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Jan 26 2012

The absurd whiteness of Be Scofield

I’m tempted to simply dismiss Be Scofield as a smug, smarmy asshole, but I won’t; I’ll take on his arguments, because they are so stupid that I’m going to have fun tearing them apart.

Scofield has a new article, Reason and Racism in the New Atheist Movement, in which he basically accuses all New Atheists of being flaming racists who ignore their vocal claim to scientific reasoning to bash religion indiscriminately.

Scofield sets up his argument by trying to claim the scientific high ground, demanding the utmost rigor from the New Atheists. He’s going to slap us around with some sciencey-sounding buzzwords and sneer at us for failing to meet them.

Given that the New Atheists ground their arguments in science, reason and logic it behooves us to hold these conclusions to very high standards when analyzing them. It goes without saying that truth or knowledge claims should be supported by data, cross-cultural research and empirical evidence whenever possible. This should be measurable and certain principles of reasoning should be employed. Claims of this nature should also be scrutinized amongst a community of experts to try and reach a consensus before drawing conclusions. Unfortunately, the New Atheists fail tremendously in this regard.

Oh, really? Before addressing these claims, I would like to turn the tables on Mr Scofield. Tell me, which religion bases their knowledge claims on “data, cross-cultural research and empirical evidence”? Where are their “measurable” data? Do any Christian faiths, for example, bring their creeds to a council of scholars from Islam, Judaism, Shintoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Scientology to reach a consensus before drawing conclusions? Do they cross-check their interpretations with the Mormons, even?

Isn’t it peculiar how these apologists for religion so indignantly demand data and evidence from others, but never insist on it for their own claims?

It’s amazing how self-unaware the proponents of faith, including Be Scofield, can be. They are conscious that data and empiricism are valued by scientists, so they think that we should just ignore the absence of the same in their claims, and respond to scientists by asking for even more evidence.

The website Adherents.com currently lists that there are 4,300 different faith groups worldwide.

Yes, exactly my point. Which one has the evidence? Which one is true? And that is the crucial question.

Wouldn’t information need to be gathered from each of them before reaching scientific conclusions about whether or not the entire category of religion is harmful or poisonous?

No, because the test is so much simpler than that. You see, scientists have done the science — a few hundred years worth of intense scrutiny and experimentation — and the fruit of all that work is a fairly good (but of course, incomplete) description of the nature and properties of the universe. We know quite a bit about human history, the makeup of stars, early cosmology, geology, chemistry, etc., and we can look at those 4300 religions and ask how many of them describe the universe in a way that actually matches reality.

And the answer is…none of them.

They’re all wrong! They all sound like the guesses a totally ignorant bozo with a desire to manipulate people would make, and not at all like the insights someone with a genuine connection to a vastly greater source of cosmic information would provide.

So how do we know that the whole category of religion is harmful or poisonous? Because it teaches falsehoods about humanity and the universe around us. That is enough right there. We value truth. Teaching lies therefore does harm.

Apparently, Be Scofield considers truth to be unimportant and not at all a significant criterion for appreciating religion — otherwise, he’d be asking the same question of those faiths that he is so quick to ask of atheists. Therefore, I have to conclude he is being dishonest and disingenuous in demanding it of us.

Furthermore, what kinds of research questions would need to be asked? What sort of variables would be involved? Are there measures that could be agreed upon by a community of researchers to analyze what makes a particular religion harmful? Helpful?

How about, just as one example, this question: where did people come from? It’s an excellent question, and I’ll even give all those religious traditions credit for asking it. We know the answer, and it’s quite clear and sharp: we evolved from earlier species, by natural processes that we understand quite well. How many of those 4300 religions came up with that answer? I’m not familiar with all of them, but at least we can throw out all the ones that get it wrong, which I’m sure will be the majority.

Then we can ask another important question: how did they get the answer? What productive, testable process did they use to determine where people came from? If the answer is revelation, aka “pulling it out of their ass”, we can also conclude that their religion does harm, because it teaches dangerously invalid procedures for making and evaluating truth claims.

The truth and how we come to it are matters of importance, aren’t they, Mr Scofield?

Case and point: How can any of these New Atheists claim that the Dinka religious tradition of Africa is harmful? They’ve probably never heard of it, let alone conducted any sort of anthropological or sociological studies to determine the degree of harmfulness it poses to its members or others. Dawkins claims “I believe not because of reading a holy book but because I have studied the evidence.” I’d love to see the data and research he’s gathered to reach such sweeping conclusions about religion.

Oh. I confess, I know nothing about the Dinka. Sorry. Do they have the one true religion? Will Be Scofield go out on a limb and say, “Yep, the Dinka got it all right”? And then, of course, he’ll provide the empirical evidence that the Dinka god exists and is the one true god.

And again, Scofield doesn’t understand the nature of the evidence. Richard Dawkins has written many books summarizing the evidence; you can go to the bookstore and find even more science texts describing the studies done. They are studies of the objective nature of the world, not detailed studies of religion. If a religion claims the earth is flat, contrary to the evidence, we don’t need to do a detailed study of its theology to determine that it is a bad idea to promote that particular faith.

The game Scofield is playing here is thinly disguised version of The Courtier’s Reply — he’s demanding that we respect obvious nonsense and study it with all the fervor of a convert. We don’t need to. We have answers determined by reliable, independently verifiable methods, that don’t depend on gullibility and an upbringing in a particular dogma to accept. We can simply ask how well a religion conforms to reality.

And look, he continues with his demands that we appreciate ruffled flounces and puffy pantaloons!

Has he investigated the Japanese religion Tenrikyo? The Korean tradition Wonbulgyo? Have any of these atheists been to Iraq or Iran to interview any Mandeans? Do these atheists ‘know’ in some scientific way that the traditional mythological beliefs of the Inuit of the polar regions were harmful or led to more harm? Are Native American religious traditions really child abuse?

OK, Be, which one of these is the one true religion? Plucking obscure antique mythologies out of a catalog does not impress at all, nor does it compel me to want to dig deeper into them. It also doesn’t help your case; the top two religions, Christianity and Islam, cover over half the world’s population, so all I have to do is throw in Hinduism, Chinese traditional religion, and Buddhism and I’ve got the vast majority of cases already covered. If you’re going to pick some arbitrary tiny sect out of that 4300 as a sterling example of good religion, you’re going to have to a) make an actual case for its virtues, and b) your time would be better spent convincing Christians and Muslims to convert to it.

He also makes a very peculiar argument.

Would the researchers be all white, middle/upper class men like those that have predominantly defined new atheism?

I would agree that many (but not all) of the New Atheists are white, middle/upper class men, and I would also say that it is a problem. In case Be hasn’t noticed, there has been a lot of effort to broaden the appeal of New Atheism and get input and leadership from underrepresented groups. It’s also caused considerable tension within the movement.

But then, why does he then focus his criticisms on Greta Christina? She is white, but she doesn’t meet all those other narrow criteria? It’s very strange.

Also, meet Be Scofield: white, product of a $35,000/year education at a private liberal arts college. Gosh, look at the privileged white people arguing over who is more racist. I’m not even going to try. I admit that I’m a privileged white male, and when matters of racism and sexism come up, I will defer to those who have experienced its oppression. Which does not include the obliviously sanctimonious Be Scofield.

He’s also a liar. This is an outrageously false accusation:

When Greta Christina says that religious people should be actively converted to atheism or Dawkins likens religion to a virus that infects the mind they are effectively saying “we know what’s best for you.” This is the crux of the problem with the New Atheists. They’ve identified belief in God or religion as the single most oppressive factor in people’s lives and feel justified in liberating people from it because they have “reason” on their side.

If I see someone starving, I will say that hunger is the most oppressive factor in their life, and try to feed them. If I see someone sick, I will say that disease is the most oppressive factor in their life, and try to heal them. If I see someone enslaved or trapped in poverty, I will say that hardship is the most oppressive factor in their life, and try to liberate them. I know of no atheists who would claim that freeing people of religion is the most important issue in everyone’s life.

I can think of many religious people who will prioritize saving souls over saving people.

Furthermore, home foreclosures, poverty, homelessness, oppression, inadequate mental health and social services, poor health care and violence plague America. Whether we like it or not, religious organizations are often the first to provide the much needed spiritual, material and social services to this sick society.

It’s also that religious mindset that perpetuates the sickness. We have an overwhelming Christian majority in this country: so why don’t we have a national health care system? Why is there such great economic inequity? What faith tradition is insisting that women not have unrestricted access to reproductive health services? Sure, there are selfish atheists who take the wrong side in these arguments, but we’re a minority — you cannot list the serious problems we have and allow it to be assumed that the godless are responsible. This is a Christian-dominated country: those problems are a consequence of the failure of faith to provide solutions.

Many of these New Atheists claim that holding onto the belief in supernatural entities is absurd or irrational. However, there is nothing more absurd than whiteness, class oppression and patriarchy. Resisting these absurdities means a more nuanced approach to religion – one that recognizes the positive role it can play in undermining such systems of domination. Ultimately, it means relying upon relationships more than reason.

Believing in supernatural beings is irrational. Is Be Scofield claiming that they aren’t?

I’m sitting here all pale and white because of my ancestry: there’s nothing absurd about it, it just is what it is. Oppression of class and sex are also real and awful, and I oppose them — and strangely enough, a majority of atheists are liberal and progressive and also deplore them, while a majority of Christians are conservative and endorse them.

I also think relationships are important…but relationships built on equality. There is nothing healthy about a relationship in which a person claims a pretense of privileged authority on the basis of imaginary, untestable claims obtained from an invisible being. That’s why religion is universally harmful: because it rests on unreasonable claims that it claims cannot be assessed for their truth. It’s also pretty darned good at recruiting useful idiots like Be Scofield to defend its authority.

I haven’t tackled every single stupid claim in Scofield’s article, because I can tell that jaws dropped all over the atheist blogosphere at the appalling ineptitude and dishonesty of his arguments. Ophelia Benson and Greta Christina also ripped into him. I’m sure more of us will join in. Sometimes, smacking a fool is just so much fun.

426 comments

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  1. 1
    Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    When theists prove they can specifically reject 4,299 individual religions from a position based on research and consideration of each and every one, with a verifiable and reproducible reason for every single one that does not apply to their chosen religion I’ll concede that an atheist should do the same for all 4,300.

    Then I’ll turn into a fire engine.

  2. 2
    Inaji

    Are Native American religious traditions really child abuse?

    Uh, which nation/peoples would you be referring to here, Be? You’re displaying your idiocy in all its splendor.

    I’m half Indian. Specifically, Oglala Lakota. Contrary to your moronic blatherings, indigenous peoples aren’t all lumped together and they don’t all have the same myths, stories and beliefs. Who woulda thunk, eh?

  3. 3
    scottgifford

    Are the beliefs of the Dinka harmful? I haven’t the foggiest. Harm is a pretty subjective concept.

    But unless their has been some remarkable coincidence, their beliefs are most certainly wrong. Plus, there is no doubt that societies that embrace science have better standards of living that societies that are still under the complete control of religions or similar ideologies like say Communism.

    I don’t need to go about studying every religion in the world to see the obvious reality that science has elevated more people, more quickly, than anything in human history.

  4. 4
    Natalie Reed

    Umm…for the sake of clarity: Be is not a white male. Be is transgender, and simply happens to be very early in that process.

  5. 5
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Thank you.

    I think it’s funny that he seems to reach for more obscure examples with every post on the subject. It’s like the Kanem-Bornu Courtier’s Reply.

    ***

    When Greta Christina says that religious people should be actively converted to atheism or Dawkins likens religion to a virus that infects the mind they are effectively saying “we know what’s best for you.”

    Well, yes, in the sense that every social movement in history has been. We’re advocating for a world that we think is best for everyone, including ourselves. If we thought the status quo was best, we’d be content with it. It’s such a stupid “accusation.”

    ***

    By the way, I don’t believe he’s read Sikivu Hutchinson’s whole book. If he has, he hasn’t grasped it fully.

  6. 6
    Inaji

    Natalie Reed:

    Be is transgender

    That has nothing to do with his living most of his life as a privileged white male, nor the mass amount of stupidity he spews out which is a result of that white male privilege.

  7. 7
    Natalie Reed

    Ahhhh, yes, the ol’ claim that trans women have a whole bunch of male privilege on account of our totally AWESOME lives being raised and treated as male, which was totally WAY better than being cis women or whatever…

    *cough*

    It’s really neither here nor there in terms of Scofield’s actual arguments and the actual issue, but misgendering someone is kind of messed up, especially in a context where the inaccurate gender assignation is being used as a strike against them. I’m sure PZ wasn’t doing it on purpose, and was simply an issue of not actually knowing Be’s gender, but I thought the clarification deserved to be made.

  8. 8
    Active Margin

    I really have nothing to add that PZ, Ophelia, and Greta haven’t already covered.

    Well, perhaps one thing, and it’s a bit of a cheap “gotcha”, but how about simply asking Be to refute the claim, as Tim Minchen posed it:

    Because throughout history every mystery EVER solved has turned out to be NOT magic.

    If he is talking about empiricism and all, I’d say the evidence fully supports the fact that Be lives in a fantasy world. Too bad for him that there aren’t medal ceremonies for mental gymnastics.

  9. 9
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Case and point [I assume he means "Case in point"]: How can any of these New Atheists claim that the Dinka religious tradition of Africa is harmful?

    Well, I might be wary if I were an ox.

  10. 10
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Ahhhh, yes, the ol’ claim that trans women have a whole bunch of male privilege on account of our totally AWESOME lives being raised and treated as male, which was totally WAY better than being cis women or whatever…

    Male privilege is being preferentially treated due to being perceived as male in a culture which consciously or unconsciously promotes preferential treatment of those so perceived.

    What exactly are you trying to dispute?

  11. 11
    Natalie Reed

    Oh, and here:

    http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2011/10/28/living-out-loud-im-transgender/

    For the record, yes, I disagree with the statements in question, and don’t think this particular absence of privilege on Scofield’s part absolves her of accountability for the terrible mangling of Hutchinson’s very good points.

  12. 12
    Natalie Reed

    Significant portions of male privilege are related to internal experiences, perceptions of self as “normal” and/or superior, the cultural default, taking gender issues for granted, not having to internalize messages about one’s inferior status within the social dynamics of sex and gender, etc. Those aspects of male privilege are not conferred to trans women. Additionally, what elements of male privilege we may have at one time been conditionally offered must in turn be weighed against the absence of cis privilege. Male socialization is, for a trans woman, a nightmare. To call it a privilege is extremely insulting. I’ve got a post already scheduled to go up tomorrow morning going into this in more detail.

    Again, though, not really here nor there.

  13. 13
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Ahhhh, yes, the ol’ claim that trans women have a whole bunch of male privilege on account of our totally AWESOME lives being raised and treated as male,

    So no privilege in being treated as male? I would say there’s disprivilege in being raised and treated as female. What am I missing? I’m open to being educated.

  14. 14
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    I don’t think you’ve at all shown that Scofield hasn’t had a formative experience warped by male privilege, even if, as openly transgender, she doesn’t now. One’s internal experience generally have no bearing on how one is treated by others. Insisting that privilege doesn’t count as privilege because of one’s internal conflicts and stress is special pleading going on Insane Troll Logic.

  15. 15
    Natalie Reed

    It’s both. Yes, certain aspects of male privilege are definitely afforded trans women. Other aspects are not. Cis privilege is wholly absent. It’s an intersectionality thing. As said, I have a post on this going up in the morning.

  16. 16
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Significant portions of male privilege are related to internal experiences, perceptions of self as “normal” and/or superior, the cultural default, taking gender issues for granted, not having to internalize messages about one’s inferior status within the social dynamics of sex and gender, etc. Those aspects of male privilege are not conferred to trans women. Additionally, what elements of male privilege we may have at one time been conditionally offered must in turn be weighed against the absence of cis privilege. Male socialization is, for a trans woman, a nightmare. To call it a privilege is extremely insulting. I’ve got a post already scheduled to go up tomorrow morning going into this in more detail.

    So can I now say I’m exempt from white privilege or male privilege because I lack neurotypical privilege? Or is this just for trans people?

  17. 17
    Natalie Reed

    One’s internal experiences effect one’s actual going through life, certainly effect the issue of “blinded by privilege”, and also certainly has an effect on the issue of how one treats others and how one is treated ends up effecting you. I don’t see why that’s terribly difficult to understand. Do you REALLY think a trans woman experiences being socialized and treated as male in the same manner as men, and this is for her a positive, privileged experience?! That being raised female is so much worse than being raised male that the latter is the preferential, privileged experience no matter how much one’s inner identity rebels against that gender assignment and is traumatized and tortured by it?

  18. 18
    Natalie Reed

    No Akykoth, you can simply claim intersectionality. Which is all I was pointing to. However, it’s important to note that the cis/trans axis of privilege overlaps with the male/female axis far more than neurotypicality overlaps with race or gender.

  19. 19
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    …why inject the “positive” part?

  20. 20
    Ichthyic

    Case and point: How can any of these New Atheists claim that the Dinka religious tradition of Africa is harmful?

    I assume he meant: Case ON point.

    but, let’s take an analogy:

    I see a lion eat someone.

    I hypothesize: “Large felines are dangerous to humans”

    do I actually need to study EVERY EXISTING LARGE FELINE to support that hypothesis?

    no, I don’t.

    after study a few completely different genera of large felines, it becomes quite clear that the hypothesis has support, and then also becomes a reasonable conclusion to make, even though I may run into a large feline sp. I never actually studied directly.

    wait, this is fucking obvious? why am I even bothering?

    *sigh*

  21. 21
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Oh, is he ever a liar. And a conscious, vicious one. This exercises me so I must cross-post from Greta’s thread.

    SpokesGay: Since you’re not disposed to do a full fisking, Greta, let me help a tiny bit. There’s something Be said that cannot go unremarked on and he needs called out for:

    “Be”:When Greta Christina says that religious people should be actively converted to atheism

    SpokesGay:No. Dirty, dirty move. Given that he has no shame about comparing argumentation with colonialism against indigenous people it should be crystal clear what he’s doing here. He’s positing that Greta (or anyone else who’s not a wilting flower) is advocating some kind of forcible “conversion” of oppressed people to New Correct Thought.

    Not only is that an outrageous libel (seriously Be. . . do you read the English language? Who in heaven’s name has ever advocated forcible “conversion?” And don’t hide behind the fact that you said “active.” Your deliberate implication is transparent.) but it doesn’t even make any sense. No one can be compelled to believe something. They can be compelled to profess that they believe it. They can be compelled to conform to majority norms and they can be compelled to perform rituals and behaviors that demonstrate conformity. But they cannot be compelled to believe a thing they don’t believe.

    And guess who did all that compelling-of-rituals-and-behavior when it came to Native Americans? Christian missionaries.

    Make no mistake. Be Scofield is not the “nice,” “gentle” person he desperately wants you to believe he is. That single passage above demonstrates a knowing and cynical rhetorical move designed to provoke by implicitly comparing argumentation for atheism with actual physical and cultural violence done to indigenous people. In short, it was a lie, and a calculated one.

    Be Scofield is either ethically disgusting or he’s incredibly stupid.

    . . . .

    SpokesGay:That’s what gets my blood up; those who affect “niceness,” and “tolerance,” and “inclusivity,” and “non-judgmentalism” are dangerous bastards. Anyone who makes an ostentatious show out of displaying these qualities, or who spends time deliberately constructing an image that projects these qualities (Stedman, Mooney, Rosenau, ad barfum) is not to be trusted. They will sell your ass down the river and they will come up with any dubious judgment to fit the popular sentiment of those whom they think they can use to advance their standing.

    Such people almost always turn out to be the most extreme self-regarding narcissists who use their Smiley Face ™ persona as camouflage for manipulations and political maneuvering. Hugo Schwyzer comes to mind.

    I prefer the company of unvarnished human beings who don’t try to pretend they’re not subject to the same base motivations and self-interest that all the rest of us are. I don’t pretend to be saintly at all—that would be laughable. And I sure as hell don’t trust anyone who does.

  22. 22
    Natalie Reed

    Take it out, then. Does it make a difference?

    Look, I’m not going to keep debating this right now, since I’m probably going to have to do so again in a few hours anyway, so, let me just concisely sum up my feelings here:

    Regardless of the general idiocy of Scofield’s article, pointing to a trans woman and saying “haw haw privileged white male!” is a really fucked up thing to do.

    I’m sure PZ didn’t do that intentionally. But you guys acting like it wouldn’t have been a problem if he HAD is an even more fucked up thing to do.

    /done

  23. 23
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Natalie:

    Be is transgender, and simply happens to be very early in that process.

    You can hardly blame folks for using the wrong pronouns when Be hasn’t announced that publicly, and commenters have no way of knowing that until you tell them.

  24. 24
    Akira MacKenzie

    Furthermore, home foreclosures, poverty, homelessness, oppression, inadequate mental health and social services, poor health care and violence plague America.

    And who are the ones who shriek “COMMUNISM!!!” and “SOCIALISM!!!” when ever anyone tries to seriously address these plagues? Outside of a few Randites, it’s NOT the atheists. Indeed, according to a significant portion of America’s Christians, to be an atheist is to be a closet-Lennists out to destroy the capitalist system and “punish achievement” with nationalized health care, higher taxes, and the “nanny state.”

    Whether we like it or not, religious organizations are often the first to provide the much needed spiritual, material and social services to this sick society

    With apologies to Bogie: “For a price, Schofield, For a price…”

    I am yet to see a faith-based charity–whether it’s a soup kitchen or a disaster relief organization–that didn’t expect or demand the desperate people they were “helping” convert to or participate in their cancerous beliefs. Besides, when last I checked “charity” was suppose to be a beneficial act done without the expectation of reward or even basic reciprocity. Feeding the hungry in hopes that it will score brownie points with an invisible cosmic tyrant hardly counts.

    “Christian Charity” should join “jumbo shrimp” and “military intelligence” on that great list of commonly-used oxymorons.

  25. 25
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    I assume he meant: Case ON point.

    Actually, my friend, I assume he meant “case in point.”

    :))

  26. 26
    Glen Davidson

    You have to seriously study each and every creation myth before you can say that evolution and current geology is correct (within current parameters of knowledge) and those myths are wrong. Why? Because clearly one or more of those myths might transcend all of science, and be correct through sheer luck or godly knowledge.

    Is this or is this not analogous to Be’s (gag, the pretension of this idiot) moronic claim that we have to know every fucking religion before we know they’re bunk?

    Glen Davidson

  27. 27
    nms

    Take it out, then. Does it make a difference?

    yes

    I assume he meant: Case ON point.

    Sod’s Law is not to be trifled with

  28. 28
    Ichthyic

    colloquial vs legal.

    http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/On+Point

    in either case, there is no “case and point”.

  29. 29
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    It’s really neither here nor there in terms of Scofield’s actual arguments and the actual issue, but misgendering someone is kind of messed up, especially in a context where the inaccurate gender assignation is being used as a strike against them. I’m sure PZ wasn’t doing it on purpose, and was simply an issue of not actually knowing Be’s gender, but I thought the clarification deserved to be made.

    If it’s an issue of not knowing, as it is in this case with me and I’m sure PZ and others, it’s not “messed up.” If we didn’t know – and no one that I’m aware of has pointed it out before you – we didn’t know.

  30. 30
    Ichthyic

    Sod’s Law is not to be trifled with

    indeed.

    one more time:

    Case on point is grammatically correct usage.

    so is the more colloquial “Case in point”

    are we done now?

  31. 31
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    colloquial vs legal.

    Mmm. I’m pretty sure there’s no “case on point” in the vernacular. Any more than there’s a “I would of called you.” Fingernails on a chalk board.

    in either case, there is no “case and point”.

    No, there isn’t. Now goddamnit, what are we gonna kvetch about now?

  32. 32
    Ichthyic

    Mmm. I’m pretty sure there’s no “case on point” in the vernacular.

    I just showed you the usage.

    I guess we weren’t done?

    shall we dance more?

    I so enjoy hashing out trivia that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

  33. 33
    kami

    I think that it’s not much of an issue when his bio refers to him as a male..

  34. 34
    Stacy

    @Josh, Official Spokesgay–

    Well, at this point I’m willing to use Hanlon’s razor to explain Scofield’s idiocy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlon's_razor

    I guess we’ll see. I hope ze is open to criticism.

  35. 35
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    shall we dance more?

    I so enjoy hashing out trivia that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

    Yes, yes! Dance you fool. . .let us dance the night away!

    I’m just playin’, Ich.

  36. 36
    Ichthyic

    then, I’ll lead, and the next dance step is:

    http://www.win-more-cases.com/toolkit/part-c-use-the-tools-of-persuasion/case-on-point.html

    … so you can follow the vernacular, you understand.

    ;)

  37. 37
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Stacy:

    I guess we’ll see. I hope ze is open to criticism.

    We won’t, and Scofield’s not. Remember, we’ve been through this several times before. All you can expect is more straw arguments and evasions. I would have extended the “stupidity” benefit of the doubt months ago, but now I think it’s deliberate and venal.

  38. 38
    Natalie Reed

    Josh:

    a) Be had made a public statement about it, to which I’ve linked.

    b) I wasn’t upset with anyone for initially using the wrong pronouns, and acknowledged the initial misgendering was likely an innocent mistake.

    However, I do think fact-checking is usually a good idea when making statements like:

    “I admit that I’m a privileged white male, and when matters of racism and sexism come up, I will defer to those who have experienced its oppression. Which does not include the obliviously sanctimonious Be Scofield.”

    Can we just let this be a friendly, no-hard-feelings lesson about making cis-normative assumptions?

  39. 39
    Stacy

    Ah, Josh, you’re probably right.

    I was raised by people who were smart and decent in many ways, yet incredibly stupid and destructive in others. I have a hyperactive awareness of the ability of folks to compartmentalize, and perhaps a self-protective tendency to be unjustifiably optimistic.

  40. 40
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Natalie:

    a) Be had made a public statement about it, to which I’ve linked.

    OK. But I missed that. And if I missed that, I don’t think it’s a stretch that PZ and commenters did too.

    Can we just let this be a friendly, no-hard-feelings lesson about making cis-normative assumptions?

    Yes. And those lessons are valuable. Remember, I’m the guy who caught himself being an asshole about equating vagina with woman on Stephanie’s blog about a week ago. I don’t mind copping to being wrong:) But a little grace period, and a little charity that assumes someone doesn’t know all that you currently know can be helpful too.

  41. 41
    Inaji

    Stacy:

    Ah, Josh, you’re probably right.

    He is. The last two times we went round and round with “Be”, the amount of bullshit was enormous. Like Josh, I quickly stopped thinking it might simply be ignorance, stupidity or privilege-blindness and went with deliberate bullshitter who seriously enjoys their privilege.

  42. 42
    Ichthyic

    The last two times we went round and round with “Be”, the amount of bullshit was enormous.

    this is the first time I’ve noticed anything Be has written.

    but, even so, it’s obvious looking at it that this person is actually INCAPABLE of speaking rationally on this subject.

    which means Be can, should, and will, be quickly forgotten on this subject by anyone who matters.

    I would hope that suggest to Be that they should stick to different topics, but it depends on whether they are doing this just for attention or not.

  43. 43
    Stacy

    @Caine,

    deliberate bullshitter

    I think there are people who just like to stake out a position and defend it with scholarly or privilege-denying sounding words, however specious. They seem to think their blatherings are just as meaningful as, well, anything else–and if they can make a name for themselves that way, why not?

    Postmodernism has a lot to answer for ;)

  44. 44
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    However, I do think fact-checking is usually a good idea when making statements like:…

    The Tikkun bio does indeed present Be as male. In fact, come to think of it, I’d checked at some point before responding after Be had answered one of my blog posts, because I assumed woman, thinking “Bee.” I’m not sure what fact-checking you expect people to do – that public statement is not in my first few Google results, and the bio is. Also, there’s been extended annoyance with Be here in the past and to the best of my recollection you’re the first to mention this.

  45. 45
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    So does this.

  46. 46
    Stacy

    @SC

    Oh, dear. Warm fuzzies do fear the cold sharp intrusion of critical thought, aifinkso.

  47. 47
    Inaji

    Stacy:

    They seem to think their blatherings are just as meaningful as, well, anything else–and if they can make a name for themselves that way, why not?

    That pretty much covers what “Be” is all about, with an extra heaping helping of pretentiousness.

  48. 48
    Jadehawk

    btw, the end of Be’s coming-out post, he says this: “FYI: For now, until I transition fully I prefer a male pronoun.”

  49. 49
    Inaji

    Jadehawk:

    btw, the end of Be’s coming-out post, he says this: “FYI: For now, until I transition fully I prefer a male pronoun.”

    Okay, that seems to settle things.

  50. 50
    nms

    At any rate, I for one eagerly anticipate Scofield’s conversion to Dinkaism. I’m sure it will be an interesting and educational experience for all of us.

  51. 51
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    btw, the end of Be’s coming-out post, he says this: “FYI: For now, until I transition fully I prefer a male pronoun.”

    Ah. Well, there you go. We can get back to ripping his lackwitted article to shreds.

  52. 52
    Natalie Reed

    @Josh:

    Yes, I know that it could easily have been missed, and again, as I said, I am of the mind that this was an innocent mistake. It’s fine,as said: friendly / no-hard-feelings. I don’t think it’s wrong for me to make clarifications in situations like this, though.

  53. 53
    Natalie Reed

    And actually, I never even brought up the pronoun thing or criticized anyone for that.

  54. 54
    Pteryxx

    I still think it’s worth noting that “male privilege” isn’t felt the same way by someone who hates being misgendered as male, even though many objective measurements (harassment, etc) might seem the same. It’s too much of an assumption to say that someone’s oblivious in their own privilege when they hate it. I’m not sure how we SHOULD be discussing it though, I admit.

  55. 55
    Jadehawk

    And actually, I never even brought up the pronoun thing or criticized anyone for that.

    I know you didn’t. I quoted that bit because a)people were confused about the bios, and 2)because I know personal pronouns can be a fraught topic and so I found it useful to let everyone know which pronouns Be prefers

  56. 56
    jaybee

    Be Scofield makes a valid point. It is true that most of us haven’t studied the details of all 4,300 faith groups.

    Perhaps one of these faith groups have knowledge of how to build a working perpetual motion machine. Therefore, we are not being proper skeptics if we scoff the next time someone claims to have invented one.

    Until all 4300 faith groups teachings have been absorbed and vetted, no rational person should make any truth claims about anything. Anyone who doesn’t value science, though, please go about business as usual; you have a hall pass.

  57. 57
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Yes, I know that it could easily have been missed, and again, as I said, I am of the mind that this was an innocent mistake. It’s fine,as said: friendly / no-hard-feelings.

    Well, I think most people would take issue with having their innocent mistakes described as “kind of messed up.”

  58. 58
    elisabetht.

    I think Natalie Reed made a very fine argument to not label a transgender person as being “privileged”. I am not white, male or transgendered, but it takes only basic compassion and empathy to recognise the pointed degree of their suffering. I would think people free of religious dogma would be more sensitive, clearly that is a false hope.

    Then again look what that person also wrote:

    …the mass amount of stupidity he spews out which is a result of that white male privilege

    Such a lazy explanation. Religious apologists of colour could so easily use that against Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitches, Sam Harris, or even PZ Myers. In fact I have no doubt they have, since “angry white male” is the main atheist stereotype.

  59. 59
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I would think people free of religious dogma would be more sensitive, clearly that is a false hope.

    Is there hope for comma splicers?

  60. 60
    Jadehawk

    oh look. it’s elisabetht, miss “anti-racists are horrible” herself. any hope for useful conversation just vanished, if previous threads are any indication.

  61. 61
    Ichthyic

    Regardless of the general idiocy of Scofield’s article, pointing to a trans woman and saying “haw haw privileged white male!” is a really fucked up thing to do.

    followed by:

    , I never even brought up the pronoun thing or criticized anyone for that.

    indeed, instead you couched the same sentiment in different verbiage.

    I find you disingenuous, and am thinking you have added nothing at all but a red herring to this thread.

  62. 62
    Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD

    Would it be fair to say that you don’t get to choose what privilege you have, though it is possible to choose to have disprivilege in some areas?

  63. 63
    Ichthyic

    I think Natalie Reed made a very fine argument to not label a transgender person as being “privileged”. I am not white, male or transgendered, but it takes only basic compassion and empathy to recognise the pointed degree of their suffering. I would think people free of religious dogma would be more sensitive, clearly that is a false hope.

    personal, introspective suffering relating to transgender issues has NOTHING to do with whether one ALSO experiences societal privilege for the sex one was born with.

    so, no, this is NOT a valid argument, privilege STILL applies, and PZ WAS NOT WRONG TO NOTE IT.

    fuck.

    dense people are dense.

  64. 64
    Pteryxx

    indeed, instead you couched the same sentiment in different verbiage.

    Um, I’m new at trans issues, but when someone comes out as trans, says they have always felt they were in the wrong (male) body, have always felt resonance with being called feminine, and is beginning to transition while unpacking their own internalized sexism, AND says they prefer to still be called male pronouns for now?

    It’s not disingenuous to say there’s a difference between privilege, identity, and pronouns. *shrug*

  65. 65
    nms

    elisabetht. may be a terrible person, but if I ever take up book burning The Elements of Style will be the first to go.

  66. 66
    Inaji

    elisabetht:

    Such a lazy explanation.

    No, it wasn’t, little Cupcake. “Be” still had the privilege accorded to white males and happily took advantage of it. Yes, Dawkins and the others also have white male privilege. The difference lies in whether or not one is aware of that, like PZ happens to be. We all have privilege in life, the trick is to be aware of that fact and adjust our viewpoints accordingly.

    That is not something “Be” has ever been willing to do.

  67. 67
    Jadehawk

    I find you disingenuous, and am thinking you have added nothing at all but a red herring to this thread.

    incorrect. pointing out that Be is not a male is an entirely appropriate correction, since PZ mentioned it. Leaving out that word would still result in two whiteys arguing about who is the most liberalest nonracisty liberal. Gender simply doesn’t figure here, especially since Be tries very hard to pretend the main religions that are being actively criticized by the New Atheists (as opposed to simply dismissed as refuted hypotheses about the reality of the universe) are extremely misogynist and not very supportive of transgender issues (see post on Minnesota geography for reference)

  68. 68
    Jadehawk

    elisabetht. may be a terrible person, but if I ever take up book burning The Elements of Style will be the first to go.

    The Elements of Style has fuck-all to do with grammar; without the existence of The Elements of Style, “I would think people free of religious dogma would be more sensitive, clearly that is a false hope” would still be a run-on sentence that required a “but” or at least a semicolon.

  69. 69
    Aliasalpha

    Sometimes, smacking a fool is just so much fun

    Okay am I the only one who, upon reading this, immediately thought of a whack a mole style game with popup creationists, apologists & tone trolls?

  70. 70
    Ichthyic

    pointing out that Be is not a male is an entirely appropriate correction, since PZ mentioned it.

    since it does not affect any of the arguments made, it in fact IS tangential at best.

    sorry, you’re wrong, and she’s wrong.

    but of course, this was supposed to be a thread about Be being wrong.

    fuck that though, right?

    phht.

  71. 71
    nms

    no, a comma splice is not the same as a run-on sentence, and the prescription against comma splices is entirely stylistic

  72. 72
    stuartvo

    Scofield’s argument is really quite simple. Please pay attention:

    Premise A) All generalisations are wrong
    Premise B) All atheists say that “religion is bad”

    1) (B) is a generalisation, therefore it is wrong.
    2) Thus all atheists are wrong when they say no religion is good.
    3) Thus all atheists are wrong when they say any religion is bad.
    4) Thus all atheists are wrong when they say my religion is bad.
    5) Thus my religion is good.
    6) Thus my religion is true.
    7) Thus my religion is the only true one.

    Exercise for the reader: How many errors can you find in that chain of logic? And just because there are only 9 parts to it doesn’t mean that there are only 9 errors.

    In fact, it’s so bad that it makes the ontological argument look water-tight.

    (Just to be pedantic: I know that points (4) through (7) aren’t actually stated in the article, but I’m sure he’d include them when in front of a more sympathetic audience.)

  73. 73
    Pteryxx

    since it does not affect any of the arguments made, it in fact IS tangential at best.

    No, at best, it’s polite. It also happens to be accurate, even if that’s just pedantry.

  74. 74
    Pteryxx

    Premise A) All generalisations are wrong.

    Uh… *headexplodes*

  75. 75
    Jadehawk

    since it does not affect any of the arguments made, it in fact IS tangential at best.

    because accuracy is only relevant on the main topic, and never on side issues?

    *rolleyes*

    but of course, this was supposed to be a thread about Be being wrong.

    fuck that though, right?

    which it could have been, if people just noted Natalie’s correction and moved on. it’s exactly the same as pointing out slurs: it’s not the pointing out that derails, it’s the argument that follows.

  76. 76
    Aratina Cage

    Thanks for the link, Natalie, and the clarification that Be is transgendered. I’ve already said my piece about Be’s accusations at Butterflies and Wheels, and I really do find what Be said ridiculous given the genocidal brutality of Christianity toward Native peoples in the Americas and beyond and the way Christianity has always been hell bent on obliviating all other cultures in its path.

    But in the post Natalie linked to where Be describes being transgendered, this caught my eye:

    But, despite me being called gay or fag those moments never stayed with me. I can’t remember even one specific incident in which I was called this, yet I can remember in painstaking detail the times I had been called a woman or a girl.

    It’s interesting to me because I have had the opposite experience as a gay man. The incidents I remember like that were ones where I was called gay and a fag but I can’t seem to recall one that stuck with me where I was called a girl or a woman.

  77. 77
    stuartvo

    Uh… *headexplodes*

    Yeah, I know. That infinite recursion thing is nasty, innit? :-)

  78. 78
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    elisabetht

    Such a lazy explanation. Religious apologists of colour could so easily use that against Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitches, Sam Harris, or even PZ Myers.

    Or, even a rather white Be Scofield could. And we wouldn’t want that to happen.

  79. 79
    Jadehawk

    We weren’t taught styles when studying English, which is why I generally ignore silly American rules about placing punctuation inside quotation marks. Connecting two independent/main clauses with a comma has always been treated as a grammatical mistake when I learned English; but what do I know, I’m just a silly furriner.

    (and in any case, that’s not what you said; you blathered something about The Elements of Style, which has nothing to do with this)

  80. 80
    stuartvo

    BTW, I almost wrote “Infinite recursion is a bitch”, but this blog has taught me better.

    Thanks guys. :-)

  81. 81
    nms

    The Elements of Style is the go-to guide for turning “things I don’t like” into “grammatical mistakes”. I suppose it’s an in-joke which I forgot was an in-joke, so I’m sorry for the confusion.

  82. 82
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    If trans-disprivilege rubs out male privilege, then why do we even have a word for cis-privilege? They’re different axes.

    And yes, being brought up as a girl is still being raised as a second class citizen. Even if you didn’t want the male privilege, you and Be still had it. I seem to remember someone wrote an interesting article about this once . Called “sacrificing privilege”. It was pretty good. Check it out ;)

    Oh, and this story is also really interesting, on the privilege changes in transitioning – one FtM, one MtF, both scientists: http://www.theage.com.au/national/how-the-sex-bias-prevails-20100514-v4mv.html

  83. 83
    Jadehawk

    If trans-disprivilege rubs out male privilege, then why do we even have a word for cis-privilege? They’re different axes.

    it doesn’t, and Natalie didn’t say it did. She did however point out that male privilege manifests differently for trans people (because only the external markers of privilege are present; it’s like the “race” privilege one gets from passing for white but not actually being white)

    or to use a different example: just because I grew up middle class, with class privilege, doesn’t mean I’m clueless about classist privilege now that I’m poor.

    meaning: mentioning the “male” part, both in terms of misgendering Be and in terms of talking about privilege, is not helpful or necessary here; it could and should have been left out, especially because it’s too complicated an issue to be so straightforward as “he’s a white male like me, so he’s as little direct oppression as I do”

  84. 84
    Jadehawk

    “he’s a white male like me, so he’s as little direct experience with oppression as I do”

    FIFM

  85. 85
    LykeX

    There’s a thought I’ve been having for a while. It has popped up again and again, so I’ll just solicit a response from the horde. Tell me if I’ve missed something.

    My point is that religious beliefs tend to fall into the following categories:
    1) Those that are demonstrably false
    2) Those that are of indeterminate truth status at the moment
    3) Those that are inherently unknowable or so vague as to be meaningless
    4) Those that are so trivial that we didn’t really need religion to tell us

    So, I claim that there has never, in the history of mankind, been a single case of a religious belief or doctrine that was both demonstrably true and non-trivial. Religion has never provided a single verifiable piece of relevant data, ever. Not once. Not on any subject. Ever.

    I’d like to hear if there’s one I’ve missed. If there is something out there that I’ve overlooked, I’d like to know. I can’t think of anything.

  86. 86
    cnocspeireag

    Did Be really write ‘case and point’?

  87. 87
    'Tis Himself

    Be Scofield really dislikes “New Athiests.” He dislikes them so much that no logical fallacy or even outright lying is too low for him to use.

  88. 88
    Inaji

    ‘Tis:

    He dislikes them so much that no logical fallacy or even outright lying is too low for him to use.

    And no amount of logical fallacies and outright lies on the part of religions and theists is too much for Be S. to swallow whole and then sing their praises.

  89. 89
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    Jadehawk, I think Natalie at #7 is pretty strongly implying precisely that. Maybe it’s not what she meant, though. She should, like, totally read that skepchick article on sacrificing privilege. srsly.

  90. 90
    Jadehawk

    anyway

    it seems people like Be conflate three separate aspects of “New” Atheism:

    1)The hypothesis part: here, we mostly stick to the Null Hypothesis re: claims of gods, magic, the supernatural; sometimes, we can outright reject the believers’ hypotheses based on scientific evidence, too. This is the part that makes us atheists: we disbelieve all gods

    2)The criticism of the favored status of “faith” AKA the normalization of epistemological failure as ok as long as it’s hidden behind “religious faith” (sometimes also “just my opinion”); this also applies more or less universally, since what all religions tend to have in common is some sort of belief in some extraordinary claim or another that’s counterfactual or for which any evidence is missing entirely. This is where the argument that truth should have a higher value than wishful thinking/tradition/faith etc. happens

    3)Criticisms of the specifics of a religion and/or the actions of specific religious people and groups (this usually deals with the Abrahamic religions) based on individual examples of the harmfull, fucked up shit they do.

    So, in this whine, Be demands that we show evidence similar to what’s usually presented in 3) for single religious belief out there, and since we can’t, he insists that we can’t take the positions in 1) and 2), or else we’re imperialists and racists, criticizing what we don’t understand.

    - – - – - – - –

    Another bait-and-switch is conflating a culture with its dominant religion. “Imperialism” is forcing the dominant cultural values/mores/behaviors onto oppressed populations, a la Boarding Schools for Native Americans. Which is not the same as pushing non-violently towards abandoning unevidenced beliefs, because one can perform traditional ceremonies and live within one’s culture meaningfully even without the magic; atheist Jews and cultural Christians do it all the time, after all. So do the handful of atheist pagans, apparently.

  91. 91
    Jadehawk

    Jadehawk, I think Natalie at #7 is pretty strongly implying precisely that.

    I don’t. Especially given the explanation in #12

    She should, like, totally read that skepchick article on sacrificing privilege. srsly.

    you’re kidding, right?

  92. 92
    Konradius

    I just read the link Natalie provided about Scofields gender transition.
    Now, I have little doubt that Natalie is right in general that male privilege is not something male->female transgenders have.

    However in Scofields case I think he* used male privilege as a refuge. Look at these statements:

    I know that I also participated in this homophobia by joining my guy friends in using this kind of language with each other. We’d also throw around sexist and racist jokes not realizing the impact these types of words have in everyday lives of people of color and women.

    and

    Raised as a man in a sexist and patriarchal culture I was taught that men were better and smarter than women.

    Now it is quite clear that Scofield wants to unlearn the sexism and male privilege he has had so far. But when detected in his writing, it’s there and he has admitted he is still struggling with it.

    I’m unlearning my own sexism and transphobia. I’ve held prejudices against myself!

    … and then he feels the need to talk about some religious tradition that was less wrong about this issue than our society is now.

    *as his preference

  93. 93
    Jadehawk

    Now, I have little doubt that Natalie is right in general that male privilege is not something male->female transgenders have.

    again, that’s not what she said. she said that male privilege is lessened: it’s similar to the male privilege gay men have, and pre-transition specifically it can be passing privilege similar to that of closeted gays. But other, internal aspects of male privilege are generally missing, which means the comparison PZ makes is a wee bit more complicated than “we’re both white dudes”

  94. 94
    Jadehawk

    Intersectionality is fucking hard to do. I can’t help that.

  95. 95
    Jadehawk

    oh and also: transgender is an adjective, not a noun

  96. 96
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    The Elements of Style is the go-to guide for turning “things I don’t like” into “grammatical mistakes”. I suppose it’s an in-joke which I forgot was an in-joke, so I’m sorry for the confusion.

    A comma splice is an error. It’s not a personal annoyance I’ve deviously inserted into reference books.

    Get lost.

  97. 97
    paulambos

    For all those who missed out on a liberal-arts education, “case and point” is an egregious error, and “case on point”, while a legitimate phrase in other contexts, is incorrect here. “Case in point” is correct.

    But obviously, Scofield meant “Case and point”.

  98. 98
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Do you REALLY think a trans woman experiences being socialized and treated as male in the same manner as men, and this is for her a positive, privileged experience?!

    I’m wondering to what extent he would have realized that he had male privilege.
    I think he admits so himself. That’s the thing about privilege, you don’t notice when you have it. Most men never realize that they are treated in a certain way just because they’re men, so I think it’s reasonable to assume that transwomen before transitioning and being aware of privilege wouldn’t, and wouldn’t connect treatment X with the masculinity they reject.
    But I can imagine that it must add a shitload of additional stress once you realize and realize that people don’t treat you like this for who you are but for who they think you are.

    But back ONT:
    Wow, what a cupcake.
    Yes, belief without evidence is bad. I don’t need to study what every person believes about every detail of the universe. Yes, there are beliefs that are less harmfull than others, there are rich, joyfull traditions and I see absolutely no reason why anybody should abandon them (the joyfull ones, not the harmfull ones).
    I’m a big fan of traditions. Yet I still think that playing an elaborate charade to get my kids to believe in Santa Claus (very harmless belief, I’m not aware of ay murder commited by a preschooler in the name of Santa) is bad because it would be lying.
    Fairies and Unicorns are beautifull ideas, yet not good ones to accept as real.

  99. 99
    supernova

    I find that behind every accomodationist-style screed there is a simple trick or tricks padded out by huge amounts of waffle. In this case it appears to be the courtier’s reply, as PZ already noted, but also combined with the fallacy of treating religion as an inherent characteristic of a person, alongside race, sex or sexual orientation. Unfortunately, most people seem to just naturally accept this notion, I’ve often seen people respond to criticisms of Islam with the immediate responce that it is “racist”.

  100. 100
    humanape

    Oppression of class and sex are also real and awful, and I oppose them — and strangely enough, a majority of atheists are liberal and progressive and also deplore them, while a majority of Christians are conservative and endorse them.

    There’s nothing conservative about endorsing “oppression of class and sex”.

    A majority of atheists are liberal? That might be true but I have seen no evidence it’s true. The people who call themselves liberal are a minority in this country and I would bet they are a minority of America’s 30 million atheists.

    A majority of Christians are conservative? I suppose that is true and it’s unfortunate. They disgrace the Republican Party because there’s nothing conservative about their disrespect for the Establishment Clause of our constitution. There’s nothing conservative about denying basic scientific facts like evolution. There’s nothing conservative about having a cowardly idiotic belief in a supernatural master of the universe with unlimited magical powers. There’s nothing conservative about being a gullible moron who believes in the resurrection of the dead Jeebus.

  101. 101
    LykeX

    I’ve often seen people respond to criticisms of Islam with the immediate responce that it is “racist”

    On that point, there are other issues. At least in Europe, criticism of islam has become the cover of people who are actually racist. It allows them to be as vicious as they like, but if anybody accuses them of racism, they retreat to “we’re just criticizing the religion/culture.”
    Of course, there’s significant overlap between thee “critics” and various right-wing nationalist, white supremacist and/or outright neo-nazi groups, making their true motives clear.

    The result of all this is that legitimate criticism of islam and phony, cover-for-racism criticism of islam have become difficult to distinguish.

  102. 102
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I’m sure PZ’s glad he didn’t call this “The absurd maleness of Be Scofield.”

    Reed’s new post is up.

  103. 103
    Nick Gotts

    I’d like to return to discussion of Be Scofield’s argument. I made a dismissive comment on his piece, but on further reflection, I think matters are less simple than PZ argues. Scofield is talking specifically about whether religion is harmful (and whether New Atheists have been justified in saying that it is), not about whether any religion is true, so a key part of PZ’s response is this:

    So how do we know that the whole category of religion is harmful or poisonous? Because it teaches falsehoods about humanity and the universe around us. That is enough right there. We value truth. Teaching lies therefore does harm.

    Apparently, Be Scofield considers truth to be unimportant and not at all a significant criterion for appreciating religion — otherwise, he’d be asking the same question of those faiths that he is so quick to ask of atheists. Therefore, I have to conclude he is being dishonest and disingenuous in demanding it of us.

    I’m not sure this follows: Scofield could respond that no, truth is not an important (or, the most important) property for a world-view to have, but internal consistency andor lack of hypocrisy are, and it is in respect of these properties he is criticising New Atheists. It’s also not obvious that even if teaching falsehoods* is harmful in itself, some religions, in some circumstances, do not have beneficial effects that outweigh this.

    Now if and when New Atheists have claimed that the harm of religion outweighs its benefits in literally all circumstances, I think he has (or would have) a point. But whether such a claim has been made or would be made by any prominent New Atheist, I don’t know. Certainly, all the New Atheist material I’ve read has focused on the “mass religions”: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, maybe a few others – and their broad social effects. In TGD, Dawkins explicitly says he is focusing on religion as it is followed and practised by the great majority of believers (he’s concerned to exclude the sophistimacated theologians rather than those following traditional micro-religions, but in any case, the latter are clearly not his target). I haven’t read much of God is Not Great, but the focus appears to be the same; certainly Hitchens’ claim that “religion poisons everything” cannot be taken as intended literally by any honest reader: the cacti sitting on top of my PC have not been poisoned by religion, nor has the globe standing next to it. Harris actually goes very easy on Buddhism, and Dennett’s Breaking the Spell is in large part a call for empirical investigation of the effects (including possible benefits) of religion, followed by aspects of such an investigation.

    In conclusion, I think the most accurate reply to Scofield is that of straw-manning New Atheists by overstating the claims that have been made.

    *PZ also elides “falsehoods” and “lies” in the text I’ve quoted, and we can’t validly assume that all religious falsehoods are lies.

  104. 104
    frankb

    Umm…for the sake of clarity: Be is not a white male. Be is transgender, and simply happens to be very early in that process.

    I laughed a long time over that, thanks Natalie

  105. 105
    brucegee1962

    Oppression of class and sex are also real and awful, and I oppose them — and strangely enough, a majority of atheists are liberal and progressive and also deplore them, while a majority of Christians are conservative and endorse them.

    While the rest of PZ’s article is great, I think he needs to be called out over the second half of this sentence. Since the nation is overwhelmingly Christian, I think it’s a fairly safe bet that the number of Christians who consider themselves conservative aligns pretty closely with the number of people overall who consider themselves conservative, which wasn’t a majority the last time I checked.

    And beyond that — it looks as if he’s saying the majority of Christians endorse oppression by class and sex. Many do, to be sure. You could even make a case for the converse, that the majority of those who favor oppression by class and sex are Christians (again, see the demographics of this country). But let’s not jump from “Many Christians are bigots” to “Most Christians are bigots” without any evidence to back it up — since evidence was what the original article was about, after all.

    There are plenty of liberal Christians out there — I was one for many years — and some might even be allies on issues as fundamental as the separation of Church and State. You can deride their beliefs if you want, but don’t pretend they don’t exist just so you can make your points more forcefully.

  106. 106
    Anthony K

    I suppose it’s fair to point out that Be’s white privilege isn’t the same as PZ’s, as he’s very early in the stages of a white-to-non-white transition.

    Happens to young anthropologists and protagonists in Dances With Wolves-type stories all the time.

  107. 107
    Walton

    elisabetht:

    Such a lazy explanation. Religious apologists of colour could so easily use that against Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitches, Sam Harris, or even PZ Myers.

    Oh look, elisabetht’s back. I haven’t forgotten your ridiculous apologetics for racist immigration laws, or your claim that “anti-racists in my experience are often bullies”.

  108. 108
    alasdhair

    How many species of animals are there? What proportion are unknown to science?

    Is Scofield suggesting we need to study faecal matter from all of them before concluding that we know a big pile of sh!t when we see one?

  109. 109
    Anthony K

    Is Scofield suggesting we need to study faecal matter from all of them before concluding that we know a big pile of sh!t when we see one?

    I think so. Maybe. He’s quite the idiot, so it’s hard to tell.

  110. 110
    Jadehawk

    I laughed a long time over that, thanks Natalie

    what.

    I suppose it’s fair to point out that Be’s white privilege isn’t the same as PZ’s, as he’s very early in the stages of a white-to-non-white transition.

    what.

  111. 111
    Anthony K

    Thanks, Walton:

    Let’s contrast the comment of elisabetht’s on white privilege that you linked to:

    When addressed to whites it is often seeking to illicit feelings of shame and thus win an argument by appeals to emotion.

    With the kind of stupid she wrote here:

    I would think people free of religious dogma would be more sensitive, clearly that is a false hope.

    What’s that? A comment written to elicit feelings of shame and thus win an argument by appeals to emotion?

    Fuck off elisabetht, you idiot and hypocrite.

  112. 112
    Ing

    #Jadehawk

    If I read correctly, Brownian is making a joke about the Mighty Whitey trope.

  113. 113
    Ing

    When addressed to whites it is often seeking to illicit feelings of shame and thus win an argument by appeals to emotion.

    An argument is not won by reason alone. You first have to convince someone to care enough to be open to reason.

  114. 114
    Anthony K

    If I read correctly, Brownian is making a joke about the Mighty Whitey trope.

    Yeah. Though I regret if that joke muddied the water previously settled about Be’s gender status, and the privilege or lack thereof associated with it.

  115. 115
    Anthony K
    I laughed a long time over that, thanks Natalie

    what.

    What, what?

    frankb? Why is that funny?

  116. 116
    Rey Fox

    Whether we like it or not, religious organizations are often the first to provide the much needed spiritual, material and social services to this sick society.

    Yes, when your religious organizations have the benefit of a huge head start, which is to say, many many years of tradition and organization and financial infrastructure and not being labeled the demons of society, then they’re going to have a leg up in providing food, shelter, and disaster relief. And “spiritual services”, thus insuring them of job security by hooking people on their bullshit.

  117. 117
    Ing

    Whether we like it or not, religious organizations are often the first to provide the much needed spiritual, material and social services to this sick society.

    If only they’d cut out the wasteful fat and focus on the later two

  118. 118
    supermental

    He is the founder of “www.godblessthewholeworld.org”

    Why does he hate America?? Doesn’t he know that it’s “God Bless America”????
    Why, oh why does he hate our freedoms???

    ;) (Snicker…)

  119. 119
    Ing

    He is the founder of “www.godblessthewholeworld.org”

    Really? A name like that promoting dominion of the abrahamic monotheist god over the entire world? And he accuses us of imperialism?

  120. 120
    Anthony K

    Whether we like it or not, religious organizations are often the first to provide the much needed spiritual, material and social services to this sick society.

    Dinka or it doesn’t happen.

  121. 121
    Nick Gotts

    There’s nothing conservative about denying basic scientific facts like evolution. There’s nothing conservative about having a cowardly idiotic belief in a supernatural master of the universe with unlimited magical powers. There’s nothing conservative about being a gullible moron who believes in the resurrection of the dead Jeebus. – humanape

    Since these things are exactly the things that all those appealing to American conservative voters now either believe, or are obliged to pretend to believe, this is absolute tosh. In the USA, these things are now central parts of conservatism. But of course, conservatives have always been at war with reality in one way or another, just as you are.

  122. 122
    Matt Penfold

    There’s nothing conservative about endorsing “oppression of class and sex”.

    Actually there is. If you look at nearly every issue regarding the progress in rights, be they for women, blacks, gays or other groups it is nearly always conservatives who oppose new laws and changes in policy aimed at redressing the situation.

  123. 123
    Ing

    There’s nothing conservative about denying basic scientific facts like evolution. There’s nothing conservative about having a cowardly idiotic belief in a supernatural master of the universe with unlimited magical powers. There’s nothing conservative about being a gullible moron who believes in the resurrection of the dead Jeebus.

    Yeah! It’s all about racism and wanting wage slavery!

  124. 124
    Ing

    There’s nothing conservative about endorsing “oppression of class and sex”.

    Even by a literal definition this is false as the oppression is status quo.

  125. 125
    ikesolem

    The closing argument by Scofield is old and tired:

    …there is nothing more absurd than whiteness, class oppression and patriarchy. Resisting these absurdities means a more nuanced approach to religion – one that recognizes the positive role it can play in undermining such systems of domination.

    This is along the lines of “faith gives people strength to endure oppression, so it must be good” – but it seems someone’s not looking at history here.

    Take, say, Iran, which had a brutal dictator (the Shah) who was eventually overthrown by a religious movement. You could say that faith played a key role in the overthrow their oppressive, violent, patriarchal ruler (Question: are Persians white? Can we divide ‘whiteness’ up a bit here? Like, white that suntans easy, and white that just burns?).

    However, just like any other religious government, the new rulers immediately set about oppressing and dominating anyone who didn’t agree with their revelation. The Iranians simply exchanged on system of domination and control for another, which is what always happens in such cases.

    The real issue is that ‘revelation’ (audiovisual hallucinations brought on by thirst, hunger, drugs, etc.) is not a very useful means of finding out anything about the world, while observational and experimental study is.

    Note also that much economic writing, from Marx to Friedman, also falls into the ‘revelatory’ category, leading to the spread of bizarre ideological faiths, like communism and free-market capitalism.

  126. 126
    Ing

    one that recognizes the positive role it can play in undermining such systems of domination.

    Can we compare it to how long people put up with such a system because of faith?

    Faith really didn’t help in the middleages much did it?

  127. 127
    Bronze Dog

    I’ll remain on the sidelines for the transgender part of the topic. Overall, I think there’s a need to rework the article a bit.

    I’d need to see some statistics to believe that most Christians were conservatives (with a good definition for a metric). Since the US is mostly Christian, it’s expected that most conservatives would be Christian, and given my anecdotal experience and the rhetoric from conservative leaders, I would expect American conservatives to be more dominantly Christian than other groups. It’s an important distinction, but I could understand an atheist blogger getting a little sloppy and typing it incorrectly. If I did it, I’d make a correction.

    “I don’t need to eat the whole egg to know that it’s rotten.” -Mark Twain (I think.)

    Another way to phrase what others have been saying. All the religions I know of are based on faith without evidence and have been wrong about reality in many fundamental ways. I see nothing wrong with tentatively assuming the pattern will continue if I were to examine more religions. If someone wants me to change that conclusion, they’ll have to demonstrate a religion that doesn’t fit the pattern I’ve observed.

  128. 128
    Ing

    I’d need to see some statistics to believe that most Christians were conservatives (with a good definition for a metric). Since the US is mostly Christian, it’s expected that most conservatives would be Christian, and given my anecdotal experience and the rhetoric from conservative leaders, I would expect American conservatives to be more dominantly Christian than other groups. It’s an important distinction, but I could understand an atheist blogger getting a little sloppy and typing it incorrectly. If I did it, I’d make a correction.

    It’s also a matter of how important the faith is in the party. In the Republican party/conservative movement is is at a point where politics and dogma fuse together with lightning speed. See Global Warming and the sudden synergy of political position and religious doctrine.

  129. 129
    bescofield

    UPDATE: I just posted this as an update on my post. There have been lots of interesting questions raised so far. I hope to write a separate post on them later.

    I wanted to comment on an important point. As someone who has experienced white, male, heterosexual and class privilege I’m most likely far more privileged than Greta Christina. This privilege is assigned to me by the dominant society whether I like it or not. As a white American I’m no less capable of reproducing racism or cultural Imperialism than Christina is. My article is not meant as an attack or a “gotcha.” I don’t address these sorts of issues like that – rather I try to uncover ways that we all might be reproducing forms of oppression. Despite my best intentions I unwillingly think and say things that are racist, sexist and that may reproduce cultural Imperialism. Thus, by me highlighting how some of the effects of the New Atheists or Christina’s ideas/actions may reproduce this, I’m not saying that I’m better, more holy, or less racist. I’m fully implicated in this process as well. People like Tim Wise have written entire books about their white privilege, I could do that as well. But here I’m talking about a few specific areas related to religion, atheism and oppression.

    I chose to highlight a few of Christina’s statements because she has publicly advocated converting believers into atheists as well as written passionate and sweeping claims about why she believes religion is harmful and wrong (the subject of my article). When I hear someone advocating the conversion of believers into atheism without any sort of qualifications or context it concerns me. Because I do think of African Americans in the 50′s and 60′s in the Nation of Islam and the Black Church. I do think of Native Americans. I think of queer people who find strength and solace in religious communities. I’m concerned that this statement can be viewed as a sort of panacea and is made without any real relationships to the people or communities that could be affected by it. I’m concerned that people will see this and believe that throwing off superstition is the most pressing issue, when I think it is a non-issue when compared with whiteness or class oppression. Again, I simply don’t see why believing in the afterlife is such an urgent issue to liberate people from. Yes, many religious expressions have reproduced sexism, racism and bigotry. But this is not because they believe in God or heaven (one can believe in those without having to be bigoted). It’s because the religions reflect the larger institutional forces of oppression. Dr. King and Malcolm X believed in God but also fought staunchly against white supremacy. Again, I simply don’t see how liberating Dr. King from his theism takes precedent over ending whiteness or is even an issue.

    I do know that Christina has written lists of atheists of color and is perhaps one of the more concerned people when it comes to these issues. But she still makes sweeping denunciations of religion and publicly advocates converting believers from their beliefs. What is the context here? What sort of relationships are formed before doing this?

    I simply wish that a fraction of the energy that goes into attacking people’s personal beliefs about heaven were to go into educating or writing about the larger social forces of oppression that also shape a believers life. Imagine if much of the passion and fire that characterizes much of the New Atheist community could be directed towards the racial, class and patriarchal oppression that believers experience rather than their beliefs about God or heaven. Of course, as atheists are marginalized in a Christian and hegemonic culture there is a need to resist this persecution. As I’ve said before I think those who are affiliated with religion have a direct responsibility to aid in ending this misguided attack upon atheism.

  130. 130
    Anthony K

    Another way to phrase what others have been saying. All the religions I know of are based on faith without evidence and have been wrong about reality in many fundamental ways. I see nothing wrong with tentatively assuming the pattern will continue if I were to examine more religions. If someone wants me to change that conclusion, they’ll have to demonstrate a religion that doesn’t fit the pattern I’ve observed.

    KG is right; ‘rightness’ doesn’t matter to Be. Two things do: the good work religions do and not bossing non-whites around, though clearly not both at the same time, since a lot of the good work religion does involves bossing non-whites around.

  131. 131
    Ing

    rather I try to uncover ways that we all might be reproducing forms of oppression

    Such as telling religious minorities to shut up and not convert and let the big important people convert?

  132. 132
    Ing

    Imagine if much of the passion and fire that characterizes much of the New Atheist community could be directed towards the racial, class and patriarchal oppression that believers experience rather than their beliefs about God or heaven.

    It’s cute that you think the two are not often linked.

    As I’ve said before I think those who are affiliated with religion have a direct responsibility to aid in ending this misguided attack upon atheism.

    Since the dogma of the religion is that atheists should be attacked (if not physically than socially or philisophically) because they are hell bound how the hell do you think that is going to work?

    Well yes this idea says you’re sub human and deserve to be tortured…but don’t waste your time attacking that idea!

  133. 133
    Matt Penfold

    I simply wish that a fraction of the energy that goes into attacking people’s personal beliefs about heaven were to go into educating or writing about the larger social forces of oppression that also shape a believers life. Imagine if much of the passion and fire that characterizes much of the New Atheist community could be directed towards the racial, class and patriarchal oppression that believers experience rather than their beliefs about God or heaven. Of course, as atheists are marginalized in a Christian and hegemonic culture there is a need to resist this persecution. As I’ve said before I think those who are affiliated with religion have a direct responsibility to aid in ending this misguided attack upon atheism.

    The problem with this is that when we look at those societies that are doing best when it comes to the treatment of racial minorities, of women, of gays and transcended people, and of generally being fairer societies, we find that these societies also tend to be the least religious. They certainly do not have much place for religion in the public sphere.

    I do not consider that correlation to be simply a coincident.

  134. 134
    Nick Gotts

    My article is not meant as an attack or a “gotcha.” – bescofield

    That’s an obvious, barefaced lie.

  135. 135
    Natalie Reed

    Can we rename this “the absurd transphobia of some of pharyngula’s commenters”?

    Yep. Simply hilarious that Be is transitioning…

  136. 136
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    bescofield:

    I think of queer people who find strength and solace in religious communities. I’m concerned that this statement can be viewed as a sort of panacea and is made without any real relationships to the people or communities that could be affected by it.

    I think there is a conflation between the religious belief and the community built around that belief. People take solace in community, most certainly. I don’t think you’ll find anyone arguing that point. The solace community provides is available to most people in some fashion, and it is a benefit to individuals.

    It seems you are defending the community by defending the religion. And while common belief is a fantastic way to build community, you have to question what kind of community you are building.

    Are some forms of religious belief essentially benign? While a case can be made, as PZ has above, that false belief itself is dangerous, there are some people who consider themselves religious who accept the most accurate view of reality we have — the body of knowledge gained through the application of the scientific method.

    But what of those communities that are destructive to those around them? The members of those communities also gain solace from belonging. Whether it is the Mormon Church and their campaign of oppression against non-heteronormative sexual orientation, or the fundamentalists in many states pushing for anti-science education, or Islamic sects who preach violence and destruction to various out-groups, religious faith is demonstrably bad.

    There are two arguments going on here, and you seem to be completely ignoring one of them. There is the argument in favor of community, which you are making. Community is generally good. Then the is the argument that religious faith is harmful. That is the argument being made here. You present your argument in favor of community by attacking the argument that religion is harmful.

    That is an insupportable position. Just the basic concept of religious belief is harmful. It teaches that some knowledge comes not from observation and understanding, but from revelation. This undermines critical thinking and rationality. Once you release the specter of “other ways of knowing” and attempt to put them on a level with knowledge gained through rationality and empiricism, you’ve basically eviscerated of two known good epistemologies– science. (I’m leaving out math, because it also is not an epistemology based on revelation, though it differs a bit from science.)

    As the population of the world grows, our future is dependent on our understanding of reality. Religious belief is fundamentally at odds with that understanding. Community building will not work as you intend if you coddle religious belief. Religion is fractured and often competitive. Communities will grow, but they will not get along harmoniously. You will have 4300 different tribes, all in various degrees of conflict with one another.

    So let me ask you: to which of these communities do you wish to belong? Keep in mind, as soon as you choose, you have chosen to be opposed to those other groups to some degree. And if you have an open mind, realize that many — perhaps most — will not.

  137. 137
    Anthony K

    Can we rename this “the absurd transphobia of some of pharyngula’s commenters”?

    Yep. Simply hilarious that Be is transitioning…

    Yes, I’m sure Jadehawk and I aren’t the only ones wondering what the hell frankb meant with that remark.

  138. 138
    'Tis Himself

    I chose to highlight a few of Christina’s statements because she has publicly advocated converting believers into atheists as well as written passionate and sweeping claims about why she believes religion is harmful and wrong (the subject of my article). When I hear someone advocating the conversion of believers into atheism without any sort of qualifications or context it concerns me.

    So you’re concerned that your favorite pet goddism might be losing adherents to atheism. Quel horror!* Or are you concerned that the ex-goddists might even become, perish the thought, “New Atheists”?

    For someone who spends a lot of verbiage on whining about Greta Christina and “New Atheism,” you’re not very clear on what your concerns are.

    Incidentally, if you read Greta’s article on Atheists’ Anger (sorry, I’m not able to link to it, you’ll find a link on her blog), then you’d see examples of what exactly Greta claims is harmful and wrong about religion in general and Christianity in particular. Unlike you, Greta is a clear and concise writer who expresses herself well. You might even consider studying her writing style with an eye to improving your own.

    *That’s foreign for “gosh o’golly gee willickers, that’s really not done.”

  139. 139
    Nick Gotts

    Because I do think of African Americans in the 50′s and 60′s in the Nation of Islam and the Black Church. – bescofield

    So do I: I think of Elijah Muhammed’s support of segregation, his invitation to George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party, to speak at a Nation of Islam rally in 1962, his own blatant antisemitism, his use of funds collected for the Nation of Islam to support his family. I think of the prominent role of black churches in campaigning against gay rights, and of the subordinate role of women within them. These things – with the exception of Elijah Muhammed’s financial corruption – are not incidental to the religious beliefs involved, but inseperable from them.

  140. 140
    Jadehawk

    shorter Be: “I believe in the righteousness of the Noble Lie”

    seriously, you’re doing exactly what I’ve explained in my post at #90. You’re conflating culture/society with magical beliefs, and saying that opposition to the latter makes us cultural imperialists, “colonizing” people’s minds. Which is not true, but creating such a false dichotomy harms members of these cultural/ethnic minorities; it tells them that they can either abandon their identity, or they have to remain beholden to irrational and empirically false beliefs, many of which are harmful (they are often patriarchal, or they promote “alternative medicine”, or other such things). It’s “Cultural Feminism” with its anti-science stance again, and it’s making the decidedly racist, imperialist claim that only white, Western, post-Christian culture can be a rational, secular culture.

  141. 141
    Natalie Reed

    Also the numerous statements that I’m WRONG WRONG SO VERY WRONG to have made the clarification about Scofield’s mistake. And the rather naive and simplistic arguments about the degree to which trans women posess male privilege. And repeatedly straw-manning my points, making them about me supposedly claiming the lack of cis privilege somehow completely magically nullified ALL of male privilege, and me supposedly ganging up on everyone for pronoun use when I absolutely didn’t even mention it until it had been brought it, and my only issue was with PZ almost certainly accidentally casting Be as the stereotypical white male… and I can’t see how anyone would expect me to simply be quiet about that, really.

    The fact that there was even an argument here bothers me tremendously. Like… how the fuck was it out of line for me to clarify someone’s gender identity when her archetypical “privileged white male” status was being used as a target?

    I mean… Scofield pulls out the “totally privileged! grr!” attack against Greta, and we all say “that’s absurd!” …but then PZ does more or less the same thing against Scofield, and we’re all supposed to just let it slide, despite the inaccuracy?

  142. 142
    Natalie Reed

    Er… I mean clarification about Scofield’s gender / PZ’s mistake.

  143. 143
    'Tis Himself

    Natalie,

    Nobody is saying you’re “WRONG WRONG SO VERY WRONG” about pointing out Scofield being a trans woman. What you are wrong about is conflating ignorance of his (his preferred pronoun) situation with transphobia. Like most people here, I had no knowledge that he’s transitioning to trans. And quite frankly, I could care less. His sexual identity has nothing to do with his rants about “New Atheism.”

    I realize, given your trans identity, that transphobia is a concern of yours. But it’s purely a side issue to discussions of Scofield’s anti-atheism.

  144. 144
    Aratina Cage

    I suppose it’s fair to point out that Be’s white privilege isn’t the same as PZ’s, as he’s very early in the stages of a white-to-non-white transition.

    Oi. People!

    He (Be) was in the closet about being transgendered. The post Natalie linked to appears to be his public coming out as a transgendered person. So he (as he prefers to be called for now) had male privilege in the same way a gay/bi woman or man has straight privilege before coming out of the closet. Which is to say that he probably could pass as male in most situations because people assume others are cisgendered, but that does not mean he always was able to pass, and it doesn’t mean that it was easy or unstressful or casual for Be to pretend to be a cisgendered male. It also doesn’t mean he didn’t recognize it when he was afforded male privilege.

    And actually, being in the closet tends to open one’s eyes to the privilege being enjoyed by the class one is passing as since the primary reason sometimes that people behave toward you in particular ways in particular circumstances is because they assume you to be part of that privileged class. It can be plain as day to a closeted person in some situations that these things wouldn’t be happening if one were not closeted. It’s like saying one is not a US citizen but Canadian when one meets a group of people that have signalled a hostility toward the USA while on vacation in a foreign country.

  145. 145
    Anthony K

    Nobody is saying you’re “WRONG WRONG SO VERY WRONG” about pointing out Scofield being a trans woman.

    ‘Tis, Ichthyic clearly did in 61, 63, and 70.

  146. 146
    Matt Penfold

    Natalie,

    You also made a mistake over Scofield’s on Ophelia’s blog.

  147. 147
    Matt Penfold

    …Scofield’s gender identity on Ophelia’s blog

  148. 148
    Louis

    Sorry. {claps hands} Can I have everybody’s attention please. This:

    I simply wish that a fraction of the energy that goes into attacking people’s personal beliefs about heaven were to go into educating or writing about the larger social forces of oppression that also shape a believers life. Imagine if much of the passion and fire that characterizes much of the New Atheist community could be directed towards the racial, class and patriarchal oppression that believers experience rather than their beliefs about God or heaven.

    From Be can be simply summed up as:

    You are focussing on the wrong problem. Focus on the problem I am telling you to focus on.

    Now that we’ve been told what to do, surely we should be good children and do as we are told. Thank you, loving Be, for all those options.

    Oh wait…I have just had an idea….wait….I can feel it trickling forward….oooooh it’s a good ‘un….could it…could it perhaps be that we can criticise/attack the falsity of a belief (religious or otherwise) AND the social consequences of it at the same time? Why yes…yes we can. Hoorah!

    Oh wait…there’s another one coming….could it even be that the mode of thought, the reliance on faith and revelation and anecdote and feeling alone as mechanisms of acquiring knowledge, and worse, denying that one does this, are causative of situations like the social inequalities to which Be refers? Why yes…yes they are. Double hoorah!

    How do we know Teh Gay is bad? The Baby Jesus told me. How do we know that wives are the property of their husbands and that women are subservient to men? Allah made it so. How do we know that black people are worse than white people? Wasn’t that the curse of Ham? How do we know that diluting a substance and shaking it in a special way makes it more potent? Samuel Hanneman said so all those years ago and placebo, that’s why! What about my child’s colic? Crick a spine here and POOF ’tis gone, ’tis gone. How do we know that this farming technique will yield bounteous crops for the People? Ask Trofim, he can tell you how! How do we know that quasicrystals are due to simple twinning? I’ll bet you that Linus has a clue…

    ….I wonder could there be a theme there?

    The “New Atheist” (eurgh…really, the New Atheism is millennia old) critique is an epistemological one. We think ideas, and their origins matter. Bad ideas can often lead to bad consequences, even if the only consequence is that someone thinks something untrue. The “New Atheist” critique is aimed at the root of the problem. Believing in Allah or Yahweh or Jehovah or Ek Onkar or Shiva or whatever isn’t the root of the problem, the idea that faith/revelation/anecdote etc are valid mechanisms of acquiring knowledge IS. The specifics of the religion/belief/ideology aren’t the crux of the issue. So whilst millions of untold millions of brown people or women believe bloody silly things, it’s okay, millions of untold millions of white people and men believe bloody silly things. It’s really not about WHO believes them, it’s about how and what they believe. And the errors of thought and belief are human universals, no one is without them.

    Louis

  149. 149
    Natalie Reed

    AT NO POINT DID I CONFLATE IGNORANCE OF BE’S TRANSITION WITH TRANSPHOBIA.

    What I am regarding as transphobic is several aspects of the stupid fucking argument that has emerged from this, as well as snide little remarks like frankb’s.

    While I’m at it: this business of putting Be’s name in scare quotes is pretty dodgy too. Should we start calling me “Natalie” Reed?

    Or “PZ” Myers for that matter.

    Because obvs the name someone is assigned at birth is their REAL name, amirite?

    The fact that someone said something stupid and made a stupid argument does not give us carte blanche to start attacking and undermining their identity.

  150. 150
    Natalie Reed

    @Yes, I made the same mistake several people did. Exactly how many times I am going to have to clarify that I know it was initially a simple mistake before you all stop straw-manning my CLARIFICATION as a big angry CRITICISM.

  151. 151
    Matt Penfold

    @Yes, I made the same mistake several people did. Exactly how many times I am going to have to clarify that I know it was initially a simple mistake before you all stop straw-manning my CLARIFICATION as a big angry CRITICISM.

    Well it is a bit rich to complain of others making the same mistake you did.

  152. 152
    Natalie Reed

    I ALSO acknowledged it was a side issue and didn’t have anything to do with the argument at hand. But people seemed hell-bent on not simply accepting the clarification and moving on from there.

  153. 153
    Sastra

    As I mentioned at Ophelia’s, Be appears to be making a Little People Argument. He’s also combining it with a foray into Therapist Mode.

    The Little People Argument contends that there are many religious people who can’t handle the truth — don’t need it, don’t want it, can’t use it. They’re more concerned about community and identity and soothing their fears than they are about thinking things through carefully.

    Atheists, therefore, need to stop treating them as if they are on common ground with us. They’re not. As Little People, they need special consideration. Sure, we atheists can figure out how to form communities, practice virtue, and establish the worth of self and others without depending on a false foundation of lies: but that’s because we’re privileged. We can change our minds and remain human: they don’t think they can.

    Let’s not demand of others more than they can handle.

    Instead, we need to look at religion as if we’re therapists. How does it work for people? That’s all that matters.

    Condescend much?

    I wonder if Be has ever asked a marginalized minority if they care more about their religion being useful than they do about it being true. I wonder if they would appreciate the implication that they ought to be treated as if they do.

    There’s a lot of Privilege hanging around in the air here — but it’s not white or male or economic privilege. It’s religious privilege: the view that spiritual beliefs are so special they define a person so that a change of mind is a loss of identity. Faith is sacred.

    Don’t confuse forbearance with respect.

  154. 154
    Natalie Reed

    Matt, I didn’t complain about them making the mistake. I simply provided the fucking clarification.

  155. 155
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    nigel, 136: Well said.

  156. 156
    Pteryxx

    While I’m at it: this business of putting Be’s name in scare quotes is pretty dodgy too. Should we start calling me “Natalie” Reed?

    …Holy crap, I didn’t even realise what was twitchy about this. Thanks. And, um, I’d be pretty damn pissed off if someone put quotes around MY chosen name.

  157. 157
    PZ Myers

    I have modified the post. Where I pointed out the hypocrisy of a privileged middle-class white male complaining about the privilege of a different middle-class white male, I just change “male” to “person”. It doesn’t change the meaning at all.

    I also think it’s entirely appropriate that I not try to insist that he’s the lucky recipient of male privilege — he has his own set of unique problems on that dimension, and I’m not going to second-guess them. So everyone else should stop, too. It’s an irrelevant point that distracts from the overwhelming stupidity of his arguments.

  158. 158
    Natalie Reed

    Here’s what I originally posted:

    Umm…for the sake of clarity: Be is not a white male. Be is transgender, and simply happens to be very early in that process.

    Look at all the angry criticism in there for people using male pronouns!

    Here was the response I got:

    That has nothing to do with his living most of his life as a privileged white male, nor the mass amount of stupidity he spews out which is a result of that white male privilege.

    To which I replied:

    Ahhhh, yes, the ol’ claim that trans women have a whole bunch of male privilege on account of our totally AWESOME lives being raised and treated as male, which was totally WAY better than being cis women or whatever…

    *cough*

    It’s really neither here nor there in terms of Scofield’s actual arguments and the actual issue, but misgendering someone is kind of messed up, especially in a context where the inaccurate gender assignation is being used as a strike against them. I’m sure PZ wasn’t doing it on purpose, and was simply an issue of not actually knowing Be’s gender, but I thought the clarification deserved to be made.

    Hope that puts the Straw Natalies to rest.

  159. 159
    Natalie Reed

    And I’m certainly happy to drop this if others are too.

  160. 160
    Pteryxx

    PZ, thank you for the fix!

  161. 161
    Anthony K

    Well it is a bit rich to complain of others making the same mistake you did.

    Leave off it, Matt. Natalie offered a correction in the spirit of accuracy:

    Umm…for the sake of clarity: Be is not a white male. Be is transgender, and simply happens to be very early in that process.

    …and got blowback.

  162. 162
    Aratina Cage

    PZ #157, that kind of thoughtfulness is why this place you have built is so great! Thank you.

  163. 163
    Anthony K

    Natalie, why don’t you link your name to your FtB rather than your facebook page?

    You certainly don’t have to, but I suspect you’ll get more readers that way, if you like.

  164. 164
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    Yes, many religious expressions have reproduced sexism, racism and bigotry. But this is not because they believe in God or heaven (one can believe in those without having to be bigoted).

    You mention belief in heaven several times, as if that were a benign thing. Maybe it would be if it were never coupled with a belief in hell. The dichotomy of these places induces bigotry of every kind because it is by its nature divisive. Some people enjoy an eternity of bliss while everyone else suffers an eternity of torment, because this is God’s will. And because God’s will is good, the suffering of those not admitted to paradise is also good.

    Once “the other” is identified, and we accept that their suffering is good how can we not be bigoted?

  165. 165
    Natalie Reed

    I didn’t even know my name was linking to my Facebook! That would explain the requests-from-strangers I’ve gotten lately. I’ll try to figure that out later today. Thanks!

  166. 166
    Natalie Reed

    Oh, and this is my blog, for people who haven’t seen it yet: http://www.freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed

    I have a post up right now about the issue of trans women being socialized / raised as male, and the question of whether or not that is privilege, relative to the socialization of cis women.

  167. 167
    Ing

    I’d like to side with what I hope is the majority opinion and thank Natalie for her correction and patience in clarifying the correction.

  168. 168
    bescofield

    Update II: A comment on the Tikkun blog from RIEUX stated: **Another blatant lie. Greta Christina has never “insist[ed] that we convert believers to atheism.” You simply made that up. Why are you so disinterested in arguing honestly?**

    However:
    In 2009 Greta Christina wrote an article originally titled “Why I Want to Turn Religious People in to Atheists.” http://www.onepennysheet.com/2009/11/why-i-want-to-turn-religious-people-into-atheists/

    On Alternet the title was changed to “Atheism and Diversity: Is it Wrong for Atheists to Convert Believers?” But the original title obviously shows that she publicly advocates that “religious people” be turned into atheists.

  169. 169
    Pteryxx

    Once “the other” is identified, and we accept that their suffering is good how can we not be bigoted?

    …Best quote of the day so far.

  170. 170
    bescofield

    Also, while I appreciate Natalie’s care and sensitivity to my gender I think it is only confusing the cause here. I’m fine with PZ Myers using the male pronoun as that is what I currently use. Whether or not I’ve experienced pain and suffering do to my trans identity is not relevant to how I argue about religion and atheism. It might make me more sensitive to issues of privilege, but there are of course a lot of homophobic and racist trans people. My real sensitivity comes from my many years of studying anti-racist issues and learning to counter oppressions. Honestly, I’d prefer if we simply stop talking about this issue and focus on the substance of my arguments.

    Some trans people prefer gender neutral pronouns, others prefer he or she. I’ve stated that until I transition I’d prefer male pronouns to keep things simple. So, no need to stress over this. But again, I appreciate Natalie and her sensitivity to the issues.

  171. 171
    Ing

    @Be

    Maybe if you read beyond the title you wouldn’t be so …

    Crap trying to be nice…

    Mistaken.

  172. 172
    Ing

    . My real sensitivity comes from my many years of studying anti-racist issues and learning to counter oppressions.

    And you really think attacking the minority is countering oppressions?

    When’s your next article on the problem of those uppity blacks?

  173. 173
    Sastra

    bescofield #129 wrote:

    Again, I simply don’t see why believing in the afterlife is such an urgent issue to liberate people from. Yes, many religious expressions have reproduced sexism, racism and bigotry. But this is not because they believe in God or heaven (one can believe in those without having to be bigoted). It’s because the religions reflect the larger institutional forces of oppression.

    Perhaps the issue becomes clearer if you recognize that gnu atheists would consider “religion” (meaning, the unique aspects of religious belief) to be very similar to “pseudoscience.” Believing in God or heaven is like believing in ESP or homeopathy. Or astrology, magic, ghosts, reiki, conspiracy theories, psychokenesis, creationism, numerology, etc., etc., etc.

    Now you can look at the communities and individuals which believe in pseudoscience and discover both positive and negative. This person here finds a lot of personal benefit in astrology. That group of animal lovers over there supplement psychic communication with their pets with good ideas on how to take care of them. Sure, court astrologers used to advise kings to take drastic actions because of messages interpreted from comets — but the advice in the astrology columns in newspapers today is often really useful — and so reasonable. What’s really so wrong with following your star sign if it encourages you to “get around to that important project you’ve been putting off?”

    Why attack pseudoscience in general? Why not just pick out the variations that go too far and try to undermine those?

    Because it all fits together, that’s why. Reality does. And when people have lost their rational ground for deciding between true and false on what are WE going to stand to show them they’ve gone “too far?”

    Sure, you can approach people who believe in astrology in harmful ways and try to jolly them along into some other system that isn’t as bad. Pander to their error and treat them like children of whom not too much is expected. Put out brush fires here and there and oops now it’s back again. THAT form of astrology was bad, but THIS form is good. Not true, not false. But one gives good results, and one gives bad ones … when judged by my standards. As a non-astrologer. Like you should care.

    Or treat them like and adult and equal and persuade them that astrology doesn’t work at all.

    Nobody who changes their mind about something they now recognize was mistaken looks back and thinks “I was FORCED into converting! I am no longer ME!” Not if they were rationally persuaded, step by step.

    If the system is the problem, then ignoring that is a short-term solution.

  174. 174
    PZ Myers

    Scofield, you’re a moron.

    Yes, we want people to wise up and abandon their myths. There’s a huge difference between that and insisting that they change.

    You would also like all of us New Atheists to think like you (short of brain damage, it won’t happen). I do not think you are on a crusade to convert us all.

    Of course, if you are, we’re not worried — you truly suck at it.

  175. 175
    Anthony K

    From Greta’s article:

    But it certainly is the case that many atheist activists, myself among them, are working very hard to persuade religious believers out of their beliefs. Not all atheists do this, of course; many have the more modest goals of separation of church and state and religious tolerance, including tolerance of atheists and recognition of us as equal citizens. But a good number of atheists are, in fact, trying to convince religious believers to become atheists. I’m one of them.

    Call that imperialism, if you will, but if you’ve really got a problem with “convincing people” of things, you should probably stop writing entirely.

  176. 176
    Ing

    After reading response I have to agree.

    You’re equivocating “convince/convert” with “Forcibly convert”

    If you were consistent in this by your assessment Jehova’s witnesses would be war criminals rather than just an annoyance.

  177. 177
    Ing

    Of course the fact that your wrote about this, rather than about how religions make a concentrated effort to convert the developing world, or the disabled or down trodden shows a phenomenal bias.

    When do we get the article about Mormonisms’s imperialism?

  178. 178
    Anthony K

    More from Greta’s article, since she’s a thousand times less disingenuous as Scofield and a million times a better read:

    If there’s one single idea I’d most like to get across to religious believers, it would not be, “There is no God.” Or even, “There is probably no God.” I want believers to reach that conclusion on their own. Preferably upon being awestruck by my brilliant arguments, of course, but ultimately on their own, after thinking it through, after looking at the reasons for belief and the reasons for atheism, and concluding that atheism makes more sense and is more consistent with what we know about the world. I don’t want people to stop believing in God just because I say so.

    If there’s one single idea I’d most like to get across to religious believers, it would be this:

    Religion is a hypothesis.

    Religion is a hypothesis about how the world works, and why it is the way it is. Religion is the hypothesis that the world is the way it is, at least in part, because of immaterial beings or forces that act on the material world.

    Religion is many other things, of course. It’s communities, cultural traditions, political ideologies and philosophies. But those things aren’t what make religion unique. What makes religion unique, among all other communities/philosophies, etc., is this hypothesis of an immaterial world acting on the material one. It’s thousands of different hypotheses, really, positing thousands of immaterial beings and/or forces, with thousands upon thousands of different qualities and temperaments. But all these diverse beliefs have this one hypothesis in common: The hypothesis that there is a supernatural world, and that the natural world is the way it is because of the supernatural one.

  179. 179
    Sastra

    bescofield #168 wrote:

    But the original title obviously shows that she publicly advocates that “religious people” be turned into atheists.

    Turned into atheists … how?

    I think there is misunderstanding arising from what it means to “convert” someone. There are several ways to interpret that.

    One meaning entails employing elements of force, intellectual dishonesty, and emotional abuse. Someone who tries to get someone to throw out one faith belief and choose or take on another isn’t going to ultimately appeal to reason and evidence. It’s faith. They’re going to use propaganda and other heavy-handed tactics. Conversions change the identity of the whole person.

    A more moderate secular interpretation of “conversion” involves nothing more than changing someone’s mind. Discussion. Debate. Demonstration. “I used to think one thing, but after looking into the matter more carefully I saw that I was wrong.” You don’t lose your identity: you strengthen it.

    I think you will discover that Greta Christina and the gnu atheists would only talk about ‘converting’ people to atheism in the second sense. The big picture matters. It’s not important that a person be an atheist. What’s important is that they arrive at the conclusion. Which is different than making a “leap of faith.”

    Or shuffling reluctant people off into re-education camps. Please. Stop implying that.

  180. 180
    Anthony K

    Of course the fact that your wrote about this, rather than about how religions make a concentrated effort to convert the developing world, or the disabled or down trodden shows a phenomenal bias.

    When do we get the article about Mormonisms’s imperialism?

    It’s only bad when atheists hint at conversion, because COMMUNITY + DINKA when somebody does it in return for aid because they feel they need to pretend God told them to in order to fit in.

  181. 181
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    bescofield:

    But the original title obviously shows that she publicly advocates that “religious people” be turned into atheists.

    Did you even read the article?

    Yes, she advocates the attempt to educate religious folks out of their religion. That is hardly the same as the imperialism intrinsic in Christian missionaries. She neither recommends coercion nor brainwashing nor propaganda, such as you imply.

    She explains the reasons she wishes to educate the religious. She explains the reasons she wants to decrease the influence of religion. Note that her reasons aren’t about the personal practice of religion. It’s not about the belief. It’s about the way that belief affects the public sphere.

    You can ignore the fact that religion harms society, as people extend personal belief into public policy. From the tormenting of out-groups in high school to the public policies against women, gays, and non-Christians in America, religion has harmed society, and continues to do so.

    In the end, you misrepresent Greta’s argument. Her argument is represented in the title: the essay lays out why she would like to deconvert everyone from religion. That is not the same as advocating doing so using anything other than education.

    I suspect Greta would be perfectly happy to let people have their own personal belief, as long as they kept it personal. The instant their belief starts affecting her, and other people, it becomes a social problem.

  182. 182
    Sastra

    Aw, Greta said that better…

  183. 183
    evilisgood

    bescofield @129:

    Again, I simply don’t see how liberating Dr. King from his theism takes precedent over ending whiteness or is even an issue.

    I’m confused. What do you mean by “ending whiteness”? Please clarify.

  184. 184
    Anthony K

    Did you even read the article?

    Are you asking that of Be seriously?

    From the tormenting of out-groups in high school to the public policies against women, gays, and non-Christians in America, religion has harmed society, and continues to do so.

    Let’s not forget the tormenting of the in-group: the children who stare up at their bedroom ceilings every night, wondering what the hell is wrong with them because God doesn’t talk back to them the way he seems to talk to everyone else. For many such believers, atheism can be a grand release, a realisation that one need no longer theologically contort themselves to assuage the cognitive dissonance that comes with the feeling that they’re somehow spiritually broken because belief doesn’t come with the warm fuzzies the accommodationists all seem hell-bent on assuring us religion brings.

  185. 185
    Anthony K

    Did you even read the article?

    So, Be, when you insist that we can’t make claims about religion unless we sample every religious variant, is it okay if we just read the titles and skip the rest?

  186. 186
    Jadehawk

    While I’m at it: this business of putting Be’s name in scare quotes is pretty dodgy too.

    eh? who has done that? I can’t find any instances of that on this thread. Did that happen somewhere else?

  187. 187
    Anthony K

    It did happen on this thread, multiple times. I’m on my phone, or I’d cite the comment numbers, Jadehawk.

  188. 188
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Some of the comments here… I don’t even.

    All I’ll say is, there’s a reason one day each year is reserved for remembering all the trans people who have been murdered by transphobes. Given how vulnerable they are to violence, job discrimination, poor treatment by medical “professionals,” and even being barred from using public restrooms, ranting about their “privilege” and acting as though their chosen names aren’t their “real” names is at best ignorant, and at worst the kind of shit I wish we’d left behind in the 1970s with the most gender-essentialist of the second wavers.

    BTW, Konradius, “transgender” is not a noun. The term you’re seeking is “trans people,” two words, for the same reason you would not write “gaymen” or “blackwoman.” “Trans men” are men who were born into female bodies, whether or not they’ve had surgery, hormones, etc. “Trans women” are women who were born into male bodies, whether or not they’ve had surgery, hormones, etc. “MTF/M2F” and “FTM/F2M” are outdated terms, as they imply that trans men started life as boys rather than girls in male bodies, and vice versa for trans women.

    Natalie, I envy your patience, I really do. Thanks for attempting to educate people.

    Finally, Be, you are a disingenuous asshat whose smugness could be cut with a freaking katana.

  189. 189
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Brownian:

    Let’s not forget the tormenting of the in-group: the children who stare up at their bedroom ceilings every night, wondering what the hell is wrong with them because God doesn’t talk back to them the way he seems to talk to everyone else.

    Y’know, I often forget this. I was never very religious, and I shed all religious belief well before the whole psychological threat of hell ever became an issue. But I saw my daughter go through this a bit. I hope this some day convinces her God does not exist.

  190. 190
    Jadehawk

    PZ #157, that kind of thoughtfulness is why this place you have built is so great! Thank you.

    seconded :-)

    In 2009 Greta Christina wrote an article originally titled “Why I Want to Turn Religious People in to Atheists.” http://www.onepennysheet.com/2009/11/why-i-want-to-turn-religious-people-into-atheists/

    and what, you’re unable to tell the difference between wanting someone to change their mind and forcing a worldview on someone? Persuasion and hope is not synonymous with coercion and force.

    But the original title obviously shows that she publicly advocates that “religious people” be turned into atheists.

    not “be turned”. you can’t make someone an atheist against their will. we merely want a world where more and more people abandon counterfactual magical beliefs.

    Again, I simply don’t see why believing in the afterlife is such an urgent issue to liberate people from.

    because it’s an epistemic failure, and because it introduces into the world the idea of the nobility of believing what you want to be true, not what is actually true. A society that values the warm fuzzies over reality is not a well-grounded society and can be made to slip into ever-greater atrocities; all with good intentions and honest beliefs of doing right.

  191. 191
    Pteryxx

    eh? who has done that? I can’t find any instances of that on this thread. Did that happen somewhere else?

    …It was Caine.

    #41:

    He is. The last two times we went round and round with “Be”, the amount of bullshit was enormous.

    #47:

    That pretty much covers what “Be” is all about, with an extra heaping helping of pretentiousness.

    and in #66, and quoted once.

  192. 192
    Ing

    Y’know, I often forget this. I was never very religious, and I shed all religious belief well before the whole psychological threat of hell ever became an issue. But I saw my daughter go through this a bit. I hope this some day convinces her God does not exist.

    How dare you hope for such a thing you monster!

  193. 193
    Pteryxx

    re Brownian:

    Let’s not forget the tormenting of the in-group: the children who stare up at their bedroom ceilings every night, wondering what the hell is wrong with them because God doesn’t talk back to them the way he seems to talk to everyone else.

    Or the kids who hate themselves for feeling sexual desires, who get pushed into sex or raped without knowing what rape is or who to turn to for help, or who get pregnant in terrified ignorance and shame. That’s what I see whenever I pass a church.

  194. 194
    Jadehawk

    It did happen on this thread, multiple times. I’m on my phone, or I’d cite the comment numbers, Jadehawk.

    really? I guess my CTRL-F-Fu sucks, since it didn’t throw up any instances. though now I’ve found two(and can I just say that searching for the word be is a pain?). That’s indeed screwed up. WTF?

  195. 195
    Die Anyway

    I tried to study all 43,000 religions but got to Last Thursdayism and went into an infinite loop.

  196. 196
    SallyStrange

    Be Scofield’s willingness to twist Greta Christina’s wish for public education and persuasion into cultural imperialism and racism is really disgusting. It’s so dishonest, I can’t see how he can possibly say those things and not feel immense shame.

  197. 197
    Ing

    @SallyStrange

    reminds you of bigots mischaracterizing rights advocates as wanting special rights or as supremacists doesn’t it?

  198. 198
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    You know, I think I’ve written “Be” a few times too. Why? Because it struck me as an insufferable New Age affectation. . like saying “my name is exist.” If I’m wrong about that—-and I might well be—then I would retract any snark about the name. Anyone is entitled to be known by whatever name they want, obviously.

    But if that is what Be is trying to convey, then I would scoff at it as part of his obnoxious more-enlightened-than-thou posturing.

  199. 199
    Stacy

    Putting Scofield’s first name in scare quotes (I did it myself elsewhere) is intended to make fun of the New Agey pretentiousness of the name, not to make fun of him for choosing a new name because he’s transitioning.

  200. 200
    sisu

    I’m sure PZ’s glad he didn’t call this “The absurd maleness of Be Scofield.”

    I think he missed the opportunity to call it “The unbearable whiteness of Be-ing”

    @Josh: from his Tikkun bio, I got that Be’s birth name was Robert James; he went by BJ which he’s since shortened to Be.

  201. 201
    Anthony K

    But if that is what Be is trying to convey, then I would scoff at it as part of his obnoxious more-enlightened-than-thou posturing.

    I think that’s what he’s trying to convey, but how can that possibly matter? He’s welcome to call himself whatever he likes and ask me to do so as well. I don’t know what basis I would have for denying him that, regardless of my feelings about the motivation I assume is his.

  202. 202
    Anthony K

    Putting Scofield’s first name in scare quotes (I did it myself elsewhere) is intended to make fun of the New Agey pretentiousness of the name, not to make fun of him for choosing a new name because he’s transitioning.

    I think that’s true, but it’s bullshit in any case.

  203. 203
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    I’m not going to go on making fun of Be’s name. I was merely explaining why I did so. Apparently I was mistaken. Had I not been, Brownian. . . it’s a little hard for me to understand that you wouldn’t get the satirical scoffing at someone who affected a New Agey name. This is the kind of humor you seem to get pretty well. I suspect this side thread has been tainted by the unpleasantness about Be’s gender status.

    Again, I was wrong and I won’t be doing it anymore.

  204. 204
    Pteryxx

    Well, since scarequotes can be problematic for trans people, how about erring on the non-problematic side and saying what y’all mean? “What sort of pretentious new-agey name is “Be” anyway?” There, done.

    I know enough to light up in flares if someone had put the pronouns in scarequotes. It seems obvious to me once pointed out.

  205. 205
    Natalie Reed

    Regardless of the precise reasoning, insinuating that a trans person’s chosen name isn’t real by putting scare quotes around it carries some pretty terrible implications. Do we need to pick names that YOU find aesthetically pleasing in order for them to be considered valid? Why do you get to pick which names are and aren’t okay? Is that okay, for other people to define the legitimacy of our identities for us? If that WERE okay, how many people do you think would go right ahead and start putting my name in scare quotes, despite it being a “non-prententious”, “normal” woman’s name? See what I’m getting at here?

    It doesn’t matter how silly-sounding or pretentious someone’s choice of name is. It’s still their name, and you don’t have the right to invalidate it through scare quotes. And it’s an especially insensitive thing to do in the case of a trans person, for whom their whole fucking culture is trying to invalidate their identity.

  206. 206
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Yes, Pterryx. You’re right. And I didn’t know about Be’s trans status until just last night. I never ever ever would have snarked about that.

  207. 207
    Natalie Reed

    Well, since scarequotes can be problematic for trans people, how about erring on the non-problematic side and saying what y’all mean? “What sort of pretentious new-agey name is “Be” anyway?” There, done.

    Yes, this, thank you.

  208. 208
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    God damn it Natalie. I didn’t know about Be’s trans status until last night when you told me. Stop it. Fuck me but I won’t be brought up short on things I never did and never would do!

  209. 209
    Natalie Reed

    Also, sorry Josh, I was typing my reply while you posted your apology. So yeah…I didn’t mean to perpetuate this past that admission. All’s fine.

  210. 210
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Thanks Natalie.

  211. 211
    Natalie Reed

    And I was apparently tying THAT apology while you were typing the angry response to the previous post… fucking internet communication.

  212. 212
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    We’re in an infinite feedback loop. Help!!! :)))

  213. 213
    Dhorvath, OM

    And break.

  214. 214
    Walton

    Be Scofield: I do think you’ve been strawmanning Greta Christina quite a bit here. The article seems to be a version of the same rhetorical trick Terry Eagleton pulled; lumping together all “New Atheists” into the imaginary figure of “Ditchkins”, acting as though everyone who has been labelled a “New Atheist” thinks and believes the same things, and in the process constructing a strawman of what people are saying instead of their actual arguments. FWIW, though I’ve often disagreed with her, Greta Christina is a serious progressive who’s done a hell of a lot to combat sexism and homophobia, among other things, and has herself long pointed out some of the problems with prejudice and inadequate diversity in the atheist movement. (All of this can be easily confirmed by actually reading her blog, instead of constructing one’s own imaginary straw-version of what she believes.) She deserves respect, even if you disagree with her strongly on some issues; and it’s utterly bizarre and grossly unfair to paint her as some sort of clueless cultural imperialist who doesn’t care about or understand diversity issues.

    (If you want to point to someone influential in atheist ranks who is a bigot – and there are some – try Pat Condell, or even Sam Harris. But this doesn’t mean that you can tar all “New Atheists” with the same brush. It’s a broad and amorphous movement, which includes several people with extremely progressive views and a long record of activism for social justice.)

    ===

    humanape,

    There’s nothing conservative about denying basic scientific facts like evolution. There’s nothing conservative about having a cowardly idiotic belief in a supernatural master of the universe with unlimited magical powers. There’s nothing conservative about being a gullible moron who believes in the resurrection of the dead Jeebus.

    Have you yet recanted your advocacy of torture, your homophobia, your anti-Muslim bigotry and your praise for the known racist Pat Condell? Or your horrifying claim that “The life of just one American soldier is worth more than the world’s entire population of Muslim scum.” If not, I don’t think you have much business lecturing anyone else about morality, reason or decency.

  215. 215
    Pteryxx

    Yay learning to do better by allies!

    Honestly, you two, don’t thank me. Thank Crommunist. ~;>

  216. 216
    Anthony K

    Had I not been, Brownian. . . it’s a little hard for me to understand that you wouldn’t get the satirical scoffing at someone who affected a New Agey name. This is the kind of humor you seem to get pretty well.

    I’m not going to lie: I get it, and I’ve been tempted to scare quote ‘Be’ myself in this thread, and I’m probably guilty of having done so myself in previous threads. But, thanks to Natalie’s prompting, it occurred to me that it’s kind of lazy and smarmy to decide that one can differentiate between a self-appellation for the right reasons as opposed to wrong, even if I’d have to stifle a snicker were I to meet a self-christened “Storm”.

    Maybe it’s hypersensitivity: I’m white, straight, and male. I don’t have an automatic privilege detector, so I have to be overly vigilant in checking it. Nobody scare quotes my given name, Anthony, because it pretentiously means ‘priceless’. It smells fishy to me that someone else’s name should be subject to scrutiny that mine isn’t.

    Besides, I went after his New Agey-ness when I made the parallel joke with the Going Native theme in 106.

  217. 217
    Anthony K

    Sorry Josh, I hope that last comment didn’t come across as a pile-on.

    Since we’ve covered the name issue, let’s move on to the real question:

    What sort of pretentious new-agey asshole is Be anyway?

  218. 218
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    No problem, Brownian.

    What frustrates me the most about people like Be is consistently they present themselves to the world as nice, kind, enlightened people, and how easily taken in many people are by this affectation. I can’t think of much that’s more unkind and outrageous than deliberately lying about an opponent’s position and caricaturing her as replicating imperialist violence. It’s so astonishingly awful. The fact that it comes wrapped in a package that screams out at me I’M NICE LIKE ME I’M TEH GOOD GENTLE PERSON makes me want to throw dishes.

  219. 219
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Brownian:

    Nobody scare quotes my given name, Anthony, because it pretentiously means ‘priceless’.

    Huh. While Anthony is also my given name, I didn’t know that. I never bothered looking it up. My mom named me after some high-school boyfriend or something. I just left it at that.

    I do know ‘tony’ means kinda high-class, esteemed, as in “a tony college.” I guess there’s some kind of award named after me, as well. Something about acting.

    Nobody scare-quotes my name ’cause I’d go all Chuck Norris on them — I’d start spouting vapid patriotic slogans with overtones of restrained violence at them.

  220. 220
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    overtones of restrained violence

    Just like Greta Christina, you are.

  221. 221
    Pteryxx

    The fact that it comes wrapped in a package that screams out at me I’M NICE LIKE ME I’M TEH GOOD GENTLE PERSON makes me want to throw dishes.

    This happens so often, in SO many social spheres, that I’m starting to like people better if they sometimes act like jerks and fuck up egregiously in front of everyone. As long as they own up to it, after.

  222. 222
    chigau (違う)

    I have no success Ctrl-f’ing “Be” either.

  223. 223
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    I’m starting to like people better if they sometimes act like jerks and fuck up egregiously in front of everyone. As long as they own up to it, after.

    That, exactly. It’s precisely how I feel. I do not trust anyone who makes a conscious effort to come across as Nice ™ They’re almost always a nasty manipulator just under the skin. Genuinely decent people—I’m not really that keen on nice for the sake of nice anyway—demonstrate their character through their actions, not through their attention to the packaging.

  224. 224
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Josh:

    Just like Greta Christina, you are.

    Okay. I was gonna crack wise with the Yoda, but decided against it.

    I’m still pondering Brownian’s question:

    What sort of pretentious new-agey asshole is Be anyway?

    And I’m guessing he’s the kind to equate revelation as a viable source of knowledge. He’s the kind who believes if we’d all just accept each others’ disparate and incompatible fantasies, gumdrops would rain from the sky and the unicorn will lay down with the narwhal. Conflict will evaporate, because we all understand each other and accept one another in our quirky but perfectly acceptable delusions.

    If only those militant atheists would stop starting wars with us.*

     

    * Yes, that is an intentional sentence fragment.

  225. 225
    Anthony K

    @Josh:

    Me too, brother.

    I do know ‘tony’ means kinda high-class, esteemed, as in “a tony college.” I guess there’s some kind of award named after me, as well. Something about acting.

    That’s interesting. On this side of the pond, Tony is much more familiar to the point of being blue-collar, probably due to historical racism against Italians and other southern Europeans who were more likely to use Tony (short for Antonio) than Anthony and work in trades. (I used to joke that being called ‘Tony’ makes me feel like I should know more about cars. I don’t make that joke anymore because I feel the humour derives from racist clichés.)

  226. 226
    Ing

    I’m starting to like people better if they sometimes act like jerks and fuck up egregiously in front of everyone. As long as they own up to it, after.

    Hurray I’m popular! /zoidberg

  227. 227
    Anthony K

    Genuinely decent people—I’m not really that keen on nice for the sake of nice anyway—demonstrate their character through their actions, not through their attention to the packaging.

    Yep. I know some genuine, would never hurt a fly even while giving you the shirt off their backs types, and they never seem to spend any time promoting their nice nature. They don’t have to. It’s apparent.

  228. 228
    chigau (違う)

    Beryllium

  229. 229
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    This is a bit silly. There have been several threads in which we’ve mocked the pretentiousness of the name “Be” here. It wasn’t about invalidating anyone’s idenitity. It was just making fun of his name.

    You’ll find several Tikkun articles signed:

    Robert James “Be” Scofield

    I definitely see the problem with how it could be read in this context, but really people deserve a little benefit of the doubt, here.

  230. 230
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    The Tikkun bio reads:

    Robert James Scofield, “Be” formerly “BJ” is a San Francisco based activist working to combine spirituality with anti-racism and social justice.

  231. 231
    Pteryxx

    I definitely see the problem with how it could be read in this context, but really people deserve a little benefit of the doubt, here.

    Sure. The benefit of the doubt was that they didn’t know any better, and now that they’re aware of the problematic context, they’ll be more careful. Right?

    That’s why I credit Crommunist.

  232. 232
    ChasCPeterson

    Well, what I do, every time I read the name “Be”, I mentally pronounce it “Throatwarbler Mangrove”.
    hth

  233. 233
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    There’s that word, “spirituality,” again.

    What the fuck does it even mean?

  234. 234
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    Be Scofield:

    Case and point: How can any of these New Atheists claim that the Dinka religious tradition of Africa is harmful?

    I don’t know any Gnu atheist who goes specifically targets the Dinka, but since Be brought them up…

    “The Dinkas [...] have one God, Nhialic, who speaks through spirits that take temporary possession of individuals in order to speak through them. The sacrificing of oxen by the “masters of the fishing spear” is a central component of Dinka religious practice. Age is an important factor in Dinka culture, with young men being inducted into adulthood through an initiation ordeal which includes marking the forehead with a sharp object”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinka_people#Cultural_and_religious_beliefs

    Not worse than some religions, but not innocuous either for the youths who must get facial scars to be declared adults, just because some elders have claimed “divine” wisdom after smoking funny leaves. Just another religious system who, like the Old Testament or the Qu’ran, prefers the imaginary world to the tangible one and teaches adults that they are doing good when they cut bits off children.

  235. 235
    Ing

    @nigel

    It means your mom! now shut up and stop colonizing me!

  236. 236
    Gregory Greenwood

    bescofield @ 129;

    I chose to highlight a few of Christina’s statements because she has publicly advocated converting believers into atheists as well as written passionate and sweeping claims about why she believes religion is harmful and wrong (the subject of my article). When I hear someone advocating the conversion of believers into atheism without any sort of qualifications or context it concerns me.

    It has been covered by many posters upthread, but I still think that it bears repeating that what you are doing here is conflating reasonable, rational persuasion with a ‘conversion’ that includes an element of force or social pressure.

    ‘Convince’ does not automatically imply ‘compel’, and attacking atheists as if we are the dominant group in society with power enough to put the figurative thumb screws to anyone who doesn’t agree with us bears precious little resemblance to the reality that the modern US is still a predominantly christian society where atheists are a reviled minority. You yourself even acknowledge this fact;

    Of course, as atheists are marginalized in a Christian and hegemonic culture there is a need to resist this persecution.

    And yet still seek to paint Greta as a neo-colonial oppressor-in-wating simply for making her case as to why she believes that atheism is better for mankind than theism.

    I’m concerned that people will see this and believe that throwing off superstition is the most pressing issue, when I think it is a non-issue when compared with whiteness or class oppression. Again, I simply don’t see why believing in the afterlife is such an urgent issue to liberate people from. Yes, many religious expressions have reproduced sexism, racism and bigotry. But this is not because they believe in God or heaven (one can believe in those without having to be bigoted).

    Religious modes of thought and structures of authority are often intimately connected to patriarchal power dynamics, especially with regard to the religiously mandated ‘proper place’ of women and the religiously endorsed idea that homosexuality is an ‘abomination’, not to mention the hideously bigoted Hammite origins of race stuff. Religiosity and the marginalisation of minority groups simply cannot be separated; a great many forms of bigotry find their notional justification, if not the totality of their origin, in religion.

    I simply wish that a fraction of the energy that goes into attacking people’s personal beliefs about heaven were to go into educating or writing about the larger social forces of oppression that also shape a believers life. Imagine if much of the passion and fire that characterizes much of the New Atheist community could be directed towards the racial, class and patriarchal oppression that believers experience rather than their beliefs about God or heaven.

    The problem here is that the magical modes of thinking endorsed by religion are socially toxic in and of themselves. They are a spectacularly poor means of evaluating truth claims, including claims such as “homosexuality is evil because god revealed this fact to me” or “atheists hate god and so deserve to be tortured forever” or “women can’t make the complex decisions required by high office because their brains just aren’t advanced enough”.

    Religious beliefs are symptomatic of a way of viewing the world that simply rejects reality altogether and replaces it with dogma that privileges the power and influence of the few at the expense of the many – it crystalises and offers supposedly divine sanction to the tribalistic in group/out group structures that still permeat our society and is the very stuff of the patriarchal jackboot bearing down on the necks of the socially disenfranchised. This mindset lies at the heart of all discrimination, and unless it is tackled head on the situation will be slow to improve.

    Again, I simply don’t see how liberating Dr. King from his theism takes precedent over ending whiteness or is even an issue.

    (Emphasis added)

    I would like to echo evilisgood’s query @ 183 – what does ‘ending whiteness’ even mean? Ending unearned white privilege is a worthy goal, but physiological paleness of skin tone itself is not a product of social privilege or a choice; it is simply an expression of a particular set of heritable traits that denotes little about the opinions or values of its possessor.

  237. 237
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Sure. The benefit of the doubt was that they didn’t know any better, and now that they’re aware of the problematic context, they’ll be more careful. Right?

    Is Be supposed to be more careful in writing his bio and signing his articles? Because he puts it in quotes.

  238. 238
    Anthony K

    This is a bit silly.

    Okay…

    There have been several threads in which we’ve mocked the pretentiousness of the name “Be” here.

    So? Historicity isn’t justification. Some of us are saying that we’ve thought a little more about it, and have concluded that

    It wasn’t about invalidating anyone’s idenitity. It was just making fun of his name.

    can’t both be true.

  239. 239
    Anthony K

    Is Be supposed to be more careful in writing his bio and signing his articles? Because he puts it in quotes.

    That’s a common way to represent a nickname or a short form, which is decidedly different than how we’re using it here.

    I’ve seen business cards that read William “Bill” Smith. It’s not an instruction to put Bill in quotes.

  240. 240
    Anthony K

    Well, what I do, every time I read the name “Be”, I mentally pronounce it “Throatwarbler Mangrove”.

    Many of us are already aware of your comprehension difficulties, but thanks for sharing.

  241. 241
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Ing:

    @nigel

    It means your mom! now shut up and stop colonizing me!

    *Snort*

    So, I have a serious question. Is the phrase, “That’s what she said,” misogynistic? My wife loves that phrase, and laughs outrageously every time she says it.

    Yes, the quoted bit there is related. I read that, and my wife said in my head (probably telepathically), “That’s what she said.”

    And yes. I do feel stupid having to ask. This is one of those privilege-check moments.

  242. 242
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    can’t both be true.

    Huh? If you see those threads, you’ll find that people referred to his own presentation of his name. If we were trying to invalidate his identity by putting his name in quotes, then he must be, too. This seems like looking for the most uncharitable reading of what people are saying. I meant that I could see how Reed could have read it that way, but the fact that it’s how Be frequently writes it himself eliminates that as a valid assumption. I don’t understand why Reed gets to chastise people for not fact-checking when it appears she’s done little of that herself.

    It’s silly to criticize people for writing a person’s name the way that person often writes it.

  243. 243
    Anthony K

    Is the phrase, “That’s what she said,” misogynistic?

    It’s broadened in usage, but the original allusion as far as I understand is two guys chuckling over one’s disclosure of a dalliance with a woman, as guys are theorised to do, and the euphemised sexual acts that took place.

  244. 244
    Pteryxx

    There’s also a difference between quotes and scarequotes.

    This:

    There have been several threads in which we’ve mocked the pretentiousness of the name “Be” here.

    uses quotes to emphasize the name as an object under consideration, itself, separate from the person it belongs to.

    Different from:

    That is not something “Be” has ever been willing to do.

    Those quotes aren’t for scrutiny of the word itself, but of the person it names. Again, nobody here calls PZ “PZ” even though we know that’s not his full name. It’s what he prefers to use, here, in this context.

    It’s not that different from how we commenters mark off slurs that we’re trying to discuss.

  245. 245
    Anthony K

    It’s silly to criticize people for writing a person’s name the way that person often writes it.

    Okay. Since it’s hard to understand, if I ever hand you a business card reading Anthony “Tony” Mylastname, the convention is meant to distinguish my preferred and legal names. Please feel free to address me as Tony. Please do not put it in quotes like English is new to you.

    Posters here have admitted that they quoted Be to make fun of his pretentiousness, not because they were following the convention on his website, nor because they were making fun of his trans status.

  246. 246
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    That’s a common way to represent a nickname or a short form, which is decidedly different than how we’re using it here.

    I’ve seen business cards that read William “Bill” Smith. It’s not an instruction to put Bill in quotes.

    “Be” is not a common nickname for anything. And the bio reads “Robert James Scofield, “Be” formerly “BJ”…” It would be unusual for someone to use “Bill” like that, but if they did I’d think it acceptable for others to use the quotes as well if they were making fun of the name “Bill” for some reason.

    Look, again, I’m not arguing that people should continue using it on this thread – I don’t think they should – but the assumptions about people trying to invalidate someone’s identity by using it were misinformed. I think Reed has made several good and thought-provoking points, but I also think she’s been a bit of an assumption-making scold.

  247. 247
    Anthony K

    There’s also a difference between quotes and scarequotes.

    Fuck me. Should have written

    Posters here have admitted that they put scarequotes around “Be to make fun of his pretentiousness

    because it’s perfectly fine to “[quote] Be to make fun of his pretentiousness”, where Be is the person and the things quoted are pretentious things he writes or says.

  248. 248
    markusorlyus

    But the point is, why are there ads for Christian clothing and Become an Ordained Minister! on this page? We all believe something and I believe I hear Google chuckling.

  249. 249
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Okay. Since it’s hard to understand, if I ever hand you a business card reading Anthony “Tony” Mylastname, the convention is meant to distinguish my preferred and legal names.

    It isn’t a nickname. It’s a new name. If your bio read “”One,” formerly “Tony”,” that would be equivalent.

  250. 250
    Forbidden Snowflake

    Jadehawk and chigau: the search function sees the quote-marks you type in and the ones that appear on the page after you hit “submit” as two different kinds of characters. Quite curious, really.
    If you copy and paste a quoted word from the page into the search box, the search function will find it. Then delete the quotes and enter new ones, and it won’t anymore.

    Ing

    I’d like to side with what I hope is the majority opinion and thank Natalie for her correction and patience in clarifying the correction.

    +1

    Be Scofield:

    Again, I simply don’t see why believing in the afterlife is such an urgent issue to liberate people from.

    Because this.
    Seriously, is it really that hard to imagine see how belief in something way more important than human life and well-being can be harmful?

  251. 251
    Anthony K

    “Be” is not a common nickname for anything.

    So? What’s common got to do with it?

    “What’s that? Be? What kinda fuckin’ pansy-ass hippie bullsh—oh, you said ‘BJ’? Carry on, then.

    Look, again, I’m not arguing that people should continue using it on this thread – I don’t think they should – but the assumptions about people trying to invalidate someone’s identity by using it were misinformed.

    The problem is that it is invalidating an identity, even if it’s not a dig at trans status. Why is it legit to change your name from ‘Robert’ to ‘Karen’ because you’ve always felt ‘Karen’ represented who you are more than ‘Robert’, but it’s not legit to change your name from ‘Robert’ to ‘Moondancer’ for the same reason?

  252. 252
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    because it’s perfectly fine to “[quote] Be to make fun of his pretentiousness”, where Be is the person and the things quoted are pretentious things he writes or says.

    One of the pretentious thing being made fun of was the choice of name itself.

  253. 253
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    Oh, and while we are at it…

    Memo for Be and other religious apologists who try to appropriate the experience of non-White people to further their arguments: contrary to the old “Noble Savage” trope, indigenous peoples’ traditions are not necessarily better than Western culture. In fact, it’s a pretty offensive trope, with a lot of pseudo-historic and racist baggage.

    As Sastra #153 judiciously noted, it’s another form of patronising, toward all the “little people”:

    The Little People Argument contends that there are many religious people who can’t handle the truth — don’t need it, don’t want it, can’t use it. They’re more concerned about community and identity and soothing their fears than they are about thinking things through carefully.

    [...] I wonder if Be has ever asked a marginalized minority if they care more about their religion being useful than they do about it being true. I wonder if they would appreciate the implication that they ought to be treated as if they do.

  254. 254
    Pteryxx

    Aha!

    but the assumptions about people trying to invalidate someone’s identity by using it were misinformed.

    Nope. The assumption (of good faith) was that people were being invalidating by mistake.

  255. 255
    Anthony K

    It isn’t a nickname. It’s a new name. If your bio read “”Te,” formerly “Tony”,” that would be equivalent.

    That’s the analogy, not like there’s a magical fucking Maginot line of acceptable name transitions.

    Look, again, I’m not arguing that people should continue using it on this thread – I don’t think they should

    Fine. Why not then?

  256. 256
    ChasCPeterson

    Is “many of us” like a tribalism thing, poll results from your acquaintances or personalities, or are you affecting the majestic plural?
    darn this comprehension difficulty

  257. 257
    Forbidden Snowflake

    Is the phrase, “That’s what she said,” misogynistic?

    In case anyone’s unaware: this is the origin of “That’s what she said”.

    I use both “That’s what she said”* and “That’s what he said”**, and don’t consider it inherently misogynistic, though abuse is generally possible.

    *e.g., after “[I just love my new mattress!] It’s so big and hard!”
    **e.g., after “What hole do I put this into?”, while crawling around behind a PC with something that needs plugging in

  258. 258
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    The problem is that it is invalidating an identity, even if it’s not a dig at trans status.

    No, it isn’t. It’s making fun of a name.

    Why is it legit to change your name from ‘Robert’ to ‘Karen’ because you’ve always felt ‘Karen’ represented who you are more than ‘Robert’, but it’s not legit to change your name from ‘Robert’ to ‘Moondancer’ for the same reason?

    It’s totally legitimate. It’s also legitimate for people to make fun of pretentious chosen names (people have done it to me). One of the posts I linked to was “He Be toast by now,” which isn’t comedy genius but made me giggle. It’s, finally, legitimate to make fun of someone’s name presenting it in the same way that person often does. Again, I see the problem with how it can be read given the new knowledge, and of course wouldn’t write it that way anymore; what I didn’t care for was Reed’s assumption about identity-invalidation being intended.

  259. 259
    thecalmone

    My daughter always gives her name as “Rainbow” at those juice bars in shopping centres, just so she can hear them call it out when her juice is ready.

  260. 260
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Nope. The assumption (of good faith) was that people were being invalidating by mistake.

    Bull:

    While I’m at it: this business of putting Be’s name in scare quotes is pretty dodgy too. Should we start calling me “Natalie” Reed?

    Or “PZ” Myers for that matter.

    Because obvs the name someone is assigned at birth is their REAL name, amirite?

    The fact that someone said something stupid and made a stupid argument does not give us carte blanche to start attacking and undermining their identity.

  261. 261
    Pteryxx

    SC, I don’t see anything in the quoted section that implies intent. Even “attacking and undermining” can happen unintentionally. Natalie’s angry, sure. Deservedly, IMHO.

  262. 262
    feralboy12

    Living in Eugene, Oregon for 30 years, I don’t even blink at possibly pretentious names. Meeting people like “Star,” “Mountain,” “Jasmine,” and “Yogurt” for so long I’ve become de-sensitized.
    Okay, maybe not “Yogurt.” But still, one can learn to ignore such things. There’s often a story behind the name, and you probably don’t want to hear it.

  263. 263
    Anthony K

    Is “many of us” like a tribalism thing, poll results from your acquaintances or personalities, or are you affecting the majestic plural?
    darn this comprehension difficulty

    Take all three of those thoughts, print them out, roll them up, stick them in a five-foot length of lead pipe, and beat yourself to death with it.

    For your epitaph, I’ll write “He was so much less tribal than everyone else”, and then everyone will be able to remember you for the one contribution you’ve had.

    I know it doesn’t matter to you because you’re too busy sucking your own cock for how right you are, but my issues with you have nothing to do with the fact that other people seem to have issues with you, but have to do with the fact that you’re a pretentious, spoilt, narcissistic bag of shit, which coincidentally seems to be similar to at least one reason that some other people have issues with you.

    So go and do what every internet rebel does: fling one last ‘groupthink’ and fuck off—if you haven’t noticed, I’m busy fighting with other members of my tribe, dumbshit.

  264. 264
    Pteryxx

    I said, “Natalie’s angry, sure. Deservedly, IMHO.” That didn’t go far enough. Accepting a trans person’s name and pronouns is a big fucking deal, because this sort of shit happens constantly:

    Her name was Natalie, too. The newspapers didn’t print it as such, however, nor did they refer to her as female. As is often the case in the death of a trans person, her true identity and what she had been fighting so hard for was cast aside, so as to pay respect to a costume, to mourn a version of her that never really existed, and she had been desperate to escape. It’s sad that in death we so often have to suffer these final acts of erasure and denial.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed/2012/01/24/in-memory-of-another-natalie/

    Try looking at this sentence of Natalie’s another way:

    Because obvs the name gender someone is assigned at birth is their REAL name gender, amirite?

    Given names, “real” names, almost always are gender-coded. Getting it wrong can out people who are at real risk of being killed because of it. There’s a reason to be pissed off about this, even though all that happened in this comment thread was some clumsy ignorance.

  265. 265
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Even “attacking and undermining” can happen unintentionally.

    Yeah, people always talk about inadvertent attacks. Good grief. (Never mind that she’d already suggested that an innocent mistake was “kind of messed up” and said PZ should have done more fact-checking before writing about Be as male when given the nature of the online evidence that would have been overwhelmingly likely to confirm the general belief here that Be was male.)

    I think she’s made some good and important arguments here, and I can appreciate why she’s angry, but I find some of the uncharitable, assumption-based scolding silly and tiresome.

    OK, I have to get back to work.

  266. 266
    Pteryxx
    Even “attacking and undermining” can happen unintentionally.

    Yeah, people always talk about inadvertent attacks. Good grief.

    Huh. Okay, I might’ve been reading that phrase too much like a chemist. “Toxic environment” and all that sort of thing.

  267. 267
    Anthony K

    I think she’s made some good and important arguments here, and I can appreciate why she’s angry, but I find some of the uncharitable, assumption-based scolding silly and tiresome.

    What? Since when is this an acceptable argument?

  268. 268
    Aquaria

    I simply wish that a fraction of the energy that goes into attacking people’s personal beliefs about heaven were to go into educating or writing about the larger social forces of oppression that also shape a believers life.

    1) Criticising the utter stupidity and vacuity of your delusion isn’t an attack, you lying shit stain. It’s criticising the utter stupidity and vacuity of your delusion.

    Fuck you.

    2) Oh cry me a fucking river, you disingenuous, hypocritical fuckface.

    Don’t want people’s beliefs attacked? You first, scumbag.

    Look in the fucking mirror–and at this vomit heap of lies that you think passes for an article. Atheists spend 90% of their lives dealing with piece of shit whining christers like you having their belief position attacked. It’s what slime like you spend a frightening amount of your time on. You scumbags aren’t happy unless you can attack us. See: Jessica Ahlquist. See: Damon Fowler.

    See: You, asshole

    Fuck off back to your cave of stupid. You’re wasting oxygen out here.

    Imagine if much of the passion and fire that characterizes much of the New Atheist community could be directed towards the racial, class and patriarchal oppression that believers experience rather than their beliefs about God or heaven.

    You fucking first. Guess who’s causing most of that oppression, asshole? That’s right, theistic scumbags like you. It’s your delusion that has spent decades, centuries or millennia bashing everyone else and clings tenaciously to hatred of women, gays and other races.

    Of course, as atheists are marginalized in a Christian and hegemonic culture there is a need to resist this persecution.

    Oh how fucking white of you to notice. Your bullshit vomited up here is the reason why we’re marginalized, you idiotic scumbag.

    As I’ve said before I think those who are affiliated with religion have a direct responsibility to aid in ending this misguided attack upon atheism.

    But then you go out and make not only misguided but fucking stupid and bigoted and dishonest attacks upon it.

    You’re trash.

    Fuck off.

  269. 269
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    What? Since when is this an acceptable argument?

    What? It’s not an argument. It’s an expression of opinion. The argument was that despite making some good and important points she’s been something of an uncharitable, illegitimate-assumption-making scold. I think I’ve noted sufficient evidence of that, but you might not accept it. Whatever. That this scolding has been somewhat silly and tiresome is just my opinion.

    OK, now I’m out.

  270. 270
    Ing

    FFS people. Stop digging.

  271. 271
    Nick Gotts

    My real sensitivity comes from my many years of studying anti-racist issues and learning to counter oppressions. – bescofield

    Gosh. What a truly wonderful person you are. Always make sure you tell everyone that, or they might not realise.

  272. 272
    Pteryxx

    –dramatic operatic flourish–

    Oh nooo, not illegitimate-assumption-making! Whatever shall we dooooo!

    –throws self sprawling across upholstered cushion–

    Heck, not like any of us ever do that!*, **

    *including me. I didn’t get the name thing until Natalie pointed it out.

    ** sarcasm included, no extra charge.

  273. 273
    Natalie Reed

    For the umpteeth time, I was not criticizing, complaining or chasticizing. I was provided a fucking clarification. I have REPEATEDLY conceded that intent was not present. But the numerous apologetics that have since been provided for cissexist implications certainly have certanly been intended, and I think those are really, really messed up.

    I am not going to explain myself again. If you want to keep taking digs at the Imaginary Natalie that called everyone transphobic for using male pronouns or whatever other thing you THINK I did, knock yourselves out. But let me just put my disappointment on record.

  274. 274
    Natalie Reed

    um… chastizing.

    Which is also apparently a misspelling. But at least not as silly sounding as “chasticizing”.

  275. 275
    Natalie Reed

    Wow. Lots of other typos in there too. I need coffee.

  276. 276
    Natalie Reed

    Also, the scare quotes around Be’s name happened AFTER THE CLARIFICATION REGARDING GENDER IDENTITY HAD BEEN MADE.

  277. 277
    Walton

    The argument was that despite making some good and important points she’s been something of an uncharitable, illegitimate-assumption-making scold.

    I don’t see where Natalie made any illegitimate assumptions; I think you’re misreading her here.

    When she referred to absurd transphobia, I understood her to be responding in particular to this comment by frankb – which was offensive, transphobic and dismissive, by any reasonable standards.

  278. 278
    SallyStrange

    Chasticizing is when you scold people for lacking edumacation.

    And yes, I agree, the defensiveness about pronouns and scare-quoted names is rather disappointing. Now you know; no more excuses; let’s move on, eh? I used to mock Be’s name too. Now I won’t anymore, or, if I do, it’ll be directly and not through the use of scare quotes. See how easy that was?

  279. 279
    Natalie Reed

    Exactly. Thank you, Sally.

    This entire conversation didn’t even need to happen. It could have ended with the initial clarification, people could have simply taken that as a cue to be more mindful of things like accusing Be of white-male-privilege or mocking his name, and everything would be dandy.

    What I am angry at here is not any of the innocent mistakes (or even necessarily the negligent mistakes, like those that occurred after I made the clarification). I’m angry at the defensiveness and the hostility with which this was all met, and what I was describing as transphobic were things like frankb’s remark and the assertions that trans women have just as much gender privilege as cis men.

    Now can we PLEASE just take it as a lesson and let it go?

  280. 280
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Also, the scare quotes around Be’s name happened AFTER THE CLARIFICATION REGARDING GENDER IDENTITY HAD BEEN MADE.

    It also happened after several threads here in which people had made fun of Be’s name, both mirroring the quotation marks and without them. No one suggested at that time that this constituted an attack on Be’s identity or an attempt to invalidate it, and I think if anyone had the suggestion would have been roundly and rightfully dismissed without all of this business about nicknames and such. It’s only in hindsight with this new knowledge that it can read differently, but people are in the habit from previous threads and likely just didn’t think of it. There was a context she didn’t know about, but she certainly could have learned about it by asking rather than accusing.

    ***

    I don’t see where Natalie made any illegitimate assumptions; I think you’re misreading her here.

    1) She didn’t bother to ask what the reason for the quotation marks was, but jumped immediately to the framing of it as an “attack” on identity, which contains an assumption about intent.

    2) She made the assumption that PZ had just assumed Be was male and the silly suggestion that he should have done fact-checking (when she apparently hadn’t done the requisite fact-checking read the post she herself linked to that described Be’s pronoun preference).

    3) She said that it was an honest mistake (well, she kind of went back and forth on whether she believed this, which I thought was rather insulting; does she seriously think there’s a real chance PZ would do that intentionally?), but still described it as “kind of messed up.” I pointed out the problem with this and was ignored.

  281. 281
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    There was a context she didn’t know about, but she certainly could have learned about it by asking rather than accusing.

    Replace the “she’s” with “yous” there, please.

  282. 282
    Natalie Reed

    *headdesk*

    Intent is not a magic get out of jail free card. It doesn’t magically eliminate consequences or messed-up-edness. I was EXTREMELY consistent in describing PZ’s choice of wording as unintentional.

    Seriously, this is getting ridiculous.

  283. 283
    SallyStrange

    So ANYWAY…

    Someone left this link on Ophelia’s blog or Greta’s, I can’t remember which. Either way, it’s worth reading. http://skeptorical.blogspot.com/2012/01/unreason-and-lack-of-understanding-by.html

    Despite the many things which have been said about how fucking wrong and dishonest and disrespectful Be Scofield’s piece was, turns out someone still found something new and interesting to say about how awful it all was.

  284. 284
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Natalie, would you email me if you have a moment? I’m at spokesgay at gmail.

  285. 285
    SallyStrange

    I also didn’t see where Natalie made any unwarranted assumptions, nor did I experience her clarifications as attacks on anyone. She really, truly did absolutely nothing wrong and any claims to the contrary aren’t credible.

    ANYWAY…

    For example, from the blog I linked to above:

    . . . when Greta Christina says we’d be better off without religion and insists that we convert believers to atheism she is reproducing cultural imperialism against Native Americans

    This is totally inappropriate by Scofield; it is offensive and rude to the plight of the Native Americans who faced and still face oppressive cultural imperialism. The Native Americans were killed, slaughtered, and oppressed by actions of the United States government and its citizens. The Native Americans were not killed by social criticism and debate that suggested their political system was wrong or that they should change their cultural habits. They were killed and displaced by actual physical violence, force, and manipulation.

    On the other hand Atheism is simply social criticism and debate. New atheists point out flaws in the arguments of the religious and attempt to convert them with logic. If this is cultural imperialism then we can no longer debate any issue because it will be considered cultural imperialism.

    Open debate is an important part of our society and is accepted in all areas from politics to philosophical beliefs. If Scofield wants to accuse Atheists of cultural imperialism like that imposed against the Native Americans he must also accuse the democrats and the republicans for their ongoing battle and even accuse those who prefer Mozart to Beethoven of cultural imperialism.

    I don’t think it has been pointed out enough that actual cultural imperialism typically involves actual violence, forcible relocation, and criminalization of certain cultural practices. Scofield is being sloppy with the definitions of “cultural imperialism” and “racism” in order to show new atheists in the worst light possible.

    I honestly think that his choice to attack Greta Christina in particular stems from his absolute inability to deal with the epistemic critique of religion (i.e., it has no reality check), and Greta is one of the most articulate and well-known proponents of that critique.

  286. 286
    'Tis Himself

    Natalie,

    I apologize for not recognizing my cis-privilege and for falsely accusing you of conflating ignorance of Scofield getting out of of the closet with transphobia.

  287. 287
    Pierce R. Butler

    Scofield’s first name constitutes an excellent argument for the exclusive use of E-Prime, now and forever.

    Not that anyone can hold out much hope for re-railment of this thread, but just for the record I want to point out a rebuttal that I expected would feature prominently here:

    … Dawkins likens religion to a virus that infects the mind …

    Dawkins likens any persistent idea to a mental virus, damnit. I would have thought by now the concept of “memes” would have penetrated even San Francisco Bay seminaries, but apparently my cynicism has once more proven inadequate to the occasion.

  288. 288
    Pteryxx

    I don’t think it has been pointed out enough that actual cultural imperialism typically involves actual violence, forcible relocation, and criminalization of certain cultural practices. Scofield is being sloppy with the definitions of “cultural imperialism” and “racism” in order to show new atheists in the worst light possible.

    …Is this seriously the Brine Shrimp Gambit? In the wild even?

  289. 289
    SallyStrange

    OMG, you’re right, Pteryxx! I didn’t even recognize it at first. Someone forward it to whatsisname right away!

  290. 290
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Intent is not a magic get out of jail free card. It doesn’t magically eliminate consequences or messed-up-edness.

    This is getting ridiculous. I did not argue about the use of quotation marks, so I apologize if that was the impression I gave. I took issue with your assumptions about intent. It does eliminate “messed-upness” to the real extent that that implies intent.

    I was EXTREMELY consistent in describing PZ’s choice of wording as unintentional.

    Well, you were in #s 7, 22, 52, and 150. In #38 you said “likely,” and in #141 you said “almost certainly.” That’s as far as I’m bothering to go. And again, “messed up” in my view suggests intent, undercutting the “honest mistake” reading.

    Look, I’ve said several times that you’ve made really good, important, and thought-provoking points here. (I’ll note that I called attention to your new post before you did.) I’m glad of it because little is generally gained from arguments with Be. I also understand your anger and think your criticisms have been valid, but also that you’ve made some invalid assumptions about intent. That’s it.

  291. 291
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Scofield’s first name constitutes an excellent argument for the exclusive use of E-Prime, now and forever.

    Hee.

  292. 292
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    @ Sally:

    Thanks for the link. This article makes a lot of excellent points, like:

    On the other hand Atheism is simply social criticism and debate. New atheists point out flaws in the arguments of the religious and attempt to convert them with logic. If this is cultural imperialism then we can no longer debate any issue because it will be considered cultural imperialism.

    Open debate: obviously what religionists fear the most. Maybe Scofield will be offended by the comparison, but his arguments about the alleged “imperialism” of the New Atheists eerily recall the silencing tactics of certain Islamists groups we’ve been hearing about recently, in England!

  293. 293
    Hank_Says

    Comment 8:
    |
    “If he is talking about empiricism and all, I’d say the evidence fully supports the fact that Be lives in a fantasy world. Too bad for him that there aren’t medal ceremonies for mental gymnastics.”
    |

    Oh, but there are. They’re called “Templeton grants.”

  294. 294
    Pteryxx

    @Sally, thanks for the link!

    1. Is Religion Harmful?

    I won’t answer the question in the above heading, because that question is too complex and difficult to answer. The issue I want to start with is to show that Scofield is a complete hypocrite.

    I LIKE IT

  295. 295
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Brownian and Forbidden Snowflake:

    Thanks for the feedback on “That’s what she said.” I reckon from your responses that it isn’t necessarily misogynistic, and that it all depends on context. In that case, I’ll refrain from using it, as I’m not great at context, always; but I’ll stop worrying about my wife inadvertently using misogynistic phrases.

  296. 296
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    @Jadehawk 91, you think I’m kidding? Naaaaah, I just use winky smileys and say “srsly” and “like, totally” all the time. Like, totally. ;) Especially when I’m recommending that someone should read an article they wrote themselves.

  297. 297
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    Also, thanks to Ms Daisy Cutter for pointing out that my terminology was archaic. Update now installed. (I wouldn’t want to pull an Edwin Kagan here.)

  298. 298
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    So I want to apologize to Natalie. I think I’ve been guilty of what I’ve been criticizing her for: uncharitable reading. I guess I was a little taken aback by what I read as assumptions about the motives of the regular commenters here. But this is minor in relation to the serious issues you raise, Natalie, and your response should be understood in light of those issues. So sorry for bringing it up. I’ve had a bad week, which has made me rather irritable.

  299. 299
    frankb

    Brownian #115

    When I made my comment I didn’t know that Be Scofield was trans and that Natalie was serious. My opologies to any trans people. But Be Scofield is still a nut and she still has lots of privilege.

  300. 300
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Update II: A comment on the Tikkun blog from RIEUX stated: **Another blatant lie. Greta Christina has never “insist[ed] that we convert believers to atheism.” You simply made that up. Why are you so disinterested in arguing honestly?**

    However:
    In 2009 Greta Christina wrote an article originally titled “Why I Want to Turn Religious People in to Atheists.” http://www.onepennysheet.com/2009/11/why-i-want-to-turn-religious-people-into-atheists/

    On Alternet the title was changed to “Atheism and Diversity: Is it Wrong for Atheists to Convert Believers?” But the original title obviously shows that she publicly advocates that “religious people” be turned into atheists.

    I’m not sure which terrifies me more: the idea that you actually don’t see a difference between persuading people to change their minds by rational argument and forcible indoctrination; the idea that it never occurred to you that someone might try to change people’s minds by rational persuasion rather than force; or the idea that you’re well aware of the difference but are deliberately equivocating between the two to try and score points.

  301. 301
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Thanks for the feedback on “That’s what she said.” I reckon from your responses that it isn’t necessarily misogynistic,

    …I was reloading the thread and this flashed past. Was this seriously made an issue of?

    I’m suddenly reminded of the possibly apocryphal debate in the Vegan community about whether oral sex violated their principles. >.>

  302. 302
    Natalie Reed

    Thank you, SC. I appreciate that. And I’m sorry if I wasn’t making it clear enough that I didn’t ascribe intent to anyone’s misgendering of Scofield, and also sorry I didn’t make it more clear that wasn’t what I was describing as transphobic.

  303. 303
    pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

    Few notes about my background: mixed European-East Asian, grew up in Western Europe mostly, spent several years in the US (where I had more white privilege than back home, ironically enough), and also in various East Asian and SE Asian countries, including some years with a politically marginalised group in SE Asia.

    1. If I understand Scofield to be claiming gnu atheists demand all theists be converted, then in that question I’d side with PZ, that this is not what the gnu atheists are demanding.
    2. I also agree with Irene Delse that Scofield seems to be committing an instance of cultural appropriation. If you bring up such examples, you better be able to actually tell the readership about them in more detail, or otherwise it stops at tokenism.
    3. We should issue a challenge to Scofield: instead of telling gnu atheists to examine all the 4,000+ religious traditions, why not give us examples of non-harmful religious traditions after ACTUALLY doing some research on the matter? Of course not all religions are equally pernicious, but I’ve yet to come across a religion which is completely harmless…

    THAT SAID,

    I do understand certain parts of his argument. I used to be a strong cultural relativist due to my bicultural upbringing. While I’ve shifted more towards a “universal value” model in the last several years, Westerners should never forget about their Western, (white) privilege when discussing problems in other cultures.

    I’m also surprised that Scofield does not bring up socio-economic differences between countries wrt Western privilege. There are surveys that show that the importance of religion can be correlated to the GPD of a country (with the US being somewhat of an exception) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Importance_of_religion_by_country

    The global atheist movement is mostly based in more affluent Western countries, and I can see how some people can consider the stance of gnu atheists as racist, or to put it more mildly, as a sign of Western privilege. Instead of the “Noble Savage” trope, it’d be “backward poor people who don’t know better” trope.

    Some gnu atheists can project such an attitude, even if unintended. I was grateful that in the recent Indonesia blasphemy, most posters did not fall into this trap, which again shows why this blog is one of the best places on the internet.

    This is not just restricted to the atheist issue, let’s take some examples from the human right movement:

    - Open borders and human rights: in China, the entire issue is seen as a Western ploy to keep China from rising and humiliate it like in the 19th century.
    - Death penalty activists in Taiwan: local people did not appreciate Western activists lecturing them about it. There is a local anti-death penalty movement.
    - Whaling in Japan: most Japanese people probably do not care about the issue. But every time Japan is castigated by the Western media or organisations (or even Japanese people abroad), this creates an “under-siege” effect. The Japanese right is effectively exploiting the issue to fan nationalist sentiment (aka the Unequal Treaties of the 19th c.)

    This doesn’t mean that Westerners should give other cultures a complete pass on everything (especially the whaling thing is probably a borderline issue), but they should tread carefully when dealing with this.

    Under the same token, “being too pushy” about promoting atheism could be seen as Western privilege and arrogance too. Since I have a feeling that there will be misunderstandings about what that means, let me break it up into levels:

    a. openly declaring atheism
    b. promoting atheism
    c. defamation of religion
    d. forcing others to convert to atheism

    I think even gnu atheists don’t advocate d., and a. and b. should be universal values, and I think that the UDHR would implicitly acknowleged that. But when it comes to c., this seems to be far from being a universally accepted right. The UN has passed resolutions condemning it (and thus giving implicit support to blasphemy laws), while it’s been far more supportive of gender/racial equality issues. How can we argue against it without being accused of Western privilege?

  304. 304
    pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

    not “aka the Unequal Treaties”, but “going back to the humiliation of the Unequal Treaties”

  305. 305
    Anthony K

    Azkyroth: no, not an issue. A legitimate JAQ.
    frankb, I still don’t see what was funny, but thanks for the clarification.
    SC: I’m sorry your week is sucking. Hope it gets better soon.

    Alright, pints are calling.

  306. 306
    Anthony K

    Oh, and that is helpful insight, pelamun.

  307. 307
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Azkyroth:

    …I was reloading the thread and this flashed past. Was this seriously made an issue of?

    Not at all. Ing made a very droll comment that was crying out for a, “That’s what she said.” I felt guilty that was my first response (even if it was a response made in my wife’s voice in my head).

    It was a privilege-check moment for me. That’s all. Brownian and Forbidden Snowflake let me know it’s not necessarily bad. Which is good. I feel guilty over the slightest things. I don’t mind the guilt, but I don’t want unwarranted guilt.

  308. 308
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    pelamun:

    What you said. With curlicues and trumpets.

  309. 309
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    @ pelamun:

    a. openly declaring atheism
    b. promoting atheism
    c. defamation of religion
    d. forcing others to convert to atheism

    I think even gnu atheists don’t advocate d., and a. and b. should be universal values, and I think that the UDHR would implicitly acknowleged that. But when it comes to c., this seems to be far from being a universally accepted right. The UN has passed resolutions condemning it (and thus giving implicit support to blasphemy laws), while it’s been far more supportive of gender/racial equality issues. How can we argue against it without being accused of Western privilege?

    You bring up some very good points.

    In the case of of “defamation of religion”, I think the answer lies in this: “defamation” is something you do to a person or a group of persons, not to an opinion. Notice that the phrase itself originates from the religionists’ camp!

    So it should be possible for gnu atheists to reframe the issue as “no opinion should be hold sacred”, even religion, as long as we apply the same standards of criticism to Western religious traditions as to Eastern, African or Native American ones. It helps too if gnu atheists take care to distance themselves from actual xenophobes and cultural imperialists, of course, and if atheists, sceptics and secular humanists from other cultural backgrounds are respected and listened to within the gnu* movement.

    * Kudos btw to whoever came up with the “gnu” label. Zoology, geekery and absurdism: what’s not to love!

  310. 310
    ChasCPeterson

    Dear Brownian:
    have a nice day

  311. 311
    Stacy

    [OT]

    @Natalie Reed, I’ve only been aware of you for a month or two, and already I’ve learned so much from you. Thanks for the education! Please don’t get discouraged.

    The problem with mocking Be’s name honestly never occurred to me, even though I knew he was transitioning. From now on I’ll stick to making fun of what he says–sadly, I won’t lack for material. (Prove me wrong, Be!)

    @Irene Delse

    Kudos btw to whoever came up with the “gnu” label. Zoology, geekery and absurdism: what’s not to love!

    I so agree. I’m a little disappointed the meme’s not more popular than it is, but in my small way I shall continue to promote it.

  312. 312
    Rieux

    Irene @309:

    The coiner of “New Atheism” was popular atheist blog commenter Hamilton Jacobi, posting (unsuccessfully) on Chris Mooney’s “The Intersection” blog of all places, and then (successfully) on Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True,” back in July 2010.

    Slightly longer version of the story here.

  313. 313
    Rieux

    Now that was a stupid typo. Hamilton Jacobi is the coiner of “Gnu Atheism,” not “New”!

    Oy.

  314. 314
    DLC

    Have to agree with PZ. all of Scofield’s arguments fall flat.
    Apparently Scofield is saying that C Lo Green is right, and “all religion’s are true”.

  315. 315
    Aratina Cage

    On the topic of the name Be, let’s not forget Bea Arthur (even if the a is dropped, it sounds the same), and there is also the possibility that it was obtained from outside the English language. I know a woman named Be myself (I think she spells it that way, too), and she is from Malaysia.

  316. 316
    Natalie Reed

    As an aside, on the relative pretentiousness of names, I think that accusation could be made against almost ANY name…

    Like, my boyname was not Nathan or Nathaniel or Nate. I chose Natalie because it’s pretty much the latin word for birth. Reed is a play on the word read, something I very much like to do.

    So basically, my name is meant to (very subtly) mean “Reborn Reader”. Pretty damn pretentious, eh? ;)

  317. 317
    SallyStrange

    Back on topic, sort of: Guess who else besides Scofield hates New Atheists? Some racist dude from Stormfront. Hee!

  318. 318
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ Irene 305

    * Kudos btw to whoever came up with the “gnu” label. Zoology, geekery and absurdism: what’s not to love!

    The term “gnu” has been around for quite a while (the ’80′s was a long time ago). It was used as the name of Richard Stallman’s attempt at a free, non-proprietary operating system to replace Unix —> “Gnu is Not Unix” (hehe, geddit … it is recursive) with a Gnu or gnu horns as mascot. To this was added the Linux kernel to create the Gnu/Linux operating system, though the “Gnu” part is often dropped.

    The does seem to be a fair overlap in the ways of thinking between free software enthusiasts and free mind enthusiasts. See: Octopi! (GNU Arch Logo) & Alternative jeebus-fish (Linux)

  319. 319
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ pelamun

    Hai! You are back. :)

    *does a little jig*

  320. 320
    Nick Gotts

    Excellent post, pelamun@303. Somewhat parallels what walton and I have been saying on TET about criticism of Islam vs anti-Muslim bigotry and the need for extreme care there. Incidentally, I see one of the adverts running here for me at present is for a good example of the latter: The Third Jihad, which takes the statements of Islamist jihadis and presents them as though they represent all Muslims.

  321. 321
    Jadehawk

    Living in Eugene, Oregon for 30 years, I don’t even blink at possibly pretentious names. Meeting people like “Star,” “Mountain,” “Jasmine,” and “Yogurt” for so long I’ve become de-sensitized.
    Okay, maybe not “Yogurt.” But still, one can learn to ignore such things. There’s often a story behind the name, and you probably don’t want to hear it.

    which, in any case, is just an extension of coming from the Old World, where there are rules about what you may or may not name your spawn, to the New World, where people name their spawn after Objects, Places, Abstract Concepts, etc., often without any regard for spelling.

    From where I’m sitting, “Be” is in exactly the same category as “Dakota” or “Prudence”, and significantly more tolerable than “Jinnyfer”

    [/stogy, grumpy European]

  322. 322
    'Tis Himself

    From where I’m sitting, “Be” is in exactly the same category as “Dakota” or “Prudence”, and significantly more tolerable than “Jinnyfer”

    The name that intrigues me is “Dawn.” I know several Dawns but I’ve never met a “Noon” or “Evening” or “Around Elevenish”.

  323. 323
    Jadehawk

    the psychologically insupportable reality of an unfeeling universe,

    evidence that atheists are more likely to be mentally ill (and that they are so specifically because they accept this reality) is absolutely necessary in order for anyone to take that claim seriously.

  324. 324
    Jadehawk

    Or suppose scientific research one day demonstrated the existence of inherent differences between ethnic groups? There’s no reason why it might not.

    you do know that “ethnic” refers to culture, right?

    point being, the reason “racism” is a bad thing is because it’s ideological bullshit. same with sexism. the actual already know differences between human populations (prevalence of lactose intolerance, alcohol tolerance, susceptibility to certain diseases, etc.) is not the same as racism.

    In any case, blah blah Why not?1)Nietsche? really? lol

    2)psychology != sociology, and since I was talking about the latter, responding as if I had been talking about the former makes you look like someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. unsurprisingly.

    3)the “emotional state [...] of the mass of humanity many years hence” is unpredictable anyway. for all you know, we’ll be reduced to a Mad Max-like society because of AGW, anyway. That’s not an argument for anything, and if it were, I’d argue that humans are inherently damaging to their own future, and thus we should do everything to keep them from getting what they want. Best if they all die in infancy, before getting a chance at doing harm to the ecosystem.
    Which would be a fucking dumb argument, wouldn’t it.

  325. 325
    Jadehawk

    Or suppose scientific research one day demonstrated the existence of inherent differences between ethnic groups? There’s no reason why it might not.

    you do know that “ethnic” refers to culture, right?

    point being, the reason “racism” is a bad thing is because it’s ideological bullshit. same with sexism. the actual already know differences between human populations (prevalence of lactose intolerance, alcohol tolerance, susceptibility to certain diseases, etc.) is not the same as racism.

    In any case, blah blah Why not?

    1)Nietsche? really? lol

    2)psychology != sociology, and since I was talking about the latter, responding as if I had been talking about the former makes you look like someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. unsurprisingly.

    3)the “emotional state [...] of the mass of humanity many years hence” is unpredictable anyway. for all you know, we’ll be reduced to a Mad Max-like society because of AGW, anyway. That’s not an argument for anything, and if it were, I’d argue that humans are inherently damaging to their own future, and thus we should do everything to keep them from getting what they want. Best if they all die in infancy, before getting a chance at doing harm to the ecosystem.
    Which would be a fucking dumb argument, wouldn’t it.

  326. 326
    'Tis Himself

    jonathangray #322

    If there is no god and the universe was not created for our benefit, it makes no sense to say truths about the universe are necessarily beneficial to humanity. Why should they be? For all we know, the religious impulse might play a vital evolutionary role by protecting human beings from the psychologically insupportable reality of an unfeeling universe, thus enabling them to better cope in that uncaring environment. By undermining religion atheists could be jeopardising humanity’s chances of survival or at least of a humane survival.

    First, I hope you’re not Pilty.

    Second, it does seem the universe is a big, non-conscious place which is incapable of caring about human beings. So indulging in wishful thinking may be a crutch for some people who have been told since childhood “yeah, The Big Guy In The Sky™ loves you and he’ll keep the boogyman away so you can sleep without worry.”

    I’ve never seen much comfort in religion. Goddists are told “follow these arbitrary rules or you’ll be punished forever” and “little girl, we have to cut off your clitoris because that’s what TBGITS wants.” But maybe following a gawd who hates reality is comforting to people who are confused by reality.

    Sure, the universe is big and vast and doesn’t care about me in the least. So what? Almost everybody in the world doesn’t care about me. I’ve learned to live with their lack of concern and it’s not a stretch to extend that mentality to the universe. I don’t need TBGITS to tuck me in at night and tell me not to worry about the universe.

    Personally, I find comfort in knowing there is no god. Letting go of self-deception and all the negative aspects of religion was liberating. I’m not better or more mature than most other adults, I just don’t live with the assumption that I’ve got to keep TBGITS happy so he won’t shit on me after I die.

  327. 327
    Jadehawk

    First, I hope you’re not Pilty.

    oh, right. that’s why this sounded so familiar. what a waste of 10 minutes.

  328. 328
    'Tis Himself

    Jonathan Gray Esq was one of the aliases Pilty used to get around his banning at the old site.

  329. 329
    Jadehawk

    Jonathan Gray Esq was one of the aliases Pilty used to get around his banning at the old site.

    yeah, I remembered after you mentioned pilty. the name and the writing sounded familiar, but being pre-coffee, I didn’t figure it out :-p

  330. 330
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    It was speculation, not a claim.

    Speculation is for philosophers and other bullshitters. We are empiricists here, and evidence is required.

    Ah, fuckwitted philosopher, using an old Pilty nym. Philosophy has the problem that if it isn’t grounded in reality like science is, it can show almost anything with word gamesmanship and other slight of hand techniques, also known as bullshit that obfuscates reality. Just look at theology, utter and total tripe.

  331. 331
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    jonathongray, who may be the odious pilty:

    If there is no god and the universe was not created for our benefit, it makes no sense to say truths about the universe are necessarily beneficial to humanity. Why should they be?

    That’s right. Knowing the rules of the game never gained anyone anything. Distinguishing fantasy from reality is far overrated.

    Thank you for pulling the scales from my eyes.

    Oh. Hold on a sec. Those aren’t scales. It’s just that crusty stuf that collects at the corners during sleep.

    Damn, I gotta get some coffee.

    For all we know, the religious impulse might play a vital evolutionary role by protecting human beings from the psychologically insupportable reality of an unfeeling universe, thus enabling them to better cope in that uncaring environment.

    Condescending much?

    But really, we do know better. We know far more than you realize, Grasshopper. We know, for instance, that fervent religious belief is correlated strongly with poor social behavior. Those countries with the lowest index of belief are generally the ones with the least amount of poverty, suicide, crime, and economic disparity. So there is no need for belief to cope with an uncaring environment.

    While the US is an outlier for a few of those metrics, there is a correlation in the US between religious belief and poverty and crime.

    Do the religious in America hold their beliefs because their lives suck? Maybe. But considering the actions of the religious attempting to undermine education and fairness in society, the antisocial motor of religion seems to be operating at full throttle, perpetuating poverty and poor education.

    So, while those with the least amount of belief are attempting to create a caring environment (so much for your posited uncaring universe, Sweet Pea), those with belief are trying to ensure it’s an uncaring universe.

    So take your condescending baseless speculation, wrap it tightly around a decaying porcupine, wrap that porcupine around a decaying pufferfish, wrap that whole assembly around a hedgehog, and insert the whole porcupufferhog firmly and deeply into your rectum.

  332. 332
    chigau (違う)

    If there is no god and the universe was not created for our benefit, it makes no sense to say truths about the universe are necessarily beneficial to humanity.

    The universe itself may not be beneficial to humanity but knowledge about the universe assuredly is beneficial to humanity.

  333. 333
    Nick Gotts

    I don’t think jonathangray is Pilty – if he is, then he’s doing a better disguise job than usual – and if that was the intention, why use a name Pilty has already defiled? He is, however, obviously an idiot.

    For all we know, the religious impulse might play a vital evolutionary role by protecting human beings from the psychologically insupportable reality of an unfeeling universe – jonathangray

    Thing is, the existence of multitudes of fully functioning atheists demonstrates that the “reality of an unfeeling universe” is not “psychologically insupportable” at all. Personally, I’d much rather an unfeeling universe than one obsessed with whom I go to bed with and what we do there. Religion may well flourish in conditions of socio-economic insecurity – which may explain why the religious right are so intent on maintaining the latter in the USA – but what evidence we have from Europe over tha past 20 years suggests that a moderate increase in such insecurity does not put the secularist genie back in the bottle.

  334. 334
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    But is that reality good for us, like PZ claims is must be? It may not be, that’s all I’m saying.

    Citation need that fantasies are better for you than reality. Your opinion is worthless, hard data is needed. Pure speculation is for mental masturbators. That is my point.

  335. 335
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    jonathangray:

    I’m sensing some hostility here.

    As I’m concluding, as KG did, that you’re not pilty, I retract the porcupuffhog suggestion. I think you simply chose an unfortunate ‘nym, even if that ‘nym is your real name. So, apologies.

    Really, I just wanted to be the first to invent the porcupuffhog. You seemed like a good target, with your stupid, “Yes, but what if my completely insupportable still-smells-from-being-pulled-out-of-my-ass proposition is true?”

    That’s stoner philosophy. It’s silly you think we should take it seriously.

    We can all think of situations in which delusion is deadly. Doesn’t follow that truth is always beneficial.

    Create for me a scenario in which the truth is not more beneficial than fantasy. Fantasy for entertainment value does not count.

    We exist in the universe. Therefore, the universe is beneficial to us — it allows for our existence. For most people (I’d even say the vast majority), existence is better than non-existence. So, the universe is beneficial to us. QED.

    Second, as long as you care about people around you, the universe is not uncaring. You are part of this universe. It’s up to us to create a caring universe. Religious belief, on balance, does exactly the opposite. Between opposition to same-sex marriage, the deconstruction of science education, regressive conservative policies (often founded in religious belief), the killing of children as witches, the stoning of 13-year-old girls for the crime of being gang-raped, and on and on, any religious belief not based on reality tends to turn toxic.

    This is not surprising, really. As soon as you start accepting some revelatory knowledge as the true foundation of reality, you’ve opened the door to simply making shit up and calling it reality.

    And, near as I can tell, you can’t have religious belief without some form of revelatory knowledge, even if the revelation is no more profound than, “I just want it to be true.”

    So, no. Your proposition simply doesn’t hold water. The best course of action in a given situation is not best determined by false information. An accurate model of reality is the best way to determine the best course of action, and you can’t have an accurate model with lies rattling loose.

  336. 336
    Ing

    If there is no god and the universe was not created for our benefit, it makes no sense to say truths about the universe are necessarily beneficial to humanity.

    If there is no god it makes no sense to say food is beneficial or that roses are not really armodillos!

    makes about as much sense.

    Variation on the “You need religion for morals” which is a religious belief, those without religious beleifs don’t believe that so it’s begging the question.

  337. 337
    pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

    Brownian, Nigel, KG, thanks!
    (Theophontes, thanks too, I haven’t been following TET for some while now, but hope to be back there soon).

    Irene Delse

    In the case of of “defamation of religion”, I think the answer lies in this: “defamation” is something you do to a person or a group of persons, not to an opinion. Notice that the phrase itself originates from the religionists’ camp!

    right. As far as the linguistic framing goes, you’re right, we shouldn’t follow the religionists’ usage here. We can call it “hurting the religionists’ feelings by deliberately ridiculing their beliefs”. Even taking into account exceptions for satire etc., there are already laws on the books even in many Western countries. Crackergate might have been liable in several European countries, though probably would have resulted in a fine rather than a five-year sentence like in Indonesia.

    I personally am all for campaigning to get those laws abolished, but to proclaim this as a universal value might come off as Western arrogance in an international context.

    I’ve seen how religion can play a crucial role in providing social cohesion, and in such contexts, deliberate attacks on what one religion holds dear, can be seen as attacks on their community. Even though I personally could also see the downside (for instance poor communities wasting so much money on the haj, or on building churches etc, or sending their brightest minds away to be ordained as priests) I distinctly felt that it was incumbent on the local society itself to change its ways.

  338. 338
    Nick Gotts

    No, it only demonstrates it’s not psychologically insupportable for the type of people who make up the present-day atheist community. – jonathangray

    You placed no such restriction on your claim. Calling something “psychologically insupportable” means, if it means anything, that few if any people can bear it without serious distress. This is obviously false.

    Since the only relevant evidence we have shows that for a significant proportion of people atheism is not by any means psychologically insupportable, and since the proportion of atheists in many societies continues to grow without any sign of reaching a limit, what is the point of your puerile speculation?

  339. 339
    SallyStrange

    It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to suppose that there’s only so much reality that humans can psychologically handle. We invented science, and began to find out more and more about the truth of our existence, which is good up until a certain point, when the non-existence of god/s becomes undeniable to the majority of humans. Once that awful tipping point is reached, we’ll all have nervous breakdowns, stop working, and let civilization break down entirely. Is that really what you’re positing, Mr. Gray? If not, then what the fuck ARE you saying?

    If that’s the case then I have a hard time rooting for the continued existence of humanity anyway. Eventually evolution will offer up an intelligent species that CAN handle reality. Let them inherit the Earth.

  340. 340
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    KG:

    You placed no such restriction on your claim.

    Well, they are his goalposts. I suppose he can move them if he wants to.

  341. 341
    SallyStrange

    Merely to illustrate that there is no logical, necessary correlation between scientific truth and human wellbeing.

    Actually there is, and it was laid out, and you still refuse to accept it. That is: humans exist in reality. Reality allows for our existence. The fact that we all have to die is in no way a refutation of this obvious fact. Why should we assume that eternal life is an unmitigated good? You have too many unexamined assumptions for anyone to take you seriously.

  342. 342
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    However the is clearly a negative correlation between misapprehension of the real world and human well-being. Throughout much of human history, being wrong has meant being dead.

  343. 343
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Jonathon Gray, “that which is asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence”. Christopher Hitchens.

  344. 344
    chigau (違う)

    There is a logical, necessary correlation between religion and human misery.

  345. 345
    SallyStrange
    We invented science, and began to find out more and more about the truth of our existence, which is good up until a certain point, when the non-existence of god/s becomes undeniable to the majority of humans. Once that awful tipping point is reached, we’ll all have nervous breakdowns, stop working, and let civilization break down entirely. Is that really what you’re positing, Mr. Gray?

    It sounds ridiculous, but don’t forget that atheism as a mass social reality is (like liberal democracy) a relatively recent phenomenon. An experiment.

    There’s no logical connection between my statement and the one you wrote after it. The relative novelty of a particular cultural adaptation says nothing about its evolutionary usefulness. If anything, the novelty of humans’ position as dominating nearly all terrestrial ecosystems suggests that novel cultural adaptations may be more suited to our continued existence than relatively ancient cultural adaptations.

    So, apparently you are positing that widespread atheism will lead to widespread mental illness and a breakdown in civilization. Yes, that does sound ridiculous. Is there a reason you cling to ridiculous propositions in the face of contradictory evidence? Or is that just a hobby for you?

  346. 346
    SallyStrange
    If that’s the case then I have a hard time rooting for the continued existence of humanity anyway.

    Like the universe cares.

    It’s cute how he thinks this is some kind of zinger.

  347. 347
    Nick Gotts

    Merely to illustrate that there is no logical, necessary correlation between scientific truth and human wellbeing. – jonathangray

    It’s not even clear what this is supposed to mean – I think you’re just using philosophical-sounding phrases without the least idea what you mean. Correlation requires that two measures vary together. Now you might devise a measure for human wellbeing, but what could a measure for scientific truth possibly be? The concept – or rather, pseudo-concept – simply makes no sense: a fact claim, whether discovered by science, by some other type of activity, or undiscovered, is either true or it is not, and does not vary over time, provided the claim is temporally indexed if necessary. In any case, since I am not aware that anyone has been claiming there is such a “logical, necessary correlation”, your speculation was indeed entirely puerile.

  348. 348
    Gregory Greenwood

    Shorter Jonathan Gray:- You can’t handle the truth!

    No, it only demonstrates it’s not psychologically insupportable for the type of people who make up the present-day atheist community.

    Don’t you think it somewhat patronising – even toxically infantilising – to claim that atheists are Olympians possessed of some kind of mutant, post-human super brains that can handle reality, and that ‘lesser mortals’ must be protected from such knowledge in case it would cause their brains to short circuit?

    History would indicate that ignorance, far from being ‘bliss’, is all too easily forged into chains of the mind that blunt the potential of entire generations and create fertile ground for unevidenced belief systems that cement the unearned power of the privileged and inculcate in believers social models that lead inevitably to discrimination and bigotry.

    Look at the social malaises of homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, racism, ablism and neurotypicalism – did science actually birth any of these bigotries? Attempts have certainly been made to warp science into endorsing bigotry in the past, but all have been based upon a politicised agenda that warped the scientific method in a bid to contort the science to support preconceived ideology. Your hypothetical of future science proving some fundamental difference between racial groups that may be used as ammunition for racists is just that; a hypothetical. No evidence for the type of substantial genetically determined inequality in mental capacity you describe has been found, and there is currenly little reason to assume that it ever will be.

    Even if such evidence did come to light, why should we shy away from the pursuit of knowledge on the off chance that it may lead us to conclusions we dislike? An accurate model of the universe around us – ‘warts and all’, so to speak – is vital if we are to make the informed decisions that the future survival and prosperity of our species depends upon.

    Fantasies don’t cure illnesses and prevent pandemics.

    Fantasies don’t feed the starving millions across the planet.

    Fantasies don’t provide the data that warns us of the imminent peril of uncontrolled AGW and the other environmentally harmful effects of our civilisation, technology and population density.

    Ultimately, fantasies don’t provide a reliable means of evaluating truth claims and understanding the universe around us.

    Only science can do these things. Only science can help us unravel the truth about the universe, and that truth has done more to emancipate our species than any delusion, however soft-sold and comforting, ever could.

    You may feel that people cannot handle certain truths. You may prefer comforting ignorance and eyes kept forever lowered lest they glimpse the breadth, beauty and intricacy of reality – that is your right. For myself, I most certainly can handle the truth of a universe ungarnished by a peurile anthropomorphisation of godhead, and I have a high enough opinion of my fellow humans to believe that, given access to the scientifically discovered evidence, they will be able to handle this truth as well. I am certainly not arrogant enough to believe that I am so special, so endowed with titanic intellect, that only I and other supposedly Nietzschean super people like me can handle reality, and that the bulk of humanity must be protected like small children from truths their supposedly lesser intellects cannot process.

    That way lies fascism.

  349. 349
    SallyStrange

    You’re still asserting that false beliefs about reality help humans live in reality, Mr. Gray. In the face of all of history’s contradictory evidence. You have zero evidence for, and plenty of evidence against your proposition, which you yourself admitted sounds ridiculous. Care to explain why anyone should regard your sophistry as anything but intellectual wanking?

  350. 350
    SallyStrange

    Intellectual wanker.

  351. 351
    Gregory Greenwood

    jonathangray @ 357;

    Argument from emotion.

    Not entirely. Intellectual elitism of the type that posists that only a minority are capable of dealing with ‘fundamental truths’ has a nasty documented history of association with toxic far right politics that most certainly are harmful to society.

    If it makes you feel better, one could turn it around and formulate it in a less elitist way thus…

    My feelings are neither here nor there. Where is your evidence?

    “Only the atheist minority have such unusually coarse sensibilities that they remain untroubled at a prospect that would horrify the more perceptive majority”.

    In what way is this new hypotherical any more credible than your other approach? As other commenters have observed, moving the goal posts does nothing to make your argument more cogent. At this juncture, you really need to present something approaching evidence for your extraordinary assertions or accept that no one here is going to take you seriously.

  352. 352
    Jadehawk

    this entire conversation is pointless. since one cannot solve problems one doesn’t know anything about, accurate knowledge (you know, the truth) is essential to fixing things. and the more people have this knowledge, the easier the fixing. whatever hypothetical side effects and uncretainties jonny wishes to imagine, that central point won’t change

  353. 353
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    jonathangray:

    There’s a nasty meme that occasionally surfaces in the neo-Nazi community, derived from some dodgy pseudoscientific book published in the 1970s, which says that the Jewish people are actually descendants of the Neanderthals. Now I don’t believe this for a moment, but what if it – or something akin to it – were actually discovered to be true? The liberal idea of universal brotherhood would most likely suffer as a result of this hypothetical scientific truth.

    But it is true.

    We are all descendants of the neanderthals, at least according to our best knowledge.

    There are two things wrong with your scenario: the first is, we already know there is essentially no genetic difference between the different populations on earth. Second, you are basing the “bad” result of knowing the truth on another fantasy: that different genetic heritage makes another population inferior.

    So the bad in your scenario is the result of fantasy, the lie that genetic distinction of a population makes them a viable target for hate. And then, your entire scenario is a fantasy. You have not successfully completed the challenge. I submit you will find it very hard to do so.

    Why? Because knowing the truth about reality is superior to basing your understanding of reality on lies. You have had to twist reality significantly to even come up with your contrived response.

    Care to try again? Or are you going to persist in pressing your assertion with not only a complete lack of evidence, but a complete lack of a scenario in which your assertion might hold true?

  354. 354
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    jonathangray:

    Some things might not be a problem until we become aware of them. Our awareness might be the problem.

    And some things might not be fixable, even with all the king’s horses and all the king’s men.

    Absolutely correct. That’s the first defensible statement you’ve made so far.

    I can imagine a scenario in which earth is left undisturbed only because we are a primitive curiosity, a zoo of sorts to the reigning hegemony among the stars. Further, I can imagine that the instant we became aware of the truth of the matter, we would be wiped out as potential competitors for the limited (though still quite vast) resources of the universe.

    I can imagine this.

    But it’s pretty damned ridiculous.

    So far, you have not demonstrated how this applies to your original assertion, that perhaps religious belief might hold some benefit.

  355. 355
    Jadehawk

    What about differences that we don’t yet know of, such as intellectual differences?

    considering what “ethnic” actually is, that’s not bloody likely. but again, how is one to undo a problem that would stem from such a difference if one didn’t know about it? That’s like saying we’d be better not knowing that dyslexia exists. No liberal idea would have to change from this knowledge, but they could certainly be better implemented.

    I thought you were talking about both (prevalence of mental illness in certain groups).

    *facepalm*
    if you’re making the claim that lack of a sociological phenomenon (religion) would have effects on human society (it’s already known it doesn’t have an effect on individuals), that’s a sociological claim.

    the “emotional state [...] of the mass of humanity many years hence” is unpredictable anyway.That was my point.that’s not a point. you sound like someone whining that we can’t predict the climate because we can’t predict the weather. social patterns exist, and right now the patterns show that religious belief often causes social harm, while the lack thereof shows no indication of decreasing wellbeing. The same goes for realism vs. wishful thinking in general: societies that deal with their problems by actually figuring them out do better than those who navigate in lalaland

    My argument was merely that there is no reason to think that a truth would be beneficial to humankind in a godless universe.

    this is of course incorrect, since the evidence shows the opposite.

    The religious meme must have some benefits or it wouldn’t have lasted this long.

    lol. I see you have no idea how traits persist, in biology or in culture.

    But is that reality good for us, like PZ claims is must be?

    nice switcheroo. PZ doesn’t actually claim that reality is good for people(it isn’t), but that knowing it accurately is better than not knowing and better still than being wrong.

    We can all think of situations in which delusion is deadly. Doesn’t follow that truth is always beneficial.

    nothing is “always” anything, really. doesn’t have to be either, it just needs to come out that way on balance. and knowing is better than not knowing or “knowing” wrongly, we already have plenty of evidence for that and little to none to the contrary.

    it might be that that religion could compensate for material hardship by providing a comforting sense of meaning and purpose.

    “might” my ass. meaning and purpose are derived from social relationships. how people interpret this (i.e. what stories they wrap around this) is not relevant. it’s the social interaction and community that make people survive disasters (conversely, even religious people rather suck at maintaining mental health when cut off from community and society)

    Main point: there is no reason to think truth = good for humanity.

    still wrong. problems we don’t know about or are lying to ourselves and others about can’t be fixed.

    No, it only demonstrates it’s not psychologically insupportable for the type of people who make up the present-day atheist community.

    and what “type of people” would that be, considering incidence of atheism is culturally determined, mostly?

    The liberal idea of universal brotherhood would most likely suffer as a result of this hypothetical scientific truth.

    hardly. a human species is still a human species.

    The nature of our existence in the universe also means we all die!

    and so?

    Most people care about those around them, not so much for those in the next village, less still for those in another country. Empathy is selective.

    and malleable, so that it can be made to encompass all of humanity; or even all of life. what’s your point?

    Merely to illustrate that there is no logical, necessary correlation between scientific truth and human wellbeing.

    “logical” is not relevant (and “necessary” is just stupid, teleological thinking), when there’s an empirical correlation between knowledge and human wellbeing

    Truth may not vary over time but the extent of human knowledge of truth, the quantity of truths discovered, does vary, doesn’t it?

    yep; and the correlation is that the more knowledgeable societies are the better-off ones.

    PZ Myers seemed to imply it when he said religion was “harmful” because it taught “falsehoods about humanity and the universe”. Maybe I misunderstood what he meant.

    you’re conflating reality with knowledge thereof.

  356. 356
    Jadehawk

    Some things might not be a problem until we become aware of them. Our awareness might be the problem.

    “might” is not relevant, since a)that’s not generally the case, and thus knowing is better than not knowing and b)it’s not true at all specifically the case of religion

  357. 357
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    Really? Resorting to Hume’s problem of induction? In that case, sure. No universal statement can be verified regardless of how many times it is corroborated by evidence. Just because empirical knowledge has been shown time and time again to contribute to human happiness, we cannot say that this will always be the case. And even though ignorance has been shown time and again to lead to misery, it may not always happen this way.
    You win.
    Nonetheless, I’m going to behave inductively. The smart bet if we are striving for well-being rather than misery is to choose knowledge.

  358. 358
    SallyStrange
    You’re still asserting that false beliefs about reality help humans live in reality

    No, I suggested that as a hypothetical “might” – to illustrate the lack of logical connection between truth and happiness.

    First of all, well-being and happiness are not the same thing, though they are related. Second of all, you can’t escape the corollary that if there is a deleterious downside to knowing too much truth, it obviously follows that there is a beneficial upside to not knowing the truth. The fact that you’re too lazy to follow your own thoughts through to their logical ends doesn’t mean that those aren’t the logical ends.

    Argument from emotion. If it makes you feel better, one could turn it around and formulate it in a less elitist way thus: “Only the atheist minority have such unusually coarse sensibilities that they remain untroubled at a prospect that would horrify the more perceptive majority”.

    No, it’s not an argument from emotion. You are the one asserting that atheists may be uniquely capable of handling certain truths. All evidence so far shows that if there are any cognitive differences between atheists and theists, they are negligible. Now you are coming along to suggest that there’s something unique about atheists that makes them capable of handling truths that the majority of humans find too psychologically disturbing. You are asserting this, so you need to provide some evidence that this is the case, regardless of the emotional spin you put on it.

  359. 359
    Jadehawk

    anyway, it’s telling that all examples jonny brought up were hypothetical ones. unless he can start bringing real ones and show how they reverse the correlation between knowledge and wellbeing, this is mental masturbation.

  360. 360
    ChasCPeterson

    We are all descendants of the neanderthals, at least according to our best knowledge.

    that’s incorrect

    we already know there is essentially no genetic difference between the different populations on earth.

    IMO that’s also incorrect; a judgement call at best.

  361. 361
    SallyStrange

    I ask you, what kind of asshole acknowledges that he may be engaged only in intellectual masturbation, and is entirely okay with that???

  362. 362
    SallyStrange

    Sin? Come on dude, don’t play dumb. There’s nothing wrong with masturbation, it’s just, you know–it’s something you do alone. In private. Taking it into a public sphere and demanding that everybody pay attention to your wanking: that’s just rude.

    Who knows, maybe you are as dumb as you seem to be.

  363. 363
    Jadehawk

    What do you mean?

    which part of “culturally determined” is giving you comprehension trouble?

    How and by whom?

    “by whom”?

    . . .

  364. 364
    anteprepro

    No, I was saying awareness of genetic distinction might make some people hate other people; not that such hate was justified!

    And the person you responded to was saying that this hate would not exist if it weren’t for a notable lack of other information. In other words, this “truth” is only harmful because it is an incomplete one, put into an incorrect context. The irony is that, in order to posit a hypothetical world where the complete truth could lead to hatred of a group, that hatred must in fact be justified. The only thing you have done is presented a hypothetical where the group doesn’t deserve hatred, but people are selectively unaware of the facts that point towards that conclusion and are only aware of facts that point towards a justified hatred that fits biases. This is a case where a single truth could have a negative effect, but it is not sufficient to damn the whole truth as not generally beneficial and is not enough to suggest that truth has the potential to be harmful in itself, given that additional insight into the truth is a clear remedy to the problem of the negative of effects of a single factoid justifying bad behavior.

  365. 365
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    jonathangray:

    No, I was saying awareness of genetic distinction might make some people hate other people; not that such hate was justified!

    But that’s the topic under discussion! You’re trying to disassociate one set of truthful knowledge from another, simply to support your case. You’re saying essentially that your fantasy knowledge of a genetic heritage will cause another fantasy to assert itself, resulting in some undefined harmful result. Ergo, the “not that such hate was justified!”

    Your scenario still doesn’t come close to meeting the challenge. You’re saying, “Ignorant people are better off ignorant.”

    And I say that’s fucking elitist bullshit.

  366. 366
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    ChasCPeterson:

    that’s incorrect

    Damn you and your references!

    I retract my earlier all-encompassing statement about every population being descended from neanderthals.

    I replace it with:

    “It is ironic that most of these neo-Nazi groups you reference were themselves descendants of Neanderthals.”

    (Thanks for the correction, Chas.)

  367. 367
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Antiochus Epiphanes:

    Really? Resorting to Hume’s problem of induction?

    Especially since Hume himself demonstrated that induction was often necessary. That whole, “You know that eating sustained you one day; you assume it will sustain you the next,” thing.

    The reason induction often works is because reality often behaves in a predictable fashion. Discovering the patterns of predictability is half of what science (and the general day-to-day navigation of reality) is all about.

    Ten points if Jonathan can come up with the other half. An additional ten points if he can name the third half.

    (I really quite good with math. Why do you ask?)

  368. 368
    Pteryxx

    …Seriously?

    Now I don’t believe this for a moment, but what if it – or something akin to it – were actually discovered to be true?

    What about differences that we don’t yet know of, such as intellectual differences?

    “What if we invent some bullshit fantasies that just happen to excuse bigotry and then freak because they MIGHT be true?”

    And THIS is an excuse for NON-evidence-based belief systems? Bleargh. This troll’s a disgrace to propaganda.

  369. 369
    Nick Gotts

    Truth may not vary over time but the extent of human knowledge of truth, the quantity of truths discovered, does vary, doesn’t it? – jonathangray

    Yes, but that’s not what you said, is it? If you’re going to wank in public, you might at least try to put on a good show.

    Moreover, no-one has claimed that there is a “logical, necessary correlation” between knowledge of the truth and human well-being or happiness, so it’s quite clear you are just trolling.

    Anyway, it’s been a pleasure talking to y’all. Out.

    Typical lying troll: keeps saying it is done, then deposits another stinky little turd.

  370. 370
    Algernon

    I kind of wish that was [name redacted] for several reasons. For one, there was this crazy album cover that he posted somewhere in a conversation. It was in the vein of the sort of sci-fi prog rock album covers legends are made of. The budgie mash up reminds me of it, and I was certain I’d downloaded it but apparently not. What a loss :(

    Also I’d like to tell him that I’m working on yet another project (which of course may fall through like *every* other one I’ve been involved it) and the person who is producing really likes the song my conversations with [name redacted] inspired.

    Lastly and OT, what’s wrong with mental illness? Often mental illness is simply a category for people who do not think the way we want them to. There are destructive patterns of behavior, certainly, but one does not have to be mentally ill to do that. We like some forms of mental illness and hate others.

    I love and yet I do not love,
    I am crazy and I am not crazy.

    Anyway, I have to buy a car it seems, edit/document midi files so that I can turn them over, and then go back to work so I can’t let myself get into this conversation however much I would enjoy it. This is probably to everyone else’s relief though :/

    (does mutual mental masturbation constitute an intellectual affair?)

    Hello and Goodbye. I miss you guys some times. All of you. Well, almost :P

  371. 371
    chigau (違う)

    HiBye Algernon.
    In the picture, is that you flying away?

  372. 372
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    If you’re going to wank in public, you might at least try to put on a good show.

    There’s the rub.

  373. 373
    Jadehawk

    All of it, actually. It could confuse a stupid person!

    oy. would it confuse you if i said “the prevalence of people who like mac-n-cheese is culturally determined”?

    I believe that is grammatically correct.

    i wasn’t commenting on the grammar, i was noting the silliness of asking for a personal causal agent; but i suppose nothing else can be expected from a brain infested with too much teleology and anthropomorphisation

  374. 374
    evilisgood

    jonathangray @335

    You may not be typical of your species. The religious meme must have some benefits or it wouldn’t have lasted this long.

    Your species? What are you, one of Icke’s lizard people? Manbearpig? OH! You’re the Land Shark, aren’t you? Can’t fool me with your candygram.

  375. 375
    Walton

    For one, there was this crazy album cover that he posted somewhere in a conversation. It was in the vein of the sort of sci-fi prog rock album covers legends are made of. The budgie mash up reminds me of it, and I was certain I’d downloaded it but apparently not. What a loss :(

    Ha. While I don’t remember the album cover, he did introduce me to this painting and this poem, among other things. As well as taking great pains to warn me away from the literary output of the late William Burroughs.

  376. 376
    Jadehawk

    Your species? What are you, one of Icke’s lizard people? Manbearpig?

    Eoanthropus dawsoni

  377. 377
    feralboy12

    The religious meme must have some benefits or it wouldn’t have lasted this long.

    Of course there are benefits. For religion, not for human beings.

  378. 378
    Pteryxx

    The religious meme must have some benefits or it wouldn’t have lasted this long.

    Heck, that’s a mis-reading of how evolution even works. The old shit works well enough, or at least doesn’t kill you too often, UNTIL SOMETHING BETTER COMES ALONG.

  379. 379
    Algernon

    Ha! Thanks! I knew it felt similar, but I could not think of the name to save my life.

    I’ve been trying to track down interesting SFF and Horror illustrators, for no very good reason.

    Maybe because as a child I was entranced by this image.

    The religious meme must have some benefits or it wouldn’t have lasted this long.

    There are benefits to lots of things, which is why they last, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they do not also cause a great deal of harm.

    Slavery seems like a good example. It will always exist because it’s useful. Yet when people accept it totally, the repercussions are often negative. And inherently, people will fight it.

  380. 380
    Algernon

    And once again I can’t argue anyway because I’m dazed after spending all day in a car dealership (I have an Altima now) and I’m starving.

    I can think of a lot of things though that are useful but also destructive though, not just memes, but in fact isn’t that why there is a sliding scale from “traits” to “disorders” most of the time?

  381. 381
  382. 382
    Algernon

    In the picture, is that you flying away?

    Trying to warn all the oysters, rather :)

  383. 383
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Pteryxx:

    The old shit works well enough, or at least doesn’t kill you too often, UNTIL SOMETHING BETTER COMES ALONG.

    Isn’t that the way of it all?

    Let the new shit begin.

  384. 384
    Ing

    The only example I can think of where lie == better than truth would be say a hypothetical state secret that could cause a war or some shit. But that’s more of a pragmatic lie of omission rather than a foundational statement of truth and could still potentially do harm.

  385. 385
    Walton

    Walton: Ignorant fear is ignorant, informed hatred is at least informed. How can you preach all that pity and sanctimonious stuff?

    Eh… I didn’t say I heeded the warning. I did try reading Burroughs at one point, although it will come as no surprise to anyone that I didn’t like him.

  386. 386
    Ing

    The religious meme must have some benefits or it wouldn’t have lasted this long.

    No. All it needs is

    A) Method of replication
    B) Affect on host that causes one to protect it.

    The metaphor of Religion as a virus is apt. It survives not because of benefits but because it highly promotes its own replication.

  387. 387
    Algernon

    I did try reading Burroughs at one point, although it will come as no surprise to anyone that I didn’t like him.

    *backpat*

  388. 388
    Algernon

    To perpetuate itself, a lie doesn’t have to actually be better than reality. It has to seem better than reality. Pretty sure that covers a lot of things too. In fact, it doesn’t have to seem better than reality even. It only has to seem better than what one imagines reality might be without the lie.

    After all, if you knew what reality was without the lie you wouldn’t need it… and you certainly can’t go backwards from that point.

    cthulhu sleeps…. :P

  389. 389
    Ing

    To perpetuate itself, a lie doesn’t have to actually be better than reality. It has to seem better than reality.

    Or worse. Fear works very well.

    There may be a strong dare I say, Darwinian reason why Christianity caught on and Janism didn’t as much.

  390. 390
    chigau (違う)


    & ne;
    lose the space
    easy, neh?

  391. 391
    Algernon

    Well there’s also institutionalization. I mean, spontaneous magical thought, group bonding, linking observations with intuition– these happen all the time, but to really be strong a religion needs to be more than that. It needs to take those human traits and add some real power to them. Some one with vision, needs to take control, shaping little chunks of thought, killing out competition… usually literally.

    I mean, how can anyone ignore the sheer effort it takes to turn some fear and need into an empire?

  392. 392
    Algernon

    If you make the lie big enough, in fact, and the consequences sharp enough then just admitting the nature of this relationship is often enough to get people to cling to the lie.

    Who wants to give up their pride and admit they were foolish? Who wants to fight for *that* honor? Who has that much forgiveness for themselves and also that much forgiveness for others?

    Well, quite a few people I suppose… but they’re all crazy!

  393. 393
    Jadehawk

    a non-teleological universe must be either deterministic or stochastic, which means humans cannot make rational choices.

    1)a teleological universe is also deterministic, handwaving about free will notwithstanding
    2)rational choice and free will aren’t the same thing; determinism only precludes the latter.

  394. 394
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    jonathangray:

    As for teleology, a non-teleological universe must be either deterministic or stochastic, which means humans cannot make rational choices.

    Two things are required for rational choice: the ability to imagine the consequences of actions, and the ability to judge between those actions.

    Teleology is most certainly not required.

    This also explains why a correct interpretation of reality is superior to an incorrect interpretation. The predictive power of an accurate interpretation is greater. A flawed model will generally result in the flawed imagination of consequence.

  395. 395
    Ing

    As for teleology, a non-teleological universe must be either deterministic or stochastic, which means humans cannot make rational choices. Don’t you think humans can make rational choices?

    You’re putting unspoken assertions into your use of the word “rational choice”

  396. 396
    Walton

    jonathangray: Well, I doubt I’d have come across him at all if you hadn’t raised the subject on my blog. I have no reason to be interested in the work of an author who seems to have gone out of his way to be as gratuitously disgusting as possible and to transgress every extant boundary of taste and decency, with no apparent literary point. I rather suspect that, like most such shock-jock-esque endeavours, this was motivated by the knowledge that the resulting controversy would get lots of attention and sell lots of books.* (Much like the art of Jake and Dinos Chapman, to which you also regularly refer in similar terms.)

    (*I suspect you were being, for once, insufficiently cynical when you claimed that “[a] Burroughs novel is basically a spell or curse intended to spread dismay and disgust through intensely eroticized depictions of violence.”)

  397. 397
    Nick Gotts

    As for teleology, a non-teleological universe must be either deterministic or stochastic, which means humans cannot make rational choices. – jonathangray

    Fuck me, how does anyone get to be as stupid as jonathangray? Starting with innate stupidity, then working hard at it over a prolonged period, I guess.
    1) Rational choice, as nigelTheBold notes, only requires the ability to forsee* consequences and judge between them according to some criterion. A chess-playing computer makes rational choices.
    2) A teleological universe is still either deterministic or stochastic, both because:
    a) Having a goal isn’t magic: without a mechanism by which that goal is reached, it will have no effect.
    and because:
    b) The goal itself is either set right from the start of the universe – determined – or it is arrived at. If it is arrived at, the process of arriving at it is either deterministic or stochastic: no coherent account of any third possibility has ever been given. Note: saying “It’s freely chosen” is not a coherent account, just empty noise.

    *Better than “imagine”, as it does not appear to require phenomenology.

  398. 398
    Ing

    I rather suspect that, like most such shock-jock-esque endeavours, this was motivated by the knowledge that the resulting controversy would get lots of attention and sell lots of books.* (Much like the art of Jake and Dinos Chapman, to which you also regularly refer in similar terms.)

    I thought it was just transcribing drug trips

  399. 399
    Algernon

    FWIW, I wouldn’t characterize Jake and Dinos the way I would Burroughs. They have more in common with Damien Hirst. Remember the first order of high art is to comfort the pretensions of some group of elites. Shock and Horror are low brow. People love Saw, for instance. But what do you do if you are too good for Saw? Well, you find a pretentious excuse for doing the same damned thing.

    Burroughs though, was dug up by the same folks who gave you On The Road and other American classics. I like him better than Kerroac, but some perspective is needed to put that comment in focus. He probably wouldn’t have ever been heard of if it wasn’t for them, and I always thought he seemed half propped up by people who wanted the street cred of associating with a real fuck up.

    But then, the rise of Abstract Expressionism was encouraged by the CIA to help woo intellectuals from Socialism during this very era. All of that literary and artistic genre was a part of a zeitgeist that was attempting to set the US as the *new* culturally dominant force. No more looking up to Europe, and a part of that was a sort of “freeness” that was, of course, marketing hype.

    (Sounds conspiratorial, but aesthetics are culture, and you reach people through whatever avenue you can. We needed an “American” vision. What could be more American than chaos, pretension, and star power?)

    Anyway, just trying to put people in their relative historical places.

    Shock Art is a relative term, after all. If it makes you feel better, a lot of people consider the Chapmans pretty passe. I find them very annoying, that’s for sure. Because I think you should have respect for things, and that they let people be lazy. Shock is degrading. Disgust is contempt.

    For instance, I have a book of photographs in my collection from orphanages in Romania. They are terrible to look at. But they are what you make of them.

    If you will look at them as people, real humans, with respect, then the photographs are not shocking at all. They are reminders of what happens when societies have skewed priorities, and people become desperate. Unfortunately though, people are usually just disgusted. They don’t see themselves in others.

    Why feed that useless part of human nature with your art?

  400. 400
    Algernon

    Also, generally, what KG said.

    What you seem to be saying still suggests that we are somehow of different stuff than the rest of the universe, that we are whole things inside of it but of separate origin and make. Hence the question then is as if choice were one single action taken by one whole being.

    What if the universe were stochastic, but survival in it meant optimization through countless trials and errors, and one strategy that ended up working well involved the perception of order by predicting consequences based on prior phenomenon, then we could call that perception “rational” even though it would still be a part of a stochastic system. In fact, that’s kind of the basis of genetic programming.

    But if you are asking if “rational” then means “ultimately rational” you are still assuming a universe in which there is ultimate rationality, ultimate truth, and an ultimate “right” choice, which implies teleology.

  401. 401
    Algernon

    TL;DR

    Teleological assertion is teleological.

  402. 402
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    KG:

    *Better than “imagine”, as it does not appear to require phenomenology.

    Damned straight.

    Excellent correction.

  403. 403
    humanape

    Walton, you fucking retard, grow up and get a life. Crybabies like you remind me of some deranged Bible thumpers I have met.

  404. 404
    Ing

    You forgot the term “Dogooder”

  405. 405
    feralboy12

    As for teleology, a non-teleological universe must be either deterministic or stochastic

    Chaos: stochastic behavior in a simple deterministic system.
    You’re wrong, jonathangray; your “just so” factoid was disproven mathematically roughly 50 years ago. Do try to keep up.

  406. 406
    Walton

    Walton, you fucking retard, grow up and get a life. Crybabies like you remind me of some deranged Bible thumpers I have met.

    Because, apparently, opposing torture and homophobia, and believing that Muslims are human beings with human rights, constitutes being a “crybaby” and a “deranged Bible thumper”. Who knew?

  407. 407
    Algernon

    Oh good, we have irony!

  408. 408
    Nick Gotts

    jonathangray

    Well you, nigelTheBold and Jadehawk seem to be taking “rational choice” to mean ‘taking the sensible option’, whereas I meant it more in the sense of ‘consciously choosing’. In a deterministic universe, two people having a debate would be engaged in the exchange and processing of data, but there would be no volition. Whether either party ‘convinces’ the other of its point of view would be determined in advance by the laws of physics.

    Yes, we took “rational choice” to mean what it actually means – a choice based on calculating likely outcomes of different courses of action and choosing between them on that basis, while you had a secret meaning of your own in mind. But determinism (or stochasticism – for this issue it doesn’t actually matter whether the universe is deterministic or stochastic) does not abolish volition either. Human beings, unlike (present-day) computers, form and follow goals which they are aware of and which are not programmed into them. That’s volition. You can tell that this is so by considering cases where people act and we say it was not of their own volition: reflexes, somnambulism, post-hypnotic suggestion, etc.. Often (not always), we are conscious of adopting, abandoning or modifying particular goals. The fact that the formation of the goal was either determined from the beginning of the universe by the laws of physics, or is a stochastic outcome of those laws, neither stops this being volition, nor stops it being conscious. Exactly the same is true of rational argument: it can be simultaneously true that the course of an argument is determined (or stochastic), and that the outcome depends on rational considerations; just as it can be simultaneously true that a computer’s calculations are determined by the laws of physics and the way it is constructed and programmed, and that it correctly follows the laws of arithmetic (or doesn’t, if it has been so constructed or programmed). This is a matter of different levels of description: any system beyond the most simple can have desciptions at different levels of detail that are both (or all) true, but appear superficially to be inconsistent. To give a simple example, the table my laptop rests on is hard and flat. None of the atoms making it up are either hard or flat – so where does that hardness and flatness come from? Clearly, from the way the atoms interact. Similarly, human beings can be free – in the real sense that they consciously choose, pursue, modify, abandon their own goals, and (some of them at least, some of the time) employ rationality in doing so, even though none of the atoms composing us are free, conscious, or rational.
    We are, as we perceive ourselves to be, nexuses of causal interaction between incoming information, and our goals and decisions; and these goals and decisions have effects on the outside world.

    Now I understand that you want there to be some additional magical woo-woo, sometimes called “agent causation” but which you seem to call “teleology”; but as I said, no coherent account of this has ever been given. If you dispute this, then present such an account – and a reference to Aristotle will not suffice; I want at least a coherent outline of such an account – how such a thing would actually work, and how it relates to what we know of the physical world, including neurophysiology.

  409. 409
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Yawn, sophist philosopher JG is boring and wrong. Typical specimen. Can’t demonstrate with evidence or reference to reality they are right, so they just keep making the same inane claims and pretend they are right. Which is why science works, and pure philosophy or wishful delusional thinking doesn’t.

  410. 410
    Algernon

    I see what you did there ;)

    But I have to go to work.

  411. 411
    Algernon

    Argh, can’t resist.

    The question is why our latter-day elites are obsessed with “transgress[ing] every extant boundary of taste and decency”.

    Because they’re out of ideas and boring? The irony to me is that it’s become “safe” now. Because there is real horror, but no one cares to do anything about that. I see it as a generational thing.

    Same reason that people still try to hang on to the concept of the “generation gap” even though there really isn’t one anymore– just aging boomers.

    To compare J&D to horror films does the latter a disservice.

    I actually agree, but then that’s kind of like saying that comparing them to a really effective piece of art does the latter a disservice :P

    Also, the failure of successive emancipatory projects naturally breeds disgust and cynicism.

    I think this is a sign of weakness though. Do you think I seem particularly disgusted and cynical? Walton seems to think of you as so though :/ But then I don’t know, I actually have never seen myself as transgressive, so perhaps that’s why. My disgust and cynicism if you care to call it that, comes more from the cruelty people cling to and punish others with.

    Because it’s transgressive and modernity’s grand narrative is one of emancipation through transgression

    It thinks it is the narrative, but it’s a lie, as you note. However, I don’t know that I totally agree with ending the statement there. To me, that may be the narrative for the fairy tale, but it seems more desperate than that so I’ve tended to think it has more to do with the ailing consciences of people trying desperately to justify themselves because their friends won’t do it.

    Bored, complacent, and safe: what’s the allegory, Rome burning I guess?

  412. 412
    Algernon

    Oh, but my little ray of hope is here:

    Don’t you think that these last attempts at trying the same thing without result are dying out? It seems to me that things are and have been changing.

    For instance, there has been a resurgence of respect for craft and artisanship. People are changing in the way that they want to react to art again, and that’s what’s interesting to me about it.

    It is always changing, but that only means transgression if you were already very limited in your thought, which how I think we get the 90′s art scene in general.

    I guess I would be as glad as you would to see that narrative put to rest, but unlike you I don’t care to try and re-create some other one from the past. I hate the narrative of the individual genius just as much.

    “we eat well, we drink well, we live well, but we no longer have good dreams”

    We do not all eat well, drink well, or live well. But those who do perhaps have bad dreams because they know this, or because they do not know this. Without that connection to others though, how can he say “we live well” then? He’s lying.

  413. 413
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    jonathangray:

    Well you, nigelTheBold and Jadehawk seem to be taking “rational choice” to mean ‘taking the sensible option’, whereas I meant it more in the sense of ‘consciously choosing’.

    Where did I say “sensible?” Often our choices are anything but sensible. I just outlined all that is necessary for rational choice: the ability to foresee (a much better word than “imagine”) outcomes of actions, and judge between them. There are at least three places insensibility can creep in here — in the attempt to foresee outcomes, in the judging the best action to arrive at an outcome, and the the choice of outcomes.

    KG covered most of this already, but it’s worth repeating: our choice of outcomes is predicated on our desires. These desires can change over time, of course, but for the most part, the process itself is similar in almost all situations that require a choice.

    KG also covered the lack of coherent descriptions of teleology. I’ll go one further: I submit that, even if the universe were teleological in nature, our decision process would be exactly the same as we’ve described it here. Along with my challenge to come up with a scenario in which religious fantasy trumps accurate knowledge of reality, I have a second challenge for you: come up with a method of choosing that doesn’t involve predicting the outcome of actions, and judging among those outcomes.

    I’ll give you one just to get you started: flipping a coin. Even that, though, includes judgement that a coin flip is as effective as conscious choice in that situation.

  414. 414
    Ing

    Sorry if this is rude but WTF are we talking about and how does it relate to topic?

  415. 415
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Ing,

    It doesn’t relate to the topic. It started off relating to the topic — JG came in saying there might be cases where religious belief is better than understanding reality. He was grilled on that, but was unable to support that assertion. So he moved the goalposts and changed the argument to something about teleology and free will. He’s been slammed on that.

    And that is where we stand — a long way from the original topic, thanks to goalposts that had to be moved to an entirely different state.

  416. 416
    Ing

    I swear freewill is the question of “How does Santa visit every house” for grown ups. Oh sure it’s SOOOOOOOOOOOOO important and debated endlessly at one point in your life…but then it just becomes incredibly tedious and boring.

  417. 417
    Owlmirror

    I don’t think jonathangray is Pilty – if he is, then he’s doing a better disguise job than usual

    His style of writing is a bit different, here, but his ways of thinking are unchanged from when he roared in after Crackergate.

    and if that was the intention, why use a name Pilty has already defiled?

    I think he thinks of it as a matter of honour, not defilement.

    He is, however, obviously an idiot.

    Not every idiot is Pilt, but Jonathan Gray is both Pilt and an idiot. He couldn’t resist defending Catholicism elsethread.

  418. 418
    John Morales

    [meta]

    I see the Piltdown has returned.

  419. 419
    Nick Gotts

    jonathangray,

    If the formation of a person’s goals is predetermined how is that essentially different from it being programmed, apart from the fact that it is a ‘blind’ programming?

    Because it’s not programming at all. There’s no such thing as “blind” programming. In the case of current computers, at least the top-level goals are the goals of another agent, which they are unable to modify.

    If that entire process is determined from the beginning of the universe by the laws of physics, then how can my decision be said to be a free rational choice?

    Because you made it without being coerced, hypnotised etc., and because your brain (this point is of course contrary to fact in your case) is so constructed that rational arguments affect the conclusions you reach.

    How can it even be said to be my decision?

    Because you made it without being coerced, hypnotised, etc.. How could it be your decision if it is not the result of the new information acquired during the debate affecting your state of belief before the debate?

    Surely our debate would have been a simulacrum of rational debate, carried out by two robots.

    Until you have shown how there could be such a debate that is fundamentally different, which you have not even attempted to do, it is ludicrous and indeed dishonest to talk about a “simalcrum”.

    So we can have knowledge of all the brain’s material facts without knowing any mental facts.

    If physicalism is true, mental facts are physical facts, and if we had a complete physical description of the brain we would indeed know the person’s thoughts, emotions and sense-perceptions, so here you are assuming the conclusion you want to reach. In point of fact, brain-imaging techniques are now reaching a level of sophistication where observers can in some cases tell what the subject is thinking about.

    As for the rest of your response, your inability to understand is not my fault. I’m not going to repeat myself until you have undertaken some responsibility in the debate by doing as I asked, and outlining a coherent account of how your magic woo-woo, whether you choose to call it free will, teleology, spirit, or whatever, would actually function: how it would interact with the physical world, and how it would overcome the dichotomy between determinism and stochasticity.

  420. 420
    Nick Gotts

    Perhaps the next generation gap will be caused by a youthful counter-culture’s revolt into radical traditionalism. “The new thing is to care passionately and be right wing!” – jonathangray

    Both the uprisings in the Arab world, led by secularised youth*, and the “Occupy” movement in countries across the world, protesting against socio-economic inequality, show this to be the puerile fantasy of a pseudo-medieval mind. This paper shows that, with a possible minor hiccup during the 1990s, the secularization of Europe is proceeding apace. The growing number of “Nones” in the USA show that the same process is happening even in that backward country.

    *Even though Islamists have done very well in the Tunisian and Egyptian elections, the way they have come into government, and the obvious fact that they will have to compromise with secularism to govern effectively, show that “radical traditionalism” is a dead end.

  421. 421
    Nick Gotts

    Bladder control will be next to go. – jonathangray

    Bowel control has already gone, as we see clearly from your contributions to this thread.

  422. 422
    Algernon

    Oh yes. Back to anonymous artisans plying their trade in a guild.

    Your favorite era!

    Though, they weren’t all anonymous, just the explanations for talent were different. Today, after all, we have artists outsourcing all the work to artisans. Perhaps we’re more there than we want to be. Corporate future!

  423. 423
    Algernon

    Perhaps the next generation gap will be caused by a youthful counter-culture’s revolt into radical traditionalism. “The new thing is to care passionately and be right wing!”

    Unlikely as the boomers and their aftershock have already done that in the US. Um… hello neocon?

  424. 424
    Algernon

    But I’d better go. You can’t get banned for derailing a derail I don’t think, but I’ve only been back posting since Walton sent me a link two days ago and I’d hate to get banned when I did such a good job of staying away all by myself.

  425. 425
    Algernon

    For the record though, I’m much more a stoic than a cynic.

  426. 426
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Dualist: “If mind is nothing more than the self-perception of the physical processes of the brain, how are we different from zombies, or robots? We would be holding a mere simulacrum of a rational debate right now!”

    Me: “Given that decisions, goals, and the ability to predict outcomes of actions are all based on your training, experience, and current state, how would dualism affect decision making? Wouldn’t the process be fundamentally the same? Why is dualism necessary?”

    Dualist: “But, robot. Simulacrum!

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