#FtBCon 3: Asexual Spectrum Atheists panel, and Youtube comments brigaded

Here’s the full panel.

The book mentioned is Asexuality: The Invisible Orientation by Julia Sondra Decker, and here are some links the panelists wanted to include.

A link that Tristan wanted to add, relevant to the “asexual but still having sex”: http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/HomePage/Group/BussLAB/pdffiles/why%20humans%20have%20sex%202007.pdf

This is regarding the House episode mentioned:
http://nextstepcake.tumblr.com/post/78579198812/tw-massive-ace-invalidation-going-on-here-a

The census is available here: https://asexualcensus.wordpress.com/

And hey, big congratulations to Thunderf00t on fully embracing your nature as a churlish, small-minded and provincial sort, the type of person who gives atheists a reputation of being the Douchebag Brigade, much like was mentioned during this panel. Since your coming-out as such a few years back, your quality of life must have gotten really much better — I know what it’s like to have to hide some fundamental aspect of your life, and it must be nice for you to feel free to be an utter asshole in public now. Good for you. And good for all your fellow douchebags in your audience.

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#FtBCon 3: My facilitator track

The full schedule for FtBCon3 is at Lanyrd, and finding your way to the Google Event page (where the Hangout will be broadcasted) is as simple as going to the panel you want, and clicking on the Official Session Page. This will work even after the event was over hours ago, even if you’re a little late, even if you have used a TARDIS and gone to the distant future (assuming Google’s servers still exist). And if you’re early, you’ll probably see no video, or a countdown clock til go-live.

Q&A will be handled in the Pharyngula chat room, accessible by going to http://tinyurl.com/ftbcon.

Here are the sessions I’m facilitating, with the Google Event pages linked in the titles. All times are in Central.

Asexual Spectrum Atheists – Friday, 9pm-10:30pm
An asexual is someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction. While it’s a simple definition, we will correct common assumptions, and explain the the asexual spectrum through our personal experiences. We will discuss obstacles faced by asexual-spectrum folk and why it’s important to be aware of it and talk about it. And completely unique to this panel, we’ll discuss the good and the bad of how our experiences intersect with atheism and skepticism. This is especially important considering that the asexual community is predominantly non-religious right now.

The Psychology of Trolls – Saturday, 10am-11am – panelist
Much has been made recently of trolling on the internet, and how it betrays the trolls’ sociopathy. Is there any truth in that? Why do trolls troll, otherwise? What traits do they have in common, and what tactics do they use as a result?

Fundraising for a Secular Cause: Because It Takes Money To Change the World – Saturday, 1pm-2pm
It takes money to scale an organization up from its seeds as a good idea into a major player with local and/or national impact. Organizing a successful conference entails similar costs. But fundraising is hard, and very few people enjoy asking others for money.
This panel will show you not only how to ask people for money, but also to understand who you should be asking in the first place! Presenters range from those serving as volunteer fundraisers for a local group, to organizers of highly successful conferences, to professional staff with responsibility for raising a million-dollar budget.

Student Advocacy and Why Students Need to be Involved in Politics – Saturday, 3pm-4pm
Cara and Dan will illustrate the how and the why of political activism, and how to make allies out of your state representatives, city council members, and school administrators.

Secular Cults – Saturday – 5:30pm-7pm
Not all cults are religious. Attributes of a cult include traits such as: unquestioning commitment to one or more leaders, who are considered unaccountable to any authorities; punishment of dissent; mind-altering practices such as meditation and chanting; and deceptive recruitment practices. Many organizations that are not overtly religious still exhibit many of these traits. In this panel we will discuss some examples of this phenomenon, such as the Amway and other multi-level businesses, the self-help movement, and some homeschooling organizations.

Evidence-Based Feminism 2 – Saturday – 7pm-8pm
HJ Hornbeck continues to put feminism’s claims under science’s microscope, this time by examining economic equality, representation, and that perennial favorite “rape culture.” Watching his previous talk is optional, but recommended.

Secular Asian Community – The binary nature of diversity discussions – Saturday 9pm-10:30pm
A panel of Asian freethought community members will discuss successes in making Asians more visible in the community, things the secular community could be doing better to make Asians feel more welcome, and the consequences of not building organized and humanist communities, such as the situation in China presently.

Questioning the Historicity of Jesus: Commentary and Q&A by Dr. Richard Carrier – Sunday 11am-12pm
Dr. Carrier will briefly discuss his new book On the Historicity of Jesus (published by the University of Sheffield), his online course on the topic, and some of the issues of debating the historical existence of Jesus, and then take live Q&A from the audience. Exactly the opposite of a Sunday sermon. On Sunday. At sermon time.

Teaching Critical Thinking – Sunday, 4pm-5pm
How can teachers use their role as educators to instill critical thinking and ideas like rationalism and empiricism? Are such approaches intrinsic to teaching or separate? We could also go into the ethics of where to draw the line between instructing and “preaching” but I’d actually prefer to stick to the praxis and methodology of bringing critical thinking into the classroom. How do we adapt assessments and assignments? How do we model thinking behaviors we’d like to see?

Digital Self-Defense – Sunday 6pm-7pm – panelist
Experts in various fields related to technology and intellectual property come together to discuss the art of self-defense on the internet. How do you protect yourself online from all manners of attack, be they hacks or legal threats?

And of course I’ll be in the last panel, the denouement of the con, Wrapping It Up.

The null hypothesis

I was cued to write this mini-rant by a conversation on Twitter. I don’t really feel that I should have to explain the null hypothesis to people within this community, but in contexts like sexual assault and rape, it seems that all proportional skepticism goes right out the window.

Ami Angelwings (of Escher Girls fame) tweeted about accusations, and how the accusation that “she’s making it all up” is actually itself an accusation, and needs to be vetted out. She went on to say that the null hypothesis in this case is not that “she’s making it up”. Someone I greatly respect in the skeptical community replied to my retweeting that, saying “it is, give evidence”.

Frankly, that’s a load. That isn’t how the null hypothesis works.
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FtBCon 3: Confirmed Participants

Cross-posted from FtBCon:
Here’s a preliminary list of confirmed participants for Freethought Blogs’ FtBConscience 3. This list is subject to change, but at time of writing, all participants have confirmed their availability for panels and talks for the conference.

FtB Bloggers:

  • Alex Gabriel
  • Heina Dadabhoy
  • Jason Thibeault
  • Miri Mogilevsky
  • Richard Carrier
  • Russell Glasser
  • Stephanie Zvan
  • Tauriq Moosa

Invited Guests:

  • Adam Lee
  • Amy Boyle
  • Amy Davis Roth
  • Ben Blanchard
  • Caleb Harper
  • Cerberus
  • Chana Messinger
  • Cindy Cooper
  • Dan Fincke
  • Dan Linford
  • Dan Williams
  • Danny Samuelson
  • Debbie Goddard
  • Donald Wright
  • Ed Cara
  • Elizabeth
  • Erin
  • Franklin Veaux
  • Harry Shaughnessy
  • Hiba Krisht
  • HJ Hornbeck
  • James Billingham
  • James Croft
  • Jared Axelrod
  • Josiah “Biblename”
  • Karen Hill
  • Karen Stollznow
  • Kaveh Mousavi
  • Kay Vee
  • Lauren Lane
  • Leigh Honeywell
  • Lilandra Ra
  • MA Melby
  • Mai Dao
  • Maria Greene
  • Matt Lowry
  • Michael Damian Thomas
  • Michael Nam
  • Michelle Huey
  • Misha Greenbaum
  • Misty Taylor
  • Monette Richards
  • Muhammad Syed
  • Neil Wehneman
  • Nick Fish
  • Nick Geiger
  • Niki Massey
  • Olivia James
  • Raina Rhoades
  • Razib Khan
  • Reem Abdel-Razek
  • Rich Wisneski
  • RJ Redden
  • Sakeena Almulhida
  • Sastra / Sue Strandberg
  • Scott Lohman
  • Shelly Henry
  • Susan Porter
  • Tim Farley
  • Trina Gardinier
  • Tristan Miller
  • Valerie Aurora
  • Vic Wang
  • Vivian
  • Vyckie Garrison
  • Wesley Fenza
  • Yau Man Chan

We hope to add more to our roster as panels are finalized in the run up to the convention. Hope to see you there!

Brief thoughts on Charlie Hebdo and freedom of speech

Satire depends heavily on the cultural context in which it was made. Charlie Hebdo is certainly a leftist rag, and certainly satire, and certainly understood as such within France’s cultural context. However, there are some universals about satire that people, time and again, forget.

The first and most important thing to remember is that satire can damage just as much as the original offense, and sometimes more. Charlie Hebdo’s satire was about taking some aspect of the news cycle — some politician or celebrity who held racist and sexist views — and illustrating the logical end result of those views. In a context where a great deal of damage has been done by outright propaganda by outright racists and sexists, where “Evil Banker Jew” and “Monkey-Like Black Person” are well-worn tropes, depicting them as though you’re resurrecting the trope in order to scandalize the person who still holds those views is fraught and potentially more damaging to the person who’s damaged by the original racism.

The second thing to remember about satire is that it is a powerful weapon, to be wielded carefully so as to avoid splash damage. Attacking a class — or being perceived to be attacking a class — that is already under siege by society, is “punching down”. Even if you’re trying to shame the person who’s holding an antisemitic or anti-black or anti-woman view, you could very well legitimize or normalize attacks on that class of person by increasing the number of instances where it’s perceived to be acceptable. Increasing the frequency of a meme does not NECESSARILY legitimize it, but it CAN.
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On Avicenna, plagiarism, and thanking those who regularly cry wolf while flailing us raw

Today, on the heels of a very bad overnight shift that had already despoiled my mental resources and spoiled my mood, I woke up to learn that one of our bloggers, Avicenna, had committed a cardinal sin and was kicked out of the network as a result. He’d plagiarised large sections of text from a wide variety of sources and incorporated those appropriated words into his post without attribution, and he’d done it serially, on a number of occasions.

In comments, much is being made of his quality of output, that it is unpolished, rambling, unstructured; these are absolutely forgivable in my eyes because what he was passionate about, what he decried or wrote in support of, I largely felt the same way. My main problem with his writing now, knowing that he’s plagiarized with such aplomb, is that I’m now inclined to wonder if every moment of lucidity he had actually came from someone else.
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Mock The Movie OVERTIME: Star Trek Into Darkness transcript by @blakestacey

CA7746 was building a transcript-generator for the web interface to supplement my Python-based Twitter scraper a while back, for when things go sideways and the API can’t deliver the script any more, and while I was doing my catch-up on Mock The Movie stuff and read CA’s email on the matter, he mentioned that he managed to grab a transcript of Blake Stacey’s mocking of Star Trek Into Darkness. So, here it is! Huzzah for Blake! You poor sod.
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