What lies beneath

As a nerd myself, I think the majority of nerds are just fine, but there really is a privileged subset that just doesn’t understand how to deal with women as human beings. Here’s a marvelous example: a woman gets into a geeky conversation about comic books on twitter, and her correspondent keeps trying to push the discussion into something about her appearance and her views on sex; she firmly resists, asks him to stop hitting on her and says that he makes her uncomfortable, and tries to redirect the conversation back to the Batgirl comic book. He doesn’t stop! Now you might be thinking that this is fairly innocuous, it’s just a silly chat on Twitter, and nothing harmful can come of it: the male side of the exchange is just being persistent and oblivious, and he means no harm.

But then, frustrated that she won’t talk about what he wants to talk about, i.e. sex, he drops this little bomb in frustration.

I suppose if you wanted to be extremely charitable, you could argue that all the prior conversation was just flirtation — hey, he’s just being friendly and flattering and sweet-talking the nice lady on the internet, how can you be offended at that? — but that outburst lays bare all the privilege and selfishness and resentment that lies beneath the facade, and ought to make you understand why, when you ignore “no” in the little things, you violate the other person’s trust.

(via Almost Diamonds)

The light will illuminate the lives of a select few

Richard Dawkins’ new book, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True will be available on 4 October (lucky folk in the UK have it right now), and you know what that means? Book tour. Poor Richard will be dragged hither and yon in a frantic schedule that would leave me exhausted — I have no idea how he does it. You can find his UK tour schedule online; the US gets him for about two weeks in early October, and you can look that schedule up in a pdf. Miami, New York, Charlottesville,
Lynchburg, Richmond, Houston, Rochester, and Detroit win the lottery this time around.

Did he miss you? He missed me, too, although I will catch up with him in Houston.

Also, James Randi is touring, but he’s only going to Canada. I choose to interpret all this as a tacit acknowledgment that the western half of the United States is so much more enlightened than the places the luminaries are visiting, that we don’t need them.

…says the guy in the small town with 15+ churches.

Calling all Swedes

I made an error, too, because I can’t read Swedish. The blog listed below is someone else explaining Khalid’s situation; Khalid’s blog is here, and it’s in English!

Your country is about to make a major mistake! They are preparing to deport Khalid and his family — his wife and three children — back to Pakistan, their native country. One problem: he’s one of those noisy blogging atheists, and while I can appreciate that they’re an annoying, obnoxious lot, kicking him out of Sweden means he’ll be sent to Pakistan. Sweden is refusing his request for asylum, which basically means that he’s being given a death sentence. It doesn’t mean that the Pakistani government will have him directly executed; they have a subtler plan. Under the laws there, any good Muslim who kills an apostate faces no punishment.

I don’t know who to contact, and the information I was sent provided no recommendations for how to address this looming problem (we only have a few days to act). If anyone has any idea about who we should be howling at, let me know in comments or email, and I’ll add it to this post.

Charity marathon Saturday and Sunday

It’s time for DPR Jones’ yearly fundraiser for Doctors without Borders. Starting tomorrow, there will be a marathon on BlogTV, with assorted guests (note: UK time) appearing to chat and take questions. Barbara Forrest, Eugenie Scott, Matthew Chapman, Lawrence Krauss, an insane creationist, Abbie Smith, Nonstampcollector, AronRa, ZOMGitscriss, Michael Shermer, AC Grayling, Thunderf00t, James Randi, Matt Dillahunty, and even me (I’m on at 10pm my time tomorrow evening). Jones is going to have to stay up for 24 hours, and may get entertainingly punchy near the end, so be sure to tune in for the whole thing.

Oh, and donate.

Sexism is a problem we should address

Let us dig up a grave and gnaw on some old bones. USA Today has just now gotten around to an article on that elevatorgate tempest. Fortunately, I think it takes the right tack; it takes the perspective that sexism isn’t particularly a problem of the atheist community, but that what’s going on is that the atheist community is taking the problem seriously and is trying to address it.

Yet many, including Watson, say Elevatorgate is less a calamity and more an opportunity to welcome women and other minorities into a community that’s long been dominated by white men.

“The majority of emails I have gotten have been from men who said, ‘I had no idea what women in this community went through, and thank you for opening my eyes,'” Watson said. “There has actually been a net benefit coming out of this that I think has made everything worthwhile.”

No one is suggesting the freethought community is more sexist than other segments of society — after all, the most famous American atheist, the late Madalyn Murray O’Hair, was a woman. [And what about Ellen Johnson, Margaret Downey, Susan Jacoby, and so many other atheist leaders? --pzm]

Nonetheless, the incident has struck a chord, perhaps because atheists and other skeptics pride themselves on reason and logic — intellectual exercises that theoretically compute to equality.

They’ve got a few quotes from me in there, too. I tried to make the point that whenever I’ve brought this subject up with meeting organizers, they’ve been very receptive, recognize the problem, and try to deal with it. What this one incident did was expose a small, fringe group of obsessive sexists who suddenly had the privileges they took for granted questioned…and oh, how they did squeal, and continue to squeal.

The bad news is found in the comments. It’s as if most of the commenters didn’t even bother to read the article. The comments section at USA Today is a grisly sight — I don’t recommend it unless you’re strong of stomach. A few samples:

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Ed explains everything

Have you been wondering what the deal is with the advertising here? Ed Brayton summarizes the situation.

Also, several people have suggested putting up a PayPal donation button or something here. I’m a little reluctant: there has also been talk of using donations to replace the ads, and I don’t think that is easily done — let’s not add any headaches to the process by trying to get some kind of variable approach to ad revenues. I can’t say that you’d be able to donate and I’d make the ads magically disappear for you. Also, one of the ways that we’d like to get better, targeted ads that would benefit the whole of the network is to be able to use the overall traffic as a draw…and if the single biggest traffic generator finds a way to cut himself out of the ad cycle, that would hurt everyone else.

It’s weird. I’m taking a socialist perspective to advertising.


Emily Baldry is six years old. Emily has a little plastic shovel. Emily dug up a 160 million year old cephalopod.

I’m 54, I have a little plastic spoon, and I’m eyeing the backyard. There used to be cephalopods swimming around in this neighborhood…of course, there were also some annoying glaciers that scoured the landscape. But I can dream!

(Also on Sb)

Dr Oz crosses the line

Usually, Oz just dispenses pointless pap and feel-good noise, but now he’s antagonized the agriculture lobby. On a recent show, he claimed that apple juice was loaded with deadly arsenic — a claim he supported by running quick&dirty chemical tests on fruit juices, getting crude estimates of total arsenic, and then going on the air to horrify parents with the thought that they were poisoning their children.

One problem: his tests weren’t measuring what he claimed. The FDA got word of the fear-mongering he was doing, and sent him a warning letter.

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