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Atheism should be science and social justice, not science vs. social justice

I have received a couple of complaints about Sikivu Hutchinson, complaints that were also cc’ed to a number of big names in the atheist movement, which is weird. Why complain to me? Apparently my correspondent wants me to write a rebuttal to some remarks she made in the May issue of International Humanist News. Here are the offensive comments:

Engaging in science fetishism without a social justice lens merely reproduces the white supremacist logic of the New Atheist Movement.

If much of the New Atheist fervor springs from the endless culture war over evolution and church/state separation, contemporary black humanist ideology emerges from a social justice lens.

Oh, man, I can top those. In Hutchinson’s book, Moral Combat (you should read it), she has a chapter titled “The White Stuff: New Atheism and Its Discontents” in which she really opens up.

Being marginalized is not a revelation for most African American, Latino, Asian, and Native American folk accustomed to invisibility in all white institutions. For example, despite conservative claims of a left wing academic “mafia,” buttressed by preferential treatment toward so-called minorities, American academia remains a largely white preserve powered by cronyism, favoritism, and affirmative action for white elites. The majority of tenured faculty, permanent administrators, presidents, and chancellors at American universities are white. The struggle that academics of color frequently face getting hired and getting tenure has negative consequences (particularly in predominantly white fields like science and engineering) for recruitment and retention of students of color. Tenure, publication, conference presentations, and participation in committees determine status, visibility, and career longevity in the academic community. All are key factors in the dissemination of scholarship. So it is no coincidence that many of the major figures and spokespersons in the humanist atheist movements come from academia (such as Oxford, Tufts, Stanford, and the University of Minnesota), where they have benefited from the ivory tower politics of faculty recruitment, hiring, and tenure. Yet for some reason many white atheist humanists believe that just being an atheist magically exempts them from the institutionally racist belief systems and practices of the dominant culture.

Who could she be talking about at the University of Minnesota? Ouch.

She also makes the argument in that book that the black community’s affiliation with religion has been an advantage for them — it’s been a “bulwark against white supremacy and institutional racism.” What kind of atheist is this?

Unfortunately, I can’t write a rebuttal…because she’s right, damnit.

The universities really are bastions of paleness, and the sciences in particular are uniform; we try and are trying to correct that, give us some credit, but I have to acknowledge that I am the recipient of vast amounts of privilege, and a black or Native American applicant would have had to work much harder than I did to land my position. That’s reality. I have to recognize it, I’m a scientist!

I agree with her completely that the New Atheist movement has largely been about science and politics: and that’s OK, those are real issues, and we need to deal with them. But problems arise when we assume that those are the only issues, and that a utopia will follow if only we teach science and math in the elementary schools and get around to enforcing the separation of church and state. That’s what she means by “white supremacist logic”, the idea that white men’s priorities are the only priorities that matter. She summarizes those with only a little exaggeration here:

New Atheist discourse purports to be “beyond” all that meddlesome stuff [that is, race, culture, history]. After all, science has been cleaned up to redress the atrocities of the past. The “bad” racist eugenicist science and scientists of back in the day have been purged. Religionists of all stripes are merely obstacles to achieving greater enlightenment in the generic name of science and reason. Race and gender hierarchies within the scientific establishment are immaterial when it comes to determining the overall thrust and urgency of the New Atheism. Non- believers who argue for a more nuanced approach to or progressive understanding of the political, social, and cultural appeal of religion are toady apologists. Religious bigotry and discrimination are deemed the greatest threat to “civilized” Western societies. As delineated by many white non-believers the New Atheism preserves and reproduces the status quo of white supremacy in its arrogant insularity. In this universe, oppressed minorities are more imperiled by their own investment in organized religion than white supremacy. Liberation is not a matter of fighting against white racism, sexism, and classism but of throwing off the shackles of superstition.

I will openly confess that I do look at the world through a white male scientist’s eyes — and I make no apologies, that’s who I am, that shapes what I think is important. I see nothing in Hutchinson’s work that says that perspective is wrong, only that it is not the only lens with which to see the world, and that we members of the dominant subgroup do harm when we ignore other views — we reinforce only our specific domain, and neglect the greater human condition. Hutchinson also explains that cogently:

If there is no reckoning with the role economic injustice and capitalist exploitation play in shaping hyper-religiosity among people of color then black humanist atheist critiques risk irrelevancy. Engaging in science fetishism without a social justice lens merely reproduces the white supremacist logic of the movement. As Greta Christina notes, “if a movement— however unintentionally—is being dominated by white men, then that movement will tend to focus its energies on issues that concern white men… at the expense of issues that concern women and people of color.

We’re blinkered by our own history and context, everyone is. Our goal should be to open our eyes wider and see that there are many valid reasons to embrace atheism — science is one, but social justice is another. And that if we want to expand the movement, we won’t achieve that by telling women and people of color that they need to adopt our priorities to fit in; we need to recognize that social justice, equality, and fighting economic disparities must also be a significant part of our purpose. Using our white male position of power to tell others that they must adapt to us to fit in actually is an example of the logic of white supremacy, offensive as that sounds…even if we mean well, intent does not override the fact of what we do.

As a further example of this kind of unthinking logic, the email asking me to address this topic was sent to a collection of other white male ‘leaders’ of the atheist movement. Doesn’t that alone alert you to a problem? Why not write to Sikivu Hutchinson and have a dialog about it? Why not include, say, Ayanna Watson or Anthony Pinn to engage a more diverse set of minds?

I don’t think my correspondent was a bad person; he was clearly upset at being accused of racism. But there’s more to racism than putting on a white sheet and burning crosses on a lawn; most racism is going to be oblivious, thoughtless acceptance of the status quo…a racist, patriarchal status quo.

And the beginning of wisdom is to wake up and notice.

The second step is to try and change it.

And then it’s a long, long march afterwards.

Comments

  1. Trebuchet says

    I seldom comment on Pharyngula, but that’s one of your best posts ever. I was, however, a little disappointed that gender wasn’t mentioned a bit more. How are women doing in science academia?

  2. ManOutOfTime says

    I love this post. One can be a beneficiary of privilege by birth lottery, and also acknowledge that privilege contributes to success, and also acknowledge that there are valid critiques of the system of privilege. And one can at the same time be of a liberal/progressive mindset, attempt to see things through the eyes of others, and also work to improve the chances for those who maybe did not come out so good in the birth lottery.

    And this is all possible without being told by a magical sky being that it is right! Yay!

  3. Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain says

    PZ, I ain’t gonna lie.

    It is posts like this that got me reading Pharyngula. It is posts like this that keep me coming back.

    It was the space created by posts like this that made me realize that I can be a woman atheist, a lesbian atheist, a socially progressive atheist.

    Thank you, PZ. Thanks for making an effort to get it.

  4. says

    Women are doing better in science academia; biology has parity, very roughly, but fields like physics and math are still lagging, and I wouldn’t say that publishing and advancement are equal even in biology.

  5. 'Tis Himself says

    I don’t think my correspondent was a bad person; he was clearly upset at being accused of racism. But there’s more to racism than putting on a white sheet and burning crosses on a lawn; most racism is going to be oblivious, thoughtless acceptance of the status quo…a racist, patriarchal status quo.

    Your correspondent appears blind to the concept of privilege. Hutchinson describes the white, male privilege rampant in Western academia and notes that non-whites have a severe problem breaking through the barriers erected to support this privilege.

  6. joed says

    “Unfortunately, I can’t write a rebuttal…because she’s right, damnit.

    “The universities really are bastions of paleness, and the sciences in particular are uniform; we try and are trying to correct that, give us some credit, but I have to acknowledge that I am the recipient of vast amounts of privilege, and a black or Native American applicant would have had to work much harder than I did to land my position. That’s reality. I have to recognize it, I’m a scientist!”

    Professor Myers, thank you so much!
    You sir, are one of the few “white” people I have heard admit to the “White Privilege” that is so pervasively insidious throughout the Western cultures and much of the rest of the world.
    Professor Robert Jensen at U Texas Austin and Tim Wise both talk extensively about this White Privilege and the evil that it is.
    They are white guys but as Wise says, people listen to white guys.
    Anyway, thanks again Professor for speaking out about White Privilege. Also, if you happen to be a white male you really have it made.

  7. ManOutOfTime says

    @Trebuchet – author could’ve Sid “bastions of paleness and penis-ness” … the non-penis-y ones are pale, too, so … there’s that.

  8. julietdefarge says

    Relating to the problems of academics of any color is pretty hard for most of us. I’m a lot more worried about the problems of children of color going to schools with poor science programs and substandard teachers.

    I was in high school in the ’60s, and seeing phrases like “science fetishism” and “white supremacist logic” just remind me that so much of that decade’s effort toward social justice was utterly wasted. I would love to hear what Bill Ayers would have to say in response to Hutchinson’s remarks.

  9. Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain says

    More than 50% of the degrees in biology are being awarded to women, but faculty, especially tenured faculty, especially department chairs and other leadership roles are predominantly male.

    Add in intersectionality of oppression (i.e. women of color get crap for being people of color AND crap for being women AND crap for being women of color) and the picture gets uglier.

    It is changing, but it is slow. But we’ll get to parity someday.

  10. says

    Why is it that when women, and especially women of color, say something that offends a certain type of man, those men often find other(white) men to complain to about it? I’ve heard of this happening over and over, instead of men contacting the woman in question and having the conversation, they try to find a man who might have some influence over that woman and try to convince him to find a way to shut her up(in so many words).

  11. says

    there’s more to racism than putting on a white sheet and burning crosses on a lawn; most racism is going to be oblivious, thoughtless acceptance of the status quo…a racist, patriarchal status quo.

    And the beginning of wisdom is to wake up and notice.

    The second step is to try and change it.

    And then it’s a long, long march afterwards.

    Yes. The walls of privilege are thick, however, little can be done until they come tumbling down.

  12. says

    julietdefarge:

    I was in high school in the ’60s, and seeing phrases like “science fetishism” and “white supremacist logic” just remind me that so much of that decade’s effort toward social justice was utterly wasted.

    It wasn’t wasted at all. It was a beginning. We have a long way to go. As usual, Juliet, the point seems to sail blithely straight over your head.

  13. Enkidum says

    Add me to the chorus of people who like this post. I’m looking around my lab right now and there’s not a single individual in it who isn’t of Western European descent (although my RA’s coming in in a couple of minutes and he’s Chinese, but at any rate we’re mostly pale-ass motherfuckers).

    The under-representation of people who aren’t white or East Asian in my field is ridiculous. I know there are black cognitive psychologists because I see them at conferences (where, trust me, they stand out), but I literally couldn’t name a single one.

    As for being accused of racism, I think Crommunist (as well as various commenters here) keeps hammering home the point that intent to be racist really isn’t the issue any more – there are relatively few people who explicitly hate non-whites nowadays, especially in positions of power. It’s, as you say, the structures and practices that we all live in and give tacit acceptance to that are the problem (fish don’t discover water, etc).

  14. says

    Over the last 8 years, the profile of my math department has gone from 66% male down to 55% male. During the past dozen years it’s also been true that the dean overseeing my department has been more often a woman than a man. Our longest-serving department chair was also a woman.

    Clearly my department is a citadel of enlightenment … but it’s pretty pale. And we have very few opportunities to recruit a more diverse faculty. Asians are well represented, but black and brown are scarce in the department, in the applicant pool, and in our advanced math classes. While some try to explain this away as cultural, I think it’s more likely the prolonged effects of weak schools in disadvantaged socioeconomic neighborhoods.

  15. thewhollynone says

    This old grey-haired feminist grandma says hurray to PZ! I think he gets it. I, too, have long been grateful for the considerable privilege of being born into a professional class family in 20th century America with middle and upper class European ancestors. What luck! Now that was being born on second base (only the males are born on third base) and being born with long legs. I am grateful, too, for many of the good company who are sharing this long, long march.

  16. magistramarla says

    My daughter, a neurobiologist, just accepted a fellowship at The National Science Foundation in DC. Her project will be dealing with this issue – how to encourage more women and minorities to get involved in the “hard sciences”.
    My greatest fear is that Romney will be elected and the repubs will immediately cut the funding for this project, since this will obviously be the lowest thing on their priorities.

  17. eric says

    Lots of good points, but isn’t the movement’s primary focus given in the name? Outsiders should reasonably expect a group that identifies itself with the title “Atheist” to be primarily concerned about atheism in society.

    I get that when white males dominate a group, they’re going to point that group in a direction white males want and not necessarily the direction the group wants or the group should focus on. I agree with the OPer that that’s a problem. But at the same time, one should not (example) join PETA if one’s major focus is ensuring birth control for women. That’s not what PETA was founded to do. Join Planned Parenthood for that. If I want to give blood, I participate in a Red Cross program; I don’t demand the local Atheist society begin blood drives. Likewise, it seems a bit unfair for somene to complain that groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation aren’t focusing enough on social justice issues. The group’s focus is right there in the title. What else did you expect?

    Now, we have plenty of room for more atheist societies focused on social justice issues. Build ‘em up! Send me the link where I can donate! And there’s plenty of room IN current atheist organizations to make social justice a more important focus of the group. But when someone points out that atheist groups focus on church-state issues and make other issues secondary, it gives me an odd sense of two people talking past each other. Yes, of course they do. What did you expect such a self-titled group to focus on? Feeding the poor? Finding homes for stray dogs? Those are extremely worthy causes, yes. And an atheist group can and should participate in such work, yes. But how can you be upset or disappointed if the focus of the group is on the subject identified in the group’s title?

  18. Louis says

    Okay, whilst I am fully in support of the angle PZ (and others) are taking on this, re: poverty of one position/culture of view and the need for better diversity and inclusivity as a matter of urgency, there are a couple of silly post modernist trigger phrases. That might be just me though. “Science fetishism” is high amongst them.

    Make us privileged folks realise our unthought biases and change them by all means, I’ll help, call Newton’s second law a “sexed equation” (or whatever it was) and I will laugh at you.

    Louis

  19. says

    Eric, you’re exactly right. If we’re willing to have the atheist movement be a white middle-class male movement, we could just say it’s only about atheism in society. That’s exactly what Hutchinson is saying, too. Isn’t that nice that all of us are in agreement?

    If you want atheism to be of wider interest to people who aren’t white, economically secure, and male, though…you’ve got to wake up and recognize everyone’s priorities. You don’t get to say, hey, we want black folks to join us white guys, as long as they accept what we white guys think is important.

  20. Brownian says

    What is meant by “science fetishism”?

    The sex swing is suspended with medical cannulae and the wax is melted with a Bunsen burner.

  21. Pteryxx says

    eric: because if the focus of the group is “White Male Atheism” but they don’t realize it, they’re probably going to do their primary focus wrong. Same goes for “White Male” any subject – racism and sexism are cognitive biases that work against meritocracy.

    and I don’t want my help-the-poor charity or my animal shelter to be racist or sexist either, thank you very much.

  22. says

    Eric, are you proud of that spout of privileged nonsense? You shouldn’t be.

    What else did you expect?

    Better. For those of us invested in having a secular based society, society and societal problems are of major interest. Shall I insert a Duh! here?

    Once again, simply because a person is involved with this cause does not mean they are unable to be involved with that cause and that one and that one, too.

  23. Pteryxx says

    Heck, I didn’t think I’d have to whip this one out so soon.

    http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/2010/02/why-diversity-matter-meritocracy.html

    Diversity is the canary in the coal mine for meritocracy. As entrepreneurs, more than any other industry, we’re in the meritocracy business. The companies that make decisions based on merit, rather than title, politics, or hierarchy execute faster and learn faster than their competitors. For startups (and other innovators), that’s a decisive advantage.

    So when a team lacks diversity, that’s a bad sign. What are the odds that the decisions that were made to create that team were really meritocratic? That’s why I care a lot about diversity: not for its own sake, but because it is a source of strength for teams that have it, and a symptom of dysfunction for those that don’t.

  24. Ogvorbis says

    Lots of good points, but isn’t the movement’s primary focus given in the name? Outsiders should reasonably expect a group that identifies itself with the title “Atheist” to be primarily concerned about atheism in society.

    eric, did it ever occur to you to look at the roots of many social problems? What social group is leading the charge to deny women their human rights? And they claim it is gods’ will. The same gods’ will that, in different times and different cultures, justified slavery, rape, female genital mutilation, and other horrors. What social group is fighting hardest, in the US, over the last 30 or so years, to deny welfare benefits to those who are deemed unworthy? Or deny equal access to education? Or deny education? Whether one speaks to misogyny, racism, vilifying the poor, or the destruction of education, organized religion, complete with their fantastical sky-daddy, can be found at the root of the problem, either right up there, out in the open, or buried just a little deeper.

    Ahteism is (to me) not about spreading the ‘gospel’ of non-belief. It is about fighting, tooth and nail, against those who use their bronze-age mythology, their us-vs-them absolutism, their anti-democratic heirarchies, and their black-and-white mentality to guilt, browbeat, and beat into submission those who think the world can be a better place through human effort and education. Without a social conscience, atheism is nothing but an idea. With a social conscience, atheists can change the world.

  25. Gnumann says

    Lots of good points, but isn’t the movement’s primary focus given in the name? Outsiders should reasonably expect a group that identifies itself with the title “Atheist” to be primarily concerned about atheism in society.

    This is so wrong on so many levels that I hardly know where to start.

    Firstly, when you look at atheism, if it’s going to have any meaning besides the boring dictionary atheist kind – you got to look at the mirror image of religion. What is atheism up against, what do we want to supplant.

    Now religion is a (in the emic view) a moral system (albeit highly incoherent in any reasonable ethic analysis, I’ll get back to that). Therefore – to effectively supplant religion atheism must have a coherent moral system (preferably a coherent one). In my opinion our best shot at that is humanism and humanistic views (thought I’ll be the first to admit that humanism has it’s flaws).

    Any reasonably coherent humanism must stress the equal value of humans and the core must be that the system and the ground rules are a reasonable compromise towards enabling each and every human to reach their full potential (compromise since the interests of individuals invariably clash).

    Secondly: Tactics. Like I said before, most (if not all) religious moral systems are deeply incoherent – especially in practice. It doesn’t take more than a five-year-old to point out the flaws. Tactically – we should be better. This again leads to the conclusion that a real and coherent social responsibility is essential for the atheist movement.

    Thirdly: If your atheism doesn’t want to replace irrationality with rationality it’s deeply different from mine (and I might label you a nihilist instead). If you examine social issues with a clear head and open eyes, you’ll quickly see that equality is the evidence-based best position. We might squabble about the means to reach that goal, but if you deny that goal you’re taking a (most likely) irrational position.

    Some other good folks here might come up with some other reasons too, but these are my top three ones.

  26. Hayden says

    More than 50% of the degrees in biology are being awarded to women, but faculty, especially tenured faculty, especially department chairs and other leadership roles are predominantly male.

    Except that I don’t think this is an apples to apples comparison. Department chairs and leadership roles generally go to older and more experienced members of the faculty. Granting 50% of biology degrees to women today won’t have any effect on the current gender distribution in upper level faculty positions, because those positions pull from a completely different pool of applicants. The gender distribution in today’s upper level faculty needs to be compared to the gender distribution in doctoral degrees granted maybe twenty years ago.

  27. Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain says

    Hayden, that is partially true.

    However, if it were simply a function of age, you’d expect to see a bulge – i.e. more and more women and PoC climbing up the ranks.

    But, in fact, that is not what we see. We see, repeatedly, that in a choice between similarly qualified white men and people who are not white men, hiring committees, tenure committees, and promotion committees disproportionately favor the white men. So the bulge is smaller than it should be.

    But, like I said, it is changing. Women and PoC are starting to reach critical mass and the discrepancies are becoming more glaring.

  28. says

    Of course we’ll thank you for speaking out, PZ. We need to give some support to our allies in this cause.

    You reach a wider and different audience. That’s as it should be, but it’s also why it’s important not to leave these issues that aren’t our own and put them out to be seen. And you do that.

    Which is awesome.

  29. kami says

    @Esteleth

    I love that dissent from the prevailing opinion is immediately swatted away as the consequence of privilege, despite the fact that Eric is advocating that more should be done in the atheist community and that he is personally willing to get involved by donating.

    Indeed, I think he makes a good point regarding the specificity of ‘atheism’. While many atheist communities these days typically share humanist ideals, if a community is identifying as ‘atheist’ or ‘secularist’ it would seem that their goals should revolve around “breaking the shackles of superstition” as Hutchinson duly notes. It may be inferred from this however, and it would be sensible to do so, that as atheists who value certain ideals – it is our obligation to engage in social issues and to make sure that the we do “fight against white racism, sexism, and classism,” all of which this blog (and freethoughtblogs in general, given their diversity) is a particular proponent of.

  30. says

    Julietdefarge:

    Relating to the problems of academics of any color is pretty hard for most of us.

    Who’s “us”?

    I’m a lot more worried about the problems of children of color going to schools with poor science programs and substandard teachers.

    Nice derail. Also, more academics of color, more role models for kids of color, more research devoted to PoC issues, etc.

    I would love to hear what Bill Ayers would have to say in response to Hutchinson’s remarks.

    Because white male baby-boomer radicals were and are soooooo enlightened on issues of race (or gender, for that matter).

    Anyway, thanks for continuing your record here as an oblivious moron.

    Louis, how about “scientism”?

  31. maureenbrian says

    Hayden,

    I suggest you discuss this interesting thesis of yours with any woman academic over 50. You would, I’m sure, be told that numbers count for nothing if the game is rigged.

    But try it for yourself, anyway.

  32. andrewtripp says

    Absolutely AWESOME post, PZ; I always love it when people shout out to Sikivu. She should be getting the kind of traffic that Pharyngula does.

    As to whoever your correspondent is: I’d just like to say that just before the Women in Secularism Conference, we of the DePaul Alliance for Free Thought in Chicago hosted Dr. Hutchinson for a talk. She played to a big house, a very diverse one, and several of my group members told me that her presentation was the best event we had ever done. Beating out people like Dan Barker, Annie Laurie Gaylor, and Greta Christina.

    Sikivu rocks, so take your white whining elsewhere, please.

  33. Pteryxx says

    @Esteleth

    I love that dissent from the prevailing opinion is immediately swatted away as the consequence of privilege…

    Missed the rest of us (some with non-feminine nyms) giving actual rebuttals with evidence, huh? Graceful, that.

    Also try reading the OP. Nobody is arguing to drop the atheism, just to take the blinkers off of it.

  34. tesla says

    Bravo, sir!

    I only wish more of this post was above the fold. Ending, perhaps, with, “because she’s right, dammit.”

  35. Gnumann says

    @ Kami:

    I love* how you’re insisting on being dickheadly wrong about everything and at the same time try to weasel** out of your position and the consequences of it.

    *(No I don’t, this is only a misguided attempt at humour)
    ** (No offence meant to mustelids of any sex, colour or creed. I’m a card-holder of the anti-mustelid demfamation league – I even let badgers use my toilet)

  36. karmakin says

    One of the problems is this is really a case where we’re talking about by and large the other. Generally speaking we DO see places where we could take direct action..for example, for a white male department head to resign their position to let someone else take the position…as being steps too far and things that we are generally uncomfortable with suggesting. So we kind of hide behind saying it’s a systematic issue, and hope that by changing the culture we can change the system.

    I do think that there’s a “natural” (not as in good, but as in automatic) urge to associate with people like you that we all have, and that’s the root of a lot of the systematic issues that come into place. In this way I do think that affirmative action programs are necessary in terms of breaking this automatic habit that people have. But we’re talking incredibly long ball unless, again, we’re willing to step up and push the old guard out. Now, I do think we’re probably seeing the beginning of the end, and we’re about to see some fairly rapid change in these regards, mainly due to demographics and retirings, but still, without that, quite frankly until there’s change there’s no change, and in these regards there’s no change until there’s new blood in place. Or to be more specific, there’s no CHANCE for change.

  37. says

    I love that dissent from the prevailing opinion is immediately swatted away as the consequence of privilege…

    Eric was spilling privilege all over the floor, you perennial fuckwit. If you had the slightest of reading comprehension skills, you’d be able to figure that out for yourself.

  38. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    Louis,

    there are a couple of silly post modernist trigger phrases. That might be just me though. “Science fetishism” is high amongst them.

    Make us privileged folks realise our unthought biases and change them by all means, I’ll help, call Newton’s second law a “sexed equation” (or whatever it was) and I will laugh at you.

    Did Hutchinson call Newton’s second law a sexed equation?

    If not, then what you’re signaling is that you can’t be arsed to bother dealing with the content here, because you’re turned off by the tone.

  39. says

    @Trebuchet @1 and @PZ @5:

    The US geoscience and planetary science grad student and postdoc population is approaching gender parity: as of 2008, women were receiving ~45% of geoscience masters degrees. Astronomy is trending the same direction, but is not quite so close to balance. Physics still has a long way to go, as PZ noted.

    PZ’s also quite correct about there being a large drop in the gender ratio between the grad student/postdoc populations and university faculty jobs; and that isn’t simply a time lag effect. I don’t have the data to say if that gender disparity applies to non-faculty research positions or not, but regardless, it seems a bad idea for the students to interact with mostly male faculty.

    Re. the racial disparity in higher education:

    I listened to the Caltech admissions committee discussing this two and a half years ago. They’ve made an effort to encourage all qualified students to apply, and now ~45% of the freshman class are women. But they still have a deficient of African-American, Native American, and Hispanic applicants who’ve had enough preparation for the Caltech undergraduate curriculum. The committee’s conclusion was that this reflects asymmetries in elementary and high-school education (given that this was Caltech, particularly in science and math).

    At some level, that disparity has to be economic – I benefited in many ways from my mother not needing to work and being able to spend a lot of time driving me from my junior high to the U for special math classes. So I think addressing racial disparity in higher ed will require addressing the larger problem of economic inequality.

    In other words: PZ, your headline sums things up nicely.

  40. Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain says

    Yeah, kami, here’s the thing.

    Eric would have had a good point if Hutchinson’s point was invalid. Which it is not.

    The disproportionate effects of the religious on oppressed groups – people of color, women, and so on – must be addressed by the atheist community. This is not optional.

    If, tomorrow, all of humanity woke up atheist but nothing else changed, I wouldn’t see that as a victory, but as a first step.

    Want to keep atheism lily-white and male? Keep saying that atheism should focus on the problems of white men and complain (oh, I’m sorry, “question the value of the focus”) when women and PoC ask for their concerns to be addressed.

  41. says

    Perhaps:

    “The universities really are bastions of ‘male’ paleness”.

    Politics is politics, whether in the government or academia. The old white boys club prevails.

  42. Brownian says

    I love that dissent from the prevailing opinion is immediately swatted away as the consequence of privilege

    “Hive-mind! Groupthink! Echo chamber!”

    Somebody kick kami. It’s stuck on repeat.

  43. nooneinparticular says

    Thanks for the post, PZ. I like it when people shake me out of complacency. I hadn’t thought about things in the way Hutchinson sees things. I gots me some reading to do.

  44. Gnumann says

    Tsk. You know better, Gnumann.

    I do :( Thanks for keeping a watch for me Caine.

  45. Pteryxx says

    So I think addressing racial disparity in higher ed will require addressing the larger problem of economic inequality.

    In the US, economic inequality is closely correlated with race, especially in regards to grossly unequal public schools in minority neighborhoods. Just FYI.

  46. maureenbrian says

    Hang on! I just noticed something @ 34.

    How do we explain to Kami and to Eric that there is more to social justice than charitable donations? In fact, looking to donating as a remedy is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    When Eric is willing to donate his job, salary and home to some equally qualified woman of colour let me know. Then I might be impressed.

  47. Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain says

    Yeah, I noticed that too, Maureen.

    I was so disgusted by all of the rest of the fail that I didn’t even address it.

    “I like your movement! I’ll give you money/head pats! What, volunteer my time and effort? Oh no, I couldn’t possibly!”

  48. nooneinparticular says

    53 @ 54

    *puts away check book*

    Okaaay. So those of us single parents who have jobs, familial responsibilities AND volunteer all our spare time and effort for a variety of causes in between the hours NOT at work or at our parental duties are to be accused of being part of the problem because we want to contribute in the only way we can?

    How pleasant.

    Eric was wrong, as a number have said, in both point of fact and that he comment indicated he wasn’t aware of the impact of his “privilege”. But to call him out because he wants to contribute by donation, given you have NO IDEA how his life is constrained, is just mean spirited.

  49. Amphiox says

    I love that dissent from the prevailing opinion is immediately swatted away as the consequence of privilege…

    That’s because this particular dissent IS, quite obviously, a consequence of privilege.

  50. consciousness razor says

    You don’t get to say, hey, we want black folks to join us white guys, as long as they accept what we white guys think is important.

    Yep, and like it or not, white dudes are often disastrously wrong about what is important. It seems like a lot of people have this tendency to treat the movement as if we’re rallied around a diverse array of different issues that are clearly identifiable with secularism and humanism, but there’s never much about how it all hangs together, without which it’s easier to avoid some of the inconvenient parts that make them feel uncomfortable. (You could pretty easily tie this into your panel discussion at GAC 2012 about accommodationism.) Anyway, the idea is that we don’t want religion in non-religious classes in public schools. We don’t want laws infringing the rights of women, LGBTQ, ethnic groups, the disabled, etc., whether or not they are based on religious motives. We don’t want churches/temples/mosques to be exempt from taxation or faith-based initiatives to be sponsored and subsidized by the government. And on and on.

    We can tackle all of these problems separately, like it’s an endless game of Whack-a-Mole, waiting for the same bullshit to take a different form and feel so righteous and brave and skeptical when we bat it down once again, ignoring it if it isn’t made explicit in our “mission statement” written by privileged white dudes. Fuck that, if you ask me. We need to undermine everything that depends on faith, bigotry and otherwise perpetuating injustice. We have to recognize that what unites us is a real commitment to honesty, integrity, fairness, equality, etc. We shouldn’t be united around stopping “religion” from doing bad stuff, but around stopping bad stuff, period.

    And personally, I don’t want any more single-issue liberal atheist (or liberal theist) “allies” who support woo or bigotry in one area, but want my support because they don’t believe in Jesus or Nessie or Reaganomics or whatever-the-fuck. People love to pretend that any failure in one or a few social justice issues isn’t such a big deal. They’ve got the “big picture,” you see, and never mind that they can’t see any of the details. It doesn’t matter how it works, day in and day out, to people who aren’t you. And as long as you’re a shithead in the privacy of your own home, it’s none of our business because you promise it won’t affect your behavior in public — surely we can trust you of all people, because you call yourself a skeptic. Sure….

    If that risks alienating you, think of how it alienates me that you don’t give a fuck about immigration or the death penalty or whatever fucking issue you insist on being a clueless asshole about. I’m not going to be “tolerant” or “respectful” of your fuckwitted opinions or give them a pass because you’ve somehow managed to be more-or-less right about a couple of issues. It all matters, and how you think matters; and if I’m being respectful to you, I’m not going to treat you like a child who can’t handle the challenge of taking them all on. It’s not supposed to be easy, not even for you.

  51. Amphiox says

    But to call him out because he wants to contribute by donation, given you have NO IDEA how his life is constrained, is just mean spirited.

    It’s more just pointing out that the assumption implicit in how he worded it and tried to use it to establish credentials as sympathetic to the cause in his argument, demonstrates another aspect of unrecognized privilege on his part.

  52. nooneinparticular says

    Amphiox

    I see your point. I was mostly responding to this; “I like your movement! I’ll give you money/head pats! What, volunteer my time and effort? Oh no, I couldn’t possibly!”

  53. Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain says

    It was more how he worded it, yes. I’ve got no problem with people who donate funds because they cannot donate their time and effort. I have no problem with people who donate funds but won’t donate their time and effort because they have other things to do.

    What I have a problem with are people who donate funds but won’t donate their time and effort because they have other things do do and then demand cookies, especially when their rhetoric is chock-full of “Well, I just don’t see it as that important“.

  54. Waffler, of the Waffler Institute says

    @55

    I’m not sure the phrase ‘looking to donating as a remedy is part of the problem, not part of the solution’ means exactly ‘if you donate to charity, you’re part of the problem’. I think it does not, but I could be wrong. I interpreted as: if you think we’re going to solve social issues through charities, your part of the problem. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t donate to charities.

  55. nooneinparticular says

    Esteleth

    Fair enough. I see your point too and I agree with it. Especially the demanding cookies part.

  56. Louis says

    LILAPWL, #43,

    Actually no, that misreading of yours is abject bullshit. As even a cursory glance should grant you. In fact I stated absolutely clearly that, as far as PZ and Sikivu Hutchinson go, I support and agree with them entirely. Do I usually agree with and support things I ignore on the basis of tone? No.

    What I don’t support is the worst excesses of post modernism. Terms like “scientism” (not present as far as I can see) and “science fetishism” (present) are, in my experience, dog whistles of that type. My point was simply that there is a very useful and productive “relativism” that demonstrates the paucity of a “white, male, heterosexual, middle class etc” only movement that narrowly focusses, by accident at minimum, concerns primarily associated with that group, and at the same time there is a gross misuse of that “relativism” which is to claim that a specific piece of science is suspect or wrong because it comes from “insert whatever group you like here”. For the Nazis (hello erroneous Godwin!) it was “Jewish science” for certain pomo loons, in my experience, it is “white men etc”, for Lysenko it was…

    Do you get my point or are you now going to accuse me of saying postmodernists are Nazis?

    It’s a common error, Group A produced Result B, Group A is somehow unpleasant, therefore Result B is suspect/wrong.

    None of that negates or contradicts that “Movement G is dominated by people from Group A and therefore might only focus on concerns of Group A”. It’s a separate issue, one of error, not disinterest.

    So yes, Sikivu and PZ are right, science is largely dominated by white etc etc etc men and yes that is something that needs to change for all the reasons mentioned. The phrase “white supremecist logic” is not one I objected to you’ll note, and in the limited sense it is being used (correct in my view) I have no objection to it.

    What I do object to, and Ms Daisy Cutter alludes to it above with her mention of “scientism”, is a kind of fashionable nonsense that imports the more extreme elements of relativism into science. Nonsense ably and accurately debunked by Richard Dawkins and many, many others.

    So again, to make myself abundantly clear even to you, stapling a programme of social justice to the New Atheist movement is something I support without reservation and in its entirety. I might want to quibble about a word here or there, but that really isn’t significant disagreement so I won’t bother to delve into it. What I don’t support is the import of drivel into science. That’s separate from the issue of social justice. About as separate as it’s possible to be. “Science fetishism” etc is as common a pomo dogwhistle in my experience as “welfare queen” is a racist/classist/sexist one.

    That’s a criticism of the substance of the claims, not the tone of them. IF those claims are being made (and I am not saying they are, merely raising that specific note of caution) THEN those claims are the ones I am objecting to.

    Louis

  57. Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain says

    Glad to hear it, nooneinparticular.

    I was angry when I wrote my previous, and I elided some of my point.

    Fuck, I routinely write checks to organizations that I don’t volunteer for, because I don’t have time to do more. That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in those orgs’ goals, it just means that I don’t have time to do more.

    I’m not going to march into the next meeting of the orgs’ steering committees and demand that they do something about my pet project.

  58. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Interestingly, the effects of blinkered privelege are similarly detrimental to both science and atheism; the doors are effectively closed to an immense segment of the talent pool. Social justice, science, and atheism will benefit by opening these doors.

    I’m a white, male scientist/atheist, and I find maureenbrian’s question provocative to say the least.

    When Eric is willing to donate his job, salary and home to some equally qualified woman of colour let me know.

    All data indicate that on average, an equally qualified woman of color is more talented than I am. As a human with obligations to my family, I cannot say that the answer would be “yes” if this ultimatum were laid at my feet. This strikes me as a failing. However, as a human with family obligations, I would also want anyone that hurt my family to be killed. This too is a failing of mine.

    This is why we have policy–to mitigate human selfishness in obtaining progress. I am against the death sentence and support laws that abolish it*, despite how I know I would feel if someone I loved were murdered. If support the goals of social justice, science, and atheism, I have to support policies that recognize disparity of opportunity in hiring decisions, advancement, etc., even if they have the potential to effect me negatively.

    I don’t know. This has been my thinking on it anyway.

    *I’m in Texas. This is bumpy road.

  59. darksmurf says

    I am calling bullshit. “privilege” “science-fetishism / scientism” “white supremacist logic” “social justice lens”. These are all bullshit terms. I have no idea wtf a “social justice lens” is, and I don’t think anyone else really does either. Does a photographer use it? This language is the product of post-modernist asshattery and it has no place in public debate. Thoughts and ideas should be judged based on the contents therein, not the skin color and penis or lack thereof of the originator of the idea. Hutchinson’s statements above shouldn’t offend anyone. They should also not be taken seriously. They are meaningless. When anyone says “Engaging in science fetishism without a social justice lens merely reproduces the white supremacist logic of the New Atheist Movement.” The correct response is either to laugh because it is a joke, or give a puzzled stare as if to say “you cannot possibly seriously believe that the statement you made actually makes any sense, can you?”

    This is not to say that social justice isn’t important, it is. The problem is that there is no social justice perspective just the way that there isn’t a white male atheist perspective. secular humanism is secular humanism. There is no reason why you cant be a secular humanist and work for social justice, but by the same token you can be a secular humanist and not work for social justice. What you cannot do as a secular humanist is believe in the irrational and supernatural or just plain wrong. postmodernism is just plain wrong.

  60. Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain says

    *glares at darksmurf*

    Move along, move along.

  61. Louis says

    And along comes Darksmurf to demonstrate why saying anything can be problematic some days.

    Fuck balls.

    Louis

  62. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    These are all bullshit terms. I have no idea wtf a “social justice lens” is, and I don’t think anyone else really does either.

    And there^ was the reveal.

  63. Brownian says

    I have no idea wtf a “social justice lens” is, and I don’t think anyone else really does either.

    Science has a name for that.

  64. consciousness razor says

    “Science fetishism” etc is as common a pomo dogwhistle in my experience as “welfare queen” is a racist/classist/sexist one.

    Maybe you could explain what is wrong with Hutchinson’s use of the term. Or maybe you just object to the term, because you don’t realize there are a lot of Bigfoot-debunking Skeptics™ out there who think we’re all about Science™ and refuse to recognize that we need to deal with social injustices of all kinds. If I’m interpreting it correctly in context, that’s the twisted notion of science which is being fetishized; thus its status as some kind of dogwhistle in other contexts is irrelevant. Though perhaps it is exactly this which some forms of postmodernism discuss, perhaps excessively; even so, I think you know that does not a valid argument make.

  65. says

    I have no idea wtf a “social justice lens” is, and I don’t think anyone else really does either.

    Speak for yourself, Cupcake. The rest of us aren’t hard of thinking.

  66. Ogvorbis says

    “Privilege” is a bullshit term? Anyone want odds that darksmurf is male, white, middle class, college educated, and clueless?

  67. noname says

    She’s wrong….about Asians.
    About Blacks and Latinos, it seems kind of right though. These religious institutions have given them community and their community a voice eventually. Just think about MLK. He was a religious leader and while I object the religion, I doubt there would have been so much success back then without the religious message to bring people together.

    Still, some parts sound like postmodernist babbling. There are no specific white male scientist eyes. Scientists are mostly white, and nowadays increasingly East Asian, males but that does hardly mean that there outlook is specific for that. It reminds me somewhat of nationalist sentiments within Europe in the first half of the 20st century. People blamed eachother for following soviet-science, english-science or, the worst of all for them back then, jewish science. If we ignore the Stalin period of the USSR, all of them have done science. It does not matter who made them. The scientific method is the same for everybody. These things are objective. Also you you can hardly blame the scientist skeptics for racial inequality in society. How many of the skeptic movements are responsible for important politics in the USA? Are the people who give less and less money to poor minority areas skeptic scientists? No, they are mostly greedy politicians.

    The Atheism movement is, surprise suruprise, about atheism and politics and the danger of increased religiousness among politics in the USA (mostly). I was shocked that it now also happens in the East Asia,too. Most likely with the support of this traitor Lee. Fortunately,presidents can only serve one term so he will be replaced soon. Science education has been one of the biggest reason to make this country a first world nation and now kids won’t hear about evolution anymore? What a shame.

  68. Gnumann says

    I have no idea wtf a “social justice lens” is, and I don’t think anyone else really does either.

    “Fucking metaphors, how do they work”

    Thoughts and ideas should be judged based on the contents therein

    This language is the product of post-modernist asshattery and it has no place in public debate.

    I’ll take cognitive dissonance for 200 Alex!

    There is no reason why you cant be a secular humanist and work for social justice, but by the same token you can be a secular humanist and not work for social justice.

    You can self-identify as a humanist and don’t work for social justice, but you wouldn’t be a very good one. See several posts in the comments here (they should also be mostly free of the big words that scare your) for reasons why. (I would especially recommend Conscious Razor).

    The correct response is either to laugh because it is a joke, or give a puzzled stare as if to say “you cannot possibly seriously believe that the statement you made actually makes any sense, can you?”

    While I don’t quite agree with her choice of words, the lack of understanding here is mainly your fault. If you applied yourself to read for understanding instead of desperately defending your privilege by denying the concept, I’m sure you would get it.

  69. corkscrew says

    Eric was spilling privilege all over the floor, you perennial fuckwit.

    Yup. That doesn’t make it a good response.

    The whole point of privilege is that people who have it don’t really notice it. Even when they understand the concept (as Eric seemed to), they have trouble spotting the ways in which they personally are privileged.

    So when you say “Eric, your privilege is showing”, it basically translates to “you’re doing something wrong, but you have no way of knowing what it is, and I have no intention of telling you”.

    I share Eric’s vague discomfort with Christmas-tree social movements, so it was good to see some of the other posters talk about:
    – why there’s a problem;
    – why atheists have a (particular) responsibility to help fix it;
    – why it’s in our best interests to do so anyway;
    – what we can do to help;
    – and how the social justice stuff can be fitted into the framework of organised atheism, without displacing the science and skepticism (which I think was Eric’s primary concern).

    That was all helpful stuff.

  70. darksmurf says

    I now know what a social justice lens is. It is a silly leftist buzzword-filled method of analyzing a situation through a set of preconceived ideological notions “that applies social justice and
    critical theory to all aspects of our professional lives” according to the British Columbia Teacher’s Federation, which has a handy guide easily found on Google that I am now linking all my friends to, because it is hilarious.

  71. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    “Science fetishism” etc is as common a pomo dogwhistle in my experience as “welfare queen” is a racist/classist/sexist one.

    Wanted to do a quick check on this. If the internet can be said to comprise a sample of human thought, your experience is unusual. “Science fetishism” produces 902 hits in a google search, while “welfare queen” produces 307,000– a difference of three orders of magnitude.

    Also, “dog whistle” in this sense* is kind of a “dog whistle” in and of itself, given the negative connotation that it effects.

    *using coded language that has hidden significance except to a segment of the audience.

  72. says

    So when you say “Eric, your privilege is showing”, it basically translates to “you’re doing something wrong, but you have no way of knowing what it is, and I have no intention of telling you”.

    Actually, Corkscrew, there are countless resources out there on the intarbuttz with which the Erics of the world could educate themselves about what they’re doing wrong. They almost always choose not to, because it would take some time and some effort. It’s not incumbent upon people who deal with this crap day in and day out to hold their hands and spoon-feed them, any more than it’s incumbent upon scientists to explain to creationists why there are still monkeys.

  73. R Johnston says

    Something that’s, in my opinion, necessary, is a more widespread acknowledgement and understanding that the atheist movement isn’t or shouldn’t really be about atheism at all but rather about skepticism and a scientific approach to problem solving, with atheism merely being one consequent belief of the skepticism and science advocacy. Advocating for a specific correct belief rather than for fixing people’s broken philosophical structures that lead to demonstrably incorrect beliefs is a colossal waste of time that accomplishes nothing at all in the long run. Telling people that they’re wrong without teaching how they can avoid being wrong in the future is condescending anti-intellectual woo.

    People can come by their atheism in a lot of ways, ways that are actually incompatible within a movement. People can come by atheism as a result of a paranoid delusional rejection of any and all authority figures in their lives; libertarians are not skeptics even when they adopt skeptical sounding post-hoc rationalizations for their paranoid delusions, and their atheism is not compatible with a skeptical atheism. People can come by atheism out of hating and denying god concepts they once held dear, and while this can involve the adoption of skepticism it doesn’t need to and when not skeptical isn’t compatible with skeptical atheism. When theists accuse atheists of simply hating god and denying his existence it’s usually partially because that’s an atheism that actually exists and that they’ve experienced while they’ve never really experienced skepticism.

    A skeptical scientific atheism pretty much demands looking at the world and acknowledging that the status quo is the result of hundreds or thousands of years of grossly irrational and unfair racism and sexism; acknowledging that conservatism and reactionary politics, by strong deference to the status quo and often by efforts to turn back the clock, demand the institutionalization of this racism and sexism even when they are not promoted by explicitly racist and sexist appeals; and supporting progressive social changes to the status quo that deinstitutionalize these errors of the past and encourage and allow people regardless of skin color, anatomy, presentation, sexual preference, or any other factor, the opportunity to enjoyably and productively put their minds to work.

    An atheist movement that doesn’t care primarily about skepticism and truth isn’t a movement about anything more than self-indulgence and irrational proselytization.

  74. Gnumann says

    analyzing a situation through a set of preconceived ideological notions

    Damn! That Iromax 6000 just isn’t sturdy enough (thank FSM I didn’t go for that iPhone app). Does anyone have a sturdier model to reccomend?

  75. Kalliope says

    @ Louis

    I get what you’re saying (I think, and please correct me if I don’t), but I think in this case, fetishism can be taken to mean its dictionary definition: attribution of mystical or magical qualities to an object.

    Science will not solve the world’s social ills. It can be used as a tool, but that is a fundamentally humanitarian undertaking. All decisions which effect humans are decided by other humans.

    There is a tendency among certain groups, like self-designated skeptics, to absolve themselves of the responsibility of choice because SCIENCE. There is an even greater tendency to not listen to other people’s perspective because SCIENCE.

    And of course, science, and more often what we do with science, is predicated on some underlying assumptions. And what are values but axioms? And we don’t get values from science, we get them philosophy, peers, culture, and religion.

    You see this a lot with people who, say, are desperate to have sex with minors. They will say things like, “science shows that most adults have an attraction to 15 year old girls.” And then, in a fetishistic way, will conclude, “therefore, science says it’s okay for me to pick up girls in the high school parking lot.”

    The value of those girls as human entities cannot be addressed by science. That has to be a decision that a person makes. “Yes, I think that 15 year old is hot, however, I’m not going to act on it because it wouldn’t be best for her.”

    So, when religious institutions are making judgments about women, minorities, LBGT individuals, atheism has every right to address those things as a movement. But so much gets bogged down in the “Well, I’m not so sure about that… after all science shows that African-Americans have lower IQs…” And when those participating in the movement are more interested in what affects them personally, and when those participants are primarily financially secure, white males, atheism will be less likely to address those issues. Because, for instance, MY TAX DOLLARS.

    Anyway, I know you agree with me about the last paragraph, but I wanted to complete the argument :)

  76. Ogvorbis says

    They really don’t get that there are entire worlds of data that they simply do not see and are able to deny because society allows them to wear blinders.

    Keep in mind, I’m white, straight, married, college educated, have a white-collar job, am male, and am middle aged. They don’t come much more privileged than I. In my pre-Pharyngula days, I had an idea of what social justice was supposed to be. This place showed me just how privileged my thinking process was and is.

  77. Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain says

    Darksmurf, let me tell you a little secret.

    You are not objective. No one is. Objectivity is a myth. The viewpoint of the straight cis upper-class white male has been upheld as objective, but it is no more objective than the viewpoint of the lesbian trans lower-class woman of color.

    Just because society has told you that your view is the objectively true one, this is not so. In fact, that fallacy is (1) wrong and (2) oppressive of people who are not privileged like you.

    Paying attention to race, to sex, to sexual orientation, to gender expression, to disability, to poverty, etc etc etc is mandatory if we’re going to even come fucking close to solving the problem.

    Or, in a few words: your privilege is showing. Please work on that.

  78. Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain says

    *sigh*

    *Opens Derailing for Dummies in a new tab*

    I have a feeling I’ll be needing to link over here…

  79. says

    corkscrew:

    Yup. That doesn’t make it a good response.

    Nope. It was a fine and valid response. Last time I looked, I wasn’t receiving a teachers salary for educating fuckwits on Pharyngula and neither is anyone else. This is the internet, where there are just tons of helpful sites Eric can go to in order to educate himself.

    People who show up here and don’t go the pompous fuckwit route are often helped with explanations and tons of links.

    We get to deal with assholes on the same subject matter all the time. That gets tiresome. *shrug* If you don’t like it, too bad. You can always cram your teacher hat on your head and take them all on if you like and you can manage that without jumping on other people’s responses, I’m sure.

  80. Kalliope says

    @ noname

    There is not an infinite number of scientists performing an infinite array of research.

    Some resources (including students, subordinates) are directed toward projects which scientists and scientific funders prioritize.

    Those priorities are absolutely shaped by experience and personal interest.

  81. Ogvorbis says

    I now know what a social justice lens is. It is a silly leftist buzzword-filled method of analyzing a situation through a set of preconceived ideological notions “that applies social justice and critical theory to all aspects of our professional lives” according to the British Columbia Teacher’s Federation, which has a handy guide easily found on Google that I am now linking all my friends to, because it is hilarious.

    So you have no problem with sexism, racism, poverty, or any other social ills? And anyone who seeks to ameliorate or eliminate these social ills are just silly leftists who want to take away your privileges? How nice for you.

    An atheist movement that doesn’t care primarily about skepticism and truth isn’t a movement about anything more than self-indulgence and irrational proselytization.

    And who here has claimed otherwise? Do you think social justice should, or should not, be included with skepticism and truth? Or is sexism, racism and other rampant social ills immune to your solution?

  82. says

    My continuing education on privilege is by turns exhilarating, disturbing, and humbling. All the isms (race, sex, able, etc.) are emergent properties and can pop up in anyone, no matter how vigilant or progressive we think we are. It is a life’s work and those who think that it has nothing to to with the Skeptic/Atheist/Freethought community are still wearing blinders.

  83. Louis says

    Consciousness Razor, #72,

    I don’t think I expressed any particular disagreement with Hutchinson’s use of the term “science fetishism” as I am currently aware of it. I haven’t read her book, I’ll have to go and do that. I’m possibly not the only one who has to do some reading, pick up “Fashionable Nonsense” if you haven’t already (to name one example).

    Firstly, I’m painfully aware (my not being white’s a good start here!) that social injustice needs to be combated within and without science, atheist movements and scepticism etc.

    Secondly, I’m afraid the use of “science fetishism” elsewhere is very relevant. As I said in #64:

    That’s a criticism of the substance of the claims, not the tone of them. IF those [excessive, not reasonable, postmodernist style] claims are being made (and I am not saying they are, merely raising that specific note of caution) THEN those claims are the ones I am objecting to.

    I haven’t read every single word Hutchinson has put out, so I don’t know for certain if she is making those claims elsewhere. I’ve already stated very clearly, and will do so for the third time now, that in the limited sense Hutchinson (and PZ) are using the terms mentioned I’m in agreement. Atheism as a political movement needs to deal with social injustice, no arguments from me. I’m painfully aware of the dingleberries that think it’s all about Bigfoot. I think they’re wrong.

    The particular phrase “science fetishism” raised my hackles precisely because it is so often, again in my experience, a prelude to the bad kind of relativism, relativism of fact not of culture. The moon will never be made of green cheese no matter how hard I wish it. My right to believe it is made of green cheese, and indeed to go to an atheist meeting and have my (irrelevant) Green Cheesist beliefs not respected but not used to exclude me, is a separate issue. One of politics not necessarily fact. Do the facts inform those politics? Sure, but the facts don’t change for different groups, the politics and the needs might. I can belong to the Green Cheesist group, wear my Green Cheesist hat and still be an atheist. Substitute something less easy to change than Green Cheesism at your leisure. The slip from useful cultural relativism to pathetic factual relativism is not uncommon.

    Not one of us here would question someone picking up “welfare queens” as a racist/sexist/classist dog whistle. It’s so common as to be a cliché. It’s use as a dog whistle doesn’t mean that no one ever cheats on welfare, they do. Personally I’m more worried about the (to name one example) corporate tax evasion and avoidance that, if memory serves, costs the UK taxpayer something like 15 times more than benefit fraud does. I care vastly less (see: practically not at all) about Joe Bloggs getting a few quid out of the social than I do BloggCorp evading billions in tax and lobbying government for the privilege to do so further.

    Anyway, someone could legitimately define the term “welfare queen” in a non-discriminatory fashion and use it very carefully, people reading it would still potentially be aware of the wider context. Whilst that’s not an argument against that careful, non-discriminatory usage (and note I have never said it was) and the claims resting on it (and note again, I never said it was) it is a potential point of contention IF, and only IF, it is used as an elision away from its remit and into another area. As, sadly, various stripes of what I call “extreme postmodernists” are sometimes wont to do.

    Clearer?

    Louis

  84. corkscrew says

    Actually, Corkscrew, there are countless resources out there on the intarbuttz with which the Erics of the world could educate themselves about what they’re doing wrong. They almost always choose not to, because it would take some time and some effort.

    There are countless resources with which the Erics of the world can educate themselves about the concept of privilege. There are none that can tell them what they, personally are doing wrong at this specific moment in time.

    Speaking for myself, I was extremely grateful when I made some rather unthinking comments and someone linked me to the Schrodinger’s Rapist article. Until then, I knew in the abstract that I was privileged, but I was not able to see what I was doing wrong or why.

    It’s not incumbent upon people who deal with this crap day in and day out to hold their hands and spoon-feed them, any more than it’s incumbent upon scientists to explain to creationists why there are still monkeys.

    No, but it is incumbent upon skeptics. Scientists deal with ideas that are promising; skeptics deal with ideas that are popular (some people do both, of course). If a self-declared skeptic responded to “why are there still monkeys” with an unqualified “you’re an idiot”, I would lose all respect for them. They could at least link to TalkOrigins.

    By analogy, if you can muster up the energy to tell someone they’re privileged, why not go the extra few keystrokes and explain to them in what way they’re privileged?

  85. Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain says

    You guuuuuys, I think I have it figured out!

    See, the problem with religion is that it inhibits women from fulfilling their natural role, i.e. putting out.

    So we smash religion, and there’s more nookie!

    Women’s rights? Bah. The position of women in the movement is prone,* like God science intended it to be!

    * 10 points to the person who can give me a citation for this quote. Yes, it is real.

  86. Gnumann says

    Yup. That doesn’t make it a good response.

    You know, when you’re not agreeing with someone’s tatics, you got two options. You can make a lot of unnecessary noise by hollering about how they are wrong, or you could chip in and do it your way.

    In my honest opinion, one approach here is vastly superior to the other.

  87. baal says

    Somebody kick kami. It’s stuck on repeat.

    Let’s also kick Caine for endless repetition (and spamming) as well. Let someone else flog privilege from time to time?

    Xblog has a recorded talk by Sikivu and three more FTB bloggers. It’s really good and worth the listen.

    I do take one issue with “Scienceism” and “white supremacist logic”. They are jargon and not likely to be understood outside of certain already educated communities.

  88. Ogvorbis says

    Looks up the thread.

    Gee, baal, there are multiple commenters talking about privilege. And coming at it from many different angles. Why single out Caine?

    I do take one issue with “Scienceism” and “white supremacist logic”. They are jargon and not likely to be understood outside of certain already educated communities.

    I have a degree in history. Scienceism I had to look up. “White supremacist logic” is pretty damned obvious even to me, a liberal arts guy. So you disagree with the terms. Fine. What terms would you like to use instead? And remember, your terms, and reasoning, need to be pretty strong as these terms are already in use and, among academics, have rather specific meanings, but, y’know, no pressure.

  89. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    What I’m confused by is why people who write valid critiques like this insist on peppering them with language that parses to a rejection, or at least denigration, of science and/or logic itself. It seems completely superfluous to the actual point they’re trying to make.

  90. Brownian says

    You know, when you’re not agreeing with someone’s tatics, you got two options. You can make a lot of unnecessary noise by hollering about how they are wrong, or you could chip in and do it your way.

    You mean like:

    By analogy, if you can muster up the energy to tell someone they’re calling out privilege wrong, why not go the extra few keystrokes and show them how to effectively explain privilege to their interlocutor?

  91. consciousness razor says

    Louis

    Clearer?

    I think that was already clear to me. Is it clear to you that none of this is relevant to what Hutchinson was talking about (including but not limited to the phrase “science fetishism”)?

    The particular phrase “science fetishism” raised my hackles precisely because it is so often, again in my experience, a prelude to the bad kind of relativism, relativism of fact not of culture.

    So your hackles were raised. Okay. I don’t think you’re trying to poison the well, so I have noted that; but I regret to inform you that it’s not the topic of this thread. Now if you’d like to explain to the others, like darksmurf and noname, how they’re misinterpreting some of this as silly liberal pomo bullshit, and how that isn’t what you’re doing at all, please do so at any time.

  92. Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain says

    Okay, okay.

    Corkscrew: It is not my job to educate people. I am not an educator, I did not sign up for that job.

    Also: Ahem!

  93. Gnumann says

    By analogy, if you can muster up the energy to tell someone they’re calling out privilege wrong, why not go the extra few keystrokes and show them how to effectively explain privilege to their interlocutor?

    That seems to be quite near the fabled land of “point I was trying to make” – yes :)

  94. says

    Baal:

    Let’s also kick Caine for endless repetition (and spamming) as well. Let someone else flog privilege from time to time?

    Goodness, from what I’ve been reading, multiple peoples have brought up privilege. I was unaware that I was showing up on their doorsteps and forcibly removing their means of posting from them! My superpowers, they keep multiplying…aargh…need help…

    By the way, Baal, if you think I’m spamming, let PZ know. It’s a bannable offense around here.

  95. says

    Using our white male position of power…

    Our white male position of power? Who is ‘us’? Are you meaning to address your audience there? Are you implying that I, as a (white) woman, have a ‘white male position of power’? Or were you only addressing your white male readers as the ‘us’ in question? Are the rest of us ‘them’, then?

    I’m just curious… I really dislike the cognitive dissonance of feeling that I’m being directly spoken to by someone, when the speaker clearly identifies their target audience as being something that I’m not. And as a lifelong tomboy, I have on a few occasions found myself being addressed as an imagined male, in magazines that I like to read, or adverts for products that I happen to consume. It’s mildly alienating in its own right!

  96. Louis says

    Antiochus Epihanes, #80,

    I don’t doubt for a second my experience is “unusual” (it’s normal for me! ;-) ). I’m in the UK not the USA for example, so I am far less likely to encounter the term “welfare queen” than I am “benefit cheat”. I’m also a professional scientist, there’s a few of those here but comparatively few out there, I also read “weird” books…I never made any claim, nor would I, that my experience was “normal” or binding on anyone. Hence why I mentioned it was MY experience. A rather obvious caveat. Given my experience your eyes would have rolled as hard at “science fetishism” as mine did. It’s not exactly a term of art, specific and unique to a particular field as far as I can tell like “electrophilic” or “dark matter”.

    Louis

  97. Brownian says

    That seems to be quite near the fabled land of “point I was trying to make” – yes :)

    I can’t take all the credit. Someone wiser than me wrote that, though I may have mangled the quote a bit.

  98. Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain says

    I’m pretty sure PZ is referring to himself, the other recipients of the email (all white men) and the cupcake who emailed him.

  99. says

    I’m pretty sure PZ is referring to himself, the other recipients of the email (all white men) and the cupcake who emailed him.

    It’s syntactically ambiguous! ;)

  100. Gnumann says

    Someone wiser than me wrote that, though I may have mangled the quote a bit.

    I got two really bad habits – on is that I don’t always refresh before posting something – the other is that I’m not always consistent.

  101. Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain says

    Context is your friend when the syntax is ambiguous!

  102. corkscrew says

    In deference to #90, I’m gonna shut up now :) (Didn’t see it before, sorry.)

  103. onion girl, OM; social workers do it with paperwork says

    As much as I would love to ignore the drivel darksmurf spouted above, I can to some extent understand the point about language. Science fetishism, social justice lens & white supremacist logic are all fairly academic terms not easily accessible to the average person.

    In fact, until PZ posted this, I had not quite understood, in full, Hutchinson’s comments at WiS, when she used these same terms. Of course, rather than complain, I made note of it and added it to the list of speakers, terms, concepts and ideas I wanted to explore more after the conference. I still haven’t gotten more than two items down on that list, so this post was very helpful in unpacking the terminology, and now I’ll be adding Black Skeptics (and Moral Combat) to the list of things I really need to read (That list keeps growing. And growing. And growing. And I have NO TIME! And so much good information is out there and so much I need/want to learn and there are not enough hours in the day and I need a Time-Turner! …/end whine).

    On the other hand, this blog is directed at an audience expected to meet a fairly high standard of logic, reasoning, science and academic thought; additionally, sometimes big words are important to use. Social justice lens conveys more information and has different connotations than “looking at ways people can help people,” and sometimes the process of unpacking terminology is helpful to understand a concept.

    tl;dr: Different words for different audiences.

    Back to work.

    (also, this quote is fantastic: “And the beginning of wisdom is to wake up and notice. The second step is to try and change it. And then it’s a long, long march afterwards.”)

  104. zb24601 says

    I must say that I am shocked to find out that, as a straight white male non-believer, I am not concerned about social justice issues. Now if I can just figure out why it is that I’ve been donating to causes like the Southern Poverty Law Canter, the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood, KIND, and some wildlife and environmental organizations. And how is it that I’ve been hearing atheists, even white male atheists, faulting religions for their treatment of women, LGBT people, minorities, children, etc. Did I just imagine all of that?

  105. Louis says

    Consciousness Razor,

    See my #69. If these fuckwits take solace from my posts, they are wrong. I’m not self censoring because morons exist. I can duplicate the effort that others are so ably doing in blowing apart the clueless privilege of darksmurf and others, but that wasn’t what I was commenting on. I’ll get to it in a bit if that’s okay with you.

    Or are you the internet police who gets to decide how and on what I comment? If so, please find me the contract I signed. And no, like you “note” (scare quotes intentional) I’m most definitely not poisoning the well as I’ll demonstrate, and my criticism IS relevant as I’ll also demonstrate.

    I think I’ve made it abundantly clear that I am in agreement with what Hutchinson is saying here with her limited use of the term. I’ve also made it clear that, in my experience, it’s not a term that is used with such limits. That’s a careful statement. I am not claiming universality, and I’ve taken pains to say I’ve not read every word Hutchinson has put out, so my virtual criticism (for that’s all it is, it exists in a superposition to be decohered by the interaction of reading the rest of her output. It’s Schrodinger’s POMO)

    Why is it relevant? First sentence of PZ’s post. He’s been receiving complaints. Big whoop they’re probably from the Bigfoot and SCIENCE™ crowd that Kalliope rightly mentions in #85. In fact Kalliope makes a very good point about those Bigfoot type people:

    You see this a lot with people who, say, are desperate to have sex with minors. They will say things like, “science shows that most adults have an attraction to 15 year old girls.” And then, in a fetishistic way, will conclude, “therefore, science says it’s okay for me to pick up girls in the high school parking lot.”

    The value of those girls as human entities cannot be addressed by science. That has to be a decision that a person makes. “Yes, I think that 15 year old is hot, however, I’m not going to act on it because it wouldn’t be best for her.”

    Oh now I’ll be accused of saying sceptics of Bigfoot (of which I am one) are paedophiles! ;-)

    The point Kalliope is making is that these people are committing an important fallacy, they are trying to take an ought (they should be morally and actually allowed to fuck 15 year olds) from an is (they want to fuck fifteen year olds and apparently so do a lot of other people. Can’t see it myself but that’s by the by). A classic fallacy, oughts do not logically flow from ises. But the reverse is true too, ises do not logically flow from oughts. And it’s THAT I’m saying is a trap I’ve seen people using terms like “science fetishism” and (more importantly) “scientism” fall into FAR too often. It’s a fallacy that runs both ways. Hutchinson might not be doing it here in this specific instance, but from the quoted articles above it’s by no means clear that it’s not being done elsewhere, hence why I said I need to read more of her output. In my opinion, note limitation again, it’s not an unreasonable inference that erroneous extensions are potentially being made because of the use of those particular terms, regardless of how limited a context they might be used in in a few quotes.

    It’s also why I made mention of “dog whistles” and originally “trigger phrases”. It’s also why I made several references to the limiting factor of my experience. These are terms to indicate that a phrase can be used as a subtle indicator of some other meaning, not that they are being so used. It’s a limited, not universal, claim and criticism.

    Perhaps ironically, it’s the same logic that underpins Schrodinger’s Rapist, something I presume you and I agree is a perfectly valid heuristic. A woman sees a man and cannot automatically know beyond reasonable doubt in certain circumstances he is not a rapist. Her hackles raise in exactly the manner, though for obviously VASTLY more serious reasons, that mine did. My experience with certain types of postmodernists caused my hackles to raise. I don’t doubt that similar experiences did so for a number of other people and hence why some of the complaints PZ got might not all be from knuckle dragging, recidivist, privilege blind fuckwits.

    Is my use of the logic of Schrodinger’s Rapist there clear, or am I going to have to explain precisely why I am not comparing rape to the use of certain terms?

    The relevance of my comment is that it is to do with the complaint angle, and why that might exist, not with necessarily (unless she is making the extreme postmodernist claims elsewhere) the nature of the social injustices, or claims around them, that Hutchinson (AND I) seek to combat.

    Think about another thing, reading just those quotes and the linked article, it’s possible to understand Hutchinson’s point. The point I’m in agreement with. It’s also possible, from just those quotes perhaps, to see just another antiscience loon being wrongly/accidentally interpreted by PZ. Personally I don’t favour the latter reading, I favour the former, but the latter reading is not entirely unjustified given the specific terms used that are in common with a wealth of other material I’ve read. If you want me to retype all that material, sorry, I cannot be bothered! If you want to actually deal with what I’m saying and not try the Inquisition act as if I am somehow excusing privilege when I’m not, I might be more generously disposed.

    Louis

  106. R Johnston says

    What I’m confused by is why people who write valid critiques like this insist on peppering them with language that parses to a rejection, or at least denigration, of science and/or logic itself. It seems completely superfluous to the actual point they’re trying to make.

    Just like there’s truth and truthiness, there’s also science and scienciness. There’s a whole lot of scienciness out there. It infests popular culture and dominates over actual understanding of science. We live in the world of The Bell Curve. People who practice scienciness by fetishizing science without understanding or practicing it are very, very dangerous. They’re anti-vaxers; they’re libertarians; they’re people who fed the wasteful Y2K frenzy; they’re professors at the London School of Economics who write papers “proving” that black women are unattractive; they’re delusionally paranoid about inflation and running the the world’s central banks.

    There are, of course, a lot of people who reject science, but you can’t let that get in the way of using appropriate language to discuss the practitioners of scienciness, and “science fetishim” is an appropriate term for the task.

  107. Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain says

    Where the fuck did you get that message, zb24601? Were you a recipient of the cupcake-email?

  108. Gnumann says

    I must say that I am shocked to find out that, as a straight white male non-believer, I am not concerned about social justice issues. Now if I can just figure out why it is that I’ve been donating to causes like the Southern Poverty Law Canter, the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood, KIND, and some wildlife and environmental organizations. And how is it that I’ve been hearing atheists, even white male atheists, faulting religions for their treatment of women, LGBT people, minorities, children, etc. Did I just imagine all of that?

    The thing here, the real important thing is that while all those things you mention are swell, it’s not enough. To actually fix things we need to mainstream equality into our lives.

    And I’ve also heard rabid misogynists fault religion for the treatment of women. It doesn’t mean much unless we’re willing to make some sacrifices to make things better (all according to ability and all that of course) – but symbolic offerings like some money and the occasional goat isn’t going to cut it. It’s better than nothing, but it’s not enough.

  109. Louis says

    Addendum to my #119:

    Just because criticism of arguments for correcting social injustice often comes from the privilege blind and logically mistaken it doesn’t follow that criticism of some other aspect of anyone advocating correcting social injustice’s argument comes from the same source. They are different criticisms.

    There can be criticism from within rather than just from without.

  110. says

    zb24601:

    I must say that I am shocked to find out that, as a straight white male non-believer, I am not concerned about social justice issues. Now if I can just figure out why it is that I’ve been donating to causes like the Southern Poverty Law Canter, the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood, KIND, and some wildlife and environmental organizations. And how is it that I’ve been hearing atheists, even white male atheists, faulting religions for their treatment of women, LGBT people, minorities, children, etc.

    My goodness! Easy there, zb24601, you’ll do yourself an injury patting yourself on the back so violently.

    It’s rather obvious you’re oblivious to how many cis, white male non-believers have been acting for quite some time. It’s rather obvious you’re oblivious to the huge problems of sexism, racism and privilege-blindness within our ranks.

    It would be nice to hear how you’re helping to counter those problems, how you help to make sure those around you understand that sexism and racism are not alright and no, you shouldn’t make jokes like that, etc. It would be nice to hear how you do indeed grok how we are all privileged and how it’s vital to be aware of that and change our thinking and actions, rather than you expecting a “hey, I’m a cis white guy who gives to good causes” cookie.

  111. baal says

    @ Ogvorbis #100 (are you white-knighting?) I infer from the comments and branding that this blog isn’t specifically for academics. I didn’t think “avoid jargon” was objectionable even in the context of privilege discussions.

    Caine stands out though there are a group of you who magpie. You all get some sort of hall monitor thrill out of thought policing from a single analysis frame? There are other viewing frames for social constructs. Privilege is real and those (me) with it get mental blinders and don’t feel it’s wind at our back. Right, I know. What you’re not getting is that the way-forward(tm) needs issue identification, solutions and cooperation in carrying out those solutions (in my analysis framing).

    This endless magpie / flogging / name calling everytime someone makes any point that lies outside the ‘privilege analysis frame’ is not helpful – or it’s a point that is overdone, ad naseum, etc. The magpie behaviour is back at issue identification and actively hinders looking for solutions and cooperation.

    I’m not alone in making this point and everytime someone does, they get branded clueless or as someone who isn’t trying. That’s not right. Abuse the trolls, abuse the willfully blind, abuse the ignorant who are also lazy. Enjoy. Don’t abuse the ignorant who are trying or maybe, abuse them only a little.

    Pteryxx & Loftus
    I apologize to Pteryxx for including Loftus in the same heading.
    Loftus asks too much from the atheists. John Loftus (prior ftb blogger) is a ex-christian who specializes in trying to convert christians to atheism. He has a consent underlying argument that more christians would convert if only atheists were nicer, tried harder or otherwise made the christians happier. I’ve called him on that a few times with the point that atheists are minorities and can have a rather hard (or easy) time with that status but it’s really asking a lot more of the atheist than the christian to take the extra-step. The christians have pretty much every elective office and a lot of other privileges – this means it costs them less to try a little harder.

    I made an argument from privilege. I also suggested to him that he should try to help the christians see the atheist perspective and use that as a reason for them to take that extra-step. This is what I wanted from him.

    I see my point to Loftus repeated in more abbreviated form here regularly and pretty much take it as valid. It’s not the job of the oppressed or minority group to educate the privileged. I agree. Now, had I called Loftus a fuckwit everytime he suggested atheists do more *anything*…he’d have rightfully banned me from his blog. It’s not helpful.

    Why did I include Pteryxx? Pteryxx takes the extra-step everysingle time. I’d get burned out if I even tried to do 20% of Pteryxx does. I’m sure I’m not the only one who appreciates it. Do I think I’m owed Pteryxx’s help? No. Do I see that Pteryxx is really doing more than is reasonable to expect? Yes. Do I think Caine and you and the rest should do more useful arguments, be more specific to a certain context or otherwise help? Actually, no.

    all that being said
    What does Caine want? What do you want Ogvorbis? Are you working towards forwarding those goals or is the personal satisfaction of mindless, repetitive, cumulative savaging of trolls, assholes, well-minded and inept people, soft allies, hard allies, not quiet allies but could be allies, and anyone not precisely already in your social framing the point?

    why is baal bothering?
    What I want is the magpie squad to bother to see someone else’s points of view from time to time and maybe not have 20+ posts from the same 5 commentors excoriating the person who fails to meet your narrow standards.

  112. consciousness razor says

    I must say that I am shocked to find out that, as a straight white male non-believer, I am not concerned about social justice issues.

    Well now you know. Glad we sorted that out. You also can’t read for comprehension, just so you know.

  113. Louis says

    Kalliope, #85,

    Sorry for the late response! I agree with 99.999999% of what you said…with some reasonable error margin for the last couple of digits. ;-)

    The “tiny” area of disagreement (which is what’s interesting, no?) is with one aspect of this:

    I get what you’re saying (I think, and please correct me if I don’t), but I think in this case, fetishism can be taken to mean its dictionary definition: attribution of mystical or magical qualities to an object.

    Science will not solve the world’s social ills. It can be used as a tool, but that is a fundamentally humanitarian undertaking. All decisions which effect humans are decided by other humans.

    I’m taking issue with the fetishism-as-in-dictionary bit! I don’t think the people you mention do fetishise science in precisely that way, I think it’s an argument from convenience they make, couched in a logical fallacy or two for good measure.

    In fact I think SCIENCE (more importantly its Governing Grandma REASON) is a very very very good reason (little r) to listen to everybody’s perspective on moral matters. I think these people are making a deliberate and dishonest category error. I don’t think scientism/science fetishism actually exists. No more than I think the extreme dribbly relativism really exists. As in the Dawkinsian “show me an extreme relativist in a plane at 3000 ft and I’ll show you a hypocrite”. I think that people profess extreme relativism when it is convenient for them to do so, to be “lefter than thou” or to “cast doubt on science like creationists” (who’d have thought the postmodern left and the authoritarian right would converge on the same reality denying idea? ;-) ). It’s a claim of extremes almost by definition, and it’s erroneous at both ends!

    I’m not claiming there’s a golden mean, a perfect middle which one can occupy and feel superior to both camps a la XKCD, far from it, just that this is an error common across all ideological spectra, not limited to THEM but also to US. There is no THEM here as far as I am concerned. If that makes sense.

    The scientism caricature is the same, show me a scientismist and I’ll show you a hypocrite who loves her wife just as much as the extreme relativist trusts in the engineers who built his plane. Both positions are self inflicted straw men, easily attacked from the outside by virtue of their epic wrongness. I think it’s convenient to make such positions when being un-self-reflective and equally easy to criticise them.

    I think creationism is a really good example of this. These people believe X, whatever X is, and cast around for reasons to shore up that belief. They cherry pick, misquote, outright lie and generally do a shoddy job of scholarship because a proper job would force them to change their minds. That’s what the phenomena of “extreme relativism” and “scientism” or “science fetishism” are: yet further examples of the ingenuity of denialists. They’re no more “real” philsophical positions than creationism is “real” science.

    Louis

  114. 'Tis Himself says

    Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain #97

    The position of women in the movement is prone,* like God science intended it to be!

    * 10 points to the person who can give me a citation for this quote. Yes, it is real.

    It’s a paraphrase of something Stokely Carmichael, the leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s, said. From wikiquotes:

    In 1964, Ruby Doris Smith Robinson presented an indignant assault on the treatment of women civil rights workers in a paper entitled “The Position of Women in SNCC,” to a SNCC staff meeting. Stokely Carmichael reputedly responded, “The only position for women in SNCC is prone.”

    As a language purist, I wonder if Carmichael actually meant “supine.”

  115. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Just like there’s truth and truthiness, there’s also science and scienciness. There’s a whole lot of scienciness out there. It infests popular culture and dominates over actual understanding of science. We live in the world of The Bell Curve. People who practice scienciness by fetishizing science without understanding or practicing it are very, very dangerous. They’re anti-vaxers; they’re libertarians; they’re people who fed the wasteful Y2K frenzy; they’re professors at the London School of Economics who write papers “proving” that black women are unattractive; they’re delusionally paranoid about inflation and running the the world’s central banks.

    There are, of course, a lot of people who reject science, but you can’t let that get in the way of using appropriate language to discuss the practitioners of scienciness, and “science fetishim” is an appropriate term for the task.

    It seems to me that the fundamental problem is people attempting to hijack the trappings of science to lend legitimacy to, and entrench, fundamentally unscientific attitudes – ideas that disregard inconvenient facts, make no attempt to correct for biases, and serve as fishing expeditions to support biases first, foremost, and usually only.

    We already have the word “pseudoscience.” Why not use that and make it harder to misread or strawman the position as a wholesale rejection of science itself?

  116. Louis says

    Darksmurf, zb24601, and others;

    You have privilege, I have privilege, he, she, we, they and all of us have privilege to varying degrees and in varying contexts. It’s not really that controversial or damning, it’s a fact of life.

    I personally have benefited from one of the most abhorrent periods and acts in human history: The slave trade. I live in the UK, much of the UK’s historical wealth and global position derives from its Empire and the slave trade, I am an entirely innocent beneficiary of things that happened long before my birth.

    Do I feel guilty? Not a bit. Do I lose sleep over it? Not a wink. Do I try to do things to extend access to the benefits of that legacy to people historically denied it for one reason or another? Yes. I can’t correct the past, I can work to make the future more equitable for all. As zb24601 gives to charities etc so do, but that’s not where it ends (and zb24601’s lack of reading comprehension is duly noted…AGAIN). There’s more we can all do. I’m hardly a shining light, I know I’m a hypocrite and far from perfect, but I do a bit and hope to do more.

    That’s the difference, when I hear “you have privilege Louis” I don’t hear “you got where you are solely by luck and not talent and everything you experience is easy and free and you owe everyone a handout”, I hear “You’ve unintentionally benefited from some things, perhaps you can help extend access to those benefits to others”. I want to increase maximal access. It’s not a simple zero sum game, I don’t just have to take from me to give to someone, although as things are currently framed economically I’d have to lose something, probably fairly minor.

    The arguments around “privilege” and what not are not merely political, they are also factual. It’s no use denying what we reliably know about social dynamics and cultural forces. They’re not the only facet of human life but they are a facet, and to deny them is to do the exact same thing as the creationists: deny the evidence available* for the sake of a preconceived ideology.

    Louis

    * And I am no more going to type out pages of sociology and anthropology books than I am biology books for the creationists.

  117. Ogvorbis says

    Don’t abuse the ignorant who are trying or maybe, abuse them only a little.

    I assure you, I abuse my own ignorant self far more than I ever abuse anyone else. I am aware of my ignorance and my privilege. The ignorance overrides everything else.

    It really does come down to privilege, though. All of it. Religions are privileged. The rich are privileged. Men are privileged. Whites, in the western world, are privileged. I am just beginning to be aware of mine and to examine my privilege and try to figure out where it is hurting me and others. Part of that is looking for evidence of privilege from others.

    So yes, I guess I am just an ignorant sycophantic echo-chamber asshole. You got me.

  118. Pteryxx says

    Pteryxx & Loftus

    *blink blink* …Me and Loftus? Yes… Yes!! Best Buds Forevar!1!! BOW DOWN ALL YOU IGNORANT LESSERS BEFORE OUR MIGHTY CORRECTNESS! *lightning crash* MUAAHAHAHAAAA!

    *house lights come on, revealing small spread-winged wild-eyed critter on an empty stage*

    *cackles and runs off to write a mission statement for FTB*

  119. The Laughing Coyote (Canis Sativa) says

    Discussing privilege and social justice just gets more and more tiring when idiots keep insisting on taking it as a personal insult instead of a statement of fact.

    I am a privileged white male, for the most part (Non neurotypical and all that). This is a fact as much as the fact that my eyes are the color of a beer bottle. That simple. What do I do about it? Try to get that extended to other less privileged people. Not whine and throw a fit that people are being mean to me with that awful-nasty ‘privileged’ label.

    Privilege is a fact. It’s not a diss, it’s not some cheap rhetorical point. It’s a fact. If you insist on taking it as an insult, you fail. Full stop. F minus, plus that wet spot where I blew my nose on it.

  120. Kalliope says

    @Louis

    I don’t disagree with you, and in fact, I’ve heard that term from people like my aunt. Who has a PhD in biochem but now is involved with what is truly the outer fringe of the new age movement. The more unlikely something is, the more committed she is to believing it. Her latest refrain (which she likes to say to my medical researching statistician boyfriend)is “people keep asking for proof that my methods work before they give me their children for treatment! I can’t give them proof! It’s an outrageous burden to put on my work.” And they she starts hissing about doctors and other science-fetishists.

    Of course, someone from her background, involved in science in the late 60s, dealing with a level of arrogance and dismissal of her brain. (Both of my grandparents were scientists, at very, very, very different ranks (histologist versus university professor), so I wonder if my aunt pursued science for approval and then just freaked out when she met with sexism instead.)

    Holy shit. Where was I going with all of this?

    Oh, right. I don’t disagree with you, and my experience with the term comes from anti-vaxxers and the like. But, then, how should we phrase it?

    Oh, and as for the dictionary definition, I do think a lot of these people use SCIENCE (not their own areas of study, usually) as a talisman to guard against intellectual criticism. Like a magic force field, or something.

    You phrased it nicely that “is” doesn’t lead “ought”, usually, but I would argue that “ought” leads the application of “is”.

  121. The Laughing Coyote (Canis Sativa) says

    Oh, and if you respond to accusations of privilege by throwing out a list of charities you support, you double-fail, and should probably GFY.

  122. says

    Awesome post. It’s very, very true.

    So I think addressing racial disparity in higher ed will require addressing the larger problem of economic inequality.

    Agreed. I also tend to see a correlation between religion and economic inequality*, and a really problematic tendency among some atheists to dismiss that connection. When you’re privileged (like me; I’m as white and middle class as they come) it’s easy to forget how seductive religion is when you have very limited social power and religion offers you an illusion of control over your life. Who can blame someone who has a hard life for wanting to believe it can get better if they just pray the right way?

    Ultimately, advancing the cause of atheism means advancing the cause of social justice. Instead of saying “look at those idiots who believe in the sky fairy” we need to be asking how we can make sure everybody has access to education and fair employment opportunities.

    ___________________

    *Possibly less relevant in the US, but from what I see here religion is very much a socioeconomic/class issue.

  123. thepint says

    Laughing Coyote @133:

    Discussing privilege and social justice just gets more and more tiring when idiots keep insisting on taking it as a personal insult instead of a statement of fact.

    THIS oh so much. If people are really that much more upset about having their feelings hurt by having the ways in which they’ve benefited from privilege pointed out to them – even with the multiple caveats that it’s not their fault, it’s the way the system has been skewed to be unfair, and the most insidious thing about privilege is that one doesn’t even have to be aware of its existence to benefit from it (in fact, because of the way the system is skewed, if you benefit from privilege, you’re not likely to even notice it at all unless you *actively start paying attention and hunting for it*) – rather than being upset by how the system has been skewed so that others are harmed by it, then their priorities are in desperate need of realignment.

    In other words, its not about YOU and YOUR FEELINGS, it’s about being aware of the larger picture, but then again, that would require stuffing one’s ego in the back seat long enough to take a break from all that navel-gazing.

  124. Pteryxx says

    Oh, and if you respond to accusations of privilege by throwing out a list of charities you support

    This is basically a “But I’m an ally!” list. It might be on-topic if the discussion is about charities or ways to assist, but it’s not a valid defense mechanism. People can care and still royally fuck up.

  125. Aquaria says

    We already have the word “pseudoscience.” Why not use that and make it harder to misread or strawman the position as a wholesale rejection of science itself?

    The term science fetishism is obviously very different from pseudoscience, just for the phrase itsle.f

    Science fetishists do what was mentioned above–justify their actions from random bits of scientific data “Science says it’s been normal for grown men to like sex with 15 year olds”.

    It’s making an ought from an is.

    Pseudoscience pretends to be a science, and totally misunderstands it to promote a view of how things work. Science fetishists take one part of science and use it to justify their own prejudices, privileges and so on. A fetish.

    Totally different.

  126. Kalliope says

    @ Azkyroth

    Pseudoscience doesn’t cover everything.

    Very good science still fails to tell us a great a deal about the human condition and about what to do with the resulting knowledge and ability.

    For instance, science can’t tell us:

    * Whether to admire “each man for himself” or “no man is an island”

    * At what point life begins

    * Whether it is okay kill 1,000 foreigners to save one of your own tribe

    * Whether we should value others as we do ourselves

    * Whether someone does or does not deserve their economic condition

    * Whether we should execute murderers

    Areas specifically related to social justice — even the notion that social justice is a desirable thing — don’t stem from science or scientific discovery.

    Attempts to apply “science” those matters isn’t necessarily captured in the term “pseudoscience.”

  127. Louis says

    Kalliope,

    You phrased it nicely that “is” doesn’t lead “ought”, usually, but I would argue that “ought” leads the application of “is”.

    Oh indeed! And I think the phrasing is Bertrand Russell’s, IIRC, not mine sadly! Sure morals and what not can tell you what to do with the stick you’ve just picked up. My only point is that your morals don’t tell you anything about the stick, no matter what some people might like to believe.

    But, then, how should we phrase it?

    Hmmmmm. Buggered if I know! ;-)

    My issue was with things like “science fetishism”/”scientism” is that even though they could be used in a perfectly reasonable ways, they’re frequently not. Sufficiently not, in my opinion, to be problematic for accurate communication. As Askyroth said in #129, we have perfectly serviceable words for this stuff already; pseudoscience, denialism etc. Like I said, these people are not fetishising science, that’s the erroneous appearance, the illusion. They’re cherry picking and so on. What they are doing is standard denialism with bigger words.

    Louis

  128. Aquaria says

    I guess my humanities major paid off for something, because, even though I’ve been away from any humanities academia for two decades now, I understood what Hutchinson was saying with all the stuff that the dumbasses in this thread bleating about post-modernism and other bullshit refuse to see.

    Anyone who’s ever worked for a political or non-profit social action group will be highly familiar with them. LIke scientists have their terminology to explain phenomena, so too do social scientists/humanties or any other academic field.

    There are constructs in the humanities that break down easily when you’re used to these turns of phrase. And they’re not twaddle; they’re attempts to be as precise with the language to explain concepts as it is possible to be.

    Only willfully obtuse douchecanoes can’t see that.

  129. says

    Now if I can just figure out why it is that I’ve been donating to causes like the Southern Poverty Law Canter, the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood, KIND, and some wildlife and environmental organizations.

    In the socialist utopia where I live we pay heavy taxes to maintain things like these, and health care. It’s rather comforting to know that my health in the future isn’t dependent on some libertarian individuals who decide what parts of health care are worthy of their donation money. *spit*

  130. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    Louis,

    Actually no, that misreading of yours is abject bullshit. As even a cursory glance should grant you.

    It appears to be an accurate reading; your reply does not indicate otherwise. It seems you think the following contradicts it:

    In fact I stated absolutely clearly that, as far as PZ and Sikivu Hutchinson go, I support and agree with them entirely.

    Entirely?

    Okay, whilst I am fully in support of the angle PZ (and others) are taking on this, re: poverty of one position/culture of view and the need for better diversity and inclusivity as a matter of urgency,

    At minimum you do not fully support or agree with Hutchinson’s use of the phrase “science fetishism.” You don’t agree with Hutchinson’s choice to communicate her disagreement in that particular way.

    Do I usually agree with and support things I ignore on the basis of tone? No.

    What you’ve ignored is your opportunity to investigate what she means by her use of that phrase.

    Instead you’ve decided that it’s a good segue for you offer an anecdote about how someone somewhere once said that something was a “sexed equation”.

    What I don’t support is the worst excesses of post modernism.

    Well now, here’s a relevant question:

    What is your evidence that “the worst excesses of post modernism” are present here, and thus on-topic?

    Terms like “scientism” (not present as far as I can see) and “science fetishism” (present) are, in my experience, dog whistles of that type.

    Readers who rely on shibboleths rather than investigating what a writer meant are, in my experience, readers who overlook some of the meaning.

    My point was simply that there is a very useful and productive “relativism” that demonstrates the paucity of a “white, male, heterosexual, middle class etc” only movement that narrowly focusses, by accident at minimum, concerns primarily associated with that group, and at the same time there is a gross misuse of that “relativism” which is to claim that a specific piece of science is suspect or wrong because it comes from “insert whatever group you like here”. For the Nazis (hello erroneous Godwin!) it was “Jewish science” for certain pomo loons, in my experience, it is “white men etc”, for Lysenko it was…

    If this is supposed to be on-topic, then you appear to be insinuating that Sikivu Hutchinson believes science is suspect or wrong because of “white men etc”.

    If this is not supposed to be on-topic, well, it’s not clear why you’re spending so many words on it.

    Do you get my point or are you now going to accuse me of saying postmodernists are Nazis?

    Calm down, Louis.

    I got your point from the beginning. I just don’t think it is relevant to what Hutchinson is saying, and I think you would have noticed its irrelevance if you’d either read more charitably or sought to investigate whether Hutchinson is possessed with “the worst excesses of post modernism”.

    It’s a common error, Group A produced Result B, Group A is somehow unpleasant, therefore Result B is suspect/wrong.

    And what is your evidence that said error is present here, and thus on-topic?

    None of that negates or contradicts that “Movement G is dominated by people from Group A and therefore might only focus on concerns of Group A”. It’s a separate issue, one of error, not disinterest.

    Whose error or disinterest are you talking about here?

    So yes, Sikivu and PZ are right, science is largely dominated by white etc etc etc men and yes that is something that needs to change for all the reasons mentioned. The phrase “white supremecist logic” is not one I objected to you’ll note,

    Duly noted. Although why it’s important to you that I note this, I’m not sure.

    and in the limited sense it is being used (correct in my view) I have no objection to it.

    What I do object to, and Ms Daisy Cutter alludes to it above with her mention of “scientism”, is a kind of fashionable nonsense that imports the more extreme elements of relativism into science. Nonsense ably and accurately debunked by Richard Dawkins and many, many others.

    What evidence do you have that “a kind of fashionable nonsense that imports the more extreme elements of relativism into science” is present here, and thus on-topic?

    And are you quite sure that Ms. Daisy Cutter agrees with you?

    So again, to make myself abundantly clear even to you

    Louis, is this a gratuitous insult, or are you suggesting that I am in the habit of misreading you? If the latter, when?

    stapling a programme of social justice to the New Atheist movement is something I support without reservation and in its entirety.

    That’s nice.

    I might want to quibble about a word here or there, but that really isn’t significant disagreement so I won’t bother to delve into it.

    A quibble: evidently you won’t delve into an investigation of what Hutchinson meant, but you will delve into irrelevant hypotheticals:

    IF those claims are being made (and I am not saying they are, merely raising that specific note of caution) THEN those claims are the ones I am objecting to.

    I would like to use this thread to declare that if anyone anywhere is in favor of singularitarianism, then I am against it.

    What I don’t support is the import of drivel into science. That’s separate from the issue of social justice. About as separate as it’s possible to be. “Science fetishism” etc is as common a pomo dogwhistle in my experience as “welfare queen” is a racist/classist/sexist one.

    What is your evidence that “the import of drivel into science” are present here, and thus on-topic?

    That’s a criticism of the substance of the claims, not the tone of them.

    Since the use of the phrase led to your not investigating what the substance of Hutchinson’s claims even are — specifically what it is she delineates as science fetishism — before firing off about her vocabulary, then it can’t be a criticism of her substance, only her tone.

  131. says

    Quoth the sociologist: as far as complaining about jargon, it is possible to look that stuff up. Sociologists started just as ignorant as anyone, and looked things up.

    As far as science fetishism, I tend to agree with Louis. It’s not an objection to science, it’s an objection to the misuse of science, because it’s science and people think it can’t be argued with, can’t be wrong, is immutable and will let them win an otherwise messy argument about human rights.

    The people, in other words, who attempt to selectively use science to justify their opinion and prevent subtlety in discussion, without understanding a damn bit of it.

    Most of these people are also derisive of the social sciences, because they won’t let you win arguments as handily.

  132. Louis says

    I am going to disagree with Aquaria too…OMG DEEEPE* RIFTS:

    I think this “science fetishism” is no different from what creationists or fundamentalists do (or homeopaths or Holocaust deniers or climate change deniers or pharmaceutical company sales execs of my acquaintance). I.e. bog standard reality denialism.

    Their claims are chock full of oughts from ises. They’re using the same techniques, cherry picking, misquotes, lies etc, to shore some preconceived belief up. Whether than belief is that the Holocaust didn’t happen, or that Jews commit blood sacrifices of Christian babies, or how old the world is, or that they should be entitled to act on their every whim are all open to more than merely moral critique. There are moral and factual elements to all. To distinguish one because it is more a “moral” issue from another that is more “factual” is to me a difference without any meaning. The same underlying (il)logical processes are at work, the same pattern of behaviours and acts of denial operate. What they share in action vastly outweighs where they differ in target.

    Denialism is itself an act of at least partially conscious dishonesty. It’s also “bullshit” in the Harry G Frankfurt sense (a liar at least cares enough about the truth to deceive, a bullshitter doesn’t even care about the truth, their motivation is something else.). It’s a method for achieving something, whether that something is {sex with 15 year old} or {uncritical acceptance of a factual claim}.

    Denialism is not a morally neutral set of merely factual acts. It is at least a casual disregard for the truth, an abandonment of the intellectual burden one bears in relation to one’s claims, whatever those claims are. That is a moral dimension for the most minimal act of denialism. If you couple it to the convenience and hypocritical lack of sincerity….

    Science might not be able to decide a moral question for you, but I assure you reason can (given certain assumed priors). In fact reason and science are the very processes used to feed back into those priors. You might not be able to get an ought from an is or an is from an ought, but as Kalliope said you can use an ought to figure out how to apply an is, and you can use an is to figure out which of a set of oughts is consistent with your stated aims (priors). Priors/assumptions are flexible, they can be fixed with the feed back loop of reason to greater or lesser extents.

    It’s why we criticise faux “allies” so very hard. The are stating their goal is X, like ours is. But their actions do not serve goal X, they hinder it, demonstrably. The tone trolls like to criticise the more vehement of us but their claims fail because of a lack of “is” to support them.

    So I really don’t agree that it’s totally different, I think “science fetishism”/”scientism” is a very shallow appreciation of what’s actually occurring. And a far too convenient straw man for the nuttier elements of pomo.

    Louis

    * The extra E makes it classier. ;-)

  133. Louis says

    Aquaria,

    Well then I’m a dumbass and a willfully obtuse douchecanoes who can’t see that.

    Heaven forfend I actually have an honest disagreement.

    Louis

  134. Louis says

    LILAPWL,

    I believe everything is covered in my #119, #123, #141 and #146.

    If you wish to pick a fight and erroneously accuse me of tone trolling, which I believe is what you are doing, fuck directly off.

    Clear?

    Tone trolling =/= criticism of misleading terms.

    I’ve explained why what I was saying is relevant, and the limits of it, well before your second post.

    Louis

  135. Louis says

    LILAPWL, Part 2:

    Since the use of the phrase led to your not investigating what the substance of Hutchinson’s claims even are — specifically what it is she delineates as science fetishism — before firing off about her vocabulary, then it can’t be a criticism of her substance, only her tone.

    And this is why you’ve doubled down as usual.

    Here, I’ll sort of Fisk my own #23 for you:

    Okay, whilst I am fully in support of the angle PZ (and others) are taking on this, re: poverty of one position/culture of view and the need for better diversity and inclusivity as a matter of urgency, there are a couple of silly post modernist trigger phrases. That might be just me though. “Science fetishism” is high amongst them.

    Make us privileged folks realise our unthought biases and change them by all means, I’ll help, call Newton’s second law a “sexed equation” (or whatever it was) and I will laugh at you.

    See that bit in bold. Do you understand that’s a limited statement? Do you understand that you have assumed in the absence of any evidence that I have chosen not to investigate Hutchinson’s work/words any further?

    I have read what she said, I agree (and have said so multiple times) with the limited sense in which she is saying these things. I do not like that phraseology because a) I think it is erroneous (I don’t agree that such fetishism, simpliciter, actually exists, I think it’s another phenomenon, b) it is too close to genuine science denial, c) it is potentially misleading.

    I’m unconvinced that this is a term of art in the social sciences. If it is it’s hardly a common one. But the concept underlying “science fetishism” is certainly common in the more ridiculous elements of science denial.

    Is it possible you don’t get this yet? Is it possible that you don’t understand that two concepts can be held in the brain simultaneously? I.e. that (shock horror) it is perfectly possible for an evil empirical physical scientist to read the holy writ of a blessed and innocent social scientist like Hutchinson and both understand what she is saying whilst simultaneously thinking some aspects of it are wrong by virtue of a number of factors?

    Do you see the difference with “tone”? I’m not merely saying how she is saying X is wrong, in fact since I grasped X I’d be foolish to do so, I’m saying that what she has said is, in part wrong (science fetishism as described doesn’t exist in my view, it’s something else, the fetishism part is a caricature) and thus misleading.

    Louis

  136. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    Louis, I am not trying to pick a fight with you. As much as you may suspect otherwise, I equally suspect you are trying to pick a fight with me — which is why I asked whether you were deliberately “suggesting that I am in the habit of misreading you”, and with your claim that I have “doubled down as usual”. I think these interpersonal matters would be better directed to TZT.

    If we may focus on the issue:

    See that bit in bold. Do you understand that’s a limited statement? Do you understand that you have assumed in the absence of any evidence that I have chosen not to investigate Hutchinson’s work/words any further?

    I have not. Rather, you have assumed that I have assumed that you have chosen not to investigate Hutchinson’s work/words any further.

    The fact, however, is that you did go off on your tangent about a “sexed equation” without first investigating what Hutchinson meant by the phrase “science fetishism.”

    That content — what Hutchinson meant by the phrase — is what you couldn’t be arsed to investigate prior to assuming that your tangent was in any way on-topic.

  137. consciousness razor says

    As far as science fetishism, I tend to agree with Louis. It’s not an objection to science, it’s an objection to the misuse of science, because it’s science and people think it can’t be argued with, can’t be wrong, is immutable and will let them win an otherwise messy argument about human rights.

    I don’t think there’s another sort of problem. There’s also this idea that the only thing we should be concerned about is real, legitimate science (not pseudoscience, or committing naturalistic/moralistic or other fallacies based on science). But there are many things scientists do not study (at least not now) which do impact society in very important ways and which ought to be understood by more people if we want to make progress. If you were strictly focused on science, then you would be neglecting all of those things. I don’t think anyone can consistently have such a strict focus; and it isn’t a problem for science that it has such limitations, which should be obvious enough to anyone who doesn’t have an axe to grind about this or that bit of non-scientific thought. The point here is just that not everything is scientific, so complaints to that effect can sometimes be irrelevant, meaning we ought to be careful about how and what we’re criticizing on those grounds. Maybe that’s part of what you meant by a “misuse of science,” but I thought I’d try to fill it out a bit.

  138. consciousness razor says

    Gah, I meant to say that I do think there’s another sort of problem.

    I wouldn’t have used the word “do,” but another problem is that I’m editing my comments too quickly.

  139. Louis says

    LILAPWL,

    Then, my darling, I apologise for questioning your motives. But you’ve still grossly misread me.

    I don’t agree my comment was irrelevant, or a tangent, or a digression, or a derail. It was rather specific to a small part (the complaint part) of the OP as I made clear in #119. The standard discussion of privilege and sundry social mechanics (and their inevitable denial by fuckwits) is part of what can derive from the OP, but so is a discussion of the complaints PZ has been getting, presumably why he’s been getting them and whether there is some potentially justifiable complaint.

    I think there are matters of substance to criticise (the term “science fetishism” being the most obviously dubious one to me), not merely matters of tone, that’s YOUR misreading, one you insist on continuing with despite clarification to the extreme contrary. At length. With bells on. If you can’t accept that, it’s not my problem.

    I’ll quote you again:

    Since the use of the phrase led to your not investigating what the substance of Hutchinson’s claims even are — specifically what it is she delineates as science fetishism — before firing off about her vocabulary, then it can’t be a criticism of her substance, only her tone.

    This is a conditional clause from you. You are claiming a) that I have not investigated the substance of Hutchinson’s claims and b) that the phrase is the cause of that lack of investigation. You have assumed X because I didn’t go out of my way to your satisfaction to delineate every point of agreement before mentioning a point of substantial disagreement (as you’d know if you’d read what I wrote to Kalliope and Aquaria). You’re picking a non existent nit and implicitly claiming universality. I made no such claims.

    The is/ought fallacy being made by the so-called “science fetishists” is the same fallacy in a different direction as being made by the so-called “extreme post modernists”. The particular error I think Hutchinson has made (re: science fetishism) is an error that often, but by no means always, leads to the science denial I mentioned. It’s an easy elision. It doesn’t disprove or even deal with her excellent points about coupling social injustice correction to secular/atheist/sceptical/scientific movements, or her excellent points about the origins and nature of some blind spots in these movements. It’s an issue separate to that as I have made repeatedly clear. Hence why I didn’t spend a vast number of electrons tapping out my agreement, I mentioned it and moved on to the bit that interested me. Just like every other commenter on the fucking internet.

    Louis

  140. corkscrew says

    Oh, and if you respond to accusations of privilege by throwing out a list of charities you support, you double-fail, and should probably GFY.

    Does “I support charities” fall into the same category as “many of my friends are black”?

    (Just asking so I know why I’m not saying it when I don’t say it in future.)

  141. says

    consciousness razor: I’m going to differ slightly and say there isn’t much which isn’t science of varying kinds, but I view science as a set of interlocking, very useful assumptions about the function of specific sets of events.

    I also am a social scientist, so my idea of science extends to the study and modeling of human behavior. For me, that handily encompasses measures of morality (in terms of demonstrated harm in short and/or long term.)

    The misuse of science for me is often in the misapplication of sets of rules from one domain to the next (for instance, evopsych misapplies biology to social science in an unprincipled way.) It’s typically done by people who understand neither biology or social science. Unfortunately for social science, it’s the easiest for casual observers to understand (and misunderstand.)

  142. R Johnston says

    @ Kalliope #140

    For instance, science can’t tell us:

    . . .

    * At what point life begins

    Science can do a fine job of telling us when human life begins so long as you stick to a specific meaning of “human life.” What science can’t do is prevent disingenuous liars for Jesus from constantly equivocating over the meaning of the term “human life,” defining it as something relating to a complete set of chromosomes in one breath and attributing to “human life” the moral weight that comes along with the sentience, consciousness, intelligence, independence, and the ability to form complex relationships with other entities that humans develop long after conception in the next breath.

  143. Louis says

    Corkscrew, #157,

    Hmmmm I’m not sure it’s at the same position on the Clueless Bigotometer as “but some of my friends are black”. But it is on the same scale.

    I’d put it somewhere between “oh I don’t mind gay people, I just wish they wouldn’t thrust it in my face” and “I know I can’t be sexist because my wife said I’m not, and she’s a woman and everything.”

    ;-)

    Louis

  144. Enkidum says

    At the risk of trying to be heard above the current din in here now…

    Is there anyone who can help me out with the distinction between “science fetishism” and “scientism”? I’ve heard the latter far more often, and exclusively from people who were using it to argue total bullshit. Generally, something along the lines of “there are other routes to truth, you can’t privilege scientific knowledge above whatever I’ve pulled out of my asshole, etc”.

    So the way I read it, “scientism” means something like “treats scientific knowledge as particularly privileged above other forms of “knowledge””, or “believes that one should depend on empirical evidence as much as possible when deciding what to believe.”

    But “science fetishim” as described by several commenters above is much more along the lines of “pays lip service to science, constantly asserts that they are “doing science” but actually just cherry-picks whatever conclusions support their own biases, without critically examining anything”. A la Satoshi Kanazawa or something like that.

    So basically, I am very guilty of scientism, and proud of it, but thought I’m sure I’m frequently guilty of some kinds of science fetishism, I view that as a genuine fault.

    Does that sound about right?

  145. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    But “science fetishim” as described by several commenters above is much more along the lines of “pays lip service to science, constantly asserts that they are “doing science” but actually just cherry-picks whatever conclusions support their own biases, without critically examining anything”. A la Satoshi Kanazawa or something like that.

    If “pseudoscience” doesn’t capture it, perhaps “Fact Hijacking” or something similar would better express what we’re saying without giving ammunition to the SCIENCE IS JUST ANOTHER RELIGION idiots?

  146. maureenbrian says

    Dammit! ‘Tis Himself beat me to Stokely Carmichael. At the same period in the UK it was referred to as The Horizontal Road to Socialism.

  147. consciousness razor says

    mouthyb, I don’t know how we might differ, except that I wouldn’t say there isn’t much which isn’t science. There is a vast store of ideas in the humanities, philosophy, ethics, law, political science, economics, etc., which are not scientific. Someday, something like some of them could probably be incorporated into the sciences, but maybe not all of them. A lot of it will probably be trashed as useless nonsense, if it hasn’t been already. But this of course does not mean it can all be casually dismissed or is utterly lacking in value simply because it isn’t (yet) science. And of course, science is a work in progress, so we have to work with what we have now, even though (assuming it’s possible) we’re not yet in the supposedly-ideal situation of having scientific studies to support every meaningful statement we would ever want to make.

  148. says

    consciousness razor: Consensus! On Pharyngula! Someone call the newspapers.

    I have Humanities training (that pesky MFA in writing), and I would call a lot of the issues treated in the Humanities less rigorous developments of social science concepts, using a different set of assumptions (injustice, say. Privilege, prejudice, economic injustices, race and gender tensions: all of these are things which show up in other places. And, for my money, better art than meditations on the artist’s bellybutton.)

  149. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    I have Humanities training (that pesky MFA in writing)

    On that note, is there a Master of Coarse Arts?

    Can we create one?

  150. says

    Azkyroth, if there isn’t, I insist it be made (in as much as I can insist in anarchic hive such as this.)

    In fact, I think I’ll volunteer to award them, if no one else wants to honor.

  151. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    Louis,

    Then, my darling,

    Don’t speak to me like that. The same reason you don’t say that to women you’re not on diminutive terms with, is the reason not to apply it to gay men who aren’t on those terms with you.

    +++++
    Let me bold the same sentence you bolded, a little differently:

    Since the use of the phrase led to your not investigating what the substance of Hutchinson’s claims even are — specifically what it is she delineates as science fetishism — before firing off about her vocabulary, then it can’t be a criticism of her substance, only her tone.

    The em-dashes here function like parentheses. The “substance of Hutchinson’s claims” in question are “specifically what it is she delineates as science fetishism”.

    So I am not making the universal statement you’ve interpreted. Thus:

    This is a conditional clause from you. You are claiming a) that I have not investigated the substance of Hutchinson’s claims

    I am claiming that you have not investigated what Hutchinson delineates as science fetishism.

    and b) that the phrase is the cause of that lack of investigation.

    And yes, it is evident that your dislike of the phrase is the cause of your not investigating what she means by the phrase.

  152. nonny says

    Science isn’t just a priority for males. I’m a woman and I care about the promotion of science as much as any man. I’m sorry but the wording in the article seems to imply that science is somehow only a male priority and I don’t think that’s right.

    It seems to me the athiest movement already concerns itself with issues of social justice. Things like the treatment of homosexuals and the exploitation of ill people by quack ‘faith healers’ are things I’ve seen discussed on athiest websites. Yes, science is central to the movement but I can’t see the problem with that- surely the scientific woldview is the bedrock on which we build the rest of our viewpoints? If not science, then what?

  153. says

    Cargo Cult Science is another useful concept: all the trappings without any of the truly essential parts. Much like the above scienciness. As long as it looks science-y, that’s good enough!

    I take Hutchinson’s(*) point to be a bit different, though. Fetish is an anthropological term, and I’m pretty sure that’s how she means it: an object believed to have magical powers. True science is not magic, and any decent scientist will agree. “Science says so, case closed” is magical thinking – fetishising science as if it were a magic 8-ball. And we do see that one around quite a bit (*cough**evpsych**cough*).

    But it is never wrong to question in science. As we know, science is an activity done by scientists, who are fallible human beings, and the answers found at any given time can be wrong. Not even a scientific consensus is immune to question: do your questioning right and Nobels await you. Of course, you need to bring some damn fine evidence to the table. The various denialists aren’t bad because they question the consensus (magic science! no criticism allowed!); they are bad because they totally fail on the point involving evidence (science: they are doing it wrong).

    (*) How come when we discuss Dawkins and de Botton and Loftus they get surnames, but now suddenly it’s Sikivu?

  154. says

    Azkyroth (@162):

    If “pseudoscience” doesn’t capture it, perhaps “Fact Hijacking” or something similar would better express what we’re saying without giving ammunition to the SCIENCE IS JUST ANOTHER RELIGION idiots?

    Yah, that’s been the concern tickling the back of my brain, too, as I’ve read through this thread: Scientism, in particular, risks sounding like it asserts a “just another belief system” false equivalency between science and religion (in much the same way as critics often assert that atheism is “just another religion”), even when that’s not what it’s intended to mean.

    Reaching back a bit…

    Kallipe (@85)

    I think in this case, [science] fetishism can be taken to mean its dictionary definition: attribution of mystical or magical qualities to an object.

    I don’t doubt that there are people who “fetishize” science in precisely this way, but I do doubt that this broadly characterizes scientific humanists, anymore than Alain de Botton’s godless churchiness broadly characterizes atheists. (Lest anyone think this is a derail, I’ll connect it back to Dr. Hutchinson’s argument in a sec.)

    Science will not solve the world’s social ills.

    Perhaps not (as an aside, I’m pretty sure there are people among our regulars who would argue that every question is ultimately a scientific one, even if current science can’t yet address it… but I digress), but to the extent that science displaces superstition, it should be easier to address social ills: Even if we stipulate that values don’t arise from science, science at least gives us a rational, fact-based environment to which we can apply our values.

    This…

    There is a tendency among certain groups, like self-designated skeptics, to absolve themselves of the responsibility of choice because SCIENCE. There is an even greater tendency to not listen to other people’s perspective because SCIENCE.

    …is undoubtedly true. But so is this…

    There is a tendency among certain groups, like the self-designated skepticsfaithful, to absolve themselves of the responsibility of choice because SCIENCEGOD. There is an even greater tendency to not listen to other people’s perspective because SCIENCEGOD.

    The difference between the two cases is that folks in the former case are DOIN’ SCIENCE RONG; those in the latter are DOIN’ RELIGION… er, exactly the way religion wants to be done: Treating science as unquestioned authority is dysfunctional; treating religion that way is the intended outcome.

    And that bit about unquestioned authority is the rub.

    If I understand it correctly, part of Dr. Hutchinson’s argument (as interpreted in the OP) is that the New Atheist movement, dominated as it is by white males (and white male academics, in particular), doesn’t (and maybe can’t) quite grasp how important church has been as a bulwark against social oppression, esp. for African-Americans.

    I’m sure that’s true… and I’m equally sure that, as a straight white middle-class cis-male (though not an academic), I can’t fully grok how true it really is. That said, though, it sounds uncomfortably like de Botton: Regardless of how nonsensical theology might be, church is socially valuable.

    I find that hard to accept, in principle, even though I know I have no standing to question the testimony of those who say it’s true: I don’t know that it’s really that possible to separate the institution of church from the supernatural belief system that lies at the core of that enterprise.

    And theism — certainly monotheism — is, by its very nature, arbitrarily authoritarian. As such, it’s hard for me to believe that religion can ultimately be anything other than the enemy of oppressed people, regardless of how useful and consoling it may be in the short term.

    I’m not making an argument, so much as I am expressing a dilemma that vexes me: If someone says to me, “y’all just can’t understand how the church has been to my people in the area of social justice,” I (not being one of the referenced people) have no reasonable basis on which to disagree… but I have come to believe (largely through 5-6 years of reading here) that supernatural belief (and theism in particular) is inescapably, universally oppressive, and that science is its antidote.

    <Headscratch>

  155. says

    Alethea:

    (*) How come when we discuss Dawkins and de Botton and Loftus they get surnames, but now suddenly it’s Sikivu?

    Perhaps because Richard and Alain and John are boring, but Sikivu is awesome? ;^)

    (Despite my cheek, please note that I didn’t fall into this trap in my own comment, @172.)

    But seriously, I notice this same thing in politics: In 2008, it was McCain and Obama[1], but always Hillary. Grrrr….

    ___
    [1] When, of course, it wasn’t Barack Hussein Obama, but that’s a whole ‘nother kind of othering.

  156. Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain says

    Bill Dauphin, I think in the case of Hillary Clinton, it may have at least partially been a matter of distinguishing her from her husband. But then, why can’t she be “Rodham Clinton” or “HRC” or something?

  157. consciousness razor says

    I don’t doubt that there are people who “fetishize” science in precisely this way, but I do doubt that this broadly characterizes scientific humanists, anymore than Alain de Botton’s godless churchiness broadly characterizes atheists.

    Huh? Any idea how many bigoted fuckwits there are who would call themselves “scientific humanists”? Me either, but I’ve encountered a lot. So I have doubts about your doubts.

    The difference between the two cases is that folks in the former case are DOIN’ SCIENCE RONG; those in the latter are DOIN’ RELIGION… er, exactly the way religion wants to be done: Treating science as unquestioned authority is dysfunctional; treating religion that way is the intended outcome.

    The outcomes are what matters, so while that might make you feel better, it doesn’t make any substantial difference to anyone.

    If I understand it correctly, part of Dr. Hutchinson’s argument (as interpreted in the OP) is that the New Atheist movement, dominated as it is by white males (and white male academics, in particular), doesn’t (and maybe can’t) quite grasp how important church has been as a bulwark against social oppression, esp. for African-Americans.

    Sure, and another issue is that a lot of whites are very much convinced that society can be transformed with science alone, because science (and pseudoscience) hasn’t affected them negatively in so many ways, for centuries. And anyway science is not at all enough. There’s all this social justice stuff that we’re still not doing much about — that is, it isn’t simply a historical problem with minority communities or with science or atheism, but a problem right now that we need to take on as our own.

    I’m sure that’s true… and I’m equally sure that, as a straight white middle-class cis-male (though not an academic), I can’t fully grok how true it really is. That said, though, it sounds uncomfortably like de Botton: Regardless of how nonsensical theology might be, church is socially valuable.

    No, de Botton’s bullshit isn’t at all like what she’s talking about. Please just don’t even go there. People need serious help from their communities in all sorts of ways, which doesn’t come from a church. But they’re not getting it, except (usually) through churches. Right now. Which is making things worse. And teaching science and arguing with godbots over and over isn’t going to solve it.

  158. says

    Esteleth:

    It may also have something to do with the fact that her campaign actually used Hillary! as its logo, on bumperstickers, rally signs, etc. But that may have been a “go with the flow” recognition that folks tend to refer to women in politics by their first names… it’s something I’ve noticed in the past, even with women who didn’t have famous husbands to be confused with.

    The two candidates in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat being (thankfully) vacated by Joe LIEberman are Congressman Chris Murphy — invariably referred to as Murphy in the press — and former CT Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz — invariably called Susan[1]. In my experience, women candidates often buy into this by using their first names as “branding,” but of course that doesn’t mean it’s not a sexist trope.

    ___
    [1] FWIW, I support Murphy. I want desperately to support women candidate, in view of the shit that’s going on around the country WRT women’s issues, but Murphy is clearly the better candidate, both in terms of electability and on a wide range of progressive issues. His likely Republican opponent in the general election is also a woman, Linda McMahon… but as the former president and CEO of Vince McMahon’s ultrasexist wrestling empire, I hardly think she’s much of a standard-bearer for feminist concerns.

  159. onion girl, OM; social workers do it with paperwork says

    If I understand it correctly, part of Dr. Hutchinson’s argument (as interpreted in the OP) is that the New Atheist movement, dominated as it is by white males (and white male academics, in particular), doesn’t (and maybe can’t) quite grasp how important church has been as a bulwark against social oppression, esp. for African-Americans.

    @Bill: Not being a member of the referenced group either, I can’t fully understand it either, but even in my limited (ie, outside vs. inside of said group)experience, I have some idea. Churches for many African-American communities are the food banks, homeless shelters, informal foster care systems, grief counselors, marriage counselors–in other words, pretty much every aspect of social services. And particularly so in areas where racism and/or inequality are rampant. Churches become not only the community social supports, but the shelter, literal and physical, from the poverty, bigotry, and violence directed at African-Americans: everyone is against us, so let’s band together for safety–and the church becomes the protector, nurturer, and leader all in one.

    When I worked as a community organizer in Baltimore City, it was all but impossible to go to any meeting related to any type of problem (truancy to drop-out prevention, homelessness to home maintenance, health care, mental health, crime–EVERYTHING) without at least one representative from the churches present. They had the job fairs and the community meeting to save a school, hosted free tax preparation and campaigning for a new street-light, organized prayer vigils for crime victims, protested racist policy in the local city councils and the state legislatures, and were nearly always viewed as the ‘voice’ of the community.

    I did a research project on homosexuality in the African-American church in grad school and spent a lot of time with GLBT folk who had been sometimes literally thrown out of their churches (and in some cases, physically beaten) by church leaders, and most of those I interviewed listed the loss of their ‘church home’ as the most devastating thing in their life–more than HIV, discrimination, hate crimes, etc.

    The amount of work it’s going to take to counter that is immense.

  160. says

    @Nonny:

    Science isn’t just a priority for males. I’m a woman and I care about the promotion of science as much as any man. I’m sorry but the wording in the article seems to imply that science is somehow only a male priority and I don’t think that’s right.

    Science is not just a priority for males. It is a priority for lots of people. But right now, the bulk of scientists are men. And because science is only a tool without a brain of its own, it is only being deployed to solve problems these men can spot. And these men, particularly the richer, whiter ones, are missing a lot of problems. If scientists were more diverse, science as a tool could be used more efficiently. Until the bulk of white wealthy male scientists realize that being scientists does not mean the same thing as being omniscient spotters of all problems, it is not going to live up to its promise as a World Saver.

    It seems to me the athiest movement already concerns itself with issues of social justice. Things like the treatment of homosexuals and the exploitation of ill people by quack ‘faith healers’ are things I’ve seen discussed on athiest websites. Yes, science is central to the movement but I can’t see the problem with that- surely the scientific woldview is the bedrock on which we build the rest of our viewpoints? If not science, then what?

    Atheism may be doing some social justice, but it is obviously not doing enough. The fact that women have complained that (mostly white men) atheists as a group do not understand the problems women face means there are holes in atheism’s strategy–and women are just one group facing the kinds of problems that are either overlooked or underappreciated by the dominant group. And science cannot be a bedrock on which atheists build a social foundation so long as it is driven by a group of people with a very limited perspective of the world. See above.

    Furthermore, as has been stated above, science can only answer how questions. It can’t set priorities. I’ve seen atheists tell me that they don’t believe women should have the right to have abortions because they prioritize embryos as high as born people, or that the free market should be how we attempt to solve poverty, and science doesn’t enter the equation at all. Atheists have to decide to make social justice a priority for reasons other than science. It’s just not an instrument that can set values.

  161. Amphiox says

    The two candidates in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat being (thankfully) vacated by Joe LIEberman are Congressman Chris Murphy — invariably referred to as Murphy in the press — and former CT Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz — invariably called Susan[1].

    Well, one has to admit that Murphy is easier to pronounce (and spell) than Bysiewicz.

    And for the current media, that’s sometimes all it takes….

  162. says

    CR (@176):

    Please note that I was serious when I said I wasn’t making a argument, per se. That is, I wasn’t stating a position that I’m necessarily invested in defending; rather, I was picking through ideas that I find challenging and, to a certain degree, confounding. Perhaps I shouldn’t have done so out loud, here, but I did.

    Based on your response, I guess I didn’t do it with much clarity, though.

    Huh? Any idea how many bigoted fuckwits there are who would call themselves “scientific humanists”?

    I think the bigoted/not bigoted axis is orthogonal to the fetishizes science/doesn’t fetishize science question, at least as I understand the latter. Bigots are deficient in empathy, and that deficiency can just as easily afflict those who have a “correct” (i.e., questioning) approach to science as it can those who take a more devotional (i.e., fetishistic) approach to it, and just as easily those who take a frankly unscientific approach to life. People who use science to excuse their bigotry are bigots first, and “science fetishists” only after the fact.

    Or at least I think that’s true… but I’m not done thinking about it.

    No, de Botton’s bullshit isn’t at all like what she’s talking about.

    Well, OK… except that, in the very limited sense I was making the comparison, it sounds like you actually agree with me. Or, to put it another way, I’m pretty sure I agree with you about this:

    People need serious help from their communities in all sorts of ways, which doesn’t come from a church. But they’re not getting it, except (usually) through churches. Right now. Which is making things worse.

    People need help in ways that ought not have anything to do with theology, but too often churches have provided (and continue to provide) that help where secular communities have shamefully failed to do so (or worse, have actually been the reason help was needed).

    When oppressed people tell me, “look, you can’t really understand how much these institutions have helped us when the rest of you haven’t,” I can’t possibly argue the point. And yet, like you (if I’m understanding that last quoted sentence correctly), I think the fact that the help is coming from churches, in particular, will ultimately make things worse, and likely end up causing more oppression than it relieves, if we don’t fix things.

    This, of course, supports the idea that secularism/atheism and a concern for social justice really must go hand-in-hand. Aside from the obvious moral imperative that ought to impel everyone to work for social justice, there’s a purely strategic concern: If we secularists hope to progressively replace superstition with reason, we can’t afford to let the superstitious be better at caring for others than secular folk are.

    I’m not sure what all these ruminations add up to, but I’m sure I’m not arguing for, nor defending, any sort of blinkered, values-free hyperrationalism.

  163. says

    Amphiox:

    Well, one has to admit that Murphy is easier to pronounce (and spell) than Bysiewicz.

    I admit I had to look up the spelling of Bysiewicz myself, and I’ve known her for years! Nobody who follows CT politics has any trouble pronouncing it, though: She’s been a prominent figure for years, and it’s a pretty distinctive name.

    Murphy, OTOH, has a different problem: He’s just one of several politically prominent CT Murphys. Calling him Chris doesn’t help any, though, because there are also several prominent Chriss… one of whom is running for the U.S. House seat Chris Murphy is vacating!

    But who am I to talk, eh? Sometimes it seems as if every third male in the English-speaking world is named Bill (or some other version of William). Maybe we should all just have numbers, eh?

  164. says

    Thanks, oniongirl! Your first paragraph (@178) is a much richer explication of what I was clumsily struggling to grok/say; your third paragraph (about GLBT folk being thrown out of black churches) touches on why I fear depending on religious institutions for social justice will ultimately be harmful, no matter how much near-term good they do.

    So how to fight religion while continuing to understand how vital churches have been to so many oppressed people? How to not be accommodationist… while also not being heartless in the face of people who need help from wherever they can get it. That’s the tension I’m struggling with.

  165. Ichthyic says

    If scientists were more diverse, science as a tool could be used more efficiently.

    oh, i do recall getting the smackdown for making that argument when I was a grad student.

    I made that argument not just from a gender perspective, but a political one as well.

    Even then, I figured it was high time more scientists got involved in the politics that will inevitably shape their lives, too.

    Haven’t changed my mind about that in the slightest in the intervening 20 years since grad school.

  166. consciousness razor says

    I think the bigoted/not bigoted axis is orthogonal to the fetishizes science/doesn’t fetishize science question, at least as I understand the latter. Bigots are deficient in empathy, and that deficiency can just as easily afflict those who have a “correct” (i.e., questioning) approach to science as it can those who take a more devotional (i.e., fetishistic) approach to it, and just as easily those who take a frankly unscientific approach to life. People who use science to excuse their bigotry are bigots first, and “science fetishists” only after the fact.

    Or at least I think that’s true… but I’m not done thinking about it.

    Bigots aren’t all “deficient in empathy,”* because people do bigoted things for all sorts of reasons. That aside, whether they are fetishists first or second is up to you, honestly, because I don’t understand your point here. I don’t think we disagree on much, but I’m missing something or just confused by some of your earlier statements.

    *Though that does sound very sciencey.

    Well, OK… except that, in the very limited sense I was making the comparison, it sounds like you actually agree with me.

    I think there’s very little comparison to be made, but I understand what you were trying to say. I’m not at all fond of the superficial bullshit from de Botton, the Harvard humanists and Interfaith wankery. But I think even these bullshitters would agree that people don’t need temples, chaplains, rituals, etc., in the way they need the sort of community support and social services oniongirl and I were alluding to.

    As oniongirl said, there’s lots of work that needs to be done. Whatever humanists/secularists can’t accomplish ourselves in our own institutions, we have to work to get the rest of our society (the U.S. for myself, but wherever else) to support people so religious institutions won’t continue to dominate people’s lives. As you said, we shouldn’t do it merely because we want to increase our numbers (that should be our very last concern) or even because theology is bad, but because churches can’t handle the load, they’re terrible at handling it in the first place, and people desperately need more and better support than they’re getting.

    So, uhh… socialism! (Meaning that if you’re in the U.S., you should probably be pessimistic than you already are.)

  167. ibyea says

    @Icthyic
    Yeah, one of the reasons I am so against discrimination is that it prevents a substantial portion of brilliant potential scientists from ever becoming scientists. Seriously, think about how many more things could have been discovered with many different kinds of perspectives.

  168. says

    I seldom comment on Pharyngula, but that’s one of your best posts ever. I was, however, a little disappointed that gender wasn’t mentioned a bit more. How are women doing in science academia?

    gender, for once, wasn’t the topic of the conversation. so why should it have been mentioned more, in an article about race/ethnicity?
    really, other than as a matter of intersectionality that makes life even harder on women of color, this really wasn’t about women vs. men. especially since white women are just as responsible for the “white supremacist” viewpoint Hutchinson is talking about.

    Why is it that when women, and especially women of color, say something that offends a certain type of man, those men often find other(white) men to complain to about it?

    well. obviously it’s PZ’s job, as master of FTB, to chastise and put into place this [y'all know exactly which two words go here]!

    Outsiders should reasonably expect a group that identifies itself with the title “Atheist” to be primarily concerned about atheism in society.

    eric dear, do try to pay attention. Hutchinson said that socioeconomic issues are a large part of why people of color are religious. if you want to do something about the latter, you have to work to fix the former.
    Besides, dictionary atheism is worthless unless it’s merely a part of rationalism, and rationalism cannot be so limited as to exclude social justice.

    if a community is identifying as ‘atheist’ or ‘secularist’ it would seem that their goals should revolve around “breaking the shackles of superstition” as Hutchinson duly notes.

    you, too, should pay better attention, since Hutchinson criticizes the idea that atheism/rationalism should be only about “shackles of superstition”. plus, again, unless the reasons why people are religious are addressed, you won’t see people abandoning it in any significant numbers.

    So I think addressing racial disparity in higher ed will require addressing the larger problem of economic inequality.

    yes, but not exclusively. racist bias very much is part of this, too.

    hat I don’t support is the worst excesses of post modernism. Terms like “scientism” (not present as far as I can see) and “science fetishism” (present) are, in my experience, dog whistles of that type. My point was simply that there is a very useful and productive “relativism” that demonstrates the paucity of a “white, male, heterosexual, middle class etc” only movement that narrowly focusses, by accident at minimum, concerns primarily associated with that group, and at the same time there is a gross misuse of that “relativism” which is to claim that a specific piece of science is suspect or wrong because it comes from “insert whatever group you like here”.

    louis, it would serve you well to read up on modern philosophy of science. at this point, it’s well-recognized that people with the same background cannot weed out a bias they share, making their science biased for their common background. and given such things as theory-ladenness of observation, and the bias inherent in which questions are asked, how they are asked, and which hypotheses are tested how… yeah, sorry, monocultural research will often be “suspect” in the sense that it will be biased and will have flaws that wouldn’t have happened with a more multi-cultural peer-review and research process.

    I have no idea wtf a “social justice lens” is, and I don’t think anyone else really does either.

    most pathetic Argument from Ignorance ever.

    The problem is that there is no social justice perspective just the way that there isn’t a white male atheist perspective.

    yeah. because humans are objective observation-machines. idiot.

    by the same token you can be a secular humanist and not work for social justice.

    no. it’s not possible to be a humanist and not work on social justice. the notion of a humanist who doesn’t want to improve human well-being is absurd.

    What you cannot do as a secular humanist is believe in the irrational and supernatural or just plain wrong.

    that, OTOH, is wrong. secular != atheist, and secular != rationalist. secular simply means that religion isn’t relevant. so of course you can have religious secular humanists.

    There are no specific white male scientist eyes.

    HAHAHAHA

    Women’s rights? Bah. The position of women in the movement is prone,* like God science intended it to be!

    * 10 points to the person who can give me a citation for this quote. Yes, it is real.

    *facepalm*

    I didn’t think “avoid jargon” was objectionable even in the context of privilege discussions.

    sometimes “jargon” can’t be avoided. or are you going to say scientists shouldn’t talk about scientific theories because that use of “theory” is scientific jargon?
    besides, not every conversation should be a 101-level conversation. sometimes, we really need to move on to actually get to discussing the more complex aspects of certain issues.

    I don’t think the people you mention do fetishise science in precisely that way

    no? where have you been recently, when cupcakes were crawling out of the woodwork insisting that we shouldn’t take claims of harassment seriously until and unless there were statistically sound data on its occurrence?

    I think this “science fetishism” is no different from what creationists or fundamentalists do

    I don’t. science fetishism and scientism are the (metaphorical) worship of science as the ultimate, objective arbiter of all truth. which it isn’t. it’s simply the least buggy method of weeding out incorrect methods, but it’s always only as “objective” (or more precisely, “less subjective than everything else”) as the emergent properties of the scientist-society allow for.

    Tone trolling =/= criticism of misleading terms.

    your misunderstanding of jargon is not equivalent to something being a misleading term, any more than talking about theories as something other than guesswork is misleading.

    Science isn’t just a priority for males. I’m a woman and I care about the promotion of science as much as any man. I’m sorry but the wording in the article seems to imply that science is somehow only a male priority and I don’t think that’s right.

    what it actually says is that science has a predominantly white, and (somewhat less, but still) predominantly male perspective, for the reasons explained elsewhere in this post.

  169. says

    lilapwl (@185):

    If the link was just for my edification, thanks; it was edifying (though I haven’t yet dug through the comments). If it was meant as a rejoinder/critique of my comments, I can only guess you were referring to this (because I don’t see any of the other items as even close to anything I’ve said):

    4. I don’t understand why black people identify with the religion of the oppressor

    Let me be clear: This is not what I’ve been saying. Rather, I’ve been saying that I do understand why black people identify with religion, for all the reasons Hutchinson lays out in her response (though clearly my privilege mutes my ability to really grok in fullness). And I think that understandable identification is problematic not because it’s “the religion of the [presumably white] oppressor,” but because I believe theistic religion is inherently oppressive to everyone, owing to its essential character of arbitrary authoritarianism. As a secularist, I believe religion is in principle universally harmful, but I also recognize that churches serve as organs of social justice and support in ways that secular institutions too often do not, with the result that the disprivileged and oppressed are disproportionately driven into the arms of theism.

    Religious people are religious for all sorts of reasons, of course, and I’m not suggesting black churches are nothing but social service providers… but the usual atheist argument that, “you don’t need church to live a good life” must sound awfully hollow to people who in fact find themselves denied social justice everywhere but church.

    ***

    CR (@186):

    Bigots aren’t all “deficient in empathy,”…

    Probably that was a little glib. What I meant was…

    …because people do bigoted things for all sorts of reasons.

    …I think pretty much all the sorts of reasons people have for doing bigoted things ultimately reduce to some form of selfishness, and I think empathy is an (if not the) antidote to selfishness. And I think that how selfish you are, and to what extent your selfishness is counteracted by empathy, are separate questions from how worshipfully or questioningly you view science.

    Aside from that (potentially unhelpful) clarification, I agree that…

    I don’t think we disagree on much.

  170. bluentx says

    @Bill:
    Don’t cha know? “Empathy” (according to the Senate Judiciary Committee and “social justice” (according to Glenn Beck) are now on The List along with (*whispers*)liberal?

    Also, re: 2008 titles:

    It drove me crazy when, in the same sentence, it was “Senator McCain and Mrs. Clinton”. AARGH!
    What? She didn”t deserve it?

  171. AndrewD says

    jadehawk@188, you said

    it would serve you well to read up on modern philosophy of science.

    Can you please recomend some books to read to cure my ignorance?

  172. says

    Can you please recomend some books to read to cure my ignorance?

    books? unfortunately not. Everything I Know I Learned On Teh Interweb™, so I’ve basically accumulated the information from online articles, randomly stumbled-upon papers, etc. like this for example, or this. I don’t know that there are any Intro to Philosophy of Science that are purely descriptive rather than describing various ideas in a way that lead to whatever conclusion the author wanted to reach…

  173. Louis says

    LILAPWL, #168,

    Don’t speak to me like that. The same reason you don’t say that to women you’re not on diminutive terms with, is the reason not to apply it to gay men who aren’t on those terms with you.

    Oh dry the fuck up you pathetic little pissant. I’d use precisely the same language to anyone regardless of sex, sexuality or any other complicating factor. It was a slightly self deprecating, friendly, humorous drawl, a British affectation, not a comment on your hypersensitivity or sexuality. Get over yourself, it’s not all about you.

    It is however, all about me…unless you’re calling my mother a liar. ;-)

    As for the rest, I have investigated what Hutchinson meant, my dislike/disagreement with what I consider to be the erroneous aspects of that particular phrase have not dissuaded me as is very much evident from what I’ve written. Your decision not to acknowledge, note or perhaps even read that is yet further evidence of your doubling down.

    I no longer have any reason to treat you with a modicum of civility or seriousness on this issue. You’re grossly mistaken and persisting in it. Pick me up on the next erroneous nit you wish to pick.

    Louis

  174. AndrewD says

    Thank you Jadehawk, those references are a start. Books would only end up in the queue behind Bookchin’s Ecology of freedom. some Habermas and a history of the Thirty Years War (being the top three in the pile)
    We need longer days!

  175. 'Tis Himself says

    Sometimes it seems as if every third male in the English-speaking world is named Bill (or some other version of William).

    Every Tom, Dick and Harry is named Bill.

  176. says

    I have received a couple of complaints about Sikivu Hutchinson, complaints that were also cc’ed to a number of big names in the atheist movement, which is weird.

    That’s easy: She’s a black woman and therefore twice uppity. You fail at controlling her. Can’t be having black women running around having an opinion, can’t we?

    *sigh*
    If the trolls could actually agree why they hate FtB:
    It’s an echo-chamber, it’s divisive, people agree and attack people with a different pov recklessly, people aren’t speaking with one voice. PZ controlls everything, PZ fails at controlling the bloggers.
    I have a suggestion:
    All you complainers, go somewhere else and fight amongst yourselves who’s right first. The winner may then come here and complain.

    Nonny

    Science isn’t just a priority for males. I’m a woman and I care about the promotion of science as much as any man. I’m sorry but the wording in the article seems to imply that science is somehow only a male priority and I don’t think that’s right.

    You know, the value of the space programm rapidly shrinks when your primary concern is cuts in the food programm. Your privilege is showing.

  177. mobius says

    PZ said…

    Women are doing better in science academia; biology has parity, very roughly, but fields like physics and math are still lagging, and I wouldn’t say that publishing and advancement are equal even in biology.

    True about math. When I was in grad school, there were a handful of women in a sea of men. It is improving, though.

    From what I have seen it is more of a cultural problem in general than a problem within the math community. “Women aren’t good at math” is a common theme in American culture. Agreed, there are still a few professors that feel that way, but fewer all the time.

  178. ethicsgradient says

    I have a major problem with “the white supremacist logic of the New Atheist Movement”. ‘Supremacist’ means “One who believes in the supremacy of one of the races or of either of the sexes or of any other social group” (Oxford English Dictionary), and that is not some outdated definition – “white supremacist” is used to mean “racist”. It doesn’t mean that it is dominated by white people; it doesn’t mean that it is negligent about race issues. It is a direct accusation of conscious racism as an integral part of the ‘New Atheist Movement’.

    Will Sikivu Hutchinson be addressing this on her blog? It would make more sense to get her to explain her meaning there, rather than through the proxy of PZ.

  179. says

    Yes. Literally her labeling is accurate. If a group is focused primarily, nay! NIGH EXCLUSIVELY, on concerns of the white male members of their group and actively resent, belittle, minimize and cover up and view the concerns of minorities as women as not worth addressing, than it is White Male Supremacist.

    We see this all the time. Woman says “don’t do this” and is demonized by HUGE members of Skeptic Inc. The concerns of White Males is SUPREME over that of the lesser members.

  180. abb3w says

    @0, PZ Myers:

    Our goal should be to open our eyes wider and see that there are many valid reasons to embrace atheism — science is one, but social justice is another.

    Though atheism per se does not necessarily lead to social justice; it merely eliminates theistic “God wills it ought be thus!” basis for social injustices. “There is no god” is an is-proposition; the notion of justice involves an ordering relationship of is-choices on an ought/oughtn’t spectrum. (Pedantry: …though the spectrum is a linear ordering, not just a poset.) What sort of “justice” results depends on what ought-ordering is used as the basis.

    This requires moving from “atheism” as a bare proposition, to the class of atheist philosophies which include that proposition among others. Randite Capitalism is an atheistic philosophy. So is Marxist-Leninist Communism. (I presume PZ to remain a fan of neither.) Both use is-ought bridges that seem to lead to various outcomes intuitively unsatisfactory.

    The implicit question seems to be what kind of an is-ought basis will develop to predominate in the “New Atheist” movement.

  181. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Oh dry the fuck up you pathetic little pissant. I’d use precisely the same language to anyone regardless of sex, sexuality or any other complicating factor. It was a slightly self deprecating, friendly, humorous drawl, a British affectation, not a comment on your hypersensitivity or sexuality. Get over yourself, it’s not all about you.

    Begins with a repitition of the diminutive, and then elegantly encapsulates 90% of the arguments I’ve ever read for using the word “cunt” as an insult. Home run.

    Oh. You’re British.

    Four wickets, then.

  182. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    Don’t speak to me like that. The same reason you don’t say that to women you’re not on diminutive terms with, is the reason not to apply it to gay men who aren’t on those terms with you.

    Oh dry the fuck up you pathetic little pissant. I’d use precisely the same language to anyone regardless of sex, sexuality or any other complicating factor. It was a slightly self deprecating, friendly, humorous drawl, a British affectation, not a comment on your hypersensitivity or sexuality. Get over yourself, it’s not all about you.

    Louis, again, don’t call me “darling” or anything similar. You don’t get to decide what is oppressive to me as a gay man. Telling me what I have to put up with is the opposite of acting like an ally.

  183. Louis says

    A.E.

    You are so abundantly wrong it’s almost not worth bothering with.

    The “darling” part of my comment to LILAPWL was an affectation on MY part not an insult of HIM. It’s not even conceivably referring to his sexuality, unlike “cunt” it’s entirely gender neutral. It was a comment on my expansiveness and general “larger than life” persona, if people are going to leap on THAT tenuous a thing as being discriminatory they will leap on my shoes as being discriminatory. The Britishness of it is no more a defence than it coming from me, it’s a quirk, a stylistic thing like wearing a feather in your hat, no more no less. It’s expressly different from anything remotely like the use of the word “cunt”.

    The “darling” in my #156 is part of a humorously delivered apology for misreading…well I guess I didn’t misread them in retrospect given his double double down…his intent. It’s not even conceivably referring to his sexuality. Fuck me deftly, does what colour shirt I wore when delivering the apology matter, it had pink in it and we all know what THAT means. OMG HOMOPHOBIAAAAAAA!

    The diminutive in my #194, likewise, is sweet fuck all to do with LILAPWL’s sexuality and everything to do with his idiocy in this thread. You’re claiming the equivalent of “you’re only calling him a moron because he’s gay” as if a) it were true (it isn’t) and b) his sexuality is relevant to anything I actually said (it isn’t). You do get that people are rude to people they consider to be acting like total idiots right? Have I demonstrated this enough for you yet?

    How about you fuck off with LILAPWL and have a whine about the big, mean British guy who writes words you stupid fucks cannot comprehend, mmkay?

    Fuck me, there’s not enough sarcasm for pissants like you somedays.

    Oh wait…did I just say that because you’re white? Fuckwit.

    Louis

  184. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    A.E.

    You are so abundantly wrong it’s almost not worth bothering with.

    Hat trick? I confess I don’t know much about cricket.

    Oh. As for the rest of your tirade–
    I wasn’t commenting at all on your use of the word “darling”, so much as your defense of it when asked to refrain. I don’t see why this should be so confusing.

    How about you fuck off with LILAPWL and have a whine about the big, mean British guy who writes words you stupid fucks cannot comprehend, mmkay?

    I had no idea that you were big or mean.

  185. Louis says

    Addendum:

    Colloquialism. This is not the House of Commons. No one here is having a formal debate. No rules of conduct for specific respect of My Learned Friend has been asked for or established. As LILAPWL himself is so fond of saying “I owe no one here any respect at all”.

    I was using, and frequently do use, extremely colourful, colloquial language as part of a generally humorous nature. I apologise for that not one fucking bit. It’s as “offensive” in nature, intent and kind as my accent when I speak. OH NOES TEH ACCENT OF TEH OPPRESSORS!!!!!

    Don’t like it? Great. Tough. Guess what? Who the fuck said I like your use of colloquial language or your style? No one. It’s a tiresome irrelevance leapt on by deluded little inadequates who frankly have fuck all better to do than search high and low for offence. You might as well complain I am being offensive by not believing in your god…oh right, you don’t have one either. Get it yet?

    Fucking morons. I ask you.

    Louis

  186. Louis says

    LILAPWL,

    Louis, again, don’t call me “darling” or anything similar. You don’t get to decide what is oppressive to me as a gay man. Telling me what I have to put up with is the opposite of acting like an ally.

    I’m not telling you what you have to put up with as a gay man. Your gayness is irrelevant. I’m telling you what you have to put up with as a person. You are a person right? You do know your gayness doesn’t make you special, right? It doesn’t grant you the right to claim anything you don’t like automatically attacks your gayness. No more than I get to claim my colour automatically grants me the right to yell “racist” at anything I disagree with. Are you just disagreeing with me because I’m not white, LILAPWL?

    If you’d have said “don’t call me darling I personally don’t like it” I might have rolled my eyes but I’d have refrained. Your trying to make it an issue of your gayness is YOUR problem, not mine. “Darling” is not a reference to anything homosexual, sexual, or anything even remotely like it.

    It’s a qualitative, not quantitative, difference between that and, say, the word “faggot” or “cunt”. Words unambiguously linked to matters of sexuality or sex.

    Stop trying to find homophobia or “bad ally” in something that doesn’t contain it. If you don’t want me to call you “darling” then say “Hey, fuckface, don’t call me darling, I don’t like it” and if I’m feeling generous I’ll respect it. Don’t pretend it’s about your sexuality though, that is manifestly dishonest.

    Louis

  187. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Louis:
    Before you become any more unhinged, go back and read what you’ve written. Is it really that much of a stretch to think that “darling” could be interpreted the way it was? “Intent isn’t magic” and whatnot, as they say?

    …by deluded little inadequates …

    Are you obsessed with size?

  188. ChasCPeterson says

    Am I misremembering this, or was Louis the antagonist–vs. mostly SC, as I recall–in one of the truly epic thread-battles over use of the epithet ‘cunt’?

  189. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    Stop trying to find homophobia or “bad ally” in something that doesn’t contain it. If you don’t want me to call you “darling” then say “Hey, fuckface, don’t call me darling, I don’t like it” and if I’m feeling generous I’ll respect it. Don’t pretend it’s about your sexuality though, that is manifestly dishonest.

    Louis, the reason I don’t like it is because it has a homophobic function. It has a sexist function when applied to a woman whom one is not on mutually agreed diminutive terms.

    So I explained to you why I don’t like it. Notice that initially I did not call you anything. I just said “don’t do that” and I told you why.

    You coming back and telling me what I have to put up with as a gay man, because you’ve decided that everyone on Earth has to put up with you calling them darlings, is unequivocally not acting like an ally. It’s unfortunate that you can’t deal well with having this pointed out.

  190. Brownian says

    You do know your gayness doesn’t make you special, right? It doesn’t grant you the right to claim anything you don’t like automatically attacks your gayness.

    That’s not even fucking close to what LILAPWL is doing.

    Look, I know the British invented talking and it’s a goddamned travesty that the lesser races stole the idea of verbal communication along with Worcestershire sauce and tea, but for those of us in the colonies, “Darling” is pretty unambiguously used to refer to women, or men that are considered less than the strappingest examples of football hooligans.

    You used an affectation in a critical way, and it backfired, and someone told you why. This is not the time to double down, this is the time to make a mental note not to use ‘Darling’ as an indication of smarm to someone who’s asked you not to do so, regardless of your personal feelings for him. Does that make sense, or do holes get shallower when you continue to dig in the Queen’s English?

    I mean, Jesus, you think you’re the only boisterous personality here and that somehow gives you a fucking pass when called out? Fuck me, I was being asked to modify my terminology here back when Simon Cowell was still British.

  191. Aratina Cage says

    m I misremembering this, or was Louis the antagonist–vs. mostly SC, as I recall–in one of the truly epic thread-battles over use of the epithet ‘cunt’?

    I guess we’ll never know if Pharyngula-on-Scienceblogs’s comments are not restored.

    @Louis
    I think you are not getting what life is like a pitbull with lipstick is saying about darling. Applied to a man one is not friends with, it connotes that the man is considered an inferior by the speaker, like the speaker considers women and children inferiors; that is sexist and ageist. Applied to a gay man, it becomes your typical homophobia of telling gay men that they are inferior women-like sub-men who need to “man up”. You might as well have called him “girl”. It doesn’t have to be directly about sexuality to be homophobic. Does that help you make sense of the accusation you are facing?

  192. Aratina Cage says

    I guess we’ll never know if Pharyngula-on-Scienceblogs’s comments are not restored.

    That is, we’ll never know from searching through currently nonexistent comments. If someone like SC or Louis or anyone else who was there remembers or confirms Chas’s suspicions, then we will know.

  193. Walton says

    Oh dry the fuck up you pathetic little pissant. I’d use precisely the same language to anyone regardless of sex, sexuality or any other complicating factor. It was a slightly self deprecating, friendly, humorous drawl, a British affectation, not a comment on your hypersensitivity or sexuality. Get over yourself, it’s not all about you.

    Er… no. Antiochus is right. That’s not ok. You don’t get to decide which terms are and aren’t offensive to members of a marginalized group. And intent isn’t magic.

    (And I’m British, so I don’t think this is a cultural misunderstanding.)

  194. illithid says

    (And I’m British, so I don’t think this is a cultural misunderstanding.)

    You go, girl!

  195. says

    Apropos of nothing (sorry, I know this isn’t TET, but maybe a tiny aside will be forgiven?), my mother did some genealogical research back in the day to investigate (and, as it turned out, conclusively disprove) the family legend that my father was descended from the lost Dauphin of the French Revolution. In the process, she traced the family back to my 8th- (or 9th- or somethingth-) great grandfather, whose name was…

    Darling Dauphin!

    But even so, you don’t have to call me “darling,” darling.[1]

    But seriously, folks… as a more-or-less disinterested 3rd party, I took Louis’ use of darling as casual flippancy, consistent with his well-established flamboyant verbal style (which, Louis, is off-putting at least as often as it is entertaining, and inherently risks getting you into this sort of dispute… just so you know).

    Absent that context, though, I would’ve taken one man calling another darling exactly as lilapwl took it… and that’s independent of anyone’s actual sexuality. In the context of an argument (and absent some actual personal relationship that would justify the term), a man calling a man darling is “fightin’ words,” Louis, and you ignore that at your peril.

    ___
    [1] Sorry ’bout the ad. I thought I could avoid it by linking to a specific timestamp, but apparently not.

  196. says

    Addendum:

    A man calling a woman darling absent a personal relationship that justifies it is wrong, too, of course; it’s just a slightly different flavor of wrong than what happened here.

    A woman calling a man darling probably means you’re ordering pie in a diner in the South. ;^)

  197. ethicsgradient says

    @200 “We Are Ing The Matrimonial Collective”,
    No. She does not talk about “White Male Supremacist”, she talks about “White Supremacist”. It’s not about an attitude to women, it’s an accusation of white supremacist thought – which is Stormfront/KKK thought. It’s a common term, and it is used to mean people that extreme and active in their hatred.

    It surprises me that few people are noticing that a specific problem Hutchinson has is people saying that “non-believers who argue for a more nuanced approach to or progressive understanding of the political, social, and cultural appeal of religion are toady apologists.” In other words, she’s asking for understanding of accommodationism and de Botton’s appreciation of churchiness, and for people like Prof Myers to stop criticising it. I’m surprised to see PZ accept this so readily; it’ll be interesting to see how he changes his emphasis as a result of this talking to.

  198. says

    ethicsgradient:

    In other words, she’s asking for understanding of accommodationism and de Botton’s appreciation of churchiness, and for people like Prof Myers to stop criticising it.

    Yes, there’s a superficial, structural resemblance between (part of) Hutchinson’s argument and de Botton’s, as I noted upthread. The difference, though, is that (AFAICT) de Botton values churchiness mostly for inconsequential, aesthetic reasons (e.g., for privileged white guys like me who occasionally miss church because we remember the singing fondly), while if I’m understanding Hutchinson correctly, she’s begging us to understand that churches have been (and still are), for better or worse, a vital fucking refuge for oppressed people.

    It’s one thing to preach secularism to — and mock the accommodationism of — people who can easily do without church; it’s another thing altogether to talk that way to people whose lives and dignity are being defended by churches on a daily basis.

    And that’s why secularists and atheists must be concerned about social justice: A more just secular society is a necessary precondition for a more secular society.

    I’m surprised to see PZ accept this so readily

    Perhaps Dr. Myers has a more nuanced understanding of Dr. Hutchinson’s own more nuanced understanding of things, eh?

  199. Aratina Cage says

    But seriously, folks… as a more-or-less disinterested 3rd party, I took Louis’ use of darling as casual flippancy, consistent with his well-established flamboyant verbal style (which, Louis, is off-putting at least as often as it is entertaining, and inherently risks getting you into this sort of dispute… just so you know). –Bill Dauphin

    It was more of a barb than flippant I would say. Here it is again:

    Then, my darling, I apologise for questioning your motives. But you’ve still grossly misread me.

    He apologizes, but he also wants life is like a pitbull with lipstick to remember his inferior place in this heterosexual man’s world.

  200. Tony says

    Aratina @214:

    I think you are not getting what life is like a pitbull with lipstick is saying about darling. Applied to a man one is not friends with, it connotes that the man is considered an inferior by the speaker, like the speaker considers women and children inferiors; that is sexist and ageist. Applied to a gay man, it becomes your typical homophobia of telling gay men that they are inferior women-like sub-men who need to “man up”. You might as well have called him “girl”. It doesn’t have to be directly about sexuality to be homophobic. Does that help you make sense of the accusation you are facing?

    Thank you for this. I just spent the last half an hour catching up on the comments in this thread, and I didn’t take Louis’ comment to be anything homophobic. Your explanation clearly explains why it is.
    Even a gay man (speaking of myself) can miss out on homophobia.

  201. Ichthyic says

    Does that help you make sense of the accusation you are facing?

    so long as it’s understood that Loius grew up with different sense of sensibility than you might have, sure.

    I frankly weep at the landmine Pharyngula has become for anyone who grew up with different sensibilities.

    it’s gotten beyond tedious, and I’m happy to catch flak for saying so.

    you are literally frightening away other people who might like to post here, but are afraid they might say the wrong thing and step on a fucking land mine.

  202. Tony says

    darksmurf:

    I am calling bullshit. “privilege” “science-fetishism / scientism” “white supremacist logic” “social justice lens”. These are all bullshit terms. I have no idea wtf a “social justice lens” is, and I don’t think anyone else really does either.

    You admit that you have no idea what a “social justice lens” is, indicating that you haven’t educated yourself on the concept, yet you readily dismiss it from the jump.
    How can you call something bullshit if you don’t even know what that ‘something’ is?
    Go educate yourself first.
    Then decide if the concept makes sense or not.
    Then you can justifiably call bullshit.
    Actually, if you read for comprehension, a lightbulb *should* go off in your head and you *won’t* call bullshit.
    Once you’ve done that, go research the other terms.
    You calling bullshit on concepts you haven’t even done proper research for shows your massive privilege. You haven’t taken the time to educate yourself on matters that affect others, *and* you expect your experiences and _wisdom_ to trump everyone else’s (and to be indicative of how others should view the world; i.e. ‘white supremacist logic’ is bullshit, everyone should know that and agree with me).
    You’ve just handwaved the problems and issues many people are trying to address and effectively said “this stuff isn’t real. What you folks are talking about isn’t important. My opinion is all that matters. And no, it doesn’t matter if I’ve been intellectually honest enough to educate myself on these terms before drawing up a conclusion”.

    I hope you comprehend now why people are dismissive of you. You have the power at your fingertips to educate yourself. Yet you don’t.
    With great power comes great responsibility.

  203. says

    Aratina Cage (@225):

    Just to be clear, I didn’t mean to be defending Louis’ usage; if it seemed as if I was, I apologize.

    I do believe it was just a verbal affectation on his part, rather than any intentional dig at lilapwl’s sexuality, but that doesn’t excuse the subsequent defiant defense of what he’d been told was hurtful.

    This tendency to dig in rather than acknowledge others’ responses is not uncommon ’round these parts (FSM knows I’ve been guilty of it): If Louis had said, when first challenged, “I’m sorry, that was just a silly verbal tic on my part; I didn’t mean it the way it sounded,” I’m guessing we all could’ve save vast numbers of pixels. Too many of us, to often, can’t seem to manage that, though.

  204. Brownian says

    you are literally frightening away other people who might like to post here, but are afraid they might say the wrong thing and step on a fucking land mine.

    I’d like evidence of this, please.

    Secondly, land mine? Are you fucking kidding?

    Let’s look at this grandiose transgression:

    Then, my darling,

    Don’t speak to me like that

    Holy shit, call in the M*A*S*H unit because we’ve got heavy fucking casualities. Oh, the fucking humanity. How has LILAPWL not standing trial in The Hague right now?

    Oh, wait, it was Louis who had a fucking meltdown because someone told him not to speak to him like that.

    There, there’s your flak. How are your limbs? Not fucking blown off? Crazy, because, y’know, OMG! land mine.

    I mean really, is it that fucking hard to not use racist slurs, the words cunt, twat, slut, retard, and the psychological ones?

    It’s English. You’ve got half a fucking million words to choose from. If someone says, “Don’t call me that”, don’t fucking scream about how it’s your fucking heritage and your personality and blah, blah, fucking blah.

    Land mine.

    Give me a fucking break.

  205. Amphiox says

    while if I’m understanding Hutchinson correctly, she’s begging us to understand that churches have been (and still are), for better or worse, a vital fucking refuge for oppressed people.

    Precisely so.

    The solution to the dilemma is to create a better refuge than the churches.

    So obvious in the recognition, so difficult in the implementation.

  206. Aratina Cage says

    @Ichthyic

    you are literally frightening away other people who might like to post here, but are afraid they might say the wrong thing and step on a fucking land mine.

    Are you speaking to me, Ichthyic? Because that would be quite funny to me if you were. I’ve stepped in my fair share of “land mines” here and around the block as have most of us. It happens.

    so long as it’s understood that Loius grew up with different sense of sensibility than you might have, sure.

    Which is why I tried to explain to Louis how being called darling by some straight man during a quarrel with that man might feel like an attack on one’s sexuality if one is a gay man. I doubt Louis would be defending his usage of that word if he had said that to any of the women of Pharyngula without getting an acupunctured-to-death porcupine handed to him on a bronze-age platter with a note containing do-it-yourself insertion instructions.

    it’s gotten beyond tedious, and I’m happy to catch flak for saying so.

    As Bill Dauphin said, Louis’ commenting style, which often catches the eyes of the pitizens as something else on Pharyngula that they can whine about, carries a greater risk of this than most others’ would. As for this whole diversion being tedious, yes it probably is. I just didn’t want there to be an impression that what Louis said couldn’t possibly be homophobic, because I think it could be.

  207. Louis says

    OK then, time to fight the gang! Fun, fun, fun! ;-)

    1) A.E., #210, Size? Oh yes, I’m OBSESSED with it. {Eyeroll}

    2) Chas, #211, Well aren’t we the little shit stirrer! Well done you. Yes it was me, yes I was wrong, yes I’ve apologised and changed my mind. And? Is being wrong that big a deal to you? Oops sorry…I used the word “big” I must be obsessed with size.

    3) Everyone:

    In Nottingham people call each other “me duck”. Men, women, gay men, straight men…everyone. Actually, it’s more generational/class based now than anything, it’s fallen out of favour a bit with the younger crowd trying to emulate trendy Londoners. I’m from the West country, deepest darkest West country as it happens, calling people “me darlin'”, or “moy lover” is common. Men, women, everyone. It’s an affectation NOT a diminutive for “womanly homosexual” or whatever.

    As it happens not only do I thoroughly grasp the “calling a gay guy ‘my darling’ can be indicative of prejudice/subtle reference to sexuality” thing, I think I’ve said as much in different topics a few times. Is it possible that any of you grasp that this isn’t what happened here, my magical intentions (which are SO not magical) aside?

    It’s a phrase/style, that as Bill notes, and perhaps I should have emphasised more subsequently, that is redolent with ambiguity. I don’t resent the pushback, far from it actually, I resent the implication that I used that phrase specifically because LILAPWL was gay. Intentionally or unintentionally. I disagree with the claim that this is inherent within that phrasing. It can be but it isn’t necessarily so.

    His gayness is utterly, totally irrelevant to my phraseology. I lived in Nottingham for a while, if I called him “me duck” would you all be hammering me for that? After all “duck”—->”duckie”—->”derogatory term for homosexual”. What you all seem to be missing is you’ve made a false positive here. Even British Walton.

    If I’d said “old fruit” instead of “my darling” would you have objected to the “fruit” part? After all we all know what THAT can mean, amirite? ;-)

    By the way, if I’d used “old fruit”, it would have equally been an affectation, just of a different class, time and indeed region. It would also be a perfectly innocent, if ambiguous internationally, colloquialism. Fucking hell, Gielgud used to call practically everyone “my darling”, was he some kind of raving homophobe using secret linguistic codes to keep the gays in their “place”? Erm…no.

    Me using “my darling” to LILAPWL is nothing to do with his gayness, it’s an affectation. Try to grasp this. I’ve grasped fully that it can be derogatory, try to grasp that it isn’t necessarily so. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. It was used not in the process of heated argument, but in a friendly to and fro where I was responding to LILAPWL politely….or as politely as I can manage in the face of obtuseness.

    Brownian and Bill actually hit on it perfectly:

    Look, I know the British invented talking and it’s a goddamned travesty that the lesser races stole the idea of verbal communication along with Worcestershire sauce and tea, but for those of us in the colonies, “Darling” is pretty unambiguously used to refer to women, or men that are considered less than the strappingest examples of football hooligans.

    And

    Absent that context, though, I would’ve taken one man calling another darling exactly as lilapwl took it… and that’s independent of anyone’s actual sexuality. In the context of an argument (and absent some actual personal relationship that would justify the term), a man calling a man darling is “fightin’ words,” Louis, and you ignore that at your peril.

    Apart from the bit about “less than strappingest football hooligans”, that’s all true, it depends on where you are. I’ve bolded the key bits.

    Do you really not grasp that this is largely a cultural thing? Really? Even when it’s acknowledged right there in your very own criticisms? These criticisms are valid, as far as they go, but they are valid within a certain (perhaps largely, although not exclusively, American) context.

    Look I am happy to acknowledge that my choice of words was….let’s be diplomatic and….fuck it let’s not… unsuitable for an international audience, not the best choice, easily misinterpreted, potentially homophobic and insulting and thus wrong. I’m a big (ooops there I go again) enough boy to admit that.

    As much as Walton might disagree, though, this is largely a cultural miscommunication, mostly my fault if fault has to be assigned, this is not a conversation that happened absent context. LILAPWL knows my frivolous style as well as I know his…style. He’s corrected me on a number of things and I’ve thought, agreed and apologised without reservation. Why not do that here? Mainly because I ain’t doing what I am being told I’m doing. You’re expecting me to acquiesce to your specific (dare I say parochial?) interpretation(s) of an ambiguous phrase. No. Sorry. Do any of you grasp the lack of black and whiteness here? Are you really, REALLY going to insist that your interpretations (derived in no small part from your specific cultural heritages) of a phrase are globally binding? That different cultural heritages can lead to different interpretations and that, shock horror, this is not a democratic process where majority rules?

    If LILAPWL and anyone else want to ignore my style, my history and every other aspect of relevant context, cultural or otherwise, great, I get to ignore his claims to gayness, his, his style, his history, and all relevant cultural context. My conscience therefore is clear. Fair, no? What’s sauce for the goose…

    If his gayness is relevant to a perfectly innocent, if potentially ambiguous, comment, then my non-whiteness is relevant to his, perfectly innocent if potentially ambiguous, arguing with me. After all white folks argue with non-white folks to keep them down, right? It’s a subtle tactic… I wouldn’t expect you whiteys to understand…Oh wait…am I being unfair and illogical and ignorant of relevant context? Why yes I am, and DELIBERATELY SO!

    I’d never claim “racism” for that reason, not in a month of Sundays. It could be the case, but based on what I know of LILAPWL I have absolutely no reason to think it is the case. So I don’t think it. Context. It matters.

    {Watch this be misused by the way, I can’t wait}

    What I categorically will not have, however, is this sort of thing:

    He apologizes, but he also wants life is like a pitbull with lipstick to remember his inferior place in this heterosexual man’s world.

    No, you do not get to tell me what I wanted. I wanted LILAPWL to laugh. I fucked up, clearly, but if you want to know what my intent was, that was it (was it magic enough for you?). It’s a throwaway comment, an affectation, not even considered as a put down. Unless you’re all suddenly psychic don’t claim to know my intent better than I do. If intent is not magic, and we all know it ain’t, then you claiming some damning negative magical intent on my part is as daft as me claiming some exculpatory magical intent. This shit might work on the rubes, but it won’t work on me.

    4) One thing I am explicitly not doing is trying to claim “gay folks should not be offended by ‘my darling’ ever”. What I would tentatively claim is that not every “my darling” is referent to “hey faggot” or cognate thereof. Note, I am not denying it can be I’m denying it universally is. Perhaps to you all manly Americans such a colloquialism is questioning of anything less than your obvious All Star Quarterback CEO Astronaut Maleness (two can play at your game Brownian) but it isn’t to me and I’m far from alone. Again, context matters. This isn’t some unambiguous sexual/sexist referent like…wait for it…{Chas…get ready}…”cunt”. Hurrah! It can learn!

    Sorry, but none of us get to conveniently ignore that context when it suits us. I got reemed in the past, and rightly so, for ignoring the context surrounding “cunt”, and I am at least partially wrong here for failing to properly acknowledge/consider the full context around “my darling”, but then so is LILAPWL and the rest of you. If context matters for me, it also matters for you.

    Louis

  208. Nightjar says

    I frankly weep at the landmine Pharyngula has become for anyone who grew up with different sensibilities.

    (…)

    you are literally frightening away other people who might like to post here, but are afraid they might say the wrong thing and step on a fucking land mine.

    Seriously? I don’t get it. Anyone who grew up with different sensibilities, upon being told something they said offended another person in a way that was not intended can just say “I’m sorry, I grew up with different sensibilities and I didn’t know what I said would come across that way to you, but now that I know I’ll try to keep it in mind in the future”. And everything will be fine, I’m sure. No need to get defensive, people will understand you grew up with different sensibilities and you didn’t mean to sound that way if you just say so and stop doing what caused them unintended distress.

    I really don’t get why the possibility of this happening would frighten people away.

  209. illithid says

    Again, context matters. This isn’t some unambiguous sexual/sexist referent like…wait for it…{Chas…get ready}…”cunt”.

    Or “prick”. Oh, but wait, that’s not gendered. Or something.

  210. Aratina Cage says

    @Bill Dauphin

    Aratina Cage (@225):

    Just to be clear, I didn’t mean to be defending Louis’ usage; if it seemed as if I was, I apologize.

    No need to apologize. I didn’t see what you said as defending him at all and agreed with your whole comment except on whether the darling was just flippant (careless) or more.

    I do believe it was just a verbal affectation on his part, rather than any intentional dig at lilapwl’s sexuality, but that doesn’t excuse the subsequent defiant defense of what he’d been told was hurtful.

    That is probably right. I don’t believe the aspect of it that stood out to life is like a pitbull with lipstick was intentional, either, but I do think Louis idiotically used it as a put down.

    This tendency to dig in rather than acknowledge others’ responses is not uncommon ’round these parts (FSM knows I’ve been guilty of it): If Louis had said, when first challenged, “I’m sorry, that was just a silly verbal tic on my part; I didn’t mean it the way it sounded,” I’m guessing we all could’ve save vast numbers of pixels. Too many of us, to often, can’t seem to manage that, though.

    Sometimes, though, it is that a person really doesn’t understand (out of ignorance) where the other person is coming from, and in those cases an explanation can be helpful. I guess we’ll see where Louis goes next.

  211. Brownian says

    His gayness is utterly, totally irrelevant to my phraseology.

    You know what this reminds me of? This reminds me of the time Pharyngula broke Blag Hag’s survey.

    Was it intentional? No.

    Was her survey still broken? Yes.

    Was PZ right to say, we didn’t mean it? Yes.

    Was he right to get all petulant and snotty? No.

    What seems to be the hardest fucking thing for people to understand here, and I don’t know why, because most of you seem to have developed enough human sense to learn how to speak English and manage a keyboard, is that sometimes you step on somebody without intending to.

    When that happens, what people do is not say “How dare you get upset?! I didn’t mean it, and I’m from wherever” or whatever convoluted explanations for why you’re the most blameless person ever.

    This is what LILAPWL wrote, for the umpteenth time:

    Don’t speak to me like that. The same reason you don’t say that to women you’re not on diminutive terms with, is the reason not to apply it to gay men who aren’t on those terms with you.

    What he did was give you a context for why what you said was offensive. That you didn’t mean it doesn’t make homophobia go away, it just means that you didn’t mean it that way.

    Instead, you had a fucking shit fit. And that’s when the crap started flying. For what it’s worth, I agree with you that you most likely didn’t mean it in the way Aratina Cage suggests, because I think you’re a generally honest person. What not meaning it in that way does not do is eradicate the history of words like Darling‘s use in diminishing homosexuals.

    So, his gayness is in fact completely related to your phraseology. I know you wish it wasn’t. I guarantee you he wishes it wasn’t even more than you.

    There’s a point at which you simply say, “I never realised, and believe me, I did not mean it that way, but point taken, because what I care about even more than my own pet word preference is not contributing to the myriad ways in which homosexuals are treated as less than full members of their gender.”

  212. Brownian says

    Or “prick”. Oh, but wait, that’s not gendered.

    Prick and dick are indeed gendered, and people have been and do get called out for using them here.

    But don’t worry if you forget. Nobody expects honesty or consistency from you. You’ve got your little self-centred self-interest, and we understand that about you.

  213. Aratina Cage says

    @Tony

    Even a gay man (speaking of myself) can miss out on homophobia.

    Yes, this happens for me sometimes, too.

    I didn’t take Louis’ comment to be anything homophobic. Your explanation clearly explains why it is.

    I should say that I’m not super confident that my explanation is the same as what life is like a pitbull with lipstick’s would be, but I’m glad mine was understandable.

  214. Aratina Cage says

    @Louis

    Sorry, but none of us get to conveniently ignore that context when it suits us.

    I thought I took the context completely into account. You were seen as putting a barbed dogwhistle into your apology on purpose according to the context. And we all know you know that life is like a pitbull is a gay man. I’m not convinced you have an out here, Louis.

  215. consciousness razor says

    I doubt Louis would be defending his usage of that word if he had said that to any of the women of Pharyngula without getting an acupunctured-to-death porcupine handed to him on a bronze-age platter with a note containing do-it-yourself insertion instructions.

    Yeah, honestly, I get the feeling the way he reacted has more to do with disliking LILAPWL and knowing there are other pharyngulites who feel similarly. I have a hard time picturing him making such a big deal out of it in most other situations. Perhaps he’ll correct me on this, hopefully in 250 words or less.

  216. Brownian says

    And I’m just now considering that “shit fit” is probably some sort of reference to epileptic seizures. I’ll explain my past use of it as a result of having spent my formative years in that terrible time known as the 80’s, but won’t use it again unless I learn that it is indeed a neutral term.

  217. Louis says

    Brownian,

    I have not had a meltdown, but I am pissed off. Is that permitted?

    “My darling” is categorically different from “cunt” “twat” etc etc etc. “My darling” is NOT an unambiguous sexual/sexist/homophobic referent.

    Look above, I’ve not denied it can be. It CAN BE. CAN BE =/= IS. It’s sufficiently ambiguous to be deserving of consideration within relevant context.

    “Cunt” might not be considered a sexist insult by a Brit because they don’t think it is, but it is still unambiguously a sexist insult, even removed from context of anything other than the fact it’s used derogatorily to a person, because of what it is referring to and how it refers to it. The Brit would be wrong. This Brit WAS wrong. “My darling” simply does not have that same degree of unambiguity.

    Let me tell you precisely why I am pissed off. I think LILAPWL is being very clever, very deliberately. Dishonestly so. Since he could not and can not defend his ridiculous assertion re: my not reading Hutchinson’s work (he’s so wrong about that it’s not even funny), he decided to pull his usual stunt and cry “foul” at the first thing he could find. He’s playing the “gay card” dishonestly in my opinion.

    Oh sorry, only RWAs, MRAs, JAQers and trolls can derail for dummies now? Shocking!

    That’s not to say it cannot be played honestly, and it has been. I just don’t think it is being played honestly HERE. See the difference? I might be wrong, but…see below. I’ll elaborate.

    Anyway, I’m not melting/doubling down, I’m not capitulating to someone I do not fucking trust an inch on this, and who, in my experience, cannot see past the end of his nose when it suits him to do so. In fact, very much like you’re doing with your insistence that MY words me what YOU say they do.

    Note again, I acknowledge, freely and without reservation that yes I see precisely HOW they COULD BE read and used that way. I acknowledge equally freely and without reservation that I was in error to not consider that context fully, and not to mention that consideration when LILAPWL chastised me.

    No caveat, that’s that.

    Do you not grasp the ambiguity yet? Am I suddenly to be relegated to the ranks of MRA/homophobe/whatever because I have genuinely different cultural experiences from your own, and that the meanings I impart to my words count every bit as much as the meanings you impart to them?

    You’re not being even remotely fair. I don’t consider LILAPWL a lesser being on account of his sexuality, hell I’ve never considered ANYONE a lesser being on account of anything, my problem’s the reverse if anything. I’m adrift in a universe of stars, not turds. I strongly resent LILAPWL’s leap for the least charitable interpretation of an INNOCENT phrase. The leap for the diminutive rather than the expansive. The derogatory rather than the affectionate and inclusive. The subtly discriminatory rather than the wryly humorous. Note that. It’s not “cunt”, it’s not “faggot”, it’s not “nigger”, it’s “my darling”. An affectation. A colloquialism that can be as innocent as a very innocent new born lamb in a big bath of innocence freshly squeezed from kittens. It can also not be, but that is dependent on context, squeeze puppies into that bath, suddenly not so innocent.

    Ok, I’ve drifted.

    Who am I? Come on. Seriously. It does matter. Do I generally give the impression of being deeply serious (I can be, I rarely bother here.)? Do I generally give the impression of being utterly clueless as to the subtleties of language and it’s use in a discriminatory fashion? Do I generally give the impression of being less than affectionate with most people, even the dribblers? I think the answers are no, no and no. I think I’ve earned more than a little benefit of the doubt.

    Cue LILAPWL to tell me he owes no one here anything. Okay then, he who lives by the sword shall surely die by the sword. I now do not have to consider his feelings where ambiguous potentially innocent phrases are concerned.

    To compare what I said to “cunt” etc….Brownian, I thought better of you. I’m bitterly disappointed. They’re not even on the same page…

    …Okay, okay that was also a dictionary joke. Look I have a problem…sue me.

    So more than hurt Fee-Fees (I’ll get over it, trust me), I think he’s WRONG. Logically, factually wrong. I think YOU are wrong. I think everyone making the claims you’re making is W.R.O.N.G.. Or is trusting that someone honestly disagrees with you only suitable when you say so?

    As a continuation from above, LILAPWL could be being entirely honest. Guess what, he could have phrased it better too. Could I have phrased what I said better? Sure. Acknowledged a few times now, do I have to keep repeating myself to hammer it home? How about “Louis, I know what you’re getting at, but you do realise, particularly to an American gay man, “my darling” reads like a derogatory diminutive”. Same message, less accusatory, perfectly within the spirit of the discussion. I would even accept “Hey Fuckface” in place of “Louis” with or without a winking smiley.

    But he didn’t say that, and hence why I am not charitably disposed when considering the honesty of his complaint. He went for the “you are being homophobic by way of sexism” line as opposed to the “you do realise that could be interpreted as…” line. Hard phrases “don’t talk to me like that”, “you don’t talk Xs or Ys that way.” Well sorry but I do. I use the phrase “my darling” daily in practically all circumstances and to all people, as a humorous little affectation. Same goes for “old bean”, “old stick”, “old horse”, “old fruit”, “my lover”, “me duck”, “matey”, and a billion other little cheeky phrases designed only to signal wry humour, a wee bit of charm if I flatter myself, and just occasionally the odd bit of perfectly appropriate and collegial affection. Not patronising, not diminutive, not derogatory. The opposite of all of those. Self deprecating, friendly, warm, inclusive.

    Like I said, I’m chuffed to the tits that my intentions are not magic and my words could be interpreted in a bad way. I will admit to it and understand it before, during and after this conversation until the end of my days. What I cannot and will not do is dishonestly acquiesce to the claim that what you say my words mean they absolutely do mean because that’s YOUR interpretation.

    Guess what, old fruit, your interpretations are no more binding on me than mine are on you.

    Deal with it.

    Louis

  218. Louis says

    Aratina,

    I understood all what you’ve said BEFORE this conversation ever took place. For fuck’s sake, I’ve argued for most of it myself! A huge portion of what you’ve written is utterly unobjectionable to me. A few bits are…well…rather objectionable!

    Could my phrase be seen as a “barbed dogwhistle” (good term by the way), sure. It could be. How many times have I agreed that now? Do you not yet grasp that that does not mean it is?

    Nothing to do with my intent, nothing to do with how nice a chap (or not) I am. Everything to do with the fact that the interpretation of that phrase is not clear cut, not hard and fast, not demonstrably the same for everyone. It is context dependent. The cultural context, which yes you appear to have failed to consider, is relevant here.

    I also notice that none of you have picked up on the fact that I haven’t called LILAPWL “my darling” since, nor will I. I’m happy to not do it if he doesn’t like it. I’m happy to acknowledge the perfect validity of him seeing it as a homophobic slur by way of casual misogyny. I’m not happy to allow that to be a universal claim for an ambiguous phrase whose context you are most certainly not fully considering.

    Clear yet?

    Louis

  219. illithid says

    All of this over a single articulation of the word “darling”. Let the comedy continue!

  220. Louis says

    Consciousness Razor,

    This tendency to dig in rather than acknowledge others’ responses is not uncommon ’round these parts (FSM knows I’ve been guilty of it): If Louis had said, when first challenged, “I’m sorry, that was just a silly verbal tic on my part; I didn’t mean it the way it sounded,” I’m guessing we all could’ve save vast numbers of pixels. Too many of us, to often, can’t seem to manage that, though.

    (Nearly wrote “blokequote”…good start Louis, good start).

    1) I don’t dislike LILAPWL. I don’t know LILAPWL enough to dislike him. Do I get pissed off with him occasionally (this is the second time to my imperfect memory in years of commenting here, at SB, with PZ on TO…I’ve been around a few years! ;-) )? Sure. Do I find his sometimes rather pathetic nitpicking style annoying? Sure. Is that significant? Not really.

    My anger, very genuinely existent, is directed at what I consider a deliberate misrepresentation, a deliberate assumption of the least charitable interpretation of some words, and an almost pathological parochialism on the part of some to not acknowledge the world beyond their own borders when it comes to perfectly innocent, if ambiguous, phrases.

    2) If LILAPWL had said: “Hey Louis (or Fuckface, happy either way), you do know I could easily see that as a homophobic slur because blah blah blah” as he has done so eloquently many times in the past perhaps my response would have been less….vehement. Ever think of that?

    Or can gay people not be arseholes too?

    3) Too many words? Awwww sowwy. We in the educated world have these things called books, they contain what we specialists call “lots of words”. I realise that might be a bit technical for you, but with suitable beating and dunking in libraries I’m sure eventually you’ll get it.

    Does my sarcasm sufficiently convey my contempt for your irrelevant, dog-piling complaint?

    Louis

  221. Louis says

    Aratina,

    Louis, it might be time to TITTZT.

    Perhaps so, but this is a case of “physician heal thyself” methinks.

    Louis

  222. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    I resent the implication that I used that phrase specifically because LILAPWL was gay.

    Well, since I didn’t claim that you did, that doesn’t explain your resentment.

    I told you why you shouldn’t say it to gay men.

  223. Louis says

    Illithid,

    Fuck off you contemptible pissant. I have zero wish to be associated with the likes of you.

    Many of the points people have made are valid, by far and away not all of them in my view, but a goodly number. And I am not lessened or in any way distressed by acknowledging that. Troll elsewhere.

    Louis

  224. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    I also notice that none of you have picked up on the fact that I haven’t called LILAPWL “my darling” since, nor will I. I’m happy to not do it if he doesn’t like it. I’m happy to acknowledge the perfect validity of him seeing it as a homophobic slur by way of casual misogyny.

    You could have made this concession hours ago, and continued advancing your argument, instead of bloviating ad nauseam about what “darling” means to you. This is your derail, me duck.

  225. Louis says

    LILAPWL,

    Aratina made precisely that implication..fuck it, she stated it outright! I’m not going off script here.

    And no, I still don’t agree with you. I would however agree with this:

    I told you why you shouldn’t say it to SOME gay men in SOME contexts. Specifically those gay men who say they find it to be homophobic.”

    a) You are not all gay men, you don’t speak for them. Nor, incidentally, do I.

    b) You don’t get to insist your interpretation of an ambiguous phrase is precisely what is meant, and only what is meant, which believe me is exactly what you did.

    c) You don’t get to ignore the fact that, yes, whilst that phrase could be used that way, there are several factors that can modify the use in such a way that it is manifestly obvious that it does not have that implication.

    None of this is telling “gay men” what they should be offended by. None of this is telling a “gay man” what he should be offended by.

    What this is telling you is the way you communicated your dislike of the phrase leads me to believe that you have made a false positive when scouring my words for nits, and that I really don’t consider your leap for offence to be very honest. I simply don’t trust something that convenient for you. You’ve corrected similar errors in my speech several times before and I’ve almost always acknowledged them without restraint. Why not this time?

    Perhaps because I genuinely think you’re wrong somewhere.

    Naaaaaah couldn’t be that could it?

    Louis

  226. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    2) If LILAPWL had said: “Hey Louis (or Fuckface, happy either way), you do know I could easily see that as a homophobic slur because blah blah blah” as he has done so eloquently many times in the past perhaps my response would have been less….vehement. Ever think of that?

    Dude, that is what I said to you.

    “Don’t speak to me like that. The same reason you don’t say that to women you’re not on diminutive terms with, is the reason not to apply it to gay men who aren’t on those terms with you.”

    Let me tell you precisely why I am pissed off. I think LILAPWL is being very clever, very deliberately. Dishonestly so. Since he could not and can not defend his ridiculous assertion re: my not reading Hutchinson’s work (he’s so wrong about that it’s not even funny), he decided to pull his usual stunt and cry “foul” at the first thing he could find. He’s playing the “gay card” dishonestly in my opinion.

    Louis, you are a fucking idiot.

    What I did was briefly correct you on this matter and then I continued on with the Hutchinson issue. I wanted this to be a quickly settled tangent. I hate,

    hate,

    hate,

    hate,

    hate hate hate talking about homophobia.

    I can talk about almost anything else without it being a personal problem. I don’t like objecting to it, I don’t like defending myself, I sure as fuck don’t like a drawn out debate about it with me at the center. I often shut down on this topic. Do you want me to drag up the links to prove this?

  227. Brownian says

    I have not had a meltdown, but I am pissed off. Is that permitted?

    Are you really asking my permission, or are you being clever?

    “My darling” is categorically different from “cunt” “twat” etc etc etc. “My darling” is NOT an unambiguous sexual/sexist/homophobic referent.

    How about Pansy? Nancy? Sissy?

    Let me tell you precisely why I am pissed off. I think LILAPWL is being very clever, very deliberately. Dishonestly so. Since he could not and can not defend his ridiculous assertion re: my not reading Hutchinson’s work (he’s so wrong about that it’s not even funny), he decided to pull his usual stunt and cry “foul” at the first thing he could find. He’s playing the “gay card” dishonestly in my opinion.

    I don’t care in the least what your estimation of his motives are. He asked you not to use it in reference to him, and explained why. If he’s being clever, then he’s being more clever than you, because you played your cards wrong by doubling down.

    You lost this one.

    Deal with it.

    In fact, very much like you’re doing with your insistence that MY words me what YOU say they do.

    They do. They honestly, unabashedly do. Pansy means flower, and it also, there’s no denying it, means an effeminate man.

    I’ve already explained why whether or not you intended your word, and it’s just the one in this case, had another context, and that context is significant.

    The rest is fluff.

    Am I suddenly to be relegated to the ranks of MRA/homophobe/whatever because I have genuinely different cultural experiences from your own, and that the meanings I impart to my words count every bit as much as the meanings you impart to them?

    Bring out a violin, if you like, but I’m not going to be swayed by hyperbole. I’ve criticised your behaviour in this one, specific instance. If you want to climb up on a cross, go right ahead.

    I don’t consider LILAPWL a lesser being on account of his sexuality, hell I’ve never considered ANYONE a lesser being on account of anything, my problem’s the reverse if anything.

    Don’t fucking piss me off. Read my comment again. If you’re unable to, find someone to read it to you. In this instance, YOU AND YOUR INTENT DON’T FUCKING MATTER. In this instance, what matters is the use of the word you used, in the context that you did, has a homophobic intent. I was abundantly fucking clear on that. It’s kind of like how the word ‘nigger’ got all this baggage because of racists who aren’t me. Do I have to acknowledge that? You bet. That’s the funny thing about language: it’s a collaborative effort, and assholes fuck shit up for the rest of us.

    Brownian, I thought better of you.

    I get that often when I criticise regulars. Believe me when I tell you that such an obvious shaming tactic has no influence on me whatsoever. Or don’t. I don’t care.

    Like I said, I’m chuffed to the tits that my intentions are not magic and my words could be interpreted in a bad way.

    I don’t think you read a single word I wrote. I’m going to explain it again, using another analogy:

    Do you think Elevator Guy intended to intimidate and frighten Rebecca Watson?

    Before you answer—ha-ha! Trick question—it. doesn’t. fucking. matter.

    Let me repeat that again:

    It.

    (Following me? There’s a good lad.)

    Doesn’t.

    (Still on board?)

    Fucking.

    (That’s a gimme.)

    Matter.

    (And there’s the try.)

    What I cannot and will not do is dishonestly acquiesce to the claim that what you say my words mean they absolutely do mean because that’s YOUR interpretation.

    I don’t know what the word they use in the UK is, but over here there is a word that we use when something is more than one thing, and specifically two things. That word is ‘both’.

    See, I don’t actually give a flying fig fuck whether or not you acquiesce to one meaning or the other.

    What I’m trying to do is explain that BOTH interpretations exist, and are valid, and both will continue to exist, no matter how many Frodor’s Guides to the Dialects of Merrie Olde England you cite.

    Sound the word out with me: both.

    Do you fucking get it now, or are you going to continue to be a right fucking asshole because you have a stick up your ass over LILAPWL?

    Deal with it.

    I understand that this is your favoured method of cock-waving, but just what the fuck do you think I’m doing here if not dealing with it?

  228. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    Aratina made precisely that implication..fuck it, she stated it outright! I’m not going off script here.

    Aratina is a he. He is a gay man.

    Look, Louis,

    I’m simply not going to be drawn into an argument where I am required to make the case for my basic right not to experience homophobia, and make that case only on the terms that a supposed “ally” insists upon.

    You can go play with JT.

  229. Brownian says

    Dude, that is what I said to you.

    “Don’t speak to me like that. The same reason you don’t say that to women you’re not on diminutive terms with, is the reason not to apply it to gay men who aren’t on those terms with you.”

    Pretty much.

    I don’t see how you could have said it any more plainly and without dragging it out.

    This clusterfuck is Louis’ doing.

  230. Louis says

    A.E.

    Partly so, old horse, partly so. But it takes two to tango. And I didn’t ask for the fucking dance either. The blame for that lies squarely elsewhere. As per fucking usual.

    And it’s not a concession if it’s true.

    LILAPWL is perfectly entitled to see my use of the phrase that way. He’s not entitled to claim I meant it that way or to chastise me in such a manner as to lead me to believe he is implicitly making that claim (without argument from me), which is what he did. He’s not entitled to claim universality for his interpretation of what could be a perfectly innocent phrase. And believe me he is.

    What else is “I told you why you shouldn’t say it to gay men.” if not a universal?

    As for my bloviating ad nauseum, oh sorry, I forgot this was your internet. How tactless of me. I forgot I wasn’t allowed to argue my corner or try to demonstrate the relevance of context to ambiguous phrases.

    Context every single motherfucker has utterly ignored or hand waved away without so much as a sensible engagement. Honest interlocutors my arse!

    Louis

  231. Brownian says

    I’m sorry, but if y’all can hold down the fort, I’m off to drink a lot.

    Everyone is as welcome to feel as disappointed in me as they wish.

  232. Louis says

    Aratina is a he? FUUUUUUCK!

    My humblest apologies. If I knew this before I forgot it. My utter unreserved bad.

    Louis

  233. Nightjar says

    I think LILAPWL is being very clever, very deliberately. Dishonestly so. Since he could not and can not defend his ridiculous assertion re: my not reading Hutchinson’s work (he’s so wrong about that it’s not even funny), he decided to pull his usual stunt and cry “foul” at the first thing he could find.

    The derailment can’t be and wasn’t only his fault. I get the feeling it wouldn’t have happened if instead of preceding and ending your explanation for why you used that term @#194 with “Oh dry the fuck up you pathetic little pissant” and “Get over yourself, it’s not all about you” you had apologized and/or requested for clarification on why he thought that language was inappropriate in that context. Maybe even by making sure from the start that you’re

    happy to not do it if he doesn’t like it. I’m happy to acknowledge the perfect validity of him seeing it as a homophobic slur by way of casual misogyny.

    Or maybe I’m terribly wrong and LILAPWL would have tried to proceed with the derailment anyway. I’m having a hard time believing that is the case, but if that was his intention all along you sure did make his life easier.

  234. consciousness razor says

    Too many words? Awwww sowwy. We in the educated world have these things called books, they contain what we specialists call “lots of words”. I realise that might be a bit technical for you, but with suitable beating and dunking in libraries I’m sure eventually you’ll get it.

    I’ve heard that one of your books in the educated world says “brevity is the soul of wit.” Now maybe brevity isn’t wit, but at least it’s much less boring than the clusterfuck of apologetics and condescension you keep spitting out. You could’ve dropped this a long time ago very easily, but you keep digging. I doubt that will help, and I don’t understand why you would bother.

  235. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    Cue LILAPWL to tell me he owes no one here anything. Okay then, he who lives by the sword shall surely die by the sword. I now do not have to consider his feelings where ambiguous potentially innocent phrases are concerned.

    Since I said this repeatedly while also repeatedly adjusting my language when it was pointed out it could contribute to group oppressions, it should be understood in something like that context.

    What we do owe each other is at least whatever’s necessary to achieve fairness under a Rawlsian veil of ignorance. That does mean accounting for group oppressions, even if we rightfully dislike the individual member of a group.

    Inshallah, I am done explaining myself.

  236. John Morales says

    [meta]

    I’m not gonna argue about it here, but I’ve read the thread and I’m with Louis. Simple as that.

    Also, Ichthyic has a point:

    I frankly weep at the landmine Pharyngula has become for anyone who grew up with different sensibilities.

    Worst thing is that it derails threads, like now.

  237. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Louis: I don’t know if you can’t or won’t understand what’s been explained to you over and over. Maybe instead of reading, you’d already working on your next three screen screed. This could be the problem. It seems like your comprehension to explanation ratio has become dangerously low. In any case, there is little point in my interacting with you on this any more this evening.

  238. Louis says

    Brownian,

    Sorry for the snark! I’ll try to make myself clearer.

    Both.

    I get it.

    I truly, truly, truly do.

    My intentions. Not magic. And they don’t matter.

    I get that too.

    Really. No….really.

    Who here is insisting one interpretation of an ambiguous phrase is to be adhered to? Not me.

    Who here has acknowledged LILAPWL’s perfect right to interpret that phrase that way but not to claim that is my intent or that it is universally the case? Me.

    What you seem to be missing is that you are making a category error. “Nigger” et al. are not in the same category as “my darling”. I’ve mentioned that a few times.

    “Nigger” et al. are unambiguous referents. They refer to something that is deemed distasteful in some manner in order to insult the target. They depend vastly less, if at all, on context.

    “My darling” isn’t like that. It can be used that way, but it also can be used other ways, innocent ways. “Nigger” can’t, it’s a term of abuse, even when being “reclaimed” by members of the black community.

    Sorry but you don’t get to dismiss my tour of Hobbiton. This isn’t like “cunt” which has Ye Olde Quainte Britishe Usage But Is Still Sexist.

    You utterly missed my point about it being an innocent affectation which could be just as easily replaced by a billion other perfectly innocent affectations. I don’t deny in some contexts and with some uses these affectations could be homophobic exactly as LILAPWL describes, I deny that they universally are. “Both” is precisely what I am saying.

    It’s the assumption of the universality of the DIMINUTIVE I am disagreeing with. It’s no more diminutive absent of context than any other similar affectation. That’s totally unlike “nigger” and “cunt” and the like which are totally whatever-ist even in the absence of context (other than the fact of usage as insult).

    The context is what decides whether or not it is being used in the diminutive. And no, what LILAPWL said was not what I said I would agree to. He used absolutes. And continues to use them. It’s not me that’s making an absolutist case here.

    Louis

  239. Louis says

    Nightjar,

    You’re right. I did react harshly. Whether or not that was justified….well I think that’s a personal thing. Clearly I’m in the minority on that.

    And yes Consciousness Razer, brevity may well be the soul of wit, but if we’re on aphorisms “I didn’t have time to make it any shorter” ring any bells? I’m responding on the fly to a number of people determined to see the worst in what I am saying and ignore the best. Determined to say I am not getting things they’ve seen me demonstrably get hundreds of times. And who keep insisting that their reading is binding.

    Maybe, juuuuuuuust maybe, I’m not wrong. Maybe I am, and hey, if I am I’ll eat the humble pie and make my obeisances. I actually have zero problem with doing that.

    Louis

  240. Louis says

    John,

    I’m not gonna argue about it here, but I’ve read the thread and I’m with Louis. Simple as that.

    Fuck, I must REALLY be in trouble!

    ;-)

    Louis

  241. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    And no, what LILAPWL said was not what I said I would agree to. He used absolutes. And continues to use them. It’s not me that’s making an absolutist case here.

    “Don’t speak to me like that. The same reason you don’t say that to women you’re not on diminutive terms with, is the reason not to apply it to gay men who aren’t on those terms with you.”

    Do you see “the same reason you don’t say that to women you’re not on diminutive terms with”?

    See that? It refers to reason X, which I imagined probably existed in your head, and may be very sophisticated or may be simply “women have objected to me calling them ‘darling.'”

    Wasn’t important to me what exactly your reason X was — it might be different from my reason. I just asked you to expand your application of reason X to gay men as well.

    I admit, I am surprised that no reason X exists inside your head. I’m sure that if it had, you would have already handled the extension with as little stupidity as possible. All the absolutes you are imagining are the result of you reading with as little charity as possible.

  242. Louis says

    Brownian,

    I don’t care in the least what your estimation of his motives are. He asked you not to use it in reference to him, and explained why.

    No he didn’t. He said not to use it with gay men. Plural. Universal. Absolute.

    Which part am I objecting to?

    Look perhaps now you’re disappointed in ME. Oh noes, will we ever recover, say we will, my darling….oh fuck now look what I’ve done. Can you take that joke? Or do I have to apologise?

    Was what I just said referent to homophobia, a diminutive? Or was it in no way qualitatively different from:

    Oh noes, will we ever recover, say we will, old fruit….

    Oh noes, will we ever recover, say we will, old horse*….

    Was it in fact something else entirely, something clarified by the context, something whose meaning is dependent on the context?

    Unlike nigger. Unlike cunt. Unlike twat. Unlike sissy. And almost certainly unlike pansy when used in reference to a person not a flower. Context. It matters. Just occasionally.

    Louis

    * Interestingly this is not uncommonly used specifically to women or very bluff old men, which I’ve always found weird.

  243. consciousness razor says

    And yes Consciousness Razer, brevity may well be the soul of wit, but if we’re on aphorisms “I didn’t have time to make it any shorter” ring any bells?

    Does “like hearing yourself talk” ring any to you?

  244. consciousness razor says

    No he didn’t. He said not to use it with gay men. Plural. Universal. Absolute.

    “The same reason you don’t say that to women you’re not on diminutive terms with, is the reason not to apply it to gay men who aren’t on those terms with you.” [my emphasis]

    I doubt you’re on such terms with all gay men, everywhere, absolutely and universally.

  245. Louis says

    LILAPWL,

    Do you see “the same reason you don’t say that to women you’re not on diminutive terms with”?

    No, no. Do YOU see?

    Louis

    P.S. Perhaps if you read “my darling” not as Terry Thomas or Sid James, but as a generic country yokel from Dorchester you’d get it. I would perfectly happily use latter “my darling” to women I was not on diminutive terms with, perhaps just in the UK where I could be reasonably sure of the context being grasped, but not that former “my darling”. If a woman then said to me “I personally find that sexist or a little patronising” I would apologise. If they said “that is unambiguously sexist to all women” I would argue. Is this getting through?

  246. Louis says

    Consciousness Razer,

    I doubt you’re on such terms with all gay men, everywhere, absolutely and universally.

    And you’d be right. Hooray! Irrelevant to what I am disagreeing with, but right.

    I am disagreeing with the universal statement that this is a diminutive term to gay men in all contexts. It isn’t. It can be in some contexts, and LILAPWL is perfectly within his rights to say he personally takes it that way and for me not to use it with him. He’s not perfectly within his rights to claim that that phrase is diminutive in all contexts for all gay men. Which is what he DID. Perhaps not what he intended…but then it’s only my intentions that are not magic right?

    Louis

  247. Nightjar says

    people determined to see the worst in what I am saying and ignore the best

    That’s not true, not as far as I’m concerned. I like you, Louis, and I don’t think you meant that the way LILAPWL took it and I believe you when you say you get his point and won’t do it again. (You can know this because if I didn’t believe it I wouldn’t be telling you I like you right now.) But you may want to try to react less defensively next time and not be such an asshole, because I assure you, that is what’s pissing people off now. And I’m pretty sure that’s what turned this into an epic derail.

    Whatever. I’m done here, at least for today.

  248. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    LILAPWL is perfectly entitled to see my use of the phrase that way. He’s not entitled to claim I meant it that way or to chastise me in such a manner as to lead me to believe he is implicitly making that claim (without argument from me), which is what he did.

    Oh boy. Okay, I’m really and truly flouncing this time, Inshallah.

    But I want to leave you with something to think about.

    What you’re insisting upon here is that the onus is on the members of an oppressed class, to make their objections to oppressive language only in terms which the offender will interpret as not calling into question their motives.

    (Leaving aside the fact that I clearly attempted to do precisely this — no, wait, let’s not leave that aside, since it provides an example of just how difficult this can be when the offender is exceptionally particular about filing all grievances in triplicate according to proper protocols.)

    Be not Louis for a moment, but step behind the veil of ignorance, and think: is that really how you want the world to work?

  249. illithid says

    Fuck off you contemptible pissant. I have zero wish to be associated with the likes of you.

    Rest assured, the feeling is mutual, you puffed up little snot. The pack have turned against you because you’re a gaudy fucking trinket of a man who doesn’t even have enough respect for himself to be consistent in his language-policing.

  250. says

    This extensive derail has gone on quite long enough. Take it to TZT if you must, but otherwise, if it continues, I’ll be closing this thread.

  251. Louis says

    Okay PZ. Apologies to one and all for my part, whatever you consider that to be, in the derail. I’m taking it to TZT.

    Louis

  252. Mattir says

    Gotta love that a thread that should be, at least partly, about the role of religion in disadvantaged social/ethic groups (and especially the role of religion in the lives of women in these groups) got derailed into a variety What About Teh Menz™.

    Way to go.

  253. says

    Watching Sikivu Hutchinson speak on the Women in Secularism Panel, and now reading this blog post has really renewed my interest in the New Atheist movement. I’ve been to only one converntion, The Humanist convention in Los Angeles, where I live. My boss had an extra ticket and invited me to attend. I could not afford a luxury like that on my own. This is where I met PZ Myers and James Randi. On one hand I was very happy, on the other hand, I felt like I didn’t belong there. For one, I was a young Latina in a room full of older white people of a different class. The only other Latino(a)s there, if I recall correctly, were serving food and cleaning. This made me sad because Los Angeles is full of Latinos like me. And I bet they would identify with a lot of humanist ideas.

    “And that if we want to expand the movement, we won’t achieve that by telling women and people of color that they need to adopt our priorities to fit in; we need to recognize that social justice, equality, and fighting economic disparities must also be a significant part of our purpose.”

    ^That made me so happy to read. The above was a huge reason the convention didn’t sit well with me. I’m glad that this is being addressed. If these issues are finally going to stop being made invisible, I would love to contribute more to the New Atheist movement, and I would love to do my best to bring more people of color with me.

  254. says

    Mattir (@281):

    First, thanks for the dope-slap.

    Second, I hope you’ll forgive me for cross-posting a bit of what you wrote on TZT:

    I live and work in communities described in Sikivu Hutchinson’s excellent book. My family of origin is from similar communities. Religion is simultaneously a cancer and a solace in these communities.

    The bolded sentence is an elegant and succinct statement of the dilemma I’ve been trying to get at in the non-derail portions of my comments above. Thank you for expressing it so clearly.

  255. thepint says

    @ Melody –

    Well, if it helps any, this American-born Filipina atheist has been slowly dipping her toes into the New Atheist movement as well (and outside of the Filipino Freethinkers group actually in Manila, I haven’t yet met any other atheist Filipinos and few atheist Southeast Asians/Pacific Islanders, which can sometimes be discouraging). I haven’t been to a convention yet, but I hope to go eventually (WIS just wasn’t possible this year, but I hope for next year, hopefully won’t have to choose between it and Geek Girl Con). It can take some searching, but there *are* more non-white New Atheists becoming more visible and vocal, although clearly there’s a ways to go.

  256. says

    @ thepint

    “It can take some searching, but there *are* more non-white New Atheists becoming more visible and vocal, although clearly there’s a ways to go.”

    ^yay! I hope it becomes more diverse as time goes on. But yes, I do realize there is stil a long way to go. :3.

  257. Mattir says

    It’s odd, but living in a majority-minority community, I get a bit weirded out by the total uniformity of all-white gatherings. It just feels wrong, in some way that’s hard to pin down. The Spawns and I were quite ill-at-ease on our travels around Missouri a couple years ago on our way to Skepticon, and it took us the better part of a week to realize that it was the uniformity that was weirding us out as we drove from one rural Missouri town to another… So on a purely selfish note, I would love to have groups that were more diverse so that I’d feel more comfortable hanging out in atheist circles.

    I’m also really aware of the role of storefront churches (and their descendents, the suburban megachurch) in monopolization of civil discourse and community involvement and in the resulting corruption of local politics. It’s an ugly system, and one that the secular community cannot address as long as it’s perceived to be a whites-only phenomenon.

  258. Stacy says

    Melody, if you haven’t already, check out CFI-Los Angeles. We’re in Hollywood.

    http://www.cfiwest.org/

    Sikivu Hutchinson’s local too; she’s spoken at CFI a couple of times. The Black Skeptics have a local meetup group.

  259. abb3w says

    @202, “We Are Ing The Matrimonial Collective”

    Google PZ’s comments on “dictionary atheism”

    Google’s not coughing them up readily on either Scienceblogs or Freethoughtblogs at this ohmighu-o’clock, but I vaguely recall a piece of his on that from when it first came out.

    I don’t mind that he’s introducing an is-ought bridge, per se. I just think the action needs more “looky here” attention. (The blindness Harris has to his taking such a step is the main thing which annoys me about his attempts at moral philosophy.) Absent such marker, the Humpty-Dumpty potentials for meaning effectively preclude communication.

    In particular, I think an additional terminological modifier is appropriate, even if PZ may consider it implicit. My background in mathematics leaves me deeply suspicious of implicits; they often seem where internal inconsistencies hide.

    It’s possibly just that my angle of attention differs a bit from his; he and I both white males, but he’s a professional scientist, and I’m a dilettante in the mathematical philosophy of science and engineering.

  260. Tony says

    thepint:

    It can take some searching, but there *are* more non-white New Atheists becoming more visible and vocal, although clearly there’s a ways to go.

    I’ve been meaning to ask {anyone really}:
    When speaking about the ‘New Atheists’, who exactly are we talking about?
    The Four Horsemen (we miss ya Hitch) are the *only* NA’s listed on several of the sites I’ve checked. I get the impression our apocalyptic horsemen transformed the atheism of old into ‘New Atheism’ merely by writing books that sold well.
    1. Does the term refer to just the four of them?
    2. Or does it refer to them, as well as any other vocal
    atheists?
    3. Or does it refer to anyone who considers themselves an atheist?
    4. -some other combination I don’t know-

  261. says

    Tony:

    Or does it refer to them, as well as any other vocal
    atheists?

    Primarily this ^. Gnu Atheists: out, unapologetic, noisy, non-accommodationist. Your basic atheist who has the unmitigated nerve to be out.

  262. says

    Thank you Stacey. I was aware of this. Unfortunately, it’s very much out of my way, and I don’t have a car. :P

  263. says

    Caine #290:

    Primarily this ^. Gnu Atheists: out, unapologetic, noisy, non-accommodationist. Your basic atheist who has the unmitigated nerve to be out.

    Uh, doesn’t Gnu Atheism also include social justice ethics to such a point that Hitchens, Harris and Dawkins have all demonstrably failed to make the cut? I thought that simple vocal atheism was New Atheism, and that us Gnus were the ones who took our skepticism beyond religion and into social/political issues.

    On the topic of politics, I really would like to make a note: there are still a good many atheists who subscribe to reality-free political beliefs like neoliberalism and libertarianism, or just to the general whitewashing and false balance of conservative/authoritarian policies.

    To me, this suggests that we don’t talk about politics nearly enough, outside of the obvious secularist issues. We can’t really say we talk about politics when cutting one level deep exposes idiots like Micheal Shermer and Penn Jillette…

  264. John Morales says

    Setár:

    Uh, doesn’t Gnu Atheism also include social justice ethics to such a point that Hitchens, Harris and Dawkins have all demonstrably failed to make the cut?

    Demonstrably?

    I think not, since they’re the archetypical gnus.

  265. John Morales says

    Setár, true enough.

    I guess I’m being Captain Obvious and just noting that, in much of the popular mind, they currently exemplify what people think of when they think of such*. What something is and how people (including insiders) perceive it can vary a fair bit.

    * As noted by Tony above.

    Also, how often have gnus been accused of being their disciples?

  266. says

    I guess I’m being Captain Obvious and just noting that, in much of the popular mind, they currently exemplify what people think of when they think of such*. What something is and how people (including insiders) perceive it can vary a fair bit.

    That’s the exact reason why I’m making the point, though, because I’m seeing a distinct difference between New and Gnu Atheists.

    Also, how often have gnus been accused of being their disciples?

    If humans are monkeys, still monkeys, etc.

  267. says

    I know I’m hella late in the game here but I wanted to point out one thing about the issue of race and racism among atheists. I know many people of color who are essentially atheists but don’t take up that label because of the pervasive and overbearing voices of white atheist. I personally think that white folks will need step down and give people of color their own space if they want to integrate atheism with the issue of race.

  268. upagainsttheropes says

    Really complaints? Must be doing something right…

    She’s one of the few worth reading around these parts.

  269. says

    I’m utterly threadrupt here, but I just wanted to say that this was an inspiring and necessary blog entry from our esteemed host. Can we nominate PZ for a Molly?

    The narrowness of focus that I have seen from many within atheism tracks closely along the lines of the rallying cry you hear in the federal election; ‘It’s ALL about the economy!’ I’m in the background thinking ‘No, it fucking isn’t! It’s a major issue, but there’s fucktons of things to be concerned about.’ If people can’t react to more than one issue at a time they can often be detriments to a purpose. That kind of beeline consideration in the whole secularism, skepticism, atheism arena is marginalizing a lot of people that need the help of the rational thinking set, and at a time when race, religion and gender issues are facing a frightening retrogression because of racist, visage blanc America’s fears. Making people aware of the fact they have to ruminate on a lot more than their own individual self-interest is a major step that needs to be taken before the repair stages can commence. These are issues of global concern, thus we need remember that there’s a LOT of different people on the globe whose concerns will never be addressed by a man whose color and shape are the same as the Pilsbury Doughboy’s. That is, unless he is reminded of them by threads such as this one.

  270. Tony... therefore God says


    Can we nominate PZ for a Molly?

    I’m with you on that.
    Oh, and McCthulhu, you deserve a standing ovation for that post. I was literally about to head to sleep when I saw the update on my phone.
    How do we get people to understand that ruminating on more than their own self interest is important?

  271. rickschauer says

    Just yesterday, I read an essay (in Agnotology by Proctor and Schiebinger) by Charles W. Mills called “White Ignorance” that is available here:

    http://aapf.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/white-ignorance-vii.doc

    It is very applicable to this thread and I hope you all will take the time to read it because Mill’s “social justice lens” on the issue of the ignorance of white folks is very insightful.

  272. says

    This may be lost in the previous disagreements and it feels like there are very slim chances of Eric reading this but… at least it’s on-topic I suppose.

    #21.eric.7 June 2012 at 12:00 pm:

    But when someone points out that atheist groups focus on church-state issues and make other issues secondary, it gives me an odd sense of two people talking past each other. Yes, of course they do. What did you expect such a self-titled group to focus on? Feeding the poor? Finding homes for stray dogs? Those are extremely worthy causes, yes. And an atheist group can and should participate in such work, yes. But how can you be upset or disappointed if the focus of the group is on the subject identified in the group’s title?

    It’s not that I don’t think that what you’ve said here is incorrect, it’s just that I’m not sure that it really responds to the criticism being made.

    I think your claim that it’s okay to have different organisations for different causes is true. As per your example, it would be odd for PETA to suddenly involve itself with ensuring birth control for women. It would similarly seem strange if the Freedom of Religion foundation started taking significant amount of time to address issues of sexism and racism in general society that were not religiously motivated.

    Not to say that that those issues shouldn’t be addressed, just that there are more appropriate organisations to address them through. If I have a nail that needs hammering, I’ll use a hammer and not a screwdriver.

    However, I think this perhaps misses the point. There are two general issues that I think it ignores.

    (1)

    Whilst a charity’s focus may not be on eliminating prejudice in society, surely it holds some responsibility for making sure it itself is not harbouring prejudice within it’s own institution?

    You mentioned PETA not being expected to concern itself with ensuring birth control for women and I agree that would be odd. However, that doesn’t stop me being very concerned and critical about some of the very sexist adverts it uses to promote it’s cause. Whilst it maybe can be excused for not joining the fight for sexism in wider society, surely it should be obliged to make sure it’s own organisation is not sexist.

    I mentioned earlier that a screwdriver shouldn’t be used to hammer in nails. It also shouldn’t be used to prevent and treat rust but that doesn’t mean we should allow our screwdrivers to become rusty.

    If atheist charities, organisations and communities are harbouring sexism and other prejudices (which they doubtless are to some extent or another) then I think there is a responsibility for the people involved to get together and address that problem.

    (2)

    There’s also a concern about what our atheism means to us, which comes in different shades. I’ll probably be retreading some ground covered by Gnumann here.

    I’m personally one of what Gnumann referred to as a ‘boring dictionary atheist’. I’m atheist both in the sense that I lack belief in God and also in that I lean towards the belief that there is actually no God. As someone with a general love of truth and as someone who believes that it’s factually incorrect to believe in God, I have a general wish that more people were atheists. I’m also very comfortable with being morally and politically critical of particular instances of religious belief, value or organisation but am not anti-religion as a general principle. What I also lack is a sense of ‘atheist community’ and, as such, I don’t feel any special duty (beyond the ordinary) to influence other atheists (in particular) to my moral and political viewpoints.

    However, it’s clearly the case that there are lots of people who are decidingly more political in their atheism; people who want to see atheism spread not purely because it’s more correct but also in the belief that it’s morally and/or politically important for society. I have my sympathies for that position even if I’m not entirely on board.

    At the very least, a political atheist will be interested in eliminating prejudice amongst atheists in order to show a ‘good face’ to the world. If you’re maintaining that the world would be better if we were all atheist then it’s rather useful to be able to point at atheists and say ‘look, shining examples of people being better than the norm’. It’s not helpful if a close look at atheism shows them to share the same bigotries common in the rest of society.

    It’s also much more likely that such atheists are to take a greater interest in ‘atheist community’. Anyone approaching atheism with an attitude of ‘these are my people’ is going to take an interest in what sorts of shared values, attitudes and norms are floating around in that community. They’re also going to want to ‘clean house’ if they see anything amiss, such as pervasive bigotry.

    That’s surely fair enough and holds true for any community based around any goal or purpose. It applies to religious organisations, political groups, regional communities or even interest groups. Even if it’s just that you’re especially keen on basket weaving and have joined interest clubs with the purpose of teaching and enjoying basket weaving, if you discover those clubs are suffering from pervasive bigotry then it seems right to speak out against it and do what you can to challenge it… all despite the fact that challenging prejudice isn’t ‘what basket weaving clubs are about’.

    Well, that’s my tuppence worth in any case.

    In the unlikely event that you have read this, Eric, I don’t mean this to shame you or present you as being a bad person (being incorrect, even about a very serious issue, isn’t the same as being a person of bad character, nor even of low intelligence). I understand the thought process that brought you to writing your post, I just think you missed a few strands of thought that are very much worth exploring.

  273. maxpeterson says

    Thank you, jamiehankins, for writing the post that should have been written 280 posts ago.