The god of vapor is hardly any kind of god at all »« Friday Cephalopod: The ladies are such mysteries

Comments

  1. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    The problem of utterly unskeptical, tribe-above-all Skeptism(TM) remains. What a pathetic showing they gave us.

  2. gshelley says

    I posted at Hermat’s blog that Dunnings update seemed like he was playing the victim and refusing to acknowledge he had done anything wrong. Someone disagreed, but I figured anyone was capable of reading to decide if it was a man facing up to what he had done and owning his mistakes, or a man making excuses for his greedy behavior, blaming everyone but himself, whining that he was victimised and other than admitting to technically breaking the terms and services, not even acknowledging he had been dishonest.

  3. Anthony K says

    I have to say that Dunning including a picture of his family with the caption explaining that it was taken right after they’d done a kind thing for a stranded traveler was a particularly strained and insincere attempt to claim the status of nice guy.

    Ah, a Nice Guy™, huh? Not only is he going to jail, but now he’ll have to worry about being friendzoned to boot.

  4. kushana says

    The problem with Rebecca’s analysis is that it’s not useful. The court (and Dunning himself by pleading guilty) have already determined his guilt, so that’s not at issue. Dunning offers his version of events, and Rebecca kind of picks it apart, but to what end? Logic dictates that the conviction (or any personal attribute) cannot have an effect on the truth value of his skeptical work (the true definition of an ad hominem fallacy), so what is she trying to accomplish?

    Charitably, she might be making the assertion, “The skeptical community is damaged by association with Dunning; we should take this opportunity to disassociate ourselves from him.” It seems more personal and visceral than that, though.

  5. says

    @kushana #5:

    Logic dictates that the conviction (or any personal attribute) cannot have an effect on the truth value of his skeptical work (the true definition of an ad hominem fallacy), so what is she trying to accomplish?

    Goes to credibility, your honor.

    Yes, logic is great and important, but it’s only one of the three modes of persuasion. Ethos is also important—if you want to convince people, it’s important that they trust what you’re saying. Dunning has shot his trustworthiness into the ground, and the self-serving nature and elisions involved in this statement show that he hasn’t exactly turned over a new leaf. Logic dictates that Kevin Trudeau’s fraud conviction cannot have an effect on the truth value of his work, either, but it’s sure relevant to considering whether or not his work is worth your time.

    Or, more importantly, your money. Strange that you read Rebecca’s post and missed this:

    if you’ve read this far and you still trust Dunning with your money, there’s nothing more I can do for you.

    Dunning hasn’t stopped asking for donations to continue his projects. Dunning has shown a propensity for misusing money and misleading people to enrich himself. What’s the point? I don’t know, isn’t “preventing people from being fleeced by a known con-artist” like, page 2 of the skeptical guidebook?

    Internet skeptical activism is kind of predicated on the notion that it’s always useful to call out liars, charlatans, and bad arguments. Dunning’s statement hits the hat trick.

  6. Anthony K says

    Dunning offers his version of events, and Rebecca kind of picks it apart, but to what end?

    Whatever end a podcast called “Skeptoid” was for, I’d say. It’s kind of a thing skeptics do.

    So, Rebecca offers her version of events, and you kind of pick it apart, but to what end?

    It seems more personal and visceral than that, though.

    Ah. There we are.

  7. Anthony K says

    I don’t know, isn’t “preventing people from being fleeced by a known con-artist” like, page 2 of the skeptical guidebook?

    Only counts if they’re Sylvia Browne.

    We’re a team, people, we’re all on the same side, let’s look like it. Next Skeptoid podcast should be hosted by Benny Ratzinger. Now there’s a man who knows how to Protect the Institution™.

  8. throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble says

    I like how it works out that rapists are only ever guilty if convicted in court, but convicted fraudsters are only guilty if they don’t offer up their own version of events. Seriously, love it.

  9. kushana says

    Except as skeptics, we don’t care about honor. We care about evidence. An argument is not more valid because someone honorable states it. That’s an appeal to authority. Trudeau’s health assertions are false because of evidence, and Dunning’s skeptic work is true for the same reason. To compare the two is false equivalence.

    No, Dunning has not shown a propensity for misusing money; that’s just what you want to believe. Even Rebecca’s piece doesn’t go that far; she merely implies that his business expenses might not be legitimate, but doesn’t present evidence. He has shown that he is guilty of breaking the law to obtain money. Once he had it, there’s is no evidence of misuse.

    If Rebecca’s point is that no-one should give him donations, it’s a very poorly presented argument. She calls him out for being a millionaire and soliciting donations, as if there’s something ethically or legally wrong with the combination. She doesn’t relate any of her assertions about his behavior to the conclusion that donations should be avoided. Really, it’s an attempt at a public shaming.

  10. says

    You know how when you see yet another news story about some cop or cops doing something heinous and then see the cops close ranks instead of throwing the book at them and you wonder, don’t they realize how bad that makes them all look? Well, a lot off skeptics don’t realize that either. Like, apparently, kushana here.

  11. Anthony K says

    Except as skeptics, we don’t care about honor. We care about evidence. An argument is not more valid because someone honorable states it. That’s an appeal to authority. Trudeau’s health assertions are false because of evidence, and Dunning’s skeptic work is true for the same reason. To compare the two is false equivalence.

    This paragraph confused me until I realised that kushana misunderstood the ‘your honor’ part of “Goes to credibility, your honor” as referring to the concept of honor.

    kushana, ‘Your Honor’ is an honorific used to address the judge in a courtroom. Tom Foss was using the term in that way, as if it were a courtroom and he were a lawyer explaining the rationale behind a series of questions.

    This conversation is not likely to improve from here.

  12. kushana says

    Oh no, I recognize the optics. The problem is that you’re the first person to point out that this shunning is a skeptical community optics problem, and not one of logical legitimacy.

  13. says

    kushana

    People commit fraud. It’s hardly an extraordinary claim. People who commit fraud are dishonest, by definition. People who have been proved to be dishonest are, quite reasonably, considered to be less trustworthy than those who haven’t.

    There certainly isn’t anything legally wrong with untrustworthy people soliciting donations. It is perfectly reasonable, however, to point out that the person soliciting donations has been proven to be untrustworthy. I don’t understand your problem with this.

  14. moarscienceplz says

    kushana #10

    He has shown that he is guilty of breaking the law to obtain money. Once he had it, there’s is no evidence of misuse.

    Holy shit! Are you fucking serious, or is this some kind of a joke?

    “Sure, I got my money by robbing little old ladies at knifepoint, but once I had it, I always tipped my waitresses, and I sometimes even bought candy for the neighbor kids.” <– Would this qualify as not "misusing" money?

  15. kushana says

    @Anthony K
    Ha ha, you’re absolutely right. He probably was making a quote, and I interpreted it more literally.

    In the end, though, it doesn’t matter. Just as my, “honor” is supposed to be irrelevant, so is Tim’s, “Ethos.” Skepticism is not about persuasion; it’s about truth. And truth doesn’t depend on the speaker.

  16. yazikus says

    We care about evidence.

    Okay, so apparently there was enough evidence to find him guilty of fraud. So people might not want to give their money to someone found guilty of fraud (because evidence). Why is that so hard to grasp??

  17. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    And truth doesn’t depend on the speaker.

    And the truth is that the person you are defending is a convicted felon. His words and justifications about the crime must be treated with extreme skepticism. That is how skepticism should operate, not that he was a good guy, and a skeptic, and we should listen and believe everything he says. That is where you are coming from, which shows your credulity.

  18. kushana says

    @Daz
    My problem is not with the assertion, “Brian Dunning has been shown to be dishonest, therefore you should not give him your money.” My problem is that:
    i) This assertion has not been clearly stated and evidenced; and
    ii) That a whole bunch more unsubstantiated rhetoric has accompanied it, like, “Brian Dunning is a millionaire and is soliciting donations.” Just like every Hollywood actor promoting their charity of choice, or goodness, their own charity.

    @moarscienceplz
    I am fucking serious. Dunning has been convicted of obtaining money though dishonest means. He has not been convicted of, nor is there any evidence of, him misusing money, such as his Skeptoid donations. If you’d like to see the difference, think of Bernie Madoff. At least some of his money was legally obtained; his clients gave it to him for management. Once he had it, though, he did illegal things with it.

    Part of the, “don’t donate,” argument is based on the idea that Dunning will misuse your money. The problem is that he hasn’t exhibited that behaviour.

  19. Alex says

    @kushana

    Logic dictates that the conviction (or any personal attribute) cannot have an effect on the truth value of his skeptical work (the true definition of an ad hominem fallacy), so what is she trying to accomplish?

    I sense a pervasive vulcanization of the skeptical rubber lately. But seriously, she explains rather eloquently in her article why she thinks it’s important.

    Quoth RW

    That’s one reason why I am very skeptical of other skeptics. The other reason is because I believe that if the skeptical movement wants to be taken seriously as a force that genuinely cares about helping people, about protecting them from scam artists, we need to make sure that the people who speak for us are honest and forthright and above all else ethical. If a person lacks those traits, I cannot in good conscience recommend their work to others. This doesn’t mean that leaders need to be perfect, or that I always need to agree with them: it only means that they cannot demonstrate to me a willful interest in manipulating the truth for their own benefit.

    In real human society, trust is an essential ingredient to accomplish anything (for example in science). And image is very important, especially for effectively spokespeople for a cause like skepticism.

  20. says

    kushana:
    Do you acknowledge that there is a big problem with the unethical manner in which Dunning acquired his money?
    Dunning’s lack of ethics is what Rebecca is drawing attention to.
    I agree with Daz-I don’t understand your problem. Do you think she’s wrong to suggest that people not donate money to Dunning?

  21. tsig says

    Looks like the religious aren’t the only ones who will blindly follow a leader no matter what he’s done.

  22. says

    kushana #19

    My problem is that:
    i) This assertion has not been clearly stated and evidenced;

    Which assertion? That he’s been proven untrustworthy? That’s something of a given, in the face of the criminal conviction for fraud.

    ii) That a whole bunch more unsubstantiated rhetoric has accompanied it, like, “Brian Dunning is a millionaire who has been proven to have obtained a sizeable portion of that money by fraud and is soliciting donations.” Just unlike every Hollywood actor promoting their charity of choice, or goodness, their own charity.

    Please note my insertions.

    You appear to be doing nothing but hair-splitting.

  23. kushana says

    @Nerd
    No straw men arguments, please. None of my arguments depend on the truth of his explanation; it’s irrelevant. NO where do I state that he was a good guy, nor that, “we should listen and believe everything he says.”

    @Tony
    I acknowledge that Dunning unethically acquired his money. Whether or not you think this is a, “big problem,” and what should be done about it is a matter for debate.

    My position is that if Rebecca feels that this behaviour should preclude people donating to him, she should have created a clear thesis rather than a nitpicky, poorly reasoned piece of supposition.

  24. says

    kushana:

    My position is that if Rebecca feels that this behaviour should preclude people donating to him, she should have created a clear thesis rather than a nitpicky, poorly reasoned piece of supposition.

    You must have read a different piece than I did then, bc what I read was pretty damn clear and well reasoned.

  25. kushana says

    @Daz
    The assertion not stated is the one that immediately precedes that sentence: “Brian Dunning has been shown to be dishonest, therefore you should not give him your money.” That’s what the word, “this” referred to.

    Your clever insertion into my sentence seems to be working at odds with itself. You can’t change the meaning of my sentence and then claim it’s false. Rebecca doesn’t link Dunning’s millionaire status with legitimacy. She says, “… that would make him a millionaire at that time, and he did have the gall to beg for donations…,” clearly and explicitly stating that being a millionaire and asking for donations shows gall. This is not a strong argument.

  26. throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble says

    “I squandered the money I bilked out of people and now need legal defense counsel. Won’t someone please give me some donations?!”

    Seems to me to be a pretty clear indication of ‘gall’. Of course, these judgments are subjective, and you’re welcome to not share them, Kushana.

  27. samihawkins says

    Skepticism is not about persuasion; it’s about truth

    That might be why it has such a hard time appealing outside a relatively small group of cirlejerking wannabe-Vulcan wankers like yourself who can’t take their heads out of their oh-so logical asses for five seconds to realize why it might be a good thing, the right and ethical thing, to denounce and no longer support a once-respected figure who was convicted of a fucking felony.

  28. Amphiox says

    Kushana, perhaps skeptics should be concerned about logic and not honor.

    But most skeptics are also humans, and humans ARE concerned about honor, and damn well should be.

  29. throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble says

    I, a burglar, break into your home safe. On my way out my fashionable Louis Vuitton robber’s bag caught a snag on a nail. Gall would be claiming that my situation is so unfortunate that a bystander should have pity on me and donate their Alexander Wang handbag so that I might make off with whatever meager takings had not fell out of the bag.

    Pretty strong parallel.

  30. Amphiox says

    The skeptical movement damn well IS about persuasion. Anyone can be individually skeptical in private however much he or she wishes. That does not require any skeptical movement. The whole point of having a movement is to persuade others than skeptical thinking is a good thing and should be applied to things like social policy, etc – ie the things that affect people as a group.

  31. kushana says

    @throwaway
    Straw man argument. There’s no evidence any money was squandered, and he has little need of defense counsel now that his trial is over. But by all means invent things and use them to support your beliefs.

    @sami
    umadbro? Sorry, couldn’t resist; those were some pretty sexual verbs and nouns, there.

    You’re right, it might very well, “be the good thing, the right and ethical thing, to denounce and no longer support,” Dunning. But I don’t think that you nor Rebecca nor any other commenter has made a compelling case for it.

  32. athyco says

    kushana #19:

    That a whole bunch more unsubstantiated rhetoric has accompanied it, like, “Brian Dunning is a millionaire and is soliciting donations.” Just like every Hollywood actor promoting their charity of choice, or goodness, their own charity.

    If that Hollywood actor began fraudulently obtaining massively more funds and quick upon the heels of that massive increase began paying in salary (tax deductible to his business) his wife $10,000 a month, his mother $2,500 a month, and his mother-in-law $2,500 a month, then yes, I’d skeptically entertain the idea that he was capable of misusing funds for other purposes (even legitimately obtained) that funnel through him.

    I’d expect a skeptic to understand that he’d taken a blow to his credibility as far as money is concerned. If said skeptic still saw his work (dependent upon donations) as important, I’d expect him to set up funding avenues that route such donations through a third party so that it was evident that not even the suspicion of impropriety touched upon that work and its funding.

    Why is Brian Dunning still asking for donations that funnel through him, if he finds the truth of his work to be that important?

  33. says

    kushana #26

    The assertion not stated is the one that immediately precedes that sentence: “Brian Dunning has been shown to be dishonest, therefore you should not give him your money.” That’s what the word, “this” referred to.

    All of which, again, is a given, considering he’s been proven untrustworthy in court. I suspect RW didn’t bother stating this clearly, as she would expect her audience to be intelligent enough to infer such an obvious point without her having to lead them to it by baby-steps. The same goes for my insertion earlier.

    I say again, you appear to be doing nowt but splitting hairs.

  34. samihawkins says

    umadbro?

    1. I’m not a ‘bro’.

    2. Fuck you. I feel no need at all to be calm and polite toward a hairsplitting shitweasel like you who’s bringing shame and embarrassment upon skeptics everywhere by defending a lying felon and attacking people who point out how damaging he is to the image of skepticism.

  35. kushana says

    @Amphiox
    I agree. With everything you said. And what I would have preferred Rebecca to say is something along the lines of, “I believe Brian Dunning has damaged the skeptical movement with his conviction and his continual warping of the facts, and he continues to damage it by his continued proximity. For these reasons, I believe we need to shun and disown him.”

    But she didn’t. She launched a line-by-line critique of his defense message, using crappy rhetoric, second-guessing the prosecutors, and dropping innuendo.

  36. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    NO where do I state that he was a good guy, nor that, “we should listen and believe everything he says.”

    Gee, that is what comes across in what you say. We should take his word at face value despite his fraud conviction, and look for evidence to falsify his claims, rather than us expecting him to evidence his claims, and that evidence is MIA. That is what you are saying. You are spreading enough straw to burn down Chicago again.

  37. Jackie says

    Kushana is clearly suffering from Watson derangement syndrome.
    We get it, kushana. She’s a big meanie and when she calls out a skeptic for fleecing his skeptical fans and says no one should donate to a thief and fraud, it’s just “an attempt at a public shaming.”

    Calling out frauds is what skeptics do. So why is this skeptic seem so vindictive and being mean out of personal reasons you don’t specify?

    I think I can guess.

    Good for you for not saying “scolding”, but that’s how you meant it and I can still see the sexism at work in your criticism.

    She should have been more charitable to the convicted fraud?
    Of course. women should always be more charitable with a man, even if that man is guilty of all of the things she’s said he is, it’s just mean for her not to kiss his ass like a woman should.

    It seems more personal and visceral than that, though.

    You decided that she’s just being vindictive and emotional and that her post is pointless and mean to the poor criminal, who just happens to be a man who is popular with certain sections (The ones who think honor doesn’t matter, but Big Foot not being real does apparently) of the skeptical community.

    *blink*
    …and you think you’re being logical?

    The tune your singing? I’ve heard it an thousands of variations of it and it is far and away the oldest tiredest shit ever.

    You are not a charitable person who values logic and fact. You’re a sexist whiner with a hate-on for Rebecca Watson.

  38. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Skepticism is not about persuasion; it’s about truth. And truth doesn’t depend on the speaker.

    The likelihood that a speaker’s statement is true is extremely relevant to interpreting their claims here in the really real world, not in Deductive Logic Jack-Off Land.

  39. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    You must have read a different piece than I did then, bc what I read was pretty damn clear and well reasoned.

    It’s not that he doesn’t understand, it’s that he doesn’t like the answer.

  40. says

    kushana

    But she didn’t. She launched a line-by-line critique of his defense message, using crappy rhetoric, second-guessing the prosecutors, and dropping innuendo.

    This is not a literary criticism class. If you feel that you could write a better critique of Dunning’s statement, go get yourself an account with a blogging platform and write it.

  41. says

    Skepticism is not about persuasion; it’s about truth

    No I think you’ll find that is the domain of philosophy.

    Le sigh. Watson’s post is a straight forward fact checking and contextualizing of a statement and it accurately points out that Dunning is sell a gilded turd. Sadly his statement does not need to be accurate or truthful, it just has to exist. The entire purpose of the statement is to provide the fig leaf that will allow the people who very very much *want* to believe Dunning’s side to do so.

  42. kushana says

    @Nerd
    That’s not what a straw man argument is. It’s when you mischaracterize your opponent’s argument and then attack that mischaracterization. It’s what you did when you said I said a bunch of things I didn’t say, and then tried to use it to discredit me. While you may not agree that you should provide evidence of funds misuse, my disagreeing with you has nothing to do with straw.

    @athyco
    re: funding via a third party. I was going to object, but having thought about it for awhile I think it’s a fine idea. The trick would being finding a trust surrogate, like having an accounting firm manage the Academy Award votes and results.

  43. says

    I’d say it’s sad that people like Kushana and other skeptics find Dunning pissing on them and thank him for all the gold, but it’s growing increasingly hard to sympathize.

  44. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    @Nerd
    That’s not what a straw man argument is. It’s when you mischaracterize your opponent’s argument and then attack that mischaracterization.

    Verbalizing the assumptions and/or implications of an argument is not “mischaracterizing” it.

  45. Jackie says

    kushana,
    You can wrap it up in as many bows and ribbons as you like, but you are not interested in truth or logic and have no business trying to school others on how to use them or on how to be a better communicator. You’re seem very upset by something. You’re very adamant that Rebecca Watson wrote her article wrong and for the wrong reasons. You know she can’t stop you from sending your money to Brain dunning or Kent Hovind or any other convict you like, right? You don’t have to worry. The bad lady that was just too mean to the fraud for not good reason cannot harm you. You’ve projected an awful lot of emotion and motive onto her for no apparent reason, other than her gender. No one here agrees with you. Why not do the logical thing and go have a cup of tea and a time out to calm yourself? Maybe you can send Dunning a check after that to cheer him up. Won’t that be nice?

  46. moarscienceplz says

    kushana seems to think that ‘Truth’ is some kind of karmic antiseptic that can wash falsehood out of anything it comes in the vicinity of.
    if I say, “The Moon is a rocky spheroid, many diseases are caused by microscopic life forms, and Brian Dunning can be trusted with your money”, the first two statements, while undoubtedly true, do nothing to move the third statement any closer to the truth.
    Brian Dunning has been proven to have lied and cheated to obtain money that did not belong to him, and used that money for his own selfish purposes. At this point, it is extremely sensible and logical to think there is a good likelihood he might do so again.

  47. kushana says

    @moar
    I don’t *think* I think of truth in that fashion, but if you’d provide an example where you think it’s evident, I’d love to look at it with you.

  48. says

    kushana:

    And what I would have preferred Rebecca to say is something along the lines of, “I believe Brian Dunning has damaged the skeptical movement with his conviction and his continual warping of the facts, and he continues to damage it by his continued proximity. For these reasons, I believe we need to shun and disown him.”

    Oh, so she needs to say things in a way you approve of. The rest of us were quite able to discern what she meant, but you’re having problems.
    I wonder why that is.

  49. throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble says

    There’s no evidence any money was squandered

    All ill-gotten gains are squandered when used, even if what one considers appropriate for any individual. The only way it would not be squandered would be if he gave the cash back. He didn’t do so, ergo, he squandered the money and any opportunity for redemption by the community he used to obtain and squander those funds.

  50. says

    Jackie:

    You are not a charitable person who values logic and fact. You’re a sexist whiner with a hate-on for Rebecca Watson.

    Having read kushana’s comments, I’m starting to believe this.

  51. kushana says

    @throwaway
    While you might be able to make a case for this ethically, I think the argument breaks down when you try to use it against Dunning (or any similar situation). If the money is squandered *because* it was ill-gotten, then that doesn’t apply to money that isn’t ill-gotten, like new donations. I think the argument needs to be based on the idea that unreliability or untrustworthiness can be extrapolated from the proven (the conviction for wire fraud) and/or the argued truth stretching in the message to future related areas (use of donated money).

  52. says

    moarscienceplz:

    At this point, it is extremely sensible and logical to think there is a good likelihood he might do so again.

    And, as RW said, if one is interested in no supporting someone who is that unethical, they ought to not donate to him. She made a very good argument for that.

    ****

    I’ve noticed kushana has shortened some peoples’ nyms. That’s typically done with people who are friends, or at least are on a cordial basis. I think one ought to have permission before doing so as it implies a level of familiarity that is, quite possibly, not there. Xe has done it to samihawkins and moarscienceplz (which is different than shortening my nym or even Nerd’s).
    Yeah, that’s a personal bugaboo of mine.

  53. says

    kushana #56

    I think the argument needs to be based on the idea that unreliability or untrustworthiness can be extrapolated from the proven (the conviction for wire fraud) and/or the argued truth stretching in the message to future related areas (use of donated money).

    It is. It always has been. See? You worked it out all on your ownsome without Ms Watson having to lead you through it by the hand. Well done. Have an ice cream. STFU.

  54. kushana says

    @Tony! The Queer Shoop
    I apologize, nothing untoward was meant by it. I shall take care to use full nyms in future.

  55. says

    kushana #5

    Logic dictates that the conviction (or any personal attribute) cannot have an effect on the truth value of his skeptical work (the true definition of an ad hominem fallacy), so what is she trying to accomplish?

    Why do we criticize the Catholic church for sweeping child abuse under the rug? It’s not as if these crimes have an effect on the truth value of the claims of the church. Why don’t we just quietly let them bury these things and never point it out?

    Because the way a group deal with delinquent members tells you a whole lot about that group. Simply informing people of Dunning’s crime is a worthy goal. If you’ve been paying attention, you know that many people associated with the skeptical movement are only now hearing about this for the first time. People say as much in the comments to Rebecca’s piece.

    We should be better than the church. If one of our own commits a crime, we shouldn’t cover it up and pretend it never happened. We should own it and make it clear that we, as a group, will not tolerate such behavior from our own. We should make it clear that our ethical standards apply not just to our opponents, but also to ourselves.

    #10

    Except as skeptics, we don’t care about honor. We care about evidence.

    We also care about ethics. Don’t we?

  56. Alex says

    RWDS is such a curse upon mankind! Considering the grave symptoms akin to those of a light stroke, it is a shame that there is so little research on it.

  57. moarscienceplz says

    I can speak only for myself, but i don’t mind my ‘nym being shortened as long as there is no confusion about who is being referred to. My ‘nym is a bit ungainly, it was created to express a sentiment in regard to a particular thread long ago, but I still hold that sentiment, so I keep it.

  58. kushana says

    @LykeX
    re: Why?
    Thanks for a very nice examination of the topic. Probably the best one I’ve read.

    What I crave (and I recognize that there are those of you who think I have no right to ask this of Rebecca or anyone) is a discussion of what the ethical standards of the skeptical community are, why they’re that way, and then show how Dunning failed those standards.

    re: ethics
    Well, I think that’s a matter of some discussion. I think skepticism itself doesn’t care about honor or ethics. I think the skeptical community does. And I think that certain subsets of the community care more than others; some sites combine skeptical interests with those of humanism, feminism, or athiesm, for example.

  59. says

    Having read kushana’s comments, I’m starting to believe this.

    Note that kushana is pulling the civility gambit too. That is, writing in a nominally civil manner, but actually being quite different. Whether conscious or not, it’s a tactic.

  60. says

    @66, Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall:

    (Ackshully, my nickname within the family is Da or Dar, ’cause I got pissed off with the washing-powder jokes at an early age.)

    Or they could call you Häagen and make ice cream jokes? And then you could use it as a cultural literacy test by telling them to kill Siegfried… Oh, urgh, bad pun overload. (Or is there any other kind?)

    @64, kushana:

    Thanks for a very nice examination of the topic. Probably the best one I’ve read.

    As far as I can tell from reading all the way through, the only reason you couldn’t consider yourself answered way back at post #6 is because you decided to harp on word choice to go off on a tangent about honor, and ignored what was actually said in the very first response to your very first post. Apparently, for all your carping about logic and careful parsing, you are incapable of actually reading what people say if their wording bothers you. This being the case, you probably aren’t well-suited to a role of passing judgement of what other people are doing when they write things — and that “other people” includes Rebecca Watson.

  61. moarscienceplz says

    kushana #52:

    I don’t *think* I think of truth in that fashion, but if you’d provide an example where you think it’s evident, I’d love to look at it with you.

    Gladly. Kushana #19:

    He has not been convicted of, nor is there any evidence of, him misusing money, such as his Skeptoid donations.

    First off, as has already been pointed out, taking money that does not belong to you is, ipso facto “misusing” that money. So, taking your statement as it is written (“such as” implies that he has never misused any money), it is false. But, let’s assume your statement was meant to only refer to Skeptoid donation money. So, you are trying to use the (true) fact that he has not been convicted of misusing that particular pot of money to try to whitewash the (also true) fact that he HAS been convicted of misusing a different pot of money.

  62. Sili says

    Since we care so much about evidence, Kushana, would you be so kind as to share your receipts for your donations to Dunning?

  63. says

    You know it’s often said that beliefs inform actions. It is also true that the only way you can infer someone’s beliefs (and thus predict actions) is by their actions.

    fact: Dunning showed that he will misappropriate and steal funds if he thinks he can get away with it. ergo he is likely to do so again. Give him money for a cause at your benefit. It is not unreasonable to assume he’d be ok with some skimming

    Fact: Dunning has showed that when he discovers an act of fraud he is willing to join in for profit rather than expose and report it. For someone whose job might cross paths with fraud prevention this is a huge problem. He can be bought. You can’t say he can’t because he already put himself up for sale, the only question is what his price is.

    Fact: Dunning has shown willingness to withhold vital context, distort facts or put a polish on things to support a narrative he favors. For a podcast that supposedly informs people this is a death sentence. He *WILL* distort facts consciously or not. As a source he is not credible.

  64. Anselm Lingnau says

    I’d expect him to set up funding avenues that route such donations through a third party so that it was evident that not even the suspicion of impropriety touched upon that work and its funding.

    Brian Dunning’s outfit, Skeptoid Media, Inc., is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization, which means it has a board of directors to oversee it and appropriate financial statements must be filed with the IRS. It also means that, contrary to what people might naively assume, money donated in support of Skeptoid does not go straight into Brian Dunning’s bank account to do with whatever he likes.

  65. moarscienceplz says

    Brian Dunning’s outfit, Skeptoid Media, Inc., is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization, which means it has a board of directors to oversee it and appropriate financial statements must be filed with the IRS.

    Fine and well, but I have some small experience with Silicon Valley corporations and their BoDs are often buddies of the CEO, or buddies of his buddies. Anyone who chooses to donate to Dunning’s outfit may, possibly, have good reason to expect their money will be spent according to the letter of the law. Whether they can also expect their money to be spent in the enthusiastic and frugal service of secularism and skepticism, when it is being handled by a convicted fraudster, well, who knows, really?

  66. says

    I think skepticism itself doesn’t care about honor or ethics. I think the skeptical community does. And I think that certain subsets of the community care more than others; some sites combine skeptical interests with those of humanism, feminism, or athiesm, for example.

    …and those subsets that don’t are about as relevant to society and appealing to join as Mensa.

  67. kushana says

    @moarscienceplz 68
    I think we’ll have to disagree on the nature of money misuse. For you and a lot of other commenters, there’s no distinction, and I don’t agree. But to explore my use of the distinction, it’s not that the lack of conviction whitewashes the future likelihood of misconduct (if you’ll allow the paraphrase), it’s that I think there hasn’t been a causal link established between cookie stuffing and misuse of donated funds.

    @Sili 69
    I have not made any donations to Dunning, so sadly, I have no receipts to share.

    @The Vicar (via Freethoughtblogs) #67
    The conversation has evolved. In the beginning, I was concerned about the implications for logic and core skepticism, and the conversation showed that that wasn’t foremost in people’s minds. The later conversation is more an examination of the role of trustworthiness, extrapolated intent, and insults.

  68. says

    I like how Dunning (and RW pointed this out) thinks eBay was the only one he damaged. Nevermind that he took referral revenue from other websites with his cookie stuffing scheme. I’m not sure if anybody could produce the evidence, but a 3rd party website owner could pursue civil charges against Dunning for their lost revenue from eBay (in fact, it seems as if they worked to prevent those 3rd parties from ever knowing that users who clicked (or bought, or whatever) the 3rd party eBay links from knowing that they didn’t get revenue from those clicks). If 10,000 websites lost $50 each, why would any one of them pursue litigation? You’d think there would be a big player or two in there, who were due more than $50 from eBay, who could sue the Dunning family tree for restitution. Maybe eBay figured it out and paid them?

    Speculating here: And, to RW’s point about further investment in Dunning, I wonder if how much he views Kickstarter, and other crowd funding sources, in the same light. After all, Kickstarter is the one who writes him the check, right? Who cares if a couple hundred people lose their $50 “investment”, as long as he can fly to the next Septic Dudebro Hangout skeptic conference.

  69. says

    Hmmmm…

    If the truth is the truth no matter who says it, then the only thing that should matter is the character of the speaker. After all, if the truth is the truth then you should be willing and happy to hear it from anyone, or figure it out for yourself if you can. If the main thing is to get good scoop, then why not support getting it from a decent person rather than a shitty one. The scoop is the same either way… right?

  70. says

    @kushana

    I get it. You’re basically saying if guy is convicted of robbing banks, there’s no reason to conclude he might also turn out to be a mugger, so you ought not to be afraid of him stealing from you at gunpoint unless you happen to be standing behind a teller’s counter. I think you’re being hypersceptical rather than logical. If you hand the hypothetical bank robber a gun and point him in the direction of a person holding a large amount of cash, there’s good reason to suspect he’ll take the opportunity to lift it without much quibbling over location.

    Also, when the subject is someone’s honesty and trustworthiness, bringing up his fraudulent behaviour isn’t an ad hominem, it’s evidence.

  71. says

    it’s that I think there hasn’t been a causal link established between cookie stuffing and misuse of donated funds.

    FFS the cookie stuffing was DISCOVERING A CONJOB and blackmailing his way into getting a cut. It shows he’ll damn well misuse any funds he think he can get away with.

    Premeditated theft and fraud, as the prosecutor pointed out is a lot more reprehensible than a crime of spontaneity or desperation. If nothing else it shows his judgment is severely skewed by being a greedy bastard

  72. says

    One thing that some digging jumped out is that the current site lists a board of directors of four. In 2013 they were looking to hire two more. So either they didn’t hire a fund raising and public media chair or at one point it was overseen by a grand total of two people plus Brian.

    Oh yeah that’s an iron tight system right?

  73. kushana says

    @Ibis3, Let’s burn some bridges
    Yeah, that not the most charitable of analogies, but close enough. The problem is the Fundamental attribution error, “people’s tendency to place an undue emphasis on internal characteristics to explain someone else’s behavior in a given situation, rather than considering external factors.” People are assuming, he did that because he’s untrustworthy, and he’ll prove untrustworthy in this other somewhat related situation.

    The truth is, we don’t know how untrustworthy he’ll be in future, and we can’t trust our own assessments of it. So what’s the correct response? How do we guard without overrreacting? I mean, even your apocryphal bank robber still gets to go into banks after he gets out. It’s doesn’t have to be the dichotomy of trust completely vs. excommunicate. We have ways of establishing trust in unreliable situations.

  74. says

    kushana,

    Your fundamental problem is that you’re putting a person above the ideas they promote. Unless you’re claiming that Brian Dunning is doing something that is not being done by other people and cannot be done by other people, there’s simply no rational reason to support Dunning at all ever even a tiny little bit. Is it about the truth, which is true no matter who says it? Or is it about the person, which is why you’re bending over backwards to support someone who doesn’t own the truth but merely reports it(sometimes inaccurately)?

  75. says

    So what’s the correct response? How do we guard without overrreacting?

    Overreacting. Right. 15 months in prison and a bunch of people going, “No it’s all good, take our money!”

    Phew. Thank goodness nobody overreacted.

  76. says

    Monitor Note:

    You may be banned from a comment thread if:
    You cannot control your posting habits, and are dominating the discussion.

    Your comments are repetitive, especially if you repeat arguments that have already been addressed.

    You demonstrate that you are unwilling to have read previous comments or the opening post.

    [the rules]

  77. says

    @Joe

    And that Dunning actually did much good. Lot of Bigfoot stories and some atrocious ones on health and environmental issues?

    Is 10 thousand good underhand pitches out weighing beating the ump to a pulp a few times?

    Cause jesus fucking Christ that DDT and Scientology episodes.

    People are assuming, he did that because he’s untrustworthy

    Definitions how do they work. It’s like saying people assume Jeffry Dalhmer killed people because was homicidal.

    No people are saying he’s untrustworthy and let me go slow on this one, because he violated trust.

  78. moarscienceplz says

    I think we’ll have to disagree on the nature of money misuse. For you and a lot of other commenters, there’s no distinction, and I don’t agree.

    Yeah, here’s another thing we disagree upon: You think if you fling enough shit around, you can build a mountain of it high enough to hide the fact that your are excusing serious criminal behavior just because for some stupid reason you have a hardon for Brian Convicted Felon Dunning.
    I on the other hand, think you are pathetic little shit-weasel. Fuck you, and fuck off!

  79. Menyambal says

    What Improbable Joe said in 85.

    What harm is there in shutting Dunning down, skepticism-wise? If we all just get stop giving him money, respect and attention, what will the world lose? Why put any effort intoclearing this up — if there were any confusion?

    Kushana, why are you even bothering, here?

  80. says

    There’s this weird idea that the “good” someone does can erase the bad they do… but without ever really spelling out the “good” in a compelling way. I mean, if we were talking about a person who could cure cancer but shoplifts then maybe we could talk. What we’re ACTUALLY talking about is someone who records himself saying things that anyone can find out with Google, versus the fact that he used his platform to commit wire fraud to the tune of millions while claiming to need money from donations to keep up the recording of sometimes inaccurate information.

    Why is this even a discussion? What the hell is wrong with people?

  81. Ichthyic says

    If Rebecca’s point is that no-one should give him donations, it’s a very poorly presented argument.

    I’m going on records as saying the EXACT opposite. We (mainly my partner), were avid supporters of Skeptoid until the charges against Dunning were fleshed out, and were quite firmly and finally convinced by Rebecca’s takedown of not just his notpology, but of the overall job she has done to demonstrate exactly what was wrong with what Brian did, why it was a crime and not a matter for civil action only, who the victims were, and that Brian IS STILL LYING EVEN NOW.

    sorry you appear to be too dense to grasp the valid and well expressed points she made, but I tend to think you’re in denial.

  82. says

    @kushana

    acknowledgement apology atonement concession confession contrition penitence regret remorse reparation repentance

    You might try running these words through the algorithm you use to parse natural languages. When we humans do something immoral, we generally experience these things to demonstrate to others that we believe we’ve made a mistake and wish to make amends. Dunning is not communicating to us (his fellow human beings) that he things what he did was wrong. We take this as a warning that he will continue his unethical behavior.

    Much like you don’t understand the concept of an “apology,” Dunning doesn’t seem to understand the concept of “unethical.” Does that make sense? Or are you getting that little flashing light and with the voice that says, “ERROR DOES NOT COMPUTE” over and over again? Hopefully this doesn’t require a hardware upgrade.

    Oh, and everyone else, can we please stop building SkepticBots? I know they’re cute at first, but their charm wears off after a while. They’ve become a real nuisance at this point.

  83. says

    Improbable Joe:

    Also, you all should give me money so I can advance the GLOBAL ATHEIST AGENDA of me having lots of money.

    Given that I don’t have reason to distrust you, and as far as I know, you’ve not engaged in unethical business dealings, if you were in such a position, I’d donate.

  84. Ichthyic says

    Yeah, here’s another thing we disagree upon: You think if you fling enough shit around, you can build a mountain of it high enough to hide the fact that your are excusing serious criminal behavior just because for some stupid reason you have a hardon for Brian Convicted Felon Dunning.

    To me, it immediately brought up remembrances of the people who avidly defended Kent Hovind’s tax fraud.

  85. Ichthyic says

    I mean, even your apocryphal bank robber still gets to go into banks after he gets out.

    you just failed analogies 101.

  86. says

    To me, it immediately brought up remembrances of the people who avidly defended Kent Hovind’s tax fraud.

    It’s a human instinct. Admitting you’ve been taken for a ride is tough. Even Peter Popoff and Kevin Trudeau still have defenders.

    Fortunately, the responses on Skepchick seem to indicate that Rebecca has changed some people’s minds. Those people have my respect. They looked at the evidence and tossed out their cherished beliefs to accept the unpleasant truth. As ugly this whole affair has been, at least some people have been damn good skeptics.

  87. Ichthyic says

    the responses on Skepchick seem to indicate that Rebecca has changed some people’s minds.

    Yup.

    FWIW…

    I literally cannot think of a single person who has changed my mind on a particular issue more often than Rebecca has.

    Hers is ALWAYS the last (yes last) opinion I read on a subject I’m not sure about, as she almost always does a magnificent takedown of all the apparently sensible opinions that I had just read previous. It’s even worth reading all the comments, as she often goes after people IN the comments who are trying to misinterpret what she said, or call her on a point that needs further elucidation… which she then does.

    Even when I disagree with her conclusions on a given issue, I can rarely fault the way she presents her side of it. A great model for the modern skeptic, imo. Engaged emotionally, but rationally dissects issues and uses supporting evidence every time. Does not quote mine to make her point (*shakes fist at Radford*).

    /FWIW

  88. Denverly says

    My best friend’s son once stole twenty bucks out of my wallet. Should I assume that he wouldn’t steal my XBox? No, I assume he has sticky fingers and watch him like a hawk, and don’t trust a fucking thing that comes out of his mouth. Should I give him twenty bucks because he’s says he’s trying to raise money for football camp? No, the fucker has proven he’s not trustworthy, and I’d rather donate money to someone who hasn’t broken my trust. I’ll donate money, sure, but not to him, because he’s not sorry, made excuses, and lied about it. How is this different than Dunning?

  89. Lyn M: G.R.O.S.T. (ADM) -- Membership pending says

    kushana #64

    and then show how Dunning failed those standards.

    Let’s pretend it’s court for a minute, to take a look at some fairly rigorous rules concerning whether or not to consider past convictions for crime when evaluating current acts and testimony.
    Courts are wary of admitting proof of prior misconduct by a defendant or a witness, except for convictions involving dishonesty or false statement, which, for example, under Rule 609(a)(2), Federal Rules of Evidence, Art. VII, “continue to be mandatorily admissible”.
    The idea being that such a conviction is highly relevant to evaluating current behavior.
    I didn’t see that Rebecca Watson needed to lay that line of thinking out step by tiny step, given its wide-spread acceptance in many circles.

  90. neverjaunty says

    @kushana:

    In your efforts to play some kind of devil’s advocate/fan of redemption narratives, you’re twisting yourself into some rather poor logical positions.

    When you say that a convicted bank robber “gets to go” into banks after he is released, you are telling a half-truth. Banks are allowed to (and do) make decisions, such as barring convicted bank robbers from their premises, or refusing to do business with them. A convicted bank robber does not “get to” demand that a bank allow him in. This is not excommunication; it is a rational decision based on an assessment of a person’s past behavior.

    You appear to be arguing that we can infer nothing about the odds of a person’s future behavior from looking at their past behavior. That is not logic; that is wishful thinking, a secular version of the Christian myth of forgiveness and redemption through the grace of God. A person’s past actions and character don’t matter; once they have said they are sorry, they are entitled to a second chance, forgiveness, and so on. What an odd position for a skeptic to assume; it’s a particularly odd position given that Dunning has not in fact really repented, and penned a long, sorry-not-sorry apology that, shall we say, is very selective in its interpretation of the facts.

    Your complaint that Watson’s criticism was “crappy rhetoric, second-guessing the prosecutors, and dropping innuendo” is not something you explain in a logical manner (not that there is an objective standard of ‘crappy’) and you misuse the terms you apply. “Second-guessing” would mean Watson complaining about the approach the prosecutors took and suggesting they should have acted differently; what she actually did (trying to figure out why they acted as they did) is not second-guessing. Similarly, believing and saying that Dunning is a dishonest person, based on both his crime and his fibbing about it, is not “innuendo”; that’s simply not what the word means.

  91. Ichthyic says

    When you say that a convicted bank robber “gets to go” into banks after he is released, you are telling a half-truth.

    it’s worse than that. As I pointed out, it’s a mis-analogy.

    the proper analogy should not be a bank robber opening a bank account. The proper analogy is a Bank Robber becoming a Bank Teller, or even owning a bank.

  92. says

    Very few, if any, seem to be commenting on the fact that Dunning’s statement in itself not only showed a complete lack of remorse or self-reflection but, rather more pertinently, was specifically drafted, from the very opening, to appeal to every logical fallacy and defect in human reasoning possible. It was monstrously cynical and read in the context of his conviction and of his consistent pseudo-statements regarding this matter over the years, shows that this is a man who appears to be able only to apply his skeptical tools to the behaviour of others.

    He has consistently shown himself to be dishonest, messianic, misogynistic, and rather too willing to give credence to corporate quackery over and above anybody with environmentalist credentials, whatever the true position (see his episode on DDT and the massive damage he inflicted on Carson’s reputation. On that subject, and in that vein, he always heavily implies that he carries out a huge amount of research, using every subscription database possible, yet whenever he is royally caught on, his excuse seems to be “Wikipedia lied to me”. That is not research. That is converting Wikipedia into a digestible audio format.

    He is not worthy of a proper skeptical movement.

  93. A. Noyd says

    neverjaunty (#110)

    Banks are allowed to (and do) make decisions, such as barring convicted bank robbers from their premises, or refusing to do business with them.

    When I was in my early teens, I went shopping with a friend. She shoplifted something at this one store and got caught. Rather, we got caught, even though I had no part in it. I mean, I could tell she wanted to steal something but naively thought she wouldn’t actually do it with me along. At least she admitted she had kept what she was doing secret from me. And we got a lawyer to make sure I didn’t face any legal consequences. And yet, the store was still allowed to ban me from going there for several years. Over fifty bucks worth of merchandise I didn’t even steal.

    So yeah, in reality, businesses can and will keep you off their property if they even suspect you did something to hurt their business.

  94. says

    I huh what bwuh buh whaa?

    Okay, so Dunning stole the money but he didn’t misuse it, so he’s totes trustworthy!

    So then it’s okay if I boost cars, as long as I go the speed limit and remember to signal lane changes?

    Kushana is as thick as a whale omelette, methinks.

  95. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Okay, so Dunning stole the money but he didn’t misuse it, so he’s totes trustworthy!

    Yeah, Martin Wagner. It’s kind of been done to death, so I didn’t chime in. But I haven’t really seen any suggest potential uses that would be more or less moral. Kushana takes it for granted that all uses of the funds are moral once he has the funds in his possession, that the acquisition of the funds is separate from use. But I’d like to propose a category of uses for the stolen money that might be more moral than other uses. That might help Kushana see, specifically, how the decisions on disposal of the money may, in fact, in some weird sort of way, be related to the acquisition of the funds.

    The magic category?

    You could, maybe, just possibly, put it in your checking acct, then write a check to eBay for the amount you stole, accepting no merchandise in return.

    Is that a use that is more moral than other possible uses?

    What if, then, one consciously decides to spend the money in a way that would prevent this from happening? You could pay down your mortgage, and then take out a home equity loan to pay the money back later. But what about a vacation? Spend the money on a plane ticket & restaurants, and that makes it a bit harder to cough up the money later.

    Is there a moral component to the decision to dispose of the money in a way that negates the possibility of future repayment?

    I would argue yes.

    I would argue if you steal a car, the most moral use to which you can put the car is driving it back to the owner.

    Perhaps my ethical philosophy is simply too alien for you to comprehend, Kushana, but I rather do see a connection.

  96. says

    I get kushana’s general point. Because he misused the specific monies involved in his fraud conviction does not mean the he misused monies meant for Skeptoid. I understand the hypothetical that all the Skeptoid money was used appropriately.

    It’s also crap. I understand that because my neighbor molested the kids across the street that they may not have molested the kids next door. I’m still not trusting them with ANY children.

    The doubt with respect to any donation money received is reasonable. If this is what passes for sense of reputation among the denizens of the other side of the rift we may not have to worry. They will screw up each other eventually.

  97. Matt Penfold says

    I get kushana’s general point. Because he misused the specific monies involved in his fraud conviction does not mean the he misused monies meant for Skeptoid. I understand the hypothetical that all the Skeptoid money was used appropriately.

    Do you, or does anyone else, know if the Skeptoid accounts have been audited to confirm that no fraud took place ?

  98. Ichthyic says

    skeptoid is a 501c3 yeah?

    then their books should be open if you ask.

    I seriously doubt anyone has specifically done an audit though.

  99. Matt Penfold says

    I seriously doubt anyone has specifically done an audit though.

    That would seem to be something of a failing.

  100. kushana says

    @ Martin Wagner, others
    “Okay, so Dunning stole the money but he didn’t misuse it, so he’s totes trustworthy!” I’m not trying to pick on Martin Wagner, but his comment was recent and somewhat representative of the position of many.

    It’s not that I think you can infer nothing because I think the situations are different. It’s that I can’t think you can infer complete predictability e.g. something along the lines of, “he stole before, he’ll steal again.” I think the reality of the risk assessment is more nuanced, and calls more a more nuanced response than the complete excommunication Rebecca promoted.

    @Tony! The Queer Shoop
    re: what would I do?
    On a personal level, I think I’ll continue much as before. I found his writing to be clear and accessible, and if he continues to post blog entries, I’ll continue to read them if the topics interest me. I haven’t contributed any money up to this point, and I don’t expect that to change.

    On a community level, it’s a tough question. I guess it comes down to what you think you can achieve. I can see the attraction of the excommunication: it shows that you won’t have any truck with dishonest behavior and it’s relatively simple to execute and communicate. The more nuanced approach would be easier if the community actually had some sort of control over Dunning e.g. if there was an official body that could threaten to kick him out.

    My principal concern would be to mitigate any damage that his past behavior/conviction would do the the credibility of the skeptical community at large. There’s not much to be done about the ad hominem-slinging conspiracy theorists; you’ll get tarred by the same brush regardless of what you do. I think the early stuff Rebecca did is appropriate: alerting the community to the behavior, the conviction, and the message. Beyond that, I would advise people that you can distance yourself as far as they like from the behavior, but that it doesn’t invalidate his message.

  101. Matt Penfold says

    It’s not that I think you can infer nothing because I think the situations are different. It’s that I can’t think you can infer complete predictability e.g. something along the lines of, “he stole before, he’ll steal again.” I think the reality of the risk assessment is more nuanced, and calls more a more nuanced response than the complete excommunication Rebecca promoted.

    The problem with what you are suggesting is that you are not suggesting anykind of time period in which Dunning should be expected to show he has changed by his actions. Thus I cannot see how you can be so willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

  102. karmacat says

    Are we sure Kushana is not Dunning himself. He is working very hard on justifying people can keep donating. Yea, probably not…

  103. kushana says

    @Matt Penfold
    I thought about talking about this very point, but ultimately decided against it because Tony! The Queer Shoop’s question was about what I would recommend people do in response, not what should we expect of Dunning.

    What I’d like to see from Dunning is an expression of acknowledgement of the harm and problems that his behavior has brought to the skeptical community and to individuals. Further, I’d like to see initiatives to address some of the scam concerns regarding money e.g. evidence of an independent board and arm’s length handling of donations.

  104. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    What I’d like to see from Dunning is an expression of acknowledgement of the harm and problems that his behavior has brought to the skeptical community and to individuals. Further, I’d like to see initiatives to address some of the scam concerns regarding money e.g. evidence of an independent board and arm’s length handling of donations.

    Then shut the fuck with your defense of him until that happens. That would be YOU showing honesty and integrity. Which you haven’t shown to take with your diatribes.

  105. knowknot says

    @123 kushana

    What I’d like to see from Dunning is an expression of acknowledgement of the harm and problems that his behavior has brought to the skeptical community and to individuals. Further, I’d like to see initiatives to address some of the scam concerns regarding money e.g. evidence of an independent board and arm’s length handling of donations.

    1.) What Nerd of Redhead said @124.
    2.) Hwat in the name of a thousand peculiar gods is going on in your head? At any point in this excruciating thread? This, which is the sparkling issue of your fecund mind, is precisely what Watson’s piece points out (via use of fine, intricate and specialized brushes provided by Dunning ) that he DID NOT DO, as a very, very, super-ultra-biggnessized specific problem.
    So, um… bbzbzbzbzbz words fail insert punctuations

  106. Ishikiri says

    I never donated any money to the man, but I had been listening to Skeptoid for the better part of three years and enjoying it for the most part. I don’t know how I managed not to hear about any of this fraud business until this week.

    It’s all very disappointing.

  107. Donnie says

    At this point, was Brian Dunning bought and paid for by the manufacturers of DTT, and does he support or give money to Scientology.

    Those two episodes were so crappy and outside his usual standards that, combined with his lack of ethics and honour, one can aptly wonder about his motivation.

    Conspiracy theory? Yes.
    Ad hominine? Yes.
    JAQing off? Yes.
    Parallels to Big Tobacco and Big Oil?

    This is why his conviction for fraud is so important. His penance for greed is so important. It goes to his motivations. One can no longer accept his words at face value without looking at motivations

    As a skeptic, your ethics, morals, and honour go hand – and – hand with your words and actions. Brian Dunning has shit where he eats. In areas of conflicts of interests, Brian Dunning’s is where the money is if he thinks that he can get away with it.

    Of course, your mileage may vary, but one thing we have learned as skeptics is that grifters gotta grift.

  108. knowknot says

    - His use of the “yeah-I-was-completely-wrong-but-everyone-was-doing-it-though-it-was-obviously-completely-wrong passive idiot undefense” is especially galling and indicative of utter ethical/moral failure.
    – The only meaningful way to touch on anything like this to is to explain, warts and all, how the act was justified while at the same time owning the vile nature of the justification. When “everyone was doing it” is used without A LOT more depth to follow, it is a slobbering, flapping red flag.
    – Especially when “what everyone was doing” defrauds people who are attempting to prosper in the same market, by the same vector, and supposedly by the same methods as the person making the excuse. It’s not like you shouldn’t have processed the wrong; they are in exactly the same state as you were, mere minutes prior to comprehending a means to defraud.

  109. A. Noyd says

    kushana (#120)

    It’s not that I think you can infer nothing because I think the situations are different. It’s that I can’t think you can infer complete predictability e.g. something along the lines of, “he stole before, he’ll steal again.” I think the reality of the risk assessment is more nuanced, and calls more a more nuanced response than the complete excommunication Rebecca promoted.

    Why, why, why, why do you keep ignoring that Watson’s article focuses on Dunning’s current dishonesty? Not on his past theft, but his behavior in the here and now. It’s not just that “he stole before,” it’s that “he stole before and now he’s demonstrably lying about it.” It’s not that we can’t trust him only on the basis he was untrustworthy and treated people with contempt at some time in the past. It’s that we can’t trust him because he’s still betraying our trust and treating us with contempt right now. Don’t repeatedly ignore the nuance that is there and then whine about a lack of nuance.

    Also, why don’t you go find exactly where Watson promotes “complete excommunication” and quote her here? I only ever saw her imply Dunning should voluntarily step down as a spokesperson for skepticism (even if he continues to help out behind the scenes) because he is damaging the movement’s credibility.

  110. Knabb says

    @Denverly 108

    The situation with your best friend’s son and Dunning are completely different in a number of ways. For one thing, from the sounds of things your best friend’s son was a kid when he stole the 20 dollars – brain development was still going on, maturing was still going on, etc. Lots of people do things as a kid that they wouldn’t as an adult, that partially excuses his actions, and makes it way more plausible that it was a one time thing. Dunning? An adult. Then there’s the matter of how things were stolen, the kid lifted 20 dollars from a wallet. It’s not a good thing to do, but it is at least possible to have done it as an impulsive decision – it’s a fairly simple, short process. Dunning, meanwhile, blackmailed himself into a fraudulent scheme, worked on some sophisticated programming for a good long time, and then left it for years. There’s no fucking way it was impulsive. Then there’s the way that Dunning stole more by a good four orders of magnitude, using ebay’s conservative estimates.

    It’s completely different. There’s a very real possibility that the kid made a mistake when he was younger, and has straightened up in the mean time. It was one possibly-impulsive decision made as a child involving fairly small amounts of money. Dunning? Not fucking likely.

  111. says

    A. Noyd:

    Also, why don’t you go find exactly where Watson promotes “complete excommunication” and quote her here? I only ever saw her imply Dunning should voluntarily step down as a spokesperson for skepticism (even if he continues to help out behind the scenes) because he is damaging the movement’s credibility.

    Yeah, I wondered about kushana’s comments about excommunication. I didn’t recall RW even suggesting that. Heck, she doesn’t suggest shunning him either.
    I’m wondering how excommunication would even work (leaving aside the fact that it’s a religious act).

  112. neverjaunty says

    Tony! The Queer Shoop @132:

    In his comment at @120, kushana refers to a hypothetical ‘official body’ that could ‘kick him out’ – presumably of the skeptic community, though he doesn’t specify.

    Which is a very revealing point about the real thrust of kushana’s arguments.

    One possibility is that he’s immersed in Geek Fallacy #1: exclusion is bad. Many people are only comfortable with exclusion (even if informal or collective) when it’s based on Objective Decisions, a la, some vaguely-imagined version of a trial in which objective, impartial people applying rigid rules examine all the evidence and hand down a decision only when no shadow of a doubt exists. This allows no possibility of error or ambiguity, which some people find very anxiety-inducing.

    (Yes, I know that Dunning has already had a trial and been convicted according to specific laws and rules of evidence, while represented by counsel and with the presumption of innocence in his favor. kushana missed that irony, so bear with me.)

    The other possibility is that kushana is simply offering up a Glass Mountain argument. You know how in many fairy tales, the king doesn’t want anyone to marry his daughter, so he pretends that he’s totally cool with it…. it’s just that the suitor needs to prove his worth by climbing the Glass Mountain first. Or fetching the Apples of the Sun. Or emptying the ocean with a sieve before sundown. Doesn’t matter; the point of the task is that it’s expected to be impossible, and is only offered as a fig leaf to pretend that there are circumstances where the speaker would absolutely agree with you; it’s just that those circumstances haven’t been met yet, such a pity.

    Because that’s the standard kushana is suggesting, really. There is no High Council of Skepticism, whatever certain popular atheist figureheads might think of themselves; there is no power to excommunicate a wrongdoer from the skeptic community, or prohibit them from ever soliticing funds again; there is no way to predict the future and 100% rule out the possibility that Dunning will repent. By setting these up as preconditions, kushana is really just pretending that there are circumstances under which zie would find it appropriate to reject Dunning, as Watson suggests.

  113. neverjaunty says

    Apologies for the double post. A couple of people have mentioned Skeptoid’s 501(c)(3) status.

    The IRS offers a tool allowing one to check on the current status of such organizations:

    http://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Exempt-Organizations-Select-Check

    It appears that yes, Skeptoid Media Inc. is eligible to receive charitable donations, 50% of the value of which you can deduct. It has not filed a 990-N postcard, which organizations that take in less than $50K in gross receipts are allowed to file instead of a full form 990 series. That suggests (unless I am doing my search very badly) that Skeptoid Media Inc. took in more than $50K in its last filing year, assuming they are up to date on their appropriate tax forms. ProPublica’s tool has nothing useful, and no additional information is available on GuideStar.

    Lousy Canuck’s comment on Dunning’s late-game switch of Skeptoid to a charity here:
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2014/03/04/fraudster-skeptic-brian-dunnings-shell-game/

  114. says

    neverjaunty @133:

    One possibility is that he’s immersed in Geek Fallacy #1: exclusion is bad. Many people are only comfortable with exclusion (even if informal or collective) when it’s based on Objective Decisions, a la, some vaguely-imagined version of a trial in which objective, impartial people applying rigid rules examine all the evidence and hand down a decision only when no shadow of a doubt exists. This allows no possibility of error or ambiguity, which some people find very anxiety-inducing.

    I’m leaning towards ↑ this ↑ as being likely, based on what kushana said back at #10:

    If Rebecca’s point is that no-one should give him donations, it’s a very poorly presented argument. She calls him out for being a millionaire and soliciting donations, as if there’s something ethically or legally wrong with the combination. She doesn’t relate any of her assertions about his behavior to the conclusion that donations should be avoided. Really, it’s an attempt at a public shaming.

    (bolding mine)
    Kushana seems to think RW is arguing that Dunning should be shamed. In fact, xe appears to think this is the main thrust of RW’s post. Which kushana doesn’t appear to agree with.

  115. neverjaunty says

    Tony! The Queer Shoop @135:

    Which is really weird. I mean, the guy is a convicted thief, and his public statement about his actions is full of evasions and misstatements designed to soft-pedal both his motivations and actions. Pointing this out is “shaming”? It’s like the old joke with the punchline “Yes, but he was good to his mother!”

  116. Sili says

    Which old joke?

    I was think more about the guy the who killed his parents and asked for leniency because he was an orphan.

  117. says

    @ Matt Penfold 117

    Do you, or does anyone else, know if the Skeptoid accounts have been audited to confirm that no fraud took place ?

    I don’t know, but it’s also a little irrelevant to the larger issues (though it would be informative). I see two “sides” here talking past one another to an extent. One side is concerned with the issue of reputation, holding people accountable for wrong doing, and ultimately preventing predatory behavior. The other with things that look like a mixture of leaving room for atonement, and scope of dishonest behavior. Don’t take this personally because this is like 99% me talking about larger issues and your comment is just a convenient means.

    The reputation side is utterly correct in their concerns. Fraud is at least one part deception, one part theft, and all predatory. These are not personality characteristics to be casual with. They do not tend to simply stay in one little compartmentalized part of your mind, they tend to bleed over into other areas. It does not matter if we have no data about specific other wrong doings, this is about what kind of person they are and how that might affect their behavior in other contexts after this specific wrongdoing and his reasoning after the fact. It’s quite neutral and natural to be concerned about the behavior of predators and it’s a good idea to be concerned about the allies of predators.

    The atonement and scope side are also correct in a broad sense but they have the burden of proof. Wrong was already committed, and the text of Dunning’s explanation is farther evidence of deception. So that compartment is apparently leaking into his community communication, and his ability to describe one’s own character and actions in context at the least. Where else is he a predatory and dishonest theif? Dunning himself caused this chain of speculation.

    I know what efforts to make amends and atone look like and a best scenario follows. The person has to be able to describe what they did wrong in specific terms and apologize to victims by name with those specifics. The person has to able say specifically how they will try to undo the damage they caused on personal, material, and social levels (social because concern for predators is rational and logical, we get to care about this too). The person has to accept the consequences without unreasonable complaint (reason to be provided by him and assessed by everyone involved including us if there is a complaint about the consequences).

    The person has to be able to describe what their future actions will be like in specific terms, and they have to make functional efforts to keep their flaws in mind and come up with ways to undo the routines in both action and thought that cause them. If they ask the community to help them in specific ways that are meaningful, this enhances credibility and especially if the people that choose to help them might otherwise be neutral or skeptical. The person has to be able to get their victims to say that they not only made up for what they did of their own free will, but others that might otherwise be skeptical.

    It’s hard, but the point is that Dunning caused it, there is a way to fix this, and frankly evolution set it up so it’s hard to complain about how people are reacting. This is what happens when you act like someone that will deceive and steal. If a person does not deceive and steal they don’t risk these problems. Regardless of circumstance (but with a difficulty dependent on the specifics), there is likely a way back.

  118. kushana says

    @A. Noyd
    re. old vs. new dishonesty
    I place less importance on the new dishonesty because from a decision point of view, Rebecca does too. Her decision to stop promoting his work was made, “once [she] realized he admitted to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars.” So that was the information sufficient for her to make that decision. But as far as I can tell, she didn’t make any new decisions based on the new information. No new sanctions, and she doesn’t state or allude to the idea that she would move in the other direction if she saw appropriate behavior. It’s just additional evidence.

    re. excommunication, shunning, etc.
    Please don’t read too much into the words; all they’re meant to do is convey the idea of Rebecca excluding Dunning from a skeptical community. She has a community of people whose skeptical work she promotes. Before the dishonesty, Dunning was in it. Now he’s out.

    While she doesn’t explicitly promote excluding him from wider communities, she is writing high profile pieces intending to show how dishonest he is, so she is clearly distancing herself from him in a greater fashion than before.

  119. Sili says

    There is no High Council of Skepticism,

    Then just what did I vote for Rebecca Watson for?

  120. says

    kushana:

    Please don’t read too much into the words; all they’re meant to do is convey the idea of Rebecca excluding Dunning from a skeptical community. She has a community of people whose skeptical work she promotes. Before the dishonesty, Dunning was in it. Now he’s out.

    Oh please. Rebecca doesn’t have the power to exclude Brian Dunning from the skeptical community. She doesn’t have great overlord abilities that allow her to do that. Dunning is persona non grata to some skeptics, but others don’t have a problem with his lack of ethics and fraud. To whatever extent Dunning is on the “outs” with the skeptical community, it’s due to his actions. Stop trying attribute power to Rebecca Watson. Your agenda is beginning to show.

  121. Ichthyic says

    That would seem to be something of a failing.

    most 501c3s (around 95% would be my guess) are never audited.

    The IRS simply does not have the manpower (or even support from Congress, frankly) to do that, though I fully agree that they should.

  122. says

    kushana:

    While she doesn’t explicitly promote excluding him from wider communities, she is writing high profile pieces intending to show how dishonest he is, so she is clearly distancing herself from him in a greater fashion than before.

    Um, so?
    What’s so wrong with RW wanting to distance herself from a fraud and unethical douche? What’s so wrong with her trying to persuade others that such an action might be a good thing?
    And how do you get from “distancing herself from Dunning” to “uses her supreme grand poobah powers to cause Dunning to be on the outs with the skeptic community”?

  123. Ichthyic says

    I’m siding with the others calling for Kushana to bugger off at this point. The intellectual dishonesty is just too much with this one.

  124. says

    I think another angle that makes Kushana’s tribal loyalism extra hilarious is that the majority of work skeptics do is point out that the people who make extraordinary claims are con-artists and thus not to be trusted. How many times have skeptics noted that this or that quack claiming to have cured cancer or this or that psychic or “religious guru” has been previously convicted of fraud or is otherwise a dishonest person? That people should be less supportive of their future claims to have been given knowledge by space aliens after they’ve been proved to have fleeced people over homeopathic bullshit or fake pictures of Bigfoot.

    Presenting arguments of fraud and dishonesty, dismantling those who get off fleecing people’s gullibility in order to personally enrich themselves, is seen as the greatest good the skepticism community can ever do. A task so noble and pure, that it could not possibly be sullied with examinations into matters of gender discrimination or racism. It is literally presented as the holiest of missions which make the likes of Rebecca Watson evil and heretical.

    But now that it turns out one of their own is the fraudster and that they are the gullible rubes, the truth behind the movement comes out. The “mission” is the excuse. What is really at stake is a bunch of white male assholes wanting to think they are “better” than dumb people. That they are inherently smart and logical and manly because of their ability to see through scam artists.

    So if Dunning is a scam artist and they supported him, then they aren’t morally and intellectually superior to the “idiots” who support quacks claiming they can talk to the dead. They are just as prone to support dishonest hacks who only care about enriching themselves or helping themselves to a pool of women to molest and harass. They are just as human and fallible and prone to defending their “tribe” to the detriment of common sense and their own sense of their morality.

    And they will make any noise to protect that false self-image of themselves as person to smart to be scammed. No matter how much it disproves their illusions and fantasies. Because projecting and protecting that fiction is more important than accepting reality as is. Just like it is for any number of religious fucks and conspiracy theory supporters and invested marks for a cult of personality scam artist.

    Hence people like Kushana, hence the people who have supported countless numbers of “old guard” skeptics and atheists who have revealed themselves to be terrible people and inveterate liars. And why they sound exactly like the sad deluded religious apologists trying to argue why Kent Hovind wasn’t a scam artist or is totally trustworthy and valuable.

  125. Ichthyic says

    And how do you get from “distancing herself from Dunning” to “uses her supreme grand poobah powers to cause Dunning to be on the outs with the skeptic community”?

    I guess they’re saying that they think it unfair that someone who argues using reason and evidence should have so much influence in the skeptic community?

  126. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I see the the apologist is trying to set fire to Chicago. Until a real mea culpa comes from Dunning, the apologist should shut about Dunning and how people decide to deal with his lying and bullshitting. Personal, the skeptical community should be wary until the acknowledgement of guilt is published.

  127. Al Dente says

    kushana @139

    But as far as I can tell, [Rebecca Watson] didn’t make any new decisions based on the new information.

    What new information? Did Dunning appeal his conviction and get it overturned? Did E-Bay say he’d repaid them? Did Dunning retract his previous justifications for his wrong-doing and admit full culpability and remorse for his crimes? I don’t see any new information which might cause Rebecca to reconsider her condemnation of Dunning.

  128. says

    kushana @139

    While she doesn’t explicitly promote excluding him from wider communities, she is writing high profile pieces intending to show how dishonest he is, so she is clearly distancing herself from him in a greater fashion than before.

    Oh no, how horrible and self-serving of her to point out that dishonest people are dishonest. Clearly she is Hitler rounding the Jews onto the train by noting with her vile feminine words that a dishonest liar did something dishonest. That’s the worst.

    Fuck, douchebag, do you even think about the words that come out of your fucking fingers?

  129. says

    Icthyic @147

    I guess they’re saying that they think it unfair that someone who argues using reason and evidence should have so much influence in the skeptic community?

    She has icky girl parts. How dare she be better at being a skeptic than some proper rich guy. It goes against the “natural order”! Unfair! Creep-shaming! AIIEEEEEE!

  130. says

    Tony @141

    Oh please. Rebecca doesn’t have the power to exclude Brian Dunning from the skeptical community. She doesn’t have great overlord abilities that allow her to do that.

    Wait… she’s not an all-powerful sorceress with the power to kill any man who displeases her? I feel so deceived right now.

  131. says

    Just to be doubly clear because I went on at length about serious things like that. None of the discussion of any of my comment in 138 is attached to anyone but Dunning. My response to Matt is just “I don’t know”.

  132. Stacy says

    She launched a line-by-line critique of his defense message

    Yes.

    using crappy rhetoric

    Huh. I thought it was pretty clearly written, myself.

    second-guessing the prosecutors

    She did not “second-guess the prosecutors.” She read what they had to say on the subject.

    Have you even bothered to read her previous post on the subject?

    Have you clicked on the links she provided?

    Also: are you aware that Dunning didn’t just defraud eBay, he also defrauded smaller affiliates who would otherwise have gotten commissions?

  133. says

    That was also awkwardly worded but I hope the point is clear. I should have better separated the response to Matt from the general stuff. I’m going to get some coffee.

  134. kushana says

    @Tony! The Queer Shoop 141,143
    My post 139 was just intended to explain earlier use of word like shunning or excommunication. I just showed how Rebecca had removed Dunning from a collection of skeptics whose work she had previously promoted. Further, I showed that she seemed to be currently working in the same general direction, to distance him from her. Thus the shunning, etc. terminology. Nothing more.

    @Al Dente 149
    The new vs. old information idea is taken from A. Noyd 130: he asks why I seemed to be treating the “new” information (of his dishonesty in his explanatory message) differently than the “old” information (of the cookie stuffing itself). I explained it’s because I’m interested in the role the information(s) had in Rebecca’s decision making, and showed that while Rebecca had made a decision based on old information, she did not say she had based on the new, nor did she indicate that she might have had the new information been different. Thus, from a decision standpoint, the old information was more important.

  135. says

    kushana:

    My post 139 was just intended to explain earlier use of word like shunning or excommunication. I just showed how Rebecca had removed Dunning from a collection of skeptics whose work she had previously promoted. Further, I showed that she seemed to be currently working in the same general direction, to distance him from her. Thus the shunning, etc. terminology. Nothing more.

    Oh, so this:

    Please don’t read too much into the words; all they’re meant to do is convey the idea of Rebecca excluding Dunning from a skeptical community. She has a community of people whose skeptical work she promotes. Before the dishonesty, Dunning was in it. Now he’s out.

    Is meaningless then? Which one is it? Is RW distancing herself from Brian Dunning or does RW have some heretofore unknown power to cause the skeptic community to shun Dunning such that he’s no longer “in”?
    I’m having a hard time believing that you can’t see the difference. The two quotes-both by you-say different things. I don’t know what you believe at this point.

  136. says

    kushana:

    The new vs. old information idea is taken from A. Noyd 130: he asks why I seemed to be treating the “new” information (of his dishonesty in his explanatory message) differently than the “old” information (of the cookie stuffing itself).

    (bolding mine)

  137. says

    This is all just a witch hunt.
    You people won’t be satisfied until you’ve driven every last fraud and felon out of the skeptic movement.

  138. says

    kushuna @157

    So if you really want to pretend you only meant:

    My post 139 was just intended to explain earlier use of word like shunning or excommunication. I just showed how Rebecca had removed Dunning from a collection of skeptics whose work she had previously promoted. Further, I showed that she seemed to be currently working in the same general direction, to distance him from her. Thus the shunning, etc. terminology. Nothing more.

    Then why the fuck is this to be regarded as bad? Why are we supposed to be more outraged by Rebecca Watson than by a man who lies about his own conviction for fraud like a common huckster? If she is less supportive of his actions and his works because of his actions, how is this in any way objectionable or worthy of the hate-on you’ve wasted however many posts on this thread on?

    Why should we regard her actions as “wrong”, when you regard her actions as so minor and rational?

    Thus, we either must conclude this is a pathetic attempt at a backpedal when your biases were laid bare or that you object to the very notion of responding to evidence as the equivalent of something terrible, which would utterly make a mockery out of any claim you could make to being a skeptic.

    Fuck, even your initial bad argument that calling out liars for lying and trying to “distance them from the community” is wrong is basically a reworking of the MRA bullshit about “creep-shaming” supposedly being worse than tolerating abusers in the community and the very real damage they do.

    So yeah, congratulations on being hoist by your own petard there, buddy. Certainly shows how “skeptical” and “rational” and oh so manly smart you are instead of how incompetent and pathetic you are in your obvious bullshit.

  139. Ichthyic says

    intellectually dishonest fuck is dishonest. go figure.

    you know who is doing a good job of making me not trust what Kushana says?

    Kushana.

    much like I didn’t need Watson to tell me that I probably shouldn’t trust liars like Dunning… because you see, they continue lying…

  140. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    intellectually dishonest fuck is dishonest. go figure.

    Yep, plain from his early posts. Too intellectually dishonest to claim his real problem, which was RW, who was a woman.

    And what “new” information is there. The statement by Dunning is old stuff, nothing new there. If there is real new evidence, why no links to it?

  141. James Anderson says

    I don’t understand the misreadings of what kushana said in the last several posts. In post 139 he says

    …..excluding Dunning from a skeptical community. She has a community of people whose skeptical work she promotes.

    kushana carefully used the indefinite article “a” in consecutive sentences, so we would understand he’s referring to a subset of the skeptical community. He didn’t accuse Rebecca Watson of trying to control the actions of “the” skeptical community. And he never said that she’s mean to take Dunning off her list of favorites, and he never said it’s wrong to publically shame Dunning.

    Hey kushana, am I reading you correctly here? Can you please be explicit about whether you find Rebecca’s actions reasonable, or whether you’re displeased with them?

  142. says

    James Anderson:
    My problem is that kushana has made two claims about Rebecca Watson:
    A:

    Please don’t read too much into the words; all they’re meant to do is convey the idea of Rebecca excluding Dunning from a skeptical community. She has a community of people whose skeptical work she promotes. Before the dishonesty, Dunning was in it. Now he’s out.

    B:

    My post 139 was just intended to explain earlier use of word like shunning or excommunication. I just showed how Rebecca had removed Dunning from a collection of skeptics whose work she had previously promoted. Further, I showed that she seemed to be currently working in the same general direction, to distance him from her. Thus the shunning, etc. terminology. Nothing more.

    A makes the claim that RW is excluding Brian Dunning from the Skeptical community (or *a* skeptical community). As I’ve pointed out, she has no power to exclude him from a community. She can shun him on her own, and she can persuade others that shunning him is a reasonable idea, but she can’t excommunicate/shun/exclude Dunning from the (or *a*) community. There is no central authority in the skeptical community with the power to do that.

    B argues that Rebecca Watson is distancing herself from Dunning.

    So which one is it?
    I’m fine with B. In fact, I think she’s done that very thing. I’m not fine with A, which is something that kushana seems to think is going on, as evidenced by what xe (I don’t know what gender kushana identifies as) said @10:

    If Rebecca’s point is that no-one should give him donations, it’s a very poorly presented argument. She calls him out for being a millionaire and soliciting donations, as if there’s something ethically or legally wrong with the combination. She doesn’t relate any of her assertions about his behavior to the conclusion that donations should be avoided. Really, it’s an attempt at a public shaming.

    I hope this clears up your confusion and I hope kushana opts to clear up confusion on hir part.

  143. A. Noyd says

    kushana (#139)

    I place less importance on the new dishonesty because from a decision point of view, Rebecca does too. Her decision to stop promoting his work was made, “once [she] realized he admitted to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

    Do you think Watson wrote an article about why she stopped promoting Dunning’s work? Because she didn’t. She may have mentioned that, but her article is about why other people (ie. people who are not her) should not trust or promote him. And her reasoning for that is not “something along the lines of, ‘he stole before, he’ll steal again.'” as you said earlier. It’s that he’s currently being dishonest.

    So if you “place less importance on the new dishonesty,” then you did not understand the point of her article. Nor did you understand the point of my comment. (And, by the way, I’m not a man, you presumptuous shit blister.)

    So that was the information sufficient for her to make that decision. But as far as I can tell, she didn’t make any new decisions based on the new information.

    She decided to stop promoting him because he was being dishonest. He’s still being dishonest. What “new decision” would she make given nothing has changed? For fuck’s sake, do you read what you write?

    she doesn’t state or allude to the idea that she would move in the other direction if she saw appropriate behavior.

    Watson wrote an article showing the evidence of how he’s not behaving appropriately. What the everloving fuck would it add for her to talk about how she would feel if Dunning was doing the opposite of what he’s actually doing? And why would you need that explicitly acknowledged, anyway? You’re whining about people not giving a convicted thief and proven liar the benefit of the doubt while denying Watson the benefit of the doubt over whether she’d change her mind about Dunning if he appeared to be working towards reform. (Which, again, he’s not.)

    re. excommunication, shunning, etc.
    Please don’t read too much into the words; all they’re meant to do is convey the idea of Rebecca excluding Dunning from a skeptical community.

    If you don’t mean what those words say, then don’t use them. And if you can’t back up your accusations, then don’t make them. Watson isn’t excommunicating, shunning or sanctioning Dunning.

    She has a community of people whose skeptical work she promotes. Before the dishonesty, Dunning was in it. Now he’s out.

    So, you’re saying Dunning was a Skepchick? Because that’s the “community” that Watson “has.” She doesn’t “have” the skeptic community as a whole. She can’t exclude Dunning from it. Stop using the wrong fucking language.

    Watson used to endorse certain fellow skeptics. You know, as peers, not as minions under her rule. That there are some skeptics she no longer endorses (like Radford and Dunning) means nothing more than that she refuses to endorse them. They’re no longer getting something they were never entitled to. Revoking her endorsement has no greater consequences than that.

    While she doesn’t explicitly promote excluding him from wider communities, she is writing high profile pieces intending to show how dishonest he is, so she is clearly distancing herself from him in a greater fashion than before.

    Why are you still trying to make the article about Watson’s position relative to Dunning when it’s not about that? She’s not asking anyone to do anything based on her own feelings. She’s showing with evidence that people shouldn’t trust him because he’s a liar.

  144. Al Dente says

    kushana,

    Why are you putting out so much time and effort to rehabilitate Brian Dunning?

  145. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Kushana, which upsets you more? RW saying Dunning is a proven liar and bullshitter, and his “charity” should be ignored, or me, a 60+ year old male who is a 30+ year skeptic, who sees through your ignorant and transparent “arguments”, saying the same thing?

  146. A. Noyd says

    Al Dente (#168)

    Why are you putting out so much time and effort to rehabilitate Brian Dunning?

    You’d think xe could at least attempt to refute some of the points Watson made about Dunning’s dishonesty instead of strawmanning her and making some vague, rambling ad hominem. It’s like watching a three year old trying to play a first person shooter.

  147. says

    I’m still working through the thread, but this bit from Kushana @36 required comment:

    using crappy rhetoric

    Hey Kushana, quick point here: you do not get to say that ethos is irrelevant, then accuse someone else of “crappy rhetoric.” Rhetoric is, according to Aristotle, “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.” Aristotle, you know, the guy who gave us the basic heuristic for persuasion: pathos, logos, and motherfucking ethos.

    Congratulations, you’ve accomplished the rhetorical equivalent of saying empiricism is irrelevant, then criticizing others for bad science. Slow clap.

  148. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Am I just completely wrong to enjoy Josh’s 167 so much in light of Josh’s 128?

    Really, it says way more than necessary, especially given Josh’s original comment on this thread, which was *the* original comment on this thread.

    :le sigh:

    Kushana, please, for your own sake, if your problem is with RW – then take that up with RW.

    If you think it’s badly written, if you think the thesis statement needs some polish, if you think that the bibliography is organized atrociously, if you think that she’s leaving herself open to some pointed logical lines of attack during her oral defense, why not consider

    a) we aren’t Rebecca Watson.
    b) if you haven’t managed to get your point across in over 21 comments, perhaps you simply should try backing out of this thread
    and
    c) after you back out of this thread, perhaps you could take those points up with someone who IS Rebecca Watson.

    Great googly-moogly, Kushana, complaining that people think you mean to choose the words you use based on their actual meanings? Telling us that Rebecca didn’t have a great “thesis” in a fucking blog post! Repeating yourself to people with no power to edit that “thesis required” work about which you have such genuine concerns is kind of the definition of useless trolling.

  149. says

    Crip Dyke:
    No, you’re not wrong to enjoy Josh’s comments. I know I sure as heck did (though I doubt kushana will take him up on that).
    ____
    Although I guess we could both be wrong to enjoy his comments.

  150. Ichthyic says

    Can you please be explicit about whether you find Rebecca’s actions reasonable

    you should go back and read Kushana’s very first post in this thread. It’s number 5.

  151. Ichthyic says

    I don’t understand the misreadings of what kushana said in the last several posts.

    I don’t understand YOUR reading of it. It’s beyond inane.

  152. Lyn M: G.R.O.S.T. (ADM) -- Membership pending says

    I see Kushana has not addressed the point that even the court system, not famed for letting prior acts affect current decisions, sides, in effect, with Rebecca.

    Of course, someone with apparently lady brains is making that point, so it must be wrong.

  153. knowknot says

    @eternaldiscomfort kushana

    I place less importance on the new dishonesty because…

    что?
    Because… old Coke was better after all? And New Think is as yet untested? (Or was, up until now.)
    We should maybe try to believe that you’re nice to puppies, or that you tend to clean your plate, or something, because for all intents and purposes here you are a fountain of idiocy and pretense, highlighted by light show and marching band.

  154. kushana says

    @James Anderson 164
    You are entirely correct in your interpretation of my writing, and I thank you.

    @A. Noyd
    I apologize for inadvertently and presumptively using the male pronoun.

    @Tony! The Queer Shoop 165
    It’s A and B. In A, I’m using the word, “community,” in its most general sense: as a collection of people. So she absolutely has the ability to exclude him from the community of skeptics whose works she promotes; she controls the membership.

    I think Rebecca is promoting two types of actions against Dunning. First, and more explicitly, she wants you to stop giving him money. I get this from, “… if you’ve read this far and you still trust Dunning with your money, there’s nothing more I can do for you.” I don’t think this is very controversial; the idea has been introduced before in this thread and no-one objected to it.

    I also think Rebecca is promoting distancing, mainly via leadership by example. She states that she excluded him from the list of skeptics she promotes because of his dishonesty, and then spends the bulk of the article working to show how dishonest he was and is.

    @Tom Foss
    The discussion moved on. Early on, I was interested in the effect Dunning’s dishonesty would have on the truth value of his skeptical work, and Ethos is irrelevant there. Commenters were more interested in the effect the dishonesty would have on his future actions, such as potential misuse of donations and the reputation of the skeptical community at large, so that’s where the discussion went. Ethos is relevant there.

    @Tony! The Queer Shoop 175
    I enjoyed them too. It’s a win for everyone.

  155. Ichthyic says

    You are entirely correct in your interpretation of my writing, and I thank you.

    lying sack is lying.

    dude.. you’re so dishonest I can smell it, even in pixels.

  156. Ichthyic says

    I enjoyed them too. It’s a win for everyone.

    unfortunately, like everything Watson wrote, you didn’t pay the slightest heed to those words either.

    you should just… go.

  157. kushana says

    Sorry for the double post
    @James Anderson re do I approve of RW’s actions and do I find them reasonable
    I find all of RW’s actions reasonable. As I stated before, I think the problem of achieving the goals of protecting the skeptical community and individuals from Dunning’s actual and potential damage is a very difficult one. So it’s a hard problem, and her actions are consistent with the goals, so yeah, I think they’re reasonable.

    Whether I *approve* depends on whether I think they’re the best course of action in that they will produce the best outcomes. Here I’m going to reserve judgement. I think the problem is too complex for me to predict what’s optimal, and then judge her by it.

    @Tony! The Queer Shoop 169
    re Why do I keep going on about RW and ignoring PZ Myers and Dunning
    Because her work is the interesting one. Generally, this thread should be about one of PZ Myers’ blog posts. But in this case, it’s basically just points to Dunning’s message and RW’s commentary. But Dunning message is essentially just a version of history; there’s not a lot of discussion meat there. Sure, we could go back and forth about whether we believed a particular bit, but that’s boring.

    RW has turned the message into something interesting. She’s given it an interpretation; she’s using to try and persuade people. And I think that’s interesting and worth discussing.

  158. Ichthyic says

    now:

    Because her work is the interesting one.

    then (#5)

    The problem with Rebecca’s analysis is that it’s not useful.

    fuck off, you horrid little disingenuous prick.

  159. Ichthyic says

    But Dunning message is essentially just a version of history

    like David Barton represents history.

  160. Menyambal says

    kshana @ 183 :

     And I think that’s interesting and worth discussing.

    But nobody else does, nobody can tell that that is what you are discussing, and the discussion seems to be all about you.

  161. says

    kushana @183

    I find all of RW’s actions reasonable. As I stated before, I think the problem of achieving the goals of protecting the skeptical community and individuals from Dunning’s actual and potential damage is a very difficult one. So it’s a hard problem, and her actions are consistent with the goals, so yeah, I think they’re reasonable.

    re Why do I keep going on about RW and ignoring PZ Myers and Dunning
    Because her work is the interesting one. Generally, this thread should be about one of PZ Myers’ blog posts. But in this case, it’s basically just points to Dunning’s message and RW’s commentary. But Dunning message is essentially just a version of history; there’s not a lot of discussion meat there. Sure, we could go back and forth about whether we believed a particular bit, but that’s boring.
    RW has turned the message into something interesting. She’s given it an interpretation; she’s using to try and persuade people. And I think that’s interesting and worth discussing.

    And finally you’ve backpedalled so far you’ve actually made it up your own ass.

    And no, there’s no reason to focus entirely on Watson and make her the topic of conversation here. There’s no reason for the topic of conversation to be about her anymore than if Anderson Cooper reported on some politician giving a statement about the fact that he was just convicted for flaying a person alive, Anderson Cooper should be the story because some politician blathering on “is boring”.

    And if some fucking moron tried to derail a conversation about how Politician X’s actions and what they say about Congress or the appartuses that protected him and allowed him to do this action or the likelihood he’ll try and do it again after his 3 month jail sentence in order to talk about how Anderson Cooper seemed really biased because of his homosexuality, but not really, just kidding, it was totally reasonable, ha ha?

    We might, just might, be forced to conclude that the fucker was trying to backpedal after trying to smear the man reporting on their “hero’s” shame at having been caught and that the idiot in question might just have long-standing issues with Anderson Cooper or gay people.

    Because otherwise you’re a lost linguistics professor who seems to have forgotten this is a goddamn blog and not a freshman comp class about analyzing rhetoric. Also, who seems to have forgotten they’re a goddamn idiot.

  162. says

    kushana:

    Because her work is the interesting one. Generally, this thread should be about one of PZ Myers’ blog posts. But in this case, it’s basically just points to Dunning’s message and RW’s commentary. But Dunning message is essentially just a version of history; there’s not a lot of discussion meat there. Sure, we could go back and forth about whether we believed a particular bit, but that’s boring.
    RW has turned the message into something interesting. She’s given it an interpretation; she’s using to try and persuade people. And I think that’s interesting and worth discussing.

    I don’t disagree with that. I disagree with much of what you’ve said in this thread, at least when I’ve been able to parse what the hell you’re talking about. You could clear up some of that confusion if you’d respond to this:

    A:

    Please don’t read too much into the words; all they’re meant to do is convey the idea of Rebecca excluding Dunning from a skeptical community. She has a community of people whose skeptical work she promotes. Before the dishonesty, Dunning was in it. Now he’s out.

    B:

    My post 139 was just intended to explain earlier use of word like shunning or excommunication. I just showed how Rebecca had removed Dunning from a collection of skeptics whose work she had previously promoted. Further, I showed that she seemed to be currently working in the same general direction, to distance him from her. Thus the shunning, etc. terminology. Nothing more.

    A makes the claim that RW is excluding Brian Dunning from the Skeptical community (or *a* skeptical community). As I’ve pointed out, she has no power to exclude him from a community. She can shun him on her own, and she can persuade others that shunning him is a reasonable idea, but she can’t excommunicate/shun/exclude Dunning from the (or *a*) community. There is no central authority in the skeptical community with the power to do that.
    B argues that Rebecca Watson is distancing herself from Dunning.
    So which one is it?

    Which one is it? I’m curious because A is not possible, while B not only is possible, but is most likely.

    After that, we can move on to your misunderstanding of Rebecca’s entire point: which was to highlight the lack of ethics and continued dishonesty displayed by Brian Dunning.
    After *that* we can talk about why you use words like “shun” or “shame” or “excommunicate” when those words-as defined-weren’t what you meant, and how the rest of us are supposed to know what you actually meant to say.

  163. says

    kushana:
    My apologies, I scrolled up from the bottom and did not see that you’d already responded to my query. Thank you.
    You say it’s A and B.
    Ok, I’ll concede she has the power to exclude him from Skepchick in some manner. You claim this has happened. Has it? Has she excluded him from Skepchick? I also think it worth wondering if he was ever part of that community to begin with.
    Also:

    I think Rebecca is promoting two types of actions against Dunning. First, and more explicitly, she wants you to stop giving him money. I get this from, “… if you’ve read this far and you still trust Dunning with your money, there’s nothing more I can do for you.” I don’t think this is very controversial; the idea has been introduced before in this thread and no-one objected to it.
    I also think Rebecca is promoting distancing, mainly via leadership by example. She states that she excluded him from the list of skeptics she promotes because of his dishonesty, and then spends the bulk of the article working to show how dishonest he was and is.

    If you understand all this, then what is your problem with Rebecca?

  164. says

    kushana

    I find it kinda hard to square

    #183
    I find all of RW’s actions reasonable.

    with

    #5
    Charitably, she might be making the assertion, “The skeptical community is damaged by association with Dunning; we should take this opportunity to disassociate ourselves from him.” It seems more personal and visceral than that, though.

    Care to clarify?

    By the way, I’ve just invented the term “rhetorobator.” I’m sure you’re proud. No need to thank me.

  165. says

    Ichthyic @184:

    now:

    Because her work is the interesting one.

    then (#5)

    The problem with Rebecca’s analysis is that it’s not useful.

    fuck off, you horrid little disingenuous prick.

    Ichthyic makes a good observation here. You were condemning Rebecca’s post for a while and now it seems you’ve done a 180°. What happened? Did you change your mind and forget to let us know?

  166. says

    So kushana is no longer here to smear Rebecca Watson, but wants to discuss her, rather than the meat of her post, which was about the dishonesty and lack of ethics on the part of Dunning.
    Again, kushana, you seem to be overly focused on the wrong subject here. One would think you’re an apologist for Dunning.

  167. says

    re Why do I keep going on about RW and ignoring PZ Myers and Dunning
    Because her work is the interesting one. Generally, this thread should be about one of PZ Myers’ blog posts.

    Jesus fuck. I wrote a short paragraph linking to Rebecca’s analysis, because that’s where the substance is. And you go on an on like a pretentious prat.

    Maybe you should be jacking off to the sound of your own words at Skepchick. At the very least, you should FUCK OFF NOW.

  168. A. Noyd says

    kushana (#180)

    I apologize for inadvertently and presumptively using the male pronoun.

    Thanks. But is that really all the response you’re going to make to #166? Not that I want you to argue with what I said—you’re wrong and terrible at arguing, so that would waste everyone’s time. But it’s kind of suspicious that you refused to engage with anything else after I revealed I’m not a man. [Well, upon refreshing, I see PZ is threatening you with a ban if you keep posting, so I guess I'll just have to keep wondering about this one.]

    In A, I’m using the word, “community,” in its most general sense: as a collection of people. So she absolutely has the ability to exclude him from the community of skeptics whose works she promotes; she controls the membership.

    That is not how the word “community” works. A community is an association in which the members participate. It makes no damn sense to talk about a list in someone’s head as “a community.” Otherwise everyone’s list of celebrities they masturbate to would count as communities. And if you think a mental list can be a community, then why are you framing removal of someone from that list as “excommunication” or “shunning” or “exclusion”—words which imply a person is denied participation?

    You’re contorting words into things they never meant in order to avoid admitting you were wrong, and it’s just making you look even more ridiculous.

  169. A. Noyd says

    Tony (#189)

    k, I’ll concede she has the power to exclude him from Skepchick in some manner. You claim this has happened.

    See, you’re trying to think of an actual community when this dumbshit doesn’t mean anything of the sort. Xe is talking about Watson’s mental list of the people she promotes.

  170. kushana says

    @Tony! The Queer Shoop 189
    I’m not even going so far as to say she’s banished Dunning from Skepchick, just from the list of people she promotes.

    I don’t in general, have a problem with RW. I do have a problem with her analysis of the Dunning message, but the problem I have with it didn’t prove to be of interest to the thread, so I sort of let it drop. I also did move closer in some respects to consensus opinion, but didn’t openly announce it.

    @Tony! The Queer Shoop 191 & Ichthyic 184
    I still stand by those two statements, because I don’t see them as contradictory. I still maintain she’s an interesting writer and that this piece is interesting, but not that useful, not least because she didn’t use it to make a decision in the way I detailed before.

    Many of you will be happy to hear that I’ll make this my last post on this thread. I haven’t been intimidated by the invitations to leave by others, but the PZ Myers one worked. I guess I still have problems with celebrity. Who knew?

    I do want to say that I did genuinely enjoy the experience, that I learned things, and I’m glad I did it. Best wishes for the future.

    Kushana

  171. says

    A Noyd @195

    Which gets into the really kind of creepy control aspect that seems to wade through what they’re trying to pretend is their point. That people, especially women, should have who they personally approve of (i.e. something that is entirely one’s own thing) overruled and “fixed” by outside, presumably male forces, because there is something wrong with a woman having a negative opinion about a man if it has not been carefully vetted and approved by an extremely strict authority.

    And that sort of feeds into kushana @196, especially here:

    I still stand by those two statements, because I don’t see them as contradictory. I still maintain she’s an interesting writer and that this piece is interesting, but not that useful, not least because she didn’t use it to make a decision in the way I detailed before.

    I agree with her point, think she’s talented in her chosen craft, have no objection to the message, but still I must object because she wasn’t me. She didn’t respond exactly the way I would have and therefore her message which is right, well-crafted, and logical is wrong and she should be criticized because she didn’t do exactly what I wanted her to.

    We see this casual nature of assumed public control of women on this deep and fundamental of a level most obviously with the bullshit surrounding the most common medical practice in America (abortion), but it’s worth using this distraction to note that it extends to everything.

    If a woman produces it, it is wrong for not being from a man and even if it is right and unobjectionable, it is still regarded as wrong for not being controlled and dictated and owned by a man. Her everything is to be a vessel, dictated in direction and focus and topic and even thought on what men want her to do, a meaningless robot that spits out recycled male wisdom and sex, because that is all a woman is socially seen to be.

    Wrong even if she is right, for not being the empty shell society demands her to be.

    It is an all to common belief, expertly demonstrated by our derailer-du-jour.

  172. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Bye-Bye Kushana, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  173. Ichthyic says

    I do have a problem with her analysis of the Dunning message, but the problem I have with it didn’t prove to be of interest to the thread,

    good thing you clarified exactly what your problem with it was then.

    oh wait… YOU NEVER DID.

    what a waste of space you are.

  174. James Oeming says

    Big deal. Dunning is going to spend a few months brushing up on his tennis at the Lompoc Country Club (er.. Correctional Facility). I’ve heard about the minimum security Lompoc Correctional Facility. It’s pretty cush (or at least it was last I heard). Bottom line — he’s basically getting away with it. Dunning knows FULL WELL there are victims galore when you siphon millions form a big corporation.

    1) The corporation passes the costs on to someone — in this case the fees charged vendors, to name one group of victims.

    2) Far far more important example is the damage is done to our collective ethical setpoint. When a high-tech shyster like Dunning sets an example of cheating, people think “Everyone cheats, so I might as well also. ” This is very damaging to our sense of collective trust. This is the far greater crime, compared to stealing a measly few millions of dollars.

    No, Brian, you aren’t “owning” your crime (which he’s tried to say is is doing). He’s copping to those things he absolutely, positively cannot avoid copping to. He’s copping to stuff at “gunpoint’ as it were — and not a thing more. No introspection. No public soul searching about the flaw in his morals. He’s hiding behind family pictures (big deal – everyone has a family) and behind stories of run-of-the-mill good deeds (that any normal person does without tooting their own horn). He’s just doing standard-issue, paint-by-numbers damage control that any good PR advisor would recommend. I am not impressed.

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