Looks like CFI got itself a winner

Robyn Blumner is busily defending Richard Dawkins now.

I think Richard Dawkins is purposefully misunderstood at times as a way to generate clicks on some bloggers’ page. It’s because his name brings page views and eyes so why not generate a lot of heat around something that is pretty tame if you really unpack it.

What is this? 2005? “Blogging for the clicks” is so last decade ago, and it was wrong even then.

Controversy doesn’t bring in long-term viewers. Consistency and frequent content builds an audience. Getting links from other big-time bloggers gets you traffic. This is remedial blogging 101.

What happens is that sometimes someone says something stupid, and when people notice and comment on it, they want to claim that there is some ulterior motive for their personal embarrassment, so they blame the blogger.

What Blumner is saying is simply a classic silencing tactic. You’re a bad person writing for money if you call attention to this other person’s bad behavior! So stop mentioning it!

And in my case, I dragged my heels for a long time, as regular readers can attest, trying and hoping that these outbursts on twitter and in blog comments were not representative of his views. I guess I should have cashed in on all those controversial clicks years ago!

I’ll also point out that criticizing the Heroic Leaders of the Atheist Revolution does not win you accolades and praise and money and appointments to leadership positions at major organizations. It gets you hate mail and stress and non-stop vilification and web sites dedicated to nothing but hating you. Blumner might want to think things through a little more if she thinks misinterpreting the biggest name in atheism is a fast-track path to success in the atheist community. It is a small tribal group that does not do introspection at all well.

No Roosh

Do I need to mention Roosh, he of the books full of rape stories, he of the cunning plan to end rape by legalizing it on private property, he who announced a world-wide set of meetings of his fellow pick-up artists, he who cancelled all of those meetings as people around the world learned of them and laughed at him? Yes, I do, but I’ll be brief. He had a “press conference”, that started like so:

All right, so the world has gone insane in the past week. Why? Number one, I had organized meet ups around the world for men to enjoy a social happy hour to meet in private and talk about anything. Work, politics, girls, just to meet. Okay? Number two, a year ago I wrote an article How to Stop Rape. This article, to a 10-year-old, was obvious that I didn’t intend to legalize rape or cause harm against women. But starting on Sunday, a lot of you have lied by saying that I am a pro-rape advocate. He wants women to get hurt! And then the third thing, you said the meet ups are about rapists. They want to gather to learn how to rape. They are going to exchange tips. Some of you have called it a rape rally! What the hell is that? A rape rally? So because of that I’ve been all over the world in terms of the news. Over 100 articles have been written.

I think Dave Futrelle has Roosh’s history covered. Social meetups are not the problem. The problem is that Roosh brags about traveling around the world “banging” women who are drunk, unconscious, or otherwise unable to consent, he publishes recipes for tricking women into sex, he regularly disparages women, and yes, he published a bizarre article in which he suggested that rape would go away if the law disallowed charging men with rapes that occurred on their own private property — after all, the woman consented to entering his rape cave, therefore she consented to anything he might do to her there. So basically his “press conference” was all about lying about what he does.

But the operative sentence is that last one: Over 100 articles have been written. That’s exactly what he wanted. His plan was a success.

Therefore, I now declare Pharyngula to be a Roosh-Free Zone. I won’t be mentioning him in the future. I’m entering his name into the blacklist, so don’t even bother trying to mention him in the comments. Defending him will be grounds for an automatic ban.

You might be surprised at what is computable nowadays

Meet Oliver.

I’m a Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) researcher and programmer living slightly north of Castle Black. I study online communities, focusing on how people consume content, how user behaviour varies between desktop and mobile platforms, and how we can best understand systemic bias in peer-production communities.

He writes C++ and R code. His perspective sounds like the kind of contribution a lot of programming communities need, so I would think it valuable to keep him around. Unfortunately, he has resigned from the R community. He found something simple, obvious, and wrong, so he fixed it and submitted a report. Exactly as you’re supposed to do, right? Only this was the problem:

[Read more…]

What is a prayer?

I’ve heard a number of explanations: it’s a private conversation with the supernatural emperor of the universe, or possibly a moment of communion with all-that-is, or even just a quiet personal centering of the self. These are all lies. As we all know, prayer is actually an opportunity to posture publicly, promoting one’s own piety.

We have another example to illustrate the accuracy of my definition. Phoenix had a request from the Satanists to be allowed to give an opening prayer at council meetings, and the council struggled with their decision — whether to allow a Satanic prayer, which would cause a huge outcry from fanatical Christians; to prohibit certain faiths from participation, which would clearly violate the separation of church and state and lead to lawsuits; or to simply stop the prayer nonsense altogether, and instead have a moment of silence, in which individuals could freely have a private conversation with god, commune with all-that-is, center their self, or whatever.

Phoenix wisely went with the moment of silence idea. Seems smart to me; as an atheist, I wouldn’t object, and believers are still allowed to chat with god, commune, center, etc., if that’s what prayer is all about.

The majority of the council seem sensible and are willing. But others are willingly validating my theory that prayer is about loudly and publicly pronouncing the depth of their faith, and are melting down at the idea that they can’t get any more brownie points with the gods by babbling at others.

The objections have been emotional, loud and generally ignorant. Christians are pushing for their right to pray, but they don’t seem to understand the fact they can’t allow their prayers while banning others. The Phoenix council had an option of either allowing the alternate prayers, or banning them while facing a First Amendment-based lawsuit that is practically a guaranteed loss for them. They chose a third option of banning all prayer (the best option) completely. Now they are being threatened with even more lawsuits from Christians that want to insert religion into government – as long as it’s only Christian religion.

You can’t win with these people.

I will never accomplish anything this great


Julius Caesar is said to have wept at the tomb of Alexander the Great — “Do you think I have not just cause to weep, when I consider that Alexander at my age had conquered so many nations, and I have all this time done nothing that is memorable?,” he said. Well, now I have learned of the Lloyd’s Bank Turd, and I am disconsolate. 1200 years ago, Vikings had conquered the city of York in England, held it for a century, and left behind a clutter of buried debris, including old cesspits. In one of them, archaeologists excavated an amazing relic: a single massive bowel movement, left behind by some heroic citizen who passed it alone into a hole in the ground, where it rested in solitary glory and was somehow preserved for posterity.

So what do we know about the anonymous Viking who made the most famous deposit that Lloyds Bank is ever likely to see? His or her diet consisted largely of meat and grains, but not much in the way of fruits or vegetables, which may help explain why the sample is nine inches long and weighs half a pound. “Whoever passed it probably hadn’t ‘performed’ for a few days,” says student conservator Gill Snape. Considering the large number of fruit pits and vegetable seeds found at the site but not in this particular Viking’s stool, this was likely not the healthiest or the most regular person in the village.

Like a lot of Vikings, this one suffered from at least two types of intestinal parasites: The remains of hundreds of whipworm and maw-worm eggs were found in the stool. The presence of worms in the stool is indicative of the filthy conditions and poor hygiene in Viking settlements. Wells were dug too close to latrines, making the availability of clean, uncontaminated water a hit-or-miss (usually miss) proposition. The dirt floors of the Viking dwellings teemed with fly larvae (maggots) and mouse and rat droppings, with plenty of dog, pig, cow, and horse droppings just outside the door. It was virtually inevitable that residents of such settlements would be infested with intestinal parasites.

Not only do I fail to produce such impressive output in the first place, what I do excrete gets swirled around in a watery sewer system, demolished in a frothy slurry at a sewage treatment plant, and encouraged to degrade. What legacy will I leave to my descendants? I’m tempted to start digging many holes in my backyard and create a bank of excrement. I hope the neighbors don’t mind.

Oh, wait! I have a blog! Perhaps some fragment of it will survive the inevitable bit rot, get archived somewhere somewhat permanent, and someday get enshrined in a museum somewhere, for the enlightened people of the future to grimace over.

One can hope.