Because my name is not Piotr Noses.
Mar 03 2014
In the expected counterattack from sexists defending Ben Radford’s obtuse sexism, there are now demented dingbats accusing me of being a
veritable MRA and implying that I’m some kind of hypocrite, because I have in the past been subject to an abortive false accusation. I mentioned this in a comment four years ago (some people are obsessive in following my every word, and I should be flattered, I suppose — I must be very interesting). Here’s the dry account of the event that I gave then:
I won’t meet privately with students either — I always keep my office door wide open, and when I’m working with students in the lab, I find excuses to move out and let them work on their own if it turns into a one-on-one event. I just can’t afford the risk.
I was also subject to accusations of harassment, once upon a time. A female student came into my lab when I was alone, unhappy about an exam grade, and openly threatened me — by going public with a story about a completely nonexistent sexual encounter right there.
Zoom, I was right out the door at that instant; asked a female grad student in the lab next door to sit with the student for a bit, and went straight to the chair of the department to explain the situation. I had to work fast, because I knew that if it turned into a he-said-she-said story, it wouldn’t matter that she was lying, it could get dragged out into an investigation that would easily destroy my career, no matter that I was innocent.
I was in a total panic, knowing full well how damaging that kind of accusation can be. Fortunately, I’d done the right thing by blowing it all wide open at the first hint of a threat, and getting witnesses on the spot.
There is nothing inconsistent about this. False accusations do happen, and they can have extremely damaging consequences (which I said previously: “Yes, they happen…rarely. They’re important to detect.”) Obviously, I had just explained that I certainly do know of at least one case in which a desperate student tried to cheat her way to a better grade with an accusation. It happens.
How I responded to that instance is just part of a protocol for how people should work together. Here’s what I do:
I don’t harass women, or anyone for that matter.
I maintain complete transparency. Not only do I not harass women, but any accusation that I do founders on the implausibility of the circumstance.
I deal with any potential situation by defusing it immediately. Not arguing, not protesting my innocence, not begging the person to refrain from hurting my reputation, but going straight to departmental authorities and explaining the situation. Again, transparency: the slander isn’t going to stick.
I bring in witnesses, preferably women too, who can testify to my innocence. And I don’t just mean people who will say I’m a nice guy, but witnesses to the incident who can describe all the details of the event.
I keep myself protected against false claims, which also means that I’m keeping my students protected from any harm. We all work just fine together, with nothing to hide.
I don’t sexually harass my students or colleagues. Period.
Not only is my reputation spotless, and honestly so, but there’s no way to even realistically bring such a charge against me. And of course the great majority of my interactions with students bear no risk of any such problems — we can trust each other.
But then, there are always people like those slimy ones, that minority of nasty untrustworthy liars commenting on Radford’s thread, who are happy to distort and make false accusations, and I deal with them in the same way that I did that earlier incident: with transparency and honesty and frank admission of what actually happened. I don’t deny that such unpleasant people exist, especially when so many of them are already populating that thread and the existence of contemptible liars is so apparent. But when one has no interest in harassing people, it turns out to be relatively easy to maintain one’s integrity — I don’t have years of stalkerish behavior and complaints and administrative disciplinary actions to make excuses for, unlike some people.
Mar 03 2014
That Mark Twain was a smart fella.
Mar 03 2014
One of our precious rare godless representatives is retiring from office. And unsurprisingly, it turns out that he speaks with the voice of reason on his way out the door. He has an interview on Salon in which he exhibits an appropriate on science.
I am not saying that scientists are smarter or wiser than other folks. But there are habits of mind: you know, a deep appreciation of evidence; an ability to deal with probability and statistics, to be alert to cognitive biases and tricks that our minds play on ourselves; … a willingness to accept tentative conclusions and accept … the uncertainty of these scientific conclusions — not as reason for inaction, but a way of finding the best path forward …
You know, if we had a few hundred Rush Holts scrambling for high office, rather than a mob of incompetent teabaggin’ idjits getting elected, I’d have a lot more optimism for this country and humanity in general. But instead we get Ted Cruz, Steve King, Paul Broun, Rand Paul, Michele Bachmann, Tom Coburn, Louie Gohmert, Eric Cantor…jebus, stop me before I die of terminal cynicism.
Mar 03 2014
The CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, was confronted by climate change denialists in a shareholders’ meeting; they demanded that he focus on return on investment and stop making changes to reduce emissions. MORE MONEY, please, and SCREW THE ENVIRONMENT. Cook made the right response.
What ensued was the only time I can recall seeing Tim Cook angry, and he categorically rejected the worldview behind the NCPPR’s advocacy. He said that there are many things Apple does because they are right and just, and that a return on investment (ROI) was not the primary consideration on such issues.
“When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind,” he said, “I don’t consider the bloody ROI.” He said that the same thing about environmental issues, worker safety, and other areas where Apple is a leader.
Nice words, but I’ll be happier when I see less exploitation of foreign workers, and let’s not have any illusions that tech corporations are friends to the planet. But I’ll acknowledge that at least Apple is taking a few steps in the right direction.
If you’re cynical enough, you could also wave away Cook’s response as self-promoting PR. But if you want a fun read, you should see the denialist’s counter-response. The National Center for Public Policy Research has issued an angry denunciation. I think they’re trying to persuade me to buy Apple stock.
“Although the National Center’s proposal did not receive the required votes to pass, millions of Apple shareholders now know that the company is involved with organizations that don’t appear to have the best interest of Apple’s investors in mind,” said Danhof. “Too often investors look at short-term returns and are unaware of corporate policy decisions that may affect long-term financial prospects. After today’s meeting, investors can be certain that Apple is wasting untold amounts of shareholder money to combat so-called climate change. The only remaining question is: how much?”
Wait…so the people who are all about profits now are complaining that Apple, by making some minimal efforts to address climate change, is failing to consider long term prospects? Madness. If that’s their question, I’ll just answer it with “Not enough.”
“Rather than opting for transparency, Apple opposed the National Center’s resolution,” noted Danhof. “Apple’s actions, from hiring of President Obama’s former head of the Environmental Protection Agency Lisa Jackson, to its investments in supposedly 100 percent renewable data centers, to Cook’s antics at today’s meeting, appear to be geared more towards combating so-called climate change rather than developing new and innovative phones and computers.”
Whoa. The NCPPR is making Apple sound like a completely green company. Are we sure this isn’t just a PR front for Apple?
You know, I really like Apple products, and I have a fine collection of widgets with the Apple logo on them, but I have no illusions: Apple is first and foremost a company that makes lots and lots of money. Quarterly revenue of $38 billion and quarterly profit of $8 billion sorta says that they are rather focused on selling phones and computers. That the denialists would even think to argue otherwise is a testimonial to how delusional they are.
“Tim Cook, like every other American, is entitled to his own political views and to be an activist of any legal sort he likes on his own time,” said Amy Ridenour, chairman of the National Center for Public Policy Research. “And if Tim Cook, private citizen, does not care that over 95 percent of all climate models have over-forecast the extent of predicted global warming, and wishes to use those faulty models to lobby for government policies that raise prices, kill jobs and retard economic growth and extended lifespans in the Third World, he has a right to lobby as he likes. But as the CEO of a publicly-held corporation, Tim Cook has a responsibility to, consistent with the law, to make money for his investors. If he’d rather be CEO of the Sierra Club or Greenpeace, he should apply.”
Interesting. I remember when the denialists would argue that the planet wasn’t warming (oh, they still do, sometimes); now they’re reduced to complaining that we’re pumping more energy into the atmosphere, but it’s simply not quite as much as the models predicted. That’s progress, I suppose.
I still don’t see how they can argue that climate change won’t be economically disruptive, or that it is imprudent to try and deal with long-term environmental changes before they actually demolish the markets they love so much.
A commenter has pointed out an article about that odd 95% claim. It turns out that if a scientist publishes a prediction with an upper and lower bound, and the reality turns out to be pretty darned close to the center of the distribution, you can just point at the upper bound and claim he exaggerated. Brilliantly dishonest.
Mar 03 2014
We must be the pinnacle of all creation, the very best and greatest!
Yeah, it’s true, but we’re no Deinococcus radiodurans.
Mar 03 2014
I had the Academy Awards tuned in to the background last night. I’m not a fan; like many of us, I just like to gawp and snipe at overprivileged rich people, so it was just occasionally entertaining noise to catch my attention in between papers. Here are the things that made me bother to look up.
Ellen Degeneres was generally amiable and pleasant, but the stunt where she ordered out for pizza and delivered it to obscenely wealthy, pretty people in clothes that may have cost more than some people make in a year? That was…disturbing and klunky. It wasn’t Macfarlane-awful, but just vaguely icky.
Gravity won best director. No, that was a terrible movie! The star was Orbital Mechanics, but Orbital Mechanics was falling-down drunk every day on the set, and Orbie kept sticking his face in front of the camera, even in scenes where he shouldn’t have been, and Cuarón just let him get away with it.
John Travolta seemed to be stoned on smug, and couldn’t even manage to introduce someone properly, and called Idina Menzel “Adele Nazeem”. That was probably the name of a clam he knew in a past life.
The award for the most embarrassingly stupid acceptance speech goes to Matthew McConaughey, who, in accepting an award for the role of a guy dying of AIDS, rambled on slickly and at length in praise of a god. I was already peeved — I was hoping Bruce Dern would win — so it did not console me that someone deserving had won it anyway.
Oh, yeah, Nebraska got skunked. I had expectations that it would do well…it was one of my favorite movies this year. Something about a cranky old guy in a small midwestern town just spoke to me.
Cate Blanchett thanked Woody Allen.
Lupita Nyong’o gave the best speech of the evening. She won for a harrowing role, and it was well-deserved.
12 Years a Slave won best picture. For once, I could agree with the Academy’s choice in this category — that was a powerful movie.
Holy crap, it ended on time?
Mar 02 2014
It’s a mystery. Ben Radford has been a pimple on the butt of CFI for quite some time. Remember the time he picked a fight with a four year old, and made a series of bogus arguments about pink? How about his denial of the influence of media, in which he misrepresented a science paper? It’s been a pretty poor run for a skeptic.
That’s just a commentary on the quality of his output. More damning is that he is guilty of sexually harassing Karen Stollznow for years (a fact that led to CFI temporarily suspending him). Despite all that, he still has a job at CFI. Totally mysterious.
And now, in the latest news from while I was out of town, Ben Radford writes a bizarre, anecdote-laden mess of an article about false rape accusations. Yes, they happen…rarely. They’re important to detect. But rape — now that’s a much bigger and much more important problem. A topsy-turvy inside-out post emphasizing the injustice (willingly conceded!) of false rape accusations is what I’d expect of an MRA blog, not Skeptical Inquirer.
It’s got to be bad when your own boss disavows your article: Ron Lindsay tore it apart. And just to add an avalanche on top of that slingstone, Orac writes a leventy-kajillion word post deploring the whole mess. A guy with a sexual harassment history hanging over his head, pretending that false accusations are a serious problem? Not credible. Bad idea to have even written it (and I’m wondering who on the editorial staff let that choice sail through?)
The biggest mystery right now, though, is why Ben Radford still has a job. When he’s not stalking women and making embarrassingly bad arguments on the internet, he writes about mundane skeptical issues like chupacabras and bigfoot and UFOs. That must be an extremely important set of topics for CFI, requiring rare skills that only a scarce few individuals possess. Or maybe it’s extremely hazardous — is it a dirty job that actually requires wrasslin’ monsters? Because, otherwise, I don’t know why they’re keeping a toxic hack around.
Mar 02 2014
The dominant, oblivious majority in the US are once again preparing to moan about how oppressed and persecuted they are. The Christian Right is coming out with a movie quite literally called Persecuted, a drama about what they expect will happen to them in the next few years.
On the surface, "Persecuted" plays out like many government thrillers. Similar to movies based upon Tom Clancy novels, it has a hero with limited resources faced off against corrupt politicians and government officials. Central to the plot, though, is an effort by the president and his cronies to pass the "Faith and Fairness Act," which would be similar to a "fairness doctrine" for religious groups. If this law were passed, religious broadcasters would be required to present all religious points of view when presenting their own point of view.
The notion that such a law could actually be passed in the United States is not out of the realm of possibility, Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, explained to The Christian Post. The law is similar to a resolution that was passed at the United Nations about the defamation of religion.
"It’s backed predominantly by Islamic countries, but in the name of tolerance, so that they can criminalize defamation or defamatory speech so that you effectively become a criminal if you say Jesus is the only way, that becomes criminal. So it’s real," Sekulow said.
Do I need to point out that their fictional law, this “faith and fairness act,” is something atheists would oppose, and that atheist organizations, such as Atheist Ireland, have openly rejected the UN declarations against defamation of religion? And that American Christianity has a long tradition of supporting blasphemy laws? The closest thing to this imaginary “faith and fairness act” in this country isn’t official, but is the social sanction against people who dare to drop “under god” from our semi-mandatory loyalty oath, the pledge of allegiance.
Oh, wait, that’s right: Jay Sekulow is all in favor of requiring everyone to present the theistic point of view in that case — he was shit-spewing furious when a television broadcast dared to omit “under god” from the pledge. He’d love a version of that act that required everyone to acknowledge god all the time.
You know what is out of the realm of possibility? That the US would pass a law making it illegal to say “Jesus is the only way.” Christianity is a de facto standard to get elected to office, and no one dares to annoy faith-based bullshit artists ever. You know what is in the realm of possibility? That our nation, with its constitutional promise to never allow religion to meddle in government and vice versa, would make “In god we trust” our motto, slap it on all the currency, and demand that school children acknowledge our subservience to a god in a daily promise.
But that’s not what all the furor is about. You know what it is. It’s because those damn liberals are all insisting that it is perfectly reasonable to put contraception in an insurance package, and that it is also perfectly fair to expect employers to meet the needs of their employees. It’s because Christians are being told that they cannot pretend that gay people are not human. They have been told that their ignorant superstitions are hurting other people, and that while they are completely free to live lives in which they marry one person of a specified sex in a religious ceremony and have unprotected sex monogamously with them for the rest of their lives — jebus, that’s my lifestyle — they do not have the right to tell everyone else how to live their lives, nor do they have the right to punish people for not being Christian.
This seems to be a very difficult point to get across to some people.
Here’s a handy chart. Maybe this will help.
It says something that when these loons make a movie about how they’re being persecuted, they can’t openly say what offends them right now — that invariably makes them look like bigots — but have to invent an imaginary law and bring on hypocrites like Sekulow to claim that it is “real”. No, it’s not.