a statement that they behaved that way again than someone who had never done so.” It isn’t *proof*, but it shifts the likelihood; it is evidence.

    It was childish to demonstrate that “There’s lots of testimonial evidence” is a bad argument?

    No — Christianity’s claims are specific and very large, thus requiring lots of evidence. People being childish happens all the damn time — much less evidence is to be expected.

    I don’t think it’s rare. But “Men are statistically likely to be assholes” is not evidence that “In this specific scenario, Man A was an asshole.” Those are two VERY different things.

    OK. Let’s try this one last time; I am willing to take you at face value as merely argumentative, rather than pernicious. ;)

    There are three possibilities in this case:

    A) Dawkins asked for Watson to be blackballed.
    B) Dawkins did no such thing.
    C) Dawkins did something that could be interpreted as blackballing Watson.

    (Or, to abstract a bit further:

    A) Person X was an asshole.
    B) Person X was not an asshole
    C) Person X was perhaps a bit of an asshole, but not as much as A).)

    A+B+C=100%. (Since we all agree something happened.)

    To make our judgment (if we feel we must), we have to take our evidence into account, and assign some probabilities to A, B, and C.

    If Person X has been an asshole in the past, we might well kick up the likelihood of A — they’ve done it before, they might well do it again. If Person X belongs to a class which has a history of being full of assholes, we might equally well kick up the *likelihood* of A — “We’ve met a lot of Blue-feathered Snorklewhackers, and most of them have been real pains in the ass; this one might well be too.”

    If you let that harden to a certainty — “All A are B”, then you’re a bigot. But going “In my experience, A might be B, and I can take that into account in my judgment until there’s more evidence”? That’s what people *do*. One way of looking at being “impartial” is to deliberately remove that sort of evidence — but that runs the risk that the data lost there may be critical, and losing the pattern-recognition possibilities diminishes the accuracy of our thinking.

    But, to be once again specific: when we evaluate credibility, we have to evaluate the person in specific, and other information we have about them. Indeed, in your evaluation of one person on Skepchick, you have gone “People on skepchicks have an anti-Dawkins position” — which is logically equivalent to “Men are statistically likely to be assholes” ;) to “She is not a credible source because of her anti-Dawkins position” (He is a man, therefore he is an asshole.) You are going from the class to the specific in judging Sarah’s credibility — precisely what you say you shouldn’t do.

  69. 69
    SallyStrange

    To draw a parallel, the claims that Michael Shermer made a sexist remark to Woman A may support his being a sexist scumbag, but they are NOT evidence that supports Woman B’s claim of rape. General behavior can be used to establish general behavior; it is not evidence of one specific instance.

    And here is another reason why Dawkins’ influence on the atheist movement should be diminished, IF we want the movement to go forward and actually, you know, do what movements are supposed to do and make the world a better place: Dawkins has shown a consistent bias against accepting the legitimacy of social sciences, which have a lot to offer us when talking about these subjects. For instance, there is research–it is in its early stages, but a pattern is emerging that acceptance of sexist attitudes, both hostile and benevolent, leads to the acceptance of sexual harassment and rape. It seems intuitive that acceptance of sexual harassment and rape makes one more likely than not to commit such acts, but as far as I know, that’s not a scientifically supported conclusion. Yet.

    People who love Dawkins and accept his irrational bias against sociology and other related disciplines are cutting themselves off from important sources of knowledge about bias itself, about sexism and racism and how those operate, about how humans interact and how social organization affects those interactions, etc., etc. Pretty much the opposite of skepticism, but I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen a sexist dudebro triumphantly crowing about his disdain for the humanities, as if this was a testament to his intelligence. Dawkins’ statute, combined with his irrational bias, contributes to this anti-knowledge tendency in the “skeptic” movement.

  70. 70
    chirs3721

    “You produced one link with the “creative with the truth” evidence — which is to an ongoing controversy ”

    Wrong, I provided three. One to the DragonCon article, one to the Mr. Deity hitpiece, and one to an example of how Watson hates statistics.

    ““If Dawkins has upset you in the past, we can’t trust your evidence at any point after that.””

    For about the eighth time, *credibility matters*. I can trust evidence from a *credible source*, regardless of whether or not Dawkins has upset them in the past. And to take a moment to address something said earlier, no, that doesn’t mean it must be true – it means it carries more weight as evidence than does the testimony from a not-credible source.

    “Oh — it also conflates “A person who posts on a site” with “the entire views of the site”. I do not significantly distrust the Wall Street Journal’s reporting of business news because I find their editorial page to be a load of crackpots and liars.”

    As soon as Skepchick divides into site into several subjects, and contains it’s poor-credibility writers into one of them, then I will gladly start categorizing them as such. Until then, several writers on the site have penned several pieces that are problematic, and as such, it seems perfectly fair to me to then question anything that is published on the site.

    “And, again, you have given us no reason to disbelieve the source except “She posted on a site that has complained about Richard Dawkins” and “She didn’t come forth immediately.””

    You’re leaving out the “She has posted on a site that likes to play fast and loose with the truth” bit, and underplaying the “She is claiming to recall a conversation she overheard two years ago verbatim.” The site has a history of posting, at best, ‘creative truths’, and at worst outright lies, and rarely if ever provides any evidence to support their own claims.

    “What? People will consider him a sexist jackass — as many already do. He is free to take his stance — indeed, he can do it honestly and publically. All he has lost is some glitter on his reputation (to those who believe the accusations) and perhaps the chance to blackball someone privately.”

    If this were to be confirmed true, it would damage his reputation, damage future chances at speaking at AA and other similar conferences, damage his professional ties with people in those organizations, and probably lose him a great deal of fans. All of which is perfectly deserved, if the claim is true.

    “Again, the consequences are likely more severe for the accuser than the accused, even if they are *true* — given the amount of suffering dished out to Rebecca Watson, for example, for asking people not to do something. Which speaks once more to credibility — why lie when it will do you more harm than it does the person you’re lying about?”

    Do more harm? Do me a favor, and find out how much web traffic Skepchick.org has gotten every time they’ve hit the news for drama.

    “Actually, it can be used to help establish prior probability; “If person A has behaved in this way before, or a way like it, we have more reason to believe a statement that they behaved that way again than someone who had never done so.” It isn’t *proof*, but it shifts the likelihood; it is evidence.”

    No it’s not, because “behaves in this way” is not the same. You cannot conflate a sexist remark and rape as “behaving in this way, or a way like it”. A sexist remark, and rape, are football fields apart on the spectrum of crappy sexist behavior. This is like saying “Because Bob stepped on an ant pile, it is evidence that supports the claim that he strangled his neighbor’s cat.” Both involve cruelty to animals, but they are orders of magnitude apart.

    “No — Christianity’s claims are specific and very large, thus requiring lots of evidence. People being childish happens all the damn time — much less evidence is to be expected.”

    Please tell me you see the difference between “Bob McBoberton says childish thing at lunch” and “Barack Obama says childish thing at lunch.” The consequences for one are far more severe than the consequences for the other, and because of that, I need to be a lot more certain that it happened in one case than another.

    “OK. Let’s try this one last time; I am willing to take you at face value as merely argumentative, rather than pernicious. ;)

    :P

    “There are three possibilities in this case:

    A) Dawkins asked for Watson to be blackballed.
    B) Dawkins did no such thing.
    C) Dawkins did something that could be interpreted as blackballing Watson.”

    Heck, I’d eliminate B, given that both sides agree that SOMETHING was said. Dawkins either did request that Watson be barred from speaking, or he just said something “Rawr, Watson make Richard mad!”

    “If Person X has been an asshole in the past, we might well kick up the likelihood of A — they’ve done it before, they might well do it again. If Person X belongs to a class which has a history of being full of assholes, we might equally well kick up the *likelihood* of A — “We’ve met a lot of Blue-feathered Snorklewhackers, and most of them have been real pains in the ass; this one might well be too.”

    Again, this is where I would say the nature of the assholery matters, and I’d point you back to the Shermer example. “Shermer has sexually assaulted people in the past, so that makes the claim that he raped someone much more likely” is fine. But “Shermer said something sexist in the past, so that makes the claim that he rapes someone much more likely” is nowhere close.

    The extent of what I’ve seen of Dawkin’s behavior towards Watson (and if I’m missing something, please, please tell me) is all of the snark he’s slung her way on the internet. And the same goes for Watson – she says nasty things about him on the internet, he says nasty things about her on the internet, he makes snarky tweets, she makes snarky tweets, on and on.

    That absolutely provides credence to the possibility that Richard Dawkins said something snarky about Watson at the AA meeting. But requesting a conference booker to blacklist someone is a step above. Because of that gap, I need more than a non-credible testimonial.

    “You are going from the class to the specific in judging Sarah’s credibility — precisely what you say you shouldn’t do.”

    I am judging Sarah’s credibility for publishing on Skepchick in the same way I would judge her credibility if she wrote for the Weekly World News. When your articles appear in the same publication as “Is Bat Boy pregnant?”, you do not get the benefit of the doubt from me. If that’s unfair, then I’m unfair, but I will gladly spread that unfairness to anyone and everyone, regardless of what reproductive organs they’re packing.

  71. 71
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    chirs3721 #34:

    The skeptic movement has taken a sharp left turn

    What, exactly, is so wrong with the Left?

  72. 72
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    chirs3721 #70:

    When your articles appear in the same publication as “Is Bat Boy pregnant?”

    Given that they don’t, this is a false analogy.

    I ask again: what, exactly, is so wrong with the Left?

  73. 73
    chirs3721

    @SallyStrange: I wasn’t aware Dawkins has beef with the social sciences. Any comments/speeches/incidents in particular I should look up to learn more about that?

  74. 74
    chirs3721

    “What, exactly, is so wrong with the Left?”

    Nothing. I lean Left. When I made the sharp left turn comment, I was not referring to capital-L-Left, I was picking the direction that was shorter to type.

    “Given that they don’t, this is a false analogy.”

    Publishing on a garbage website is no different than publishing in a garbage tabloid, in terms of how seriously I take her claims. The analogy holds.

  75. 75
    Greta Christina

    chirs3721: You should know that the “Skepchick is garbage, and I’m going to reflexively discount anything anyone says there” is an anti-feminist dog-whistle. It’s also, in this particular case, an absurd argument, as Sarah Moglia has been writing there for about a month, and is hardly part of the established set of bloggers there. But even if she had been blogging there for years, it would still be an anti-feminist dog-whistle. You are on notice. Keep that shit up, and you will be put into moderation or banned.

  76. 76
    chirs3721

    “You should know that the “Skepchick is garbage, and I’m going to reflexively discount anything anyone says there” is an anti-feminist dog-whistle.”

    Thank you for proving my point about the status quo, Greta. I criticize a group of women, therefor I must be anti-feminist. Sure you don’t want to accuse me of trying to forward the patriarchy’s agenda while you’re at it? Maybe toss out some rape-apologist accusations?

    How long she’s been writing there is no more relevant than how long the latest conservative pundit has been working at FOX News. When you work for an organization that has a reputation for dishonesty, that reputation taints you, whether you like it or not.

  77. 77
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    chirs3721:

    Nothing. I lean Left. When I made the sharp left turn comment, I was not referring to capital-L-Left, I was picking the direction that was shorter to type.

    You should keep in mind, then, that referring to leftism as part of concern about another’s political position carries McCarthyist undertones, contributing to the continued marginalization of the Left in political discourse.

    Publishing on a garbage website is no different than publishing in a garbage tabloid, in terms of how seriously I take her claims. The analogy holds.

    WRONG, SIR! WRONG!

    You are not the Final Arbiter Of Truth And Rightness. You do not get to declare that a website is “garbage” and worthy of comparison to tabloids by default simply because they take positions that you happen to disagree with.

    Which brings us back to your “unintentional” slurring of the Left. You see, feminism is and always has been a leftist position, by virtue of fighting against established male supremacy (patriarchy). By declaring Skepchick “garbage” due to apparent support of leftist positions you actively discriminate against the Left, with the implied assertion that no Leftist website could possibly be telling the truth, at all, ever. At the very least you’ve fallen into the golden mean fallacy. Check that.

  78. 78
    SallyStrange

    I wasn’t aware Dawkins has beef with the social sciences. Any comments/speeches/incidents in particular I should look up to learn more about that?

    Given that I’ve previously expressed my distaste for Dawkins’ antics, and even on some comments on Skepchick (gasp horror), you should probably seek a more credible source than myself for such information.

  79. 79
    SallyStrange

    When you work for an organization that has a reputation for dishonesty, that reputation taints you, whether you like it or not.

    That would be convincing, IF your contention that Skepchick has such a reputation were supported by anything except the spittle-flecked rantings of misogynists.

  80. 80
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    chirs3721:

    When you work for an organization that has a reputation for dishonesty

    Apparently, all you have to do — at least in the case of leftists — is assert this “reputation for dishonesty”.

    I would love to believe that you’re simply completely ignorant of context, but…

    Thank you for proving my point about the status quo, Greta. I criticize a group of women, therefor I must be anti-feminist. Sure you don’t want to accuse me of trying to forward the patriarchy’s agenda while you’re at it? Maybe toss out some rape-apologist accusations?

    …you seem to be perfectly aware of what’s going on, leaving the following two options:

    1. You’re shilling
    2. For some reason, you think the same tired old argument will work this time.

    Either way you just look like a creationist.

  81. 81
    imnotandrei

    Wrong, I provided three. One to the DragonCon article, one to the Mr. Deity hitpiece, and one to an example of how Watson hates statistics.

    One article discussing “playing fast and loose with the truth”; the others are an opinion piece and a methodological critique.

    For about the eighth time, *credibility matters*. I can trust evidence from a *credible source*

    For the Nth time, the standards you use for credibility matter in determining that — and your standards produce the effect of “If Dawkins has upset you in the past, we can’t trust your evidence”.

    As soon as Skepchick divides into site into several subjects, and contains it’s poor-credibility writers into one of them, then I will gladly start categorizing them as such. Until then, several writers on the site have penned several pieces that are problematic, and as such, it seems perfectly fair to me to then question anything that is published on the site.

    See above in re: credibility. Now it’s “Some people are anti-Dawkins, therefore if you post on the site about Dawkins, you lack credibility.” I hope you can see how this reinforces power dynamics, rather than challenges them?

    You’re leaving out the “She has posted on a site that likes to play fast and loose with the truth” bit

    That’s because your “fast and loose with the truth” and mine are different; you saw “fast and loose with the truth”, I saw an opinion piece, an ongoing controversy, and a discussion of statistical methods — from a source, it’s worth noting, whose credibility is undermined by the very things you claim undermine Skepchick’s credibility.

    If we apply the “clear anti-X” stance to the site you cite, we discover significant takes on many people on the FtB/Skepchicks side of the argument, all negative — clearly, that site has no credibility as a source.

    (See how this cuts both ways?)

    If this were to be confirmed true, it would damage his reputation, damage future chances at speaking at AA and other similar conferences, damage his professional ties with people in those organizations, and probably lose him a great deal of fans. All of which is perfectly deserved, if the claim is true.

    Well, David Silverman presumably knows if the claim is true or not — and can judge how he feels about AA appearances. Indeed, I suspect much of this has been floating around the grapevine — enough for people to have asked him about it, as cited above, and received an official denial.

    As to “lose him a great deal of fans” — how many people do you think will go from “I’m a big Dawkins fan” to “I’m not buying any more of his books” over “He blackballed Rebecca Watson at a conference”? Honestly?

    And if all this does is call attention to what he’s already *done*, in the public sphere, and he loses fans from that, then he was going to, or already should have, lost them already.

    Do more harm? Do me a favor, and find out how much web traffic Skepchick.org has gotten every time they’ve hit the news for drama.

    How many web hits do you account worth being harassed and attacked on the Internet?

    I don’t know what it is, BTW, that people seem to think web hits are like…I don’t know, hits of heroin or somesuch, and so many people are prone to behavior that will bring them disdain, calumny, and possibly lawsuits in pursuit of them; really, Internet advertising rates aren’t that good, fooks.

    “Actually, it can be used to help establish prior probability; “If person A has behaved in this way before, or a way like it, we have more reason to believe a statement that they behaved that way again than someone who had never done so.” It isn’t *proof*, but it shifts the likelihood; it is evidence.”

    No it’s not, because “behaves in this way” is not the same. You cannot conflate a sexist remark and rape as “behaving in this way, or a way like it”.

    Person A is a sexist jackass. Do I think a sexist jackass is more likely to commit rape, especially of the “crossing the consent boundaries” variety as opposed to the “leap out of the bushes and attack a stranger” variety?

    Yes.

    “Because Bob stepped on an ant pile, it is evidence that supports the claim that he strangled his neighbor’s cat.” Both involve cruelty to animals, but they are orders of magnitude apart.

    And the amount of evidence the former contributes to the latter is very small — but it is not non-zero. You seem to want to establish some unknown (perhaps unknowable) minimum quanta of evidence, below which we can’t consider anything at all.

    Please tell me you see the difference between “Bob McBoberton says childish thing at lunch” and “Barack Obama says childish thing at lunch.” The consequences for one are far more severe than the consequences for the other, and because of that, I need to be a lot more certain that it happened in one case than another.

    Well, let’s see; one of them (depending on the nature of the childish thing) might lose his job, and his family might go homeless. One of them (depending on the nature of the childish thing) might lose respect, be less able to carry out his job, and do less well after he leaves his current job.

    Explain to me again which one is larger? You appear to be arguing “Famous people are more important, therefore they should be much less subject to accusation of misbehavior.”

    “OK. Let’s try this one last time; I am willing to take you at face value as merely argumentative, rather than pernicious. ;)

    :P

    I don’t think you can question argumentative, honestly — I mean, even I would cop to that in this thread. But if you’ve been following anything about this whole area (and your Shermer comparison says you have), you’ve been made quite aware, I’m sure, of the number of peopel who come in to disingenuously “ask a question” and ignore the answer, because they have an ax to grind.

    If I believed you were entirely here for your ax, my answers would be different.

    “There are three possibilities in this case:

    A) Dawkins asked for Watson to be blackballed.
    B) Dawkins did no such thing.
    C) Dawkins did something that could be interpreted as blackballing Watson.”

    Heck, I’d eliminate B, given that both sides agree that SOMETHING was said. Dawkins either did request that Watson be barred from speaking, or he just said something “Rawr, Watson make Richard mad!”

    All right, then.

    Again, this is where I would say the nature of the assholery matters, and I’d point you back to the Shermer example. “Shermer has sexually assaulted people in the past, so that makes the claim that he raped someone much more likely” is fine. But “Shermer said something sexist in the past, so that makes the claim that he rapes someone much more likely” is nowhere close.

    Much more? No. Somewhat more? Yes.

    The extent of what I’ve seen of Dawkin’s behavior towards Watson (and if I’m missing something, please, please tell me) is all of the snark he’s slung her way on the internet. And the same goes for Watson – she says nasty things about him on the internet, he says nasty things about her on the internet, he makes snarky tweets, she makes snarky tweets, on and on.

    That absolutely provides credence to the possibility that Richard Dawkins said something snarky about Watson at the AA meeting. But requesting a conference booker to blacklist someone is a step above. Because of that gap, I need more than a non-credible testimonial.

    You’re free to not believe it, as I’ve said many times before. But by subdividing your evidence this way, you are significantly increasing the burden of proof (it’s even more clear in the Shermer case, by the way) and, in this fashion, giving a significant advantage in your thought to the people with power.

    Anyone who wrote a letter like Dawkins’ “Dear Muslima”, to me, has lost *massive* amounts of credibility on matters of sexism, and of polite behavior; much more than someone posting on a site like Skepchick. And, given that we already know that Dawkins believes (sometimes quite rightly) in control of his public speaking (e.g. the WLC challenge — a challenge Dawkins was quite *right* in turning down, IMHO), the idea that he would use his power to remove someone from speaking he didn’t like? Again, to me, credible.

    I am judging Sarah’s credibility for publishing on Skepchick in the same way I would judge her credibility if she wrote for the Weekly World News.

    This doesn’t actually contradict my point in re: going from the general to the specific. You decry the general principle, then apply it only to one side.

    If that’s unfair, then I’m unfair, but I will gladly spread that unfairness to anyone and everyone, regardless of what reproductive organs they’re packing.

    Then do so; and acknowledge that “People who behave in sexist ways on the Internet and in public , and are notably short-tempered around criticism” are more likely to get people with whom they have argued in public blackballed, regardless of their reproductive organs.

  82. 82
    Stephanie Zvan

    Oh, my word, did chirs3721 really link to Karlsson’s “debunking” of one of the Bad Chart Thursday charts? All that proves is that Karlsson doesn’t really get jokes.

    The DragonCon post is about a disagreement about what an appallingly vague set of rules means in real life. When even the con representatives can’t agree, that’s hardly evidence of Rebecca being anything but as confused as they are.

    And no, the Dalton video is no strawman. A woman supplied information about how Shermer got her drunk without her intending to in order to explain that that part of the rape allegation against Shermer is plausible. Telling her that all she had to do was refuse to drink was telling her that she held the keys to not be in the same position as Shermer’s alleged victim. The fact that you can’t or won’t connect the dots doesn’t create any dishonesty on anyone else’s part.

    The fact that you couldn’t come up with any better examples than those, however, tells me a fair bit about Rebecca’s honesty, though it’s probably not the message you wanted to convey.

    Also, your contention that American Atheists stands to gain anything by pissing off Richard Dawkins is absurd, as is your inability to tell Sarah and Rebecca apart.

  83. 83
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    For anyone who has been reading, and doesn’t know where to start with some of chirs’ long-winded posts:

    chirs is, essentially, declaring golden mean and asserting that any ‘political bias’ renders a source 100% unreliable. By virtue of this wonderful self-sealing argument, anything that provides the evidence chirs is looking for is biased, because the evidence invariably supports feminism.

    In other words, chirs is specifically excluding all evidence that contradicts chirs’ own just-world theory.

    Not only that, but…

    Nothing. I lean Left.

    …chirs is trying to hide this behind empty claims of being a leftist themselves. I can only speculate, but the purpose here is probably to look like A Nice Person That Must Be Taken Seriously. This is also known as “concern trolling”.

  84. 84
    cityzenjane

    I too was a very non-vocal non believer before all of the “new atheist” coming out.

    It KILLS me that so many of these folks are so flawed….then again aren’t we all.

    Difference is – when you tell me I fucked up, I genuinely think that it took you some courage to say that I did.
    SO I listen. And most times I try to change the behavior that led to the criticism.

  85. 85
    Greta Christina

    And chirs3721 is gone.

  86. 86
    cityzenjane

    Dawkins makes a big deal about how religion is damaging to women, but when real-life women come to him to complain about how sexism, he blows them off. It’s easy to be outraged about the treatment of women in the Muslim world, but there’s really not that much that we in the West can do about it.

    It’s so much worse… feminists….east and west have been working together for half a century on these issues. Sometimes successfully, sometimes at odds (as would be expected with the level of complexity) Dawkins damns people working in these arena “life long” – as being whiners with “first world problems”.

    Where the F has he and his brethren been for the last 50 years? Chastizing me for caring about the lives of women where ever they live… is craptasticly chauvenistic.

    I’d love to see Richard at a 5 am Saturday Clinic defense when abortion practioners are getting shot at…I was there. How bout you Richard? Or do you let the f-15s and drones do all your talking on the subject?

  87. 87
    Al Dente

    On behalf of my blood pressure, thank you Greta.

  88. 88
    Hank_Says

    Just a quick interjection on testimony as evidence:

    Many courts of law across the world have decided that accusations of child abuse and rape at the hands of such people as Catholic priests (to pick the obvious example) are credible, that the accused is guilty and that the victims deserve justice.

    Many of these accusations are levelled years, even decades after the crimes in question have taken place. No physical evidence is present yet many of these cases, as I’ve said, do end up in court and do gain convictions or judgements requiring compensation.

    From what I read, most atheist/skeptics seem to accept that, in these cases, “testimony a long time after an event” is sufficient evidence to convict a paedophile priest, whether there’s a single report or multiple confirming accounts stretching across many years.

    Yet if we change the details to even something relatively mild like “atheist figurehead throws a rock-star tantrum and has someone he doesn’t like Expelled™” (let alone something serious like “famous atheist creeps out/abuses/serially plies people with alcohol), instantly the evidence bar is raised. People are incredulous, defensive, offended, aghast and instantly invoke dark conspiracies designed to do everything to destroy reputations or “drive blog hits.”

    I’m positive I’m not the only one who’s noticed that this behaviour is more or less identical to that of Catholic true believers who are under the impression that they and their faith are being persecuted, and is a gross double standard that any self-professed skeptic should be ashamed of.

  89. 89
    cityzenjane

    …stealing the phrase “being a damn ding dong”

    Thanks to dezn_98 for taking the time… great posts.

  90. 90
    cityzenjane

    Now let me walk back the mistake I made and rephrase it properly: do you remember a conversation you *overheard* two years ago, verbatim? One you did not participate in?

    Here’s the thing. No…not unless it stood out in some way…. like a public intellectual acting like a demanding prima donna.

  91. 91
    thinkfree83

    @ Hankstar: As I mentioned up-thread, I was involved in the Catholic blogosphere prior to my de-conversion. There was much more rage by “orthodox Catholics” at the pedophile priests and the bishops who covered it up that what I see on the atheist blogosphere towards the “big name atheists” accused of wrongdoing. Even the biggest Catholic apologists like Fr. John R. Neuhaus didn’t claim that the victims were making stuff up or defend the bishops, and the ones who did try to make excuses were always shouted down by others. Granted, they thought that their dispirited co-religionists should stay in the Church regardless of how they felt about scandals, but there wasn’t this insane hyper-skepticism that I see among atheists. It’s hypocritical that these atheists who would never give a priest, rabbi, imam, or minister accused of sexual abuse the benefit of the doubt suddenly rally around one of their own, especially since the events in question happened relatively recently, not 30, 40, or 50 years ago as with many of the pedophile priest cases.

  92. 92
    cityzenjane

    It is possible to admire an aspect of a person and also see his or her serious flaws in totality when they are flagrantly on display.

    Feelings are analog. Not binary. (For most.)

    I say this as someone who ****really**** dislikes aspects of both Hitchens and Dawkins – and also very much likes aspects of both men…

    What I HATE is younger people aping their mannerisms, argument, snark…as an affectation of HOW one is supposed to be as a public atheist/skeptic… without the art, finesse or depth.

    And then when these same men act shallowly, without finesse or grace in the face of criticism suddenly – it’s all blue wode, balls out and ARRRRRRGH!!! Cry Freedom! By the flying howlermonkees of the atheosphere…(or games or tech or…)

  93. 93
    cityzenjane

    I don’t mean that to be gendered… I’m just trying to get that scene with Mel Gibson across… which involved the display of blue wode covered balls of angry Scots…

  94. 94
    cityzenjane

    I don’t deny that it can take place, and I’m not denying that it did take place. I’m saying “I don’t believe it yet. Bring more evidence.” Asking for one scrap more than one account from an untrustworthy source isn’t unreasonable.

    From American Atheist

    While Mr. Silverman does not dispute that an exchange with Dr. Dawkins took place in Miami in September of 2011, there was no acquiescence on Mr. Silverman’s part. At the time the exchange took place, Ms. Watson had not in fact been invited to speak at the Reason Rally, and that decision had already been made. The Reason Rally had many more requests from prominent atheists to speak than speaking slots to offer.

    Now who you going to believe — those lying bitches or your eyes?

    AA DOES NOT DISPUTE THAT DAWKINS SAID IT.
    They dispute that they were INFLUENCED by the prima donna act. ..because the decision about who would speak was made before Dawkins acted like a CHILD.

    headdesk headdesk headdesk

    heading off to make a gender neutral psued for all future interactions in the atheosohere….

    for obvious reasons.

  95. 95
    Lou Doench

    I’d just like to thank all the folks here, especially @iamnotandrei for so successfully engaging and combatting that chris “person”. Reading this thread this afternoon had me so infuriated at my own inability to respond clearly that I was arguing with that (obscene gerund redacted) jerk all day in my head. Since my ADHD diagnosis I have become really aware of how often it happens that thoughts which seem so clear in my head will get stuck there and refuse to come out on the page. It happens all the time. You guys said all I wanted to say. Thanks.

  96. 96
    Hank_Says

    @thinkfree83: thanks for that perspective. It’s easy for me as a heathen to not realise that the Catholic church’s behaviour upsets and damages the very people that make up its numbers. My own nominally Catholic friends (very few that they are, and very nominal) are deeply troubled and ashamed by the whole scandal.

    What I was referring to though was what I myself saw in the general world: people like our (Australia’s) own Cardinal Pell (and others in his hierarchy) minimising or simply dismissing the allegations out of hand, people like Bill Donohue (the one-man-and-a-laser-printer Catholic League), apologists on comment threads howling about conspiracies, archbishops or Vatican spokesmen being so reprehensible as to blame the modern world or secularism or the “Age of Aquarius” or blaming the victims, by calling them “sexually precocious” or even deflecting by renaming the predator priests “ephebophiles” (as if targeting an adolescent minor is somehow less of a crime of abuse than targeting a young child). It’s the same kind of denial and deflection I’m seeing now with the DouchePit in full swing and the usual talking heads on twitter snarking away, oblivious to the role they’re playing in protecting a status quo which doesn’t deserve to be protected.

  97. 97
    ashley L

    “A prominent public figure and atheist figurehead trying to blacklist another speaker is a mundane claim?”

    You must be living with a boatload of privilege to be able to think that a man known for sexist comments and actions silencing women and particularly female critics is not “mundane”. It only happens like, all the fucking time every day the sun shines 24/7. “I don’t have to notice these things therefore they must only happen rarely.” Lol. Your privilege isn’t actually a valid argument…

  98. 98
    imnotandrei

    I’d just like to thank all the folks here, especially @iamnotandrei for so successfully engaging and combatting that chris “person”.

    You’re very welcome; for whatever reason, this entire series of incidents has made me un-mothball the rhetorical B-52s I’d been keeping around since the early-to-mid 90s, and getting them back in the air. I think it’s the sheer amount of stupid-by-people-who-claim-to-know-better.

  99. 99
    Jafafa Hots

    You would think somebody would let the general public know, without going into details, that women were being coerced into sex at conferences.

    Welcome to your culture.
    Enjoy your stay.

  100. 100
    von

    So it has happened here, and so it will happen in Atheism+, with different victims and different fallen heroes, and so it happens in the mainstream culture. Anything we love will be found to be evil, and we will have to destroy it.

  101. 101
    chrisho-stuart

    Accepting that our heroes may have pretty serious flaws ideally will allow us to appreciate that even people we disagree with strongly in one respect can have useful and inspiring things to say in another.

    Susannah, I saw you say you haven’t read your copy of “The Ancestor’s Tale”. That may be my favourite book by Dawkins. No matter his other flaws, this is a wonderful book for explaining the idea of biological diversity and phylogeny. Highly recommended! Don’t throw it out just yet; but by all means put it off for a bit until you can read it without being distracted by other issues with the author.

  102. 102
    hjhornbeck

    von @100:

    Anything we love will be found to be evil, and we will have to destroy it.

    I love evolution, science, equality, feminism, and the quicksort algorithm. Am I now obligated to destroy those?

    And I really hate the term “destroy.” I’d shut up about Shermer if he said “I have a problem, and I’m seeking professional help for it.” I’d shut up about CFI if they say “we can see we’re out of step with the community, and would like to make amends.” Destruction implies a blind erasure, irregardless of action. What I really want is change.

  103. 103
    WithinThisMind

    —http://skepchick.org/2011/07/the-privilege-delusion/

    http://skepchick.org/2011/07/dear-richard-dawkins/

    http://skepchick.org/2013/06/so-much-for-center-for-inquiry/—

    Thank you for proving Dawkins is a misogynist. But that isn’t what was asked.

  104. 104
    jackjesberger

    There’s a theme in this thread about hating politics. I’m not going to argue that they don’t suck, they do for most of us. You have to have particular tastes in social interaction to be the type of person that get’s off on politics. I’d even say that an inclination toward skepticism disinclines one to politics. Politics are about winning…period. Skepticism is about not being wrong. They don’t always pull in the same direction. Also, and at the risk of broad-brushing, the subset of politics loving people include the likes of Karl Rove and Ralph Reed. There are more savory types in the subset, but politics has elements that have always appealed to ratfucking creeps too. Unless you are wired to like or at least tolerate those elements, politics will, in the long run, just make you queasy and angry. That said, I don’t think there’s any avoiding it. Politics is normal, like the weather. Fucking droughts, fucking blizzards, fucking cold, fucking heat, fucking tornadoes, fucking hail, fucking floods, fucking humidity. Yeah…they suck, but a life spent running around minimizing exposure to weather I hate would be an irrational life (IMHO). The same seems true to me about trying to avoid politics, or even the political equivalent of bad weather. Lotsa luck.

  105. 105
    wscott

    “____ was not the first time I heard about ____”

    I think this is a big part of why so many non-misogynists* are struggling with this whole issue. For many insiders, this is the culmination of something that’s been brewing for years. For most outsiders, it’s seemed to come out of nowhere. Yeah there’ve been ripples, but nothing on this scale, so they were easy to ignore or treat as outliers rather than part of a larger pattern. So now they’re effectively having to deal with it all at once.

    Please note: I’m not arguing this means the allegations against Dawkins, et. al. are untrue. If fact, it’s pretty consistent with the way many such scandals have erupted over the years – whispers behind the scenes for years, then the first (credible, supported) claim goes public and the dam breaks. Nor am I criticizing anyone for not speaking out sooner – that’s already been well-rebutted.

    But throw in a healthy dose of tribalism (ie – if prominent atheists are made to look bad, it hurt “the movement”), and there are plenty of cognitive biases working against you here.

    Plus, you know…there are a lot of misogynists running around with keyboards.

    * Or at least not consciously & intentionally misogynists.

  106. 106
    wscott

    Sorry, for the html-fail.

  107. 107
    Peter Speers

    Forgive those of us who are skeptical of your accusations, but the process must protect the accused as much as the accuser, at least until evidence can be determined to be true. Otherwise we are no better than superstitious witch hunters. This is the path to egalitarian society.

    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/09/06/christie-blatchford-why-naming-the-accused-can-be-as-harmful-as-naming-the-victim/

  108. 108
    Jim Newman

    First, it is not in trial nor has a legal accusation or arrest been made. Nor is the point a matter merely of degree of evidence as Greta has already discussed. This discussion has wrongly been derailed to an impossible and improper adjudication of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, attempted rape, rape, defamation of character, and libel. All separate allegations have varying standing, jurisdiction, and jurisprudence. The continuum of evidence can range from “creeperness” to radical empiricism where one must see it, have his friends see it, and be able to see it on demand. In other wards evidential demand is a cheap and easy shot made most risible in Ken Hamm’s case where he asks “were you there” to know whether dinosaurs existed with people or not.

    Second until suspicions, arrests, and trials are made legally secret and withheld from public purview it is not improper to discuss the trial, potential trial, or even potential allegations or desire for arrest and nor even inappropriate behavior, whether journal or gag rag. The presumption (assumption) of innocence is also incorrect and not necessary in all courts but those involving the government. The phrase itself is largely symbolic but helpful nonetheless. The issue of bail and concern of flight is itself an assumption of guilt.

    The risk of the accused has less of a burden than the risk of the victim. All this aside, this has not and never has been the issue and is a distraction. These people are not on trial nor have others insisted their claims were trial worthy. Announcing allegations as assertions as PZ did indeed set off a firestorm of reaction but it is unlikely they will go anywhere but to the lawyers pockets. Shermer could have handled it better as well and actually gained following but hubris kills reason and success. They weren’t there in desperation to make it more obvious though the veracity of the larger issue should have been moot. So goes heuristics.

    The entire issue was raised to gain what seems to me tautological support that harassment, abuse, rape, and improper behavior are still in great evidence generally. Since some did not see this as intuitively obvious to the most casual of observers more people had to bring forth their concordant observances. A push back ensued providing more casual and common evidence that many are biased and blind to the ubiquitous nature of the genderist, sexist, and misogynist aspects still extent in western and secular culture. The entire process has been to show there is sufficient evidence to “get” this shit exists and not necessary evidence to convict. It is to raise awareness and not to convict though in some cases that has obvious merit. If anything effort should be made to pursue them.

    I applaud these women (and men) because they have spent so much time graciously working through hundreds if not thousands of comments to discuss a banal and now droll issue, made more veritable, in order to clarify the situation rather than marginalizing them as a few wack jobs–I’m sure they all know the likelihood of success goes down after the first few rounds of retorts. I am pleased they still think so well of us as to not retreat!

    As a postscript, Dawkins could have done a world of good if he had had the quickness and foresight to agree with Watson that there is indeed stiil a long way to go in the west but it has progressed from other parts of the world. And then he could have discussed the issue of aggression through trust and intimacy and followed that up with a point about Singer’s expanding circle of self making problems at hand seem more or equally significant than problems at a distance and that rather than invalidating either it means we must expand the circle of self and work on the issues on all fronts with greater intensity–indeed, understanding, respecting, and empathizing that issues at home have greater personal meaning, mattering. As well as respecting the audience in which he was participating and the reality of addressing that perspective.

  109. 109
    larosita

    I decided to call myself an atheist after reading Dawkins book, but Dawkins was not the reason that I became an atheist in the first place. It would make no difference to me if he were a mass murderer. It is the ideas, facts, evidence and the rational reasoning that are important – not the man behind them.

    Exactly the same goes for Michael Schermer. He is a colleague of mine. What he says about my professional area of expertise remains true no matter how despicable his moral behavior might be. Again, it is the ideas, facts, evidence and rational reasoning that matter, not the person who reports them.

    Lawrence Krauss is a friend of mine. The stories will make me wary of him when meeting him in public, but they will not do much to change my admiration of him on other fronts – particularly his ability to explain his areas of expertise with clarity and quirky humor.

    In other words, guys, this Poisoning the Well fallacy does NOTHING to undermine any of the good ideas, facts, evidence and rational reasoning put forth by these examples of imperfect human beings. Science is full of examples of immoral, crazy, adulterous and not very nice human beings whose objective discoveries have rocked the world for the better.

    People have many sides to them. With the possible exception of psychopaths, no person is totally good or bad. Neither is there any person who is always correct in everything they say or propose. Our job is to extract the wheat from the chaff and not to dismiss the wheat BECAUSE of the chaff.

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