Here we go again

It’s a too familiar story: man declares his dedication to feminism, man gets exposed for harassing women. The latest disappointment/betrayal comes from the comedian Jamie Kilstein, and his ex-partner Allison Kilkenny has the summary. He’s out of Citizen Radio.

This is heartbreaking because I like Jamie, I respect his talent, and in the past I’ve defended him. This is another familiar part of the story, that I’m too often the last to know, too loyal to my friends, and I end up being shaken by the regrets in the face of undeniable serious problems. Once again I’m caught gawping in disbelief that a friend would do this.

The only solution: I’ve decided to have no more friends forever, especially not male friends (secondarily, no female friends, because why should they trust yet another unreliable guy like me?). Heart of stone, people, soul of ice. It’s the only way to keep from disintegrating.

More details.

Gamergate privilege

It’s amazing what those guys get away with — it looks like the FBI was one gang of bros, while the gamergaters were a different gang of bros, and they mainly got together to high five one another and say “bitchez, amirite?” to each other. A set of heavily redacted documents from the “gamergate” file have been posted documenting how various cases. They brought in one guy for questioning about “dozens of rape, bomb, and death threats targeting women involved in the video game scene”, for instance.

The man, whose name was kept confidential by the FBI, confessed: He told the agents that he was a “tech guy,” a qualified A++ coder, who played video games a lot and lived with his parents, according to a set of documents the FBI released on its investigation into Gamergate.

He told the agents that he hung out on 4chan, the notorious online image-posting board that — according to the FBI documents — has a history of hosting child pornography. He admitted that he had mocked the women who were targets of Gamergate threats on 4chan, calling one of them “a professional victim who exaggerated the threats.”

Then the agents showed him one of those threatening emails. The man said he had created a new email account specifically for the purpose of sending threats to Gamergate targets. He “admitted to sending the threatening email,” the FBI wrote in its report, and he “understood the email ‘looked really bad.'” Crucially, he also confessed that he knew it was a crime: The man “understood that it was a federal crime to send a threatening communication to anyone and will never do it again,” the FBI wrote.

Yet despite all that — an email trail, a confession, and an admission from the suspect that he knew he was breaking the law — the FBI let him go after the suspect said it was a “joke”

It was a joke. And the FBI accepted that excuse. This is an indictment of not just the coward who was bombarding women with threats, but of our national organization for criminal investigations. The FBI has lately been doing a phenomenal job of exposing itself as corrupt and rotten.

Here’s an example of the kind of messages they were asked to address; the link contains lots more.


It was just a joke…but the author left off the smiley face emoticon! If only he’d written I will write my manifesto in her spilled blood :), maybe I’d find that excuse plausible.

No, not even then. That’s a serious threat made with intent to disrupt an event with violence, and no amount of back-pedaling can soften it. Imagine if, at these various hateful Yiannopoulos talks around the country, leftists had written these kinds of email messages — would the FBI and the press been apologetic and let the angry letter-writer off the hook? Of course not.

If you already have a dislike of Uber…

Susan Fowler worked at Uber for a year. She wrote up the saga, and why she left.

After the first couple of weeks of training, I chose to join the team that worked on my area of expertise, and this is where things started getting weird. On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn’t. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn’t help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with. It was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR.

Oh, that sounds familiar. Open relationships are fine, but some of the people in them seem to be using it more as an excuse to harass.

Take a guess what happened after that. Go on, try.

[Read more…]

Yet another reason I despise Bill Maher (and Milo Yiannopoulos)

I watched the segment of Real Time with Bill Maher featuring Milo Yiannopoulos (I usually avoid the show; I am confirmed once again in my revulsion). I think the New York Times accurately summed it up:

Despite a brief flare-up of controversy that preceded it, a conversation between Milo Yiannopoulos, the incendiary right-wing author and lecturer, and Bill Maher, the comedian and host of HBO’s “Real Time,” on that program Friday night was a largely docile, chummy affair. There was little conflict or cross-examination, as both men chided the political left for avoiding or drowning out Mr. Yiannopoulos’s views rather than engaging with them.

Maher revealed his own bigotry when Yiannopoulos vaulted on to his high horse to attack transgender men and women and said that he makes no apologies for protecting women and children from men who are confused about their sexual identity in their bathrooms. I immediately call bullshit. Yiannopoulos is not on a crusade to defend women and children, he’s just a Nazi-wannabe troll. Maher apparently has a broken bullshit detector, though, because he just mutters,

That’s not unreasonable.

And then he turns to another guest, Jack Kingston, and says,

Jack, where do you stand on weirdos peeing?

Fuck you too, Bill Maher. Let’s promote the stereotype that the reason transgender people go into the bathroom is to rape people, rather than to urinate, on top of giving a hateful narcissist another platform on which to giggle out lies. I must point out that the current crisis in American politics is in part due to journalists giving air time to bigots to air their sensationalist views, and then failing to call them on it. There’s Bill Maher, doing the same thing with another hate-monger. You can’t simultaneously call giving shrieking racists, sexists, and transphobes a platform a free speech issue, and then fail to be skeptical and critical of their views.

There were two heroes on this show, though: Jeremy Scahill for refusing to show up and legitimize Yiannopoulos, and Larry Wilmore for refusing to accept Yiannopoulos’s shit. He was having none of it.

I just think it’s sad because it’s the same argument used against gay people, treating them like aliens who just wanted to fuck everything that moved and that’s why we should avoid them at all costs. There’s a difference without a distinction … It’s like when people tried to compare gays and blacks. They’re not the same thing. We share an invisibility. People didn’t see us in society and gay people hid out from society. But there were a lot of the same issues that you have to deal with when you’re marginalized.

Yiannopoulos’s response was to call being transgender a psychiatric disorder (an extraordinarily ironic argument, coming from a loudly gay man — he is aware that the same dismissal by definition has been and is being applied to gay people, right?), and assert that they (transgender people) are disproportionately involved in those sorts of sex crimes. As victims, maybe.

I’ll let Yiannopoulos have the last quote.

No, but you always invite such awful people on your show. You need to start inviting higher IQ guests.

For once, he’s right. Never invite Yiannopoulos again, for starters. Then get rid of Bill Maher. And finally, turn over the program to Larry Wilmore, who was brilliant.

Women in science tumbling off a cliff

Since someone in this thread is trying to suggest that there might be a gender-based difference in ability to pursue careers in STEM fields, this chart is most appropriate.


That fits with my experience. On average, the undergraduate women I teach are just as capable as the men — if they weren’t confidential, I could show you my gradebook and you’d see that it’s women who consistently stand at the top of the class. Yet somehow, after they graduate, their participation in science careers plummets. I don’t think they turn stupid after getting their degree; I remember my peers from my graduate school and post-doc days, and no, all of them were scary smart or they wouldn’t be there. I think it’s more that harassment takes its toll (most of which I was oblivious to at the time, but afterwards, I’ve had women tell me about it, and it was an eye-opening “Oh, yeah, he was kind of creepy, wasn’t he” sort of revelation), and disrespect (I definitely knew older faculty who saw women as good technicians, but not smart enough to do creative work) and judgmental attitudes (“she’s just going to get married and pregnant and leave the field anyway”).

We are not yet creating equal opportunities. Don’t try to tell me that women are less capable when I deal with brilliant, hard-working women in science every day.

Yet another TERFy oversimplification of reality

One does have to wonder if gender feminists and transgender activists are undermining science. One does, I guess, if one is going to properly apply critical thinking to these question. Unfortunately, that article by Debra Soh doesn’t seem to be interested in doing that, but instead on throwing around mischaracterizations of her critics. She fully embraces a tactic that Steven Pinker used in his book, The Blank Slate: let’s accuse those damnable “blank slaters” of believing that genes and biology play absolutely no role in brain and behavior, so that every bit of evidence that brains are made of meat refutes the cartoon extremists he is babbling about. He could have gone further, you know, and argued that the “blank slaters” believe that the skull contains nothing but cotton candy and whipped cream and meringue, so that any photograph of a brain in a bucket is a thorough disproof.

Debra Soh does the same thing. Let the strawmanning begin!

Gender feminists — who are distinct from traditional equity feminists — refuse to acknowledge the role of evolution in shaping the human brain, and instead promote the idea that sex differences are caused by a socialization process that begins at birth. Gender, according to them, is a construct; we are born as blank slates and it is parents and society at large that produce the differences we see between women and men in adulthood.

No. See, this is the difficult thing about dealing with these people: they immediately make a stark dichotomy, trying to pretend that one side, theirs, recognizes the importance of biology to the human mind, while the other side simply denies any role at all by biology and genetics. It’s annoying. I just have to say that the nature:nurture debate is fucking dead, that all influences are significant and inseparable in generating the complexity of the organism, and that these people with an inflamed notion of the black and white nature of the contributions to development belong back in the 19th century.

Gender is a construct built around probabilities in the disposition of traits associated with sex; most of the stereotypes are nothing but cultural impositions. There is no biological basis for girls wearing dresses and having long hair; boys don’t have a genetic predisposition to wearing pants and having their hair cut shorter. But there certainly are biases in brain development generated by hormones, for instance, biases that can also be overwhelmed by cultural influences. Could girls have a lesser potential for doing higher mathematics, on average? Maybe. But the evidence isn’t available, because social constraints have discouraged women from pursuing math for generations. Women could be better, on average, than men at math, but we wouldn’t know it because of all the baggage they’ve been forced to carry.

By the way, she does include a link to her claim that gender feminists refuse to acknowledge the role of evolution in shaping the human brain — again, I don’t know anyone who would make such an absurd claim, but it’s a staple of the kind of false characterization constantly perpetrated by the biological determinists (see? I can use misleading labels as well as they can). You might imagine it would be a link to some feminist claiming that brains are made of cotton candy and whipped cream and meringue, but no — it is to an evolutionary psychology journal article that also claims that feminists fails to consider evolutionary accounts of psychological sex differences. No evidence given.

I will tender the hypothesis, however, that gender feminists have evolved to avoid circle jerks.

Let us continue to see the caricatures drawn…

The idea that our brains are identical sounds lovely…

What? Why? I like the fact that people are different. And also, I don’t know anyone who argues that all brains are identical.

but the scientific evidence suggests otherwise. Many studies, for instance, have documented the masculinizing effects of prenatal testosterone on the developing brain. And a recent study in the journal Nature’s Scientific Reports showed that testosterone exposure alters the programming of neural stem cells responsible for brain growth and sex differences.

Yes, yes, we all know this. These facts are only relevant if you’re arguing with your cartoon feminist who thinks brains are not influenced by genes or hormones.

Gender feminists often point to a single study, published in 2015, which claimed it isn’t possible to tell apart male and female brains. But when a group of researchers reanalyzed the underlying data, they found that brains could be correctly identified as female or male with 69% to 77% accuracy. In another study, published in 2016, researchers used a larger sample in conjunction with higher-resolution neuroimaging and were able to successfully classify a brain by its sex 93% of the time.

Warning sign again: she doesn’t link to that single study which we often point to. I don’t think I’ve ever pointed to such a study. I participated in a histological study of mouse brains way back when I was a student, and we found a measurable, statistical difference in the size of cells in a certain area of the brain between males and females. The curious thing is that I spent month staring into a microscope measuring sections — I was the data collection grunt — and at no point could I have sexed a mouse brain from looking at it. I did trust that the statistics were valid, though.

So I’m a bit doubtful about their claims of accuracy. I believe there are statistically detectable differences, but that they’re not as absolute as claimed.

But even if as accurate as claimed, there’s a problem. Even if you can classify a brain successfully 93% of the time, what about the other 7%? Those ambiguous brains? What do they mean? When the estimates of the size of the transgender population range from 0.3% to almost 0.8%, saying that your magic MRI machine has a wobble of 7% leaves a lot of leeway.

Further, I would not claim that the 0.8% is embedded somewhere in that unclassifiable 7%; I suspect a lot of transgender individuals, when scored by the anatomical metric of their brain, just as if we scored them by their genitals, would be ranked as solidly male or female…on that one metric, which says nothing about how their brains function. What are you going to do, deny that someone’s sexual orientation is valid because their nucleus magnocellularis lit up on one MRI reading?

That’s the whole problem with this approach: deny the whole because of your interpretation of a part. You have a Y chromosome, therefore you are male. You have a vagina, therefore you are female. You like football, therefore you are male. Your brain has this particular shape, therefore you are female. It’s ridiculous. Just the fact that there are a thousand easily measured parameters for gender, and they are only loosely correlated with one another, ought to tell you that trying to find the one, single, infallible metric is a fool’s errand.

Soh has more shoehorning to do, though.

In my experience, proponents touting the “blank slate” view are willing to agree, in private conversations, that neurological sex differences do exist, but they fear that acknowledging as much publicly will justify female oppression. This is backward. As it stands, female-typical traits are seen as inferior and less worthy of respect. This is the real issue the movement fails to address: Nobody wants to be female-typical, not even women.

Wrong again. There are no “blank slaters”. There are people who will publicly assert that there are both cultural and biological elements to sex and gender — they’re not going to whisper that as a dirty secret to you in private. And the claim that we see female-typical behaviors as inferior is false. What is objectionable is the belief, so blithely taken for granted by people like Soh, that you can tell someone what is typical. No one wants to be female-typical, as defined by the determinists, because they stuff that definition with a lot of crap, so that they can have it both ways: If you’re typical, you’re weak, passive, a good help-meet to your spouse; but if you’re strong, assertive, and independent, you’re not typical, that is you are bad at being a woman. You cannot win.

Unlike gender feminists, transgender activists firmly believe that gender is a biological, rather than social, reality — but of course they don’t believe that it’s necessarily tied to sex at birth. They also believe that gender identity is quite stable early on, warranting a transition not only for transgender adults, but also young children who say they were born in the wrong body.

I give up. Has this person actually talked with any transgender activistås? Because they’ll have a range of perspectives, and will almost always recognize that these issues are complex — there is absolutely no one-size-fits-all formula for how people manage their gender identity. Yet here is Soh, acting as if they’re a uniform ideological bloc. It’s dishonest and demeaning.

But then, this kind of dishonesty is exactly like what comes out of right-wing think tanks: cast doubt on the complexity of the real science, while insisting that their bogus, overly-simplified version of reality is the True Science. We also get that from creationists, claiming the scientific high ground while puking up total bullshit. That’s what makes these kinds of claims galling:

Distortion of science hinders progress. When gender feminists start refuting basic biology, people stop listening, and the larger point about equality is lost.

Yes, Ms Soh, distortion of science hinders progress. So stop doing it, OK?

You also punch yourself in the face when you try to imply that gender is merely basic biology. It’s not. It’s advanced and complex neurobiology, psychology, and sociology, and it’s your reductive attitude that it’s simply biology that is the grandest distortion of science.

All science is always political

I have been out of the loop for a few weeks — man, my workload spiked recently — but now that I’m catching up, I feel nothing but dismay at the ridiculous complaints from scientists about the March for Science. I could hardly believe that some oppose the idea of scientists expressing vigorous dissent.

Al Gore, bless his heart (as we say in the South), was well intentioned when he made “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006. But he did us no favors. So many of the conservative Southerners whom I speak to about climate change see it as a partisan issue largely because of that high-profile salvo fired by the former vice president.

Scientists marching in opposition to a newly elected Republican president will only cement the divide. The solution here is not mass spectacle, but an increased effort to communicate directly with those who do not understand the degree to which the changing climate is already affecting their lives. We need storytellers, not marchers.

I’ve heard that so often: don’t rock the boat. We’ve got ours, if you make waves you’re imperiling the precious position we are clinging to by our fingernails. It’s absurd, selfish, and futile. The situation for science has become increasingly dire, and instead of shaking up the situation, putting your position at risk, you want to make sure that scientists are more harmless/helpless, more innocuous, more inoff-fucking-ensive because conservatives who despise science already might use the support of a political movement they hate as more ammo against us?

We have a common word for that. It’s called cowardice.

Then he dares to lecture us on what would be effective science communication? I’ve been through that for years, too. There’s always someone who will lecture at others who are doing the work that they’re doing it wrong. And that someone doing the hectoring is usually terribly ineffective at communicating science, so they are reduced to pontificating about the proper way to do it to the science communicators.

When they tell people “we need storytellers” without recognizing that we already know that, and are doing it, it’s remarkably clueless. We just see the need for something more, that when we reach yet another period of peak crisis, it’s time to add another approach to the toolkit.

And hey, you want to tell stories? Go ahead. No one is stopping you. The only ones trying to suppress diverse methods of outreach to diverse communities are the ones saying there can be only one acceptable way of explaining science.

By the way, I know people who found “An Inconvenient Truth” useful and powerful. That it antagonized the assholes who have been subverting science for decades is a point in its favor.

I thought that op-ed was bad, but here’s a dude complaining that the March is too political…or worse, that it’s the wrong politics. Those damn SJWs! Ruining everything!

What does make me worry is the increasing politicization of the March, which is fast changing from a pro-science march to a pro-social justice march. Now there’s nothing wrong with marching in favor of minority rights and against oppression, but if you mix that stuff up with science, as the March organization seems to be doing, well, that is a recipe for ineffectiveness. What would be the point of a march if it’s about every social injustice, particularly when, as the organizers did, they indict science itself for its racism and support of discrimination? The statement of aims below from the March’s organizers has now disappeared, but the tweet below that is still there. (You can find the full statement archived here.)

We’ve seen this same crap recently from Steven Pinker. The March for Science declares that they are “committed to centralizing, highlighting, standing in solidarity with, and acting as accomplices with black, Latinx, API, indigenous, Muslim, Jewish, women, people with disabilities, poor, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, trans, non-binary, agender, and intersex scientists and science advocates,” and boom, the conservative science wing reacts in horror. I don’t get it. Encouraging diversity and new ideas and approaches is exactly what scientists should support — but I guess if you’re part of the establishment now, you’d rather not see the implicit policies that helped you get where you are change. It’s almost as if they’re willing to help others climb the ladder of scientific achievement, but only if they look like the people that are already there. Can’t clutter up the old boys’ club with disabled lesbians and transgender brown people and all that, because they wouldn’t be as committed to doing good science as…privileged white people?

But that would be racist/sexist.

There’s another distractor there, too: fighting oppression is a “recipe for ineffectiveness”. We must focus laser-like on ONE THING, even if we are a massive organization of hundreds of thousands or even millions of members — everyone must be in lockstep on the ONE THING or we won’t get the ONE THING, even if the one thing is so abstract and huge that it’s effectively indefensible. So Movement Atheism must focus on the ONE THING of ATHEISM, which is fiercely defended as the sole principle that there is no god, never mind all the complex cultural baggage associated with that. Scientists must focus on the ONE THING of SCIENCE, a concept so complex that we have a name for the problem of trying to define its boundaries, the demarcation problem.

I have no idea how (or why) this dude plans to narrow the focus of the March. Is the March for Science to consist only of white men looking distracted as they concentrate on the scientific method? Wait — that would look just like a bunch of philosophers, and we can’t have that. A bunch of white men fiddling with telescopes and dissecting cats and punching numbers into their handheld computers as they march? That sounds like a recipe for effectiveness.

There’s another complaint. The organizers for the March for Science have criticized science. How dare they! Clearly, they don’t understand the True Purpose of Science, which is Good and Above Criticism. All Hail Science!

If a March has any chance of being effective, it can’t consist of a bunch of penitentes who flagellate themselves loudly and publicly for bad behavior. After all, stuff like “immigration policy”, “native rights”, and many other issues of social justice are not, as the organizers maintain, “scientific issues.” They are moral issues, which means they reflect worldviews and preferences that are not objective. Of course once you set your goals on immigration, pipeline locations and who should not be near them, and so on, then science can inform your actions. But to claim that all issues of social justice are “scientific issues” is palpably wrong.

This is just weird to the point of incomprehensibility to me. Science must have an objective purpose? But most of it doesn’t! Science is about curiosity and wonder and exploration. What objective purpose was Thomas Hunt Morgan pursuing when he was searching for sports in his fly colony? What was the objective purpose of Santiago Ramón y Cajal spending long nights drawing the beautiful filigree of Golgi-stained neurons, or writing lovely prose about the growth cone?

Please, do tell me how to define this criterion of “objectivity”. It seems to me that this arbitrary distinction would make postage stamp collecting, which has discrete, specific, measurable criteria, more scientific than launching a space probe to Pluto, where we had little idea what we’d find.

It is clearly not so much that some issues lack objectivity — once you recognize that native Americans are human beings, “native rights” becomes a rather clearly defined concern with measurable goals — but, as defined, that adding a moral component taints a subject, polluting the purity of Science, making it non-objective.

I’ve got news for him: everything has a moral component. Everything has a political component. If it’s a human activity, it is contaminated with moral and political ramifications, because that’s what humans do. Deciding that we have the economic surplus and the privilege of leisure to be able to support people who study fruit flies full time is a moral, social, and political act, for instance.

It becomes even more profoundly moral, social, and political when we make arbitrary decisions about which people will be permitted to have the privilege of spending their days studying fruit flies, or even which people will be granted the education that will allow them to appreciate the study of fruit flies. Until the day comes that AIs are doing all the science, discussing the science only among the other AIs, and doing all the work to benefit or harm only AIs, you cannot divorce the moral from the scientific. And even then I hope the AIs are smart enough to consider the impact of their pursuits on AI morality, because we feeble apes sure don’t seem to be able to comprehend that concept.

Just the idea that science ought not to criticize itself in public gives me the heebie-jeebies. Damn. The Tuskegee Syphilis Study? I guess that was scientifically objective, let’s not criticize it. Eugenics? All sciencey and shit. Bioethics is not a field that actually exists, or if it does, it’s not objective and Truly Scientific because it recognizes the impact of science on society.

It’s easy to find fun and exciting examples. How about this: An Adorable Swedish Tradition Has Its Roots in Human Experimentation. They fed institutionalized, mentally-ill people with massive doses of candy until their teeth rotted, to determine if sugar actually caused tooth decay. It was objectively done, of course. All Praise Science!

Or how about the whole issue of evolutionary psychology, which mainly seems to exist to rationalize traditional Western values as objective and scientific, perpetuating a whole vast collection of oppressive ideas.

Victorian social attitudes and science were closely intertwined. The common belief was that males and females were radically different. Moreover, attitudes about Victorian women influenced beliefs about nonhuman females. Males were considered to be active, combative, more variable, and more evolved and complex. Females were deemed to be passive, nurturing; less variable, with arrested development equivalent to that of a child. “True women” were expected to be pure, submissive to men, sexually restrained and uninterested in sex – and this representation was also seamlessly applied to female animals.

That sure sounds like Science with a capital “S” to me! Let’s get some grant money to prove the status quo and get it published in Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, Cosmpolitan, and The Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management! A three-fer, win-win, here comes tenure…and none of that has involved those damned “moral issues”, as long as you realize that white, conservative, capitalist, male biases are the gold standard of Truth, and it’s only those deviants who question the status quo who are bringing in that dirty word, “morality”, and making everything messily unscientific.

Oh, god, this thing gets even worse.

If we are to march, we should march in unity for truth, and against those who reject empirical truth. What unites all science—and makes it unique—is that it is a universal toolkit, used in the same way by members of all groups, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or religion. That is what holds us together. If we start dragging in issues of social justice—and I’m not of course saying they should be ignored in other venues—then we divide not only ourselves, but separate ourselves from much of the electorate, who, as we’ve seen above, generally trust us.

Declaring that you’ll only be marching under the banner of TRUTH sounds awfully religious to me. Declaring that science always works the same way in everyone’s hands sounds awfully ahistorical to me. Declaring that what holds us together is a disregard of gender, ethnicity, or religion sounds awfully privileged to me — I have the luxury of being unaffected by my sex and race, but damn, if you listen with half an ear to everyone who isn’t a white man you can’t help but notice that that isn’t true for everyone.

Social justice isn’t something that we “drag in” when social injustice is the muck that hinders the participation of more than half the citizenry in science, when toxic nonsense about sex and race poison the whole discourse about science in our culture.

This whole argument that social justice must be actively excluded from the March for Science reminds me of another march: the suffrage parade of 1913, in which black women were asked to segregate themselves from the white women and march at the back of the parade, because the white ladies did not want their goals marred by that other issue of equality. If you’re worried that your cause might be tainted, that’s the example you should examine, because it was Ida Wells who emerges the hero and white feminists who damage their own reputation (and who still, all too often, kick their own butts when they ignore intersectionality).

And sweet jesus, the hypocrisy. Science is all about Truth and Objectivity, which is why we should bow to the biases of the electorate, who will be divided from us if we start dragging in issues of social justice, since they, after all, are assumed to not like it (and oh, the implicit bias in which part of the electorate we must listen to…I cringe). So much for the objectivity of science — it should say what the people desire, or it might erode their trust in us.

I presume Dr Coyne will now respect the wishes of all those faith-heads who want him to shut up about atheism. Might separate ourselves from much of the electorate, don’t you know.

Gobsmacked, but not surprised

Kristan Hawkins got on a panel with Joy Reid, who recognized that they differed on the legality of abortion, but thought to find common ground by asking if everyone agreed that contraception was OK. She did not achieve her goal, because Hawkins was quite willing to announce that she thought several forms of birth control should be illegal. She was also kind of obnoxiously shouty about it all.

This is one of those things where liberals are often accused of failing to understand those good salt-of-the-earth types from the heartland (Hawkins is from Minnesota, unfortunately). And it’s true. We have a hard time understanding irrationality of that sort, and often can scarcely believe that people exist who hold such terrible, destructive views. You can tell that Reid and her panel are kind of stunned at how regressive and awful Hawkins was.

I wasn’t. Hawkins spoke at UMM almost two years ago. It was a dishonest talk, full of mangled and dishonest statistics, and most of her time was spent reciting anecdotes. The audience was full of adoring fans who had lies of their own to tell, too.

As I was leaving the talk, by the way, I passed their table where they were handing out literature, and a woman from the audience breathlessly recounted the latest conspiracy theory: did you know that Planned Parenthood intentionally injects young women who visit with hormones to make them fertile, so that they’re more likely to get pregnant and come back for an abortion? The woman from Students for Life of America behind the table said, I’m not surprised, they make millions of dollars from abortions.

Other half truths that emerged: Hawkins doesn’t like contraception, either, and announced that hormonal contraception is a carcinogen. So it is! Progesterone has properties that would get it classified as a human carcinogen, just like broccoli and beer. And that means, ladies, that your ovaries are trying to kill you, because they’re constantly trickling out a carcinogenic hormone.

Nothing in that television interview surprised me. Joy Reid should have called me (or any of the other people here in Minnesota who have encountered Hawkins), and I could have prepped her for the outrageousness she was going to get.