Michael Shermer on Nazi analogies

Let me tell you, in a climate as polarized as ours, especially in a contentious topic of discussion as our current, it’s refreshing to have an intellectual giant such as Michael Shermer tweet something like this:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/michaelshermer/status/289901671570624512″]

People who equate America with gun control to Nazi Germany do not know anything about history. Read Richard Evans 3-vol history Nazi Germany

Right on, Michael! I’m so glad you said —

To date, I have stayed out of this witch hunt against our most prominent leaders, thinking that “this too shall pass.” Perhaps I should have said something earlier. As Martin Niemöller famously warned about the inactivity of German intellectuals during the rise of the Nazi party, “first they came for …” but “I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a….”

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The Troll History of the Secular Movement

I’ve been thinking more about the parallel universes we apparently inhabit within the secular movement, where there are factions on either side of a great rift who see certain narratives as being more useful to their ends, even where they hardly match anyone else’s memories or documented facts of the events in question. When I noticed a large number of the narratives against harassment policies were predicated on misreads of timing or misreads of intent or misreads of targeting of arguments, I put together my widely-referenced timeline to stomp some of those memes flat. This seems to me like evidence that one side of the divide is reality-based, and the other significantly less so. And the only remedy for that is chronicling the events so you can point to that chronicle and show why people are getting things so wrong so consistently.

This time, however, I thought it might be useful to put together a timeline of that parallel universe. I’ll extend this service mostly to benefit “our side”, so we can get our bearings whenever talking to someone who inhabits that other universe. Care to help crowdsource some of it for me while I travel today? No need for extensive references, just point out those things that people seem to think actually really happened and we’ll, I’m reasonably sure, eventually hone in on a close approximation of the alt-reality history of the movement. This all assumes the alt-reality idea that there is a single secular movement comprising atheism, skepticism and secularism that involves all practitioners thereof.

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Welcome to day one of the 14th b’ak’tun

Milk expiry: DEC 21 12. Caption: Well played, milk, well played.

Milk expiry: 2012.12.21. Caption: Well played, milk, well played.

Travelling today. On precious little sleep, too. My sleep schedule has been a complete shambles recently — been only getting a few hours of sleep a night, discontinuously, for at least a week. And I know I can’t sleep on planes, so today might be a bit rough.

I had previously blogged about how patently incorrect the whole idea of a doomsday on December 21, 2012 was. Now that the day has come and gone, and all those doomsayers are eating crow (or, more likely, shutting up for a month or so until the whole “we were wrong again about the apocalypse” blows over til the next big ridiculous prophecy comes along for them to latch onto), I wanted to say something about how horrid the meme and its counter-memes were.
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Tryptophan isn’t to blame for your food coma

Even at Thanksgiving, even as a child, I was always “that kid”, who couldn’t leave well enough alone when someone said something blatantly false, or worth questioning and examining further. My father kept admonishing me to be on my best behavior for company, which invariably meant not challenging unevidenced or ridiculous beliefs.

This was one of the ones that filtered into my subconscious and I even caught myself thinking this very thing a few years ago, til I was corrected on it. All because I was asked to turn off my skepticism as a child.

I guess I’m posting this to tell you not to squelch people’s skepticism of strange unevidenced beliefs even if those beliefs are seemingly harmless.

Unless you know there’s absolutely no goodwill to burn, let the walking Snopes database do their thing, because as annoyed as the person may be who is corrected, they’ve actually had a valuable service done to them even at the cost of a little holiday peace. A service that helps insulate people from making mistakes, and having factoids filter into their brains as though they were facts, which might introduce errors in their reasoning later in life.

And if there’s absolutely no goodwill to burn at the Thanksgiving table, and you must suffer the tyranny of someone spewing factoids, both harmless and harmful? Well, consider a smaller and more intimate Thanksgiving meal next year.

But yeah. Sorry for the tangent. Turkey doesn’t cause food comas. And I wish I could spend the American holiday with my American friends and family, so enjoy your time with them. And I hope you find a balance between the factoid-spewers and the fact-checkers so you can all enjoy your meal.

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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More Republicans believe in demonic possession than global warming


Alternet reports on a Public Policy Polling Hallowe’en poll (pdf) and cross-references this poll on global warming:

A staggering 68 percent of registered Republican voters stated that they believe demonic possession is real. Meanwhile, only 48 percent of self-identified Republicans believe in another equally if not more scary natural phenomenon: climate change.

I would say it’s more scary, because it’s real. And the evidence provided by actual scientists is ironclad.

The scientists are unanimous, as long as you include actual climate scientists and not geologists or meteorologists or other pretenders at authority on the complex subject of climate. And yet, only 45% of all people agree that scientists generally agree about global warming. The misinformation efforts by liars like “Lord” Christopher Monckton are working.

To make matters even worse, 49% of Democrats also believe in demonic possession, even while 85% of Democrats say there’s solid evidence for global warming. It’s not that they’re smarter, it’s that they’re only marginally less prone to superstitious belief and more prone to trusting scientific evidence.

I’d say “let the mouth-breathers secede”, but it’s not like they’re all Republican secessionists.

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.

Greta has some questions for you. So does Stephanie.

Ever notice that pushback against certain ideas always develops internal themes and memetics that need to be directly countered before we can move on to actually talking about the ideas themselves? Ever notice that pushback tends to cluster around irrational objections to otherwise unobjectionable suggestions or ideas? One of the pushbacks against those of us who primarily identify as atheists who also care about and talk about social justice, humanism and atheism in equal measure, who’ve declared an appropriate label for that nexus of issues “Atheism Plus”, is that we’re somehow “divisive of the movement”. Greta has a few questions for those of you repeating that meme. Well, really, they all boil down to one singular one if you think about it.

Why is Atheism Plus being seen a terrible threat to the cohesion of the movement… and yet a solid year of feminist women being subjected to actions and words that demean us, objectify us, inappropriately sexualize us, and literally threaten us and make us unsafe is not getting called “divisive”?

reddit screenshotA 15 year old girl posted a photo of herself holding a Carl Sagan book to r/atheism, and got a flood of rape jokes in return. Why was that not “divisive”?

A leader of a major skeptical organization speculated on the causes of low female attendance at his conference… and blamed it on women who were speaking out about sexual harassment. Why was that not “divisive”?

A widely respected and beloved atheist celebrity publicly called a woman he disagreed with a cunt. And when this was brought up and criticized in an atheist blog, the comments were flooded with people defending him, and defending his use of the word. Why was that not “divisive”?

As part of a dispute about feminism, an atheist blogger and local atheist organization leader publicly posted Surly Amy’s address, with photos of the building. Why was that not “divisive”?

A popular atheist videoblogger deliberately tried to trigger a rape victim, by posting graphic threats of rape. Why was that not “divisive”?

A thread was posted on an atheist forum posing the question, “Would it be immoral to rape a Skepchick? Not for sexual gratification or power or anything like that, just because they’re so annoying.” Why was that not “divisive”?

Stephanie also has some questions for followers of Christina Hoff Sommers’ strange libertarian conservative definitions of “feminism” (you can tell, because they call themselves “equity feminists”, who believe that everyone else in every feminist movement represents “gender feminism” – a.k.a. misandry). That question is a simple one: what’s your evidence?

Many of the people complaining most insistently about the formation of Atheist+ are also among the number who claim that they are feminists, just “equity feminists”. They claim to be the true advocates for social justice. They claim that the “gender feminists” at FtB, Skepchick, and elsewhere are the oppressive force in this argument. We, of course, disagree. But who is correct? Is there one form of feminism that is based more on real-world data? Is there one that leads to more freedom?

The false dichotomy of “equity feminists” (e.g., libertarians who don’t like trying to fix tilts to the playing field) vs “gender feminists” (e.g., the subset of radical feminists who hate men and want to subjugate them to the Gynocracy) is reductionist to the point of absurdity. Hey, isn’t there a fallacy for that?

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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