Ask Dawkins to reconsider his evaluation of the harms of “mild pedophilia”

I would very much like it if people stopped treating Dawkins as the Secular Pope. We don’t want any “leaders” in this movement, and yet friends of the secular movement will bow and scrape, and foes will treat him as the King of Atheism whose decrees are handed down from on high for all to internalize. Hell, half the time we can barely decipher what he’s saying. Take Twitter for example. A 140 character limit does the man no justice whatsoever — he does not wear “pithy” well.

His recent misstep is, as I’m sure you’re all aware, less than pithy — he’s been given plenty of time and space to bring this intellectual pursuit to full flower, and this is what he’s come up with: his recent suggestion that being sexually assaulted as a child is less bad than being brought up religious, and that one shouldn’t condemn sexual assault done in another era under different social mores.
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More foot-gunning in the Shermer debacle

John Loftus, ex Freethought Blogger who left because not enough Christians were engaging with his posts so he could convert them, who subsequently founded and then left Skeptic Ink for the same reason, is now blogging at his original Blogspot blog about PZ Myers and Michael Shermer. (A hint, good sir — you may want to actually target your intended audience with your posts.) In his post, wherein the only possible reasons he proffers that PZ Myers might have published the rape allegation — made against Michael Shermer by an unnamed source whom he trusts — involve either naivety or malice, Loftus published the following addendum:

In a personal email to me Shermer categorically denies these accusations. If what he said about his accuser gets out, it will be apparent to most all reasonable people that PZ Myers published a bold-faced lie. He recklessly tried to destroy another person’s reputation without regard for fact-checking.

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Is the Skeptic Empire dying?

A new employee of Americans United for Separation of Church and State has already started receiving death threats and harassment just for mentioning feminism.

A quote from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that’s relevant to what we’re seeing right now. We call ourselves rationalists but we devolve into hyperskepticism and denialism about real, demonstrable problems in our community. Problems like irrational hatred of feminism to the point of excusing harassment, death threats, rape threats et cetera as “trolling”. To the point of being unable to criticize our leaders for their well-evidenced transgressions.

Ezri Dax: I think that the situation with Gowron is a symptom of a bigger problem. The Klingon Empire is dying; and I think it deserves to die. I tend to look at the Empire with a little more skepticism than Curzon and Jadzia did. I see a society that is in deep denial about itself. We’re talking about a warrior culture that prides itself on maintaining centuries-old traditions of honor and integrity. But in reality, it’s willing to accept corruption at the highest levels.

Worf: You are overstating your case.

Dax: Am I? Who was the last leader of the High Council that you respected? Has there even been one? And how many times have you had to cover up the crimes of Klingon leaders because you were told that it was for the good of the Empire? I… I know this sounds harsh, but the truth is, you have been willing to accept a government that you know is corrupt. Gowron’s just the latest example. Worf, you are the most honorable and decent man that I’ve ever met. And if *you* are willing to tolerate men like Gowron, then what hope is there for the Empire?

What kinds of rationalists are we? What claim do we have to being decent human beings without our dogmas if we act like this?How can anyone take us as a movement seriously if we can’t clean our houses? How the hell do we even drain this swamp?

Sexual harassment accusations in the skeptical and secular communities: a timeline of major events

In the vein of the harassment policies campaign timeline, wherein the major players in the movement fought hard for harassment policies at secular events and largely won the day despite monumental pushback, I felt it prudent to get ahead of people trying to misinterpret the timeline of events and twist the timeline to their own ends. That harassment policies campaign actually contains a significant amount of back-story for a lot of these issues. It also includes a number of charges with regard to assaults that had been reported but not dealt with by the organizations in question. Take a moment to re-familiarize yourself with that timeline before returning here, please.

As a result of the community reaching a tipping point, with many prominent voices having been subjected to harassment for years on end, these past few weeks have become something of a watershed moment for our movements. It is important that the actions are documented, even where legal threats have removed the original claims. I will be updating this on the fly, as a living document, much as I did with the previous timeline. At the bottom is a list of links I’m already planning on including, that will be put into their proper positions as I go.

Please feel free to add important events in the comments, though I am not going back as far as WiS2 and documenting the controversy surrounding it unless it’s extremely relevant to this timeline. I am also not linking every single blog commentary unless it has important or unique events or pieces of context, though I am not against comments containing links to said less-directly-relevant commentary even if it doesn’t make it into the body of the post.
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Ben Radford and CFI: A point of contention

Center For Inquiry’s Ben Radford, whom you might remember as the skeptic who took on a four year old over evolutionary reasons little girls might like pink, among numerous other terrible bits of skepticism and anti-science, has been accused of sexually harassing and assaulting Karen Stollznow serially over a period of four years. The story was told anonymously, but a number of independent sources on Twitter and elsewhere blew the whistle and named Radford. PZ received many emails to that effect. And Stollznow has since given her blessing to the people naming him.

An investigation was apparently undertaken by CFI, hiring a third party contractor; the investigators may or may not have found him guilty. That appears to be a point of contention presently in the narrative. From Stollznow’s post:

Five months after I lodged my complaint I received a letter that was riddled with legalese but acknowledged the guilt of this individual. They had found evidence of “inappropriate communications” and “inappropriate” conduct at conferences. However, they greatly reduced the severity of my claims. When I asked for clarification and a copy of the report they treated me like a nuisance. In response to my unanswered phone calls they sent a second letter that refused to allow me to view the report because they couldn’t release it to “the public”. They assured me they were disciplining the harasser but this turned out to be a mere slap on the wrist. He was suspended, while he was on vacation overseas. They offered no apology, that would be an admission of guilt, but they thanked me for bringing this serious matter to their attention. Then they asked me to not discuss this with anyone. This confidentiality served me at first; I wanted to retain my dignity and remain professional. Then I realized that they are trying to silence me, and this silence only keeps up appearances for them and protects the harasser.

Emphasis mine.

They had enough evidence that he was serially harassing someone in order to “suspend” him — while he was already on vacation overseas. When it would have no impact on his job, and would serve as nothing but a note in his file.
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Privilege, Dialogue, Harassment, and the Anti-Availability Heuristic

The Availability Heuristic is a well-known cognitive bias that primes people to more readily believe something when they can easily come up with examples. Of the cognitive biases that I’ve encountered among rationalists in the skeptical and atheist communities, this bias is the one I’m most capable of coming up with examples. I am therefore primed to believe more readily that atheists and skeptics are not immune to this bias — myself included.

But there’s a little-discussed inverse to this bias, where examples are generally filtered out of one’s daily existence because they don’t impact on you directly, and thus, you are less ready to believe someone claiming to experience them. I call this the anti-availability heuristic, though I’m sure there are better names for it.
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Defamation is not disagreement

So today, on my latest Mock the Movie transcript, this post hit my moderation wall:

Author : ShiningMoon (IP: 98.89.26.128 , adsl-98-89-26-128.mgm.bellsouth.net)
E-mail : Shimoon@hotmail.com
URL :
Whois : http://whois.arin.net/rest/ip/98.89.26.128
Comment:
A girlfriend of mine and my girlfriend (friend and S.O. I’m lesbian) pointed out that people here aren’t taking what happened to her at the hands of Jason seriously. My girlfriend was raped. Thibeault did that. What people want to say in a friend’s defense won’t change that. I’ll believe my girlfriend over this guy.

However, another thing that I’ve found about this website in the past days are that its generally respectful of victims saying they were abused. So, what did he tell you? Did he claim that she also said he didn’t rape her? This isnt what happened. Consideration that Jason might’ve added details in is what keeps me from judging those who simply accept his word that my girlfriend is a liar. This is all I have to say. I won’t be arguing with people here about whether or not my girlfriend was raped, partly because she doesn’t want a drawn out discussion, and partly because I myself won’t endure that.

Taunts like “Where’s she? Why won’t she face him herself if she’s truly a victim?” will NOT be acknowledged. Assuming that someone is likely to be comfortable facing him, even online, is ignorant at least.

Fascinating. No details? No facts? Just an attempt to put the fear of MRA’s False Rape Accusation Trope into me?
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On the meme of giving and taking offense

I haven’t been able to get my knuckles scraped up in this particular brawl lately, but I HAVE noticed something that I feel I need to say. I intended this post for today to just be a linking post to Stephanie’s recent rundown of the situation, wherein she lays waste to the claim that our fights are about “bad werdz”. It’s never about the words, it’s about harm. It’s about trying to give offense as a strategy, one that’s intentionally chosen, by the opponents of those who dare call themselves both free thinkers and feminists.

There’s a meme hidden in amongst all these conversations that I’ve heard quite often in a different context, of religious folks “taking offense” at your “attacks” on their religion.

vjack also just doesn’t “get” XYZ-shaming.

Accusations of [insert noun of your choice here]-shaming are rarely helpful because nobody else has the power to make us feel shame unless we give it to them.

vjack apparently thinks we live in a world in which we have just one social encounter at a time and that these never add up in some way to become those emergent entities we call “communities” and “cultures”.

This is an identical construction to this other idea that one cannot “give offense”, one can only “take” it. Meaning, it is not possible for someone to be offended by something unless they allow themselves to become offended by it. It’s something I’ve heard Matt Dillahunty use several times against religious folks who claim that his ability to lay bare the hypocrisy behind their religion means he’s attacking THEM, and they are offended by such things.

But no matter how right Matt was that these people shouldn’t take offense, the specific meme that “offense cannot be given” was wrong then too.

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Xbox Live to crack down on sexism

So Halo 4 is being released tomorrow (what, is there something more important going on that I don’t know about?). Thanks to the recent acknowledgement by 343 Industries and Microsoft that half their potential market was being weeded out by the “early adopters” who are defending their territory via terrible sexist remarks, rape threats and abuse, it appears that the folks responsible for the Xbox Live service have had it with that nonsense behaviour and are about to start dropping the banhammer on their users.

Apparently this is a zero tolerance policy too, so if you’re found to be making sexist comments, don’t expect to get away with just a slap on the wrist. Wolfkill and Ross say that developers have a responsibility to break through gender stereotypes and stamp out sexism in the games industry too. It’s sad that it has to come to Xbox Live bans just to get people to act civil toward one another, but that’s unfortunately what you get when everyone is hidden behind a veil of anonymity.

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TAM’s harassment policy was secret. Why?

One of the biggest victories I was really, truly hoping for in the harassment policies campaign came to pass. But rather than crowing about it like I did with the American Atheists and CFI policies, I can barely fathom what’s going on and can’t bring myself to celebrate at all. TAM’s harassment policy appears to have come to pass in one of those strange “but you won’t like it” sort of ways, like we’d all been wishing on a Monkey’s Paw instead of making cogent arguments for these policies.

I honestly hoped that DJ Grothe and/or other powers-that-be at JREF would realize that the people DJ claimed are trying to hurt The Amazing Meeting by discussing the harassment they’d experienced, and proposing countermeasures, were instead trying to help TAM, and him, rectify the situation. I had hoped that DJ et al would come to understand that it was not about painting his specific convention as an “unsafe space“, but rather as a place that SHOULD be better than background levels of harassment but WASN’T.

But, until now, nobody has shown any indication that harassment was being taken seriously. In fact, it looked quite a bit like they’d decided harassment policies themselves were the problem, when they removed all mention of the weak-tea and toothless policy that had existed the year prior.

Then a tweet tipped us off.
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