On the PR Disaster at #Skepticon and the lack of #ConcernedStudent1950 representation

Given how the late-addition “Q&A” session at Skepticon came into being, how it was sold to the convention, how it was advertised, and how it was “envisioned” by Danielle Muscato and Mark Schierbecker, it is no surprise the entire thing went off disastrously. Let us itemize the ways this all went wrong.

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Spoiler warning: douchebags think trigger warnings are bad

Quick linking post — was quoted over on Skepchick in re Richard Dawkins’ latest nonsense, wherein he rails against warning rape victims about rape discussion on college campuses. I need to write a fuller post about how exactly people are getting this wrong, but this is a great one-two punch.

Dawkins is right about one thing: Secular Safezones have an important place, especially in areas where being non-religious (or not belonging to the majority religion) can lead to marginalization. But if he acknowledges that, how can he argue that same care isn’t warranted for those coping with PTSD from rape, assault, or other trauma? Does Richard Dawkins think there isn’t enough oppression to go around? That if he shows compassion for victims of assault or rape, his pet cause won’t get enough recognition? Or is the reality more damning?

Spoiler warning: the contents of this post includes discussion about trigger warnings. Douchebag discretion is advised.

Guest post: Gametes don’t prescribe your gender either

A promoted guest post by timberwraith on this comment, reprinted with permission. It was too good to leave in the muck of some of its surrounding nonsense.

I see a variation of the usual cis-centric perspective of, “We just need to get down to brass tacks and accept the reality of male and female!” being trotted out in the comments. This time, it’s all about which gametes a person’s body produces.

If only it were that simple.

Look, if societies treated one’s ability to produce particular gametes in ways as neutral as nose shape, eye color, thyroid function, or hemoglobin levels, then the designation of male or female wouldn’t be much of an issue. No one would care if some felt compelled to employ medical procedures in order to assume secondary sexual characteristics and genital configurations commonly associated with certain modes of gametes production. It would be akin to changing one’s hair color or eye color—a medically intensive process, but still socially trivial.

That is not the world we live in.

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What alignment are you?

I think this is very proximate to our discussions about gender, given that gender and sex are both social constructs and the problems we’re seeing with having in-depth discussions about these constructs being spectra rather than binary is that it seems those people who can’t answer “trans women are women” think this means we’re creating and reinforcing a binary rather than demanding a spectrum of genders.

Good and evil, order and chaos, are two axes describing spectra of behaviour related to social standing and pro-social behaviour. Dungeons and Dragons has a mechanic wherein you can assign your character Good, Neutral, or Evil, and Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic, making a 3×3 grid of alignments. It’s certainly more interesting than a binary Good/Evil choice (or, say, Paragon / Renegade, or Light Side / Dark Side), and it means very little outside of the scope of interactions with other human beings. It’s still by necessity an abstraction. Something like the Kinsey Scale for hetero/homosexuality being a 1-9, or Dawkins’ atheist/theist 0-7 scale — neither of those describes the panoply of positions one can stake coherently.

But, still interesting. Take this alignment test to see how you stack up. A number of my friends (including my wife) got Chaotic Good. I got Neutral Good:

A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment because when it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Yeah, that does sound a lot like me. Including the sentence fragment in the last sentence! (I assume the “when” is superfluous.)

Timeline of harassment and sexual assault allegations against Michael Shermer

Today’s a big news cycle in movement skepticism and movement atheism. My old timeline is woefully incomplete and drastically altered by new revelations, now, thanks to Mark Oppenheimer’s article on the state of misogyny in the atheist and skeptic movements over on Buzzfeed.

So, I’m pulling out the relevant links and pullquotes and revamping this timeline. It’s going to be largely intact from the old one, only maybe expanded to provide more context to each individual point. As with previous timelines this will be a living document — it’s as likely new links will be added or intermixed as I have time, but you’re more than welcome to contribute links in the comments.

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Someone challenged Aron Ra to explain feminism to him via a Youtube video, begging every single one of the seven questions. Aron Ra gave laudable answers, though PZ Myers pointed out some errors and some of the pitfalls that Aron Ra stumbled through (owing, entirely, to the framing of the questions — just look at the expectation of an autocratic hierarchy with an authoritarian power structure).

In the comments at PZ’s, the thread rapidly became a “what about the men” derail by someone who apparently, genuinely, just wanted to explore the topic. He suggested an apposite inverse to feminism would be “masculinism”, which deals with the ways that men are disadvantaged in society.

I had done, some time ago, a piece on the disadvantages of being a man. Strangely enough, all of them stemmed from the current structure of our society, which undeniably advantages men disproportionately. There are a few corrections that need to be made to that essay, which I’ll try to touch on in here. I feel the need to talk about “masculinism”, “egalitarianism” (in reference specifically to gender relations), what it could look like, and why it’s particularly incomplete without integrating into feminism.

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Rachel Maddow on the record of racial disparity in Ferguson

“Let’s make the jail cells more colorful.” This shit that’s happening in Ferguson, right now, is by no means new. The problem, if you’re not paying attention or only paying attention to the more odious parts of the so-called news media your country pretends is super serious and not at all partisan, is those blacks rioting. If you ARE paying attention, though, the problem is the systemic brutalization of blacks by white establishment power. The white establishment is absolutely terrified that they may have gone just slightly too far by murdering a young black boy who was unarmed and whom witnesses claim was 35 feet away from the police officer who murdered him. And they’re expressing this terror by creating a paramilitary presence to gas and attack and try to frighten the living bejeezus out of the people who dare say “yeah, murdering that boy WAS a little too far over the line, thanks.”

This ISN’T fifty years ago. This is NOW.

Pic of riot cop line 50 years ago, and today

Pic of riot cop line 50 years ago, and today

Meanwhile, Ryan J Reilly of Huffington Post and Wesley Lowrey of Washington Post were just arrested at a McDonalds for “not packing their bags fast enough”, then let go when someone realized the cops had just arrested two high profile reporters and told the mayor, whose response was “Oh God”.

This situation is spinning very rapidly out of control as a massive armed response has appeared today to pacify the peaceful protests by pointing guns at law-abiding peaceful protesters and throwing reporters into windows and soda machines.

Police brutality in Ferguson escalates drastically tonight

Another young, unarmed black boy was executed over the weekend — this time by the police. Witnesses claim Mike Brown, a young man returning from a store who was due to leave for university in a week, was shot from 30+ feet away by police while he had his hands up. That he was shot ten times. That he was left to lay in the street for four hours while police “contained” the scene.

The police claimed that he had been shot after a struggle with an officer in which he tried to get the officer’s gun. They claim that he had been arrested on suspicion of shoplifting — despite the store claiming they’d never called the police and didn’t suspect Brown of this alleged crime in the first place.

Protesters chanted things like “No Justice, No Peace” and “Don’t Shoot Me”, and the news media reported this as “Kill The Police”. People are rightly outraged that a young, unarmed boy was murdered by white government officials, and these same officials respond to their grieving by bringing out police dogs and tanks. A cop proclaims, on CNN no less, “bring it on, you fucking animals.”

The town of Ferguson, St. Louis is tonight a warzone as militarized police crack down on protesters. And what do you hear on TV? “Looting” and “rioting”. Nothing about murdering an unarmed boy sparking the protests that are being spun as a race riot. And this in a week that already saw a black man murdered by cops for holding an airsoft gun in the airsoft gun aisle of Wal-Mart.

Antonio French has been recording scenes from the day’s protest and the police action, which now includes firing rubber bullets and tear gas into crowds, shining lights directly at reporters who are trying to take video, and intimidating people who are clearly only armed with cell phones.

This brutality has got to fucking end. What year is this?

Why won’t you “skeptics” let Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning put his misdeeds into the memory hole!?

Brian Dunning issued a statement about his criminal acts and how everyone’s getting things wrong about him. However, people might find it difficult to copy and paste in order to rebut, or even to disseminate, because he included a little snippet of javascript that automatically kills your ability to select, copy or paste.

So, I’m going to paste the entire thing here where it’s more easily copiable by folks who might have a mind to do so who might not be technically inclined to be able to disable Javascript and/or edit from source.
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Thankful sea turtle rescued from rope tangle

Desperately trying to reconnect with the intertubes and get all my backlog of things done, including processing and posting the audio from five of my six CONvergence panels (one, sadly, didn’t record at all; and the audio for the rest works in VLC, but is nothing but static in Audacity so I’m having difficulty transcoding them).

In the meantime, have this amazing GoPro ad involving a diver rescuing a sea turtle.

That’s one grateful turtle. Still, it’d be nice if we humans were a little more careful of potential impacts like this in our encroachment into their territory, no?