Mary’s Monday Metazoan: More charismatic megafauna? »« [Lounge #417]

What’s the harm of “Mission Drift”?

Greta Christina has a good post up about the common defense against broadening the approach of an organization, the plaintive whine against “mission drift”. I’ve never quite grasped the point: if you’re a largely volunteer organization with only a minimal paid organizational structure, as is true for most skeptic and atheist organizations, it’s relatively painless to adapt to meet the desires of your membership — in fact, it ought to be considered necessary to do so.

If you’ve got a significant subset of your membership who are saying they’re really interested in, say, the application of atheism to interior decorating, you might be wondering what the heck that has to do with your ideal of what atheism ought to do, and you might have zero interest in interior decorating yourself, but you should pay attention: somehow these self-selected atheists who are already willing and enthusiastic members of your constituency see a connection. Your apathy is irrelevant; their enthusiasm matters.

Instead of announcing that interior decorating has nothing to do with atheism and your vision will not be sullied with this strange sideshow, you should instead be interested in seeing where this unexpected connection might lead. Tell them, “Cool — let’s form a committee of interested members, and maybe you can pursue this subject further under the umbrella of our larger organization.” It doesn’t mean atheism has been sabotaged, it means it has an avenue for tapping new and interesting ideas.

I’ve given a talk before where I’ve pointed to the American Humanist Association as a model for expanding these interests. Go down to the bottom of that page and look at the row of icons there: they’ve formed special interest groups for legal issues, a feminist caucus, an LGBT council, even a cinema section. It’s an embrace and sponsor approach that really works well to foster greater inclusion and widen the appeal of the movement.

Contrast that with the skeptics: instead, we get representatives angrily shouting at atheists who dare to taint their movement, which has one focus, one methodology, one pure strategy. They could have set up an Atheist SIG (or a Cryptozoology SIG, or Interior Decorating SIG, whatever) within skepticism, coopted that subset of skeptics while simultaneously keeping the overall organization independent of the narrower interests, and grown their movement. As far as I’m concerned, it’s too late for them…maybe an atheist organization will be interested in setting up a skeptics subgroup that will be a happier place for godless critical thinkers.

I see Atheism+ as being part of the same principle: recognizing that not every atheist will be interested in social justice issues, but for those who are…here’s an outlet and a focus for those concerns.

Use mission drift, people! Don’t oppose it, channel it!

Comments

  1. Ulysses says

    There you go again. Being reasonable and practical. You’ll never be a good skeptic that way. Just ask Jamy Ian Swiss.

  2. mythbri says

    I personally will not rest until there is a sub-group for Atheist Feminists Who Like Science And Animals, Particularly Cats And Even Cephalopods, And Like To Go Hiking And Hate Snow Sports And Love Beaches And Reading, Preferably Together.

    Any takers?

  3. mythbri says

    AFWLSAA,PCAEC,ALTGHAHSSALBAR,PT

    I suppose the name could be catchier.

  4. ImaginesABeach says

    Sorry, mythbri. The “beaches” part is absolutely unacceptable. Clearly we cannot co-exist in the same group.

  5. says

    @2: I would join that SIG in an instant, as would my wife. IIRC, by Arlo Guthrie’s definition that makes us an organization.

  6. jodyp says

    But PZ, including other people’s interests would mean they’d lose their special and unique status.

    Why, they might not even be the center of attention.

    Surely you can see the madness behind THAT line of thinking.

  7. mythbri says

    @ImaginesABeach #4

    The “beaches” part is absolutely unacceptable. Clearly we cannot co-exist in the same group.

    Clearly, we cannot.

    DEEP RIFTS.

  8. blastbeat88 says

    I’m baffled by the responses of detractors to the idea of Atheism+. Every last one of them I’ve been in personal contact with shoots out this straw man that portrays A+ as “trying to force all atheists to believe things that liberals believe.”

    Trying to explain what A+ REALLY is gets nowhere. They either repeat themselves or blatantly lie. We may claim to be skeptics, but it seems a decent number of us claim that title falsely.

  9. Randomfactor says

    One reason not to use “Mission Drift” to grow your numbers might be if doing so threatened some privileged position you hold dear. Even if that position was originally justified primarily by the dogma you’ve critically rejected.

  10. says

    The idea of a special interest group for skeptical atheism seems strange, because that would include the majority of people in the skeptical movement and the majority in the atheist movement. It’s not a special interest when the interest is so widespread. However, maybe Jamy would support it, seeing as he had all that anecdata about non-skeptical atheists? Hmmm… nah

  11. Rob says

    ImaginesABeach, I’m with you the whole way. Sadly mythbri must be excluded and ridiculed for their love of sand adjacent to water. There can be no other way!

  12. A Hermit says

    Proud to be AFWLSAA,PCAEC,ALTGHAHSSALBAR,PT.

    Although I have in the past been known to enjoy X-country skiing. Can I still do that? I do hate snowmobiles…

  13. A Hermit says

    Joking aside this all just seems blindingly obvious to me. Some people have characterized the A+ idea as “imposing an ideology” on their atheism; to me it’s exactly the opposite of that; it’s broadening the base. The imposition is coming from those who insist that you can’t be a TruSkeptic™ and also pursue social justice issues in a skeptical context.

  14. says

    Acknowledging the joke, but for the sake of making a real-world point: we should take out the bit about hating snow sports — what’s the harm if some of our members, like A Hermit, *also* like XC skiing? It doesn’t detract from our joint ability to do sciency stuff, and read books about squid while sitting on the beach with cats sleeping in our respective laps. It’s a *positive* SIG, not a negative one.

    And yet, some atheists seem to feel that wanting to include feminism or racial integration or whatever on our own agenda is inhibiting or detracting from their atheism-promoting activities in some way.

  15. mythbri says

    @A Hermit #14

    Although I have in the past been known to enjoy X-country skiing. Can I still do that? I do hate snowmobiles…

    WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO RUIN THE MOVEMENT?!

    @Eamon Knight #16

    we should take out the bit about hating snow sports — what’s the harm if some of our members, like A Hermit, *also* like XC skiing? It doesn’t detract from our joint ability to do sciency stuff, and read books about squid while sitting on the beach with cats sleeping in our respective laps. It’s a *positive* SIG, not a negative one.

    I see how it is. You’re just trying to force your enjoyment of cold weather on me! Next you’ll suggest letting in people who hate cats!

  16. Carlos Cabanita says

    The interest of the skeptic gatekeepers is to prevent the tools of critical thinking to be used about politics, except for relatively consensual things like separation of church and state. But for oppressed people, politics is the most useful and powerful application of critical thinking. Feminism has been the touchstone. The gatekeepers are no fools.

  17. jasonfailes says

    mythbri, I’m right there with you and I think the title is completely appropriate.
    For a group that loves cats, I can’t think of a better title than one that looks like it was written by a cat walking across a keyboard.

  18. says

    Sometimes it seems like the only thing some Skeptics are concerned about regarding the broadening of the base or expansion of mission parameters is Attention Drift – away from them. Even if they’re not a Leader or a Name, their dismay comes from the prospect of their pet issue no longer being the centre of attention or the focal point it once was (it’s easy to see that just being associated with something popular or successful makes you feel good – case in point: every time your local sports team wins something/your favourite band wins an award).

    Of course, they’ve not stopped to think that if the base is broadened via inclusion of “non-traditional” topics and attracts, say, more women/feminists/non-white people/young people/agnostics/deists etc., there will be a much larger potential audience for their pet issue of debunking homeopathy/Sasquatch (or “wood ape”)/dowsing/crystals/Deepakities. Sadly, the precious ones seem to view this more as “changing hockey to hurling and driving away the fans” instead of “fielding a new team in a separate sport altogether to attract more people under our banner”.

  19. anuran says

    PZ, you’re missing a couple essential and not terribly subtle distinctions here.

    An interest group is just that. You’re free to participate or not, to disagree or not, to let Manifesto speak for you or not. These interest groups don’t represent the entire membership of the AHA let alone claim to speak for all Humanists.

    Your stated vision of atheism turns this on its head. Atheists should and should be pressured to subscribe to a laundry list of specific WEIRD priorities. Just being a freethinker isn’t enough. The tent is only big enough for an increasingly narrowly-defined set of people. It’s completely against your stated desire to see Atheism appeal to a wider section of humanity.

  20. fmitchell says

    “Mission drift” can be deadly … if you’re a corporation that has to pay people to do what you want them to.

    In an organization of mostly volunteers, though, it’s a way to attract previously disinterested parties, and expand the cause to previously unexamined areas. Civil rights didn’t crumble because black women joined in, and gays and lesbians didn’t avoid an alliance because rights for male homosexuals were completely different from rights for female homosexuals. Of course, you’ll also get people who ragequit because they think The Majority will revoke their Atheist cards and refuse to validate their parking if they don’t sign on to that part of the movement. Then again, if their only interest in atheism is standing in the back and sneering at believers (or Beliebers, it’s hard to hear back there) then it’s no big loss.

  21. says

    And what’s all this rubbish about cats? I CAN HAS internet foolishness, that’s what. Cats are not the ones who’ll tell us when the Terminators have infiltrated our stronghold in the blood-soaked years after Skynet wipes out nearly all of humanity (but they will eat all the lizards in my backyard). I propose the immediate formation of The Proud Atheists Who Love Dogs Because They Can Totally Smell The Cyborg Assassins That Will Eventually Seek To Destroy Us All; Also Who Love Iain M Banks, Isaac Asimov and Margaret Atwood And Wish They Could Be In Faith No More (The Greatest Band Ever, Of The 90s Anyway).

    Stand against us if you dare.

  22. says

    Your stated vision of atheism turns this on its head. Atheists should and should be pressured to subscribe to a laundry list of specific WEIRD priorities. Just being a freethinker isn’t enough. The tent is only big enough for an increasingly narrowly-defined set of people. It’s completely against your stated desire to see Atheism appeal to a wider section of humanity.

    This is a true statement only if you define “humanity” as “straight, white, cis men.”

    Otherwise, the expansion of atheism to address new topics, IN ADDITION to the old ones, can only bring an increase in numbers.

    Unless, of course, the already existing members don’t ragequit. Now, if anyone was saying that we need to shift the focus of the atheist/skeptical movement AND ALSO EXCLUDE the old topics, they might be right to ragequit. As it stands, however, anyone angry enough to leave because feminists are getting their movement dirty with their imprecise social sciences and their unverifiable values of human dignity and equality, well, good riddance to bad rubbish.

  23. says

    Atheists should and should be pressured to subscribe to a laundry list of specific WEIRD priorities.

    like what?

    It’s completely against your stated desire to see Atheism appeal to a wider section of humanity.

    lewut.

  24. mythbri says

    @SallyStrange

    You’re getting “soft science” cooties on my skepticism!

  25. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    What’s the harm in Mission Drift, you ask? You’re like, Tom Cruise, and you have like this spy task to complete in Tokyo, when of a sudden a bunch of reckless car racers come flying down the (incongruously empty) street, at, like maximum velocity– so fast that they just kind of slide into curves, accelerating and burning rubber, the whole time…

    This is a movie we are talking about, right? I don’t remember anything about beaches. Anyway, if you’re like Tom Cruise, the harm is pretty fucking apparent and in your face.

    (Sorry for the flight of fancy. I’m proctoring a two hour exam.)

  26. says

    Your stated vision of atheism turns this on its head. Atheists should and should be pressured to subscribe to a laundry list of specific WEIRD priorities. Just being a freethinker isn’t enough. The tent is only big enough for an increasingly narrowly-defined set of people. It’s completely against your stated desire to see Atheism appeal to a wider section of humanity.

    My vision of atheism involves expanding its sphere of interests to encompass a far wider and more diverse collection of people, so I haven’t the slightest fucking idea what the hell you’re talking about.

  27. says

    Well, in addition to Tom Cruise, Barbara Bain is flying a jet to the rendezvous point, Simon Pegg is trying to plant an array of remote listening devices, and Peter Graves is trying to peel that damn latex mask off his face without mussing his hair, so we’ve got the whole team hard at work simultaneously on different aspects of the mission.

  28. says

    @23 anuran:

    An interest group is just that. You’re free to participate or not, to disagree or not, to let Manifesto speak for you or not. These interest groups don’t represent the entire membership of the AHA let alone claim to speak for all Humanists.

    Which is precisely why they’re “interest groups” and not “the entire membership of the AHA.”

    Your stated vision of atheism turns this on its head. Atheists should and should be pressured to subscribe to a laundry list of specific WEIRD priorities.

    Where in PZ’s piece did he say or even imply this? The message I got was that “weird” priorities shouldn’t be excluded because they’re not “mainstream atheism,” and that interest groups should be encouraged as a strategy to increase overall numbers of participants in a movement.

    Just being a freethinker isn’t enough. The tent is only big enough for an increasingly narrowly-defined set of people. It’s completely against your stated desire to see Atheism appeal to a wider section of humanity.

    You appear to have received the opposite message of what PZ was trying to express. Making the tent big enough for many different types of special interest group would increase the numbers of interested atheists across the board, which would mean more people available for pursuing larger goals.

    Or do you think that a person’s special interest is their only interest; that they’ll pursue that interest to the exclusion of everything else? That’s what it looks like; if so, you’ve completely missed the point.

  29. Ichthyic says

    It’s completely against your stated desire to see Atheism appeal to a wider section of humanity.

    You know, I’ve been reading PZed’s online musings since he first started a blog.

    I can’t recall him ever stating a desire NOT to see atheism appeal to the widest segment of humanity possible, while at the same time arguing that this by itself does not necessarily promote social justice.

    He’s been pretty damn consistent.

    so, what is wrong with your eyes? How is it you read something that is not and has never been there?

    can you explain that, or is it like Bill-O’s “tides”?

  30. mythbri says

    @Hankstar

    Or do you think that a person’s special interest is their only interest; that they’ll pursue that interest to the exclusion of everything else?

    My interests are the most special.

  31. Ichthyic says

    I can’t recall him ever stating a desire NOT to see atheism appeal to the widest segment of humanity possible, while at the same time arguing that this by itself does not necessarily promote social justice.

    …where “this by itself” is the inferred (opposite of NOT) promotion of atheism to the widest audience possible, in case it wasn’t clear.

  32. Ichthyic says

    My interests are the most special.

    I put your interests up on my fridge and gave you a shiny gold star sticker!

    isn’t that enough?

    ;)

  33. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    It’s completely against your stated desire to see Atheism appeal to a wider section of humanity.

    Got that, PZ? Trying to include ANYONE aside from straight white dudes is going to decrease the number of atheists . .. or are we talking about skeptics? Either way, asking People (read: straight, white dudes) to include chicks, queers and darkies is just WEIRD. It’s straight white dudes that bring in the numbers. And ONLY straight white dudes.

  34. doubtthat says

    I can see making the argument for focus if there’s a discreet goal: the election is coming, we realize Centrist Democrat doesn’t remotely hold optimum views on a wide range of issues, set that aside to avoid Worst Case Scenario Republican.

    Beyond that, whining about the size of the tent should always be understood as the whiner being upset that they no longer exclusively control the group’s priorities.

  35. Nerdette says

    Oh, man. I hope the Skeptics ™ don’t discover my Reading Skeptically group, where we take a critical eye to societal assumptions. Our reading list has included The Ominvore’s Dilemma, The Selfish Gene, How We Do Harm, THEM: Adventures with Extremists, Oryx and Crake, and Manhood in America: A Cultural History (thanks Pharyngulite that recommended it – SallyStrange, maybe?). I’m breaking all sorts of Skeptic ™ guidelines.

  36. says

    Thanks Nerdette, but I’m pretty sure that was Caine. She has been recommending those books for ages, and I still haven’t read it. :(

  37. says

    Manhood in America, and then there was the other one–what was it? Oh yes – Misogyny: The World’s Oldest Prejudice by Michael Holland.

  38. Nerdette says

    #44 SallyStrange

    Thanks Nerdette, but I’m pretty sure that was Caine.

    Clearly I can’t keep brilliant people appropriately labeled in my mind. Thanks to Caine, then! It made for good discussion, despite the MRA activist that showed up that hadn’t read the book…

  39. slatham says

    This post is simply good leadership advice: “Your apathy is irrelevant; their enthusiasm matters.” In the workplace, in the classroom, in the home.

  40. Rey Fox says

    People, please. Stop handcuffing anuran and forcing him into your weird atheist club of weirdness. That is so uncool.

  41. says

    Atheists should and should be pressured to subscribe to a laundry list of specific WEIRD priorities.

    Alright, maybe I’m giving this doofus too much credit, but I thought they were using WEIRD the acronym that refers to the limited pool of people too often used as test subjects in academic research–“Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic”–and so I thought it hilarious that this comment was apparently whining that PZ’s commitment to making atheism welcoming to more than just straight, white, wealthy dudes with expensive (not necessarily good) educations is like totally narrow and elitist.

    The fact that the atheist and skeptic “movements” as is currently cater predominantly to WEIRD white guys is the goddamn problem.

  42. says

    It’s not mission drift, it’s mission drive.
    It’s not being blown around by random gusts, it’s hoisting a sail and setting a course.

  43. says

    I propose the immediate formation of The Proud Atheists Who Love Dogs Because They Can Totally Smell The Cyborg Assassins That Will Eventually Seek To Destroy Us All; Also Who Love Iain M Banks, Isaac Asimov and Margaret Atwood And Wish They Could Be In Faith No More (The Greatest Band Ever, Of The 90s Anyway).

    Enthusiastically seconded! However, I am concerned that DEEP RIFTS will form between The Proud Atheists Who Love Dogs Because They Can Totally Smell The Cyborg Assassins That Will Eventually Seek To Destroy Us All; Also Who Love Iain M Banks, Isaac Asimov and Margaret Atwood And Wish They Could Be in Faith No More (The Greatest Band Ever, Of The 90’s Anyway), Whose Best Album Is Clearly Angel Dust (TPAWLDBTCTSTCATWESTDUA;AWLIMBIAAMAAWTCBIFNM(TGBEOT90’sA)WBAICAD) and The Proud Atheists Who Love Dogs Because They Can Totally Smell The Cyborg Assassins That Will Eventually Seek To Destroy Us All; Also Who Love Iain M Banks, Isaac Asimov and Margaret Atwood And Wish They Could Be in Faith No More (The Greatest Band Ever, Of The 90’s Anyway), Whose Best Album Is Clearly King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime (TPAWLDBTCTSTCATWESTDUA;AWLIMBIAAMAAWTCBIFNM(TGBEOT90’sA)WBAICKFADFFAL). The damage will be irreparable. The KFADFFAL faction will probably invite the Westboro Baptist Church to the next meeting just to spite the AD faction. Or because it’s super funny.

  44. anuran says

    PZ – I have no idea why you can’t understand your own creed. And if you don’t understand something I have no idea why you have to add insults – which your “stupid guy” picture is – instead of asking politely.

    You’ve said repeatedly that atheism should be about more than being an atheist or freethinker, that it’s not enough to just not believe. It should include feminism, environmental concerns a laundry list of social justice issues, so on and so forth. These are all good things. I happen to be on board with them; not everyone is in lock-step with you on all the issues. Your contention – often stated – that atheists should be on board with these makes will make atheist communities less diverse and less inclusive.

    Disagree on economic theory? You don’t quite fit in.
    Disagree on a laundry list of social policies? Maybe you wouldn’t be comfortable in the club.
    Different cultural background leads to different answers? Oh, you’re an atheist, but you’re not REALLY the right sort.

    Stopped clocks, as they say, are right twice a day. And even vicious, racist, god-bothering C. S. Lewis was onto something with his idea of “Mere Christianity”. If the foundation becomes “Christianity and…” or in this case “Atheism and…” you will inevitably lose people who aren’t on board with an ever-increasing list of “ands”. Work on the commonalities and you will be, by simple arithmetic, more inclusive. Add other things that a person must believe or agree with you on in order to be fully welcomed and you will lose people and diversity of perspective with every single step. And inevitably each bit of the Creed will take on a life of its own and divert people from what they were looking for when they got interested in a shared-interest community.

    Let’s take a not completely far-fetched example. The city I live in is considering flouridating its water. Some people are for it. Some are against it. (I happen to be for it). If things have progressed to the point where The Atheist Community has taken a stand for flouridation anti-flouridation atheists will quite rightly say “You don’t speak for me.” And the next time you want their support on a “mere atheist” issue they will be less likely to get involved.

    Inevitably someone will say “You must be a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a Randroid or some other sort of nasty crazy person. We have to welcome and support people of color, women, LGBT people and those who want social justice.” I’m not and we should. This is something different.

    It’s not that difficult.

  45. says

    Your contention – often stated – that atheists should be on board with these makes will make atheist communities less diverse and less inclusive.

    Depends on which kind of diversity you’re measuring.

    If you are aiming for racial diversity, then by necessity you will reduce the diversity vis-a-vis racists, people who are apathetic about racism, and anti-racists. Your membership will skew away from racists and towards people of color.

    It’s a trade-off I have no problem making. Can you explain why this might be a problem, aside from the obvious fact that you might alienate racists, just as taking a correct stand on fluoridation might alienate fluoride conspiracy theorists?

  46. anuran says

    Sorry for the double-post, but here’s an actual real-world example…

    I used to be part of a women’s self defense advocacy group. They did a lot of good work when that was their sole focus. But eventually they started to add “ands”. Support the troops (And support the Wars). Defend cops who are accused of excessive use of force. Oppose gun control. A general distaste for the “F-word” (feminism).

    A lot of people who supported the group and its goals quietly left or were made to feel unwelcome. The excellent things they did were often overshadowed by the divisions caused by other issues they decided to tack on. The group became progressively less diverse and as a result less effective as former supporters got fed up and left.

  47. says

    so what you’re saying is: because a group became more regressive and therefore alienated people, we cannot have progressive groups in our larger movement?

    that’s incoherent.

    besides, as Sally said, I have no problem reducing the “diversity” of thought if that just means excluding racists and supporters of a racist status-quo in the groups I participate. The same goes for sexists, racists, homophobes, etc. Reducing bigotry is a loss of diversity I am fully in support of.

  48. thumper1990 says

    @Mythbri

    I wouldn’t say I hate snowsports, but other than that AFWLSAA,PCAEC,ALTGHAHSSALBAR,PT sounds… just perfect. I would join that in a heartbeat.

    Hell, if you could work kickboxing and painting in there, you’d have covered literally all my sober hobbies.

  49. Suido says

    @Anuran:

    Well blow me down, people quit a women’s self defense advocacy group after it started supporting militarism, providing civilians with unnecessary firepower and defending thugs in uniform? Good thing they were teaching women about self defense, given the society they expected women to live in…

    Sounds like the people who quit were acting very sensibly, there’s a massive disconnect between self defense for women and defending authoritarian thugs and their weapons of choice.

    However, there isn’t a massive disconnect between being an atheist and being progressive on social issues, which is what A+ has mostly been about so far. There also isn’t a massive disconnect between humanists and cinema lovers, especially with regards to shunning the Wayan brothers’ ouvre. Some things are bad for humanity, and I’m sure the cinematically inclined humanists are are doing their niche bit.

    Any takers to join my group, the Atheists Who Really Hate Cryptic Crosswords That Don’t Fall In The Goldilocks Zone With Regards To Difficulty Level, Which Differs Depending On Time Of Day And Possibly What Socks I’m Wearing. I Just Want A Reasonable Challenge That Only Takes An Hour To Complete, Is that Too Much Too Ask?

  50. =8)-DX says

    @mythbri #2

    And Hate Snow Sports

    This is completely unacceptable. Why do you hate skiers? Why are you creating these deep rifts in the pharyngula comments section?

  51. huffysnappy says

    Can we haz a blog or Lounge-like thread* on FtB for the (skeptic)-atheist-feminist-social-justice-and-science-loving-animal-rights-activist-veganz?

    Seriously.

    Veganism as a part of social-justice skepticism – debate.

    How we can have more skeptics and scientists to make veganism and the animal rights movement now New and Improved with more critical thinking** and less anti-vaxxing and misinterpretation of the ‘Pottenger’s Cats’ experiment***.

    Atheists whose ego defences might be triggered and/or who don’t want to read about veganism in their movement – don’t have to.

    And hopefully those participating can do so without the:

    ‘You live in fairy-land, vegan. Shut up. You are stupid, vegan. Shut up. You are privileged, vegan. Shut up. You are a lying sack of shit! And so are all your friends and colleagues. Shut up, vegans!!!!! Shut up!!!!!!!! Shut up!!!!!!YOU DON’T GET TO DECIDE. YOU ARE NO-ONE!!!!!!!!!’

    Please PZ. Please please please please please.

    *because I don’t know that many skeptics, or atheists or vegans to suggest someone to be a blogger. Hmmm. Maybe the Vegan Feminist Agitator? Or perhaps the ‘Vegans of Color’. Stephanie Ernst from ‘Animal Rights and Anti Oppression’ also comes to mind, but I don’t know what she is up to these days. .

    **not to diss folks who have been doing this animal rights gig for ages

    ***if i recall, vegan RDs and nutritionists such as Brenda Davis, Vesanto Melina, Jack Norris and Ginny Messina all do a great job debunking vegan nutritional myths like this one (actually more of a raw food myth, but there is sufficient overlap), but the point of more scientists and skeptics would be for Signal Boosting, as well as additional Myth Busting capability.

  52. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Can we haz a blog or Lounge-like thread* on FtB for the (skeptic)-atheist-feminist-social-justice-and-science-loving-animal-rights-activist-veganz?

    Seriously, start your own. You don’t need a sponsoring agency to blog, nor does your fellow vegans.

  53. John Morales says

    [OT]

    huffysnappy, since the Lounge is an open thread — meaning that there is no set topic — there can be no Lounge-like thread dedicated to a particular topic.

  54. Ben says

    Perhaps if the movement was called Feminism+ that would be more appropriate and cause less problems.

    Being a feminist (blaming patriarchy and rape culture) seems to be as intrinsic a part of the movement as being an atheist is. If it was called Feminism + it wouldn’t offend any atheists who weren’t feminists. This seems to be the problem. Not everyone wants to be identified with feminism.

    I’m guessing there would be more Feminists who would be Atheists, than the other way around?

    Just print some new business cards or whatever, Feminism + , problem solved!!

  55. Steve LaBonne says

    Not everyone wants to be identified with feminism.

    Fuck those people. Seriously. If you can’t deal with the idea that women are actual human beings, just fuck off and die. You are no skeptic if you are unwilling to question your own gender (and race, and class) privilege. And you may be as atheistic as all get out but you still are part of the problem with our society, not the solution.

  56. John Morales says

    Ben:

    Perhaps if the movement was called Feminism+ that would be more appropriate and cause less problems.

    Perhaps if you knew whereof you spoke you’d not show yourself to be such a fool.

    Being a feminist (blaming patriarchy and rape culture) seems to be as intrinsic a part of the movement as being an atheist is.

    Your parenthetical betrays your ignorance.

    If it was called Feminism + it wouldn’t offend any atheists who weren’t feminists. This seems to be the problem. Not everyone wants to be identified with feminism.

    If atheists who aren’t feminists weren’t so offended by atheists who are feminists, there would be no such problem, either.

    I’m guessing there would be more Feminists who would be Atheists, than the other way around?

    You’re asking us what you’re guessing?

    <snicker>

    Just print some new business cards or whatever, Feminism + , problem solved!!

    Your imaginary problem would be imaginarily solved, but the problem of atheists who aren’t feminists having a problem with atheists who are would not be.

  57. Steve LaBonne says

    I’m a big supporter of atheists being vocal about it- in a country as backward as the US there are still many places where it’s uncomfortable or worse to be an “out” atheist, and people in that position need to be supported loudly and clearly by those of us more fortunately situated. But I don’t see that by itself as the basis for any worthwhile “movement”. (Even less valuable is a “movement” for debunking Bigfoot. BFD.) In every respect that matters to me, a Randroid atheist is my enemy, and a progressive liberal Christian is my ally.

  58. Ogvorbis, broken failure. says

    Perhaps if the movement was called Feminism+ that would be more appropriate and cause less problems.

    My view is that the patriarchy is one of the toxins that organized religions has kept alive in my culture. Fighting against the influence that religion has on my culture implies, to me, that combatting the patriarchy, in all its forms, is an important part of being an atheist.

    Being a feminist (blaming patriarchy and rape culture) seems to be as intrinsic a part of the movement as being an atheist is.

    I don’t blame patriarchy and rape culture. I blame religion for continuing to do everything possible to continue those parts of my culture. I view that as recognizing that patriarchy and rape culture exist, not blaming them. They are a toxin produced by the infection called religion.

    If it was called Feminism + it wouldn’t offend any atheists who weren’t feminists. This seems to be the problem. Not everyone wants to be identified with feminism.

    You are correct. Some atheists do not want anything to do with feminism. Fine. They are still atheists. I do wonder, however, why they are fighting so hard to preserve some of the toxins produced by the infection of religion within my culture. I wonder why they would do that?

    And I also wonder why anyone would actively fight to preserve what feminism is trying to dismantle? Is the idea that women are actual human beings really that far fetched?

  59. vaiyt says

    @anuran

    Work on the commonalities and you will be, by simple arithmetic, more inclusive.

    Not when “working on commonalities” entails telling minorities to STFU and suck it while letting racists and misogynists define the priorities.

  60. Ogvorbis, broken failure. says

    And my daily homage to Borkquote, nephew of Tpyos, is thus offered.

  61. =8)-DX says

    Let’s boil down anuran’s point. He/she/it is basically saying:

    “A majority of people in the atheist movement are either racist/ignorant/uneducated/apathetic/defensive/sexist/aggressive/radical/misogynist/homophobic/transphobic about equality issues, so including them as a requirement in a given group will reduce diversity” (including).

    Now the question is, how much is this true? From other blogs and discussions and online polls and stuff, I would hazard a completely random OOMA guess that somewhere around 50% of atheists in the West would fit in to one of those categories. The less controversial issues in the atheist community (take homophobia, racism – many atheist activist groups have supported equal rights here without any major complaints) are easily included. Most atheists have the same stance on that. But with the more “controversial” issues, many active atheists will no longer want to participate.

    Now there are two problems I see here: on the one hand the problem on a lot of issues is a lack of education or applied skepticism. People will say they support equality, yet reject consent-based definitions of rape, female/male speaker quotas etc. The answer to that is basically to say they’re wrong, explain why, and I think most atheists will generally be on the progressive side here. In the science-based education movement, there is no room for “Oh I get evolution, but surely God was needed to start the Cambrian explosion/design proteins” faction. If you are an atheist who wants to participate in the evolution/creation “debate”, being educated on how evolution works and why it is true is a prerequisite.

    On the other hand, there’s the completely random 50% figure I just pulled out of my ass. How many atheists ARE racists, sexists or homophobes? To what degree? How much of a benfit is it to include more women/minorities/socially aware people to the detriment of the number of active sexism-ignorant/in-denial-of people? Just as many Churches/faith-based communities lose members over gay rights issues, is sexism really so prevalent among atheists as to produce a net drain?

    I think the answer will be slightly different for each individual and time will tell more about the numbers, but as a cis, white male, I’m gonna stand on the side of diversity, including broad categories while rejecting bigotry. Even a net loss in atheist activism is well worth being on the right side of history and I think a diverse, inclusive and socially progressive atheist movement will be stronger, even if it represents only a smaller number of atheists, even if it alienates some.

    Um, I guess. =8)-DX

  62. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    This seems to be the problem. Not everyone wants to be identified with feminism.

    Gee, who wants to be identified with you? Not me. A+ is more than just feminism. Anybody who studied the issue, rather than getting second hand information from misogynists would know better.

  63. ChasCPeterson says

    huffysnappy, why do you imagine that PZ Myers or anybody else ought to cater to your particular hobbyhorse? And why do you imagine that if he did, that nobody would be mean to your sensitive vegan ego?
    Here’s an idea: you could join the A+ forum and start your own thread over there (if there aren’t already 5 or 6 on the topic).

    science-loving-animal-rights-activist

    citation needed

  64. huffysnappy says

    @Nerd 59.

    Too much mission drift, eh?
    Go away, vegan. GO AWAY!!!!

    Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Luckily, Nerd, I’m not asking you! Of course, it is most likely my request will be ignored for lack of sufficient support, and that will be that.
    For now.

    @ John Morales 60.
    The Lounge may be an open thread, but discussions of veganism and animal rights appear to enrage some around here. And the regulars may feel multiple vegan delurkations in the Lounge as something of an invasion. Hence my specific request.

  65. huffysnappy says

    chas@72

    I’m not imagining anything. I’m making a request.

    Do you need a citation to understand the difference?

  66. says

    I remember when the whole A+ thing first came up. I was thinking, hmmm…I’m an atheist and that should be enough on that side of things. Maybe I should keep my other -ists/-isms separate from each other? When I’m supporting atheism, I should be supporting atheism only. When I support feminism, I should be supporting feminism only.

    BUT THEN PZ’s Horde showed up, banged on my door, and demanded that I must, MUST! join A+ or I wouldn’t be allowed to be an atheist anymore. They were going to take my atheist card away! So, of course, I joined up because who wants to be woken up in the middle of the night by an angry Horde? And Jadehawk was there, and Nerd was there,and Ogvorbis, you were there too…

  67. Ogvorbis, broken failure. says

    ,and Ogvorbis, you were there too…

    Sorry ’bout that. I thought it was queue for the the ghey sects with Brownian and/or Louis. I had no idea the horde was going to be doing that. I was just a fellow traveler. Hones.

  68. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Luckily, Nerd, I’m not asking you!

    My complaint with your request isn’t that it is vegan, as I never comment about vegan on those threads, but rather you expect people like PZ to do the work you should do yourself. Always the other people needing to do your bidding. You want a specific blog? Do the work on your own to set one up, which is easy to do these days. Then, you might be invited to join FtB if you are even a mild success. Which has nothing to do with your topic, but rather your expecting other people to do the heavy keyboard work for you.

  69. poxyhowzes says

    Back to the OP:

    Interior Decoration = Yes+

    Interior Design = anathema!

    Topic for the discussion: Can Feng Shui be achieved without god(s)?

    –pH

  70. poxyhowzes says

    Not Yes+ but Yes!
    Tpyos must be appeased with daily sacrifice! — pH

  71. says

    because I don’t know that many skeptics, or atheists or vegans to suggest someone to be a blogger.

    http://saltycurrent.blogspot.com/
    atheist, sociologist, skeptic, social justice activist, vegan. blog also includes discussions of the other topic that makes people lose their shit around here (the bullshit tales we get told about psychmeds).

  72. vaiyt says

    Not everyone wants to be identified with feminism.

    Not everyone wants to be identified with racism and ableism either. If you let these run rampant in your community, you’ll alienate people hurt by such practices. Which would you rather choose?

  73. John Horstman says

    @mythbri: Shoot, you had me up until “beaches”; they combine some of my least favorite things – sand, direct sunlight, and water that gets on parts of me that are not my digestive tract. I’ll be happy to join a parallel sub-group for Atheist Feminists Who Like Science And Animals, Particularly Cats And Even Cephalopods, And Like To Go Hiking And Hate Snow Sports And Love Reading that can collaborate on everything except the beaches bit.

  74. Ogvorbis, broken failure. says

    And I notice that there is no subgroup for steamnerding, wildland firefighting, or even bad humour (or bad humor (either one)). Big tent indeed.

  75. John Horstman says

    @anuran (#52): Well, to a certain extent, the reasons for disagreement (or the evidence levied to defend the disagreement) are important. For example, if one disagrees that, in practice, an economic model of corporate capitalism in a relatively-unregulated market privileges the already-wealthy, one is denying the entire body of evidence on the subject, on par with denial of evolution or anthropogenic global warming. Argument over whether a planned economy or a market-based (consumer/demand-driven? producer/supply-driven? extensively regulated? minimally-regulated?) economy is the most equitable (as opposed to equal – equality is trivial to achieve, but due to differences in ability, opportunity, and effort, equality is rarely if ever equitable) system to distribute material wealth is much more tenable (historically, all of these systems breed inequality of distribution – the question boils down to whether that inequality, in any given case, is in fact equitable or not). Disagreement over whether equitability (or, for that matter, acknowledged outright privilege) is actually a more desirable goal than equality – especially in practice, where the barriers to equitability (mainly differential social positionalities, or locations on all the various axes of marginalization versus privilege, few of which are even static throughout one’s life) may be greater than those to equality – is also more tenable. Differences in ideology, which I would classify as the underlying values driving one’s reasoning and desired outcomes or desired methods if one doesn’t subscribe to a system of ethics based on impact/effect, are less problematic than outright dogma, which I would classify as unwavering support of a particular policy or truth claim irrespective of any evidence and congruence with one’s asserted ideological perspective, though they are still potentially problematic.

    That sort of got away from me and I forgot where I was going with it, but yeah. Things like context, reasoning, and evidence are relevant to whether inclusion is going to ultimately be helpful or harmful.

  76. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    And I notice that there is no subgroup for steamnerding, wildland firefighting, or even bad humour (or bad humor (either one)). Big tent indeed.

    Yeah, my subgroup would include working full time while needing to tend to the disabled spouse half-time. Leaving me with little time for myself. To quote Madeline Khan in Blazing Saddles, “I’m tired”…