News from down under: the TRUE skeptical women side with the guys!

Something funny happened in my and Stephanie’s trackbacks today. On Adelaide Atheists’ Meetup group, one of their male members wrote up a post asking women to endorse the Skeptic Women petition. The thread was titled, “I wish to promote the statement below issued by a group of women atheists/(true) skeptics and ask women to consider supporting their position.”

Let’s ignore the “no true skeptic” for a brief moment here, and the fact that the two women replying both strongly disagreed — and that the poster and two other guys argued with them, explaining to them why they’re wrong.

Stop laughing.
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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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Giving my very lifeblood for skepticism at #SkepTech

Oh man, SkepTech was a blast this weekend. Maybe a bit TOO jam-packed with epicness, though; such that I ended up missing several panels just getting food or, say, giving blood.

Yesterday I gave blood for the first time ever. It’s something I’ve always meant to do, but every time there was a blood drive right there in my face to remind me, I had been sick recently, or had just gotten a tattoo retouch done, so I couldn’t. But this time, at SkepTech, I had the opportunity I’d been waiting for, so I took it.

But it was also called to my attention that there were many at the convention who could not, nor could ever, under the current regulations.

(Potential trigger warnings for pictures of my blood)
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Has a grad student invented the instant wound cure?

If this is true — and I have to admit more than a little skepticism about this, given the just-so story near the end — it could be the single biggest medical breakthrough in decades. You know how in Mass Effect, characters can take life-threatening damage and after one little button-press, they’re right back in the fight? Bullet wounds, rockets, whatever — just slap on your medi-gel dispenser button and your armor seals up the wound and lets you keep fighting.

A grad student has supposedly taken that Mass Effect equivalent of a magic healing potion, Medi-Gel, and turned it into a reality.

It is a synthetic version of the extracellular matrix (ECM) that holds our cells together and tells them what to do in the event of a bleeding injury, instructing them to get clotting. It also binds together with the damaged ECM cells of the patient, working with them to form a seal over the area of the wound.

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Adam Lee’s petition to leaders: more diversity, less “shunning” by anti-feminists

A petition to leaders of secular and atheist groups to disregard the nonsense that Thunderfoot passed around to them, you say?

We, the undersigned, are atheists, skeptics and nonbelievers who value free speech and rational thought and who seek to build a strong, thriving movement that can advocate effectively for these values. We’ve chosen to put our names to this petition because we want to respond to a video created by a blogger calling himself Thunderfoot. In this video, Thunderfoot attacks named individuals who’ve been active in promoting diversity and fighting sexism and harassment in our movement. He describes these people as “whiners” and “ultra-PC professional victims” who are “dripp[ing] poison” into the secular community, and urges conference organizers to shun and ignore them.

Sign me the hell up.
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Debbie Goddard is CFI’s new Director of Outreach

Holy hell, this is great. I am 100% behind this choice by CFI — if anyone knows outreach, it’s Debbie Goddard. The CFI press release:

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is proud to announce that Debbie Goddard, formerly CFI’s campus outreach coordinator, has accepted the position of Director of Outreach. She replaces Lauren Becker in that role, who has shifted to her new position as Director of Marketing, as previously announced.

“Debbie has been a part of the heart of CFI for a long time now, embodying what it means to be a dedicated CFI employee. She has given a great deal of herself to this organization and its cause: bringing about a world that values science, reason, and compassion over dogma and superstition,” said Ron Lindsay, CFI’s President and CEO. “We are all proud to see Debbie take on this crucial leadership role in which we know she will excel.”

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All hail our new reptilian overlord

Well, it was bound to happen, as Travis Irvine so ably points out in this pre-election video — both Obama and Romney are reptilians, humanoid lizards, so no matter how the election panned out the new leader of the free world was bound to be a lizard person.

Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos. Err, I mean, I’m Canadian and couldn’t vote.

Martin S Pribble on “The Hyper-Skeptic Problem”

Sorry. It’s shaping up to be another one of those weeks. Seems a lot of us around these parts are being struck with Real Life all at once. I don’t have it as bad as some, certainly, but I’m pretty swamped out at the moment. So I’m more than happy to spread around what few hits I can direct to others who are out there taking and throwing the punches that I wish I could be.

Like Martin S. Pribble, and his fantastic treatise on the “hyperskepticism problem” that I’ve touched on myself a number of times.

Hyper-skeptical viewpoints give rise to conspiracy theories, paranoid delusions, and, surprisingly enough, misinformation. The hyper-skeptical mind will not accept facts, much in the same way a religious mind cannot accept facts. The hyper-skeptic is so deeply entrenched in the idea of “not believing in anything” that the world becomes a huge bully, just trying to feed them falsehoods in order to make them “part of the system”.

It’s difficult to know how someone can arrive at a hyper-skeptical viewpoint. Could it be that there is no way to “know” anything, as all information is presented from information from another human mind (which could also be a delusional mind)? Added to this is the concept of “irreducible complexity”, one where a person may look at a situation, and step-by-step, ask questions that are increasingly out of the realm or scope of the original question or statement. Bill O’Reilly is famous for such questions, able to flippantly throw aside all claims by asking “But how did it get there?” when talking of unrelated topics such as tides.

The main point here is a concept known as “reasonable doubt”. It is an evidentiary concept, used both in courts of law (“A standard of proof that must be surpassed to convict an accused in a criminal proceeding”) and in scientific discovery (where enough evidence is presented that doubt is diminished beyond consideration). It is the standard of evidence to which we must hold all claims in order to evaluate their efficacy.

It applies in a lot of ways to the internecine warfare we experience in our atheist and skeptic communities. Every time one of us employs a sociologically sound and evidence-based scientific concept that conflicts with someone’s dearly-held point of view about some topic or another, you couldn’t hit the buttons on a stopwatch fast enough to measure how long it takes before the person presenting the concept is decried as dogmatic, shrill, or some other pejorative term that amounts to a shorthand for “they disagree with me, therefore they’re being mean to me, therefore they’re wrong”. The main examples that spring to mind immediately are the so-called “race realists”, the climate “skeptics”, and (yes, definitely) the anti-feminists and MRAs and misogyny-apologists.

While we call them “trolls” as shorthand, they certainly don’t think of themselves as such. Sure, they use troll tactics to derail and damage conversation, but they really, truly believe that there’s a scientific reason to be racist, that the evidence for global warming isn’t overwhelming, that Schrodinger’s Rapist and the concept of privilege are dogmatic and the real problem with gender. So while there’s no “for the lulz” aspect, these people are definitely trolls in the exact same way as the average conspiracy nutter with tin foil hats demanding that Obama prove he’s not a Bigfoot reptiloid from the alien planet of Kenya.

At any rate, go read Martin’s post. It’s top-notch.

It’s happening everywhere

No, not “to everyone”. Everywhere. io9 talks about three of our communities – skepticism/atheism, sci-fi fandom, and computer hacker culture.

But it’s also happening in comics, in video games, in the movie industry. In every area where a woman tries to improve their lot, or to break those rigid gender roles by entering areas that are otherwise traditionally populated by men, she faces exponentially more abuse and vitriol than men in those areas.

In every aspect of our society, there is a hidden war on women.
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A new atheism

The Rifts are Deepening, it would seem.

Jen McCreight laments that she had no idea exactly how prevalent the misogyny, privilege, irrationality, and Boys Club mentality all are in the atheist and skeptic movements before she got involved. Honestly, me neither.

I was exactly what a Boy’s Club wanted. I was a young, not-hideous woman who passionately supported their cause. I made them look diverse without them having to address their minority-repelling privilege. They liked that I joked about sex and boobs not because it was empowering for me, but because they saw it as a pass to oggle and objectify. But the Boy’s Club rescinds its invitation once they realize you’re a rabble-rousing feminist. I was welcome at TAM when I was talking about a boob joke, but now I’m persona non grata for caring about sexual harassment. I used to receive numerous comments about how hot and attractive I was, but when I politely asked for people to keep the discussion professional, the comments morphed into how I was an ugly cunt. I was once considered an up-and-coming student leader, but now I’m accused of destroying the movement.

So what’s to be done of this?
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