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Nov 26 2013

Richard Dawkins, awaiting your questions

Here’s an opportunity: Richard Dawkins is doing an IAmA on Reddit right now.

136 comments

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  1. 1
    Sili

    Dawkypoo and reddit – two great tastes, that taste great together!

  2. 2
    Jackie

    Sili,
    Sure…for certain definitions of “great”.

  3. 3
    skeptifem

    I’m sure there will be a lot of “why are you so great?” bullshit

  4. 4
    davidlee

    Wow. Never saw Reddit before. A mass of chaos. Does it always look like that?

  5. 5
    Usernames are smart

    Quick! Someone ask him if he should “just get over it” if, while was taking a shower at the gym, he was surrounded by a bunch of men who leered at his penis and then suggestively asked him if he’d like to go over to their house for a game of “coffee”!

  6. 6
    ludicrous

    Glanced over about 100 didn’t see any ref to Dear Muslima. I have been hoping RD would find a male friend he is comfortable with and who has some understanding of female experience and sit down with him and have a conversation. Couldn’t hurt. I should have written to him a long time ago, maybe there is still a chance. What potential he owns as a prospective ally.

  7. 7
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    A certain inveterate invertebrate has asked:

    There has been a lot of upset caused in the atheist community by your belittling of women within the community. One particular incident was your “Dear Muslima” comment that was very disparaging of people trying to raise problems that women face in the community. Your remarks have been used as a rallying cry for all manner of misogynist atheists online. Will you one day clarify your current position in this regard?

  8. 8
    Raging Bee

    The guy who constantly blames his verbal missteps on the media he chooses to use, is now answering questions on Reddit? Why can’t he field questions on his own fucking blog?

    Here’s my question: When is the Atheist Honey-Boo-Boo getting his own “reality” show?

    PS: that was a damn good question, theo. I eagerly await his response.

  9. 9
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ Raging Bee

    Thanks. I am a little tired now, but think it has enough little tentacles and suckers to do the trick.


    My comment seems to have disappeared though. Wish I’d done a screen capture.

  10. 10
    Raging Bee

    What comment disappeared? I still see your question.

  11. 11
    rq

    After seeing his wishy-washy dismissive and all-round boring presentation in London, I can’t be bothered to mosey on over there and see what he’s saying.
    But his reply to your question, theophontes, should be interesting.

  12. 12
    rq

    theophontes
    … Well, I guess that answers that!

  13. 13
    Anthony K

    Hey, Richard: when you made your idiotic comment about Nobel Prizes, Muslims, and Trinity College, you pretty much took the concept of statistical validity and pissed on it. Why do you hate science and science education, and when are you going to stop giving creationists support by validating and supporting their kind of pseudoscience?

  14. 14
    oolon

    @Theophontes comment is still there… Voted it up.
    http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1ri1y9/i_am_richard_dawkins_scientist_researcher_author/cdnhflx
    Few more and it will be harder to ignore ;-)

  15. 15
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ Raging Bee

    What comment disappeared? I still see your question.

    comment question

    Found it. I haven’t used this reddit thingy before.

  16. 16
    dereksmear

    Dear Richard,

    Pat Condell supports the EDL and has been exposed as a xenophobic bigot. Are you still glad “he is on our side”? Also, why do you still sell his material on your website?

    Best,

    Derek

  17. 17
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    Dear Dickie-poo,

    Why are you such an unrepentant asshole?

    Love and hugs,
    Ricker D

  18. 18
    voidhawk

    The closest to an answer was in response to the pathetic whingeing about the re-arrangement of a website:

    “It was not well handled, but that is water under the bridge, along with many other things.”

  19. 19
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Just saw one of the Slymies make the claim that PZ was sending his horde after Richard Dawkins.

    Because, as we all know, PZ hates Dawkins and is trying to bring him down.

    At least it is true in the stories the Slymies tell each other.

  20. 20
    rq

    Why do you hate science and science education

    Actually, Anthony K, he doesn’t. He hates liberal arts education like women’s studies. I heard it from his own mouth myself.

  21. 21
    Raging Bee

    theo: I see three responses to your question — but they’re all remarking on Dawkins’ failure to answer it.

    But I guess that’s Reddit’s fault, innit? I mean, YOU didn’t find your own question, so how can we expect Dawkins to answer it? Reddit is such an inadequate medium for a professor to properly express his thoughts…

  22. 22
    Raging Bee

    Just saw one of the Slymies make the claim that PZ was sending his horde after Richard Dawkins.

    Because as we all know, PZ is Saruman and we’re all Uruk-Hai. And I guess this Reddit thread is the next Helm’s Deep. SOMEONE TAKE HIS PALANTIR BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE ELEVENTY!!111!1!!!11!!

  23. 23
    PZ Myers

    #18, Janine:

    I don’t give a damn what the slymies say.

    However, if you look over the questions posted on the IamA, you’ll see that they’re polite and friendly throughout. Kinda gives the lie to the idea that the horde was sent out “after” Dawkins, don’t you think? I also suspect that the majority of the readers here, like me, respect Dawkins for his expertise and merely do not endorse the idea that he’s infallible, and are willing to call him out on differences of opinion.

  24. 24
    Anthony K

    He hates liberal arts education like women’s studies.

    I wonder if STEM people ever become aware of how unfavourably they’re perceived by social scientists for their conflation of technological rigor for methodological. As the old joke about bench scientists goes, anyone can spit in a petri dish and publish an article about it.

  25. 25
    Anthony K

    I also suspect that the majority of the readers here, like me, respect Dawkins for his expertise and merely do not endorse the idea that he’s infallible, and are willing to call him out on differences of opinion.

    I’m not calling the asshole out for a difference of opinion. When you shit out some trite comparison based on Nobel Prize laureates in order to bolster some claim against Muslims, you’re actively against science and methodological rigour.

    Expertise? You’ve got to be kidding.

  26. 26
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    PZ, I know you do not care. Nor should you.

    I just am amused at how the slymies twist things about in order to fit their collective narrative.

  27. 27
    ChasCPeterson

    Dawkypoo
    Dickie-poo
    the Atheist Honey-Boo-Boo

    lol. Way to claim the high road, gang. [gasp, I'm a Tone Troll!]

    I wonder if STEM people ever become aware of how unfavourably they’re perceived by social scientists for their conflation of technological rigor for methodological.

    There’s an insightful analysis. Because social sciences like Women’s Studies are so well known for their methodological rigo[u]r.

    Expertise? You’ve got to be kidding.

    I doubt it. There’s nothing contradictory about having expertise and being an asshole.

  28. 28
    Anthony K

    There’s an insightful analysis. Because social sciences like Women’s Studies are so well known for their methodological rigo[u]r.

  29. 29
    Anthony K

    There’s an insightful analysis. Because social sciences like Women’s Studies are so well known for their methodological rigo[u]r.

    Maybe that’s true. And evo psych pretty much takes the concept of science out back and gives it a curb-stomping. But, I digress.

    But here’s the funny thing: whatever Dawkins thinks of the social sciences, he certainly practices them whenever he opens his stupid fucking yap about a subject that isn’t evolution. He just practices them like a complete fucking moron.

    I doubt it. There’s nothing contradictory about having expertise and being an asshole.

    No, but there’s something contradictory about pretending to be a science communicator and then not know what the hell a representative sample is.

  30. 30
    PZ Myers

    Dawkins is a very smart guy and a great communicator…in his field.

    I will agree that he often digs himself a deep hole on social issues.

    But, you know, when we say that there should be no masters and no heroes, and that everyone should be subject to criticism, and there’s no one who’s perfect, we also need to recognize the complement to that: no one is totally bad, everyone has some area in which they’re right and good, and there’s no one who is perfectly bad.

  31. 31
    Anthony K

    I will agree that he often digs himself a deep hole on social issues.

    Digs a hole? He doesn’t dig himself holes; he actively demonstrates to others that science doesn’t matter when you’ve got an agenda to push.

    But, you know, when we say that there should be no masters and no heroes, and that everyone should be subject to criticism, and there’s no one who’s perfect, we also need to recognize the complement to that: no one is totally bad, everyone has some area in which they’re right and good, and there’s no one who is perfectly bad.

    So who’s even saying he’s perfectly bad?

    And why don’t you ever chime in with this “nobody’s all good and nobody’s all bad” business when it’s Ken Ham or Ray Comfort we’re discussing? They encourage people to look at fossils, don’t they? That’s gotta count for something in the ‘popularising science’ game.

  32. 32
    Sili

    lol. Way to claim the high road, gang. [gasp, I'm a Tone Troll!]

    I’ve never claimed to bother with that. The road less travelled? Bah!

  33. 33
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    I was immediately sidetracked trying to figure out WTF “IAmA” is supposed to mean – which remains unexplained. I get ‘I am person x” and I know what “AMA” is, and this doesn’t help. Are these things supposed to start out with “I am a (person who does x)” , but no one is following the form?

    Never mind, because I was then sidetracked by “I Am Joel Hodgson”, a much better use of my reading time than Dawkins, who is largely irrelevant in my universe. (Except that he and Lalla Ward married.)

  34. 34
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Huh. chas is whining about something complete irrelevant just to insult Horde members? It must be Tuesday.

    PZ @ 29: Word. I think Dawkins is an ass outside of his niche, but he is damn good in his niche. If we have ‘no gods, no masters’, we should (imo) accept the fact that sometimes, some dogs will refuse to learn new tricks. Not saying I’m going to rush out and spend my money on him, but while he stays on his one-trick pony, he’s tolerable.

  35. 35
    Stacy

    When you shit out some trite comparison based on Nobel Prize laureates in order to bolster some claim against Muslims

    That claim wasn’t against Muslims. It was against Islamic fundamentalism. He also pointed out that science and math flourished under Islam in earlier centuries.

  36. 36
    Anthony K

    That claim wasn’t against Muslims. It was against Islamic fundamentalism. He also pointed out that science and math flourished under Islam in earlier centuries.

    That’s utterly irrelevant to the fact that it’s a simplistic observation based on some very biased sample and tossed out as if it were meaningful. The fact that there are ~19 male laureates for every 1 female should immediately cause one to suspect that it may be a biased source that should be corrected for. (‘A statement of simple fact is not bigotry,’ he says. Not necessarily, but failing to consider that fact is possibly itself a product of bigotry is at the very least, dangerous idiocy.)

    I don’t expect the man to be perfect. I certainly expect that he not do and justify exceptionally bad science.

    Or are people not aware of how good, rigorous social science is practiced? I mean, it’s obvious Chas isn’t. But do other people not get why the set of Nobel laureates is so obviously* not any sort of representative sample of the population at large, and to just toss out observations about a likely biased dataset as if they were observations about the population at large is scientifically ignorant at best and downright dishonest at worst?

  37. 37
    johnx

    Thanks for the tip on the thread. I have read a few of Richard’s books. Hopefully there are good questions.

  38. 38
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Anthony K

    The fact that there are ~19 male laureates for every 1 female should immediately cause one to suspect that it may be a biased source that should be corrected for.

    By now I have the nasty feeling that RD would count that as “simple statement of fact”, too.
    Hey, I just read that the RDF now has a page in German! It think I’ll just keep reading other stuff in English…

  39. 39
    ranmore

    Ok, we get it Anthony K – you hate the guy. And predictably hate brings out the most one-sided, unfair and ungracious views.

  40. 40
    andrewryan

    Illuminata: “but while he stays on his one-trick pony, he’s tolerable”

    Slightly damning with faint praise when his ‘one-trick’ is such a wide subject!

  41. 41
    Nick Gotts

    PZ,
    This on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand is all very well, and maybe Ken Ham is kind to puppies and kittens, but surely we’re well past the point where the harm Dawkins does outweighs the good – and he is actively doing harm specifically to atheism and to science as well as more broadly, by associating them with well-off white male privilege, misogyny and racism.

  42. 42
    Alex the Pretty Good

    @ Giliell, 37

    Hey, I just read that the RDF now has a page in German! It think I’ll just keep reading other stuff in English…

    As non-German continental Euro-trash (“who would be speaking German or Russian if it weren’t for us”), I find that reference to “sins of the grandfather” extremely uncalled for.

    It’s perfectly logical for a well-known European like Richard Dawkins to have a German version of their site: German is the language with the most native speakers (between 90 and 100 million) in Europe.

    In case you haven’t noticed, most of the fascist rhetoric (both on and off the Web) these days is not being voiced in German but in English … or more precisely in ‘Murican.

    You won’t see me disparaging all speakers of the language of Shakespeare like you just did to the language of Goethe, though.

    ———
    Please be advised that the above is in no way linked to me having been (and continuing to be) extremely disappointed in Dawkins’ “Dear Muslima” post and the way he handled the fall-out that followed it.

  43. 43
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ ranmore

    And predictably hate brings out the most one-sided, unfair and ungracious views.

    Anthony K‘s ability to focus in on the essence of the problem is not hatred. His excisions are only of the bad bits. If you are squeamish look away.

    @ andrewryan

    Slightly damning with faint praise when his ‘one-trick’ is such a wide subject!

    Indeed he has written widely. And that small percentage of the population which has had the privilege (myself included) of reading his books, are all the better for it. My concern is that those few, narrow, comments he has made that disparage the role of women in our movement have lent support to a very nasty and vociferous group of misogynists. In this way we all lose. Every person on the fucking planet.

  44. 44
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ Alex the Pretty Good

    Holy crap! That was a brainfart if ever I smelled one.

    (Pro-tip: Giliell is German!)

  45. 45
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Alex the Pretty Good
    Hallo Alex!
    Ist ja nett dass du mir hier irgendwas über meine Muttersprache erzählen willst. Ich weiß zwar nicht genau was, soviel Sinn macht das was du schreibst ja nicht, aber trotzdem danke für den Versuch.
    Übrigens, woher kennst du meine Opas?

  46. 46
    drm0

    Anthony K #13

    comment about Nobel Prizes, Muslims, and Trinity College

    Coming from a country with no Nobel prize recipients at all, I find this comment particularly precious. I guess that, if I have no prospect of attending Trinity College, my best chance to increase my intelligence is by converting to Islamism! At least they have some laureates, don’t they? So, what were the magic words I must repeat, again?

    (and this, kids, was another victory of the enlightened world against the faceless hordes of orcs that threatened it…)

  47. 47
    Avicenna

    @Dereksmear – Put it this way? There are atheists telling me that Pat Condell is not interested in last Sunday’s failed terror attack where a bomb exploded in a MAJOR UK City (no really!) because he is concentrating on Muslims and that Muslims should be treated differently to Catholics on regards to terrorism because “Muslims are not indigeneous”….

    I am sorely sorely tempted to bust out Merchant of Venice’s Shylock speech. If you prick me do I not bleed?

  48. 48
    Alex

    Gibst’ dem Opi Opium, haut das Opium den Opi um. I just wanted to make that clear concerning the sins of the fathers. And that I’m not Alex the Pretty Good.

    Leaving aside all of RDs’ stupid statements and behavior, the RDF site has simply become unreadable to me by virtue of it’s design, so I stopped paying attention to it in either language.

  49. 49
    Alex

    its design
    *ARRGGH*

  50. 50
    HappyNat

    I’d just like to add my voice to those that say Dawkins has become more of a liability than an ally. The biology books were great, the writings on religion were OK, but the last few years his output seems to be shitting on social sciences, getting defensive when criticized, and supporting misogynists, pedophiles, and racists. The cherry on top is that he refuses to admit to the possibility that he might be the slightest bit wrong about anything. If my mate at the pub displayed these characteristics I’d find another bar stool.

    We can and must do better.

  51. 51
    Avicenna

    No, the problem with Dawkins is that he has been far away from social interaction with the minorities of the group. He isn’t racist, he just doesn’t realise that there is a problem.

    He doesn’t get why Pat Condell for example is a racist. Why? Because he probably supported him ages ago and didn’t see what he has become. He isn’t watching him go on about Islamic terrorism in the UK when this year there has been more terrorist activity aimed at killing Muslims in the UK than vice versa (1 muslim dead, 3 mosques damaged by right wing bombings) and more IRA activity in the last weekend than the total Muslim terror attacks (2 attacks vs 1)

    To Dawkins Pat is still the man he was 3 years ago when he was criticising Islam and not having his fan boys claim that I am not British because of the colour of my skin.

    The problem again is that for the longest period atheism has been an echo chamber and there are a fairly vocal group of people who like it that way.

  52. 52
    Alex

    @Avicenna,

    I’d really like to see it that way, but in addition to being out of touch with social issues as you say, Dawkins has also become very pigheaded when it comes to reacting to criticism pointing out this very fact. I wonder whether it is his age or maybe rather the fact that he gets told daily and for years what a great intellectual hero he is and what influence he had on people’s lives, such that maybe he has become a bit of a narcisist as well…

  53. 53
    robinjohnson

    Avicenna, #51

    No, the problem with Dawkins is that he has been far away from social interaction with the minorities of the group.

    This is probably true of a large majority of racists. Just because their racism comes from isolation and thoughtlessness, rather than from waking up every day actively trying to think of new ways to be racist, doesn’t mean they’re not racists.

    To Dawkins Pat is still the man he was 3 years ago when he was criticising Islam and not having his fan boys claim that I am not British because of the colour of my skin.

    To many atheists, Dawkins is still the man he was a few years ago, before he started with all the weird misogyny and racism.

  54. 54
    Anthony K

    Ok, we get it Anthony K – you hate the guy. And predictably hate brings out the most one-sided, unfair and ungracious views.

    My feelings towards the man* does not transform Dawkins’ continual and recent bad science into good science. There’s nothing ungracious or unfair about noting that he’s cherry-picked from an unrepresentative sample and simple extrapolated it to be representative of the population it’s drawn from. This is basic statistics 101. If there’s anything one-sided about my critique of Dawkins here, it’s that there’s good, actual science, and there’s the kind of pulled-it-out-of-my-ass crap that Dawkins did. Opinions don’t change this. If he’s any kind of role model for science, he’s a bad one, and his response to criticisms tells everybody watching that bad science is A-OK.

    Here’s another clue ‘skeptics’ and ‘pro-science’ people somehow miss: when someone uses disparate levels of analysis to attempt to draw conclusions from (such as ‘Trinity College’ and “all the world’s Muslims”, critics should immediately be aware of the Texas Sharpshooter problem, cherry-picking and fishing expeditions.

    For instance,

    “All the world’s Irish have fewer Nobel Prizes in science than husband-wife teams. They write well, though.”

    …is just as true and drawn from the same set of data Dawkins used. Go ahead: make your own ‘sciencey like Doctor Dawkins’ tweets. It’s fun and easy and doesn’t require any knowledge of science to do at all.

    If this is the standard we’re walking past, then the ‘pro-science’ community can consider its job done. Most everybody is capable of and is already doing the kind of bad science Dawkins does. Mission Accomplished.

    *I also hate Ken Ham and Ray Comfort for their bad ‘science’. Does that then make them better or worse scientists, in your view?

  55. 55
    Anthony K

    “Prior to 2003, all the world’s women had fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College. They seemed to have sorted their women’s issues out in the past ten years though.”

    That’s a dataset that just keeps on giving!

  56. 56
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    I dislike Richard Dawkins due to his behavior toward Rebecca Watson.

    I’m sure Mr. Dawkins lays awake at night, wondering where he went wrong to piss off a nobody librarian from Baltimore.

    *shrug*

  57. 57
    ChasCPeterson

    there’s good, actual science, and there’s the kind of pulled-it-out-of-my-ass crap that Dawkins did.

    You seem to have confused tweeting tweets on twitter with doing science.

  58. 58
    Anthony K

    You seem to have confused tweeting tweets on twitter with doing science.

    Jesus Chas, you really are a fucking useless moron.

  59. 59
    Anthony K

    But I will bookmark your comment for easy reference, Chas, and I’m going to use it against you whenever you have any complaints about the unscientific nature of blog posts or comments here. If it’s not technically “doing science”, then presumably anything goes. Is that it? Is that the standard you want to abide by?

    Because I’ll make you live by that rule here.

  60. 60
    dereksmear

    @Avicenna

    Which atheist said that? Was it Sam Harris?

  61. 61
    Alex the Pretty Good

    Hello Giliell,

    Okay, so I messed up in my understanding of your message. I’ve been following a lot of the comments here on Pharyngula and I know you’re quite a regular, but for some reason I never picked up that you are German (or at least, that factoid escaped my mind when I read your comment).

    Because of the previous negative comments about Dawkins (certainly not all of them unwarranted) and some remarks that associate his site with (and I quote) “xenophobic bigots” and “misogyny and racism”; to me your comment [...] Hey, I just read that the RDF now has a page in German! [...] sounded like a sarcastic “A page that’s associated with racism also has a German version … geez what a surprise.” and not the “Hey, they’ve got a version in my own native language. Thanks, but no thanks.” you meant.

    So I misread your comment as if it was yet another instance of the “German = Nazi” trope and I lashed out at that reading of your message. And I shouldn’t have.

    My apologies.

    ——-
    And no, I don’t know your grandparents. Though if one of them worked in Hamburg harbour between the 60s and 80s there’s a minuscule chance my late father did business with them.

  62. 62
    LykeX

    @Chas
    Dawkins is such a recognizable public figure and so strongly associated with science that he’s basically “doing science” whenever he opens his mouth. Like it or not, he’s a poster boy. He’s a public representative for science and his words carry weight.

    Such a position carries with it a measure of responsibility. He simply doesn’t get to make an off-hand comment because nothing he says will be taken as an off-hand comment. It will be taken as “Richard Dawkins, renowned scientist, said…”

    Science education is part of “doing science” and if Dawkins speaks about science in any public forum, he’s doing science education, whether he realizes it or not. He’s influencing the public’s views on science. If he screws up when he does that, it’s perfectly legitimate to call him on it and he doesn’t get to sweep criticism aside by saying that twitter doesn’t count.

  63. 63
    Jafafa Hots

    Anthony K, I like the cut of your jib.

  64. 64
    paiger

    Elevatorgate…..still????
    Richard Dawkins “Muslima” letter was intriguing and I understand the point he was trying to make. The young female speaker who started this nonsense has a lot to learn about life. I’m twice her age, female, and have experienced sexual harassment/assault in my 25 year career as an Army nurse. Compared to what I’ve experienced, the incident in the elevator is trivial beyond words.

    What I’m seeing now, months later, is a snowballing of useless gossip and unsubstantiated accusations against brilliant, highly respected men. No one has been charged/convicted. These are serious allegations being made, and in the US, you are innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof is always on the person making the claim. Otherwise it’s just a he said/she said, and there are always two sides to every story..

  65. 65
    chigau (違う)

    paiger #64
    Have you been without internet access for the past 2.5 years?

  66. 66
    Al Dente

    paiger @64

    Compared to what I’ve experienced, the incident in the elevator is trivial beyond words.

    Not according to the Slymepitters. They think that Rebecca Watson saying “Guys, don’t do that” marks the end of civilization as they know it.

  67. 67
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ paiger

    have experienced sexual harassment/assault in my 25 year career as an Army nurse. Compared to what I’ve experienced, the incident in the elevator is trivial beyond words.

    Your experiences are significant. I can only hope that such is prevented from recurring.

    But the incident in the elevator (and particularly the aftermath) is something we also want to prevent from recurring. Whether it is instances of major aggression, as you suffered, or minor instances, such as the micro-agressions highlighted by elevatorgate, these are all things we wish to prevent.

    (At least agree on this: It can only cause harm for a privileged professor to smugly note that whatever aggression women experience, he can find a far more frightful case. He thereby contributes to stifling their legitimate complaints.)

  68. 68
    Rey Fox

    against brilliant, highly respected men.

    Thbbbbbbbt.

  69. 69
    chigau (違う)

    Thbbbbbbbt.

    Ack!
    I wish I’d said that.

  70. 70
    sonofrojblake

    You will, Oscar, you will.

  71. 71
    ChasCPeterson

    You’ll look long and hard and still fail to find any example of me ever whining about, complaining about, or accusing a blog comment of being “unscientific”. See, I have a pretty good idea of how science is done and blog-comments don’t figure, much less tweeted tweets on twitter.
    Dawkins is a famous atheist, less so a famous author, much less so a famous scientist. Nobody, least of all himself, appointed him a spokesperson for Science. By writing a widely-read book on the subject, he has, however, become something of a spokesperson for Atheism. In that role, he tweets stupid tweets on twitter, one of which has riled Anthony K. The point of the tweeted tweet on twitter in question seems to me to have been a perceived hostility of a particular organized religion to the kind of thinking that encourages scientific progress. To Anthony it seems instead to have been reflective of some sort of racist bigotry. This difference in interpretation evidently makes me a “fucking useless moron.”
    *shrug*

  72. 72
    closedmyaccount
  73. 73
    Louis

    Michael Nugent’s take down of PZ? Self confessed rapist in some ranks somewhere? Almost gunned down Dave Muscato (whoever he is)?

    I’ll grant I haven’t been around much for a month or two, but these are news to me. Any links?

    Or is this more of the same hyperbole and twisted nonsense I’m used to finding every time I chase down one of these rabbit holes?

    Louis

  74. 74
    Louis

    I read the Nugent thing. If that’s a defence of Dawkins, he needs better defenders. If that’s an attack on PZ, he needs better attackers.

    I’m sure Nugent’s a lovely chap, probably gives his mother flowers and all that, but the article gave me a large dose of “meh”. Oh well, I guess someone else will have to do the hard work of actually mustering an argument. I certainly can’t be bothered, this petty personality politics is irritating the shite out of me.

    Rather like this whole thread. (And yes, you all needed to know that)

    Louis

  75. 75
    Nick Gotts

    Louis@73,
    #72 is just the usual Slymepit garbage. “Becky” – Rebecca Watson – was, according to Slymepit legend, treated with complete respect and consideration until she contradicted a student blogger during a presentation. It is this heinous crime that has led to years of just punishment at the hands of sundry Brave Heros, in which the victim has, inexplicably, refused to take part. I think the “confessed rapist” may be a reference to Jason Thibeault, who was falsely accused of rape many years ago. Again according to Slymepit legend, FTBullies consider any rape accusation to be automatically true, so by talking about being accused of rape, Jason is an admitted rapist. The reference to Dave Muscato is to this event: someone aimed a gun at Dave Muscato, the Public Relations Director for American Atheists, at the Skepticon conference. The gun-waver has not been named by Muscato, and I haven’t seen any names mentioned, but presumably the Slymepit line is that this person was “one of you crazy folks” – you know, the ones who oppose misogyny. No idea about the “takedown” by Michael Nugent, but if it exists and is convincing, it’s odd that Schlumbumbi didn’t link to it.

    As for:

    Why do you keep on provoking the lone wolves with your hateful rhetorics ? Why is stochastic terrorism so attractive to you ? – Schlumbumbi@72

    WTF is that supposed to mean? Who are these rhetorically allergic antisocial lupines? And what is stochastic terrorism? Does the bomber set things up so he’ll only scatter himself across the cityscape if a radium nucleus decays within a given period?

  76. 76
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    I assume the “takedown” by Michael Nugent refers to this post. Basically it adds up to “Richard didn’t mean what his words said he meant.” Which is kinda odd, for a person hailed as a great communicator.

  77. 77
    drm0

    Looking back, I don’t think my first comment here was a very constructive one. As the discussion of the tweet goes on, let me try to express what is my personal beef with this statement:

    All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.

    The purpose of this tweet may very well have been to highlight “hostility of a particular organized religion to the kind of thinking that encourages scientific progress.” (Chas #71) I won’t argue with that. But, when you do this by pointing out the inferiority of a group of people, you are inadvertently implying the inferiority of other groups of people who find themselves in similar situations. For example, imagine if the Heritage Foundation tweeted:

    “All Latin Americans have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge.”

    An equally true statement, an equally questionable implied conclusion, but suddenly it’s punching me on the stomach for reasons I have no control of. The transition from a religion to an ethnicity may sound absurd for some, but I’ve reasons to believe that many people have difficulty to distinguish a Muslim from the bisexual atheist foreigner from the poor side of the world who’d be beheaded if e landed in Riyadh. And that’s why, when I see this kind of rhetoric, I always wonder how much time until it’s used against me.

    Too far-fetched? Am I being paranoid? I wish I could think so. But, searching the web for the Heritage Foundation’s studies on Hispanics and IQ, I found this little gem in the Washington Post’s comment section that illustrates my point:

    The evidence of race and intelligence seems to be everywhere.
    If you look at who the Nobel prize winners were for the last 25 years in medicine, science, and economics in the U.S. you see 42 U.S. citizens 18 European immigrants, and the rest were Asians. None of the U.S.
    citizens were Hispanic
    If you look at the list of Global Fortune 500 companies 60% are in Europe, Canada and the U.S.
    30 % are in Japan, China, and south Korea.
    Hispanic inventions, scientific discoveries, and major fortune 500 companies all amount to nothing.

    (comment at WonkBlog: Heritage study co-author opposed letting in immigrants with low IQs)

    Same reasoning. Same conclusion. Thankfully, it wasn’t made by a famous person.

    So, to re-iterate, I’m not saying that Dawkins condones these last person’s statements. But, by making tweets as if this kind of logic were valid, he’s helping to legitimate them.

  78. 78
    closedmyaccount
  79. 79
    LykeX

    If you don’t who the child rapist among you folks is, ask Oolon…

    Why? Why are you directing us elsewhere instead of just answering a straightforward question? Why are you generally so reluctant to say anything specific. Take the three last sections of your post at #72. I can’t even tell who you’re criticizing. I have to guess at it because you never actually say.

    In my experience, people who are deliberately and repeatedly vague in their statements are so because it gives them leeway to lie. If they’re called out, they can always reframe their words because it’s all so vague that no one can tell what was originally meant.

    Short version: It makes you sound dishonest. Whether you care about that is up to you, but now you know.

    If you have something to say, then say it. Otherwise, stop clogging the thread.

  80. 80
    Louis

    Nick Gotts, #75,

    Thanks for those, I’d googled them after I posted at #73, but to be frank, I’d become bored!

    Miscellaneous, completely interchangeable Slymebot at #78,

    You know why that is ? Because everything below your acquired threshold of viciousness doesn’t give you a boner anymore. Civility is only for boring people.

    Nope, actually you have that wrong. My “meh” was because it’s not a very good defence of Dawkins (nor a very good “attack” on PZ, if that’s what it was meant to be). I even gave you a clue as to why, I think it was too shallow, not too kind. There aren’t really any arguments in there, just, to my reading, various elisions and disingenuous ignoring of the criticism of Dawkins’ comments.

    I’m not really interested in viciousness and vitriol, sure it’s fun, as indeed are many things, but it’s one technique for dealing with people amongst many, not the only one. Something I might have said, oooooh a bazillion times now. The clue to my objection about Nugent’s warm diarrhoea being unrelated to viciousness might be found in this quote from my comment:

    Oh well, I guess someone else will have to do the hard work of actually mustering an argument. I certainly can’t be bothered, this petty personality politics is irritating the shite out of me.

    It seems to have passed you by, please read again. Dawkins said something a bit daft given the prevailing context and content of discussions about Muslims/Islam etc, factual or not.

    The most charitable interpretation is that he was mistaken in his manner of communication. Hardly terrifying, or unwarranted, criticism. Personally, I think the worst that can be said of Dawkins’ “Nobel tweet” is that he (and his defenders like Nugent it seems) are being deliberately disingenuous about the kind of context into which the tweet was made. It’s a bit “Hey, I was just saying!” (See also: Just Asking Questions) for my tastes. A smart chap like that knows that the expression of “just the facts” in a complex social context is never “just the facts”. It’s begging people to make their own inferences. Not the most honest of communication techniques.

    Incidentally, as a quick aside, I predict you will be “outraged” and “insulted” by me referring to you as a “Miscellaneous, completely interchangeable Slymebot”, seeing as you’re probably a special snowflake and not at all a cardboard cut out, vapid mouthpiece for an unexamined ideological morass of moronic nonsense, i.e. the general output of the Slymepit. Good oh. I hope it illustrates a lovely point for you: treating people like they are all some stereotype is, more often than not, a mistake. A mistake you’ve just made. Enjoy your essentialism. Something, I note, Prof Dawkins has spoken about being a mistake in the past.

    Toodle pipski!

    Louis

  81. 81
    Al Dente

    It would be nice if the slymepitters like Schlumbumbi actually made an argument instead of “you social justice people want social justice, I think it sucks because I think it sucks, I hate you all.”

  82. 82
    Louis

    Al Dente, #81,

    Or “Yeah, well you are a like a team and stuff and there are nasty people on your team so you’re nasty too, so there”. Which totally isn’t a tu quoque, nuh uh, that’s right out.

    Louis

  83. 83
    Sili

    64.
    paiger

    I’m twice her age, female, and have experienced sexual harassment/assault in my 25 year career as an Army nurse. Compared to what I’ve experienced, the incident in the elevator is trivial beyond words.

    Has someone cut off your clitoris with a piece of broken glass?

    If not, what are you complaining about? Plenty of women are worse off than you, so shut the fuck up.

  84. 84
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ Schlumbumbi

    If you don’t who the child rapist among you folks is, ask Oolon, he’s busy making extensive excuses for that person in the comment section of Michael’s article. Disgusting.

    You are refering to a severely abused child who would not be held responsible for the incident anywhere outside of North Korea. You really are a nasty piece of works. And what was your point exactly?

  85. 85
    Louis

    And what was your point exactly?

    I’ll take “Rhetorical point scoring in an ongoing battle about cults of personality” for $1000, please, Alex.

    Louis

  86. 86
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Schlumbumbi, you are aware that Dave Muscato has condemned the use of his experience in the narrative you are repeating.

    Oh, wait, you do not give a flying fuck about facts of what people actually go through.

    Continue hoggling.

  87. 87
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ Louis

    The next question: “Eight year old LRA child soldiers. Prosecute as adults?” … and the clock staaaaaarts… NOW!

    @ Janine

    I have not heard the term “hoggling” in a while. Here it seems particularly apt.

  88. 88
    Nick Gotts

    schlumbumbi@78,

    If you don’t who the child rapist among you folks is, ask Oolon, he’s busy making extensive excuses for that person in the comment section of Michael’s article.

    Er, even for those who have some idea who you’re talking about (and I for one don’t), how could any guilt or responsibility transfer itself to them? If you had any real argument, you’d make it, instead of trying these pathetic smears.

    And about the crazy guy @ Skepticon. We already know that he was an conference goer, one of your crazy folks.

    Um, by that argument, Dave Muscato must be “crazy” too, since he was attending the conference, so how could you rely on his account?

    That’s how much your policies are really worth, making Skepticon the objectively most dangerous conference to go to.

    Oh, right. It’s completely useless and indeed counter-productive to pass a law or regulation or policy, unless everyone immediately abides by it.

    Having heard Dave’s account of what happened, and his reluctance to name names, people were immediately thinking of 1 psychopath who used to be on this network but got thrown out because he openly made violent threats against another person. Whoever it turns out to be in the end, it will be someone with your mindset and level of hostility.

    IOW, you have no idea who it was – you’re just spewing slyme.

  89. 89
    Anthony K

    You’ll look long and hard and still fail to find any example of me ever whining about, complaining about, or accusing a blog comment of being “unscientific”.

    You sure won’t be doing it the future, I can tell you that.

    See, I have a pretty good idea of how science is done and blog-comments don’t figure, much less tweeted tweets on twitter.

    Clearly you don’t, because if you did, you’d know what an unrepresentative sample is and why it’s no good for drawing conclusions without a fuckload of correlation.

    But claims about reality are claims about reality, and we generally call the methodology for making such claims in a rational way supported by evidence is science, whether you figure tweets and blog comments or not.

    I mean, you’re no spokesperson for science, tweets, or blog comments either, so nobody gives a fuck about what you figure.

    Dawkins is a famous atheist, less so a famous author, much less so a famous scientist. Nobody, least of all himself, appointed him a spokesperson for Science. By writing a widely-read book on the subject, he has, however, become something of a spokesperson for Atheism. In that role, he tweets stupid tweets on twitter, one of which has riled Anthony K.

    Well, I hate shitty unscientific comments about the reality, whether they come from creationists or the subject of nerds’ wet dreams.

    The point of the tweeted tweet on twitter in question seems to me to have been a perceived hostility of a particular organized religion to the kind of thinking that encourages scientific progress. To Anthony it seems instead to have been reflective of some sort of racist bigotry. This difference in interpretation evidently makes me a “fucking useless moron.”

    Sigh. No, fucking useless moron, it’s your obsession with your identity as the resident contrarian yappy dog that causes you to say patently stupid things that makes you a fucking useless moron.

    Let’s look at this: “The point of the tweeted tweet on twitter in question seems to me to have been a perceived hostility of a particular organized religion to the kind of thinking that encourages scientific progress.”

    That may well be the point, but in using the data he did to make that point he was wrong, incorrect, and most importantly, whether or not he claims to be a spokesperson for science, he did gobsmackingly bad science. Not because it’s necessarily untrue that Islamic fundamentalism is hostile to science, but because the data he’s using to make that claim is unrepresentative and biased.

    Now, maybe this is beyond the understanding of biologists, but proxy data is much more difficult to draw conclusions from than data you’ve collected yourself for the express purpose of testing some hypothesis. See, social scientists deal with proxy data all the time, so social scientists know this. Dawkins and, I guess you, clearly don’t.

    As I’ve pointed out, the exact same data Dawkins used can be used to similarly demonstrate that being Irish is is hostile to doing science, or being a woman is hostile to doing science (and writing, etc.) The set of Nobel Prize winners is bad data for the purpose of drawing conclusions about populations.

    Can you comprehend that, fucking useless moron who claims to know how science is done?

  90. 90
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Nick, I am afraid I know who schlumbumbi is talking. The slyme is simply repeating a charge that the proud boycotter and organizer of walkouts of PZ’s speeches (His name gets trapped in the filters here.) has made. And, yes, there is a shitton of mirrepresentation involved.

  91. 91
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ Janine / Nick

    Nick, I am afraid I know who schlumbumbi is talking.

    The ‘pitters are merrily naming names in this regard over on Michael’s blog. Their smug, priviledged ignorance is stinking up the thread there. How fucked up must one be to hold a child victim responsible for acting out the brutal abuse he or she has suffered ? I cannot understand why Michael gives them a platform.

  92. 92
    Rey Fox

    I guess it’s probably a small point, but that gun incident happened downtown, not at the convention. Carry on…

  93. 93
    jefrir

    paiger, you expect us to believe you when you tell us you have been sexually harassed and assaulted, but not to believe other people who tell us the same thing. Why the double standard?

  94. 94
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Cannot say that I am surprised, theophontes.

    When I pointed out that this was the result of abuse and force, I was informed that I had no sympathy for the other victims.

    And the *ichard *anderson, the promoter of that story declared that I was a rape apologist and woman abuser.

    Yes, I do think these are extremely disgusting people. They gleefully twist stories and deny people just to maintain their narrative.

  95. 95
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ Janine

    I am worried that they might target and/or start a smear campaign against our friend. Look at their sordid history.

  96. 96
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    I am worried about that also.

  97. 97
    Tethys

    I clicked over to the blog comments to see WTF the slyme was going on about.

    ARGH! Words cannot express the rage. I now want to act out some of my childhood abuse on slumbub and lets be far. The world would be far better off without such abusive assholes in it.

  98. 98
    Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk

    Jesus fucking raging christ on a pogo stick. I am speechless.

    So what, there should be criminal prosecution of children for shit they do under adults’ directives, because they should know better now?

    I’m literally speechless and literally sick to my stomach from disgust.

  99. 99
    Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk

    You know what this narrative of “oh yeah, the kid is totally a rapist and knews what he’s doing” does? It neatly absolves the adults who abused that kid and directed him to act out their filthy fantasies of any and all responsibility for their vileness.

    I’m sure that’s just coincidence.

  100. 100
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    It was *ichard *anderson who started that. And others are willing to spread the lie.

  101. 101
    vaiyt

    You seem to have confused tweeting tweets on twitter with doing science.

    Twitter: where you cannot be called out for pulling shit out of your ass and supporting a racist narrative. Why? Because it’s Twitter, man! Anything goes!

  102. 102
    Anthony K

    Because it’s Twitter, man! Anything goes!

    It’s why our hands are tied when dealing with Jenny McCarthy. As long as she doesn’t set foot in a lab or try to publish in the NEJM we can’t touch her claims with any science.

  103. 103
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Nick Gotts #75
    Stochastic Terrorism is the use of mass media to promote violence against certain groups to such a degree that it is highly likely that one or more individuals not directly connected to you will carry out such violence. Right wing media and their demonization of reproductive health clinics, for instance.

  104. 104
    Jacob Schmidt

    Theophontes

    You are refering to a severely abused child who would not be held responsible for the incident anywhere outside of North Korea. You really are a nasty piece of works. And what was your point exactly?

    Wait, what the fuck? Am I missing something?

  105. 105
    throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    Jacob Schmidt

    Wait, what the fuck? Am I missing something?

    Not in the slightest. It’s worth giving a miss. They’re trying to claim that Pharyngula/FTB/Horde/FTBullies have a “bonafide” rapist in our midst, therefore everyone is a rape apologist until this one person is called out for their being forced into a situation by someone with power. The operating terms for their tactics are, yet again, ‘tu quoque’ and ‘false equivalence’. And holy shit! it is the most vile of victim-blaming and antagonizing bullshit I’ve yet seen from *ich *anderson and the usual gag of clowns. If the intended target of their smears is reading I just want you to know that I stand behind you 100% and will always have your back on this issue.

  106. 106
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    At this point, I’m ready to throw up my hands and LET those fucking assholes have Atheism/Skepticism. They can’t be argued with logically, they fight dirty, and not only do those in “power” not call them out on it, but they DEFEND THIS SHIT. Nugent, Silverman, Lindsay, Grothe… they all bend over backwards to accomodate the filth and marginalize those who actually give a shit about somebody other than themselves. This movement is sociopathic. Fuck it all.

  107. 107
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ Jacob Schmidt

    Just a lot of obtuse vindictiveness from the usual suspects. Hopefully I’ll have the time to fisk all those fuckers over the next few days.

  108. 108
    chigau (違う)

    re: fisking
    From Pffft

    As for Fisk himself, in a 2005 interview he stated that he was unaware of the term. “I have to be honest: I don’t use the Internet. I’ve never seen a blog in my life. I don’t even use email, I don’t waste my time with this. I am not interested. I couldn’t care less. I think the Internet has become a hate machine for a lot of people and I want nothing to do with it.”

    Is that some kind of meta-irony?
    or something?

  109. 109
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ chigau

    The medium is of little consequence. What is important, is to take their arguments apart one by one. Not because they, themselves, learn, but more for lurkers.

  110. 110
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Ye godz!
    How many flavors of wrong are there in #64?

    ****

    UnknownEric @106:
    One thing I find massively frustrating are those that give platforms to the Pitters. That gives them the chance to spread their lies and disinformation. It gives them the opportunity to diverge threads far into OT-land. I realize they often get great pushback, but I wonder how their lies affect lurkers who do not know the backstory of these fuckers.

    Do they have a legitimate position that they articulate and defend with evidence and honest arguments? I have yet to see such.

    Do they add any nuance to discussions, or alternative-yet logical or well evidenced-viewpoints? Again, not that I’ve seen.

    I just read Avicenna’s post about Pitchguest, and I really think banning all the Pitters would make for a more productive comment space.

  111. 111
    ChasCPeterson

    I try, but I fail to follow the way some of y’all think.
    Dawkins’s tweet, at face value, was a straightforward statement of fact.
    While there is certainly room for argument about how that fact ought best be explained or interpreted, to suggest that a straightforward statement of fact is or could be a “statistical fallacy”, or “bad science”, jusr strikes me as bizarre.

  112. 112
    chigau (違う)

    ChasCPeterson #111
    Could you try to be a bit more vague?
    You’ve jusr lost me.

  113. 113
    ChasCPeterson

    I was referring back to Anthony K’s comments above. Unless I am totally out to lunch (shut up), the Dawkins tweet tweeted on twitter that so riled hium was: “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.”
    How this fact could be statistically fallacious escapes me. I kind of see how those on the keen-eyed lookout for racism could flag it (as, imo, a false positive), but to criticize it as “bad science” is over the top.

  114. 114
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Whydidiggothere whydidigothere*

    And Nugent gives them a platform to spread their misinformation.
    Has his blog now become a Pitter Outpost?

    *Nugents Blog.

  115. 115
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Alex the Pretty Good
    ‘s OK. I think we can all just file it under “shit taht happens” and move on.

    Chas
    Does the term “dogwhistle” mean anything to you?

    re: Nugent
    I’m completely underwhelmed by posts that go “Somebody said something” without giving names or quotes.
    It’s dishonest assholery because the people not mentioned but obviously targeted can never win that kind of argument. Object to it, show conclusively that you didn’t say that and “well, I wasn’t talking about you”, or your objection is just evidence that the accusations are true AND you’re a drama-monger who can’t take criticism (getroffener Hund bellt, as we say in German, a kicked dog barks). Or you have to let it stand and have the lies and misrepresentation beeing spread all over the place.
    I expected better than that from Nugent.

    re: pitters
    They’re disgusting. Every time you think that they couldn’t sink any lower they prove you wrong. They’re only interested in playing gotcha on the backs of abuse victims. OTOH some of their reaction is consistent. They firmly believe in “monster theory”. It works all three ways:
    A) Somebody they don’t consider a monster cannot have done a monsterous deed, therefore the accusation is false.
    B) Somebody who has done something they consider a monsterous deed is therefore a monster and can never be redeemed or a good person.
    C) Whatever gets thrown at a monster is legitimate pushback and self-defense.

    paiger
    I’m sorry that bad things happened to you.
    However, if it hasn’t escaped your attention, worse things have happened to Rebecca Watson (she has a name, FFS), too. And actually, the whole “story” was more or less an off-hand remark, appropriate to the “gravity” of the incident.
    If we go by your scale I have to tell you that there are people on this forum who firmly support Rebecca who had it so bad that “worse” would have meant “dead”, so by your own logic you lose this argument.

  116. 116
    dereksmear

    I think many have misunderstood the point of Dawkins’ exercise and so asked the wrong kinds of questions. Rather than challenge some of Dawkins’ positions, the questions should have been more along the lines of:

    Richard, do you ever worry that you are too brilliant?

    Richard, how do you manage to be right about everything?

    Richard, I think the recommended retail prices of all your books are far too low. Would it possible for them to be increased as I would gladly pay more for such excellent works?

    Richard, what is the largest donation I can make to the RDF?

    And so on. Got it for next time?

  117. 117
    drm0

    Chas #111

    Dawkins’s tweet, at face value, was a straightforward statement of fact.

    The choice of compared sets indicates that the author of the tweet expected his readers to reach a conclusion from the comparison.

    An educated person who read it, for example, interpreted it as indicating there is “a perceived hostility of a particular organized religion to the kind of thinking that encourages scientific progress“. (Chas #71)

    Another straightforward statement of fact, as exemplified above, would be: “All the world’s Hispanics have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge.

    We might as well conclude, from that statement, that there is “a perceived hostility of a particular ethnicity to the kind of thinking that encourages scientific progress“.

    Now, my problem is whether leading people to any of these conclusions is correct.

  118. 118
    rq

    doki @117
    I think the statement on its own (“All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge.”) isn’t so terrible – it could be perceived as a call to attention: what can be done about this, why does this happen, this needs a closer look. Which is fine. (I mean, that could be taken as a sign that there’s some huge corruption at Trinity College that has swayed the vote in their favour.)
    It’s the appended little statement “They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.” that puts it all in a negative light: Oh, such a shame you’re not as brilliant as you once were! So sorry you’re not participating fully in today’s scientific community. Scientific Muslims are so last-century, but you guys did great, really, thanks ever so much!
    You know, kind of like saying women don’t do much for science these days. They’re not winning any awards. Or Hispanics, as you mentioned – obviously, they’re just not that into it. None of them. At all.

    Right?

  119. 119
    Anthony K

    Alright Chas, I’ll see if I can break it down in a way that makes it understandable.

    Dawkins’s tweet, at face value, was a straightforward statement of fact.

    Well, there are two sentences in that tweet. The first, “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge”, is a statement of fact about a set of data. The second sentence, “They did great things in the Middle Ages, though” attempts to link that first fact, the fact about a set of data, to the world’s population at large. That’s where the problem lies.

    The two can only be related if we have good reason to suspect that a fact about the former (I’m being exceedingly generous by referring to this set of data as a ‘sample’) is generalisable to the latter (the population). (More accurately, we usually look for reasons to suspect the sample is not generalisable.)

    There is an entire subfield of mathematics called statistics that guides us on whether or not a sample should be considered generalisable to the population, and good science, especially the science of populations (whether they be human or any other living populations), depends on collecting samples with as little bias as possible (and sources of biases that cannot be controlled for need to be acknowledged).

    There are multiple reasons why the set of people who’ve been awarded Nobel Prizes is not generalisable to the state of science among the various populations of people, many of them immediately obvious: for instance, the limited number of Nobel Prizes given out in any year means it’s a “first-past-the-post” system, and we know how well the distribution of people elected in a FPTP systen represents the popular vote in political systems: potentially very well to exceedingly poor. That’s on top of other confounders as potential sources of bias. The massive gender-skew is another reason to suspect systemic biases in the selection of Nobel laureates. And probably most importantly, the fact that it’s proxy data—in this case data that’s being used to make inferences about populations but was not collected for the purpose of making those inferences about populations—means it needs to be systemically evaluated before one runs off making inferences about populations from it.

    To not do so, to just pretend that these entire sub-fields of methodology don’t exist, is bad. fucking. science. It’s what alt-med advocates and other woo-artists do.

    While there is certainly room for argument about how that fact ought best be explained or interpreted, to suggest that a straightforward statement of fact is or could be a “statistical fallacy”, or “bad science”, just strikes me as bizarre.”

    It doesn’t if you understand the reasons why sampling, statistics, and experimental design exist: being able to generalise from a sample or experiment to the larger world. These are the bases of sciences that make inferences about populations from samples, which is exactly what Dawkins is trying to do here.

    And just what the hell do you think constitutes a major component of bad science but invalid inferences from non-generalisable samples?

    Take a typical argument for homeopathy, or other ‘alt-med’ treatments: “My mom and sister took homeopathic treatments for their hypertension, and now their blood pressures are right on target. Homeopathy works.”

    Why do we call these anecdotes unconvincing, and even go on to say that additional anecdotes would not constitute evidence for efficacy? Because anecdotes aren’t samples. They’re not generalisable. They haven’t been collected in a systemic way so as to minimise potential sources of bias. There’s no effort to control for confounders, there’s no effort to correct for selection bias—this is bad science. And it’s exactly what Dawkins has done. If it’s not bad science when homepaths and Dawkins do it, then is there such a thing as bad science at all?

    If that doesn’t convince you Chas, does it at least help you to see where I’m coming from?

  120. 120
    drm0

    hi, rq #118

    I think the statement on its own (“All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge.”) isn’t so terrible

    Mind you, despite all the bile in my first comment, I don’t think the tweet, isolated, is so terrible, bearing it the addendum or not. However, I think this is part of a pattern where intended criticism of an idea (Islam) actually targets huge swaths of people.

    As I fear this sort of reasoning could be easily turned against me, it seems only prudent to speak out about my problems with it.

    it could be perceived as a call to attention: what can be done about this, why does this happen, this needs a closer look. Which is fine. (I mean, that could be taken as a sign that there’s some huge corruption at Trinity College that has swayed the vote in their favour.)
    It’s the appended little statement “They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.” that puts it all in a negative light

    You are apparently not the only one in this thread who thinks so (that’s how I read Anthony K #119). I, however, can’t sincerely agree.

    When I read “huge group A hasn’t achieved nearly as much as tiny group B”, what I see is the implication that A is very bad indeed at that aspect. If we’re talking about a measure of intellectual prowess, I can only imagine that the author is trying to highlight group A’s inferiority, especially if group A is popularly (no matter if incorrectly) associated with ignorance and anti-intellectualism.

    I would only suspect the author was accusing group B of rigging the game if there was some notorious association of them with dishonesty. I don’t think this is the case of Trinity College, so I can’t really imagine anyone reaching that conclusion from that sentence alone.

    Now, if the author is genuinely puzzled by this fact and simply wants to learn more, it would be useful to state in a way that doesn’t help the bigots. The commenter at Wonk Blog that I mentioned in #77 was quick to jump from “have no Nobel prizes” to “can’t contribute to progress,” and “should be kept out of this country”. I’d appreciate if we avoided giving fodder to these people.

    * * *

    [aside]

    Or Hispanics, as you mentioned – obviously, they’re just not that into it. None of them. At all.

    Actually, the fact that we can’t even say we did great things in the Middle Ages made me feel worse about this all.

  121. 121
    Anthony K

    Actually, the fact that we can’t even say we did great things in the Middle Ages made me feel worse about this all.

    Don’t feel bad. Dawkins has fewer Nobel Prizes than any of these groups, and his contributions to Middle Ages science are completely negligible. That may be related to his poor understanding of science and lack of curiosity about the sets of data he invokes.

  122. 122
    Sili

    I haven’t read Nugent’s post yet, but my (drunken) recollection from this Summer in Dublin is, that he’s very bothered that PZed won’t stop using bad words and insists on calling fuckwits “fuckwits”. His complaint may have been about another choice of phrase, but I think I’m representing the idea correctly.

  123. 123
    Ophelia Benson

    Yes that’s about right, Sili. The three of us (PZ & Michael Nugent & I) continued the conversation on the way to the pub for the Kate Smurthwaite performance, and MN and I talked about it more the next day when PZ was en route to Morris. I think Michael gets most of it wrong.

  124. 124
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Well, if anybody has doubts about whether Hawking’s tweet is biased , ask yourself whether he would have tweeted the same about the high percentage of christian Nobel prize winners or whether Dawkins himself would consider that as evidence in favour of Christianity.

  125. 125
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    For some reason I seem to be sitting in moderation at Michael Nugent’s Dawkins thread. Aside from an overweaning pandering to everyones’ second favourite biologist, there is a lot of victim blaming going on. To Michael’s credit, and my great relief, he has put an end to the naming – if not blaming – of a victim of child abuse. I would suggest that Michael take avery long hard look in the mirror before providing a platform to those people. Perhaps if he is struggling to understand just what it is he is lending support to, he should phone or email PZ before continuing in like manner.

  126. 126
    Nick Gotts

    Goodbye Enemy Janine@90,

    I’ve now learned who the slymers are targetting. Just when you think they couldn’t go any lower, they do.

  127. 127
    Nick Gotts

    To Michael’s credit, and my great relief, he has put an end to the naming – if not blaming – of a victim of child abuse. I would suggest that Michael take avery long hard look in the mirror before providing a platform to those people. – theophontes@125

    I don’t think he has any excuse. He’s allowed his blog to become a hate-fest, either because he agrees with the haters, or because he’s too weak to stop it. I have nothing but contempt for him.

  128. 128
    Ophelia Benson

    theophontes – yes but the trouble is, PZ and I have already had that conversation with Michael. We had TWO long conference calls on Skype last spring to try to explain it to him, but clearly we failed.

    I find it deeply bizarre that he writes at such length about what he considers “smears” of Richard Dawkins yet apparently has no qualms at all about anonymous people posting comment after comment after comment smearing a few (non-anonymous) bloggers – all of them people with a lot less clout and status than Dawkins.

    Now, Dawkins earned his clout and status. I’m not objecting to his having the clout and status. I don’t think they’re “privilege” in the sense that he didn’t earn them. What I’m objecting to is various things that flow from his clout and status, such as his masses of fans who are inspired to bully anyone who criticizes him and especially anyone he criticizes (cf Dear Muslima), and his adamant refusal to think about that and then attempt to repair the damage he’s done by means of it.

  129. 129
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Nick Gotts, you can understand why I am try to be low key about all of this.

    And why I hate everyone involved in in that festering pit.

    (On twitter, I have pointed out their flawed reasoning and block them. Yet they persist. And, yes, Michael Nugent has enabled these people for months now.)

  130. 130
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ Nick Gotts
    The last while has been quite worrysome. I have been thinking they might start their usual shit – ragging on the person in question as they have to others. As you know, this would be worse than dispicable. It could cause some very serious harm.

    I have always had the impression that Michael is a good person at heart. And I wonder what makes him behave in the way he does. That he is a tender soul that, perhaps through wishful thinking, thinks that people are all acting in good faith. I imagine that growing up in the context of sectarian strife, he may think that each side (ie Catholics and Protestants) is equally wrong, and that by looking beyond their sectarian fixations (through embracing secularism?), everyone can suddenly move forward in a humane fashion. He fails to see, however, what a gaping hole there is between a social and antisocial world view. Between struggling for social justice and entrenching disparities. That, at least, is what I have thought of late.

    @Ophelia Benson
    Sorry to hear that you made no headway with him. I would be very interested to know what the gist of his arguments were. Surely he sees these people for what they are? Is he just trying to maintain open communication?

    “Dear Muslima” seems to have been quite a watershed comment. I find it surprising that no-one appears to have gotten through to him what an utterly vacuous argument it is. It is a rather sloppy variation of the ontological argument:

    For any complaint that a person X can raise, there can be found a person (X+1) who has a more valid complaint. … so on and so forth … so STFU!

    This of course directed at a woman (Rebecca), who is then supposed to be awed by his brilliance and, quite literally, STFU.

    Somehow it is supposed to be a valid argument, and also non-sexist in the way it was applied. At least if one is a fan.

  131. 131
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    This of course directed at a woman (Rebecca), who is then supposed to be awed by his brilliance and, quite literally, STFU.

    Which is twice telling because Rebecca’s comment was so low scale, you can hardly imagine anything less apart from shutting up

  132. 132
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ Giliell

    If we were to make a simple graphic of sexism I imagine it would look much like a “food pyramid”. The broad mass of it sitting pretty low to the ground, toxic in its sheer volume – as opposed to the really toxic shiny_golden_apex sexism – the really overt stuff that is less ubiquitous. It is all part of the same thing, so any part we chip away at is a good place to start.

  133. 133
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    I found this: “Not As Bad As” Argument, or the Fallacy of Relative Privation.

    Link here.

    The “not as bad as” argument, or the fallacy of relative privation, is a form of the moral equivalence fallacy that takes note of the existence of things that are worse than what is actually under discussion – for different purposes, as outlined below. It’s popular with people who know perfectly well they’re doing something wrong; being fully aware that they’re doing something wrong, they feel compelled to attempt to justify it and do so by pointing to other, usually worse, actions.

  134. 134
    rq

    Hi, doki @120!
    I think I see your point(s) – 1) always keep the source in mind; and 2) no statement can, ultimately, be completely removed from context. Am I right or at least close? If so, then I would have to (mostly) agree. I think we’re okay on the larger details. :)
    However, where I completely agree is where you mention that people such as

    The commenter at Wonk Blog that [you] mentioned in #77

    should not be given fodder for their stupid statements.
    And that’s the danger of such ‘innocent’ statements of facts – that people do interpret them in unfavourable ways. :( And why attention should be paid.

  135. 135
    Tethys

    Theophontes

    Thank you for your efforts over on the other blog. I couldn’t bring myself to enter the fray, but I did register a complaint by e-mail. I am glad to see that Mr Nugent is responsive and stripped out the link.

    Sadly, it has already harmed our friend.

  136. 136
    drm0

    Anthony K. #121

    *snicker*

    * * *

    rq #134

    Oh, good, I think we’re on the same page, then! It would be a long way if everybody took a moment to consider the splash damage in their anti-Islam discourse, and made sure they are aiming correctly.

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